Venue notes: Barrel Organ, Digbeth, Birmingham UK

Defunct (mid-90s?) rock club, once quite popular. Was located at 57 High Street, Digbeth. An anonymous UK correspondent writes in Dec 2006:

"As far as I know it's still a pub. It used to be frequented by all sorts — punks, goths, thrash and metal types. Anyone who was probably banned from a lot of other places. A lot of people who used to go also went to Costermongers in Brum. [...] They often used to play 'New York, New York' at the end of the night, and you've nver seen such a weird mix of people singing and dancing to it! Bands? I saw quite a few unsigned bands play there ... I think Manic Street Preachers. [...] I used to go there 1990-1993? — whenever it closed as the Barrel.

"Filthy, dirty, dingy place full of all the local dropouts. Really cheap scrumpy that used to glow in the dark and only four actual glass pint glasses in the pub — I used to get one. Miss it like hell."

Another UK correspondent, Wendy, writes in Jun 2007 that the club eventually became the Dubliner and adds that "the place suffered what is thought to be an arson attack last summer." That there was indeed a fire is confirmed by this excerpt from the 27 Jul 2006 issue of the Birmingham Mail:

   IRISH community leaders today said they would rally round to help
   restore the fire-wrecked Dubliner pub to its former glory.

   The pub, in Digbeth High Street, was gutted in a fierce blaze
   early yesterday.

   Twelve people in the pub were forced to flee for their lives as
   the fire tore through the landmark building and witnesses reported
   hearing explosions.

   Today, Patrick O'Neill, chairman of the Birmingham Irish Community
   Forum, said: "The Dubliner is a typical Irish pub and very much
   part of Digbeth.

   "We would very much hope it continues to be same pub."

There's more info about the fire here. Status of restoration efforts unknown at this time (Jun 2007).

Nick Baker writes in Oct 2009: "Don't know if you're still interested in Barrel Organ stuff but... my small claim to fame is that the band I was in in the 80s (Fifteen Minutes) broke the attendance record at the B.O. in '85 — over 200 there. The B.O. also went on to sponsor us in the Brum Beat Battle of the Bands competition, because we played there a fair bit.

" I also used to assist Mel the Mod in the early 80s at his (Sunday?) Mod Club night. Heady days...."

Sep 2016 update: Skiamakhos writes that "it turns out that with the old Library and Fletcher's Walk being torn down, the folks that used to run the rock pub up above Fletcher's Walk have taken over the Barrel Organ & it's now back to being a rock & alt venue, now called Subside. I haven't been in yet but it looks pretty shiny & nice from the bus. I used to go back in the late '80s & early '90s when I was a kid, operated the lights there once for a thrash metal all dayer, and even played there once in a goth band called Sans Merci (we sucked, but it was fun)."

Google confirms that Subside, forced to relocate due to urban redevelopment, took over the site of the former Barrel Organ/Dubliner in Dec 2015. It's not clear how long the Dubliner had been shuttered at the time; it appears from photos that it had not been closed for long, if at all. Subside Facebook page here.

[Do you have more information about this venue? Please email me.]

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