From September 2017 to September 2018, Lloyd Bricken, Lillis Taylor, my wife Glory McLaughlin and I organized a grassroots community/arts space in Birmingham called The Jaybird. Our goal was to create an intimate, inclusive space for a diversity of arts, traditions, talents, and ideas, and to offer a deliberate season of events: a year of monthly concerts, bimonthly art openings, and other goings-on along the way. The Jaybird was part venue, part bookstore, part gallery, part library (home, specifically, to the Alabama Zine Library), and part hangout space. It hosted old-time string band jam sessions, yoga classes, voter restoration clinics, young writers’ workshops, public readings, craft fairs, and more.
This page includes write-ups about the space from a variety of local publications, photos and videos from Jaybird events, and Jaybird event posters. All this only represents a shadow of what this space was, did, and meant, but hopefully it will give some idea.
Our “Jaybird year” stands as one of the most meaningful, inspiring experiences of my life, surpassing expectations in every way. I’m grateful that many of the collaborations and relationships that grew out of this space will continue to take new forms and evolve in all sorts of ways, I imagine for a long time to come. In October 2018, The Jaybird proudly passes the torch to Freedom House, home to Real Life Poets and an ongoing series of cultural and community offerings. Anyone who visited The Jaybird will recognize the spirit of that endeavor still going on, as strong as ever, between those walls.
Here’s a look inside The Jaybird experiment.
Press for The Jaybird:
“Collaborative community space hosts music, art shows,” Birmingham Magazine –– “If it could help people rethink what they mean by business, or help people rethink what’s possible, or help people rethink, ‘Oh, I have this far-fetched dream that’s impossible,’ … then The Jaybird will have achieved its aims.”
“I Create Birmingham: The Jaybird,” Create Birmingham — “We imagine The Jaybird to be a kind of shared living room, an intimate space where everyone of every stripe can get comfortable and feel a kind of home…”
“Cool Spaces: This live-work building in Crestwood makes artists’ dreams come true,” Birmingham News — “If this all sounds unusual and experimental, that’s because it is…”
“Collaborators behind The Jaybird seek to ‘bring people together,'” Iron City Ink — “We’re just trying to create some beautiful, warm moments, trying to bring people together…”
“Discover Birmingham’s Latest Hole-in-the-Wall Arts Venue,” Style Blueprint — “The Jaybird is a colorful sight that champions inclusivity.”
“The Birmingham Music Scene in 2017: The Audiovore Weights In,” Patch.com — “This literary-minded and roots-centric music community center opened its doors to a standing ovation in 2017, providing a unique space in Avondale for “old time” music and jam sessions — as well as poetry readings, art shows, and even more modern artistic endeavors — showing off Birmingham’s commitment to serving creativity of all stripes. A collaborative enterprise in the truest sense of the word, and run by some of Birmingham’s favorite movers and shakers, it’s one of my ‘venues to watch’ for 2018.”
Photos from The Jaybird:
Jaybird Opening: September 22, 2018
Video from The Jaybird:
(Thanks to Gottfried Kibelka for recording & sharing these videos)
Jock Webb and Clarence “Bluesman” Davis (November 2017):
Bo Berry (December 2017):
Clear Blue Sky (January 2018):
Elnora Spencer (February 2018):
Chad Fisher (February 2018):
Engine (March 2018):
Posters for The Jaybird:
Thanks to Yellowhammer Creative for creating our great series of concert posters!
Finally, some words from Walt Whitman, our patron saint. This passage from the prologue to Leaves of Grass served as The Jaybird’s inspiration and credo. We painted them big on the wall by our library, along with an enormous photo of Walt. The poet’s words continue to loom large in Freedom House. They’re worth frequent rereading.
“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”