No, it’s not made of custard – nor does it make custard. (At least not anymore.) But there are plenty of other reasons to visit… Just across the river from The Bullring is The Custard Factory in Digbeth, which has had many different identities over the years. It offers both a window into Birmingham’s past and its future simultaneously. Shops, markets, bars, artwork and even bars inside barbershops – it contains everything you could possibly need.
1. It has Birmingham’s industrial past on display
The massive hit that is Peaky Blinders has sparked a new interest in the history of Birmingham. Although you’re unlikely to witness a gun fight, you’ll definitely see some Brummie history here – and maybe some flat caps.
The buildings were first erected between 1849 and 1922, to house factories at a time when mass production was really beginning to take off in England. This area is reflective of changes in society which necessitated changes in architecture in order to accommodate the larger concentration of people working in one space. The Custard Factory is said to have employed up to 12,000 people before it closed in 1967 and so it would have been of huge significance to the local area.
2. It’s the birthplace of instant custard
Instant custard is important. Imagine making fresh custard every time you want apple crumble?! Thanks to Birmingham-born Alfred Bird—whose wife was allergic to eggs and obviously a fan of custard—we have the eggless, instant Bird’s Custard.
The Custard Factory has changed a lot since its time as a factory, but it’s where the deliciousness that is instant custard was first manufactured. There are still little reminders everywhere that, when it comes to the history of instant custard, Birmingham rules supreme.
3. It’s so pretty…
The buildings are covered in artwork, fairy lights and basically everything you’d hope to see in this urban wonderland. There is artwork from brilliant artists like Pete McKee covering the walls, meaning that, everywhere you look, there is always something amazing to stare at.
4. It’s full of amazing bars and restaurants
The Custard Factory is surrounded by some brilliant places to eat. Inside you’ll find the absolutely bonkers golf course, Golf Fang. Or there’s the neon-splattered arcade bar, NQ64, where you can sip on cocktails as you crack on with a game of Donkey Kong. But if it’s a simple, yet cool cocktail bar you’re after try Passing Fancies. Finally, you can also grab a pint and some delicious food at The Old Crown, a pub that dates all the way back to 1368.
5. All of the SHOPPING!
There are loads of traders based in and around The Custard Factory, which definitely makes it worth a visit. However, the best time to go is during one of the flea markets, such as the vintage furniture flea market. The best way to keep up to date on what’s on when is by checking out the Custard Factory’s Facebook page.
6. Digbeth’s vibrant nightlife
Whether you’re out for a couple of pints or planning a proper night out, Digbeth has a lot to offer. The Mill hosts a massive range of events, from techno nights to reggae bingo. It’s an old warehouse space so it’s huge and there’s even an open, rooftop garden.
Stag Digbeth has to be one of the most unique uses of space in Birmingham. Not only is it a bar but it’s also a coffee house and a functioning barber shop. Need a haircut before your night out? Well, Digbeth can do both at once.
7. And last but not least, the legendary Mockingbird Cinema
For a unique cinema experience, head to the Mockingbird. They’ve got bottomless movie brunches (e.g. Dirty Dancing and Grease sing-alongs with unlimited prosecco), film all-nighters (e.g. Arnold Schwarzenegger marathons), various cult cinema showings (Lost Boys, anyone?) and even CAGEFest (yes, that’s a whole weekend dedicated to Nick Cage movies). More info here.