Birmingham & Black Country

Sadness as Birmingham's Irish Centre closes after 50 years

Birmingham's Irish Centre in Digbeth Image copyright Google
Image caption The Irish Centre has been based on Digbeth High Street for 50 years

Birmingham's Irish Centre has said there is "a sense of sadness and nostalgia" as it closes its city venue after 50 years.

Managers announced it will be moving from Digbeth to Kings Heath, more than a mile away, amid disagreements over regeneration with the city council.

"The area is changing rapidly," manager Paul Owens said, "I'm afraid it's time to move on".

The new venue will incorporate a hotel, bar and Gaelic sports facilities.

Image caption Digbeth is known as the "Irish Quarter" and hosts Birmingham's St Patrick's Day celebrations

Digbeth has been a hub for the Irish community in Birmingham and is the site of a huge annual St Patrick's Day Parade, which organisers confirmed would continue in the area.

While Mr Owens expressed concern that "the 'Irish offer' is diminishing rapidly", a festival spokesperson said it was "absolutely determined... to ensure the future of Digbeth as the city's Irish Quarter is secured".

Mr Owens has managed the Irish Centre for 12 years now and said there was "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".

Plans were submitted to demolish the current centre and rebuild it on the same site with more facilities, including a hotel, however Mr Owens said they could not agree with the council how tall the new building should be.

Image caption Coach passengers arriving in Digbeth are met by a translated Celtic greeting

With the move to Kings Heath in January, on the site of the West Midlands Travel Club on Wheelers Lane, Mr Owens hopes to create a "vibrant, sustainable" new centre which will provide social, leisure, education and health facilities.

"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," Mr Owens said.

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