Digbeth People: Joe Holyoak

Joe Holyoak is a architect and urban designer with offices at the Custard Factory, but more than that, he is a true friend of Digbeth.

Well-respected in his field, Joe is often turned to for comments by his peers, and lends a very helpful hand to Digbeth Residents Association with planning issues. Joe also lends his expertise by regularly attending HS2 Community Forums and other planning meetings on behalf of DRA, for which we are incredibly grateful.

I am very concerned about the impact of the HS2 station upon the relationship between Digbeth and the city centre. The station threatens to reproduce the barrier between the two which the previous elevated ring road represented. HS2 would reverse this accessibility, with Bordesley Street and Fazeley Street being blocked. Between Selfridges and the old Curzon Street Station building, there will be no way of walking between Digbeth and the city centre.

As an ardent supporter of the built environment, and a member of the Victorian Society, Joe knows lots about the history of Digbeth. He is happy to share his knowledge through tours he conducts around our part of the city, most recently he led a trail around Digbeth Pubs as part of the Love Architecture Festival. Joe also led an Architectura Victoriana Tour back in May for the IKON gallery.

But don’t just think it is only us in Digbeth who respect Joe’s point of view: he has written many opinion pieces for the press and trade journals (click here for his take on the planned HS2 station), and always stands up for Digbeth and indeed Birmingham as a whole.

… it is necessary to understand and respect the history and the nature of the city. This means continuing to use historic place names, and not seeking to replace them by bland invented marketing terms such as “Eastside”.

The city’s publicity campaigns have little to say about, and even dismiss, the ordinary and the utilitarian, as exemplified in inner city districts such as Digbeth. These districts are not only economically important to Birmingham, but in their fine grain and their diversity, they are a large part of what makes Birmingham special. The Big City Plan should respect and value them.

There are many other contributions Joe has made to Digbeth over the years, not least by fighting to save Island House before it was demolished last year. Click the following links to read more from Joe about the history of Island House, and the stained glass mystery.

From all of us at Digbeth Residents Association, Thank You Joe for everything you do!

Pamela Pinski

Digbeth and Proud

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