The Digbeth Institute is a 2,000+ capacity music venue in Digbeth, which has been synonymous in the development of the British rave music and drum and bass scene.
Capacity: 1,500 (The Institute), 600 (The Library), 300 (The Temple)
A former church and theatre, the venue is now called the Sanctuary and was the original home of Godskitchen`s weekly club nights.
As well as Godskitchen, The Digbeth Institute / Sanctuary has also played host to famous club nights such as Atomic Jam, Uproar, Slinky, Sundissential, Athletico, Ramshackle and Panic.
Many influential hip hop artists performed at Digbeth Institute including Redman and Keith Murray.
Designed by Arthur Harrison, it was officially opened January 16, 1908 by the wife of the Pastor of Carrs Lane Church, John Henry Jowett, as an institutional church attached to Carr’s Lane Congregational Church.
In the week that followed, it hosted a variety of acts.
The area which surrounded it was predominantly slums and industrial.
In 1954, the building was put up for sale by the trustees as they felt the building was not needed for its originally intended use. It was bought by Birmingham City Council in 1955 for £65,000 and was used as a civic hall.
The exterior is a mixture of red brick and grey terracotta.The grey terracotta forms the more ornate features of the facade including the three towers, the 1.65 metre tall allegorical figures and the window and door frames.
The allegorical figures are believed to be the work of John Evans, the chief modeller for Gibbs & Canning.
The drawings of the building by Arthur Harrison do not include the figures, indicating that these were probably added in 1909. The building is Grade B locally listed.
People known to have made speeches at the Digbeth Institute include Neville Chamberlain, Henry Usborne, Florence L. Barclay and Herbert Hensley Henson.
In 1987, the building was used as a film studio by the Birmingham Film and Video Workshop for the Channel 4 film ‘Out Of Order’. The venue later appeared onscreen again, when it played a part as one of the main locations in the feature film ‘Lycanthropy’, filmed in 2005-2006.
At the rear of the Institute was The ‘Jug ‘O Punch Folk Club, which thrived in the 60’s. on Thursday nights.
The club was run by Ian Campbell, for me the most under-rated influence in folk music and a man whose influence rates alongside that of Ewan MacColl.
The Ian Campbell Folk Group included the great Dave Swarbrick, Ian’s sister Lorna – whose singing was unsurpassed in Britain and the late John Dunkerley.
The group had also included one Dave Phillips, and later Dave Pegg on bass, who was to join Jethro Tull,
and Fairport Convention
Compiled by Keith Law
Ron Brinsdon sent in this ticket stub of The Fall’s gig here.
Beshara were formed 1976 in Moseley, Birmingham and were founded by the late Elias Pharoah (Bass) and the late Ray Watts (Rhythm Guitar) who then recruited Errol Nanton (Lead Vocals) Dixie Pinnock (Drums) and Michael Nanton (Keyboards). They were formerly named ”Cool Dimension” and ”The Kushites” until 1979 when the band settled on the name Beshara meaning ‘surprise’ in Arabic and ‘mystical’ in Swahili. Over the years the line-up of the band changed along with the roles of various members but as of 1980 the ever-present nucleus that was widely known as Ray Watts (Lead Vocals-Rhythm Guitar), Dixie Pinnock (Drums-Backing Vocals), Michael Nanton (Keyboards-Backing Vocals) and Tony Garfield (Vocals – Bass) remained. To add to their harmonies which were now their trademark and their brand of social commentary on lovers rock and cultural reggae, there was even more emphasis on Ray Watts’ natural born voice to the people, Tony Garfield’s riveting bass lines, Michael Nanton’s distinctive keyboard style and Dixie Pinnock’s hard hitting dynamic rhythm.
Throughout the years Beshara gigged extensively all over the UK in the nation’s major colleges, universities and clubs attracting multi cultural audiences. The band never released an album but released 13 singles and enjoyed success with early recordings such as ”Men Cry Too”, which reached number 6 in the reggae charts and was championed by David Rodigan and the late John Peel. ”Glory Glory” featured the complimentary and contrasting qualities of percussionist Raymond ‘Bongo Simeon’ Walker on this much sought after 12” and ”Shadow Of Love” although gaining slightly more commercial interest than “Men Cry Too” reached number 11 in the reggae charts. Beshara received much acclaim when they toured the UK and played alongside UB40, Abyssinians, Beres Hammond, Simply Red, Dennis Brown, Bad Manners, Leroy Smart, Sugar Minott, and John Holt. In the late 1980’s the band was headhunted by I Jahman Levi to back him on his African and European tour, which saw Beshara perform abroad for the first time. The 80’s also saw them achieve well-earned TV exposure by appearing on ‘The Rockers Roadshow’, ‘Black on Black’, ‘Here & Now’ ‘Format V’ and ‘Together’. They were then commissioned to record a score for a BBC Boxing Documentary.
Beshara also appeared as a gospel group in the BBC Drama “Preacher Man” starring the acclaimed British actor John Rhys-Davies who is best known for his roles in “The Lord of the Rings Trilogy”, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, “The Living Daylights” (James Bond) and many more. The band won an award from the Hummingbird’s 1st Annual Black Music Awards in 1987 for ‘Best Sound recording’ in regards to their song “Candi”. Magazines like Black Echoes described the song as “… a commercial bouncer, but solid, revolving around criss cross harmonies, a strong upfront lead and a well oiled busy band sound…” The Magazine also described Beshara as “… so professionally polished and accomplished it makes you wonder why they aren’t huge stars (and ‘live’ they are just as slick, water-tight)…” The early 90’s saw them travel to America to record an album which to date is unreleased. In 1992 Beshara were asked by BBC Radio WM to perform a live concert in Birmingham, which would concurrently be broadcasted live and not only did it gain rave reviews once aired, but also from fans at the concert. However, during the same year the band decided to part ways only to reunite again in 1998 and begin recording what was set to be their debut album in 1999. Sadly Ray Watts (Lead Singer) passed away in the year 2000. Due to this the remaining members of the band decided they could no longer stay together without him and went their separate ways.
In 2000 at the Hyatt Hotel Birmingham, Beshara were presented with an award for their Contribution to UK Reggae music by Street Cred magazine; guests on the night included Jamelia and Brenda Emmanus (BBC Clothes Show). In 2001 the ex band members arranged a memorial tribute concert for Ray Watts at the Irish Centre, Birmingham which led to Beshara performing and sharing the stage with Steel Pulse along with many other artists from Birmingham including Skibu, Reggae Revolution, Jeremiah, Birry The Poet and many more.
2005 saw the ex band members reunite to perform at the ‘32 years of lovers rock’ anniversary concert at the Hackney Empire in London. The concert featured the UK’s biggest lovers rock stars and the band received an astonishing reception, as it was the first time that many of the audience saw members of the band live after years of hearing their songs on the radio and in the clubs.
There’s no doubt that Beshara was an important training ground that eventually led to the main members of the band either recording, backing or touring the world with I Jahman Levi, Pato Banton, UB40, Steel Pulse, Aswad, Luciano, Beenie Man, Musical Youth, Apache Indian, Inner City, Macka B, Alton Ellis, Gregory Isaacs, Half Pint, Reggae Revolution, Johnny 2 Bad and XOVA while sharing the stage with, Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers, Shaggy, Burning Spear, Third World, Yellowman, Black Uhuru, The Wailers, Steel Pulse, Santana, Brazilian greats Jorge Ben Jor, Skank, and Cidade Negra, recording at Eddie Grants studio in Barbados, featuring on major TV shows including Top of the Pops, GMTV, MTV and performing at venues and festivals such as The Sydney Opera House , Reggae on the River, House of Blues, Womad, and The legendary Maida Vale studios. Not forgetting flying on Stings private jet to perform with him in Italy on a television show while still finding time to write and perform on Grammy nominated albums by various artists.
Unreleased material by Beshara will become available in the near future.
Elias Pharoah (Bass)
Errol Nanton (Vocals)
Paul Cunningham (Bass)
Byron Bailey (Saxophone)
Steve Morrison (Trombone)
Past Session Musicians:
Focett Gray (Lead Guitar)
Alan Francis (Trumpet)
Cornelius Wynter (Bass)
Asha Barnes (Percussion)
Raymond ‘Bongo Simeon’ Walker (Percussion)
James Renford (Saxophone)
Decordiva ‘Dicky’ Gayle (Guitar)
Starting out in a the back streets of Birmingham in 1984 Sensateria was the ultimate sensory experience with the audience being over-whelmed by Parachutes, Live Liquid Shows, Strobes, Smoke machines, Incense, Psychedelic Posters plus the psychedelic sounds of the long forgotten 1960′s! No two nights where ever the same.With the likes of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Birmingham’s favourite cult artist Broadcast regularly in attendance over its ten-year existence, Sensateria was a brilliant alternative club in the city at venues such as The Fantasy Club, The Powerhouse, The Hummingbird, Digbeth Civic Hall and Snobs.
One of the most iconic aspects of Sensateria were the beautifully crafted posters and flyers that Mark MacDonald, who a started Sensateria, created. They became much sort after and Benedict Davies has sent a couple into the BMA.
The brilliant Kill Your Pet Puppy site run by Tony Drayton is an online site that documents the punk fanzine Tony ran from 1976-1979 called Ripped & Torn. Tony has kindly given me permission to add these amzing photos of Crass playing at the Digbeth Civic Hall in December 1983. Crass are one of the great Anarcho Punk bands and the photos show them at their best.
There was also a recording made of the gig, taken from the mixing desk which captures Crass perfectly which you can here in three parts. Penny, Gee, Steve Ignorant, all sound as vital today as they did they. As always I’d love to hear from anyone who was there or has photos etc.
Birmingham has played a central role in the history of Rock Against Racism albeit not a role it may wanted to be associated with. In 1968, the Conservative MP Enoch Powell made his “Birmingham speech’ more widely referred to as the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in which he spoke about immigration in the UK. In 1976, Eric Clapton was playing at the Birmingham Odeon when he spoke of his support for Powell and his views. The outburst was captured here:
As a reaction to this, Rock Against Racism was started and of course Steel Pulse played at the now legendary Victoria Park event in 1978.
The coordinators of Birmingham RAR were Annie Bearfield and Cynthia Woodhouse ( now deceased). Cynthia and Annie ran a RAR club at Digbeth Civic Hall and at other places across the city, such as The Star Club and The Mermaid. Barry Coleman did a lot of the art work for posters which were printed at SPAM, Saltley Print and Media.
Rock Against Racism (RAR) was a campaign set up in the United Kingdom in 1976 as a response to an increase in racial conflict and the growth of white nationalist groups such as the National Front. The campaign involved pop, rock, Punk Rock and reggae musicians staging concerts with an anti-racist theme, in order to discourage young people from embracing racist views. The campaign was founded, in part, as a response to statements and activities by well-known rock musicians that were widely regarded as racist.
Originally conceived as a one-off concert with a message against racism, Rock Against Racism was founded in 1976 by Red Saunders, Roger Huddle and others. According to Huddle, “it remained just an idea until August 1976” when Eric Clapton made a drunken declaration of support for former Conservative minister Enoch Powell (known for his anti-immigration Rivers of Blood speech) at a concert in Birmingham. Clapton told the crowd that England had “become overcrowded” and that they should vote for Powell to stop Britain from becoming “a black colony”. He also told the audience that Britain should “get the foreigners out, get the wogs out, get the coons out”, and then he repeatedly shouted the National Front slogan “Keep Britain White”.
Huddle, Saunders and two members of Kartoon Klowns responded by writing a letter to NME expressing their opposition to Clapton’s comments, which they claimed were “all the more disgusting because he had his first hit with a cover of reggae star Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” … Come on Eric… Own up. Half your music is black. Who shot the Sheriff, Eric? It sure as hell wasn’t you!”. At the end of the letter, they called for people to help form a movement called Rock Against Racism, and they report that they received hundreds of replies.
Clapton later claimed that his remarks were made as a joke, and that he did not know anything about politics at the time. In a 2007 interview, however, he said he still supports Powell, and that he doesn’t view Powell as a racist.
Further support for RAR came after David Bowie, speaking as The Thin White Duke, his persona at the time, made statements that expressed support for fascism and perceived admiration for Adolf Hitler in interviews with Playboy, NME and a Swedish publication. Bowie was quoted as saying: “Britain is ready for a fascist leader… I think Britain could benefit from a fascist leader. After all, fascism is really nationalism… I believe very strongly in fascism, people have always responded with greater efficiency under a regimental leadership.” He was also quoted as saying: “Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars” and “You’ve got to have an extreme right front come up and sweep everything off its feet and tidy everything up.” Bowie caused further controversy by allegedly making a Nazi salute while riding in a convertible, although Bowie has always strongly denied this, insisting that a photographer simply caught him in the middle of waving. This claim seems to be borne out by existing footage of the event.
Bowie later retracted and apologised for his statements, blaming them on a combination of an obsession with occultism, the Thule Society and Friedrich Nietzsche, as well as his excessive drug use at the time. He said: “I have made my two or three glib, theatrical observations on English society and the only thing I can now counter with is to state that I am NOT a fascist.”
RAR’s first activity was a concert featuring Carol Grimes as lead artist, and it also launched the fanzine Temporary Hoarding.[citation needed. In spring 1978, 100,000 people marched six miles from Trafalgar Square to the East End of London (a National Front hotspot) for an open-air music festival organized by RAR and the Anti-Nazi League, to counteract the growing wave of racist attacks in the UK. The concert featured The Clash, Buzzcocks, Steel Pulse, X-Ray Spex, The Ruts, Sham 69, Generation X and the Tom Robinson Band. There was a second march and concert at Brockwell Park in south London, featuring Stiff Little Fingers, Aswad and Elvis Costello. In autumn of the same year, an audience of 25,000 came to the Northern Carnival in Manchester, for a concert featuring Buzzcocks, Graham Parker and the Rumour, and Misty in Roots. In 1979, a concert was held at Acklam Hall in London, featuring Crisis, The Vapors and Beggar.
The group behind the original Rock Against Racism launched a new website on April 27, 2008.
RAR was reborn in 2002 as Love Music Hate Racism, with a concert at The Astoria in London, England featuring Mick Jones, Buzzcocks, and The Libertines. Other acts involved in the campaign include Ms. Dynamite and The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. With a goal of counteracting the activities of organizations such as the National Front and the British National Party, it has held high-profile concerts in Trafalgar Square and Victoria Park as well as some other stadiums and venues.
The Androids were an exuberant bunch of teenagers from Birmingham inspired by the punky-ska sound and spikey political awareness of the Two Tone movement that swept the West Midlands between 1979-1980. They played a number of shows at venues such as the Golden Eagle in Hurst Street, Digbeth Civic Hall and Aston University where they played on a bill which included Duran Duran and the Bodysnatchers. The band also provided support for fellow Brummies The Beat. The Androids made two demo tapes; the first at the Dangerous Girls studio in Moseley and then at MCR Studios in the city from which these tracks were taken. The band were Nick Alatti (vocals), Nick Hart (bass), Michael Hancox (rhythm guitar), Ray Belcher (lead guitar) and John Grourke (drums). Paul Haynes, now known as Mantraman, was a former vocalist.
You can visit their Last FM page here: http://www.last.fm/music/The%2520Androidz/The%2520Androidz?ac=androidz