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George Saunders Reimagined: Creative responses by students from Birmingham City University

Images showing the work of BCU Fashion and Textiles students
A selection of the work created by Birmingham City University students | © Birmingham City University

Explore the story and skill of George Saunders, a master tailor who worked at the Back to Backs from 1974-2001 through the contemporary work of Birmingham City University students.

What is the exhibition?

George Saunders Reimagined is a partnership project between the National Trust and Birmingham City University.

The Back to Backs holds the unique collection of George Saunders, a Master Tailor, who moved to Birmingham form St Kitts in the Caribbean in 1958. Like many migrants, George faced discrimination when he arrived in the UK. His skills were not recognised, and when he did gain work, he was paid less than his white British colleagues. However, George overcame these challenges, and went on to run a number of successful tailoring businesses. From 1974 - 2001 George operated from the Back to Backs on Hurst Street.

Students from the School of Fashion and Textiles at Birmingham City University have been inspired by George’s collection and his story. They have created new garments using original paper patterns that have not been used for more than 20 years. Alongside these garments, students have also produced digital media, fashion designs and a range of wallpaper designs inspired by George.

This exhibition showcases the students' creative response to the George Saunders story.

Why are the Back to Backs hosting this exhibition?

For the last 20 years, the Back to Backs have looked after and shared the George Saunders collection with our visitors. This partnership has enabled us to learn more about George’s skills as a tailor and the technical processes behind his work.

"The Back to Backs team has generously shared access to the George Saunders exhibition, which has enabled our students from foundation entry to graduate level to interact, engage and explore his fascinating collection.” Louise Martin (Course Director Foundation Fashion and Textiles) 2023

Birmingham City University’s School of Fashion and Textiles students have been encouraged to explore and create a diverse range of outcomes inspired by the George Saunders collection through contemporary creative practice. Engaging current and new audiences with themes that remain highly relevant today – migration, heritage, community, and enterprise.

The students have helped to bring the George Saunders collection to life and enabled us to share his story in an engaging and entirely different way.

How do I visit the exhibition at the Birmingham Back to Backs?

Visiting the exhibition space at the Birmingham Back to Backs is free of charge and does not need to be booked. Enter through the Back to Backs' second-hand bookshop at 61 Hurst Street. If you'd also like to visit the houses you'll need to book online here.

When is the exhibition open?

‘George Saunders Reimagined' will open to the public on Friday 9 June 2023. The exhibition spaces are open from 13.00-17.00 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 10.00-17.00 from Thursday to Sunday. The exhibition will close in December 2023.

Credit information for header image

Left image
Left - Sarah Moore - Waistcoat & Trousers (L5 Fashion Design)
Right – Natalie Matthews - Waistcoat & Trousers (L5 Fashion Design)
Photographed onsite at the Back to Backs by Natasha Holt L6 Photography student

Central image: Lydia Pierce-Brown - Birds (L4 Textile design)

Right image
• Charlotte Carter - Waistcoat & Trouser - (L5 Garment Technology)
• Mehrnoosh Meibodi - Outer jacket - (L5 Fashion Design)
Wallpapers from left to right:
• Amy Newton - Carnival (L4 Textile Design)
• Anna Blanke - Pattern pieces (L4 Textile Design)
• Felicity Williams - Old spice (L4 Textile Design)
• Hyka Banaras - Blue Scissors (L4 Textile Design)
• Lydia Pierce-Brown - Birds (L4 Textile Design)
• Rebecca Tombs - Trees (L4 Textile Design)
• Sophie Tuck - Navy flower haberdashery (L4 Textile Design)
• Photographed by Natasha Holt L6 Photography student

The historic courtyard of one of the Birmingham Back to Backs, displayed as it would have been in the 1930s with washing on the line, dolly tub, washboard, bicycle and pushchair.

Book your visit

Please note you need to book tickets to Birmingham Back to Backs. You can book for the following day up until 4pm. Every Thursday another week of time slots is added, so you can book up to four weeks in advance.

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