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The old warehouses giving Digbeth a new lease of life

Written by
Sophie Milligan
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Most would agree that the on-going regeneration of Digbeth has helped turn the district into the city's home for all things cool and edgy. It's increasingly becoming the go-to place for the best in street food, art, culture and, of course, music.

In amongst the DIY workshops and graffiti-strewn walls, many of the old Victorian factories in this once heavily industrialised area have undergone exciting transformations. From derelict and disused, they've been resurrected to form a new part of city's creative scene. 

Here are just some of the spaces that have been reborn and are helping to push forward the future of Birmingham’s culture. 

The Custard Factory

 

#thecustardfactory #birmingham #streetart A serial place.

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Just five minutes walk from the Bullring is the now famous Custard Factory. A restored Victorian factory like most venues in Digbeth, the Custard Factory is well known for once being the home to custard powder makers, Bird’s Custard. 

After its renovation in 1992, it became a hub for creatives and independent businesses, as well as a home to vintage clothes stores, skate shops, cafes and bars (such as Alfie Bird's).

There's also the small central lake where the loading bay originally was, and two permanent art installations – the iron dragon in the exterior of the Medicine Bar, and the huge sculpture by Tawny Gray made out of stone and vegetation. 

The Custard Factory, Gibb Street, Birmingham, B9 4AA.

Fazeley Studios

 

Part of the Custard Factory complex, this stunning location hosts everything from weddings and university balls, to corporate events and product launches. The studios themselves have several spaces to hire, and are also home to a permanent bar and coffee shop.

However, two of its most striking spaces are the Winter Garden and the Grand Gallery. The first – a licensed wedding venue – features sky-high ceilings, paintings and polished limestone floors. The latter is arguably even more stunning: originally built as a unitarian chapel in the 1870s, it has now been renovated as a striking inner-city venue, where Pre-Raphaelite paintings hang in both rooms, and the grand gallery is adorned with antique furniture, arch windows and towering high ceilings.

Fazeley Studios, 191 Fazeley Street, Digbeth, Birmingham, B5 5SE

The Rainbow Venues

 

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Over the years The Rainbow Venues has rightly gained a reputation for transforming Birmingham's nightlife. The Warehouse, the Textile Factory and the Rainbow Pub are just a few of the spaces these guys are turning into the city's coolest spots.

A recent addition to the Rainbow Venues portfolio is the humongous Arena. First utilised for the Circoloco in the Arena party in 2012, this expanse of Digbeth wasteland was transformed from a building merchant's yard to host a bar and one of those terrifying fairground rides where you're flung into the sky attached to bungee ropes.

The huge space may look excessive, however, when there are several thousand people packed in for some late-night/early-morning goings-on, there's still a lack of smoking benches. 

Rainbow Venues, 160 Digbeth High Street, Digbeth, Birmingham, B12 0LD.

Spotlight & Nextdoor

 

Great evening at @digbethdiningclub #streetfood

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A foodie favourite and another part of the Rainbow Venues complex, Spotlight brings a host of gourmet street food to Digbeth every Friday night, thanks to the popular Digbeth Dining Club.

Built in a space under an old railway arch, this is another atmospheric industrial space, complete with a DJ booth lit up by a huge star-shaped spotlight and a bar stocked with some very fine spirits and whiskeys.

While the Spotlight bar is open late with drinks, food and accompanied by lively resident DJs, the party often continues at Spotlight's aptly named neighbour and event space, NextDoor.

Spotlight and NextDoor, Lower Trinity Street, Birmingham, B9 4AG.

Boxxed

 

Located on Floodgate Street, Boxxed continues what Custard Factory and Creative Quarter set in motion.

This 10,000 square foot converted warehouse hosts everything from club nights, such as Ouse and Magic Door, to a Hot Tub Cinema and Sneaks&Peaks – a daytime event selling sneakers, showcasing graffiti artists, and BMX and skateboarding.

With visible trussing and exposed brick walls, it's difficult to forget that this unit once played an essential part in the manufacturing and distributing in Birmingham's industrial centre - although it probably didn't have a life-sized triceratops back then. 

Boxxed, 104-108 Floodgate Street, Birmingham, B5 5SR.

Lab 11

 

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Renowned for its underground techno nights and the popular Itchy Feet parties, Lab 11 has made a serious mark on the musical map in Brum.

Suspended from the ceiling of this once abandoned warehouse are hundreds of florescent lights, criss crossing above the heads of the shufflers and swingers below. Featuring Digbeth’s trademark open brickwork throughout the venue, the open-air smoking terrace is seated very comfortably among the railway arches that thread their way through Digbeth. 

Lab 11, Trent Street, Birmingham, B5 5NL.

Amusement 13

 

The entrance to Amusement 13 is as unsuspecting as most clubs in Digbeth – those without prior knowledge probably wouldn't even know it was there. That is, if the two bouncers hovering by the door in black bomber jackets weren't there.

As a relatively new edition to the Digbeth collective, this place features exposed brick walls, florescent paintings and cutting-edge visuals. As a 'pop up' club, it only opens on Fridays and Saturdays, but is occasionally home to the 'adult soft play' (and frequent sell out) club nights, Regression Sessions.

Amusement 13, 71 Kent Street, Birmingham, B5 6RD.

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