Sandra Hall

The co-founder of Friction Arts, Sandra Hall on the power of cultural, social and arts activities for positive change, what makes Brummies so special… and the permanent return of Birmingham Sunday Share


I started as a performer/actress in London doing film, TV and theatre. I moved to Brum in 1990 to join Geese Theatre Company, using drama to confront offending behaviour in 120-plus prisons. This work changed my understanding of how arts can impact society. Once I’d met Lee, my partner, we started making work together in non-traditional spaces, raves, the street, allotments.. making projects with and for people. We’ve worked across the world in places often perceived as dangerous, making useful and beautiful projects with people living and working in very difficult circumstances.


As founder members of Friction Arts, Lee and I are very ‘google earth’ about our roles. We’re directors but also get our hands dirty –working the bar, delivering workshops, fund-raising, project design, producing and more. Following a successful inaugural event last year, Birmingham’s Sunday Share bootsale, organised by Friction Arts and the Active Well Being Society, is back on a permanent basis in Digbeth, featuring professional cultural, social and arts activities.


I want to continue to make relevant work, be part of making the city for everyone and to welcome recently arrived economic migrants, particularly from London, and through sub-cultural safaris show them we have a vibrant, surprising culture that they are welcome to join.


Professionally – we’ve spent the last three years marking the closure of the Wholesale Market, birthplace of the city 1,000 years ago through a range of projects. This culminated in a large-scale show, Everything Must Go, last summer, which was attended by many of the traders who were visibly moved. We’re proud of our international work, too – we left lasting legacies of activism and art in the likes of South Africa and Brazil. We’ve also managed to buy our venue/workshop, The Edge in Digbeth.


Listen carefully to all advice and disregard that which your gut tells you to. Never believe something is impossible – give it a go, you never know. We wouldn’t be re-starting the bootsale if it wasn’t for militant optimism and great support.


I came here in 1990 and reckon I was a Brummie within six months. You’re welcomed in other cities in the UK though often reminded you’re not from there ¬– that doesn’t happen here. I love Birmingham, particularly the people; straight-talking, authentic and understated humour – which is also why the re-booting of the bootsale is really important – a historic working class market built by and for people across the city… a regular meeting place.


When we’re not working we tend to be researching! Going to markets, of course, wherever we may be in the world. I’m in a jazz combo with Bethan (four-years-old) and Adam (seven), my neighbours. We meet once a week for ‘jazz club’ (specialising in improv). I grow 60 sunflowers every year as annual gifts for friends and to create a corner of joy in my garden where I can fall asleep and wake to nodding flowers. And I like a pint…