Phyllis Nicklin was a geography tutor at the University of Birmingham Department of Extra Mural Studies during the 1950s and 60s. During her time at the university, she took hundreds of Kodachrome slides of the city for use as teaching aids. These images now belong to the University of Birmingham.
Nicklin’s photographs provide a unique and intimate view of the city in a critical period of transition. They document Birmingham’s buildings, urban topography and street scenes and offer a fascinating comparative insight into how the city has changed and developed in the last half century.
In October 2015, Colmore BID presented a number of Phyllis’ images on a lit display in Snow Hill Square. The exhibition ran until the end of January 2016 and was enjoyed by commuters and those who had fond memories of the city at the time of the photos.
However, Colmore BID wanted to ensure that we did more than just put on a fantastic display of culture. In addition to the exhibition, we arranged a talk, by LoB Head of Photography Pete James, and lunchtime session on taking photographs like Phyllis Nicklin, led by local urban photographers. Both of these were exclusively for employees in the District.
We also worked with the Birmingham Post to create a special pullout under the #NicklinUnseen hashtag appealing for people’s memories of the images on display. The project inspired local artist Reuben Colley, who has a gallery located on Colmore Row, to curate an exhibition of paintings, based on Nicklin’s work, called Nicklin Revisited.
A short documentary film about Phyllis Nicklin’s life and work was also produced. This was premiered at our closing event at Hotel du Vin on 27 January 2016 and can be viewed below.