It’s said a picture paints 1,000 words. But what if 1,000 words could paint a picture?

Today, a unique artistic collaboration has been launched from the West Midlands, home of this year’s Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

To coincide with the launch of the Birmingham 2022 official Queen’s Baton Relay, West Midlands cultural icon and spoken word artist Amerah Saleh has launched ‘The Relaytionship’. A relay of words, powered by the people of the Commonwealth.

As the Queen’s Baton traverses 72 countries in 294 days, so too will ‘The Relaytionship’, an unfinished poem, inviting individuals from every corner of the Commonwealth to contribute their own words to the piece.

The words gathered will be used to create a unique piece of ‘hyper hybrid art’ created by West Midlands-based audio-visual artist Tommy Xiao Ji in collaboration with Amerah Saleh to be revealed during Birmingham 2022.

“The Commonwealth Games is a time for people to connect and to share stories across countries and communities. There is no better region to embody that global connection than the West Midlands.” said artist Amerah Saleh.

“As one of the youngest and most diverse regions in the world, we’re a place where many cultures come together to collaborate, to innovate and to create. It is this distinctive spirit of the West Midlands that we wanted to celebrate through The Relaytionship.

“What does ‘home’ mean to you? What does ‘incredible’ mean to you? We’re asking communities around the Commonwealth to contribute words and images which reflect their answers to these questions. We feel these words both represent the spirit and experience of the West Midlands and Birmingham 2022, but also the unique experiences of individuals across the world. The voices, words and images across the Commonwealth will then be used to create a unique piece of art which we’re excited to develop as the poem develops.”

Minister for Sport and Tourism, Nigel Huddleston said:

“This innovative artwork is an exciting part of our £24 million Business and Tourism Programme that will help promote the best of the region’s culture and diversity to the Commonwealth and encourage more people to visit, stay and invest in the region.”

Councillor Patrick Harley, Leader of Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and Portfolio Lead for Culture & Digital for the West Midlands Combined Authority, commented:

“Making connections with audiences across the globe is incredibly important as the West Midlands gears up for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. Working with the region’s thriving arts scene can help us to reach people across any border.

“The West Midlands is an incredibly popular destination for overseas visitors. Pre-pandemic, the region attracted more than two million international visits every year. We want to remind them that we are thinking of them, and are ready to welcome them back to the West Midlands as soon as we can.”

Becky Frall, Head of Tourism at the West Midlands Growth Company, which aims to attract more visitors to the region, said:

“The arts and culture scene in Birmingham and the West Midlands is one grounded in heritage and yet constantly evolving. We’re a place of world-

renowned cultural institutions but also small, establishing and emerging experiences. The themes of renewal, growth and evolution are inherent to West Midlands culture and this piece of work we hope engage audiences up to and beyond the Commonwealth Games.”

The Relaytionship by Amerah Saleh

We are tiny galaxies that pass each other quietly

We know when to come together

When to stand behind one another

We are multiple worlds colliding

Ready to embrace

Put the sun in your suitcase

Put the maps of the places you’re going to away

We are your tour guides

We’ll show you the architecture of our youth

The back to backs of our histories

The gardens of our stories

This galaxy is a combination of dreams and nightmares

At least we know that

We get up every morning

Continue to build on the shoulders of our heroes

Spin our world around

Tell us we are not the greatest

But we are in the middle of greatness.

Tell us what incredible is and we will provide?.....

We are the place you breathe at a human pace

The beauty of the capital

But the peace of a second

We can be children again

Tongues out at funfairs

Lollipops for being brave

To travel to another place

And find something new

What does home mean to you?......

To be continued…..

‘The Relaytionship’ launched on Friday 8th October 2021 and continues for 294 days alongside the Queen’s Baton Relay. For more information or to contribute your words visit www.makeitwm.com/relaytionship.

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