Photo of Polish Millennium Centre by Pete Ashton
You probably think all there is to do in Digbeth is drink Guinness and view luxury show apartments but yeah, that’s right, you’re wrong. With fun-packed weeks like this to be had, there’s no excuse to be sitting around your new-build flat getting fat on Stirchley Bacon.
The Monday before last I got to see Roger Shannon, Executive Producer of I Could Read The Sky, introduce this gorgeous film in The Spotted Dog. Author Dermot Healy plays an elderly Irish ex-labourer immigrant who pads about his pokey bedsit, remembering his tough life whilst he waits for it to end. It sounds really depressing and it wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs but it was beautiful. Poignant memories are shot in what look like sepia super-eights and jump drowsily back and forth and back again like a lovely, confused dream. It isn’t an easy watch but well worth it. Director Nicola Bruce put a soft feminine touch on a very harsh male experience and a story that if told by anyone else would be embittered was turned into something strangely soothing.
Gerald was sorry to have missed it, but was otherwise engaged teaching his weekly Irish language classes at The Irish Club. I never knew CRAIC was an acronym. You learn something new every day. Luckily he never misses the Irish music nights on alternate Mondays at The Spotted Dog as they start just as he finishes.
On Tuesdays get up and get down with ACE dance and music’s open African dance classes for adults. It’s really fun and, because traditional African dance seems to involve a lot of squatting and lower body stance, should be good for your bums and tums. It certainly felt like it was the next day. Ouch.
ACE dance and music also have a programme of dance activities for ages 2 and upwards – see their website for details.
On the first Wednesday of each month the Irish Heritage Group meet at The Irish Centre. I must admit to missing more of these than I should because I’m lame but they seem to have a very interesting programme of talks and events for every month and do a mean Christmas quiz, where I won some utterly disgusting alcoholic chocolates.
The Custard Factory – we all know it’s there but it’s worth mentioning. At the tail-end of the week I find it hard to pass Rooty Frooty’s in the morning without popping in for a coffee, which is like rocket fuel. And if that doesn’t perk you up, everyone’s favourite barman Rod certainly will.
Last Friday I tried out Polish folk dancing at the Polish Millennium Centre. It turned out to be mainly teenagers doing it but if you’re between 11-19 and fancy discovering Polish culture through song and dance then it’s great. A lot of the young people were second or third generation Poles and Wiesniacy are doing a good job of carrying the Polish language and culture forward. You can see the group perform next year at the Polish Folklore Festival in Symphony Hall next February.
I’m glad I went as I got to discover what a great secret the Polish Millennium Centre is. If you spend more than £7 in the restaurant you get a free beer, who can say fairer than that?
If your dancing tastes lie a little further west then St Anne’s Community Centre host very a popular salsa night every Friday, where you can learn and practice some latin moves in a relaxed atmosphere.
Hang out at The Edge on Cheapside from 3pm. I love Friction Arts, in an age when the arts are becoming structured there’s something wonderfully anarchic about them that hints at smashing it all up for some chaotic creativity.
St Anne’s is a lovely little church for mass on a Sunday morning, if you’re that way inclined. And instead of a polite tinkle the priest’s entrance is marked by a doorbell’s ding-dong.
If you’re hungry after that nip to The Big Bull’s Head, one of the few places where you can get a three-course roast dinner washed down by a pint and still have change from a tenner. Rumour has it that if you manage to finish their hearty (or is that heart attack?) He Man’s Grill you get to ring the bar’s bell to a round of applause from the punters.
So there you have it, discover Digbeth and you’ll end up smarter, fitter and multi-lingual. If you hurry you might get lucky and bag a new apartment.