Do you have any stories or memories of the building?  Did you work in the Municipal Bank?  Please send any stories to 

We would be very gratful for your input in this exciting project!
Unpaid opportunity to work on a unique contemporary art exhibition in the Grade II Listed Municipal Bank building on Broad Street, Birmingham, UK. 

Thrift Radiates Happiness
 is the first art exhibition to ever be held at this heritage site.  We are looking for gallery assistants to invigilate the building during the launch and the 3 days it will be open to the public. 

We are looking for enthusiastic and reliable people to join our team.  We would need you to be available between Thursday 14th and Sunday 17th March 2013, all day.  Responsibilities will include:
  • ·      Talking to the public about the show.
  • ·      Looking after the artwork.
  • ·      Making sure the building is well cared for.

An interest in the arts would be a benefit but we are happy to open this opportunity up to anyone who would like to be involved. 
Partners on this project include: Aedas Architects, RIBA, Birmingham Architectural Association, TROVE, Birmingham City Council, Birmingham Central Library Archives. 

If you are interested please send us your CV and a sentence or two why you would like to be on the Thrift Radiates Happiness team. 

This would be an incredible opportunity to work with a site rarely open to the public and within new art and architecture partnerships.  It would be a valuable experience if you are an art/architecture student, have an interest in local history or want to get into the creative industries. 

Deadline: Sunday 3rd February 2013 5pm 

Email Project Assistant Amy for more details and/or to submit your application.
Release date:  17th January 2013

One of Birmingham’s most historic landmark buildings is set to open its doors to the public for the first time in ten years when it plays host to a captivating four day contemporary arts exposition.

From 13-17 March 2013 the former Grade II listed Municipal Bank on Broad Street will showcase a creative programme of drawings, images, sound and light, video and music from local, national and international artists.

The Municipal Bank was established in the aftermath of the First World War as a savings bank for the citizens of Birmingham. This grandiose building was opened on November 27 1933 by Prince George. It closed its doors in 2001.

The title of the exhibition is Thrift Radiates Happiness. The line has been taken from an inscription found carved across a main beam within the building.  All the art projects featured will appropriately focus on finance and investment.

The showcase event is the result of an arts and business collaboration between Birmingham based gallery TROVE, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Birmingham Architectural Association (BAA), Birmingham City Council and global architect practice Aedas.

Entrance to the exhibition will be free thanks to funding awarded by The Arts Council, RIBA and Aedas.

Alongside the art exhibition there will be an extensive educational programme provided by the BAA and RIBA, including a public debate, heritage tours and a student design competition.  

Marcus Wilkins, studio director at Aedas, said:  “Birmingham has a vibrant architectural community, a remarkable collection of heritage buildings and a thriving arts scene.  These ingredients have been combined to deliver what promises to be a truly unique exhibition of art.

“The value of business and art working together has long been recognised by those working in both sectors. It strengthens creativity, innovation and collaboration, something that Birmingham is reputed for.  Aedas is delighted to be part of it.”

Plans for the exhibition, that will open during the day and evening are well underway.  National and international artists already signed up include Elly Clarke, Tom Crawford, Caitlin Griffiths, Ellie Harrison and Nicole Wilson.

Charlie Levine, director and curator of the TROVE Gallery, added:  “We are assembling an amazing collection of artists for everybody of all ages to enjoy.  There will be areas where visitors will listen, watch, study and participate as well as enjoy the full gravitas of the building itself.  Visitors will discover how art and architecture make a positive difference to our lives and experience first-hand the art of investment

“A key feature of the exhibition is an auction that will take place in the safety deposit box room.  Visitors will be invited to invest £2 to receive a random number for a safety deposit box that will contain a limited edition art print.”

Gavin Orton, regional chair of RIBA West Midlands, added:  “This rich new cultural collaboration will deliver something truly spectacular for Birmingham.  It is a perfect example of Birmingham organisations working together to create a pioneering cultural partnership that will deliver a new chapter of arts activity for the city.

“We are delighted that the Council has allowed us to use this great building to promote arts and architecture in this way. It is a demonstration on how important local buildings can be creatively re-used and re-imagined. The exhibition theme of investment and finance is also highly fitting in a building that has stood the test of at least four major recessions in the last 100 years.

“We hope that this is the first of many exhibitions that this new partnership will deliver for Birmingham and the West Midlands.”



Pictured:  An internal shot of the bank’s original safety deposit box room

For further information visit or call:

Jennifer Chatham, Chatham Communications

Kate Eagle, Aedas 

Carina Schneider, RIBA 

As this was my first site visit, I decided to share the first photo I took, focusing on my first impressions and feelings of the building.

Walking into the massive space of the entrance hall I tried to imagine what it would have been like, stepping through the revolving doors into what would have been quite a magnificent sight. The high ceilings are impressive, with the remains of 1930s interior style adorned on them and the surrounding walls, and the floor space is huge; you can imagine the long cashier desks, the general public queuing, and employers hard at work.  I spotted the inscription which inspired the title of the show Thrift Radiates Happiness, and had a little wave of excitement come over me thinking about how we were going to be involved in a small part of this building’s long history, introducing others to the perhaps overlooked qualities of the Municipal Bank.

Amy Kirkham
Project Assistant, Thrift Radiates Happiness

For the first half of our third site visit we seemed to have trouble getting the lights in the entire basement to work. Far from being deterred, everyone was incredibly keen to see the safety deposit room and so made their way into the room with their mobiles pointing ahead, to shed some sort of light. Sometimes a flashlight from one of the cameras illuminated the room and bounced off the many mirrors, indicating where everyone was. 

It was a strange, quietly excited atmosphere as everyone explored the space in the dark, and to me it epitomised the beauty and fascination that non-public abandoned spaces like these hold for their visitors. They seem to possess unknown histories, secrets, possibilities, exclusivity, and turn us into adventures, explorers and researchers.

They give us the opportunity to abandon our usual indifference to the spaces we normally move through and inhabit, to learn to experience a place again, to orientate ourselves, to emotionally respond to them. Their stories and spaces, what we discover in them and how they make us think is like things taking shape in the dark. 

So I selected the above picture which I took with my mobile over Elly's head while she was taking a photo in the darkness.

Carina Schneider
Events & Communications, RIBA West Midlands

When asked to take an image on the most recent site visit to the Municipal Bank to then show and explain why I took it and why I liked it, I thought I would have been overwhelmed with options.  The Municipal Bank is an incredible building.  There are nooks and crannies everywhere, huge rooms, small rooms, stained glass, secret vaults, original objects, new objects, corners, doorways and mirrors.  But when on site I clicked into curator mode and began being more concerned with which plug sockets work, which lights worked, how could the work sit in spaces where you can’t touch the walls due to its Grade II Listed status, which doors need closing off and how many invigilators will we need and where, that I didn’t take any images at all. 

So I have selected an image of the floor plug sockets in an upstairs office, taken by one of our artists, Elly Clarke, on this same site visit whilst Amy and I were busy testing ground floor sockets.

Charlie Levine
Director, TROVE

Keys to one’s heart

There is far too much magic at the Municipal Bank in Birmingham to choose what would be my highlight of today’s site visit.  This image however captures what really fascinates me about the building…. the millions upon millions of secrets that are ready to be divulged.  This is only one drawer of keys which are linked to the 10,000 safety deposit boxes in the vaults.  One can only start to imagine the stories which each one tells, of people and their precious items, valuable or worthless, but that reflect what each owner holds dear.

Kate Eagle
Manager, Aedas Presents

‘Modernist Teepee’, Mary Yacoob, ink and graphite on paper, 2012 

Mary Yacoob appropriates symbolic visual grammars from architectural plans, geological maps, diagrams, and alphabets. Some of her work involves documenting the minutia of daily life in diagrammatic form. In other work, she creates systemic works about architectural spaces that reconsider representations of urban planning and public art through proposals for often unrealisable interventions. Her panopticon project, which incorporates drawing, photography, vinyl floor pieces and etching, explores the architecture and geometry of surveillance and power. 

Mary Yacoob studied at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and London Metropolitan. Solo exhibitions include the Centre for Recent Drawing, the Anzac Centre, Seven Seven Gallery and Westland Place Gallery. Group shows include Galerie8, PayneShurvell, Guest Projects and OVADA. In 2011 she was artist in residence at the printmaking department of Camberwell College of Art. 

TROVE’s and Aedas Presents’ idea for Thrift Radiates Happiness couldn’t have come at a better time. With the RIBA focussing more and more on Public Programmes across the regions, being able to work with TROVE and Aedas Presents on this project was a great opportunity for us to get out there and support a great project that brings together so many aspects of what’s important to us.

RIBA West Midlands had previously worked with Aedas, holding events at their Colmore Plaza offices – from strategy workshops with the RIBA President to LEGO workshops and drawing exhibitions as part of Love Architecture Festival 2012 – and I had always been a fan of their art programme ‘Aedas Presents’ that Kate Eagle ran with Charlie Levine. 

Still, why Thrift? It’s a great chance to bring something unique and special to a public audience and is at the same time utterly relevant and every-day, touching on themes of art, investment and architecture.

While architecture occupies a fascinatingly ambiguous place on a sliding scale somewhere between art, culture & design, and construction & the built environment; aesthetics and commerce, its commonalities and symbiosis with ‘art’ and ‘culture’ are hard to overlook. 

Just like arts and culture, architecture makes a crucial contribution to people’s experience of a city, the happiness and connectivity within communities and overall influence on aspects that make cities tick: social cohesion, crime, health, well-being, visitor economy.

But just the same, these major impacts are often invisible or intangible, and especially in cash-strapped times like these it’s fashionable to question expenditure on things that are often perceived as luxury, such as the arts, or good design – even if they are in fact part of the solution.

Thrift Radiates Happiness touches upon all those themes in one masterstroke. 
It opens a central landmark in Birmingham City Centre, right at the heart of one of its cultural centres – alongside the Symphony Hall, the REP and the New Library – that has previously been closed to the public. By doing that it not only breathes life into a piece of urban fabric that has somehow become invisible to passer-bys, but also illustrates the opportunities that these empty gems can hold: they can be concert venues, galleries, theatre stages, film screens, dance floors, debating chambers.

It thereby alludes to something that is key to what architecture is in part about: being a purposeful, well-designed frame to be used and enjoyed by people through how they utilise the building and in turn shaping their lives. It shapes the experience of the space itself and whatever is happening within it, forms memories in a place that gives identity and character to a city and its inhabitants.

And even more, Thrift Radiates Happiness gives us food for thought on a very current topic: what is the worth of money, what do we invest in and why, how can we keep providing for arts and our environment despite the economic circumstances through partnerships, and which role do art and architecture play in providing meaning and shaping the every-day reality we live in?

Carina Schneider, RIBA West Midlands


'Shark', Nicole Wilson, work in progress, 2012
Nicole Wilson is an American artist living and working in Chicago, IL.  Through performative actions, she re-imagines failure and futility with poetic gestures.