Birmingham as a creative city

Birmingham styles itself as a ‘creative city’, but what is in the city that supports this?

Digbeth

photo by ell brown

Photo by ell brown

The Custard Factory, situated in Digbeth (Birmingham’s self-styled ‘creative hub’) is home to a number of creative businesses, for example Rhubarb Radio and various design agencies.

For me, a ‘creative’ area is synonymous with ‘bohemian’ style (as mentioned in Richard Florida’s ‘Creative Class’), and true to form Digbeth is also home to a vintage clothes shop, Cow vintage.  Pubs such as The Rainbow also resonate with locals and creatives.

photo by ell brown

Photo by ell brown

There are also other creative spaces within Digbeth, such as Fazeley Studios (below) and The Bond, both of which have hosted various events in the past that centre around the creative industries (JEECamp, Digital District, BCU Media final year exhibition) as well as BCU’s own Screen Media Lab.

Photo by wearemudlark

Moseley

Moseley is not a district of Birmingham that is associated with creativity, but it is emerging as a new place for creative people to live and work.  On the Moseley Forum website, there is the following quote on the home page:

“Moseley is a well-established village community within the City of Birmingham, U.K. The village is a lively centre of creativity and is home to an amazing mix of people.”

The Moseley Exchange is a prime example of the area’s restyling as a creative hub.  The Exchange is a working space for people to work and meet.

Photo by Pete Ashton

Moseley also has a vintage store for the ‘boho’ contingent – ‘Top Banana Vintage’.

People

In Birmingham, communities are enormously fragmented.  It is impossible to gauge specifically who the creative people are and where they reside.

There is, however, a notable presence of influential people on Twitter, who are heavily involved with Birmingham’s creative scene.  There are people such as Stef Lewandowski and Pete Ashton, who are the most audible ‘voices’ of Birmingham’s creative industries and are involved in Creative republic and Created in Birmingham. There are also people like Chris Unitt and our own Paul Bradshaw who are important figures in Birmingham’s social media sector.

All of these people know each other and are an integral part of Birmingham’s creative network.  There are many other people within this network, and I have made them into a Twitter List so you can see at a glance the interaction between them – what they talk about, where they meet etc.

Local Government

According to Chaplain and Lee (Built Environment) Birmingham performs very well in terms of tolerance and also support for small businesses and active policy.  There are numerous support structures for entrepreneurs in Birmingham, including Central Library’s Business Insight, and also various grants for feasibility testing and office space.  However, Birmingham ranks low in terms of cultural activities and other ‘soft’ conditions for economic development.  What could be done in terms of policy to address this area? If anything?

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About Karen Patel

PhD candidate in social media and cultural work at Birmingham City University.

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