A few months ago Tim Griffiths of the Rowland Emett Society got in touch to discuss possible film events. As Tim himself says, the common response to such approaches has often been 'Rowland who?', but Tim and fellow members have made it their mission to ensure that this single-minded artist-inventor languishes no longer in obscurity. The culmination of their work has been the humungous collection of Emett cartoons and contraptions which has taken over the Gas Hall for the summer, and this weekend we'll be providing a bit of context for the exhibition with a couple of one-off events.
Excitingly, this will include an opportunity to visit some of the key Birmingham locations in Emett's early life. Throughout the second world war he lived a double life; by day as an illustrator at Turner Brothers in the Gun Quarter (working on Whittle's jet engine amongst other things), and by night as a cartoonist for Punch. A very practical man, before long Emett started to turn his fanciful drawings into actual machines which made their way into theme parks, shopping centres and shows across the world - including the 1951 Festival of Britain.
On Saturday we'll visit the main launchpads for this career - principally, Margaret Street School of Art and the drawing room at Turners, which Emett remembered with fondness and painted in 1946 for a souvenir brochure (above). While most of this onetime factory is today occupied by a clothing import company, Emett's floor is now disused and prone to leaks. Nonetheless it offers an excellent view of the city, and the perfect place to give thanks for one of Birmingham's unsung sons.