A Real Birmingham Family, by Gillian Wearing, 2013-14, (bronze)
in Centenary Square, outside the new Library of Birmingham.
The sculpture raises questions about identity and what constitutes a family today, challenging pre-conceived ideas about what a family should be. Wearing has bravely offered us a more inclusive idea of who and what constitutes a family. With single-parent families, gay marriage, single people being able to adopt, 30% of primary school pupils being from ethnic minorities and 1 in 10 being in interracial relationships, the face of Britain has changed. The white nuclear family, with all its sexuality, race, and class implications is something that a lot of people in Britain cannot identify with.
'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', commented the artist.
During 2011 and 2012 Birmingham residents were urged to nominate their families to be the face of Birmingham: no limits were placed on how the 21st century family might define itself and nominations included groups of friends, extended families and people living alone. Over 350 families responded. In 2013 a diverse panel of community, cultural and religious figures chose a short-list of four.
In 2013, the Jones family, consisting of two sisters, both single parents, and their two sons was announced as the selected 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,' said Wearing.