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

HiVis Festival, Digbeth, 2022

The High Vis festival this year was at the Tea Works on Canal street. The wide open setting allowed for a range of Graffiti artists to ply their trade on the surrounding walls. I went to the festival with my family on the Saturday afternoon.

The street art painters were in good form as well, with many ready to chat with you and let you know what they were painting. All the walls were in action and several artists were already working when we arrived. Seeing Annatomix painting was a bonus. The family were keen to get back to the shops and I only discovered her working on her scorpion design on the way out. There were many different art works on display but due to timing, most of them were works in progress. I will go back later in the week to check out the finished artwork. Stay tuned. The queues for the children’s art painting were slow moving and we did not get a chance for the grandchildren to try out some painting. There was just a high demand in that area and we will be ready for next year.

We loved the skate boarding and the energy around the place. The skate boarders were excellent and there was the opportunity to get up close and see them in action. There was a gap which the skaters jumped over before turning around on the ramp. All the skaters negotiated the RedBull Road gap successfully and there was also a rail to skate along as well. The boarders are very skilful and also fun to photograph.The High Vis event is organised by Graffiti Artist and I am already looking forward to the next event in 2023.

If you want to see my report on the High Vis festival 2021 then please take a look. All of my Birmingham Street art posts are popular and I love to support the artists’ work and the High Vis festival.

HiVis Festival, Digbeth, 2022
Welcome

Spaghetti Junction March2022

What lies below is a theme for this and my next blog.  Spaghetti Junction is 50 years old in May 2022. Millions of car drivers pass over Spaghetti Junction as they hurtle past Birmingham.  Many are on the M6 heading north or south to their destination with no thought about what is below.  For others the Aston Expressway is the main northern route into Birmingham and is a spur off the Junction.  The sprawl of roads spit out cars to Erdington and 6 ways along the Tyburn Road.  People live in Gravelly Hill immediately adjacent to the junction.  The area is a mixture of concrete, noise and fumes.  The Junction celebrates 50 years in May and at the time was seen as a landmark construction.  Over the years it has become synonymous with Birmingham.

Spaghetti Junction March 2022
The layers of the Junction from the River Tame to the Signs for the Aston Expressway

As a photographer what lies below is much more interesting and is seldom seen from above.  The first part of the junction to investigate is Salford circus which is the link roundabout for many of the local roads to the motorway.  It is not clear what the planners had in mind but the inner pedestrian area of the junction is an unfriendly concrete jungle.  It is covered in litter and graffiti tagging.  It is not a place to visit alone and luckily my photographic colleague John Bray was with me.  The concrete pillars are giants holding up the roads above.  The area is under attack and the hero is nature as it attempts to reclaim the area.

Spaghetti Junction March 2022
What wonders what the planners had in mind for the underpasses.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
The sound of broken glass
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Nature is fighting back on the concrete.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Tagging and signs
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Having someone with you when visiting is essential.

Kicking our way through the rubbish we make ouir way through the underpasses and cross the busy junction to reach the canal access steps.  Running under the Motorway the canals also make a junction.  There is where three canals come together namely the Birmingham and Fazeley, the Tame Valley and the Birmingham and Warwick Junction canals.  Flowing alongside the canals is the River Tame.  The area has numerous bridges criss crossing the canal and the light peeks through vents above.  There are grafitti strewn around the place.  Cyclists and walkers move around in a surreal dance.  Walking eastwards the Motorway passes Star City and the area is reminiscent of many TV programmes.  This is probably because a great deal of car chase filming takes place around here. 

Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Concrete everywhere
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Access to the canal
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Starting to explore underneath.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
A view of the Star City entertainment complex
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
A place where many movies car chases are filmed.

Moving westwards there is a bridge tunnel where there is graffiti which in the past was renowned for its beauty and craftsmanship in previous years.  When we visited, there was just a white washed wall with a prison window.  I am unsure of the meaning of this painting.  The site is used as there is a shaft of light that comes down from above the junction onto the canalside.

Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Underneath the heart of the junction.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
The “prison window” graffiti.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Reflections and stagnations in the water.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
The deep green canal.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Traffic thunders above.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Constant repair of the road structure goes on.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Looking back along the canal.
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Bolts hold the roads together.

The canal path leads under all the roads that form the Junction and there is repair work on several of the bridges.  A path along the Aston Expressway eventually comes out onto Aston reservoir.  This is a hidden feature in the shadows of the Motorway.  It is relatively peaceful and a contrast to the distant noise of the traffic.  Moving along the perimeter and keeping the river Tame in view, there are trees and shrubs which are reclaiming the land underneath the tarmac.  This becomes the end of our journey underneath Spaghetti junction, and we head home back on the M6. 

Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Aston Reservoir
Spaghetti Junction March 2022
Spring Blossom against the concrete pillars.

There are likely to be birthday celebrations on its big 50 birthday but meanwhile here is a BBC link celebrating 40 years.


Port Loop

Running was and still is a big part of my life. When the dental hospital was operating out of the Queensway site then we used to take the opportunity to run up to the Soho loop along the Birmingham Canal Old Line. I took my camera with me to revisit the area and my start point was Port Loop on Rotten Park Street. Nothing rotten about it and an amazing housing development is going up. I took several pictures around there, chatted to a local developer who was commissioned to take pictures of the old buildings and then made my way to the canal.

Port Loop development
Port Loop development, Birminghamn
To be developed
To be developed, Port Loop

There were so many people running, cycling and walking and as the Canal and River Trust say #lifeisbetterbywater. I strolled up and down the old line and lingered around the junction with the Soho loop. I enjoyed seeing the city from the distance and the graffiti was very colourful adding to the enjoyment of the photographic opportunities. There were lots of different activity happening and I caught different activities including trains, bikes and boats. I look forward to seeing the area develop over the next few years.

Start of the Soho loop
Start of the Soho loop.
View of the City along our canal
View of the City along our canal
Just talking
Just talking
Quiet Saturday morning
Quiet Saturday morning
Colourful surroundings
Colourful surroundings

Finally the added bonus was taking a short drive to see the Two Towers. Edgbaston Water Works and Perrrot’s Folly are both seen as inspirational in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The Two Towers are in walking distance of the Oratory which is where the young Tolkien went to Church and is a subject of another of my blogs.

Edgbaston Water Works
Edgbaston Water Works, the Two Towers
Perrott's Folly
Perrott’s Folly, The Two Towers

Here are some links
Urban Splash
Canal and River Trust
Birmingham City Council
Places for people

My links on canals
Down by the canal
Night on the canals
Canals and Waterways
Winner BCN 250


The iPhone is so versatile and useful to have on you.  So I always bring it with me when running as you can often capture interesting pictures.  This series shows a few I did on a recent run.  I did see a couple of Herons but the iPhone was not the right camera especially when they flew away.  However there will be other opportunities with another camera.  I remember someone saying the best camera is the one you have with you.  Never so true a statement.

Copt Heath Golf Course

Under the M42

Bottom of Knowle locks

Grand Union Canal