Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Gadding about on a Budget in Brum

As regular readers will know I have recently found myself living in Birmingham on a somewhat limited budget. My husband is a student presbyter which means we are now living in a vicar factory. He is becoming trained whilst I am learning to be a “clergy spouse”.

I’m discovering there are a range of strategies one can engage for surviving this.  Mine is to escape the environment as much as possible and to enjoy this city fate, God or the Methodist Church (take your pick) has landed us in – on a budget.

This involves looking for a mix of free events, cheap events and ways to save money over the year. Birmingham is the sort of city which enables this. Here are some of my tips of what is coming up and what you might be able to enjoy as well as good ways to find things.

Visual Art and Galleries
In Birmingham many of these are free. You can look round the main Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery for free as you can the Barber Institute of Fine Arts and the Ikon Gallery.

The Ikon’s current exhibition Fiona Banner’s Scroll Down and Keep Scrolling is free to access and is one of the things you can enjoy on October 30th if you take advantage of the Art Bus between 5 and 9pm. It will be going between the three galleries already mentioned and the mac Birmingham. There will be introductory talks and refreshments at each gallery. The Art Bus is part of Galleries Night where a range of galleries up and down the country will be opening their doors late. In Birmingham visitors can also visit the Parkside Gallery which will be hosting Punk Rock So What. It is on until 13th November. Really looking forward to this exhibition and the art within it. Not sure if it will have any textiles or not, but Punk produced some great art.

There are also various bits of public art you can find in the city. For example outside Snow Hill Station there was a range of photographs I saw when wandering about last Saturday.

The Custard Factory is also worth discovering to see what they have going on, at the moment it includes a giant mural I believe.

Whilst much of this is free, encouraging you to give the donation you can afford and so allowing all to enjoy there are some things going on which make a charge.

The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery currently has Enchanted Dreams: The Pre-Raphaelite Art of E.R. Hughes. This beautiful exhibition which has a range of late Victorian and Edwardian art is on until the 21st February 2016. The entry charge for this is £7 for adults (full price and free for children), but if you are going to visit the gallery regularly you can get membership for £25. This gets you into everything for the year, and £42 for a joint membership. You also get 10% off in the Edwardian Tea Room within this as well as entry to a range of other galleries owned by Birmingham Council including the Museum of theJewellery Quarter which has a £6 adult entry.

This means that you can find the money to pay out for the pass you are going to get a number of good days out from it.

Music and Laughter

There is so much going on in the city from big venues to small pubs that there is something for everybody, whatever the budget.

If you are on a budget look out for open mic nights, which there are now web sites specifically advertising. The Crescent Theatre has a range of affordable shows on offer and on November 2nd they have a free night offering a range of music. You are advised to book in advance for this one.

The Glee Club in Birmingham has a range of music and comedy acts for a range of budgets. On November 1st they have a Rough Works showcase of local comics which is £4 entry.

If you are into classical music then it is possible to see some really high class stuff on a regular basis if you can get to the Friday lunchtime concerts at the Barber Institute.

The Birmingham Conservatoire also has a range of affordable high quality jazz and classical events including Monday lunchtime show cases.


I am learning to keep my eyes open for festivals in Birmingham. Some like the Birmingham Weekender are free whilst others like theBirmingham Literature Festival involve a cost.

Now, this is where you have to make a judgement call about what you can afford and what you are likely to want to attend. I invested the £60+ in a ticket for the literature festival because there was lots I wanted to see and I knew with my limited budget I could just about manage this outlay and for it I could see far more of the festival than I would have been otherwise done. I know not everybody has this option, but if you can it is one worth considering.

The upcoming festival in November I am looking forward to is Shout: The festival of queer arts and culture which goes on from 12th – 22nd November. Some events are free whilst others have a cost involved.

Amongst the free events is an afternoon at the mac on 14th November between noon and 5pm. There will be music, film and more going on. The thing about these festivals is they have a range of stuff going on and you pick what meets your budget.

Other Stuff

Birmingham Cathedral has been celebrating its 300th anniversary this year. As part of this they have been putting on a range of lectures. We attended one on Saturday where Dr. Kate Isles was talking on Women in Birmingham during the 18th century. These lectures cost £4 but are of a really high standard. Again the Cathedral also has odds and ends of free stuff if you want to keep your eye open.

If you are a film buff on a tightish (but not really low) budget I really recommend the Cineworld Unlimited Card to you. For £16.90 you get the chance to go and see any standard 2D film and get 10% off food and drink. After the first year you are upgraded to Premier membership and get a higher discount off food and drink. This means if you go for the £1.50 flavour of the month of the ice-cream (which you still get a discount on) things become a lot more affordable, especially if you take your own drinks, etc.

Then there are public spaces like the Library of Birmingham you can go and enjoy, as well as borrowing books in. These provide spaces you can sit and chill in which get you out of home. There are also loads of parks and public spaces to enjoy in Brum.

Travel wise work out what your travel will be per week to sort out the cheapest forms of travel for you. For me, because of my job, it is a zone 1 and 2 West Midland travel card. This enables me to get in and out of town from where we are but it also enables me to pay £1 for my husband to get in and out of town with me because we have a travel card.

A final idea is join a reading group and if there is not one nearby start one. I have been one as part of the last few churches I have been part of and have started one up for my neighbours in the vicar factory. If you choose books which have been out a while and which libraries will have too you can make these affordable.
There are loads of other things which people could tell me about and I hope they do. These are just a flavour of the things I've found out about whilst I've been here through keeping my eyes and ears open. I've really found out how the internet is your friend when you move to a new town.

As you can tell I am enjoying myself in Brum. My advice on how to survive becoming a “(trainee) clergy spouse” is to go and enjoy yourself. A new location is the gate way to a new adventure and getting out by yourself doesn’t mean being by yourself. 

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