Welcome to Birmingham: Eastside Projects


A very happy new year to CiB readers. As I begin my first full year living in this city I am coming to the end of the first batch of Welcome to Birmingham venues that I have researched since my move. It’s taken a while to get through them due to a rather hectic last four months of the year and I haven’t wanted to sell anyone short. The venues I have visited have opened my eyes to a varied world of art and performance that a year ago I did not know existed in the Midlands. The best part about this is I know I’ve only scratched the surface of what Birmingham can offer and I will continue to unearth locations to feed my creative mind in the coming months.

A short while ago I visited Eastside Projects for the opening of ‘Abstract Possible: The Birmingham Beat’ – I’d never ventured to this part of the city before, with the exhibition space located near the Custard Factory I knew there was an art community in Digbeth but I hadn’t expected such an array of locations upon driving in. With so many converted warehouses combined with a few pubs and independent shops the area reminded me of Brick Lane in London, it has that old, industrial vibe to it.

Eastside Projects’ gallery opened in 2008 on Heath Mill Lane and has since played host to various domestic and international artists, who take advantage of the unique environment created by the large industrial space.

The gallery (interactive tour below, due to bug you may need to refresh the page) is constantly changing and designed to be responsive to the work it is exhibiting. According to the User Manual available on their website – “At the end of every exhibition at Eastside Projects we build on, recycle and upcycle its remains. In this way, each exhibition alters the space and space writes and records its own history.”

In my first visit to Eastside Projects, the space appeared to be split into three sections. The first containing large sculptures, the second an exhibition of paintings and the third a large wooden construction that is their office space.

Whilst a lot of the works on display were temporary and part of ‘Abstract Possible’, certain artworks have become more long term fixtures in the space. You’ll find these positioned at various places around the gallery and include works by Susan Collis and Martino Gamper.

Pleasure Island

Pleasure Island

One of these long term artworks is ‘Pleasure Island’ by Heather and Ivan Morison. Originally commissioned for the Wales Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007, the structure has been modified to function as the aforementioned office that you’ll find at the back of the gallery. It is quite a bizarre sight, yet incredibly intriguing and suits its surroundings very well.

The space in general lends itself to an uninterrupted, flowing experience and really shows off the work on display nicely. With the high ceiling and large white walls it gives off a certain freedom that you don’t get in more confined galleries and has a great industrial quality that adds to its presence.

On this opening night, I was equally impressed with the number of people attending the event and found it a fantastic place for networking. There were a lot of interesting figures from the Birmingham art scene that I had been recently learning about, so to actually get to talk to individuals and share their creative mind was an enjoyable experience and enough reason to go back alone.

It’s the sense of community that Eastside seems to thrive on and is what makes it an endearing location. Be it hosting family workshops, their ESP programme or the monthly Lunch Club, in which you simply bring a packed lunch to the gallery and enjoy some time out of the office for an hour – there are some great opportunities to meet new people and delve further into the city’s art community.

One such opportunity is this Friday, 6-8pm when the gallery launches ‘M6’ by Mike Nelson, ‘Revolving Woman’ by Rachel Lowe and ‘Curiosity Killed the Cat’ by Marie Toseland and Birmingham based Andrew Lacon, and I shall be there to take it in once again.

You can find out more about Eastside Projects at eastsideprojects.org

Photographs by Stuart Whipps, courtesy Eastside Projects