The Ballerina Girl Of Balsall Heath

Posted by Dr Davidd OBE DASc on
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Ballerina Girl (left) with her sister Wendy (right).

Here at Jammy Toast we love old black and white photographs and indeed, in the past, we have featured pictures by our favourite photographer, Shirley Baker. Over the weekend we found a collection of photographs taken by an American student by the name of Janet Mendelsohn. Janet studied at the University of Birmingham between 1967 and 1969 and while she was over here she photographed the streets of Balsall Heath for a photo-essay on inner-city life. During the late 1960s Balsall Heath was Birmingham’s largest red light district, a place of work for some hundreds of prostitutes. Mendelsohn provides an extraordinary insight into these women’s lives, their domestic arrangements and personal relationships as well as the nature of their profession. However, one photograph stands out amongst all the others; it is of a little girl who became known as The Ballerina Girl of Balsall Heath.

Shirley Baker

Posted by Dr Davidd OBE DASc on
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Specials thanks to Art.Com for the photographs used in this post!

If you check the Bear Music page you will notice a song from John Cooper Clarke entitled “Beasley Street” based on life in Salford. When we originally featured the song on the old Jammy Toast site we featured a picture by the late, great Shirley Baker to accompany it. At the time we were asked if the photograph was of Beasley Street and we had to admit it was not. We are not sure where the photograph was taken other than it was taken by Shirley Baker who, like John Cooper Clarke, comes from Salford and took photographs of Salford and Manchester during the slum clearance programme of the 1960s. I always think her photographs go so well with John’s poems because they are more or less telling the same story.