St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024

Initially the weather forecast for St Patrick’s Day was rain but someone must have had a word with heaven. The rain stopped and the sun started to show itself from behind the clouds. Bradford Street in Birmingham is as straight as a die and runs parallel to Digbeth High street. At the top of the hill by Trinity Church, the floats, dignitaries and people were congregating.

St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
The Lord Mayor by one of the Irish banners.
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
Getting ready to parade
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
Ready to sing Dirty Ole Town by the Pogues
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The entry code was you had to wear something green and St Patrick was there overseeing the proceedings. The Peaky Blinders were behaving themselves and they had brought their own police force. Irish dancers and marching bands were adding to the entertainment. There were a group of dancers who had flown in from Bolivia. Their costumes contributed to the colourful noise around them. The scooters were polished so well that you got blinded by the reflections from the chrome work and mirrors. The floats were being loaded up and the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress were greeting everyone and having their picture taken. With so many photographers around it was not long before the West Midland Mayor, Andy Street made an appearance. Everyone was so friendly and the atmosphere was one of excitement and merriment.

St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
The parade on Bradford Street
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
The BRMB bus loaded with dignitaries
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
The Guinness hats were everywhere
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
Having fun was the aim of the day.
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
Which will it be?

Then the parade was due to start so we rushed down the street to St Anne’s church. People were lining the barriers as you went down the hill towards the city centre. Even the dogs were dressed up in the Irish tricolour flag. The parade was long and varied, stopping every so often to let the marching bands and the Irish dancers demonstrate their skills. People waved towards the floats and people in the floats waved back. Everyone was so happy.

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Some of the big names in construction were there including Murphy’s and Mahoney’s. The Irish came over to Birmingham and contributed to making the city an industrial powerhouse. The parade reflected this contribution and everyone reacted to celebrating the rich history of Birmingham. These pictures are my own interpretation. At an event such as the St Patrick’s Day parade every type of photographer is out and about. BBC teams and local newspapers, amateur photography organisations and the casual mobile phone snapper were in their element. Everyone wants their photograph taken.

St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
The line up in a float
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
The builders’ merchant (even I have used them)
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
I am getting tired now.
St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
It was not just people who were having fun.

The BBC coverage is the best starting point for a record of the day’s events although a quick search of St Patrick’s Day Parade, Birmingham will open up many more.

St Patrick's Day Parade, Digbeth, Birmingham, March 17th, 2024
BBC account of the parade

The next parade in Birmingham will be Pride 2024 and here is my account from last year.

Joy and happiness at Birmingham Pride 2023

Borealis in the Bullring, Birmingham, February 2024

The Bullring centre is hosting a light show called Borealis for one week in February.  This production by the artist Dan Acher is on display every evening during the week.  With a mixture of dry ice smoke and laser beams, the “northern lights” are recreated in the centre of Birmingham.  The performance is accompanied by haunting music which sets the scene and cranks up the atmosphere. When you stand still and look up at the colours, you are transported to a magical place where the northern lights are happening. Borealis is a photographer’s dream. As the laser beams crisscross through the smoke, colours are created and these are highlighted by the surrounding buildings.  The gentle breeze in the area moves the smoke around leading to pleasing patterns against the backdrop of the Selfridges building and St Martin’s Church.  

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I arrived there just as the sun was setting and the golden hour followed by the blue hour provided a changing backdrop to the scenes being created.  The hypnotic music added to the atmosphere.  The smoke adds to the surreal atmosphere and produces a haunting appearance to the area which is part dreamy and romantic at the same time. As it is half term week there are many people in the city shopping.  The area around St Martin’s was packed with onlookers gazing into the sky. There was one child dressed in white who seemed to be leading the crowds in a service for the Borealis. The imagery could be appreciated either close up or at a distance allowing everyone to take in the spectacle.    

Borealis in the Bullring, Birmingham, February 2024
The lights over St Martin’s Church with a construction crane leading the dance of the colours.
Borealis in the Bullring, Birmingham, February 2024
There was a golden sunset that enhanced the colours of the laser show.
Borealis in the Bullring, Birmingham, February 2024
There were packed crowds along St Martin’s way.
Borealis in the Bullring, Birmingham, February 2024
The show caught the attention of everyone even this child who is leading the crowds.

Using both iPhone and my Fujifilm x100v, I had fun taking pictures before heading off for an evening meal in town.  After dinner, I dropped by to see Borealis on my way to the train, the night was dark and there was a different take to the light show as the powerful laser colours shone through the smoke layers.  I stayed around for a few more pictures. Even at that late time, there were people out and about enjoying the show.   

Borealis in the Bullring, Birmingham, February 2024
The light show created a calming atmosphere with the lights and the music

Here is a link if you wish to know more about the work of Dan Acher.

The last light show in Birmingham that I visited was in February 2020 when the world was still very young and the idea that a virus would force us all indoors was a fanciful idea.  My record of the festival light from 2020 is outlined on a previous blog. 

About the picture taking.
I was fortunate to have a dinner booked in town at 6pm. This gave me time to see the Borealis early and late in the evening. I always have my iPhone with me and wherever possible my Fujifilm x100v. When I arrived, my mind already starts to think how can I tell a story about the show. There were several things that caught my eye. The smokey atmosphere was one. Standing at the top of St Martin’s Walk looking downwards to the Church is a popular vantage point and captures the haze above the crowds. I moved closer to take in the sunset and the source of the smoke and lasers. My photographic mind is thinking about the big picture and then the smaller things that make up the view. What amazed me were the crowds of people, so I knew that I wanted them in the picture. I swap from iPhone to compact camera when taking my pictures. The iPhone is so good but I find that it wants to adjust the shadows and compensate for the darkness. Meanwhile the x100v requires a very high ISO and wide aperture to let the light in. Fortunately post processing is done with Lightroom and the “denoise” button is a dream to use. This has rejuvenated my night time use with the Fujifilm and I am not afraid to crank up the ISO. Selecting images proved a challenge and I limited myself to just 8 pictures. As always on social media, there were some very good pictures taken by other photographers. Seeing them, I think to myself, if only I had taken that photograph but I know that they also challenge me to adjust my view of the scene when out taking photographs. A selection of them may be found on the Beautiful Productions Instagram page.

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.

Ozzy the Bull arrives in New Street station, Birmingham. 2023

Since the Bull was unveiled in a spectacular showpiece at the Commonwealth Games in the summer of 2022, the Birmingham public haven fallen in love with him.  As soon as the opening ceremony was over, the Bull was brought to Centenary Square where thousands of people came to view him.  His popularity was immense, and this soon created a new problem.  What to do with Bully after the games had finished? There were many suggestions but no concrete solutions and before long the Bull was moved from the square to a lock up location in Ladywood.  There he stayed underneath a tarpaulin sheet as Birmingham leaders decided what to do with him.  The public learnt that a solution had been found but first the bull needed to be upgraded for his new location. Time moved on and then there was an announcement of a competition to find a name for the Bull.  After a public vote, the name Ozzy was selected.  We also learnt where he was to be housed.  In the large atrium of New Street Station.  Then in early July a space was set up followed by parts of Ozzy being delivered to the station over one night in July.  Commuters woke up the next day to see the construction of Ozzy. First the body, then the head and horns.

Ozzy the Bull arrives in New Street station, Birmingham. 2023
Ozzy is tall and stands with a sheet over his head.
Ozzy the Bull arrives in New Street station, Birmingham. 2023
People move around as normal while Ozzy waits to be unveiled.

Every photographer in Birmingham rushed to take pictures of Ozzy as he is being constructed.  When I visited the feet were still missing although the rest of Ozzy is pieced together.  I had forgotten the size of the Bull and the distinctive head is high into the Atrium.  Someone has placed a white sheet over the head of Ozzy. Brummies are unsure why this has been done as it is not possible with a single sheet to hide the identity of the bull.  However the sheet does give an air of mystery to the statue.  

Ozzy the Bull arrives in New Street station, Birmingham. 2023
You just wonder what all the fuss is about.
Ozzy the Bull arrives in New Street station, Birmingham. 2023
This picture provides an idea on how impressive Ozzy is.

Enjoy these pictures and stay tuned for the unveiling of Ozzy in all his glory later this month. You may also wish to see two of my earlier posts which chronicle the history of Ozzy the Bull.

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Martineau Gardens, Edgbaston, IgersbirminghamUK, April

There is a hidden gem close to Birmingham city centre and must be ranked as one of the places to visit.  Martineau Gardens is a beautiful community garden just off Priory Road in the middle of Edgbaston.  After getting off the 61/63 bus that leaves the city, cross the Bristol Road and make your way up the hill on Priory Road.  After a short walk, Martineau Gardens is on your right.  There is a wooden entrance hut that leads you into two and a half acres of beautiful gardens.  Martineau is a mixture of traditional gardens and a woodland towards the back of the property.  The hub of the gardens is the Pavilion, so named, as there were originally tennis courts here as part of the land.  The building, which will be renovated in the coming year, is a welcoming centre for the gardens.  There is the opportunity to sit out on the table and chairs and share a cuppa with the volunteers and other visitors. 

Martineau Gardens, Edgbaston, IgersbirminghamUK, April
Nine iPhone pictures from IgersbirminghamUK Instameet

IgersbirminghamUK run Instameets where we invite local photographers to a venue.  We tag our pictures and share them both on Instagram and also with the venue who kindly allowed us to photograph their property.  At the start of the meeting, we were met by Jenni Fyer, CEO of Martineau Gardens who gave us an introduction to the gardens.  Jenni outlined the history of the place where it was once used by teachers to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.  Now it is a community garden and is maintained by volunteers.  The gardens pride themselves on being a therapeutic environment of organically maintained land, close to the city centre.  The environment helps the community and supports people from different backgrounds especially those with various special needs. Jenni invited us to roam around the gardens, which were just waking up from the winter months, to take as many photographs as possible and then to join her and the volunteers for a cuppa at the Pavilion.  After the obligatory group photograph of the IgersbirminghamUK participants, we were then left free to wander around the grounds. 


I do love Instameets as it is a chance to catch up with old friends.  Therefore there was much chatting with people before the real business of the visit; the photographing began.  I made my way to the entrance and then into the formal gardens.  There were spring flowers around and the buds were only just appearing on the trees.  Next was the herb garden and the orchard.  The sun was out making shadow play on the greenhouse glass and the wood of the garden huts. The shipwreck play area looked fun, and a mental note was made to bring my grandchildren back to see the place.  Whilst the wildflower area was not yet up and running, I enjoyed taking pictures of the wheelbarrows, watering cans and the potted flowers.  I then moved onto the woodland walk and was immediately surrounded by tall trees and foliage.  

Martineau Gardens, Edgbaston, IgersbirminghamUK, April
Peaceful scene
Martineau Gardens, Edgbaston, IgersbirminghamUK, April
Cacti in the greenhouse.
Martineau Gardens, Edgbaston, IgersbirminghamUK, April
Butterflies and Robins.
Martineau Gardens, Edgbaston, IgersbirminghamUK, April
Apple orchard

This part of the gardens is Designated a Site of Local Importance for Nature Conservation (SLINC).  Jenni Fryer had mentioned that this area is teaming with wildlife and is a welcome green corridor amongst the urban conurbation that surrounds the gardens. There was a pond that looked a great place for dragon and damsel flies over the summer months.  Next along the path was a Sacred Circle for meeting on a common ground and then a collection of beehives.  There was much activity in the hives so I did not get too close!  I slowly wandered back as I found myself content just strolling through the gardens.  There was the occasional sound of tennis balls against rackets as we were neighbouring onto the Edgbaston Priory Tennis Club but otherwise you could lose yourself in the environment.

Upon returning to the Pavilion, one of the volunteers made me a lovely cuppa.  Then there was time to chat talking about the photography and the gardens.  Before saying my goodbyes, I purchased some apple and mango chutney from the shop. Something to remind me of the visit later.

Martineau Gardens, Edgbaston, IgersbirminghamUK, April
Jars of Apple and Melon Chutney and Honey available to purchase.

I started off this blog saying that this is a hidden gem.  It is no longer hidden to me and this will be a place to visit in the future with the family. Martineau Gardens is a place to visit to meditate, to unwind and let the stresses of life fall away.  There is so much to enjoy and see.  


Finally thank you to all the volunteers and staff and thanks to Jenni Fryer for welcoming us and to Sarah Hill-Daniel at the gardens for arranging the date and timing of the IgersbirminghamUK visit.

Please follow these tags on Instagram to see more photographs by the talented people @IgersbirminghamUK.
#martineaugardens
#igersuk_meet_martineau

Martineau Gardens, Edgbaston, IgersbirminghamUK, April
Dammodammo (picture by Jack Babington)

If you wish to discover more about the gardens then please visit the Martineau Gardens Website. There is also an informative leaflet plus map of the gardens.

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Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham

Oozells square in the westside of Birmingham is unremarkable other than the IKON gallery which is on one side of the square. The IKON is a highly acclaimed contemporary art venue and when you have finished looking over the latest exhibits, take a well earned rest in Yorks coffee shop.  However in the months of March and April the square erupts with cherry blossom and becomes one of the most photographed squares in Birmingham.  I also took many photographs.  The square was featured in a BBC news and my photograph was included.  I have also added a few more of my own in this post.

Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham
A favourite reflection is produced around the water feature
Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham
the blossom turns and ordinary square into the extraordinary.
Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham
A traditional view of the blossom with the IKON in the background.
Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham
Another traditional view of the blossom in the square.

Further links include
The IKON gallery
Yorks Cafe

If you would like to see previous entries on this square then please visit
Blosson in Oozells Square
Cherry blossom experiments

View of the City May 2021

Queensway is a busy arterial road in and out of Birmingham so there is always a high volume of traffic thundering along the tarmac.  With my telephoto lens and 24 to 70 mm lens, I went about taking different pictures of an area that is already very familiar to me.  New building projects are always happening in the city centre and the area between the Cathedral and the Canal was an old factory site.  It has been repurposed into city dwelling flats that are being built close to the canal.   

The area is also a magnet for different kinds of people and as I was taking pictures, I was hassled for money, so I quickly moved on.  It is something I am wary of when I am in the quieter parts of town.  I know that I do have to be careful of my own safety.  Still the lure of  taking a few photographs around the buildings on either side of Queensway won through.  I took pictures of St Chad’s Cathedral and also with my telephoto lens up past the Snow Hill buildings.  After that I made my way into town for a lunch time meeting. 

Parking on the top floor of Selfridges Car Park opposite the store provided skyline pictures of both the City and Digbeth, and the skyline bridge linking the two is always fun for a picture or two.    I love the new covering on the Selfridges which is being put in place whilst they replace the discs on the outside.  The covering is designed by Osman Yousefzada,who is a multi-disciplinary artist working in association with the IKON gallery. the pink and black geometric shapes are in contrast with the grey architecture.

It was a day of sunshine and showers and whilst I was outside there was a terrific downpour. 

This then led to the bonus of several puddles for a bit of reflective photography.  The puddles around Selfridges are still there and lend themselves to some nice reflections of the building as it is being renovated

On my way to New Street, there were other interesting images to capture including the queue outside Zara and the photographing of the Electric Cinema.  I lingered around the reflective roof of the entrance to New Street Station. I also took a few pictures of the trams passing through which is something you have to do when in Birmingham. 

So enjoy the pictures and it is good to see Birmingham as it emerges from the pandemic.  The only down side is the weather which is atrocious rain and so unlike May.