Wolverhampton ring road: an artist’s perspective

Artist-in-residence Jayne Murray has been working on a public art project using maps and images of Wolverhampton from the City Archive Collection to make a series of works about sense of place. The first pop up event was Four Flags for Chapel Ash

Fellow artists Rebecca Collins, Serge Sanghera, Sandra Cope and Phil Adams were posted as flagbearers within the Chapel Ash roundabout gardens to fly flags representing four aspects of changing spaces in the city.

Jayne tells us more…

Jayne Murray (@jaynemurrayartist) • Instagram photos and videos

As an artist who works with the everyday and place, being an artist-in-residence in Wolverhampton has meant engaging with its ring road, firstly as an unavoidable, frequent encounter and subsequently as the focus of my work.

If we go with the flow, the ring road is less problematic; if we are attempting to move across it, it becomes an obstacle. Either way it directs us and defines how we experience Wolverhampton; we have little choice but to negotiate it.

Following the decision to focus on the ring road, particularly the Chapel Ash Island area, research at Wolverhampton City Archives revealed when and how it was built, what was demolished to make way for it and the language that was used to describe this vision for the future, where ‘segregation’, ‘hierarchy’ and ‘fortification’ were seen as positives. Today the vision has proved problematic: ring roads nationally are now understood as a phenomenon that cut off movement, flow, and connectivity, as they create unassailable divisions.

Jayne Murray (@jaynemurrayartist) • Instagram photos and videos (1)

Research into Wolverhampton inevitably leads to former MP Enoch Powell, whose Rivers of Blood speech was made 50 years ago: its legacy can be seen as having as much impact in current times as the concrete ring road. Both the road and the speech cut through the physical and political landscape, causing divides physically and socially.

During the process of learning to screen print for my residency, I found the separation and layering needed to make a print resonated with the place I was finding; as a medium it lent itself well to articulating the complexity of place, and the issues of structure, system, hierarchy and segregation.

The work aims to use the frame of the ring road as a metaphor, where ideas from the past can be deconstructed and analysed, and their relevance to today discussed. With Four Flags for Chapel Ash, the frame features literally as a visual device and is conceptual;  the multiplicity of meanings is highlighted through the relationship of text to image.

Jayne Murray (@jaynemurrayartist) • Instagram photos and videos (2)

When the flags were raised in Chapel Ash Island they immediately provoked curiosity and conversation with pedestrians. The human flag bearers were a vital part of creating discourse.

Jayne Murray


Special thanks to Becky Collins, Sandra Cope, Serge Sanghera and Phil Adams


Jayne Murray is an artist working in the public realm with an agenda for social and democratic change. She runs Place Prospectors and is one of the current artists-in-residence at the University of Wolverhampton. AA2A Artists Access to Art Schools encourages emerging artists to consider taking up a year-long residency at participating Art Schools to work with students staff and alumni students.


All images © Jayne Murray