Anywhere but the high street? The search for culture in Wolverhampton.

Visit a selection of cities in England and you’ll notice a familiar theme throughout – the best places, the areas that attract the brightest creative people and have the most eclectic venues – are not on the High Street or in the usual, more established areas such as the centre. They tend to be tucked away in side streets, in Victorian warehouses and industrial units.

Liverpool is an obvious example of this. Whilst it has its popular Cavern Quarter complete with the touristy Cavern Club and chain bars such as Flares and a branch of J.D. Wetherspoon, the real action is elsewhere – the area around Seel Street boasts Kazimier Garden and the Grove Beer Tap & Grill, while the nearby Baltic Triangle area (a former centre of industry near the River Mersey) has the Baltic Social – which has last week hosted its first ‘Baltic Schmooze’, a gathering of business people and creative types with its inaugural theme ‘Alternative Finance’ (read about it here), Liverpool’s only brewpub the Baltic Fleet, the Baltic Bakehouse shop and café and The Critter Shed, a non-profit screen print collective to name just a few places in this cultural quarter of Liverpool.

Birmingham has something similar. We’re all familiar with the big brands in the Bull Ring and Grand Central shopping centres and the big hit for a night out tends to be Broad Street with its many bars and clubs. But the area around John Bright Street attracts a different crowd with Cherry Reds bar, Brewdog, a branch of Turtle Bay and The Victoria – a pub and theatre under one roof all within close proximity. It also has its own cultural quarter in Digbeth with the Custard Factory, a hive of creativity which lets out event space and has more independent shops than anywhere else in Birmingham within its confines along with several independent shops, pubs and bars (live music is big here) within walking distance.

So, where is this going? Wolverhampton. Our high street is, to say the least, nothing like the multiple shopping streets of Liverpool or Birmingham. We’re a small city and we don’t attract half as many big names as these giants, but there is a similar theme. Our ‘cultural quarter’ – the area where the talented, creative types spend there time isn’t necessarily on the High Street or in the busier parts of the city centre. A quick search will tell you that Wolverhampton’s cultural quarter is the area around Stafford Street and Lichfield Street, with the Art Gallery, the Light House and various University buildings. Indeed, this area boasts independent café Zuri, the Hungry Bistro and the Grand and Arena theatres to name a couple. But, slightly further away from the centre (but still within walking distance), the linked areas of Graisley, Chapel Ash and the southern edge of West Park are attracting all sorts of creative thinkers – something that local business Creative Wolverhampton has picked up on with its article ‘Where is Wolverhampton’s Artists’ Quarter?’.

Zuri, a popular independent café on Lichfield Street Chapel Ash – quite unique

Can we have more than one cultural / creative / artists quarter? Of course. These areas exist, not just because the local council decides they should be named specifically so, but because the right people are finding themselves in them. Start ups, small independent businesses and musicians frequent these the area to the immediate west of the city centre. Property costs less in Chapel Ash than it does in the centre of Wolverhampton. The buildings are unique – something that equally unique independent businesses love. And these areas can boast a certain amount of solitude – something a busy city centre cannot.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Marie

    Wonderful article and thanks for the mention!

    1. neswulf

      Thanks Marie, I was inspired by your ‘..artists’ quarter’ article.

  2. Pingback: Anywhere but the high street? The search for culture in Wolverhampton. | West Wulf

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