We Are Eastside – The Creative Playground

Underneath Eastside’s arches you’ll find a whole host of organisations making and presenting film, music, visual arts, digital media, craft, literature, graphic design, web design and photography – and some great pubs and cafes too. We Are Eastside is a guide to some of these hidden treasures.

Eastside – an industrial, urban area to the east of Birmingham’s city centre – is the oldest part of Birmingham and was once home to a mass of foundries, workshops, and tanneries dating back to medieval times. The infamous Lunar Society of the late Eighteenth Century saw local industrialists, scientists, creative thinkers, and craftsmen change the face of Birmingham by building canals, factories, and world-class businesses. The strong canal and rail links further fuelled production and saw the rapid growth of the city. Industry in the area subsided in the 1970s and many of the original factory buildings became derelict.

Today, Eastside is the largest physical regeneration project in Birmingham: huge tracts of rubble and grassy industrial zones await the realization of architects’ bright, inspiring vistas; manufacture in the industrial buildings that line the canal networks has long ceased, giving way to a new form of production and expansion with the development of galleries, studios and project spaces popping up in quick succession.

Spearheading the way The Custard Factory – a firebox drawing from Birmingham’s international repute as the ‘City of a thousand trades’ – has restored numerous derelict factories which are now home to communities of artists, creative enterprises, galleries, and cafes including: Capsule, promoters and curators of a year-round music programme including the internationally acclaimed ‘Supersonic Festival’ which takes place annually at The Custard Factory complex; 7 Inch Cinema who employ a mixtape approach to their filmic investigations and curate the annual ‘Flatpack Festival’; Birmingham Jazz, a development agency which presents contemporary jazz in Birmingham; Craftspace, who work to push boundaries and perceptions of crafts practice, presentation and learning; Punch Records, who specialize in a range of music led events; Rhubarb Rhubarb, a development agency for photographic artists; and Tindal Street Press, prize-winning independent fiction publishers.

Nearby Heath Mill Lane is home to Eastside Projects, who investigate the role of art in an urban environment; and VIVID, who converted a former car garage into a dedicated production and exhibition space to explore artist’s film and video. Eastside’s newest additions include Grand Union, an artist-led project bringing together nine established and emerging artists in a refurbished canalside hangar; The Lombard Method, an independently run studio and flexible project space led by eight Birmingham-based artists; and tucked away in Rea Gardens Project Pigeon, a pigeon loft with a difference! On the opposite side of the High Street, The Edge is home to Friction Arts, who have been making ‘art where you live’ for over 16 years.
Like The Lunar Society all those years ago, there is a sense of a creative and productive renaissance taking place here – distinct individuals with their own research and goals, reciprocating and advancing in a common direction: outward.

Ben Waddington
We Are Eastside design by James Langdon
Intro text by Ben Waddington + copy by Dan Davies
Project coordinated by Capsule

We Are Eastside gratefully acknowledges the support of Birmingham City Council.