The dark nights return…

Last week, West Midlands Police launched The Dark Nights Return, a campaign aiming to cut crimes which traditionally rise when the clocks go back.

While crime in Birmingham has been driven down to record lows over the past decade, burglary, robbery and vehicle crime all spike with the darker nights. Motion comics are being used to show the heroic ways you can join in the police’s fight against crime.

These are all simple steps we can all take, such as using a timer on lights at home, keeping valuables out of sight, and ensuring all entrance doors are securely closed.

For more tips, safety advice and information, visit the West Midlands Heroes website.

Digbeth residents can request a free timer switch, door alarm or bicycle lock simply by emailing the DRA Neighbourhood Watch on

Da Vinci Crafts

You may have noticed the appearance of two narrow boats at Warwick Bar, and at the Autumn Market at The Bond Co recently. One of those boats is home to Da Vinci Crafts – the brainchild of Alison Tuck, an engineer turned artist/crafts person.

Alison makes everything from cards and prints to garden furniture, using the latest laser cutting technology to realise her designs. As such, Da Vinci Crafts offers a number of services, including:

  • Laser cut wooden craft blanks
  • Wood, MDF and acrylic cutting
  • Engraving of boxes, signs and gifts
  • Handfinished giftware and original art work

Passionate about designing unusual and interesting items, Alison’s inquisitive mind enjoys creating items that are decorative but that also have a purpose, and she regularly fulfils bespoke orders for clients.

You can see more examples of work on the Da Vinci Crafts website here; to keep up to date with Alison’s other project, which is maintaining the canals and tow paths around Digbeth, join the Friends of Warwick Bar Facebook group here.

Lloyds of Birmingham – and Digbeth

Sampson Lloyd's house at 18 Park Street (click for larger view)

The lovely Kate Gordon sent me a link to a somewhat interesting book some time ago, entitled: The Lloyds of Birmingham, with some account of the founding of Lloyds bank (1907).

The title is a bit of a giveaway, in that the book charts the history of the Lloyd family’s move to Birmingham, their development, and their subsequent establishment of the now national bank for the ‘City of a Thousand Trades’.

Since the family were tradespeople before bankers, it’s only natural to assume that the book would reference Digbeth as the birthplace of industry in Birmingham. For example, page 48 recounts the building of the Proof House which remains in Digbeth to this day.

However, it turns out that there are more than just fleeting references to our area, as the family had a much stronger connection to Digbeth than you might think. Sampson Lloyd lived in Digbeth, in Park House at 18 Park Street. The book describes the house as situated opposite St Martin’s Church, and although it still stood upon publication in 1907 it is no longer there.

The reason why he lived in Digbeth was probably to overlook his slitting-mill, which was powered by water from the river Rea. The mill was so named as it ‘slit’ plates of wrought iron into rods for making nails. The map below from 1731 shows access to the mill from Digbeth and Lower Mill Lane:

Map of Digbeth in 1731 (click for larger version)

What is interesting is that most of the roads from 1731 remain, with the same names we call them now. The Mill Lane of 1731 still exists, with what is now Digbeth Coach Station sitting on the site of the slitting-mill.

If you look a little closer at the plans, you can also see the reasoning behind the naming of Moat Lane: it was adjacent to a large moated piece of land in the place where the wholesale markets now stand.

To see the book in full, click here to visit the Open Library, and if this has whetted your appetite to find out more, do let us know the results of your research by emailing

Glug Birmingham: Midland Masters #2

When: Thursday 20 November, 18:30–01:00
Where: Boxxed, 104-105 Floodgate Street, Digbeth, B5 5SR
Tickets: from £7.50 (available online here)

Illustration and character design is the focus of the second edition of Glug Birmingham.

The event at Boxxed will feature talks from leading artists and collectives, along with creative workshops, live drawing, a pop-up art market, and street food courtesy of Digbeth Dining Club.

Confirmed speakers for the event include:

Following the talks, shopping and eating, live music will continue into the wee hours of Friday morning.

For more information, visit the Facebook event page. The next Glug Birmingham event is due to take place in March 2015.

Eye Candy Festival

When: Thursday 13th – Saturday 15th November 2014
Where: Boxxed, 104 Floodgate Street, Digbeth, B5 5SR

Eye Candy is a free festival, showcasing illustration, art and design. Designers from across the globe will be descending onto Digbeth next week to celebrate the best of visual pop culture with one-off installations, street art, talks and performances.

Along with a number of creative workshops, visitors will witness the live creation of a large-scale mural over two days by Brothers of the Stripe, an all-male collective of illustrators. Other artists exhibiting at Eye Candy 2014 include:

  • Fafi: Paris-based graphic artist
  • Sam Pierpoint: UK-based illustrator and 3D paper engineer
  • Daisy de Villeneuve: Illustrator and writer known for her fashion work
  • Felt Mistress: UK-based textile artist and character designer
  • Miss Led: Artist who features females in all their beauty
  • Cachetejack: Illustration duo who paint temporary tattoos for visitors
  • The Culture Cart: A pop-up art workshop and gallery
  • Girls Who Draw: Female illustration collective leading screen printing workshops
  • Anna Garforthh: Multi-disciplinary designer and artist
  • PYMCA: Photographic agency specialising in youth culture and street art
  • Column Arts Agency: A Birmingham-based agency representing creative talent from across the UK who will be producing live art.
  • Muxxi: An illustrator and character designer based in Guatemala city.
  • Birmingham Camera Obscura: A couple of photography enthusiasts campaigning to install a permanent camera obscura in Birmingham.

For more information, see the festival brochure below, or visit the Eye Candy Festival website.

Ben Frost at Eastside Projects

When: Wednesday 12 November, 20:00
Where: Eastside Projects, 86 Heath Mill Lane, Digbeth, B9 4AR
Tickets: £15 (available online here)

Eastside Projects, in collaboration with Capsule, welcome experimental Australian composer Ben Frost to their gallery next week:

Influenced as much by classical minimalism as by punk rock and metal, Frost’s throbbing guitar-based textures emerge from nothing and slowly coalesce into huge, forbidding forms, eschewing conventional structures in favour of the unfoldings of vast mechanical systems.

Expect an immersive live audio set with accompanying drums from Greg Fox of metal band Liturgy, all supported by a live audio visual performance from Birmingham based Mothwasp.

For more information and tickets, click here to visit the Capsule website.

Digbeth First Friday – November 2014

When: Friday 7th November, 21:00-23:00
Where: The White Swan, 276 Bradford Street, Digbeth, B12 0QY

As part of Digbeth First Friday, Digbeth Residents Association invite you to a bonfire night at the White Swan on Bradford Street. Expect fireworks, good humour, and a chance to meet the friendly residents of Digbeth.

Of course, this won’t be the only fun to be had on Friday; click here to visit the Digbeth First Friday website to see more about the events taking place at Stryx, Eastside Projects, The Bond, Vivid Projects, and Grand Union, amongst others.

Peaky Blinders – Season 2 Finale

James Eeles with his Digbeth is Good badge!

James Eeles (R) proudly displays his Digbeth is Good badge, with Pamela Pinski (L) and John Gordon (M).

When: Thursday 6th November, 20:00 onwards
Where: The Spotted Dog, 104 Warwick Street, Digbeth, B12 0NH

Every week, Digbeth Residents Association have been holding community screenings of Peaky Blinders at the Spotted Dog. A couple of weeks ago, we were lucky enough to host James Eeles, who played the Digbeth Kid in the series.

James was an absolute delight, and was seriously pleased when receiving his Digbeth is Good badge! DiG contributor Mitch Mansfield interviewed James at the screening: click below to hear what he had to say!

This Thursday we’ll be watching what promises to be the spectacular finale to the second series at the Spotted Dog and everyone is invited! Along with free Digbeth pies, and some live jazz in the background, James has agreed to return to Digbeth for the screening, but this time he’ll be bringing actor Paul Bullion with him!

Paul Bullion, pictured here as Billy Kitchen in Peaky Blinders, will be joining fans at the Spotted Dog on Thursday 6th November.

Paul played Billy Kitchen in the series, the glue that held the Shelbys and their Black Country neighbours together.

Paul had this to say: “I’m happy to support the Peaky Blinders community screenings. I think it’s great that the people of Birmingham are giving their support to great writing and to British drama.”

So we hope to see you all the Spotted Dog on Thursday, for great drama, great company, pies and Peaky Blinders!

Behind the Curtain Festival

When: Saturday 1 November 2014, 19:00 onwards
Where: Centrala, Unit 4 Minerva Works, 158 Fazeley Street, Digbeth, B5 5RT
Tickets: £4 on the door

Polish Expats Association (PEA) will launch the inaugural Behind the Curtain Central and Eastern European film and new media festival at their Centrala space tonight. Designed to be multifunctional, Centrala comprises a development/training centre, artist studios, art gallery and café/bookshop.

Behind the Curtain aims to engage people with the wealth of cinematography from Central and Eastern Europe, with films originating from Poland, Slovenia, Romania and Hungary as well as the former states of the USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. The launch will be a melting pot of music, performance and live art from Polish artist collective Suka Off, Birmingham-based Polish artist Jacek Ceglarz, and singer songwriter Joseph Ladlow.

Festival highlights include screenings of two sci-fi masterpieces at Millennium Point’s Giant Screen: Andrei Tarkovsky’s visionary 1972 film Solaris, and Ikarie XB 1, a film that heavily influenced Star Trek and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

After this evening, the festival continues until Saturday 29th November; the full programme and tickets (although a selection of events are free) are available at the Behind the Curtain website.

Socks and Chocs Comedy Night

When: Monday 17 November, doors at 19:00
Where: Mono Bar, The Arcadian, Hurst Street, B5 4TD
Tickets: £10

Ordinarily we wouldn’t advertise anything taking place outside of Digbeth. However, every once in a while, an exception comes up, and we just can’t say no.

This is one of those exceptions. I’m sure by now that all our readers are aware of our very own Busking Bobby; PC Ian Northcott is based at Digbeth Police Station, and works tirelessly in his spare time to support the city’s homeless. Having forged a strong relationship with SIFA Fireside in Allcock Street, Ian was recently recognised at the Pride of Birmingham awards – and rightly so!

To support Ian’s Socks and Chocs campaign, a charity comedy night has been arranged to take place in November over in neighbouring Southside, featuring:

  • Kane Brown
  • Paul Savage
  • Geoff Norcott
  • Leo Kearse
  • Maureen Younger

ALL the proceeds from this event will be directly used to support the Socks and Chocs campaign; the comedians are performing for free, donating their time to this worthy cause. Please see the flyer below for more information; call 07542 111532 or email to book your tickets.

If you can’t go but would like to support Ian’s sleeping bag campaign, visit the crowdfunding page to make a donation.