Coffee and music is a way of life for Birmingham urbanites, and there are no finer connoisseurs than the guys at Cafe Artum. The Dutch have a word – Gezellig. It has no real English translation. Coarsely, it means just existing, chilling, reading, ordering some snacks and generally being content. This is what you get at Cafe Artum. Pure, unadulterated, shameless Gezellig.
Local music and hospitality magpie, Christy Lakeman, is the person to thank for this innovative, charming cafe. When his favourite record shop closed down, he looked to the internet for vinyl salvation. This guy loves buying records. What he didn’t like however, is not being able to look at the full sleeve before he made his purchase, and of course, the postage and packaging fees.
He took to the trains, planes and automobiles to discover what Europe had to offer in terms of spaces in which music-lovers could relax, listen to records, grab a bite, perhaps a coffee, and chat to like-minded people. He coffee-shopped and record-stored his way through Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig and Barcelona. Back in the UK, he took inspiration from Sounds of the Universe in Soho, Eastern Block in Manchester, and Brilliant Corners in Dalston.
At The Minimalist we love it when someone spots a gap that really needs to be filled. Weaving in Christy’s love for music with his love for people, food and good-times, he figured out that the real need was for a space where you could buy records and do the coffee shop thing by day, then crank the speakers up, take the tables out and host some DJ talent by night. Now, any DJ worth their wax that comes to Birmingham, always plays a little set at Artum before taking to the bigger, headier venues.
CL: “I love the cafe culture in Amsterdam, and when I spotted the open-window shop-front on Corporation Street it took me back there in my mind… I thought it was perfect.”
It’s no slouch though, as far as music venues go. Do not be fooled by the plants and the Scandinavian furniture. Cafe Artum can hold sixty people in the evening, and it packs a stunning Martin Audio sound system. It also has a concrete block that doubles up as a home for food during the day, and a pair of turntables at night.
CL: “Our Kickstarter was like market research. And it turns out, everyone wants to get behind a passion project. We rewarded them with records, T-Shirts, Hare & Hounds donated free annual passes! Local artist Alex Rhys Boardman and photographer Tom Bird donated prints, and a friend of mine, David Stanley, made this killer film. I got the sense that the local community was bored with all the same high-street stuff, and wanted to go and sit somewhere different. So that’s what they got.”
If you’ve never been to Cafe Artum, then we would forgive you for asking a few questions beforehand.
- Is it a coffee shop? Yes. But it isn’t Starbucks.
- Is it a record shop? Yes. But not in the John Cusack, Jack Black, High Fidelity sense. Incidentally, if that’s your bag, check out Swordfish Records.
- Is it a bar? Sometimes. When the owner turns it into one. The rest of the time, it isn’t.
To find out more about Cafe Artum, visit cafeartum.co.uk