The Restorer

Clang, Clang, Clang, Clang.

A man with stooped shoulders tossed a coin into the dry fountain and shuffled slowly towards the museum. The iron gates kept him at bay, and he knocked four times on the tough metal.

Clang, Clang, Clang, Clang.

The damp day had declined into a dark night. The city sweltered with the cold humidity, leaving a balmy texture upon the streets of crooked terrain made of cobblestones; the buildings, oppressive and ominous, stood tall and loomed over the few passerby’s in the evening’s nest. The city, dressed in sepia from the dull lamplights, dotted infrequently throughout the passage of the historic district, was quiet. The life of day went stark and lonely, as a festive balloon  bobbed sadly with dwindling helium near the dry fountain.

This is Birmingham.

Clang, Clang, Clang, Clang.

The Man looked upward to reveal a partial glimpse of his face; a ruddy complexion, with a deep, clear piercing eye with soft whiskers protruding from his chin. He scratched his face and pulled his collar higher to shield himself from the misting wind.

Clang. Clang. Clang. Clang.

The balloon skidded down the way, abandoning the man awaiting entry.

Clang. Clang….

The gate opened by a small stunted lady.

“You’re late,” she said.

The Man shuffled past her without a word, or look or expression.

“Have a good night.” The stunted lady locked him inside and briskly ran into the sepia descent into darkness.

Like a shadow, the Man roamed the corridors. Small echos of his shoes; leather, laced tightly,  gave soft thuds on the marbled floor.

The Restorer, tucked away solemnly in a small studio, attempted desperately to maintain the life within the paintings; the oil, the decaying canvas— a constant battle of preservation. Her eyes drooped during these long days where antiquity was her only companion. A day without artificial light was a hope, a dream. She heard soft thuds approaching, a friendly reminder that she was not alone. Her head peeked outside of the studio door that remained ajar during the evening hours when the museum was closed. The Man stopped and met her stare. In the silence between them he breathed in heavily, drinking in the stench of alcohol and pasty mud. The Restorer asked a favour, to look after her studio and the precious works that lay bleeding, while they slowly dried.

Watch them. Please.

He didn’t mind.

She stepped out for a cigarette.

He waited. He tapped his left shoe. He looked down the corridor, first to the north, then to the south. Nothing moved. A gentle hum murmured from the humidifiers that controlled the temperature of the museum. Nothing stirred. No mice or rats scrambled in these hallways. Nothing lived. And he liked nothing.

Ten minutes passed, quickly and without notice. The Pre-Raphaelite remnants hung with a haughty disposition of grandeur and myth, but at night, they spoke of nothing. The Rosetti’s, the Millais’s, the Hunt’s; silent.  Another picture dead on the wall.

He waited longer. No signs of the the Restorer, no signs whatsoever. He slunk through the crack of the heavy wooden door and moved himself inside of the small studio. Four walls, no windows, and a tall, towering ceiling. One bright light spread the length of a dark yet humble painting titled, The Last Chapter. A restoration in progress. The lady reading by candlelight tried desperately to finish the novel before the candle extinguished. The Man was desperate for desperation.

In the corner of the studio, a finished project stood in a deep shadow. An earthly 17th Century piece of grand proportion boasted a setting of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph resting on a plain en route to Egypt. Their donkey, was illuminated. It was freshly painted in albino colours; the sacrifice of a holy ritual. The Man walked closer to it, the thuds of his steps softer with each closing movement. He placed his face right up to the red eyes of the donkey. He breathed in deep, the intoxicating fumes of the resin, pigment and solvents. His eyes fluttered, and enjoyed the gentle high.

His eyes, darker in the shadows, pressed upon the texture. It smudged the pristine paint of the donkey’s left thigh. He squinted, the blunder was noticeable. The Man shot up and scrambled to the table, the fumes and stenches of used colours and drying pigments scattered across his mind. All the open paint was dry, flaking and unusable.


A closing of a door rang resolutely down the hall. It was the Restorer on her return. A small tinkle of keys marked her journey back to the small studio. Each step let out a louder chime.

He looked at the painting, maybe he could leave it. She would never notice. Of course she would notice. Who wouldn’t notice. He picked up a scalpel and without blinking he dug the delicate knife into the web of his fingers. It bled. Slowly, but freely; the red urine of life. And there it was.  A small dollop of red.  He took a pallet and let the blood drip into a small reservoir. The discordant chime coming closer and closer and he shook with pressing time. He ripped out a lock of his hair, a small delicate wisp of brown held tight between his fingers. He dipped it into the coarse blood. It clung obediently. He slashed it onto the canvas, on the leg of the donkey. It dripped, as blood does. It looked like a real wound. And it was.

The chiming stopped. The door opened, the creak echoed high into the narrow ceiling.

She smelled of cigarette smoke, now stale in living memory. She stared.


The Man told the Restorer he admired her work. She nodded and held the door open for him.

He walked down to the Pre-Raphaelite corridor, and went straight to a particular painting. It was hung at the perfect height, the face of Dante Gabriel Rossetti staring straight into him. His eyes, cold and dead like his own. Clear with madness.

In the morning, the painting was returned to its designated spot in the gallery, where it still stands today, blood and all.

~ Charlotte Newman

Red Wolf

A shame descends upon The Stranger
Who lingers, follows, obsessed with images
Of you— The darling creature that walks lonely
In the morning, afternoon and evening’s clutches.

The beauty that is ugly without an eye to behold her
Has stricken her face with storied blemishes.
The carnal desire of acquisition coldly
And calmly rises and bows as The Stranger watches

YOU. The Stranger shuffles behind in steps with ether;
Odorless matter. Consuming, blushing, with luscious flashes
Creep into the falling body, cursing all that is holy—
Now in the hands of silent ashes.

Still, be still, wait for nothing to appear,
The fate of your blue head darkens and clashes
With the warmth of the hands that feather
His heart— like death; Bound with stitches.

It is YOU to fear as an unearthly memory of the meager
Beauty; a devastated obsession. The suspended night finishes
With the weight of an inhaled hush— that slowly
tingles just before The Stranger’s light diminishes.

~ Charlotte Newman

You’re cordially invited too…

Paul Newman Study for a handle  III 8 x 8 cm

Exhibition Launch | April 8 | 6pm – 8pm | Highlight Space, Level 3

Please join us for the exhibition launch event, kick starting a three week takeover of the Library of Birmingham, culminating in a day of Gothic related talks on May 2, 2015 from across BCU’s Art, Design, Media and English faculties. The event promises to be a fascinating and contemporary look at all things macabre and is a great opportunity to meet some of the artists and speakers.

Exhibiting artists include:

Jivan Astfalck, Sally Bailey, Rachel Colley, Alessandro Columbano, Gregory Dunn, Jodie Drinkwater, Joanna Fursman, Anneka French, Bruno Grilo, Ole Hagen, Hannah Honeywill, Shelley Hughes, Sevven Kucuk, Jo Longhurst, Amy Lunn, Paul Newman, Wendi Ann Titmus, Cathy Wade, Grace A Williams and Rafal Zar.

Event lead: Dr Serena Trowbridge, School of English

Curator: Grace A Williams, School of Art

With thanks to Bex Price, School of English

Library of Birmingham turns Gothic for an exhibition hosted by Birmingham City University.

Library of Birmingham turns Gothic for an exhibition hosted by Birmingham City University.

On Saturday 2nd May 2015, BCU will be hosting an Interdisciplinary Gothic Event  at the Library of Birmingham, showcasing all things Gothic. There will also be an exhibition, running from 7th April – 2nd May to accompany the main event, both organised by Dr. Serena Trowbridge from the School of English with support from second year English student Bex Price.

The event will consist of several talks about different areas of Gothic – fashion, architecture, literature, photography and more. The exhibition is being curated by Grace Williams, a PhD student in the School of Art, and will include a wide range of works by BCU staff and students. Serena Trowbridge, the organiser, tells us about how the event came about: “I’ve just started teaching a new module on Gothic as part of the BA English, which has been really popular with students.

The subject has such a broad appeal as Gothic reinvents itself for every generation.” Shannon Kooner, a student of the School of English agrees:

“Whilst studying the Gothic, I felt the texts specified for us to study were extremely interesting as well as covering a diverse range of topics which worked interchangeably with the Gothic. I would gladly study this module over again!”

Another student also confirmed: “One of the most interesting modules I’ve studied. I was really surprised by the texts- when you think of Gothic you expect everything to be very cliched, which was absolutely not the case! Great range of ideas and texts covered, extremely interesting.” Serena says the event should prove popular with the public: “Gothic is a very interdisciplinary subject which also has a wide popular appeal so it’s ideal for a public event. I’m extremely excited about it!” Dr. Trowbridge’s book, Christina Rossetti’s Gothic, which was published in 2013, grew out of her Ph.D. thesis which she completed at BCU. As well as the exhibition itself, there will also be a blog dedicated to this event where there will be regular posting of news, updates and any written work revolving around the Gothic theme. You can read it at, or find more information on twitter @gothicinbrum. There is also a facebook group: for contributors and attendees. Serena adds: “The event and exhibition as a whole will be an incredible way to showcase work for BCU students, to network across the Faculty and to be involved in a fun cultural event. We have some fantastically talented students in the Faculty and it will be great to display their work to the public.” The event will be open to anyone and admission is free. Press release by Holly Barry, student in the School of Media

Interdisciplinary Gothic Event and Exhibition

On Saturday 2nd May 2015, Birmingham City University will be hosting an Interdisciplinary Gothic Event and Exhibition at the Library of Birmingham, organised by Serena Trowbridge in the School of English. The event will consist of several talks between 20 and 30 minutes about different areas of Gothic – fashion, architecture, literature, photography etc. It will be open to interested staff, students, and members of the public, and is free to attend.
The exhibition part of the project will be running for three weeks prior to this date, and will be made up of student work. As well as the exhibition itself, this blog will also be dedicated to this event. This platform will be used to post news, updates and any written work revolving around the Gothic.
Hope to see as many of you there as possible!