Welcome to Secret City Arts !

Storyteller Pyn Stockman and writer Mandy Ross are Secret City Arts. We work with adults, children and communities, making a creative response to secret wild green spaces, living stories and hidden history in the urban world. Working inclusively, we create innovative projects and produce writing, live performance, film, audio work, books and printed materials. Read on…

Our Green and Lively project is live and underway with lots of leafy creative activities to join in. Lots more here

Tell It To the Bees – a taster event for Dying Matters Week May 2020. Click here for more details

Animal Lullabies tour dates October 2019

Click here for more details

How Does Your Garden Grow

We’ve had a wonderful time working with the ladies at Sawiyan at Christchurch, Sparkbrook, exploring ‘How does your garden grow?’ We’ve visited Martineau Gardens, and in response made mosaics, poetry and audio recording. There’s more to follow with movement and a garden inspiration calendar, with input too from participants at creative workshops at Isra UK. All this inspiration is being combined into a beautiful outdoor artwork made by mosaicist and artist Claire Cotterill to be installed in Christchurch’s outdoor courtyard. Project funded by BCC’s Art On Our Doorstep programme. Click here to see more…

Peace and Remembrance

It’s been a busy autumn, with all sorts of projects unfolding. In Peace and Remembrance, funded by HLF, we’ve been working with BCU, local schools and communities, to explore how soldiers’ families commemorated the end of the First World War.
In Sutton Coldfield, some voices called for a memorial library or public baths, offering useful local services especially to poorer people. Stockport has a War Memorial Art Gallery. Gentioux-Pigerolles in France has an anti-war memorial, where an orphan mourns ‘Maudite soit la guerre’ (Cursed be war)

Gentioux-Pigerolles, pacifist War Memorial

Did other communities explore less traditional commemorations like these? What kind of memorials might have been considered? Watch our film to see here.

How Does Your Garden Grow

We’ll be collaborating with Sawiyan, a women’s community group in Sparkbrook, to celebrate secret green oases in the city. With BCC funding from Culture on Our Doorstep, we’re looking forward to gathering memories of gardens here and faraway, and sharing skills of planting and growing in the urban environment. We’ll be working with mosaicist and artist Claire Cotterill – can’t wait to see what delights she will create with participants.

Hooves and Tales at the Roundhouse Birmingham

It’s been a clip-clopping adventure working in partnership with Roundhouse Birmingham on our BCC Next Generation-funded project, Hooves and Tales. Stories of horses in the city’s past and present, sounds and smells (yes, exactly as you’d imagine). Click here to watch the fabulous audio-visual story we made with pupils from three schools (Marywood Centre (City of Birmingham School), St George’s CE Primary and The Pines) and lots more about the project.

Stories from the Heart of Sutton Coldfield – autumn 2017

Secret City Arts will be working with local people to uncover and retell Sutton’s treasure trove of stories in Holy Trinity Parish Church and the wider community around it. In this HLF-funded project, together we’ll be making films, recording audio work, writing and making a multi-trail map, bringing the community’s history to life.

Stories, history and some characters already emerging, as you can see below…

Secret City Arts at Summer in Southside 2017

Secret City Arts at Birmingham Hippodrome’s Summer in Southside (photo Marc Reck)

Storytelling with live music, puppets and masks, ribbon writing, audience participation and a HUGE concertina book – all of Secret City Arts’ trademark magic, bringing the countryside into the summer city. More of the story here – and click here to hear the Ballad of Southside

From Soho House to Soho Road early 2017

Matthew Boulton and James Watt – Handsworth’s local heroes of the industrial revolution shown on our £50, drawn by a Secret City Arts young apprentice

What a pleasure discovering, writing, and making films about Handsworth’s extraordinary past and present with Secret City Arts’ 60 young apprentices, pupils at Rookery School. In this ambitious project, From Soho House to Soho Road, we explored skills, technology and ambitions in Handsworth, past, present and future.

Really moving to hear the aspirations of the young people:
Here in Handsworth we dream of becoming astronauts, artists, doctors, engineers, famous youtubers, video designers and vets. We intend to help and care for people so they are loved and happy. We intend to cure illnesses and to stop the homeless population from increasing. We want to develop new technologies to help disabled people move faster, and software to make the world a better place. We need determination, resilience, respect, confidence and courage.

Animal Lullabies 2016-17

Proud to show a glimpse of Animal Lullabies scratch performance at Birmingham Hippodrome in this short film. Click below to watch. Looking forward to the next phase of development – watch this space…

Scratch Performance, Patrick Centre, Birmingham Hippodrome 1.30 and 5pm Thurs 16th March

We’re very excited to be working with partners Birmingham Hippodrome, making a theatre piece for young children based on Mandy’s poetry book, Animal Lullabies. With Arts Council funding, Pyn Stockman is directing, Mandy writing and violinist Ann Jones is our musical director. We’ve been working with children from four partner schools to gather ideas and inspiration for a story of moonlit mischief and night adventures through till sunrise. More detail here as the project unfolds.

Stories from the High Street, Erdington 2016

We’ve been working with members of Action 4 Bullying’s youth club on an exciting project, Stories from the High Street, Erdington, funded by Birmingham City Council’s Next Generation fund. Taking inspiration from the High Stree, we’ve made a series of stories and films, based on hidden clues and details lurking behind shop windows, street names and Erdington’s secret history. Our High Street Story Trail is currently in production. Watch this space…

Baker, Baker film

Baker, Baker film with members of Action 4 Bullying

Sad news

We are very sad to report the recent death of our friend, colleague and designer, Heather Blackham. You can see more about Heather’s work with Secret City Arts here.

Funding for new and extended projects

Secret City Arts has been successful in two recent funding applications, and we’re looking forward to working in new directions. We have been awarded funding from Voices of War to work with Paul Long and Nick Webster of BCU to research the impact of our WW1 project From Handsworth to Flanders Field (see below) and are looking forward to a fruitful collaboration exploring the use of archive film and our own creative approach to history and heritage work in schools.

We’re also delighted to report we’ve been awarded Arts Council funding to translate Mandy’s children’s poetry book, Animal Lullabies, into a theatre piece for very young children. We’ll be working in collaboration with the Birmingham Hippodrome and with schools in Birmingham and Sandwell to develop children’s creative ideas into a high-quality professional touring performance from autumn 2016 onwards. Watch this space!

From Handsworth to Flanders Fields

We were delighted to receive funding from HLF for a project with year 6 pupils at Rookery Primary School. We worked with them from November 2014-July 2015. You can read more about the journey of the project here. The outcomes were rich and varied a book, 4 films and a live performance. You can watch one of our films below or visit our project page to watch them all.

02. Big Gun Week from Secret City on Vimeo.

 Story Owls with the Big Hoot

Story feathers

Story feathers

We’re exploring all things owl in our Story Owls project with older adults in Attwood Green and Lee Bank, Edgbaston, as part of the Big Hoot. Real live owls from Hagley Falconry Centre swooped around the community rooms at Chiswick House, Latimer Gardens and St Luke’s, bringing hoots of delight from local residents. As a Culture on Your Doorstep project, we’re writing memories, stories and poems about owls to feather up our very own Owlet which will be part of the Big Hoot’s citywide trail this summer. Watch this space!

Aurora the Little Owl by Murdock Ramone

Aurora the Little Owl
by Murdock Ramone

Barn Owl flight in the community room by Murdock Ramone

Barn Owl flight in the community room
by Murdock Ramone

Recent project: The Dewey Decimal Guide to Kingstanding and Erdington

Here is just one of the many films that we created. You can watch all the films by going to our project page here

3. The Story Of The Mound from Secret City on Vimeo.


Stop Press: project launch
1-3pm Tuesday 28 January at Erdington Library community rooms,
Orphanage Road, Erdington, Birmingham B24 9HP

We’ll be showing our project films, and presenting a copy of our Guide to Life to the library.
And we’ll be delighted to welcome Dr Chris Upton, local historian, and Rachel MacGregor will be showing Treasures of the Archive.

And there will of course by project cake.
Come along and join us!


Man with horse and cart, Terry's Lane, Erdington 1895

Man with horse and cart, Terry’s Lane, Erdington 1895

We’re celebrating the opening of the new Library of Birmingham with a Culture on Your Doorstep project bringing archive materials out into the community in Kingstanding and Erdington. Have a look at our work so far by clicking on our project page here.

On This Ground Films, Map and Celebration

This is the first of our films created for our recent project On This Ground (funded by Heritage Lottery). The films were only one of the outcomes. There’s a history map walking  trail, a wonderful celebration (with cake), and more information to follow along with the rest of the films. But for now if you have a few minutes take a look at this little film celebrating the history of The Bristol Street Cinema. More films can be found on our project page

The Bristol Street Cinema – Birmingham from Secret City on Vimeo.


Recent Project Update: On This Ground

Our HLF project in and around Woodview, Edgbaston, is revealing a rich medley of hidden histories and stories.

Finding out about the suffragettes who lived in Edgbaston

A wonderful session exploring at the Archive

More detail about On This Ground on our project page here

Roots and Seeds:

We have just completed our current project Roots and Seeds funded by BCC Next Generation Fund. One of the many fantastic outcomes was this film created in collaboration with Martin MacNally of Reel Access and Marc Reck of Reckorder.

Roots & Seeds from Secret City on Vimeo.

You can follow our journey from Celebrating Sanctuary, to Hodge Hill, to the The Lickey Hills and back to a grand performance at Tame Valley school on our  Roots and Seeds page

Roots and Seeds: tree memories written on paper leaves, Celebrating Sanctuary  at Mac 16th June 2012

Bull Ring Markets

We’ve just completed our project taking inspiration from the Bull Ring Markets – working with three community groups to create textiles, audio, songs, performance and Art on Your Shopping List. Find out more about this rich, multi-layered project here.
King Richard and textile artwork at our community performance
The Secret Life of Birds

There’s been a fabulous response to our recent project, The Secret Life of Birds. Over 250 people took part in our creative activities on the Arts Bus, perched for 7 days in different spots around the city, with funding from Birmingham City Council. Visit our project pages for more information.

Making a swan puppet at Welsh House Farm

Secret writing in origami birds, Plantsbrook Nature Reserve

Walls and Water – The Final Cut

In February 2011 The Secret City Team investigated and made a creative response to The Walls and Water of Brindley Place as part of the Culture on Your Doorstep programme.

This is the final cut of the living story and sound work curated by Pyn Stockman and edited by Marc Reck. With original music by Rich Batsford.

Walls & Water Soundtrack by Secret City

You can also see the animation and explore some of the original stories and writing by visiting our project page.

Banner Art work by Claire Evans