Yesterday the Birmingham Post reported that the future of Ikon Eastside is uncertain after becoming a casualty of Birmingham City Council’s arts funding cuts, which got me thinking how this would affect Digbeth. I know I’m stating the obvious here, but as it’s buzzing around in my head, better out than in….
I’ve always found Ikon Eastside to be a great gallery with interesting installations that tend to make me ponder. But it’s a lot more than just something good in itself, to me it’s always felt like a big jigsaw piece that helps makes up the whole that is Digbeth’s cultural quarter (or whatever it is). The many art launch nights in conjunction with VIVID and Eastside Projects, more recently joined by Grand Union, have meant that many have begun to experience local arts in bulk along an informal trail rather than visiting single exhibitions.
It’s also great to see how the organisations interact with each other and grow as a community – from the launch of We Are Eastside to watching some Grand Union people helping Ikon Eastside dismantle AVPD’s Hitchcock Hallway exhibition to repurpose the plywood into God knows what. Seeing the network grow into something that supports itself in big and little ways has been exciting and felt full of potential.
No doubt if Ikon Eastside does close the rest of the community will adjust and cope, but it would mean a very big change in the local arts scene for both artists and audiences and make Digbeth’s cultural community feel very different. It made me think how I’d feel if The Spotted Dog pub were to close – sure, I’d drink in one of the other great local pubs, but it would feel like things had drastically changed and something special that was part of the core of things had gone.