Empire Shops were first developed in London in the 1920s to teach the British how to consume foodstuffs from the colonies and overseas territories, however none of the shops ever opened. They intended to make foods like sultanas from Australia, oranges from Palestine, cloves from Zanzibar, and rum from Jamaica available and familiar in the British Isles. Building on a previous attempt to open an ‘Empire Shop’ in Birmingham in January 1931, the first franchise of 'The Empire Remains Shop' by Cooking Sections opens in the heart of the post-post-industrial landscape of Digbeth.
'The Empire Remains Shop—Birmingham' will take over the facade and windows of Junction Works to host a range of new commissions and existing works that employ food as a tool to assemble new sites and geographies, exploring origins, destinations and exchanges across the present and future of our postcolonial planet.
This project marks the beginning of Grand Union’s reanimation of this building, reinstating the public’s relationship to this historic site. The franchise of The Empire Remains Shop is framed by our vision for what we hope this new home can be for the organisation, and for Digbeth in the face of regeneration. The programme will be shifting and changing seasonally, but is intended to be flexible and responsive to the needs of our context and our development of the building. We want to conceive of this collectively, and use Junction Works as a base to unpack other histories in the city.