Spring Market at The Bond, Digbeth, Birmingham
Last weekend saw the first Wild Side event of the 2014 trading season. This year we dusted down the show kit to attend the inaugural Spring Market at The Bond in Digbeth, Birmingham - the old canal warehouse which sits beside the northern end of the Grand Union, next to the old FMC warehouse and and Typhoo Basin.
Cafe culture at The Bond
Its a sympathetically redeveloped venue which includes a two berth loading bay for boats and whilst the event was not canal focused, it was fashionably "retro" and the Homebrew Boat and the Book Barge were invited to attend and offer some waterborne trading atmosphere. To give the event a heart the central courtyard was devoted to consumable foods (you know - foods you eat then and there!) with Waffles sold from a period caravan, coffee sold from the back of a Morris Minor and beer and cider sold from a lovingly restored 1966 Routemaster Bus, plus a range of more contemporary vendors under the glass canopy.
How do I know it was a 1966 model? - well I used to drive one which was used as a mobile youth club in Lincolnshire many years ago so I know my classic buses.... Jim please correct me if I am wrong here.
Wild Side in set up mode (thanks for the photo Sandra)
The venue includes a good sized indoor exhibition space which was given over to artisan food and hand made crafts in equal measure. Whilst indoor events are a huge blessing this early in the season, they can also be a bit of a nightmare with too many stalls squashed in leaving too little space to display the goods, too little room for the stallholders to move and most crucially for not enough space for the public to circulate in comfort.
Not so with this event. The heated and well lit venue was generous in dimensions and the organisers delivered a good 10ft of sales space and comfortably wide aisles. All in all a pleasant trading environment which is crucial if we are to return another time.
A good vibe in the central courtyard
But the BIG question is attendance numbers and this is where the organisers seem to have struck gold. Why a mixture of media word had spread and thousands of people made their way to this obscure location. Perhaps the most refreshing dimension was the age profile - probably a good 20 years younger than at normal canal side events. The good humoured crowd milled around in the spring sunshine, eating freshly made food and supping unusual drinks.
But everyone loves preserves and we were able to introduce Wild Side to a whole new audience, who were eager to sample our foraged flavours. As a result we returned home with a much lightened car and a correspondingly expanded wallet. But most importantly the event was fun - and it needed to be. You see it was my birthday so the day concluded with the crews of Wild Side, the Home Brew Boat and the Book Barge walking into town and enjoying a shared Indian meal at Nations on Bennett's Hill.
I use the word "enjoyed" guardedly because whilst the company was exemplary, the service at Isaacs was atrocious - slow, inaccurate and at times downright offensive. A shame because the decor and ambiance is spot on but my advice would have to be: don't go there!
Nations in Bennetts Hill
Hopefully this Bond based event will become a regular feature of the Birmingham foodie scene. If it does we would love to participate. See you there in the summer (I hope) - maybe we could even get the Jam Butty into the basin.