Some non-Digbeth linkage

Curzon Street Station

Some interesting things have come to my attention that are beyond the Digbeth borders (yes, I do occasionally look beyond them). Here are a few:

Oubliette

Above is Pete Ashton’s lovely ‘Through the Viewfinder’ picture of the sad, neglected Curzon Street Station, which as Pete rightly says, ‘seems such a waste, sitting there in the middle of nowhere like an old man abandoned by the next generation, or something.’  Pete’s post touches on the whys and wherefores of the council seeing fit to watch their pennies and board the place up rather than allowing interesting things to happen there and concludes that ‘something needs to be done’.

Too right, and if the current owners don’t have the means to do anything with it or allow others do so….how’s about just moving in and taking things over in the style of Dan Simon’s London Oubliette?  This isn’t squatting, mind.  Oh no: ‘They are using the enormous empty space to run what they refer to as an “artshouse”, an independent cultural organisation called the Oubliette (“the dungeon” in French), which aims to support the arts without the need for public or private sector funding.’  Right then, where did I leave my crowbar…?

Dumbo

No, not the big-eared baby elephant.  Helga Henry has flagged up the rather brilliant dumbonyc.com, a site for the New York neighbourhood where ‘these old factories have been converted into luxury lofts and old warehouses into art galleries and theaters….Dumbo is not quite Brooklyn brownstone and not quite Manhattan glass condo. With its exposed Belgian block streets anchored by massive bridge structures, Dumbo has a unique character all its own.’

Sound familiar?  Yep, Helga thought so too and already has ‘a whole Birmingham/Brooklyn and Digbeth/Dumbo comparison thing going on in my head.’  By far the best thing about Dumbo is, of course, its name, which ‘was conceived by resident artists as a way to make the area sound silly and unattractive to people looking to buy real estate here.’  Is that all we need to do to guard against the over-gentrification of Digbeth? Give it a slightly silly name?  Suggestions in the comments box, please…

Grand Opening

Chris Unitt discovered Grand Opening, I’m guessing whilst doing some research for the now-open Created in Birmingham shop in The Bullring.  Grand Opening, another one from New York, ‘create interactive stores and events that get public attention and engage the community’.  They take over stores for about 6 weeks and theme them up beyond recognition, turning them into environments that range from a wedding chapel to a drive-in cinema. Let’s face it, the empty shell of the now-closed Cocoon store on the High Street will need something pretty spectacular to fill the latex shoes they left behind.  Perhaps we take a leaf out of Grand Opening’s book and turn it into something extra special.

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About Nicky Getgood

Living and loving Digbeth.
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12 Responses to Some non-Digbeth linkage

  1. Debra says:

    Many years ago I worked in Digbeth and have always believed in the potential of it as a site of significant and exciting urban re-generation.

    I was reminded of Digbeth—when scouting out locations for the KLOMPCHING GALLERY—and stumbled across DUMBO. The area is developing in a way that points to a fabulously creative and driven area for the future. The mixed creative industries, residences, essential infrastructure, galleries, working artist studios … all make for a vibrant community and business district.

  2. Chris says:

    I spotted Grand Opening on Trendhunter (I think – or maybe Coolhunter) a couple of years back and it stuck in my head. I always thought it was a good concept for that run of shops just down from Chez Jules. Using the Cocoon shop could be fun.

  3. Hell, just returning Cocoon to its former glory would be an installation and a half! ;-)

    Cheers for your comment Debra – great to hear a comparative voice from across the water!

  4. Dave Harte says:

    Of course every time a new gallery opens round Digbeth way it takes one step closer to gentrification. By and large though the process is painfully incremental enough for none of us not to notice too much. Actually, there’s an industrial/arts balance to the place right now that kind of feels right. So perhaps the question might be how to preserve that balance.

    As much as we’ve all moaned about lack of signposting and cashpoints perhaps having neither is your greatest asset.

  5. Funny you should mention cashpoints Dave – I’ve an update on that to post later today.

    I see the old Cocoon shop has a SOLD sign on it, but there are empty properties both sides of it and plenty more elsewhere in Digbeth….

  6. Pingback: Digbeth is Good » First Digbeth cashpoint update: we’ll be waiting a while longer

  7. Lee says:

    Digbeth’s already been given a silly name – unfortunately a really boring one not chosen by anyone with an ounce of creativity, which we shouldn’t be buying into, IMNSHO. ‘Artist-led culture only works when it is led by artists’ – we do have a lesson to learn here, which is to take charge of our own destinies. Stop looking at how other people are doing it all the time because somebody has seen something on their latest work jolly over cocktails at SXSW or somewhere. One of the biggest cockups that is continually made in this city is to try and apply models from elsewhere – which just end up being inferior copies (Artsfest, anyone?). We should start looking under our noses at what is good and positive about our locality and do more of that. Do more of what we are good at. And STFU and get on making things happen – let’s define ourselves through who we are, not who we think we would like to be. And stop jumping on every bandwagon that rolls along and then make a half-arsed job of it.

  8. Lee I managed to decipher IMNSHO but had to google STFU. So I’m not very down with the kids.

    Fair point, really. When I saw Oubliette and Grand Opening I thought they’d done some interesting things with empty old buildings and shops, two things Digbeth has plenty of!

  9. Lee says:

    Sorry – I tend to make up acronyms as I go along. somebody’s usually done it first though. Having ideas to do stuff is great, being influenced by what others do is how stuff develops often, but what GOMTs (google that!), is the wholesale adopting of stuff that worked elsewhere. Ultimately context is everything and just ‘cos something worked once in a particular place and time, doesn’t mean it’ll be quite the same thereafter. Like a first drug experience, for instance, not that we’d know ;-) I just think we need to be looking at what we do best and doing more of that. Maybe we can get a discussion together to work out what that is, instead of the aforementioned bandwagon-hopping? (and I didn’t mean that Artsfest was totally useless, just another pale imitation)

  10. I’m not going to google GOMT. Something tells me that will be NSFW. Love the idea of a discussion group to talk about forging a bold new path!

  11. Lee says:

    Watch this space – I’m going to set something up soon at the Edge, but it’ll take a bit of work to get the ‘right’ people together – so look out for something in early April, expect an invite.

  12. Pingback: Dumbo NYC, Brooklyn » Archive » Dumbo Links Week of 28Feb2010 (DumboNYC.com)

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