Hockley Social Club & Artum review

Birmingham’s music scene has, like most other UK towns and cities, suffered some serious blows in recent years. From austerity to lock-downs, train strikes to cost of living, it’s a wonder anyone cares enough to still bother putting nights on. Thankfully, some still do. This is an ode to one venue, and music selector.

Hockley Social Club emerged out of the ashes of Digbeth Dining Club. After serving its time prepping Digbeth for what is now a city centre zone on the cusp of HS2, BBC move, Lock TV Studios, and all that is coming with Digbeth Estates (owners of the Custard Factory).. the guys behind DDC left Digbeth and expanded the street food offering with new town and city tours, a permanent home in Longbridge (Herbert’s Yard), and also something large scale in Hockley near the Jewellery Quarter.

Meanwhile, eclectic music Cafe Artum had run its course on the almost forgotten Corporation Street City Centre and was looking for a new home. Hockley Social Club had the space in their super huge warehouse, and thus the two were married – intelligent dance music nights and award winning street food.

As an advocate and frequenter of both former locations, I felt a review was in order after learning that Artum had enjoyed a refit and new schedule of music events planned for 2024.

The music this afternoon was appreciated and valued by all in attendance, with the sun shining in and some real characters with heritage milling around.

I chose Come Sunday jazz afternoon for my visit.

Come Sunday takes place on the first Sunday of the month. Curated by Londoner ‘Nick Shlittner’ (@nicklovesjazz on Instagram), this is Birmingham’s biggest Jazz Sunday, with regular jazz/fusion dancers, free entry, and guest Djs. It’s deep vinyl digging to bring you some heavy dancefloor jazz and raregrooves. The music starts around 3pm and doesn’t take long for regulars to bust a move.

Nick’s passion shines through. After catching Nick posting up his flyers one afternoon in Cheery Red’s, we had a nice chat over a few beers. A regular guy who just wanted to play the acid jazz music which he had grown up listening to when it first hit the streets of London in the 80s and 90s, and which was becoming ever harder to find in Brum since the loss of The Yardbird.

I grabbed a pint of Guinness (which was surprisingly excellent for a warehouse bar) and caught up with good mate Damian and co.

Artum is a comfortable space, which lends itself to a calmer bar setting, and equally a raving dance floor. The music this afternoon was appreciated and valued by all in attendance, with the sun shining in and some real characters with heritage milling around, it’s fair to say this is a mini scene, or renaissance in the making.

Whilst you can take food into Artum, I felt it was a little too busy so I decided to take in the atmosphere of Hockley Social Club and the garden terrace outside.

A live jazz band had just finished, to make way for a local DJ, and whilst the main warehouse was a little quiet, I have seen this large tabled space packed at weekends with many familiar faces behind the decks spinning gorgeous disco, soul, house and funk and often on vinyl. Music has always been at the heart of everything Digbeth Dining Club do and that, in my opinion is a key to its success.

Hockley Social Club is housed within a former 10,000 square foot printing factory, that is now a street food, arts and music venue. Each week diners can take their pick from any of the four street food vendors and immerse themselves in the city’s cultural melting pot forging new friendships, soundscapes and good times proving doom mongerers of multiculturism inept out-of-touch amoebas.

On this occasion, after a quick gander at the food stalls, I opted for a Flying Cow bacon and cheeseburger with fries. I had starved myself for this, and the juicy patty combined with sweet relish, melted cheese and crispy bacon just hit the spot. I can compare to the likes of Original Patty Men, Bonehead etc and this is on point.

As I sat there enjoying the music and burger, I could not help but notice how many families were here, which I think, is testament to a safe, friendly, environment, and something these guys seem to be doing so well. Digbeth Dining Club do seem to cater for all aspects of the city and beyond at some point or another, and that, is good for Birmingham and the Midlands!

The venue is open from 5pm on Thursdays and Fridays, 12pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Hockley Social Club offer a full calendar all year round of amazing events, including live music every Friday and Saturday, classical music with the CBSO, monthly comedy nights, and a Sunday morning lifestyle market. So, if you want to check out a truly Brummie institution, get yourself down for some Hockley Social vibes and be a part of the community – you’ll leave with a bellyfull of food and culture!

As a side note, I have to add, I started out with a drink in 1000 Trades, then on to The Church, both fab little indepenent watering holes along the route from town, and, if you don’t like walking, St Paul’s tram stop is literally a direct 5 minute walk away which shoots you back into town or the Black Country at regular intervals. Braaap to the beats & baaap!

Words and photographs by Nick Byng for Grapevine.