My housemates and I sometimes need a little bit of perking up in this big grey city and our grand day out in Digbeth most definitely restored our faith in Birmingham and its budding arts scene.
First things first: shopping! We were so eager for our ‘grand day out’ that we may have turned up before the shops even opened at 10am – eager beavers! So after a reviving Starbucks we went to see what musty second-hand – ehem vintage, I mean – bits and pieces Digbeth had to offer.
Cow provided me with a beret, Urban Village had a beautiful sheepskin jacket for only a tenner and the Flea Market in The Custard Factory was full of snazzy neon trackies and other vintaaage pieces we weren’t quite brave enough for – but SO cheap! The great thing about Digbeth is that it’s actually vintage that’s still affordable, none of that £70-for-a-1960s-bag-that-Twiggy-may-have-touched-but-smells-like-urine malarkey!
Look at my hat! Only £7!
Ahh the Custard Factory, once our weekendly haunt, where people wore sunglasses inside and it’s £3 for a bottle of water (think you can guess what I’m getting at…), sadly it’s now no longer a venue for nights our so we can’t risk our lives dancing at the edge of a filthy swimming pool or climb up on stage with Chase and Status. Travesty!
Now it’s just a cute little abandoned shopping centre filled with cafes, shops and offices and with ‘arts’ splashed all over it – it’s gone so upmarket they’ve even put a fountain in the swimming pool, ravers would cry.
Toin Adams‘ amazing metal works jump out at you as you wander through this glass maze; they’re completely unexpected but perfect in the clinical white spaces, adding something organic which is so refreshing in this otherwise concrete jungle. The Custard Factory isn’t pretty, it’s messy and weird and cracking and crumbling, but once you’re inside, you forget that there’s a dual carriageway buzzing with traffic right around the corner. Of course it’s no city park haven but it’s refreshing to be in a part of Birmingham where the shop keepers say hello and aren’t part of a massive chain, and people turn up in colours other than grey and black on shiny motorbikes, and there’s just bits of art made by freelancers and students floating about everywhere. It’s as if there really is a quiet little community of artists and creatives here in Birmingham and Digbeth is certainly the hub.