Tom Illsley


There's No Herons Today


Birmingham Airport (IATA: BHX, ICAO: EGBB) is an international airport located 5.5 nautical miles east southeast of Birmingham city centre, at Bickenhill in Solihull, England. The airport is a base for Flybe, Monarch, Ryanair, Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomson Airways. It offers both domestic flights within the UK, and international flights to destinations in Europe, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, North America and the Caribbean. Passenger footfall throughout 2015 was over 10.1 million, making Birmingham the seventh busiest UK airport. There are currently plans for a second runway and a new terminal complex at the site.


Birmingham Airport receives thousands of international passengers every day. These visitors travel to and from the four corners of the globe, flying over the surrounding area without ever being able to intricately see the beauty of the landscape below. This series of images focusses on the space surrounding Birmingham Airport and works to make the landscape and its history visible to these travellers that frequent to sky above. It highlights the communities who inhabit the perimeter and live under the flightpaths. Figures from Birmingham Airport show that 8 million people live within one hours drive of the airport, but less than 40% of them use it. Despite the airport and The NEC now dominating the physical and psychological landscape; you can get a sense of the green corridors or pockets corridors around the airport when flying in and out. These older natural habitats and those of the urban developments now sit side by side, and are homes for people, flora and fauna which are invisible to the travellers. The work is also an exploration of my strong and fond personal connections to this area, particularly Sheldon Country Park and the RW15 Viewing Area; where I spent much of my childhood laying on my back watching the planes come in to land and take off with my Grandmother.


The work counters the impressions of areas such as Marston Green, widely considered an area of deprivation and deterioration but one with many hidden beauties; in spaces such as Hatchford Brook, isolating an 18-hole golf course between the airport and its flowing water. I consider these photographs to be a truthful representation of this periphery, displaying how the land is viewed, used and mediated.