A Real Birmingham Family

The Project

A Real Birmingham Family is Ikon’s four year project with Birmingham-born, Turner Prize winning artist Gillian Wearing: a quest to find a ‘real’ Birmingham family and immortalise it in bronze. The sculpture now stands in Centenary Square outside the Library of Birmingham.

Ikon started the project at the Pallasades Shopping Centre in April 2011, and toured to many different locations within the city over the next year. A Real Birmingham Family draws attention to the unsung, raising questions about civic identity and what it means to be a family today. No limits were placed on how the twenty-first century family might define itself.

From the many hundreds of self-nominated families, a shortlist of four was chosen by a diverse panel of community, cultural and religious figures. Each family is distinct, from an extended family of neighbours to single parents, representing a diverse range of social and cultural backgrounds. These families were the core of an exhibition presented in the BBC Birmingham Public Space at The Mailbox during summer 2013. In short films the families talk about being from and living in Birmingham, and their identity as a family.

From this shortlist the panel chose the Jones family as A Real Birmingham Family

A Real Birmingham Family is funded by Arts Council England (Catalyst Scheme), Birmingham City Council and the Friends of the Family

The Jones Family Gillian Wearing, A Real Birmingham Family, 2014.

The Family

From hundreds of participants, one family has now been selected to be the model for the new public sculpture. The Jones family consist of two sisters, Roma and Emma, both single parents, and their two sons Kyan and Shaye. The selection panel was greatly impressed both by their commitment to Birmingham and the evolving nature of the concept of family.

"I really liked how Roma and Emma Jones spoke of their closeness as sisters and how they supported each other. It seemed a very strong bond, one of friendship and family, and the sculpture puts across that connectedness between them. A nuclear family is one reality but it is one of many and this work celebrates the idea that what constitutes a family should not be fixed."

Gillian Wearing

“We feel truly amazed and honoured to be chosen to represent what it means to be a family in Birmingham. We feel it highlights that family is an indestructible bond between people that is universal and it doesn’t matter how it is made up or what it looks like.” The Jones Family

In Spring 2014 the process of making the sculpture began and it was unveiled on Thursday 30 October in Centenary Square, outside the new Library of Birmingham.

The Jones Family The Jones Family

The Shortlisted Families

From over 370 families who nominated themselves to be the subject of Gillian Wearing’s new sculpture A Real Birmingham Family, four families were shortlisted.

The Jones family has now been announced as the chosen family.

The Clarke family

This is my family! We can talk about anything together. We are very open, down to earth and we enjoy each other’s company. My mother is half Indian, my stepdad is Irish and my son is a perfect mix.

The Clarke family The Clarke family

The Hancox / Treadwell family

We are two separate families who lived next door to one another for six years. Our children go to school together and are all quite close in age. We rely on each other a lot when we need to – for example babysitting and taking and collecting kids from school. We are all very close and feel like one big family.

The Hancox / Treadwell family The Hancox / Treadwell family

The Hay / Wooldridge family

We are two parents who have grown up in and around Birmingham, one black, one white, who met in Birmingham and who now have a beautiful mixed race daughter as the ultimate expression of our love for one another.

The Hay / Wooldridge family The Hay / Wooldridge family

The Jones family

Our family is made up of two sisters who are single parents that support each other and play a major part in each other’s life. We have lived in Birmingham all of our lives, in many different areas across the city. Being mixed race we feel at home here as it’s so diverse and multicultural and as a result we believe the mixed race population in Brum will only increase.

The Jones family The Jones family

The Selection Panel

Our selection panel is a diverse mix of community, cultural and religious figures who arrived at the shortlist following a discussion on what makes a family: multiple generations, friendships, diversity as well as strong connections to Birmingham.

  • Stacey Barnfield, Editor, Birmingham Post
  • Micaela Boas, Director Outset Family
  • Brian Gambles, Assistant Director, Library of Birmingham
  • Jonathan Gurling, Executive Secretary, Birmingham Faith Leaders’ Group
  • Ian Taylor, Club Ambassador, Aston Villa Football Club
  • Jonathan Watkins, Director, Ikon
  • Gillian Wearing, Artist
  • Dr. Elizabeth Yardley, School of Social Sciences, Birmingham City University
  • Polly Welsby, Ikon Youth Programme

Limited Editions

Gillian Wearing has created two unique limited editions in celebration of the A Real Birmingham Family project.

The first is a small bronze, identical to the public sculpture, limited edition of 20 (h.33 × w.44 × d.13 cm), priced £5,000. For more information please contact Debbie Kermode, Ikon Deputy Director, on 0121 248 0708 or email d.kermode@ikon-gallery.org. The second is a limited edition poster, signed and numbered by the artist, edition of 100, priced £60. Available from Ikon Shop or online at www.ikon-gallery.org/shop

Family Album


Ikon is an internationally acclaimed contemporary art venue situated in central Birmingham, just 15 minutes walk from New Street Station. Ikon’s exhibitions show work by artists from around the world in a variety of media.


Ikon Gallery
1 Oozells Square
Birmingham B1 2HS
Open Tuesday – Sunday, 11am–6pm – free entry
0121 248 0708 / www.ikon-gallery.org

Ikon Gallery Limited trading as Ikon.
Registered charity no. 528892
Ikon is supported using public funding by Arts Council England and Birmingham City Council.

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