Union leader Mick Lynch and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street have pledged their support for cultural venues serving Birmingham’s Irish community following separate visits to a Digbeth music venue and bar.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) General Secretary, and chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), visited the independent music venue and community bar Nortons Digbeth to speak to rail workers and business owners respectively, using the opportunity to praise work to ensure Irish heritage is celebrated in the city-region.
The three-year-old independently run Meriden Street pub unveiled a programme celebrating Irish music and culture for St Patrick’s Day 2023, with the first release of 500 tickets selling out for St Patrick’s Sunday snapped up by eager fans of Irish music and culture after going on sale earlier this week.
The headline all-day line-up on Sunday 12 March features acclaimed Dublin folk-rockers All Folk'd Up, lively Belfast band Rovin' Out, and Birmingham Irish scene favourites The Father Teds, Lampa, and Heed.
Part of a 10-day programme of live music from Thursday 9 to Sunday 19 March including contemporary shows and traditional sessions, dance performances, guest appearances and celebrations of independent Irish culture in Birmingham, the St Patrick’s celebrations at Nortons will boost visitors to the Digbeth area as well as raise the profile of the Irish diaspora in the UK across the city. The venue will be free admission until 9 pm on St Patrick's Day Friday 17 March and Sunday 18 March.
Nortons Digbeth has hosted performances from renowned artists including The Merry Wallopers, All Folk'D Up and Sharon Shannon since opening in October 2019. The music venue and community bar also provides a space for cultural activities including trad sessions, as well as private and commercial events.
Mick Lynch, who is currently negotiating with the UK Government and rail companies for fairer working conditions and pay on behalf of tens of thousands of workers as well as leading a series of high-profile industrial actions, recently addressed a rally of union members and activists at the Meriden Street pub.
The second-generation Irish-British RMT boss said: “In London where I’m from we’ve lost a lot of our identity. It’s important to have community and cultural centres so we can enjoy ourselves and keep our heritage alive. It’s critical we keep our pubs and clubs going to pass on to our children.”
Despite hundreds of hospitality businesses closing across the UK, owing to a ‘perfect storm’ of compulsory closures due to the global Covid pandemic, soaring energy bills, and a cost of living crisis, Nortons Digbeth has to date remained open, thanks in part to the loyal support of its customers.
After speaking to managing directors, executives, and representatives at the Breslin's Business Club, Andy Street, West Midlands Mayor, acknowledged the hard work of licensees and night-time economy business owners, saying: “We all know that hospitality is having a hard time at the moment; we’ve seen that with everything, from train strikes to the cost of living. But we have to remember it is the independent businesses that really give a place its character: people choose to visit places like Digbeth for that reason.”
“When we think about the Irish community, to me it’s set in the context of Birmingham being a place that everyone has made a contribution to over the years.
“Many say the Irish built this city and that’s obviously true to some extent. What’s being done to preserve that special culture in Digbeth is of course a wonderful tribute to all those people who went before.”
The 10-day St Patricks programme at Nortons Digbeth runs from Thursday 9 to Sunday 19 March 2023. Featuring a launch in conjunction with city distillers Spirit of Birmingham and Dan Murphy, the lineup features Jameson's Whiskey Tasting, Rapparees and Hurling Boys (Friday 10 March), Jack Banting and Rovin' out (Saturday 11 March), Cheltenham Races trips (13-17 March), Cheltenham Ladies Day with The Holy Show Band (Wednesday 15 March), St Patricks Thursday with On the Sesh (Thursday 16 March), Heed, The Father Teds and Kieran Corcoran (Friday 17 March), Lampa and Cairde (Saturday 18 March) and closing trad session (Sunday 19 March).