Birmingham is full of little festivals and club nights or street entertainment that you’d never know are there unless you read the right blogs, knew the right people, or remembered that little sticker you saw on the back of the traffic lights as you crossed the Suffolk Street Queensway. Here are some of the best that we’ve been to this year, all for under a tenner.
- Digbeth Dining Club – Every Friday night down at The Spotlight on Heath Mill Road there are street food stalls with a selection of world cuisines from South African springbok and vegan falafel to a New York hot dog and French crêpes covered in sugar. If you’re lucky enough to get down there on the First Friday of the month you’ll find more food and drinks stalls out the back and live music later on. We ate there quite often over the summer, it attracts all ages too, from families with young children, to a safe teenager’s night out and folks in their 50s looking for something different than a restaurant or the theatre. Cost: food costs around six pounds a pop so with a beer on top you’re still looking at under a tenner.
City of Colours / Summer in Southside / Outdoor TV – There are so many outdoor festivals during the Summer. The likes of Moseley Folk Festival and the Jazz festival cost upwards of £30.00 just for a day ticket, so we went on the lookout for some smaller, more unique festivals this year. The Outdoor TV in Brindley Place puts on children’s films for a matinée, and normally runs a theme for the evenings, it also shows the tennis from Wimbledon which had an amazing atmosphere last year when Andy Murray won! The Summer in Southside is an arts festival full of street performances and activities around the Hippodrome and Gay Village area, all completely free. City of Colours was without doubt the best, a one day festival around Digbeth centring on the Custard Factory, full of organised street art competitions and live spraypainting art in the streets. Complete with live music, BMX bike display, street dance competition, this was a complete surprise, we only intended to stay an hour or so but spent six hours exploring and watching the art grow as the day went on. The good news is that it should be back next year with a two-day programme. Cost : a tenner covers a couple of beers and an icecream.
- Quiz night at The Queen’s Arms – On a Thursday on Newhall Street, it gets ruthless. We went originally for the 2-for-1 pizza deal but then at 20h00 we discovered they had a quiz, after cajoling our friends, we joined in. A traditional pub with stained-glass windows and high bar stools, this quiz offers a picture round, a double or nothing, a conections round, it’s the perfect quiz package. Cost: a quid for the quiz, the pizza deal and a beers might just keep you under the £10.00 limit.
B-Town / International Dance Festival – In May the International Dance Festival descends onto Birmingham, with paying performances in the Symphony Hall, the Rep Theatre and so on. But there are also plenty of free shows in the street if you know where to look. One very cold night we went out to see B-Town, a dance-based performance about a post-apocalyptic Birmingham as the sole-surviving city after flooding drowns the rest of the country. Queen Roxy must make the decision to let refugees into the city before the floodwaters rise further. This was simply… brilliant. A collaboration between several local dance schools this was a story that sucked you in despite the cold and the threat of rain. Cost : a fiver for a hot chocolate afterwards.
- Exhibitions at Birmingham Museums – All the museums in Birmingham are free, and there is so much going on! The Ikon gives a taste of modern art, the Museum and Art Gallery in Victoria Square houses the Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire Hoard a rolling programme across the Gas Hall and Water Hall spaces. Out of town there’s Sarehole Mill where you can explore JRR Tolkein’s childhood, Soho House which was home to Lunar Society back in the day, and the beautiful Aston Hall. Cost: £5 maximum per museum.
Our information comes from a variety of sources, the Meetups are great because you get to see a lot of the mainstream festivals in the City like the International Dance Festival and the Colmore Business District Food Festival, and we have a few friends that are close to the artsy scenes in the City, but most of the time you just have to search the blogs (let me know if I’ve missed any!) : I CHOOSE Birmingham · Digbeth is Good · BMAG · Digbeth First Friday · Out in Brum · The Foodie Couple Blog · Brum Review · Brummed Out · Birmingham Student Foodie