The Art Fund helps Birmingham Central Library secure Important Photographic Legacy for the Nation

  • Published 10 February 2009

Birmingham Central Library has been awarded £11,750 by The Art Fund, the UK's leading independent art charity, to purchase prints by two of the leading British documentary photographers of the 1970s, who were inspired by amateur Victorian photographer Sir Benjamin Stone.

The acquisition includes a total of twenty-four photographs by Daniel Meadows and Homer Sykes, who documented the lives, customs and festivals of British people some eighty years after Stone toured the country recording similar subjects.

Images from Sykes’s book Once a Year – Some Traditional British Customs and prints from Meadows’s Free Photographic Omnibus project will form the basis of a new collection demonstrating Stone’s influence on subsequent generations of British photographers. The Library already holds a portfolio of prints by another 70s photographer, Tony Ray-Jones, who attempted to document the English way of life before it became ‘too Americanised’.

All three artists were featured in the legacy section of the Library’s exhibition Knight of the Camera: the Photographs of Sir Benjamin Stone MP in Centenary Square in 2008. The purchase was supported by Anthony Collins Solicitors, major sponsors for last year’s exhibition.

The Library has an immense archive of photographs by Stone which were gifted to Birmingham Free Libraries after his death in 1914. It now forms the cornerstone of the Library’s collection which was awarded Designated status in 2006 by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

Cllr Ray Hassall, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture, said: “Birmingham Central Library houses some of the finest photographic collections in the country, and it’s wonderful to have support from The Art Fund to help develop and enhance these even further.”

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: “This is an immensely rich and diverse collection of works from two very important photographers, who have dedicated their careers to capturing the social zeitgeist in Britain. The Art Fund’s core purpose is to make great works of art available for everyone to enjoy, as this work now will be for generations to come.”

The total cost of the work was £12,000, making this almost a full grant from The Art Fund, adding to a number of works the charity has helped the Library acquire.

Collections like this and Birmingham's extensive archives will be opened up further to the public as part of the Library of Birmingham, set to open in Centenary Square in 2013. This will include a 1000 square metre gallery space as well as facilities to improve the standards of care and conservation.

For more information on the Central Library’s outstanding photography collections contact the Archives and Heritage Service, on 0121 303 4217 or visit
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Media contact: Neil Holland 0121 303 3485 or

Notes to editors:
 The full list of prints being acquired are:
Homer Sykes final selection all from the book Once a Year:
 Sword-dance play, Ripon, Yorkshire, 1972
 The Burry Man, Lothian, 1971
 Bottle Kicking and Hare Pie Scrambling, Hallaton, 1973
 Royal May Day. Knutsford, Cheshire, 1973
 Caking Night, Dungworth, Yorkshire , 1974
 Bellerby Feast, 1973
 Haxey Hood Game, 1972
 Minehead Hobby Horse, 1975
 John Sayer Charity, 1975
 Farthing Bundles, Bow, 1974
 Marshfield Mummers, 1974
 Bampton Morris Dancers, 1975

Daniel Meadows, images which were part of the Photo-Bus project, but not published in his book:
 Leeds Bus station, October 1973
 Burton-on-Trent, February 1974
 Noah Bloomer & Sons, chain-shop, Cradley Heath, March 1974
 Wedding, Wednesbury, March 1974
 Britannia Coconut Dancers, Bacup, Easter Saturday 1974
 Epsom Derby, June 1974
 Towlaw Town v. Durham City in the Rothman's Northern League, October 1974
 Bonfire Night, Moss Side, Manchester, 1972
 Lyn Dansey and Stella Burras, sisters, originally photographed in Southampton. 1974 and 1999.
 Peter and Susie Gatesy, son and mother, originally photographed in Brighton. 1974 and 2000.
Daniel has also provided an image and given permission to copy note books which relate to the Photo Bus project in the West Midlands, one of which shows his bus in West Bromwich.

 Birmingham Central Library has over 2 million photographic items and uniquely, holds the only national collection of photography in a public library. There are outstanding collections including those of pioneers like Sir Benjamin Stone, Francis Frith and Francis Bedford as well as modern collections such as Paul Hill / Photographer's Place and Vanley Burke.
 The photographic collection was awarded Designated status in 2006 by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. Only eight collections in UK libraries have achieved this recognition, six of which are held by Birmingham Central Library.
 The Library’s Photography Collections will be moved to new, state-of-the-art storage, display and access facilities in the Library of Birmingham, due to open in 2013.

About The Art Fund:
1. The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art.
2. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections.
3. Recent achievements include: helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; putting together a unique funding package to ensure Dumfries House in Ayrshire and its contents were secured intact for the nation in July 2007; running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK; and helping to save Rubens’ sketch for the ceiling at Banqueting House, Whitehall, for Tate in October 2008 with a grant of £600,000.
4. For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit

The Art Fund is a Registered Charity No. 209174