Birmingham Irish Centre closes to relocate outside of the city's Irish Quarter.
After 50 years in Digbeth, the Birmingham Irish Center is closing amid disagreements with the city council over regeneration plans. There is a "sense of sadness and nostalgia" among the local Irish community as the city venue closes its doors after five decades.
The center will now relocate a mile away in Kings Heath, building a new venue that will incorporate a hotel, bar and GAA facilities.
"The area is changing rapidly," manager Paul Owens told the BBC. "I'm afraid it's time to move on."
"The area is changing so fast you wonder how long the parade will remain as it changes.
"I think the Irish identity of the area has slipped away and we have an opportunity at the new site to create an Irish village supporting between 50 and 100 jobs."
Digbeth has long been known as Birmingham's Irish Quarter, hosting a large annual St Patrick's Day celebration. The parade's organizers confirmed that the annual event will continue in the area despite the relocation of the Irish center with a spokesperson stating that they were "absolutely determined... to ensure the future of Digbeth as the city's Irish Quarter is secured."
“We’re very sad to hear the news that Birmingham Irish Centre in Digbeth will be closing in January 2020," said a statement from the St Patrick's Day Festival.
"The centre has been an important part of the Irish Quarter for more than half a century and we thank all those who have played such a significant role over the years in making the building a home from home for the Irish of many a generation.
"However, we know that Digbeth, and Birmingham, is changing at a rapid pace.
"As one of the key Irish organisations in the city-region, St Patrick’s Festival is absolutely determined to work with the city council, private developers, funding bodies and cultural partners to ensure the future of Digbeth as the city's Irish Quarter is secured through new investments and new buildings that will draw our community together, whilst offering services and social benefits for residents and visitors of all ages, all cultures and all backgrounds.”
Read more: Confessions of an innocent Irish girl in London in the “Swinging Sixties”
"St Patrick’s Festival is absolutely determined to work with the city council, private developers, funding bodies and cultural partners to ensure the future of Digbeth as the city's Irish Quarter is secured.” https://t.co/PhUhcatnG9
Via @birmingham_live— St. Pat's Brum (@BhamStPats) December 3, 2019
Manager of the Irish center for the past twelve years, Owens told the BBC there was a "nostalgia leaving Digbeth after 50 years."
"We've all got our own special memories of good times at the centre," he said, but added the move to Kings Heath offered "a tremendous opportunity."
The center was forced to move after a disagreement with the city council over the height of a new center to be built in the same location. Original plans submitted wished to demolish the center and rebuild on the current site, adding on more facilities such as a hotel. Owens said, however, that the center could not agree with the council on how tall the new building would be.
As a result, in January work will begin on a new center in Kings Heath.
"I hope we have found a way forward to build a new Irish Centre we can all be proud of for many years to come," Owens said.
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