Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024

Digbeth is known for streets of light and the area looks it best when the sky is dark. But not too dark.  An ideal time to take photographs is during the blue hour.  The warm yellows of the streetlights reflect on the colourful buildings.  I watched a PhotoPills YouTube video on the Art of Travel Photography. The guest photographer was Scott Stulberg who said if you want to get the best pictures then you have to go out at night. So my first blog of 2024 is all about Digbeth in January.

Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024
Early workers walking down Gibb Street

The blue hour is great but you must get up early and that is not easy unless you plan to go out in January.  The sun rises at around 8 o’clock and therefore you can get into the city early and be ready for the golden hour.  The rewards are many and I know this, as last year my photograph of Floodgate Street taken on an early January morning was “Highly recommended” in the Landscape Photographer of the Year awards in 2023.  Making sure I was there at the right time helped.  If you are lucky enough to be around after a night of rain then the streets light up with multiple reflections.  My aim as always is to be different but also to fit in a few of those classic views.  

Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024
Iconic Digbeth

Arriving in Digbeth early in January I was hoping that Floodgate street and Trinity Street lights would be on but I was disappointed.  The lights were off but I guess it was a Monday morning.  However Gibb street was ablaze with lights and this is where I concentrated my efforts on my picture taking. I walked up and down Gibb Street looking for pictures of the shop windows and the street art.  There were a few people moving around and coming into work at the Custard Factory.  My cameras were the trusty Fujifilm x100v and my iPhone 15 proMax.  I set up my mini tripod for some of the pictures with the x100v and went for high ISO to catch the people moving around.  I did move around Floodgate and Lower Trinity Street to take pictures as there were still some neon lights on to assist  early risers to find their way to the Custard Factory. 

Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024
Shiny Digbeth

Lingering and loitering is a good plan as I waited for people to pass through entrances.  I aimed to catch their silhouettes against the street art.  Some photographers advise to have your camera on burst function so as to capture several pictures.  In this way you capture the moment.  However, I like to take in the surroundings and press the shutter button when I am ready.  Yes I miss a few pictures but I am generally happy with what I get.

Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024
Changing Street Art – this is Mike Skinner and the Streets by Robbie Jeffcott. Those eyes…..
Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024
Details on the railings.
Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024
Details on the walls
Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024
Blinking of an eye on Floodgate Street

The neon lights throw up some strong colours as my pictures show.  I took many more pictures before the daylight overcame the night.  The buildings reverted to a grey colour and Monday daytime was beginning.  The time had come to move on and find a hot cup of coffee to warm me up.

Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2024
Looking back along Gibb Street

Postscript – This is another of my Digbeth picture series which are a popular read.  Please check them out below.

Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.

I enjoy a photographic walk with my Fujifilm x100v camera around the streets of Birmingham.  The early hours are best when few people are around and about.  This series of photographs begins at Eastside where the HS2 works are taking place.  Digbeth was next and I returned to Birmingham along the canal exiting again near to the HS2 works.  

Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
Digging holes and barriers around HS2

What is there to tell you about my walk?  No surprises, as building in Birmingham has not finished and HS2 is still digging and putting up barriers.  I took a few pictures and was interested to see BBC midlands covering the HS2 disruption in the evening news.  Why is HS2 taking so long and why is there so much disruption?  I do get upset with the blasé way they are undertaking the HS2 works.  I am sure it will look wonderful when finished but is it worth the upheaval and time taken.    
The latest BBC item puts HS2 under the spotlight.

Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
Curson street station awaits a HS2 upgrade.
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
The empty Woodman pub awaits customers but when will they return?

Digbeth was quiet for a Monday morning and since the pandemic there is less footfall during business hours. The nightlife is always busy but there is a definite change in activity during the day.  My next observation is the encroachment of high rise living around Digbeth and the loss of character with the demolition and neglect of buildings.  

Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
Micheal Jackson on a furniture shop door.

There are several brownfield sites around the area that will become large skyscrapers.  Other signs of change include the former Typhoo tea building which is starting to see activity around the relocation of the BBC to the building.  Change may not always be positive and one of my pictures is outside what was the DigBrew entrance.  Sadly this excellent brewery has ceased trading and artwork from the street artist Tempo33 marks the spot.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-66199790
Don’t go there.
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
The former Typhoo building soon to become the BBC Midlands Headquaters.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-66199790
Don’t park here.

There is much chaotic colour around the streets of Digbeth and the morning sun brings out the light and shadows.  The canalside is another area in Digbeth that is changing with several buildings undergoing renovation.  How this change will progress will be interesting to document in future months. 

Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
I’m late for an important date. (street art Tempo33)
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
Colours stuck to a wall in Digbeth.
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
Cryola’s wonderful street art is still attracting attention.
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
Standing in Liverpool Street looking up Fazeley Street.
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
Birmingham Canal Navigation through Digbeth
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
The details under the Great Barr Street bridge.
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
The Fox mural by Annatomix still impresses
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
View of the canal buildings with Birmingham in the background.

My final picture was taken on my iPhone as I went past the Selfridges building.  I went low and framed the iconic discs in the background.  I was in luck as a woman walked past although she was confused by what I was doing.  The picture turned out well but was also a reminder not to attract undue attention during my street photography.

Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
The Selfridges Crossing.

Returning to the HS2 theme then there are more stories about the construction on my blog.  I have been documenting 16 acre wood and the damage caused by HS2 around Balsall Common since 2020.  Here is my account of this part of the HS2.

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Walking in Digbeth, Floodgate St, January, 2023

“Walking after you” is a line from an old CCS song called Walking that was released in 1971. The band CCS was led by Alexis Korner and was my introduction into blues music. The song mirrors my photography as I walk along the streets of Digbeth. Arriving early on a January morning before 8am, the street lights were still on in Floodgate street and there were not many distracting cars around. I quickly got out and started taking pictures. In my excitement, I did not get the right focus on my Fujifilm x100v but my iPhone came to the rescue. The opening picture caught the reflections in a large puddle formed from the overnight rain. This is a classic view of Floodgate Street and one that fortuitously worked very well. It did not need much processing and the cropping was critical to remove lettering and stray reflections.

Walking in Digbeth, Gibb St, January, 2023
Gibb St provides many photographic opportunities plus reflectionshots.

Having parked my car in Selfridges multi story, I wandered back to Digbeth as I had time before my morning appointment in town. I used my x100v exclusively for the majority of the pictures. The streets were shiny as the rain had been heavy the previous morning. Puddles were grouped along Gibb Street and Floodgate Street providing more photographic opportunities. My visit included a wander to the edge of Deritend to see the sunrise and then back down Upper Trinity Street which completed my trip around of the area.

Walking in Digbeth, just off Floodgate St, January, 2023
Mind where you park

Constant change is synominous with the area. Shops have changed hands, new restaurants and night clubs have sprung up. There is new Street Art and old graffiti has to survive the constant mindless tagging that takes place. Around there are new building projects and Digbeth High Street is still scarred with tram works although one lane is open for traffic.

Walking in Digbeth, Gibb St, January, 2023
Street Art, arches, lamposts and people, all add to the photographic mix.

For street photographers, there is a constant stream of scenes forming in front of your eyes and most of the inhabitants seem resigned to being photographed as it goes hand in hand with living in such a creative district. Walking after you is my theme and we have several people set against the backdrop of the Digbeth buildings. There are also pictures of the latest street art on the different buildings. The street mural highlighting Parkinson’s disease was previously advertising Peaky Blinders. This wall next to the High Street has become a sought after location.

Parkinson's Disease Mural, Deritend, Birmingham, January 2023.
Parkinson’s Disease Mural.

There are more pictures below taken during my visit to Digbeth. At the end, I have put links to several of my past Digbeth blogs for further reading.

Walking in Digbeth, Floodgate St, January, 2023
Another view of Floodgate Street with the Floodgate on the left.

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Welcome to Digbeth, Birmingham, January 2023
Welcome to Digbeth

Looking back through my blog, I found that I have an extensive collection of pictures that feature Digbeth. This includes a few more pictures of Floodgate St and Gibb St as well. Please feel free to browse through my pages and comment on what you see and read.

Hi-Vis-Festival, Digbeth 2021

From my social media feeds, you would think that the whole of Birmingham was at the High Vis Festival. The date was released with much anticipation and then the BBC Midlands today programme ratcheted up the excitement several notches more by featuring Panda of Graffiti artist talking about the festival. Big Artist names were released and social media was overflowing with comments about the weekend activities.

Hi-Vis-Festival, Digbeth 2021
n_4_t_4 and his astral traveller. Loving the blue colours and the reflections

The festival was held over the Saturday and Sunday in September 2021. I could only make the Saturday which meant that I would be viewing much of the artwork in its early stages. Still that means another visit later in the month to see the finished artwork. Visiting Digbeth always provides photographic opportunities and the Hi Vis festival was no exception. On arrival my first stop was at Milk street where a few artists were working. Surprisingly one of the bouncers at the local club asked why I was taking pictures. I must have looked suspicious! I moved onto Floodgate street – so many artists out painting the walls. People walking around, hen parties, loud noisy cars cruising and street artists. Many of them were intent on what they were creating and were happy to have their photos taken. The street was full of cars but they made for great reflections.

Moving onto Gibb street over the gangway that spans the river Rea. More people plus music and generally great vibes. There was so much to describe and taking pictures with the camera was on overload. Skateboarders provided a gritty backdrop to the arches. Seeing the artists close up and watching them work allowed you to get a good perspective of their approach. Watching @cryola1 paint a vibrant portrait was a highlight.

As you walk into Gibb street, you enter the heart of the Custard Factory and boundless energy is pumped around the cafes and shops. Weddings are taking place at the Old Library and people out enjoying the sunshine. I walked around the arches onto Heath Mill Lane and caught a picture of Panda on his scooter! Thanks to Panda and his team bringing together such variety of street art onto the streets. On Digbeth High Street, there were many more artists painting walls and billboards. Just great to see them in action. I moved back into Floodgate street and saw other well known local artists such as n4t4 and Snub 23 painting. I know I have not credited all of the street artists but I can add names if requested. There was a focus of activity down Little Ann street and there were several artists working including I.am.sprite with her mural of Tiny Roar.

Hi-Vis-Festival, Digbeth 2021
I.am.sprite with Tiny Roar

Ladders and even mechanised platforms were being used to ensure that the painting quality was enhanced. I find it amazing that the street artists are able to keep the bigger picture in mind whilst painting the smaller details. The Pop Art nature of the pictures is a colour frenzy and stand out against the old factories that are a feature of the Digbeth architecture.

Hi Vis Digbeth 2021
Hi Vis festival by plague

Overall the walkaround was very enjoyable, I met several friends, people were friendly and the atmosphere lifted the spirits. There will be a post script on the Hi Vis Festival and all the finished pieces of street art when I get the chance to get down there again. It you are interested in street art then there are a few other blog posts on the street art that I have done including Digbeth Street Art and Digbeth, Digbeth. There is also some pictures of the Bristol scene which I visited in 2020. As you can see, it is a fascinating subject.

Postscript – Digbeth High Street and Selfridges

As I moved back to the car, I thought to myself, “let’s spend 5 to 10 minutes looking around Digbeth High Street” which will include a few pictures of Selfridges in its high visibility cladding. The high street is making way for the tram so it is being dug up. The traffic was stationary and there were pink reflections in the car windows. I was unable to capture the scene well and made do with a couple of pictures of Selfridges.


Lights in Floodgate street Digbeth

Back on a cold Wednesday morning in late January 2020, I decided to visit Floodgate Street before starting work in the City centre.  I took the early train into Birmingham Moor Street and then hopped onto a bus to take me down to Digbeth.  I was particularly keen to photograph Floodgate Street and the lights that criss cross above the street.  They always look so pretty from the train as you make your way into the station.  The lights stay on during the night and are turned off when the sun rises.  Wasting little time, I made my way down the street.  I had some form of photograph in my mind and I knew I wanted it to show the splendour of the lights which give Floodgate St a magical look.  It had been raining the night before and there were puddles yes lots of puddles around.  It could only mean one thing there may be the opportunity of a reflection photograph!  As I got towards the end of Floodgate street, I saw the puddle I needed but I would have to bend down low.  Ewen a friend and a professional photographer had drilled into me that getting down low provides impact to a picture.  Even though I had my ‘grown up’ camera I reached for my iPhone and dipped it into the puddle.  I could see a couple in the distance and they must have thought I was mad bending down for the picture.  When I looked at the picture I was pleasantly surprised and posted it on Instagram.  It was well received with over 100 views which for me is a lot but it was also the start of an Instagram recognition and since that photograph I have received a lot more attention. 

So the reason for posting this blog?  I went into the “Love Birmingham Charity” competition.  It is a great charity and does so much good work.  I made my donations and entered several photos including this one.  I was pleased to learn that it has been selected as a winner and will be featured in a charity calendar by the charity.  So that is the story and on reflection, there has been so much that has happened in the world since the picture was taken.  It is my memory of what the world was like pre-Covid19.

Links
Brum through our Eyes Winners


Venturing into Digbeth proved to be very interesting.  I had a project to do on street art and therefore I wanted to get pictures around Digbeth.  Sunday morning seemed to be a good time to venture forth now that government rules had enabled you to venture further afield for your exercise.  I was apprehensive when I got to Digbeth as it was very quiet and Floodgate street which is normally full of cars was disserted.  

Not a car to be seen in Floodgate Street
The odd person is around
We are looking out for you!
These notices are all around

After taking pictures I then drove around to Lower Trinity Street and strolled into the centre of the custard factory.  Again, it was very quiet with a few people taking exercise.  There were two people taking pictures of their high-performance car in the street.  There was no one around to stop them.  I took my pictures and then went back to the safety of my home.  Every day for the last few months has been a surreal and different experience.  I do not think I will see Digbeth so quiet again.

NHS heroes
Empty Coffee Bars
A few early walkers
No entry
Empty and quiet except for a few reflections
We are watching you – Street Art by Justin Sola

Digbeth is the new Shoreditch is a saying on the Internet.  I have not been to Shoreditch for a long time and I know that Digbeth is modelled on itself not on any other town or city.  It has been a while since I had been to Digbeth. Furthermore, I wanted to get there early so that I could see the pretty street lighting that I often see from the train in the morning.  The cultural centre of Digbeth is the former Bird’s Custard Factory which was always awash with light. Now the surrounding roads such as Floodgate Street and Lower Trinity Street have street lighting that criss-crosses the road.  It gives a nice effect and entices the visitor into the area to discover more about the charms of Digbeth.

Grafitti is a feature of Digbeth
Floodgate Street – Under the arch down the Road
Robots on the wall
A puddle reflection in Floodgate Street

I took my Canon camera with wide lens with me and also had my iPhone and Sony compact.  The streets were relatively quiet with a few early workers out and about.  I took a selection of pictures including the graffiti and the lights.  I even walked into the centre of the Custard Factory to look at the sculptures and art work.  It is always a rewarding experience moving around Digbeth during the early hours.

This way to the Custard Factory
Smoking on the walls in Lower Trinity Street
Early workers at the Custard Factory
More lights in the square
It’s raining people
Art on display
Ranking Roger
Art and food and a bike
The Cat and the Mouse – who will win?