Come run with us in Digbeth

The blurb for this blog says Creative Industries, Gardening and Running so here’s the first posting in the latter category and a call for any runners in and around Digbeth to come join a group run.

running

Last summer a small group of us who work for Birmingham City University in Bromley street near the Custard Factory started an after-work running group along the canals around Digbeth. Well this year we’re venturing out again for a regular run each Thursday at 4.30pm (starting on the 15th May) for about 30-40 minutes. If you work in the area then this is open invite to you to come along. We’ve got a small group of men and women with a wide range of abilities and all we do is go up the canal through Bordesely Green and turn back about 15 minutes in.

So it you fancy it just turn up here next Thursday and then every Thursday at 4.30pm:

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We’re not training for anything in particular but hey, how about the Birmingham Half Marathon in October for a target.

The Custard Factory – a lesson in avoiding gentrification

This is pulled in from the Birmingham Post for which I write occasionally. I won’t cross-post like this in future as the sidebar shows updates from other sites I write for but as this references a post here I’d thought I’d make an exception: 

I wrote an entry on my own blog last week that’s been niggling away at me ever since. Catching up on the many pictures of the train derailment in Digbeth in March I mused over how the hole in the wall created by the goods wagon would be the right place for an entrance to a Custard Factory train station. I was writing with tongue slightly in cheek, particularly when pointing out how that same train line may one day have a direct connection to the boho enclaves of Moseley and Kings Heath.

However, it does make some sense and there is precedent here as the Jewellery Quarter station has only been there since 1995 and was built not on the site of a previous disused station but was created specifically to serve that creative quarter. The same could happen at Custard Factory. Imagine a direct connection from CF to JQ – a truly well connected, joined up Brum. It might even open up the Custard Factory to more visitors and before long we’d have more than two cafés and the newspaper shop would open before 9am and have some ice-creams in its freezer. In essence we might get what we don’t want (and it’s a leap but bear with me) – a long slow slide towards gentrification.

I’ve worked around the Custard Factory for over two years now and sometimes it drives me bonkers. The speed at which the clampers work in the only available carpark, the limited choice of food outlets, the impossibility of finding anywhere for a fry-up first thing in the morning, the lack of general public footfall throughout the day (how do those quirky independent shops survive?). Okay so it’s a giant leap from proposing a train station, to a Custard Factory full of Costa Coffees and Starbucks but might opening it up and making it easier to get to result in the one thing that would kill it off? Despite years of discussion over Eastside and what it might become, actually working around the Custard Factory feels like you’re part of a well-kept secret.

Shifting an area from light manufacturing to creative industries, as has happened over the last 15-20 years is part of the process of gentrification itself but there’s still a significant industrial/creative mix around the area and what’s particularly interesting is that where the creatives have gone, retail hasn’t really followed. During the day there is virtually no visitor economy – at 3pm on a weekday afternoon the place is semi-deserted.

I’m not sure we agonise as much about gentrification here as they do in London. There are certainly some voices out there but the discussion seems unfocused. The Custard Factory feels like a place that is incomplete, like someone started to gentrify it and then gave up, realising it was just too far from the centre of Brum for most people to bother with it. That’s what I quite like about it at the moment and despite the train nerd in me thinking otherwise, maybe better public transport is the last thing it needs.

CD Scarecrow – stage two

So having taken the decision to use old CDs to make a scarecrow I’ve now gone to the dusty and under-used CD shelf and made some tough decisions. Needless to say that S Club 7 (later in their career they would become just ‘S Club’) can now have all the sunshine they want as they have made the cut. Actually their CD is ideal as it shiny on one side, obviously, and white on the other. That places them very high indeed on the scary-meter.

Actually I don’t need many CDs to construct my scarecrow so the rest are made up of Travis (did we buy this? both of us deny doing so), Moby (newspaper freebie), Fat Boy Slim (ditto), Marion (mid 90s Britpop wannabes), Hard-fi (why is this man shouting at me?), Paolo Nutini (??), and The Good, The Bad and The Queen album which I have to say is awful and I hope I never have the misfortune to listen to again.

Before the weekend I hope to start construction of said scarecrow. More to follow.

CD Scarecrow – stage one

CD scarecrow

[pic by cupra]

I need to make a scarecrow and judging by what I’ve seen elsewhere, the dangling of CDs seems to be a popular choice. So how do you make a CD scarecrow? Well the first stage would be selecting some CDs to dangle. Why waste money on blank CD-Roms when there’s a large collection of CDs in the house that we never play anymore (the ipod+dock has now replaced all that nonsense).

I’m tempted to pick off the bad CDs first (we’ve got a Travis CD somewhere I think and a couple of Coldplay albums) but maybe I should just dive straight in, admit that we’ll never put a disk in a CD player again and put my Beck CDs out to seed.

One thing that does occur to me is that I could try different artists in different sections of the allotment. Pulp by the runner beans and Sparklehorse by the carrots. Any views?

The Custard Factory needs a train station

Today I did lunch over at the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham. Given how tricky it is to regain a parking space on the streets surrounding the Custard Factory once you’ve given it up ( I work on Bromley street), I decided to use the train. 

As I walked up to Moor Street it occurred to me that what the Custard Factory really needs to stop it having that ‘slightly too far from the centre of town’ feel is a train station. Okay so the station would only be 500 yards from the centre of Birmingham but imagine how convenient it would for the growing population of workers located at the Custard Factory and the many more who will follow once Devonshire works are complete as well as the new units on Fazeley street. 

The recent train crash (see report from Alex Hughes) showed us where the possible entrance might be:

(pic by H4NUM4N)

As well as linking our two creative quarters by rail the killer reason for a Custard Factory station is the fact that at some point all the talk about reopening the line from Moseley/Kings Heath into Moor Street is bound to happen. And where do all these creative types who work in the Custard Factory live? I rest my case.

Dave