We visit one of Birmingham's most historic buildings that allows the city's creatives to thrive
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The Old Print Works in the heart of Balsall Heath is one of the city's most historic buildings.
Unfortunately, it's one of a number of venues across the region that has been earmarked of being at risk as a result of disuse. But in the wake of the Crooked House incident, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has taken steps to secure its future.
The Crooked House, which was named ‘Britain’s wonkiest pub’, went up in flames late in August and has since been demolished. The loss of the beloved venue was greeted with outrage by locals who launched a campaign to have it rebuilt 'brick by brick' and staged vigils outside the grounds so that its assets couldn't be removed.
The loss of one of the region's most historic buildings brought into focus the affection in which local people hold them for political figures in the region. The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has now set up a Heritage Taskforce - the first time a formal regional body has existed to advise on how to protect, and care for these buildings - including the Old Print Works.
I headed down to Old Print Works on the day the WMCA announced their new heritage taskforce to get a feel for the history behind the venue and to find out why it's so valued today.
Located opposite the magnificent Moseley Road Baths, the Old Print Works - an old industrial heritage building - is currently run by a local charity, Make It Sustainable Ltd. The building remains open today and in recent years, despite the venue suffering from decay, it has been used as a space for the city's creatives. It's primarily used as a community and arts hub. Many arts classes are held at in the three-storey building including textiles, pottery and photography. It also provides a space for designers and artists to work on their project thanks to the buildings large studio rooms.
The Old Print Works is a creative hub and a place for the city's youth to express themselves in one of Birmingham's inner-city areas, and it's easy to see why it's so valued. It offers a sense of community for the areas youngsters. Upon arrival, I noticed straight away that the building is very run down and in need of some TLC. It's quite cold insde, with large studio rooms, many of which are used as art studios and music rooms.
Although the taskforce is planning to redevelop the building, they are planning to make sure it remains a place for the city's young creatives. The building provides studios, meeting, exhibition, event and also co-working space for people.
People can rent out a series of maker spaces and event spaces for their use, and although the building will receive much-needed funding, the charity will use the funding to maintain the artistic creativity which lives inside the Old Print Works.
What will change about the Old Print Works?
The main issue with the Print Works appears to be accessibility to the building and the rooms, which is something that will be tackled by the taskforce.
I had a chat with the chief executive of the architectural heritage fund Matthew Mckeague, who told me about the plans for the building. He said: "Here at the Old Print Works, they’re looking for improvements to accessibility to the entrance to make it easier to get in for people and to improve the building so it’s more sustainable. Improving access to the building is really important because it’s not too easy to get around the building at the moment.
He added: "This funding will help the charities in charge of the buildings with the key stages of project development including design work and project management, so these are the buildings that are in the right place really to get this investment.”
Hannah Greenwood, interim chief executive of Make It Sustainable which looks after the Old Print Works, added: “Since 2011 we’ve been transforming this disused building into a thriving community arts space, now hosting a diverse and growing creative community in a range of enterprise and community spaces.