Birmingham, UK: The Custard Factory

Where I track down some amazing street art, find where the cool cats of Birmingham hang out and consider how much longer I can get by on the generosity of others.

I knew there had to be some arty/creative space in Birmingham if I looked hard enough; The city couldn’t be only shopping centres and pubs, surely?

Finally I found one.

This is the Custard Factory.  Built on the site of the old Bird’s custard factory, it is a mix of small units housing an assortment of start-ups and creative endeavours, combined with some off-beat architecture and plenty of graffiti thrown in.

Well, it makes a nice little afternoon excursion if you should ever find yourself in England’s second largest city.

birdsAlfred Bird accidentally invented his custard powder in 1837, whilst making something for his wife, who was allergic to eggs. The product turned out to be a big hit, not only with his wife but with others who tasted it.  So Bird’s custard was born and manufactured out of this factory in Birmingham.

By the 1960s the company had relocated to Banbury and the original custard factory fell into disrepair.  However the quirky architecture made it a popular hangout for artistic/creative types, who would hold meetings and other events here.  In 1993 funding was obtained to help redeveloped the old factory and it is now home to more than 400 arts/digital/independent ventures (units from £30 to £300 according to the notice).


So what am I doing in Birmingham in the first place?  Well basically I’m sofa-surfing, spreading myself thinly around the few remaining friends I have left in the UK.  I have ended up trapped waiting for the legal bits and bobs to be completed and for the bailiffs to throw out my errant tenants and give me back the rights to live in/receive rent from/sell (I haven’t decided which) my home once more.  I don’t want to venture too far from London whilst all this is going on (because I’m too easy to ignore if I’m not here hassling them) but on the other hand I can’t afford to pay London rents.

I’m fast running out of friends with sofas who are willing to let me sleep on them too.  It’s not surprising, because I’m not much of a house-guest.  I have had a constant cough/cold since I got back, due to the cold, damp weather and my lack of warm clothing.  I also have some unnamed skin rash, possibly as a result of one of the hostels I stayed in earlier in the month.  So, I turn up, cough over everybody, scratch constantly, sleep for 10 hours and then try to act as if everything is ok.

If I’ve learnt anything from this past few months it is this: never be so desperate to rent out your house that you don’t get a lawyer to check out the contract before you sign it. 

2 replies »

  1. Hello Sarah. Yes Birmingham is quite cool but I still prefer Manchester. The Museum and Art Gallery in Birmingham is good too. Plenty of pre-Raphealite art …… my favourite. Take care xx

    • Well I doubt I’ll make it to Manchester on this little tour, since I don’t know anyone to doss with there. In truth I don’t think I’d recommend Birmingham to anybody, but obviously I’m not here for its cultural delights.

Leave a Reply