Monday, 29 April 2013

Once upon a sunny afternoon in Digbeth...

On Saturday 20 April, Ralph and I went to the Catapult Club Archive hosted by Vivid Projects in Minerva Works, Fazeley Street. Seeing as it was such a beautiful, warm sunny day (the first one of the year?), we thought it would be a great opportunity to have a wander round the streets of Digbeth.

We started on Digbeth High Street. After buying two punnets of strawberries from the market, we wandered off onto Oxford Street and Coventry Street with The Old Wharf and Birmingham Central Backpackers on the corners, and always with the arches of the railway line towering overhead. I’d never realised quite how dominant this massive structure is on this side of Digbeth; wandering up and down the streets you go backwards and forwards underneath it and it’s always there in your sightlines.

Having had a good look at the graffiti on Floodgate Street we discovered the back way to the Custard Factory and crossed the bridge over the River Rea. The river used to power watermills but is now essentially a storm drain for the city - the canals feature far more heavily as waterways here. From the Custard Factory we looped back round to Heath Mill Lane, back under the railway and up to Eastside Projects where we saw their Puppet Show exhibition and Karl Nawrot’s Mind Walk #I, both definitely worth a visit. 

Then onwards up to the crossroads of Heath Mill Lane, Fazeley Street, Great Barr Street and Liverpool Street, featuring afternoon drinkers enjoying the sun outside The Forge Tavern and a Victorian public urinal on the corner of Great Barr Street! From there we headed up to Minerva Works for Vivid Projects, Grand Union, Stryx and Ikon’s Slow Boat and took a break in the sun to eat those strawberries I mentioned earlier….

The Catapult Club archive at Vivid was posters and demo tapes from Birmingham promoters, The Catapult Club which was founded in 1989. The tapes were set out in massive rectangles on the floor and the posters arranged chronologically on the walls. You could pick out tapes to listen to on the tape decks provided. A dad was there explaining to his kids how you played a tape, which made me feel a bit old! 

While we were in Minerva Works we also checked out Grand Union’s exhibition 999321 by artists Kjersti G. Andvig and Lars Laumann, as well as Stryx’s great group exhibition next door. Stryx is an artist led studio, project and exhibition space formed by Fine Arts graduates in 2012 and an exciting addition to Minerva Works.

Then on the move again, past the Barn Street Diner and across the high street to Alcester Street where we walked past The Spotted Dog, the Chinese Community Centre, Irish in Birmingham and St. Anne’s Roman Catholic Church. There are fantastic views back to the city from Alcester Street which are well worth a visit to this part of Digbeth for... or a ride out of town on the No. 50 bus, which gets you even better views from the top deck! 

After Alcester Street we headed down the hill to Lombard Street and the PST private members club, where this time last year we experienced all sorts of weird and wonderful sights at Fierce Festival's Holy Mountain party. Although today the entertainment was limited to kids enjoying herbal refreshments on the corner. Further down the hill is The Market Street Tavern and the Moseley Street CafĂ© decked out with Irish flags. It feels like a more abandoned area down here but amid the warehouses is Muthers Studio on Rea Street South, which has practice rooms, a recording studio and gig venue. The lonely-looking Lamp Tavern sits on Barford Street and further up the street are a couple of now boarded-up warehouses which used to serve as a practice space for bands – you either rang a bell to be let in or just rolled up the metal shutters.

After Barford Street we’re onto Sherlock Street (where the 45 and 47 buses come into town) and then up Hurst Street and out of Digbeth for this afternoon, armed with a lot of photos and in serious need of a snack!

Katie Hall, Project Manager

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