Digbeth Food Stories

The main focus for this project is to gather local people’s memories and experiences of Digbeth, the buildings and the manufacturing, which operated from here with a focus on the food industry. We want to create a permanent archive and document of the food stories of Digbeth.

The time period will be Digbeth over the last 200 years, basically since the canals started to transport food and raw goods to Birmingham, which were stored and distributed from Digbeth, to the beginning of industrialised food processing, to the present day and the lively eating out economy emerging around the Custard Factory.

 We know from our own research and anecdotal evidence that the area of Digbeth is rich in the history of food in Birmingham. It was a storage and distribution point for food coming into the city. This information is largely undocumented.

Digbeth has a long association with Birmingham’s history of migration, being the place of arrival into the city. Migrants more often begin earning money with food start-up business, hence there are strong associations with Birmingham’s social and food history connected to Digbeth. As part of our research we would like to find people who have food stories connected to their arrival to the city.

The buildings in Digbeth are the evidence of a strong food history linked to the place.

 
The Banana Warehouse supplying exotic fruit to make HP Sauce.

 

The Typhoo Tea brand came from Digbeth and was the first company to mass produce tea in the way we know it today.

Through Kitchen School and Edible Eastside, we have operated as a community food resource in Digbeth for the last 10 years. When we give talks and tours of our area we incorporate the food heritage that our school is contained within. We are based at Warwick Bar, an important conservation area for Birmingham and a significant site for the history of Digbeth and the canal heritage.

HS2 Rail will herald a new era for Digbeth as the site of an International Rail Hub. We need to collect these stories before its to late!

In terms of outcomes, we see would like to create the definitive food history of Digbeth identified and recorded for the first time. For individuals, we hope to train local people (via Digbeth residents association) to collect and record oral histories and to recruit a team of volunteers steering group to work on the project for the local area.

As devoted foodies, we plan to develop our Food Stories of Digbeth via the medium of the meal, with dinners to bring people together to discuss Digbeth. As a community project we want to bring people together through food.

We will uncover and celebrate an important history of the area at a time when the area is likely to undergo regeneration with HS2 coming to the area. For Digbeth community we will bring people together to share the history and create a permanent record of an aspect of its’ heritage.

IF YOU WISH TO GET INVOLVED, OR HAVE A STORY TO TELL EMAIL JAYNE on jayne@kitchenschool.co.uk