Birmingham & Black Country

Tipton carnival queens 'shine again' in photo exhibition

Image copyright Tipton Carnival Queens Shine Again / Erik Kessels
Image caption The Tipton Carnival "reflected Tipton", exhibition organisers said

Bygone carnival queens will reunite as part of a photography exhibition celebrating the Black Country.

Dutch artist Erik Kessels discovered photos of Tipton Carnival Queens dating back to 1964 in a battered cardboard box in a community centre.

Karen Sims, who runs the centre on Brook Street, helped run the carnival until it ended in 2013 and said the events were "magical".

They were a huge part of the community and are still talked about, she said.

Two Tipton Carnival Queens Image copyright Tipton Carnival Queens Shine Again / Erik Kessels
Image caption Ms Sims said "the girls used to love the carnival", which first started in 1964

Such was their importance, for the final four years, Ms Sims would tow the queens around the streets of Tipton and into the arena in the park herself, using a sleigh left over from a Christmas fundraiser.

She did it to give them "a bit of glory", she said, after the procession, which had run since 1964, was stopped due to safety concerns.

"The girls used to love it," she said. "It was just magical and a crying shame it had to stop."

Two Tipton Carnival Queens Image copyright Tipton Carnival Queens Shine Again / Erik Kessels
Image caption The aim of the exhibition is to relive the atmosphere of the Tipton Carnival and "let queens shine again"
Two Tipton Carnival Queens Image copyright Tipton Carnival Queens Shine Again / Erik Kessels
Image caption Former queens have been invited to have another portrait taken with their old photos

Mr Kessels was invited to Sandwell to capture the area by Multistory, an Arts Council project established to tell stories of the Black Country.

Together they created an exhibition for Blast! Festival to celebrate the carnival queens and invited former winners to reunite and have a portrait taken with their old photos.

Mr Kessels work centres around "found photographs" whereby he re-contextualises images to celebrate the people in them, Multistory director Emma Chetcuti said.

"It was a very local pageant," she said. "Tipton has a strong industrial past - the carnival reflects the place."

Two Tipton Carnival Queens Image copyright Tipton Carnival Queens Shine Again / Erik Kessels
Image caption Organisers said they wanted to celebrate the carnival queens and their significance to Tipton
The photos on display at West Bromwich town hall Image copyright Katja Ogrin
Image caption Ms Sims said the exhibition at West Bromwich town hall gave her goosebumps

Ms Sims said the exhibition in West Bromwich town hall left the "hairs standing up on my arms".

"Even though the carnival's not around any more, it's still talked about," she said.

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