Birmingham, a city famed for its canals, curry houses and distinct dialect, has not historically been celebrated for culture. However, during the last few years there has been a noticeable shift in the second city’s reputation. Birmingham has a burgeoning bohemian side and this young, diverse city has begun to attract creative types (myself included) away from London. So, why would you want to come to Brum?
1. The Arts Council backs Birmingham: in 2017 Arts Council England (ACE) announced £88.7 million investment in Birmingham’s cultural sector, with funding for 37 arts organisations across the city, creating a range of jobs, training schemes and bursaries, particularly for artists and curators.
2. Much of the investment has benefited Digbeth, which is home to a growing contemporary arts scene (alongside the Peaky Blinders walking tours). There are a large number of artist-led galleries, studio spaces and exhibition venues. Eastside Projects and Vivid Projects support collaborative practice across the arts and media; Stryx is an artist led studio, project and exhibition space; Grand Union works with young artists, curators and writers, placing an emphasis on commissioning new art, supporting career development and encouraging experimentation. Centrala Space presents art from Central, Eastern Europe and the UK, and BOM (Birmingham Open Media) is forging a new model of radical practice at the intersection of art, technology and science with measurable social impact.
3. Forget London’s First Thursdays, it’s all about Digbeth First Friday: on the first Friday of the month Digbeth comes alive with exhibitions, late-night openings, special events, culture, live music and, most importantly, street food.
4. Birmingham’s young at heart: 45.7% of residents are under the age of 30 and the city is home to 5 universities, with a strong focus on the creative arts, as well as the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
5. Every year Birmingham hosts over 50 festivals, which take place across the city, from train stations to world-class concert halls. Highlights include Flatpack Film Festival, the Jewellery Quarter’s Open Studios Festival and SHOUT, which celebrates Queer arts & culture.
6. For artists seeking freelance work, there are lots of arts-based charities in the city: Sense, Birmingham Centre for Art Therapies, Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, Changes UK and Ikon Gallery all work with artists, offering paid opportunities to deliver creative workshops to a range of audiences.
7. Birmingham’s art history: The city holds a long and rich tradition of artists, from the Pre-Raphaelites (there is a world-renowned collection of 3,000 paintings, drawings and prints at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery) to the Birmingham Surrealists who held wild parties in Balsall Heath.
8. The Jewellery Quarter: Birmingham’s industry has always celebrated craft, and the unique Jewellery Quarter is today filled with workshops, galleries and creative businesses. It is also home to some great galleries and museums, from contemporary photography at Argentea Gallery to exquisite jewellery designs at Artisan Alchemy and exhibitions at the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter.
9. The creative cost: while being poor undoubtedly goes hand in hand with the struggle to achieve success as an artist, Birmingham won’t break the bank. You’ll be able to buy your paint, as well as a Balti.
10. A café culture: if you need caffeine to fuel your creativity, Birmingham is also home to some brilliant, bohemian and independent hangouts, many of which showcase the work of local artists.
11. And art classes, every day of the week: looking for life drawing? Or an evening class in jewellery design or ceramics? Birmingham has opportunities to suit every artist, from beginners to advanced. Discover 6 of the top venues here.
What are you waiting for? Come join us in Brum!