There has been an upsurge of interest in the history of Birmingham’s music scene following the recent successful Home of Metal project and exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and also a Music Heritage Award to honour UB40’s first gig at the Hare and Hounds pub in Kings Heath.
Alongside this we had a very enthusiastic first-time user come to us hoping to find out more about a well known local Birmingham band* and about the venue where they played their first gigs.
The venue he was interested in was a city centre site which had been a nightclub in the 1970s and 1980s. We were able to suggest newscuttings, trades directories, photographs and also some useful secondary material including an excellent book on Birmingham’s music scene called “Brum Rocked On!” by Laurie Hornsby (1988) – you can find it at Birmingham Archives and Heritage shelved at L55.5
What our researcher had not expected to find out was the age of the building; in fact most city buildings have long lives in a variety of guises. This one had been a nightclub, a casino, a warehouse and originally a factory making light fittings in the late nineteenth century. We were really pleased to see our researcher follow the trail through trades directories to see what kind of manufacturing had taken place there and then track down an original plan of the factory and hunt around for trades catalogues for the firm to see if he could see the kind of things they made. It made for an interesting social study of the area showing how the character of that part of the city had changed and reflecting the decline in Birmingham of manufacturing industry.
Sometimes you don’t know what you are looking for until you find it.
*it wasn’t UB40 or Black Sabbath