I’m lucky enough to work in one of the most vibrant areas of a city I love. The Custard Factory quarter has it all: history (Alfred Bird invented custard powder here for his egg intolerant wife), character (how could a building wearing a tie not have?) and best of all something different to the norm. It’s a short walk from the Bullring but a world away in atmosphere.
My 36 hours starts here on a Thursday evening where, being a crafty kitten, I take part in a workshop run by the knowledgeable Lucy and Laura from Rethink Remake Relove. In a couple of short hours, they show me how to turn tatty old blouses into some fabulous bunting.
Friday starts with a walk down the Digbeth High Street where I’m reminded that this is the Irish Quarter by the bars and pubs and the striking JFK memorial mosaic, painstakingly re-erected on the corner of Floodgate Street. Back at the Custard Factory, lunch is in order. Yumm Café lives up to its name with great salads and baguettes and the service is super friendly. Making cakes for a living, you’d think I’d be immune to sweet offerings, but I’m only human, so it’s a slice of triple layered Victoria sponge and a cup of tea too.
The afternoon is spent browsing the independent furniture shops where I mentally redecorate my house several times over. There’s everything from vintage (Blakely Browns and Fragile Design) to up-cycled shabby chic (Whatnot and Doodah) and just plain beautiful (More by Design).
If the giant sculptures and quirky graffiti aren’t enough to remind you that this is the creative hub of the city, an art gallery in the new Zellig part of the building will. If you’re lucky you may see Jinxy himself at work creating stunning artwork made from coffee.
By evening it’s time for food, and Digbeth Dining Club are leading a street food revolution around the corner showcasing artisan traders like The Meatshack and Bournville Waffle Company. The only way to wash down the restaurant quality food is with a drink at The Old Crown (the oldest pub in Birmingham) whose walls ooze history.
Saturday starts at a tiara workshop run by the Birmingham Bead Shop where Vina expertly shows me how to make a glittering tiara. I stock up on colourful beads, then pop next door to compare my efforts with the professionals. Sara Priestley’s unique designs show that it’s not just the Jewellery Quarter that can offer top notch bling in this city.
Lunch at the Greenhouse allows me to sit outside with tasty food that’s locally sourced and a bit different to your usual café fare. Chicken gumbo and colourful fleece blankets keep me warm as I chill out with a book and watch the buzz of the Custard Factory’s weekend entertainment. There’s sometimes an antiques market or vintage fair to visit and music can be heard pumping out over the bustle around the central pool.
The rest of the afternoon is spent in a vintage style – shopping for clothes in the array of vintage shops to suit any budget. Even if vintage clothes aren’t your bag, Urban Village is worth a look for its fantastic retro displays. At the Vintage Salon I am transported back to the 50s by the décor and even the hairdryers used to create my fabulous hairstyle.