Last week we were very lucky to interview Antonio Roberts, who is, among many other things, an artist in Birmingham. His connections to Digbeth ranged from work related activities to regular visits to shops and pubs. We heard about his connections with VIVID, the art scene, and the wealth of small business and artists led spaces in Digbeth, as well as his views on how Digbeth could change in the future. Huge thanks to Antonio for a fascinating interview.
Antonio and our Digbeth Speaks interviewer, Rachael Heaven
I'm going to admit something to you: until today (Saturday 27 April), I'd never been to Digbeth before (apart from that time I went to the bus station but I don't think that counts). I met Lauren at Moor Street station and she became not only my colleague for the day, but also my tour guide.
We headed straight for Floodgate Street and to do some vox pops at Project Pigeon (http://project-pigeon.co.uk/), who were having an open day. Members of the public were invited to view the archive, take part in a writing workshop and book launch, with the play 'The Fancy' being performed later on in the day. We chatted to the curator, Alexandra Lockett, about the project and her feelings about Digbeth before dipping into the archives and making friends with a very snazzy multi coloured pigeon.
After Project Pigeon we swung by The Custard Factory to talk to some people at the vintage fair, only to find that...we'd got our dates mixed up and no such fair was going on! Undeterred and hungry for vox pops we headed over to Eastside Projects (http://www.eastsideprojects.org/) where we had a look at their 'Puppet Show' exhibition. We met with Francesca, (whose English is amazing regardless of what she says!) and talked about what she thinks of Digbeth and its art scene.
Lauren and I then doubled back on ourselves and headed over to Minerva Works for the 'Fierce Start Party' to hear about what to expect from Fierce Festival this October (http://www.wearefierce.org/). With a BBQ, beer, music and a pop-up exhibition by contributions from 2013 Fierce artists, you could hear and smell the event before we arrived. Harun explained to us a bit more about what was going on and his thoughts about Digbeth.
We then headed back to The Custard Factory and straight into Mr. Bird's Emporium, which was buzzing with people. Lucy and Victoria, stall holders at Mr. Bird's, gave us some vox pops and an insight into what it is like to work in Digbeth. On our way back to the city centre for lunch, we popped into Urban Village and chatted to Joey. Although he didn't have time for a vox pop because the shop was super busy, we promised to get in touch for a longer interview. Watch this space!
As we headed off in search of a sandwich, I pondered about my first real experience of Digbeth: we'd spent the day hopping between amazing projects, vintage shops and an exhibition space, all housed in old factory buildings. Yep, this place they call Digbeth really is as wonderful as I'd been led to believe.
On Friday 26 April, I went to Digbeth Dining Club at Spot*light and was greeted with the tasty-smelling aroma of street food.
Burrito, paella, pancakes and toasties... I was spoilt for choice. I bought myself a burrito from Habaneros, a satisfying portion for £5. I didn't realised Habaneros was based on Colmore Row, despite commuting to town everyday.
The trendy and friendly setting at Spot*light was the perfect place for local workers to relax and socialise on a Friday night. I met two ex-workers in Digbeth, who found themselves returning to Digbeth over and over again, and discovering new events each time.
I then met Jack Brabant, the founder of Digbeth Dining Club, whose mission was to promote independent street food venders in Birmingham. As a freelance film producer, he has been documenting the street food phenomenon around the UK, but found there was none in Birmingham. That was what inspired him to kick start the 'Street Food Revolution' in the heart of Digbeth in August 2012. Jack liked the fact that the Dining Club created an alternative party scene, and it is, indeed, a fast-growing one.