Culture’s Nadia Sommella tells us why everyone should be taking advantage of Digbeth’s ‘First Friday’
First Friday is Birmingham’s best kept secret. A must-visit for lovers of art, culture and a sprinkle of weirdness. It is an experience that is hard to explain; immersive, spontaneous and no two events are the same. The concept is simple, every first Friday of the month a collection of contemporary galleries in Digbeth open in the evening to present a range of art. The art ranges in medium, usually veering on the side of the untraditional: performance art, installation art, film and photography.
In true Digbeth style, the galleries themselves look more like abandoned warehouses than art spaces. If you aren’t sure where you’re going you could easily walk right past, but usually the trickle of trendy-looking people emerging onto the street will give you a clue.
This is far from the stuffy and pretentious large national galleries your mum probably took you to as a kid. This is the centre of innovation. And yes, even I (an art history student) sometimes look at the art and think ‘what even is that?!’ But this is the lie most of us have been told our whole lives, that one must go to a gallery and like all the art on offer. First Friday instead encourages you to think critically, to engage with what you are seeing and often, even participate, all with a glass of wine in hand.
Highlights for me over the years have been a performance artist who would only perform once you whispered a secret in their ear or walking into a gallery to find the world’s tiniest disco in a room smaller than my student house bedroom. The key is to expect the unexpected. I cannot guarantee you will always appreciate the art on offer, but I can guarantee you will always have an enjoyable (and free) evening out. Some of the galleries that participate are the Grand Union, Centrala, Recent Activity, Stryx, Minerva Works, but it changes depending on the month.
The next First Friday will be February 7th, find out more information at https://digbethfirstfriday.com/.