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“Home of Metal”

Ben Venom, Don’t Wake Me Lucifer!, 2010, handmade quilted heavy metal T-shirts, fabric, batting, thread, 83 x 95".

RIDING THE IRON HORSE from London into Birmingham, I am always struck by how green and lush the outskirts still appear. Canals cut through the approaches, their crisp edges capitulating to the creeping undergrowth. You pass empty, smashed factories and brick warehouses to reach the city center, recently a riot battleground. Yet the green is a reminder that Birmingham and its satellite towns are inventions of the industrial revolution. This was a peaceful rural heartland until the eighteenth century, when the loom became the new plow and peasants were forced into the new city to work for the lords of the dark satanic mills—such as John “Iron Mad” Wilkinson, whose likeness I found stamped into the coinage recently on display at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. If the days of colossal industry that made the skies black and the air vibrate are long gone, the process Wilkinson set in

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