Driving through the Bromford Estate, it’s hard to spot- blink and you’ll miss it. Tucked away amongst the other shops on Bromford Drive is The Hub, home to Hybrid’s latest ‘Inhabit’ pop up arts tearoom project for the next few weeks.
Birmingham City Council funded the project that came into action after a tender was put out to fill empty high street shops around Birmingham. The project fuses artwork, tea and community spirit and has been successful in Handsworth and Stirchley. Hodge Hill is the latest area to play host to one of these unique pop up tearooms.
As I peek through the door, the woman sitting at the nearest table beams at me “Are you here for the tea room? Karen is over there.” I carry on walking past the old round tables and pretty cake stands accompanied by vintage cups and saucers when Karen pops up from under the counter.
Karen Meng, project assistant at Hybrid is working at the Hodge Hill tearoom over the next few weeks.
“It’s really culture on your doorstep,” she explains, “We want to bring people in to an arts space, it’s a great way to engage people with art work.”
The Hub already holds after school clubs on a weekly basis, so far the project has been popular amongst children and parents in Hodge Hill.
“When the children come in they get really excited and parents have been stopping for tea too,” says Karen “we sit at one big table so we try to encourage people to get chatting.”
There are a variety of different activities on offer at the tearoom involving several different independent artists commissioned by Birmingham City Council. Although the project does encourage local independent artists to come forward and they have the opportunity to host a workshop of their own at the tearoom.
“We have had different characters in each tearoom,” says Karen “from children to older people, the homeless and local workers who stop by for tea.”
So far, the project has been publicised through the use of Twitter and promotional post cards and has had attention from BBC4 and The Guardian.
Karen explains; “We like to take the soft approach, the project aims to target the surrounding area so usually we get a lot of publicity just by word of mouth.”
The project was funded from April 2010 and is due to wrap up at the same time this year. Many visitors to the pop up arts tearooms have been sad to see them go, so what does the future hold for projects such as this one?
“It wasn’t something that we anticipated would carry on, we knew from the beginning it would only last until April 2011. People could really benefit from permanent tearooms, just as momentum has built up with the tearooms it’s time for us to pack up again, particularly in Stirchley- people really wanted us to stay.
But what are the chances that a similar project would come round again? Due to Government cuts it’s not guaranteed that the project would receive funding again.
“It depends what funding is available and how the local council feel about the outcomes of the project. However it’s really not about the council, we hope that we have made an impact upon people and that a local business or local citizens decide to set something like this up through the social enterprise model.”
The next stop for the pop up arts tearoom is the Pavilions Birmingham, which opens on Thursday 10th March.