It’s 9.30 am on a cold January Saturday morning, it’s raining heavily outside, and I’m sat in Yumm cafe in the Custard Factory contemplating what to do about the plan for the day. The plan for the day is supposed to include the first IGersBirmingham instameet of 2017 but with this weather, I’m seriously contemplating cancelling the event. Drinking my flat white, in my phone I quickly switch from our emails, to our Facebook messages, to our Instagram DM’s, expecting to see a glut of attendees getting in touch to say they have decided to give it a miss due to the inclement weather. To my surprise, there is not a single message, not one! At this point Maxine Watts from the Reclaim Photography Festival, our partner for the days event, joins me in the coffee shop. Again we review the weather situation, look to see if the dropout messages have started to flood in, and again we are surprised by their inconspicuous absence.
10.10am, we finish our drinks and decide to head out in the rain to the meeting place for the event. Come hell or high water, we’ve decided to proceed with the event. We trudge up Digbeth high street in the pouring rain, our final destination, a graffiti covered derelict lot on Warwick Street in the often overlooked inner city area of Deritend. I start preparations by erecting our now well recognised instameet flag while Maxine fills me in on progress with the festival. All the while I constantly look back down Warwick Street to the city skyline beyond to see how much of these touted views have been obscured by the low cloud. I’m thinking this is not how I had hoped our first event of 2017 would go. We had 186 people sign up to attend but if this rain keeps up I wouldn’t be surprised if only 6 people bothered coming!
10.25am, our first attendee arrives – Tom Gracie. Tom is fairly new to our community but is a very active member who has some real talent (check out @tomgracie). One attendee I think, this takes me back to the first instameet I ever ran when the library opened and only one person turned up! Slowly the rain eases, and in drips and drabs they begin to filter into our meeting area. Despite the misery of a rainy day in January, the people who have made IGesBirmingham the Instagram community that it is begin to arrive. New and old members stream into the meeting area so quickly that Beth and I struggle to introduce everyone to the event with a customary instameet flyer! Greeting each other as they arrive, the IGers begin to fill up this normally desolate abandoned lot with chatter and colour.
11.05am, it’s time to kick this thing off. About 100 people have now arrived, not bad given the rain which has started again, and they are itching to get on the move. I climb up a waist high brick wall so I can address the assembled mass of photographic talent with my usual off the cuff welcome speech while Beth continues to greet attendees as they arrive. Maxine Watts then gives the group an introduction to what The Reclaim Photography Festival is all about including how they can also submit images to be exhibited in their Spring exhibitions across the region. One last thing before we head out on the pre-planned route, the group photo. Everyone huddles together to get in the frame and with some encouragement I get everyone to shout INSTAMEET while I take the shot! Amazingly, a quick straw poll shows that almost half of the attendees have never been to an instameet before!
11.20am, the group begin to filter out onto the street, cameras and iPhones at the ready. Deritend, the area chosen for the instameet, is not one that people would normally think of as being a hot spot for photography however it does have some great attributes. Derelict structures, Victorian factories, green spaces, and 60’s housing schemes pepper the area providing plenty of content for any willing adventurous Instagramer. Venture to this often overlooked area of the city and you will be rewarded with a very special view. Thanks to the elevated nature of both Deritend and the city centre, the area offers unobstructed Blade Runner-esque views of the city skyline set against a gritty inner city foreground.
The instameet attendees begin to throng out along the route, with smaller groups forming as always allowing members, new and old, to meet and catch up. Cara Buttress, Callum Bourke, Sam MacAuliffe, Andy Smart (@Colatron) and the guys from @urban.visuality are just some of the attendees who make this their first IGersBirmingham instameet. As we all make our way around the route, we all begin to see a side to Deritend that we had not known. It’s personality and character begin to show as we appreciate the life that takes place in this part of the city. Deritend, as it turns out, really is the ideal location for an instameet in partnership with The Reclaim Photography Festival. Reclaim is all about taking photography back to the streets, back to the every day realities of life and Deritend is the perfect subject matter for the event. At every turn we all see opportunities for great photography, whether it be street photography, urban landscape, architectural, or street art.
The Bullring signals the end of the route and a welcome chance to catch up over a much needed beverage with those attendees who have stayed right to the end. As usual, we have arranged for a local bar to host us and this time it is the turn of Missoula Bar in the Arcadian. Being a slow walker, I’m one of the last to arrive at the bar where I am met by an awesome site. Over half of this large bar is taken up by IGersBirmingham instameet attendees! It’s great to see new and old members talking and getting to know each other, all the while strengthening the bond that we all share as part of this community.
Whether you attend the instameets or not, using our #igersbirmingham hashtag on your posts makes you a part of this thriving and special Brum-based Instagram community.
Over 800 images were posted to the instameet hashtag #igb_meet_reclaim by the over 100 attendees of the event.
You can see the images from the instameet here https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/igb_meet_reclaim/
For more information on The Reclaim Photography Festival, you can visit their website here https://reclaimphotographyfestival.org
Words by Fraser McGee
This instameet was also featured in the Birmingham Mail online: http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/arts-culture-news/instagram-flooded-pictures-forgotten-area-12486276