What's it like to live in Digbeth? Jayne Howarth gives us the lowdown on this up-and-coming area of Birmingham
Once the industrial heart of Birmingham, Digbeth – just a five-minute walk from the Bullring – is now considered to be one of the main creative centres in the city – a place where artists, digital and media people mingle at The Custard Factory and Fazeley Studios with students, vintage lovers and musicians.
Considered Birmingham’s Shoreditch by many, this slightly bohemian, up-and-coming part of the city is often the first entry point for those who arrive by coach.
With two conservation areas – Digbeth, Deritend and High Streets Conservation Area, and the Warwick Bar Conservation Area – and strong connections to the Irish community, it’s place of history and culture.
Digbeth Residents’ Association estimates there are about 3,000 residents in the whole of the area, but more developments are being built as investors snap up the industrial land and properties, keen to take advantage of its proximity to the Bullring, as well as Moor Street and New Street Railway stations.
With land for HS2 and the terminal at Curzon Street also on the table, plus major regeneration schemes for the whole of Eastside, complete with new public realm and cultural quarter, and redevelopment of the long-neglected Typhoo Tea factory into a new Birmingham City University campus, you can expect Digbeth and Deritend to undergo a complete revolution over the next few years.
Long-time resident Andy Smart (DJ Colatron), who works in telecoms, says if you cut him, he bleeds Digbeth.
“I’d always preferred city life to the more sedate village-life pace I’d grown up with and the convenience of Digbeth in relation to the city centre as well as ease of access to local transport networks for getting to work, combined with its reputation as being a place of creativity and culture made it a no brainer in the end,” he said.
“Even 10 years ago, there was a buzz about Digbeth being an up- -and-coming area à la London’s Shoreditch or Brick Lane so it seemed like a great move to make given my love of creativity and things with a slightly ‘edgy’ cool vibe.”
A keen photographer, Andy says he loves how his neighbourhood embraces its industrial and cultural history, likening it to Berlin’s Kreuzberg.
“It may sound silly as well, but one of the things I love about Digbeth is its ‘ugly’ beauty – a lot of people are put off by its heavily industrialised look but I find beauty in the back streets and it adds a real character to the area when juxtaposed with the more open spaces over towards Eastside,” explains Andy.
“When I first moved in, my apartment complex was one of the first of a new batch of affordable housing built and many other blocks have sprung up amongst the warehouse and industrial units, showing people are keen to move in around here.” Pamela Pinski agrees. She is secretary of the Digbeth Residents’ Association and has lived in the area for almost seven years.
“I’m still as in love with area as ever,” she says.
She moved there because of its proximity to the city centre. But another huge draw was the vibrant community – and its affordability: “You get a lot of bang for your buck in Digbeth,” adds Pamela, who also writes the Digbeth is Good blog.
“I enjoy lots of things about living in Digbeth; the proper pubs are fantastic, each with their own character and charm.
There’s more live music than you can shake a stick at, catering for a range of tastes and ages,” she adds.
Although the impact of HS2 in Digbeth is still largely unknown, she says, the planned metro extension bringing a tram line from the city centre to Digbeth in the next 10 years will be beneficial. “It’s about to get a whole lot better connected,” says Pamela.
You can’t mention Digbeth without your stomach rumbling.
Home to the Digbeth Dining Club, the award winning street food event, on Fridays from 5pm is where you can find some of the finest food around. People travel miles to enjoy the buzz there.
Foodie lovers can also fill their boots at Original Patty Men, eat tapas at Rico Libre, and enjoy Polish cuisine at The Karczma, plus acclaimed vegetarian food at The Warehouse Cafe and belly-busting lunches at Yumm.
Pubs and clubs Digbeth is home to the oldest pub in the city – The Old Crown. Thought to date back to the 14th century, this higgledy-piggledy pub also has a coffee shop, plus accommodation. You can also slake your thirst at The Anchor, which has been crowned Birmingham CAMRA ‘Pub of the Year’ four times, and at The Spotted Dog, The White Swan and The Irish Centre.
Music lovers can get their fix at – among others – the O2 Institute; Rainbow Venues and rock club Subside.
“The nightlife in Digbeth is currently the best on offer in Birmingham,” says Pamela. “That is something to consider when moving into the area – we’re definitely not a quiet leafy suburb!”
The Custard Factory, with its studio space, offices and retail stores, is the place to go to for vintage shops, independent stores and delightful little boutiques where you can find unusual gifts and pieces. Culture
The 10th Flatpack Film Festival is happening April 19-24 , while the City of Colours street art festival takes place in June.
The Digbeth First Friday celebrates the indie culture of the area. Taking place on the first Friday of the month, it includes exhibitions, late-night openings, special events, culture, live music, and street food.
Plans are afoot for 170 flats behind the Catholic Church of St Anne, on the corner of Bradford Street and Lombard Street.
Last year, Seven Capital began its £30million redevelopment of the old Harrison Drape factory in Bradford Street, which will bring about 73 studios, 152 one bedroom and 88 two-bedroom flats, plus a retail unit.
The property developer has now bought Connaught Square by Birmingham Coach Station, which will bring further apartments to the area.
How about getting your hands on a piece of Digbeth history? The Anchor Pub, on the corner junction of Bradford Street and Rea Street, is up for sale through Fleurets for a guide price of £65,000 leasehold. As well as four trading areas, it also has private quarters with four-five bedrooms.
According to RightMove, the average property price in Digbeth is £122,590, which is cheaper than the Birmingham average of £167,456.