Monday, 12 December 2011

An Early Resolution

A few days ago I took my eleven-year-old son along to the Stirchley Community Market, at the United Working Men’s Club on Hazelwell Street. The market is held there every month, but we had never quite gotten around to going until now.

There were about a dozen stalls packed into the main room in the club, plus one or two more outside in the car park.

We had mainly gone along out of curiosity rather than with the idea of buying very much, but I still came away bearing some interesting Christmas gifts for my girlfriend.

We also bought a few things for our own immediate gratification. My son got a 'friendly' Christmas hand grenade made from soft felt. We got his sister a couple of badges from illustrator Liz Lunney's stall, which both featured cartoon rabbits. One bears the slogan 'sour rabbit cares about you,' which seems encouraging.

We also bought some cup cakes from the Cupcake Bistro, chatted to a guy from the Friends of Hazelwell Park, mooched around the rest of the stalls, which sold everything from jewellery to tea towels to second hand records, listened to medieval Carols sung live, and generally had a good time of it.

There was a cosy, relaxed atmosphere - a sense of  a small community of local artists and businesses coming together to support one another.

We've lived in Stirchley for over five years but I've only recently become aware of the place as having its own cultural scene, independent of the nearby, well-established vibrancy of Moseley and Kings Heath.

For anyone who wants to keep up to date with local goings-on, the tweets emanating from @stirchleyhaps, and their accompanying website, are good places to start. They provide regular details of upcoming events, and also the kind of trivia about the everyday lives of Stirchley-ites which helps to flesh out the place and bring it to life.

Earlier this year Stirchley briefly had its own squatted social centre at the Whit Marley building, which held a couple of art exhibitions and an open mic night, amongst other things. This has now closed, but there are still regular comedy nights at the British Oak, a traveling cinema, and gigs at the Roadhouse.

There are co-operatively run businesses such as the Bike Foundry, Loaf online, and the South Birmingham Food Co-op, all of which sound very useful, but not one of which I really know much about yet.

When I first came to Birmingham, about twenty years ago, I was involved in a couple of workers co-operatives - a vegetarian cafe over in Saltley, and a small housing co-op, both of which long ago bit the dust. These days, when it can sometimes seem as if we are all capitalists by default, its nice to know that those alternative ideas are still around and being put into practice.

I write a lot about places outside of Birmingham where I happen to end up through work. Maybe I should make it a New Years Resolution to find out more about the stuff that's going on on my doorstep.

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