Digbeth, once Birmingham’s industrial centre, has developed a vibrant contemporary arts scene over the last fifteen years but now creative communities are being priced out of the area as property prices are pushed up by the anticipated location of the HS2 terminal close by.
A £25,000 grant from the Architectural Heritage Fund is supporting an exciting partnership between the Homes and Communities Agency and Grand Union Studios to develop unused former canal offices into a permanent affordable base for the artistic community close to the city centre. The buildings are located at the junction of the Grand Union and Birmingham and Fazeley canals and comprise a terrace of handsome 1850s offices to the front, constructed of engineering bricks, with a pair of gabled red brick warehouses to the rear that were used to manage the transfer of goods from one canal to another. A major fire in the warehouses over twenty years ago stripped out the buildings, and despite shell refurbishment, all the buildings have been empty and unused for over 10 years.
Now the heritage spaces will be refurbished into light and airy exhibition spaces, affordable studios, offices and a café. The increased floor areas, compared with their current premises, will enable to the Grand Union Arts Collective to work with a wider range of audiences and increase their sustainability. They will also be able to better support emerging talent better and enhance their innovative work with international artists and curators.
Matthew McKeague, CEO of AHF said “This is an important project for this part of Birmingham, one that is experiencing rapid change. Retaining the historic canal offices as an affordable creative space will be important for both place making and expanding the work of Grand Union. AHF is very pleased to be supporting the project.”
Grand Union’s Director, Cheryl Jones said “This is an extremely exciting and timely opportunity for Grand Union to put down firm roots in Digbeth. We will create a world- class facility that enables us to support many more artists in the city, and a welcoming gallery where you can encounter some of the most interesting contemporary art being created in the UK today. Part of our programme will see renowned artists working alongside local people to find innovative ways of bringing the heritage of this important conservation area to life. We are very grateful to Architectural Heritage Fund and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for their investment, supporting the development of this ambitious capital project”.
For further details about the project visit https://grand-union.org.uk/junction-works/