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UoB Exchange IgersbirminghamUK

The University of Birmingham has a major economic impact on Birmingham and the West Midlands region.  The University educates students, is a major employer, a research leader in all sectors and a gateway bringing in global connections that benefit the city. Even though the University has a beautiful campus at Edgbaston, a physical footprint in the city centre has long been on the University’s wish list.  The old Municipal Savings Bank began to look an interesting project.  Especially with the location of the bank on the new look Centennial square.   

Produced by the University of Birmingham

The former Municipal Bank is a Grade II listed building and has historical links with the University.  Joseph Chamberlain was founder and first Chancellor of the University of Birmingham.  Neville Chamberlain, the son of Joseph Chamberlain was behind the building of the Municipal Bank on Broad Street.  It was first opened by Prince George in 1933 and has a long history of underpinning the wealth of an ambitious city.  However, the bank closed at the turn of the century and the last 20 years has seen the building empty with no tenants. It was famously portrayed as the AC-12 base in the BBC series ‘Line of Duty’.  The iconic safe deposit boxes in the vault were used in a Chanel advert amongst the various roles that the bank filled in these barren years.  In 2018, the University negotiated a long lease of the building with Birmingham City Council and the renovations began.

I was fortunate in my University of Birmingham role to see these renovations firsthand in October 2019 before the pandemic.  During my visit, I took a series of pictures on my iPhone.  I had no idea which room I was photographing, although I remember the vaults where the safe deposit boxes reside.  They are so interesting to see.  Rows and rows of metal doors with numbers on them.  One can only begin to imagine what was contained within them.  The building was being gutted and there was so much to do from floor to ceiling in each room.

UoB Exchange
Banking floor

Fast forward to October 2021.  Hasan Patel who is part of Communications Team at the University of Birmingham invited me to coffee at the Exchange after his Marathon Run. (Follow Hasan on Twitter to learn how to sponsor him on his running diary). We spent an enjoyable couple of hours putting the world to right.  Hasan introduced me to the University team at the Exchange and we visited several rooms in the building. 

Not long after my visit with Hasan, IgersBirminghamUK announced an Instameet at the Exchange.  Immediately I signed up and went along.  This Instameet is a friendly collection of photographers.   We were given access to all areas including the Board room and the former bank managers office which I did not get to see on my first visit.  The other interesting feature is the balcony where the bank manager opened the doors and looked out onto the banking floor to check that the bank was running smoothly.  During the Instameet, this was a favourite spot for all the photographers.

Whilst we were in the vault, we were also given access to a utility room where many of the safety deposit boxes were stored.  Now many of the boxes are placed strategically around the building and are a feature of those rooms which are used as teaching spaces and meeting areas.  This basement room had many of the old boxes and proved to be a fantastic place to take photographs.  There were still some stickers remaining and on one of the boxes the notice stated that this box could only be opened in the presence of a solicitor.  Once again one could only imagine what was kept in these boxes over the years.

We finished the tour and adjourned to the Distillery Pub next to the Roundhouse.   This is another interesting place to visit and includes a wall mural of a canal horse painted by one my favourite street artists, Annatomix.   The Roundhouse was used to care for the canal horses that pulled the boats and has been renovated as a historical place of interest. There is even one of the horse stables on view.

This was a day taking pictures of historical buildings that have been brought up to date in a city that is rediscovering its roots and moving forward.  Thank you to the team at IgersBirminghamUK for organising the tour and The University of Birmingham for opening the Exchange for this Instameet.

I have also included a blending of the old and new photographs in two of the rooms to show how the building has been modernised between my two visits.

Pictures taken with iPhone 11 and 13, camera Fujifilm x100v

If you are interested in joining an IgersBirmingham Instameet then please follow them on Instagram. An account of a previous IgersBirmingham Instameet at Moseley Market is also available on my blog.


Birmingham by Annatomix

As you will have seen I have been stopping off in Birmingham on my way to work and taking pictures of the City.  There is a real opportunity to get some pictures of the place and often highlight the lockdown with the lack of people.  Most of the pictures shown have one or two people in them.  They are also bleak.  A solitary Christmas tree stands where the German market used to be.  A lone masked figure walks through China Town. Sunrises on the roof of deserted car parks.  As you look through the places then they will throw up different emotions and thoughts.  It has been difficult for many people and we will remember what this year is like for many years to come.  Meanwhile I sometimes feel guilty being a voyeur using the camera as an indiscrete people watcher.  Recording the events for my own pleasure.  Take a look through these pictures and see what you think.

I will be covering
Central business District / Snow Hill Tram station,
New Street Station/Grand Central
Roof of Snow Hill station
The Arcadian/China Town

Central business District / Snow Hill Tram station

Cornwall street Lockdown#2
Cornwall street Lockdown#2
Church Square Lockdown#2
Church Square Lockdown#2
Lockdown#2

What is eerie about the Lockdown#2 is the lack of people commuting into the city.  This is most evident in the business district.  There are few people on the streets and the offices are empty except for the security people on the front desk.  On a busy morning prelockdown, there would be people striding around the pavements goint to their office workplace.  Coffee shops would be busy, and the train and buses would stop and have to wait for some time to disgorge their passengers. Now it is much quieter. I have my iPhone and Canon 5D.  With the latter, it is big and therefore difficult to hide.  A man with a big camera, is a phrase someone said about me.  I do worry about being mugged for the camera..  The iPhone is fine, but it does try and correct low light settings and I like the control the manual settings give me.  Therefore it is often a mixture of both.

New Street Station/Grand Central

Welcome to New Street
Welcome to New Street
New Street looking empty
New Street looking empty
Around New Street and. feel sorry for the taxi drivers
Around New Street and. feel sorry for the taxi drivers
Annatomix art work graces the entrance to Grand Central
Annatomix art work graces the entrance to Grand Central
A more colourful approach Lockdown#2
New Street Station
New Street Station looking empty.

The station opens many opportunities for photographs but when there are few people around then it is difficult to be inconspicuous with your camera.  Therefore, in the station, I used by iPhone whilst outside my camera felt more comfortable.  The steps up to the station with the mirrored ceiling always create wonderful reflections.  There was a network rail person working occasionally looking out of a small window at the foot of the stairs.  I caught a picture of him although he is a little out of focus.  My nerves on taking the picture!  Hope you enjoy the pictures especially those of my favourite street artist, Annatomix.  A fellow photographer Elliot brown had passed by the day before, so I retraced his steps and found the place deserted.  Pictures that normally had people distracting you were possible.  So taking pictures of Birmingham have been easier under lockdown.

Roof of Snow Hill station

Sunrise roof of Snow Hill Car Park
Sunrise roof of Snow Hill Car Park
The view over Snow Hill platform
The view over Snow Hill platform
Reflections in a puddle of the BT tower
Reflections in a puddle of the BT tower
The moon still over St Paul's Church
The moon still over St Paul’s Church
Looking down Cornwall Street
Looking down Cornwall Street
Light Trails down Edmund Street
Light Trails down Edmund Street

An old favourite – if the weather is good and for this particular morning a great sunrise was on its way.  There was one car parked and the whole place deserted.  The skyscrapers of Snow Hill 1, 2 and 3 lean in over the car park.  It had been raining the night before and there were plenty of puddles for reflections.  It was dawn so you could look down Cornwall street with the pretty lights or down or do the light trials down Edmund street.  Both favourite locations for Birmingham Photographers since the car park was open.  A check on the BT Tower and yes St Paul’s Spire is still there with a full moon overlooking it.  The trains from Kidderminster arrive on their way to London and the Trams move by the Show hill office blocks. 

The Arcadian/China Town

Hurst Street on a rainy morning
Hurst Street on a rainy morning
Streetphotography in Chinatown
Streetphotography in Chinatown
Looking up Hurst Street
Looking up Hurst Street
A wet day in Chinatown
A wet day in Chinatown
These mopeds get everywhere
These mopeds get everywhere

The last morning of Lockdown#2 was a trip to the Arcadian Centre. I did want to see the Christmas tree that had a small cycling tunnel though its centre. When I made my way to the tree which is outside the Hippodrome, I saw that someone was sleeping underneath the tree. Not only that on closer inspection as my pictures show it was a homeless person dependent upon a wheel chair to get around. This shocked me and you may say this is a now a normal occurrence yet when you stumble across it, it still has the power to shock. I moved onto the Arcadian centre and the rain was persistent. The place was very quiet with few people moving around. I knelt down to do some puddle reflection pictures and happened to catch a young lad walking through the Chinatown passageway. The iPhone was all I used as it was so wet. A miserable end to Lockdown#2 but then again what do you expect from the year of 2020.

Homelessness during Lockdown#2
Homelessness during Lockdown#2

If you like these lockdown#2 photographs then the rest of the set are listed below
1. Birmingham Lockdown #2 – a photographic journey of the first morning
2. Birmingham Lockdown #2 – a visit to the Mailbox
3. Birmingham Lockdown #2 – New Street Art in Digbeth

or compare my photographs to those of the BirminghamLive website
Pictured: Eerie Birmingham on the first day of the second national lockdown


New Street Station

It is busy at work and so much of my photography is confined to the walks in town between the train and bus connections early in the morning. Some are in the afternoon depending on the timing. I will usually vary my bus stops so that I can take in different walks. This leads to a variety of photographs. One building that has taken up a prominent feature of the cityscape is the new Primark building. The architecture is a touch brutal and is not an easy place to photograph. Street art is always changing and the David Bowie mural on Dudley St by Annatomix is very distinctive. Her work is always good and there are several murals strategically placed around the city.

Watch that man – artwork by Annatomix
Follow the trail – poster outside Moor Street Station
The entrance to the new Primark Store
The jaunty angle gets the Rotunda into the picture
Link Street with the Rotunda in the background
The curse of the use of mobile phones is everywhere
Looking down Smallbrook Queensway
Framing the BT Tower

I love the colours of a good artistic graffiti painted on a wall or derelict building.  I am not a fan of “tagging” such as scrawling letters or child like drawings scribbled around bridges and walls.  Digbeth in Birmingham is regenerating and the focus is the old Bird’s Custard Factory.  The streets in and around Digbeth are full of clever street art.  Here are a few examples of them.  They have been taken with my Canon, Sony compact or even iPhone.  There is a fish eye lens used in a few of them.  The artists I particularly like are Annatomix and Golden Boy but there are countless others on the scene.  I have included a few here that I took on my early morning walks around Digbeth.

Made in Birmingham – Car Park, Bromley St End

Custard Factory – Floodgate St entrance

Fish eye effect – Floodgate St entrance to Custard Factory

Fish eye effect – Custard Factory

Scary teeth (look like they are lower incisors in the upper jaw) and staring eye – Floodgate Street

Grafitti Map of Digbeth – Little Ann Street

Flying Fish – Meriden Street

Dig those sunglasses

Street Scene, Digbeth with Golden Boy

Golden Boy Details

Custard Factory Grafitti

Four ghost like images and a real human – Custard Factory

Windows and tie – Custard Factory

Digbeth Coach Station Car Park