On Saturday 16 March, Carly and I went along to the Friends of Birmingham Archives and Heritage’s (FOBAH) AGM. Carly is a committee member and gave an update about Digbeth Speaks, which has only been possible through the support of FoBAH.
The AGM provided a great forum to publicise our project and gather support and contacts from FoBAH's members. Everyone was really enthusiastic about the project and had lots of suggestions for people we could contact or places that could be investigated! It generated some interesting questions too, including what we considered to be the boundaries of Digbeth, which might be an interesting way of thinking about contemporary Digbeth’s identity. At the meeting the industrial heritage of the area was mentioned and it might be interesting to see how the spaces in Digbeth have transformed – e.g. how former factories are used today or whether they are derelict. There are lots of exciting possibilities and we can’t wait to hear people’s stories.
Rachel MacGregor, Senior Archivist at Birmingham Archives and Heritage, also gave a lecture about the history of Birmingham’s public library. This was particularly of interest given that it is about to undergo a major change when it relocates to its brand new home on Centenary Square later this year. It was fascinating to hear about the opening of the library in 1865 and it being in keeping with the Victorian ethos of self-improvement. Rachel explored some really interesting aspects of its history including women in the workplace, the fire of the first library in 1879 and its subsequent re-location, as well as some of the books that caused scandal in the 20th century! It is great to know that the oral histories that emerge from the Digbeth Speaks project will go into the archive of the new Library of Birmingham, and that contemporary Digbeth will be memorialised alongside this period of change for the library.
Lauren Dudley, Project Volunteer