A new chapter in the historic story of Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter will begin this week with the opening of a new public square dedicated to a local author whose books won critical acclaim for the way they described the social history of the city.
In a project run by Birmingham City Council the newly christened 'Dayus Square', at the junction of Carver Street, Legge Street and Albion Street in the Jewellery Quarter, has undergone £300,000 worth of public realm, art, pedestrian and traffic improvements, developed in conjunction with local residents.
The new square has been named after critically acclaimed local author, Kathleen Dayus, who used the nearby George and Dragon public house as a prominent setting throughout her books and grew up close by on Camden Drive.
In honour of this literary and historical heritage the square will feature a specially designed piece of public art comprising a bronze sculpture of pages from a book containing passages about the Jewellery Quarter from Dayus' work.
Other improvements made as part of the project, funded through a section 106 agreement, include new pedestrian crossings and footways, paving based on historic cobbling, and the first new street trees installed in the Jewellery Quarter for many years.
Cllr Timothy Huxtable, Cabinet Member for Transport, Environment and Regeneration, said; “This project will not only enhance the quality of life and the street scene in the immediate vicinity, but will also further enhance and celebrate the cultural heritage which makes the Jewellery Quarter such a unique and renowned attraction.“
Born in Hockley, Birmingham, in 1903, Dayus is best known for a series of autobiographical novels based on her experiences as a child and as an adult growing up within the close knit, yet impoverished, back-to-back communities within the city.
Awarded an honorary degree from the University of Birmingham in 1992, her collective works were published as a single volume in 2006 called The Girl from Hockley: Growing Up in Working-Class Birmingham, a book which featured as Radio 4's Book of the Week upon being published.
Dayus also won the prestigious J.R.Ackerley Prize for Autobiography in 1982, a prize later won by such luminaries as Alan Bennett, John Osbourne and Germaine Greer. She died in 2003 a couple of weeks short of her 100th birthday
The former George and Dragon pub is currently vacant and in a poor state of repair, however the City Council is working with the owner to bring forward proposals to return it to its original use with the addition of new hotel accommodation.
David Mahony Chair of the Jewellery Quarter Development Trust, said:” Kathleen’s stories are so redolent and help us to understand what thing are, how they were so and why it important to cherish this unique place. I recall her well and we really miss her, although she is still the ‘James Herriot of the Quarter’, and the JQDT hopes to link all those places she describes so well into a walk and this square is just the start.”
For more information please contact Simon Houltby 0121 303 3503