As part of our Brum Spirit Q & A series we were fortunate to catch up with Jez Collins to talk Birmingham, Brum Spirit and all that’s in between.
Jez is a social and cultural entrepreneur who works as a researcher in the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research at Birmingham City University, he is also the founder of the Birmingham Music Archive, which was was created to recognise and celebrate the rich musical heritage of the city, built by users who share their tastes and stories through music, and is also the Co-Director of Un-Convention, the UK based global music network and development agency.
Name: Jez Collins
Occupation: Researcher / Founder
Tell us about your job?
I’m an academic researcher at BCU where I research the music industries and popular music history, heritage and archives.
I’m also the founder of the Birmingham Music Archive, an online resource that seeks to capture, preserve and celebrate Birmingham’s rich music heritage.
I’m co-director of Un-Convention a global grassroots music network.
How and why did you get into doing what you do?
My academic work was by pure chance as I started doing some temp work at BCU whilst I had my own bar – Atticus. My contract kept getting extended to the point of getting full time employment.
I’ve worked in and around the creative industries in Birmingham for over 25 years, mainly in music. This gave rise to starting the BMA as a way of celebrating and remembering my own music activities as well as my friends. From there it has grown and grown.
The role at Un-Convention has also grown from my early involvement in the organisation to the point where I am now one of the co-directors
What is your professional highlight to date?
Sorry but to many, I’m old. Very proud of owning and running my bar/cultural space. My film Made in Birmingham: Reggae Punk Bhangra, having my work published, setting up music archives in Venezuela and Uganda, co-organising the first hip hop concert in downtown Medellin….
What do you have bubbling away creatively this year?
I’ve got a number of projects connected to my BMA that I’m in a number of discussions about, particularly a major project about the history of black music in the city. Also starting my PhD and a number of events with Un-Convention very excited about a potential 2 year project in Ethiopia.
What is the best part about working in Birmingham?
The huge opportunities that exist in the city and the ‘new’ people coming through doing great things.
Some of the people who are stuck in the past and don’t want to share. The lack of innovation and foresight of some of our funding administrators and our large strategic agencies.
What is your favourite place in Birmingham?
Warley Woods (strictly Smethwick…) or St Paul’s Square or The Great Hall, University of Birmingham or the architecure on John Bright St, School of Art and the inner core of the city centre!
What makes you proud about living in Birmingham?
It’s openness, diversity of cultures and its friendliness.
What one thing would you change about the city?
A more coherent approach to popular music in the city and a proper integrated public transport system.
What one thing you would champion?
It’s musical heritage and history
Where do you take your friends when they visit you in Birmingham?
How do you see the city 20 years from now?
Through old age…but still exciting!