Birmingham Icons walk, IgersbirminghamUK, July 2024

The IgersbirminghamUK Icons walk started with a torrential downpour of rain. We met at the Five ways roundabout where we managed to shelter from the rain until we were brave enough to walk down Broad Street.  The rain had created many excellent photographic opportunities including people with umbrellas concentrating on avoiding the large puddles.  

Auchinleck
Reflections of the International Convention Centre, Centenary Square.

The underpass at Five Ways is a busy thoroughfare with both people and delivery bikes moving around.  If you stay still then you immediately look suspicious. There was a brief plan of where our walk would take us. The idea was to walk down Broad Street to Centenary Square with a short detour to Oozells Square. From then on we would visit two more squares, Chamberlain and Victoria with our final destination being the Colmore where we could discuss our photographs over a well-earned drink. I have grouped my pictures into several themes.

People

Broad street is always great for street photography with pedestrians undertaking different activities. They may be waiting for the trams or making their way to the theatres and concert halls. There is always the odd surprise such as the suited and booted men on scooters.  Surprisingly they were not wearing helmets!  Even the cyclist, I captured was not wearing one.  The health and safety part of me has seen the results of people not wearing crash helmets.  One of my favourites photographs was the picture of two women outside the Library of Birmingham practicing their hip hop dance moves in the window reflections. Other people looked very glum about the weather.

Birmingham Icons walk, IgersbirminghamUK, July 2024
Sharing an umbrella in Broad Street
Birmingham Icons walk, IgersbirminghamUK, July 2024
Suited and booted
Birmingham Icons walk, IgersbirminghamUK, July 2024
Cycling Broad Street with the Octagon in the background.
Birmingham Icons walk, IgersbirminghamUK, July 2024
Practicing hip hop dance moves.
Birmingham Icons walk, IgersbirminghamUK, July 2024
Only the lonely

Signs

Letters are everywhere and a few caught my eye.  Popworld was hosting a party and Ozzie was getting wet.  There were signs of the cost of living crisis with unopened cans of food left on a bench.  A story within a story, as the unopened cans sit on a bench near to the luxury five ways hotel where people can take a Rockstar taxi into the city. Head over to #igbk_meet_icons where one of our photographers focused on the lettering he encountered during our walk.

130406_365_Steps and candles, White Palace
Ozzy’s signature
130406_365_Steps and candles, White Palace
Popworld
130406_365_Steps and candles, White Palace
Taxi rank on cobbled stones
Birmingham Icons walk, IgersbirminghamUK, July 2024
Contrasts with tins of food and taxis

Icons

There are so many icons on the route and the Black Sabbath bridge over the Birmingham Canals is deserving of your attention.  In Centenary Square, there was the obligatory shot of the golden boys statue.  The Birmingham family holds a central position in the square and divides popular opinion. My picture shows that the overriding message is about love.  The Iron:man by Antony Gormley regularly gets photographed as it is placed at the intersection of many walkways including the tram stop and Town Hall.  Finally the Birmingham icon, Benjamin Zachariah, is the subject of an exhibition of his life and works.  The pictures and living history of this influential poet and writer are set up near to the New Street entrance to Victoria Square. Biodiversity bear has also taken up residence in the same area. This is a busy place with the trams passing by in their distinguished blue livery.

130406_365_Steps and candles, White Palace
The Birmingham family is about love.
130406_365_Steps and candles, White Palace
The Golden Boys
Birmingham Icons walk, IgersbirminghamUK, July 2024
Pictures of Iron:man
130406_365_Steps and candles, White Palace
Victoria Square Icons

Architecture

Birmingham is noted for its brutalist history and love of concrete.  The start of our walk at the Auchinleck walkway provides an example of this.  However spirits are raised when walking towards Field Marshall Auchinleck’s statue and down Broad Street.   The high rise living apartments dwarf the street level buildings and lights.  Older buildings fight for space with the newer blocks of architecture. Oozells Square still has presence, even though it is most famous for two weeks of the year when the cherry trees blossom.  The reflective pool in Centenary Square was clear of any activity and with the recent rain, the classic picture of the Rep, Library and Hall of Remembrance was taken. A new icon, the Octagon, is rising in the background. The approach to Chamberlain square has a certain grandeur as the buildings on either side guide you to the Council House with the Chamberlain clock and the 103 Colmore Row skyscraper in the background.  The security were kind to us and we were able to take photos on this privately owned part of Birmingham without hassle. Reaching Victoria square there is a mixture of construction and exhibitions taking place. Local Brummies will quip, “Birmingham will be good when it is finished”.

Birmingham Icons walk, IgersbirminghamUK, July 2024
The brutalist architecture of Auchinleck underpass at Five Ways
Birmingham Icons walk, IgersbirminghamUK, July 2024
View of the top of Broad Street.
Birmingham Icons walk, IgersbirminghamUK, July 2024
The old and the new.
Birmingham Icons walk, IgersbirminghamUK, July 2024
Classic view of Oozells Square.
Birmingham Icons walk, IgersbirminghamUK, July 2024
Reflections of some Birmingham Icons.
Birmingham Icons walk, IgersbirminghamUK, July 2024
The approach to Chamberlain Square
Birmingham Icons walk, IgersbirminghamUK, July 2024
Victoria Square and the Benjamin Zachariah exhibition.
Birmingham Icons walk, IgersbirminghamUK, July 2024
Tram lights
There were signs of the cost of living crisis with unopened cans of food left on a bench.  A story within a story as the unopened cans sit on a bench near to the luxury five ways hotel where people can take a Rockstar taxi. 
A regular sight on the streets of Birmingham.

At the Colmore, we had great discussions about our pictures including those that got away.  As we left the pub on our way home, the night was coming down allowing the neon lights to feature more in our pictures. The big wheel by the Cathedral invited us to take a few final pictures and then we caught the train home.

There were signs of the cost of living crisis with unopened cans of food left on a bench.  A story within a story as the unopened cans sit on a bench near to the luxury five ways hotel where people can take a Rockstar taxi. 
Lights from the window.

If you liked these pictures and want to know more about IgersbirminghamUK then please follow us on Instagram. Here is a previous blog describing another of our recent Birmingham walks.

The Closing of the Floodgate, Digbeth, July 2024

The Floodgate featured in one of my favourite pictures which was taken in Floodgate street during the early hours of morning.  Although I had never been inside the venue, I have passed the front entrance on many occasions during my photographic visits to Digbeth.  When I heard that The Floodgate was closing then I knew that I had to photograph the place before it closed.  On a Friday afternoon, which was the penultimate day of the venue being open, I ventured into the place and brought a drink at the bar.  I asked the staff whether I could take photographs of the inside and they kindly said that I could go ahead. So a big thank you to them for this blog.  

The Closing of the Floodgate, Digbeth, July 2024
Baseball cages
The Closing of the Floodgate, Digbeth, July 2024
The Floodgate Raceway
The Closing of the Floodgate, Digbeth, July 2024
Beth who works at the Floodgate with artwork in the background.

The Floodgate is one large games entertainment venue with curling, baseball, table golf and model car racing amongst the sports that punters can take part in.  I met Beth who worked in the Floodgate.  Beth explained that the Floodgate was closing due to the sky-high rent.  When Beth told me the figures that they were being charged for rent then it is no surprise that independents are struggling.  Digbeth is undergoing changes and the early success of independents has attracted larger businesses who want a slice of the action. Digbeth is becoming a very popular part of Birmingham (if it was not popular already).  There are plans for several high rise residences to be built in the vicinity.  Many of the old warehouses and industrial units are being earmarked for demolition with a complete revamp of the area planned.  Already the Boxpark franchise will be pumping 5 million pounds under the nearby railway arches that will create bars and restaurants.  The independents have difficulty in matching this sort of investment.  

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The Floodgate had only just opened for the evening and apart from a few customers playing curling, I had the place to myself for taking pictures.   The Floodgate has one large bar area situated in the main warehouse.  Table tops are in the form of baseballs and colourful murals adorn the walls. There are baseball cages and an impressive model car racing track.  The latter has a set of seats complete with steering wheels where people can control the model cars they see in front of them around the track. 

The Closing of the Floodgate, Digbeth, July 2024
You never know who you will meet in the dark
The Closing of the Floodgate, Digbeth, July 2024
With a little help from my friends
The Closing of the Floodgate, Digbeth, July 2024
Hole 18 – Table Golf
The Closing of the Floodgate, Digbeth, July 2024
The Trotter’s car and other lights.

 Leading off from the main warehouse, there are two games areas . The walls are covered with colourful graffiti art that glows in the UV light.  The area is a psychedelic experience and the Jimi Hendrix song Purple Haze came to mind. I enjoyed taking pictures with both my cameras, the Fujifilm x100vi and my iPhone.  This is where the new Fujifilm with IBIS worked well.  Such pictures taken in low light with this camera would have been impossible without a tripod in the past.  The iPhone is well known for its low light photography,  The curling lanes were surrounded by lights and a ceiling of springs.  The table golf set up looked impressive when set against the graffiti. The area was a little spooky with no people present. Beth did tell me that there were stories about ghosts in the warehouse and occasionally I felt a presence as I wandered around the darkly lit areas of the table golf rooms.

The Closing of the Floodgate, Digbeth, July 2024
Outside Curling
The Closing of the Floodgate, Digbeth, July 2024
Glory Days
The Closing of the Floodgate, Digbeth, July 2024
NHS Angel wings in the light
The Closing of the Floodgate, Digbeth, July 2024
Under the arches

The outside area has more curling lanes and baseball cages that are set against a backdrop of the towering railway arches.  The cameras now had to deal with strong light and harsh shadows as for once it was not raining.

My final shot was of Beth and other staff in the bar area.  It is sad to see such places closing but I guess this is progress.  The early charm of Digbeth with venues taking advantage of the old industrial warehouses is slowly disappearing.  The Floodgate is an example of creating different types of entertainment.  Such places will disappear and be replaced with new shiny establishments that will cater for most of the new residents that will be entering Digbeth.

My final shot was of Beth and other staff in the bar area.  It is sad to see such places closing but I guess this is progress.  The early charm of Digbeth with venues taking advantage of the old industrial warehouses is slowly disappearing.  The Floodgate is an example of creating different types of entertainment.  Such places will disappear and be replaced with new shiny establishments that will cater for most of the new residents that will be entering Digbeth.
Beth with the Floodgate bar in the background
My final shot was of Beth and other staff in the bar area.  It is sad to see such places closing but I guess this is progress.  The early charm of Digbeth with venues taking advantage of the old industrial warehouses is slowly disappearing.  The Floodgate is an example of creating different types of entertainment.  Such places will disappear and be replaced with new shiny establishments that will cater for most of the new residents that will be entering Digbeth.
Floodgate Street

If you enjoyed this blog then please take a look at my other Digbeth entries starting with Digbeth Art from July 2020