Centenary of Tipton tragedy that killed 19 girls to be marked with poignant exhibition

An exhibition marking the centenary of one of the greatest tragedies to ever befall upon the Black Country is set to take place.

The work aims to highlight an event which is little known outside the Black Country
The work aims to highlight an event which is little known outside the Black Country

It will be staged in Tipton by Birmingham artist Chris Hardy next week, and features work which has taken 12 years to produce.

On March 6, 1922, an explosion claimed the lives of 19 girls as they dismantled tons of rifle cartridges left over from the First World War which had been bought from the Government.

One of the cartridges inexplicably went off at the L K Knowles factory, igniting or discharging several thousand others waiting to be dealt with.

Doreen Rushton from Tipton , seen here in 2013, whose aunt Lizzie Williams was killed in the blast aged 13

Thousands of people gathered at the scene of what became known as The Tipton Catastrophe, being reported nationwide and in cinemas.

Chris said: "I am extremely grateful to Tipton Community Centre for giving me the space to exhibit my work as I wanted to mark the centenary in the town where this tragedy occurred.

"What happened to these girls should not be forgotten, and I hope visitors will reflect on how supposedly ordinary lives are still being affected by such incidents today."

Questions were asked in Parliament about the incident with a boss of the factory sentenced to five years in prison for the deaths.

The funeral for the victims of the factory explosion that happened in 1922

The girls were mainly in their early teens. A press report at the time said: “Some were scorched beyond recognition.

"The flying gunpowder had totally disfigured them and their clothing was literally torn from their bodies.

"In a number of cases their skin was torn away and in this condition they ran maddened about the yard."

Chris began work on the project 12 years ago while studying at Birmingham College of Art to highlight an event which is little known outside the Black Country, and as a reminder that industrial tragedies involving exploited workers still occur around the world.

Chris began the project 12 years ago while studying at Birmingham College

The exhibition consists of paintings, sculptures and text relating to the lack of identity and choice that result from poverty.

Nineteen oversized yellow dresses, one for each girl, have been given texture by being shot and dominate the exhibition.

Admission is free, but some items are for sale and any money raised will be given to the Birmingham Burns Unit.

The exhibition will take place at Tipton Community Centre on Brook Street from March 4-7.

It will run from 12pm to 6pm on Friday and Saturday and 12pm to 5pm on Sunday and Monday.

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