The Hop Project tours for 18 months across the West Midlands funded by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring fund. The tour schedule corresponds to both the historical movements of hop pickers and hop growing areas and it visits 15 venues before concluding at mac Birmingham in September 2017 (full tour schedule can be found here)
The project’s starting point is an exploration of the social and political implications of hop production in the West Midlands. Historically, in the 19th and early 20th century, a mass-exodus from Birmingham and the Black Country used to occur every autumn as thousands of people travelled to Herefordshire and Worcestershire for the hop picking season. The Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities also have a long history of participating in agricultural work and were a significant source of flexible, short term labour in the hop picking industry at this time. This all ended abruptly in the 1960s when mechanisation of the hop industry brought an end to the need for large numbers of workers to support the annual harvest. Since this time dramatic changes have taken place in agriculture and in the workplace more generally. One of the outcomes of these developments is that today Herefordshire has an ever increasing Central European community travelling to the county to fulfill agricultural demands.
A free 40-page newspaper about The Hop Project is available from all exhibition venues (at the time of exhibition). The includes an essay by Professor Margaret Grieco looking at the social organisation of Black Country hop- pickers.