Saturday, September 12, 2009

KEY HILL OPEN DAY - 12th September 2009

It is a well known fact that if I take a camera within half a mile of Key Hill, it pours down with rain. But this year the forces of nature forgot about me and the sun shone on the righteous as well as me.
On a sunny day, Key Hill Cemetery is a wondrous place, the early sun shines through the trees and ground mists creating an ethereal fairy-tale landscape*. If it is an open day, the sun encourages more visitors and raises the mood. It also makes photography difficult and I use this as an excuse for the rather bright or shadowy photographs I took today.
Sadly the BARRA group was unable to run their stall and the horse-drawn hearse was unable to attend. However entertainment extaordinaire was on hand to compensate as the open day was organized in conjunction with the ArtsFest, with a theatrical group performing an unique Hamlet playlet and a medieval choral group providing musical harmony in a very apt setting.
The hard work of the Friends of Key Hill chairman Dick Empson and of all the other Friends should not go unnoticed because if it was not for their dedication the cemetery would now be largely wasteland. And it is the visitors to the event that help shape the possibilities of the future, by their interest shown and by financial contribution
The Friends website is at

*Sorry about the waxing lyrical bit. Don't forget you can click on the photos to make them larger, and use you browser back button to return to the main stream.

 At the Icknield Street entrance are the recently restored gates and cleaned pillars.

 The tents of the Friends of Key Hill.

 The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Cllr Michael Wilkes and Lady Mayoress Vivienne Wilkes greet Wendy Partridge in the "Friends" tent.

 A group photograph comprising James "J" Jones, Wendy Partridge, the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress and Sue Jones.

 The Lord Mayor tries to win a prize on the Tomb-bola, assisted by Wendy Partridge and overlooked by the chair of the "Friends", Dick Empson.

The stall holders for the Tomb-bola, from l-r, Cynthia Hobson, Margaret ? and Sue Chiltern. 

This is where you can join the Friends of Key Hill and purchase gifts. Glynis Jones is present to help people. 

 Rosalie adds beautiful decorations to plates and sells them on behalf of the Moseley Road Methodist Church.

The Mayor and Lady Mayoress prepare to unveil a memorial to Joseph Tangye, an industrialist and engineer. 

A tug on the ribbons reveals the memorial. 

The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress pose with the skilled workers of Yardley Memorials stone masons, who have worked hard on this memorial and so many others in Key Hill. 

The Tangye memorial. 

 Another civic duty, but I suspect a labour of love as the Lord Mayor cuts a ribbon to open a special unit in the catacombs....

This catacomb houses a display and information centre. Items on display include old advertisements for the cemetery, coffin handles and early minute books of the cemetery.

 Colin Giles, highly knowledgeable in Key Hill history, explains the display.

 Rea Griffiths, events co-ordinator of the Birmingham and Black Country Bat Group explains some of the unique habits of bats to me. Find them at

This is the Ladywood Past and Present stall, Mac Joseph was on hand to assist with enquiries. See more at the excellent site at

 Next to the Lady wood stall is Ted Rudge's Winson Green To Brookfields stall. More about this can be found at

Colin Giles tries his luck on the Tomb-bola. 

 Phil O'Dell joins the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress for a group photo...

... and Dick Empson joins in too. 

 The guided tour of the cemetery attracts much interest as visitors are shown the graves of the famous sons of Birmingham.

 One of the graves they will see is that of Thomas Walker, inventor of the blue brick. Note the early Birmingham coat-of-arms on the pedestal.

 A view over the cemetery.

Another view over the cemetery. 

A memorial recording those who perished in World War 1 who are buried at Key Hill Cemetery. 

Phil O'Dell, News letter editor of the Friends of key Hill, adopts a cunning disguise in the form of an extremely dodgy moustache. 

 Here he is again, trying to sneak out of the cemetery. For full story see further down.

The Hamlet Globetrotters, an aspect of the MDCC theatre company, provide an amusing "spoof" rehearsal of scenes from Hamlet. More at


The final act of the day was a beautiful set of songs by the Stella Maris Ensemble. This medieval group sang a set of songs about the six wives of Henry VIII, and a song for Henry as well. Many of the songs were accompanied with a range of traditional instruments. The setting was very appropriate for their performance. Their web-site is at 

Phil "I see dead people" O'Dell, a funeral director by profession, tries to convince police that he was sure the traffic warden who booked him last week was dead when he buried him.... 

.... but the police were unconvinced leaving Phil to take drastic action, this cunning disguise!