BMAG to celebrate its reopening with an exhibition of the legendary Que Club
After almost two years of being closed due to the pandemic, The Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (BMAG) will finally reopen its doors for the public. The museum has planned an exciting list of events to celebrate the reopening, including an exhibition of the legendary 90's club "Que Club."
The museum is set to reopen on Thursday, 28 April this year, just in time for the Commonwealth Game, and will run until December.
What to expect at the "In The Que" exhibition?
One of the most outstanding music venues of Birmingham from the '90s, the Techno temple "Que Club,'' will be celebrated during BMAG's reopening event through a sensory exhibition that will feature previously unseen photographs by critically acclaimed photographer Terence Donovan, personal artifacts, a 35-minute film of archive footage and interviews, flyers, posters, a security jacket. Items that belonged to some of the greatest music stars that had performed on the "Que Club" 's stage (such as a sock and a sketch from David Bowie) will also be on display.
And this is just a portion of what the exhibition's curator has prepared with the goal to provide a deeper look into the past club experiences.
But, what makes the exhibition "sensory," you may ask? Aside from the displayed items, photos, and footage, there will also be a "sound shower," where a visitor can stand under a speaker and listen to some of the best '90s music. On top of that, the chillout room will be recreated, and the club's scent will be replicated.
The "In The Que" curator, Jez Collins from Birmingham Music Archive, reveals that the idea for an exhibition that would celebrate Birmingham's rich and diverse musical history dates from 2018. For that purpose, he reached out to people on the Birmingham Music Archive website and the In The Que Facebook page. Before he knew it, he received thousands of photos, footage, and artifacts from clubbers, DJs, and bouncers. But not only that: the exhibition received a £42,000 National Lottery grant.
The exhibition was ready to open in March 2020, but the pandemic changed Jez's plans. Since then, the event has been postponed numerous times, and two other venues were in the game before BMAG became the final choice.
The cultural legacy of "Que Club"
Opened in 1904 as the Methodist Central Hall with a vast main hall and more than 30 other rooms, this three-story, Grade II-listed red brick building was bought by Billy Gaff (the former manager of Rod Stewart) and the owner of "Marquee Club" (London) in 1989.
Once it fell into their hands, the space slowly began transforming into a live music venue. Named "Que Club," the club soon became so popular that people who came from all different parts of the country had to get in insanely long queues that went all the way down the street to see acts like Run-DMC, Blur, Pulp, Primal Scream, David Bowie, and DJs like Carl Cox, Sven Vath, Paul Oakenfold, and Daft Punk.
The building, however, remained in religious use on Sunday mornings.
According to Jez, "Que Club" is essential for Birmingham's culture.
"It's not just nostalgia; it's part of our identity. It was one of the best clubs in the country and a brilliant venue, like nothing else in the city. You could stand on the balcony and look down on 3,000 people dancing to a great sound. You could lose your friends in the maze of rooms and make new ones, "says Jez.
Unfortunately, the club closed down in 2011.
What else is on BMAG's reopening event agenda?
Aside from the "Que Club" exhibition, the BMAG reopening program will include:
The "We Are Birmingham" exhibition in the Round Room, which will reflect the people of 21st Century Brum; "The Healing Gardens of Bab" - a multidisciplinary program that uplifts alternative expressions of gender, sexuality, and family presented by Birmingham 2022 Festival and produced by Fierce;
"Birmingham Cinema," an interactive display that will showcase photographs and cinema memorabilia, alongside Birmingham's collection of magic lanterns and optical toys, where Wonderland by Flatpack Projects will explore how all 100 (and more) cinemas in the City has shaped the streets, social lives, and dreams of Brummies over the past 125 years;
"Blacklash: Racism and the Struggle for Self-Defence" by Kalaboration Arts will showcase the archive of photos, videos, and other political ephemera providing a historical context for contemporary anti-racism movements which artist, cultural activist, and filmmaker Mukhtar Dar began documenting in the mid-1980s and over two decades;
"Pandemic" exhibition, developed in partnership with Birmingham City Council's Public Health Division and Birmingham Museums' Community Action Panel, explores themes of hope and loss featuring historical objects from Birmingham's collection alongside new work and photographs by Birmingham-based artists.
The BMAG will be open seven days a week, from 10 am – 5 pm. The Round Room, Industrial Gallery, Edwardian Tearooms, Gallery 10, Bridge Gallery, and BMAG shop will all reopen, while the rest of the museum remains closed for essential work.