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This article is about the city in England. See also places called Birmingham.
The city from above Centenary Square. (Alternative View)
City of Birmingham

Shown within the West Midlands
Status:Metropolitan borough,
city (1889)
Region:West Midlands
Ceremonial county:West Midlands
- Total
Ranked 169th
267.77 km²
ONS code:00CN
- Total (2003 est.)
- Density
Ranked 1st
3,705 / km²
(2001 census)
70.4% White
2.9% Mixed
19.5% Asian
6.1% Black
1.2% Chinese or Other
Birmingham City Council
Leadership:Leader & cabinet
Executive:Conservative & Lib Dem
Members of Parliament
Richard Burden, Liam Byrne, Roger Godsiff, John Hemming, Lynne Jones, Khalid Mahmood, Stephen McCabe, Andrew Mitchell, Clare Short, Siôn Simon, Gisela Stuart

Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the second largest and second most ethnically diverse city in the UK and is regarded as Britain's "second city". The City of Birmingham has a population of 992,100 (2003 estimate), while the Birmingham metropolitan area (the West Midlands metropolitan county) has a population of 2,575,768. More than five million people live in the surrounding region.

The city is commonly known by its nickname Brum (from the local name Brummagem), and its people as Brummies. Birmingham is home to the distinctive Brummie accent and dialect.

Birmingham is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the UK. Along with large populations from the Caribbean and Indian subcontinent, Birmingham is home to a large traditional Irish community. The city hosts the third largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the world, after Dublin and New York, while Birmingham's Balti restaurants produce some of the finest Indian cuisine in the UK.

About 22 million people visit Birmingham every year and in 2004 the city was named the second best place to shop in England after the West End of London [1]. Its top attractions include Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Millennium Point, Bull Ring, Selfridges Building, Cadbury World, Tolkien Trail [2], Birmingham Royal Ballet, and the National Sea Life Centre.

Birmingham has 35 miles (60 km) of canals within the city boundaries, of which most are navigable; the canals were once the lifeblood of the city's industries during the Industrial Revolution but are now used mainly for pleasure. It is often quoted that Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice. This is in fact true (Venice has 26 miles) although Birmingham is much larger than Venice [3].

Table of contents


Main article: History of Birmingham

The Birmingham area was occupied in Roman times, with several military roads and a large fort. Birmingham started life as a small Anglo-Saxon hamlet in the dark ages. It was first recorded in written documents by the Domesday Book of 1086 as a small village.

From the 12th century onwards Birmingham developed into a market centre. And by the 17th century had become an important manufacturing town with a reputation for producing small arms. Birmingham manufacturers supplied Oliver Cromwell's forces with much of their weaponry during the English Civil War.

During the Industrial Revolution from the mid 18th century onwards, because of abundant nearby sources of coal and iron ore and a skilled workforce, Birmingham grew into a major industrial centre. Birmingham became a centre of the British canal and later railway networks in the early 19th century.

Canals in central Birmingham

In Victorian times, the population of the city grew rapidly to well over half a million and Birmingham became the second largest population centre in Britain, it became known as the "City of a thousand trades" due to the wide variety of manufacturing industries located there. Birmingham gained city status in 1889.

Birmingham suffered heavy bomb damage during World War II, and partly as a result of this the city-centre was extensively re-developed during the 1950s and 1960s with many concrete office buildings, ring-roads, and now much-derided pedestrian subways. As a result, Birmingham gained a reputation for ugliness and was frequently described as a "concrete jungle".

However, in recent years the city centre has been extensively renovated and restored with the construction of new squares, the restoration of old streets, buildings and canals, the removal of much-derided pedestrian subways, and the demolition and subsequent redevelopment of the Bull Ring shopping centre, which now includes the architecturally unique Selfridges building.


New Street in central Birmingham

Main article: Economy of Birmingham

Birmingham is an important manufacturing and engineering centre, employing over 100,000 people in the industry and contributing billions to the national economy. Over 25% of UK exports originate in the greater Birmingham area. The greatest advances in the Steam Engine were discovered in Brum and historically the largest manufacturers in the city have evolved out of the Steam, Electric and Petrol Engine's. Bicycles, Automobiles, Aeroplanes and Trains have all contributed towards the Birmingham transport history. The city's present day manufacture include: motor vehicles, vehicle components and accessories, weapons, electrical equipment, plastics, machine tools, chemicals, food, jewellery and glass. Birmingham is home to two major car factories, MG Rover in Longbridge and Jaguar in Castle Bromwich. However, the future for manufacturing at Longbridge now looks bleak, due to MG Rover recently going into administration, resulting in the plant being mothballed and the loss of 6,000 jobs at the site. Land Rovers are manufactured in neighbouring Solihull, at their Lode Lane facility.

The Jewellery Quarter is the largest concentration of dedicated jewellers in Europe. One third of the jewellery manufactured in the UK is made within one mile of Birmingham city centre. Until 2003, coins for circulation were manufactured in the Jewellery Quarter at the Birmingham Mint, the oldest independent mint in the world, which continues to produce commemorative coins and medals.

In recent years Birmingham's economy has diversified into service industries, retailing and tourism, which are now the main employers in the city. Scientific research including research into the controversial nano technology at the University of Birmingham, is expanding in the city and will possibly play a part in the city's economic future. More details about the Birmingham economy.

Over 500 law firms exist in the city and Birmingham is Europe's second largest insurance market. The city attracts over 40% of the UK's total conference trade. Two of Britain's "big four" banks were founded in Birmingham. Lloyds Bank (now Lloyds TSB) began here in 1765 and The Midland Bank (now part of HSBC) opened in Union Street, in August 1836.

Historically, the Industrial Revolution was fueled by the most significant developments in the Steam Engine which took place in Birmingham, allowing many factories, foundries and businesses to prosper in the Gun Quarter and Jewellery Quarter, with watchmakers, goldsmiths, attorneys, physicians, surgeons, Breweries, apothecaries, metallurgists, chemists, Bicycle and Automobile manufacturers also prospering. The city's workmen designed and constructed railway carriages, steam engines, and even – unusually for somewhere so far from the sea – ships, which were made as pre-fabricated sections, then assembled at the coast.

Numerous inventors emerged from these different professions, and the city's skilled workforce and infrastructure encouraged other inventors and businessmen from across the world to set up shop in the city. (See Inventors and Inventions).

Famous brands from the "city of a thousand trades" include Bird's Custard, Lloyds TSB, Halfords, Typhoo Tea, the Birmingham Wire Gauge, Imperial Wire Gauge & British Standard Gauge, Music Wire (English) Brylcreem, Valor Company Ltd (Valor) Midland Bank, Chad Valley Toys, BSA, Bakelite, Celluloid, Cadburys chocolate, HP Sauce and the MG Rover Group.


Main article: Architecture of Birmingham

City of Birmingham Council House, with Dhruva Mistry's 'The River' in the foreground (commonly known as 'the floozie in the jacuzzi')

Although Birmingham has existed as a settlement for over a thousand years, today's city is overwhelmingly a product of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries as the real growth of the city began with the Industrial Revolution. Consequently relatively few buildings survive from its earlier history.

Traces of medieval Birmingham can be seen in the city's oldest churches, notably Birmingham's original parish church, St Martin's in the Bullring. A church has stood on the site since at least the 12th century. The current building (begun around 1290) was extensively re-built in the 1870s retaining some original walls and foundations. A few other buildings from the medieval and Tudor periods survive, among them "The Old Crown" public house in Digbeth, the 15th century "Saracen's Head" public house and Old Grammar School in Kings Norton and Blakesley Hall in Yardley.

The city began to grow rapidly in Georgian times and a number of buildings survive from this period. Among them are St Philip's Cathedral, originally built as a parish church, St Paul's Church in the largely Georgian St Paul's Square, Soho House in Handsworth, the home of Matthew Boulton, and Perrott's Folly in Ladywood (which is said to have later inspired J. R. R. Tolkien).

The Victorian era saw an extensive building programme right across the city. Major public buildings such as the Town Hall, the Law Courts, the Council House (see picture) and the Museum & Art Gallery were constructed, many under the auspices of Joseph Chamberlain's reforming mayoralty. The characteristic materials of Victorian Birmingham are red brick and terracotta, and many fine Victorian buildings have been retained on New Street and Corporation Street in the city centre. Across the wider city, the need to house the industrial workers who flocked here gave rise to miles of redbrick streets and terraces, many of back-to-back houses, some of which were later to become inner-city slums.

The new Selfridges building

Continued population growth in the interwar period, saw vast estates of semi-detached houses being built on greenfield land in outlying parts of the city such as Kingstanding and Weoley Castle, but the coming of World War II and the Blitz claimed many lives and many beautiful buildings too. However, the destruction that took place in post-war Birmingham was also extensive: dozens of fine Victorian buildings like the intricate glass-roofed Birmingham New Street Station, and the old Central Library, were raized in the 1950s and 1960s and replaced with modernist concrete buildings. In inner-city areas too, much Victorian housing was redeveloped and existing communities were relocated to tower block estates like Castle Vale.

The planning decisions of the post-war years were to have a profound effect on the image of Birmingham in subsequent decades, with the mix of ring roads, shopping malls and tower blocks often referred to as a 'concrete jungle'. In more recent years, Birmingham has learnt from what many see as the mistakes of the 1960s and instituted the largest tower block demolition and renovation programmes anywhere in Europe. There has been a lot of new building in the city centre in recent years, including the award-winning Future Systems' Selfridges building, an irregularly-shaped structure covered in thousands of reflective discs (see picture), the Brindleyplace development and the Millennium Point science and technology centre.


Main article Government of Birmingham

Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in the UK with, following a reorganisation of boundaries in June 2004, 120 councillors representing just under one million people, in 40 wards.

After the election of 10 June 2004, there is no overall control, with the 120 seats being divided between the Labour, (53 councillors), Conservative (39) and Liberal Democrat ("Lib-Dem", 28) parties.

There is a Conservative/ Lib-Dem coalition, with Conservative group leader Mike Whitby as Leader of the council and Lib-Dem group leader John Hemming as Deputy Leader.

Birmingham's eleven constituencies are represented in the House of Commons by one Conservative, one Liberal Democrat, and 9 Labour MPs.

Places of interest


See main article: Transport in Birmingham

Due in part to its location in central England, Birmingham is a major transport hub, of both road rail and air travel.

Birmingham is served by a number of major roads such as, the M6 motorway, the M40, the M5, the M42 motorway and the M6 Toll. All of which connect the city to every area of Britain.

Birmingham has one of the best bus networks in the country. Indeed the number 11 route which runs around Birmingham is the longest commercial bus route in Europe with over 1000 buses running at busy times.

Birmingham is at the centre of the national rail nework. The city's main staion is Birmingham New Street, and there is also Birmingham Snow Hill and Birmingham Moor Street. Midland Metro Trams run between Birmingham and Wolverhampton

Birmingham is served by Birmingham International Airport, which has flights to all over Europe and to New York. The airport is served by the railway network at Birmingham International railway station.

See also


Main article: Education in Birmingham

One of the most prestigious schools in England, the King Edward's School is located in Edgbaston. Birmingham also has three universities: The University of Birmingham, Aston University and The University of Central England (UCE, formerly Birmingham Polytechnic). The UCE has asked Aston to consider a merger. The Birmingham Conservatoire, now part of the UCE, was established over 100 years ago and is recognised as one of the major national colleges of music which focuses on performance and composition.

Birmingham School of Acting is one of the UK's leading vocational drama schools it offers two fully funded higher education courses and also offers a range of part time, summer schools and short courses for adults and children.

Elmhurst School for Dance is the oldest and one of the most successful vocational dance Schools in the UK. After recently relocating from London to Edgbaston the school has teamed up with Birmingham Royal Ballet.

The city also hosts many 'Urban Workshops' for modern music including street level DJ mixing tuition and dance hosted by many experienced musicians from ground roots enteprises like for instance Punch Records in New Town.

Mansfield College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford, was founded (under the name of Spring Hill College) in Birmingham but later moved to Oxford with the relaxation of non-conformists in 1886.


Main article: Sport in Birmingham

Birmingham has been awarded the title National City of Sport by the Sports Council, and sport has long played an important role in the life of the city at every level from the hundreds of diverse grass-roots sports clubs to internationally known venues, clubs and associations.

The city is home to two of the UK's oldest professional football teams: Aston Villa (1874) and Birmingham City (1875), both of whom currently play in the Premier League. The world's first professional football league was founded at a meeting in Aston on March 22 1885 under the auspices of William McGregor, a director of Aston Villa.

A cricket club was in existence in Birmingham as early as 1745, and today the city is home to Warwickshire County Cricket Club whose ground at Edgbaston is also a venue for international test matches. International meets in athletics take place at the open-air Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr, which is also the base of the Birchfield Harriers athletic club, which numbers many Olympic medallists among its past and present members. The National Indoor Arena (NIA) meanwhile is Britain's premier indoor athletics stadium and in 2003 hosted the 9th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics. The NIA also hosts events in many other sports, such as the World Indoor Badminton Championships.

Professional golf is played at The Belfry (4km outside Birmingham) which has hosted The Ryder Cup four times, and rugby union, basketball, boxing, hockey, and greyhound racing all take place on a professional level in the city. The first ever game of lawn tennis was played in Edgbaston in 1859 by Major Thomas Henry Gem and Batista Pereira, both residents of the city, and international tennis is still played at Edgbaston's Priory Club.

Culture and arts

Main article: Arts in Birmingham

Popular music

Rock, Reggae and Dance

From the 1950s, Birmingham had a vibrant rock music scene with bands such as Billy King and the Nightriders, this gave rise in the following decade to the Brum Beat era featuring early progressive rock and bluesbands such as The Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, The Fortunes (whose song "Caroline" was used as the signature tune for the influential Pirate Radio station Radio Caroline), The Rockin Berries, The Honeycombes, Wizzard, The Idle Race, The Move (whose "Flowers in the Rain" was the first track played on Radio 1 when it began in 1967.) and The Moody Blues (members of the last two going on to form The Electric Light Orchestra). The city is often cited as the birthplace of heavy metal music in the late 1960s with Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Robert Plant and John Bonham of Led Zeppelin beginning their musical careers in the city. In this era Billboard magazine declared the venue Mothers in Erdington, where Pink Floyd recorded part of Ummagumma and Traffic staged their debut gig, to be the world's number one rock venue (this was re-enforced in an interview with John Peel) Birmingham-based tape recorder company, Bradmatic Ltd helped develop and manufacture the mellotron. Over the next 15 years, the mellotron had a major impact on rock music and is a trademark sound of the era's progressive bands.

In the 1970s, Birmingham's large West Indian population contributed to the popularity of reggae, with Steel Pulse's ground-breaking album Handsworth Revolution leading the way. Later Musical Youth, UB40, the first truly mixed-race UK dub reggae band, and Pato Banton found commercial success, as did 2 Tone bands such as The Beat who drew their influences from Jamaican ska music. Artistes from the city continue to contribute to reggae in the UK such as Rasta MC Chesire Cat who rapped on the Leftfield album 'Rhythm and Stealth'.

Duran Duran. As the 1980s arrived, the Rum Runner nightclub played a significant role in rock music in the city, particularly in the case of New Romantic supergroup Duran Duran. Dexys Midnight Runners, Stephen "Tintin" Duffy and the The Bureau also emanated from the city's music scene at this time. Later in the decade, Grindcore music, a blend of punk and heavy metal, was pioneered in the city by Napalm Death, whilst the grebo sub-genre of indie rock was centred on such West Midlands bands as Pop Will Eat Itself, Ned's Atomic Dustbin and The WonderStuff. The Charlatans, Birdland, Dodgy, Denim, The Lilac Time, and Ocean Colour Scene were other notable rock bands founded in the city and its surrounding area in this period.

In the same period, Birmingham also enjoyed a thriving electro, graffiti art and hip hop scene (see Birmingham Hip Hop scene) with a pirate radio station called 'Fresh F.M.' which broadcast from the city. The station played hip hop and breakdance records and inspired a rap crew called Jump who released two records, 'We Come to Jam' and 'Feel It', as early as 1985. The city went on to embrace house music (see Birmingham Dance music scene) supported by local figures such as the late Tony De Vit, Steve Lawler and Scott Bond some of the UK's most influential dance nights evolved such as Miss Moneypenny's, Wobble, Gods Kitchen, Gatecrasher, Sundissential, Atomic Jam and C.R.E.A.M.. The city's cultural diversity also contributed to the blend of bhangra and ragga pioneered by Apache Indian in Handsworth. Many varieties of electronic and dance music continue to cross-fertilise in the city with acts such as Bentley Rhythm Ace, The Streets, Rockers Hi-Fi, The Editors, Surgeon, Mistys Big Adventure, and Broadcast.

Successful Birmingham singer/songwriters and musicians include Joan Armatrading, Steve Gibbons, Mike Kellie (of Spooky Tooth), Jeff Lynne, Phil Lynott (who formed Thin Lizzy), Carl Palmer (of Emerson Lake and Palmer), Roy Wood, R&B singer Jamelia, Kelli Dayton of The Sneaker Pimps, Nick Mason, Martin Barre (of Jethro Tull), Steve Winwood and Dave Mason the last two being close friends of Jimi Hendrix. Winwood played on 5 Hendrix LP's and Hendrix first heard "All Along The Watchtower" by Bob Dylan at a party he was invited to by Mason, he decided to record his own version the same night with Mason playing acoustic guitar.

Jazz is popular in the city. The Birmingham International Jazz Festival takes place annually and is the largest of its kind in the UK. Some of the city's jazz musicians include Soweto Kinch and King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys. Jules Holland owns and runs the Jam House in St Pauls square.

Party in the Park is Birmingham's largest music festival, at Cannon Hill Park, where up to 30,000 revellers of all ages enjoy popular chart music.

Some of Birmingham's rock, dance, reggae and indie music venues large and small include The National Indoor Arena (NIA), Carling Academy Birmingham, the National Exhibition Centre's Indoor Arena, Scruffy Murphy's, the Custard Factory, Edward's No. 8, mac (Midlands Arts Centre), the Drum Arts Centre, the Jug of Ale, the Jam House and the Hibernian.

Birmingham Central Fire Station hosts the Band of The West Midlands Fire Service. This is a concert and marching band, celebrating its 20th anniversairy in 2004. This great band consists of about 50 musicians from the area and they play at many events including the huge St Georges Day parade in West Bromwich, which in 2005 attracted crowds of over 20,000. They also played at the memorial serivce in Ypres, Belgium, in October 2004.

Classical music

The internationally-renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's home venue is Symphony Hall, where it gives frequent performances. The equally world-renowned Birmingham Royal Ballet also resides in the city as does the world's oldest vocational dance school, Elmhurst School for Dance.

The Birmingham Triennial Music Festival took place from 1784 – 1912 and was considered the grandest of its kind throughout Britain. Music was written for the festival by Mendelssohn, Gounod, Sullivan, Dvorak, Bantock and most notably Elgar, who wrote four of his most famous choral pieces for Birmingham.

Albert William Ketèlbey was born in Alma Street, Aston on 9 August, 1875, the son of a teacher at the Vittoria School of Art, Ketèlbey attended the Trinity College of Music, where he beat the runner-up, Gustav Holst, for a musical scholarship.

Birmingham's other city- centre music venues include The National Indoor Arena (NIA), CBSO Centre, Adrian Boult Hall (ABH) at Birmingham Conservatoire and the Birmingham Town Hall,currently closed for refurbishment, which played host to many classical and popular music performances from the late 1800s.


Ever since the 1850s Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter had become the world's centre for the steel pens and steel nibs trade, employing thousands of people, and pioneering craftsmanship, manufacturing processes and employment opportunities for women. The availability of affordable pens enabled the development of education and literacy throughout the world.

Many famous literary figures have been associated with Birmingham:

The city entertains an online community for readers and writers [7] as well as literary publishers such as Tindal Street Press, the city also hosts The Young Book Reader UK festival.

Food & drink

See: Food & drink in Birmingham for main article.

In 1792, Matthew Boulton, the great Birmingham businessman, took part in the first British trade mission to China. The mission had an effect. A letter to Matthew Boulton from James Cobb at East India House in London in 1794, noted how the Chinese Embassy was very interested in Birmingham manufactured goods: Birmingham's metal goods helped to pay for the vast quantities of tea, which Britain imported from that country.

During the early 19th century Thomas Ridgway began trading in the bull ring, selling tea he was of the earliest British tea pioneers. Ridgway later set up business in London he continued his tea trade becoming one of the first English tea companies to hygienically prepack tea so as to avoid adulteration. In 1876 Queen Victoria commanded House of Ridgways to create a blend for her own personal use. Her Majesty's Blend is born. In 1863 William Sumner published "A Popular Treatise on Tea". In 1870 Sumner (founder of Typhoo) started a pharmacy/grocery business in Birmingham. The Typhoo and Ridgway brand name are now owned by Premier Brands USA.

In the days of the Industrial Revolution many pubs and Inn's catered for the city's hungry workforce. The first local brewery on a large scale appears to have been the Birmingham Old Brewery which was erected in Moseley Street in 1782. By 1890 Birmingham was home to 2,178 public houses which were often judged by the quality of their "stingo" (beer).

Many successful Birmingham based Breweries such as Ansells, Davenports and Mitchells & Butlers prospered from the local fondness of Ale. Aston Manor Brewery survives today and owns the Highgate Brewery with its many CAMRA awards. Banks's brewery still operates in nearby Wolverhampton and retains many period public houses across Birmingham and the Midlands.

Many fine Victorian pubs and bars can still be found across the city in areas such as the Irish Quarter. In Aston, the Barton Arms survives, retaining its intricate carvings and tiling. Other fine period pubs which have been praised by travel writer Bill Bryson include the Three Magpies in Hall Green, the Red Lion in Kings Heath and the British Oak in Stirchley. The oldest Inn in Birmingham is the Old Crown in Digbeth, which dates back to circa 1450. The Anchor Inn, also in Digbeth, dates back to 1797 and won the prestigious CAMRA award of 'Regional Pub of the Year' in 1996/7 and again in 1998/9.

Birmingham's earliest food trade connections with the West Indies involved the importation of limes and cocoa during the mid to late 1800's which was used as a source of Vitamin C to prevent scurvy among seafearers.

Famous food brands that originate from Brum include Typhoo tea, Birds custard (and custard powder), Blue Bird Toffee, Bournville cocoa, world-renowned Cadburys chocolate, and HP Sauce. Daddy's ketchup is also made in the city.

In 1896, a new building was built in Corporation Street by the supervision of a pioneering vegetarian by the name of James Henry Cook, this was to become the first ever Vegetarian Hotel and Restaurant in England and possibly the world. Subsequently in 1898 'The Pitman Vegetarian Hotel' was opened. Shortly after the immense success of the 'Pitman' the first ever Health Food Store was opened in the city.

Birmingham is home to a wide variety of Asian eateries which have served the people of Birmingham since the 1950's, the Wing Yip food empire first began in the city and now has its headquarters in the Chinese Quarter along with many other fine oriental restaurants.

In 1945 Abdul Aziz opened a cafe shop selling curry and rice in Steelhouse Lane. This later became The Darjeeling, the first Indian in Birmingham, owned by Afrose Miah. The Balti was invented in the city and has since received much gastronomic acclaim for the 'Balti belt' of restaurants in the Sparkbrook, Balsall Heath and Ladywood areas of the city. Today Thai Edge, which started out in Brindley Place has been praised as one of the top ten Asian restaurants in the UK by The Independent magazine.

A plethora of exciting modern restaurants and eateries have been quietly evolving in a vibrant Birmingham and the city now boasts two Michelin stars. Simpson's and Jessica's, both in Edgbaston, were awarded one star each in the 2005 Michelin restaurant guide for Great Britain and Ireland. Jessica's was also named AA England Restaurant of the Year 2004/2005.

Birmingham is twinned with Lyon which is renowned for its fine cuisine. The BBC Good Food Show takes place at The NEC and is Britain's biggest and most extensive food event.


Kenneth Peacock Tynan is possibly Brums most famous character linked to the Theatrical scene.

Birmingham Amateur Dramatic Federation ran from 1926–28.

There are many theatres in Birmingham. The four largest professional theatres are the Alexandra Theatre ("the Alex"), Birmingham Repertory Theatre ("The Rep"), the Birmingham Hippodrome and the Old Rep. The Mac and Drum arts centres also host many professional plays. The actors in the long-running Radio 4 serial The Archers live in and around Birmingham, where the supposedly rural programme is recorded.

The Fierce Festival teams with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre annually to present an series of quirky performances from local and national companies.


Visual art


An "Academy of Arts" was organised in 1814, and an exhibition of paintings took place in Union Passage that year. A School of Design, or "Society of Arts," was started Feb. 7, 1821; Sir Robert Lawley (the first Lord Wenlock) presenting a valuable collection of casts from Grecian sculpture. The first exhibition was held in 1826, in a building on New Street. The "Society of Artists" commenced in 1826, when several gentlemen withdrew from the School of Design.

The first Ballot for pictures to be chosen from the Annual Exhibition of Local Artists took place in 1835

The Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Birmingham has one one of the largest collections of Pre-Raphaelite art in the world at The Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. Edward Burne-Jones was born in Birmingham, spent his first twenty years in the city, and later became the president of the Birmingham Society of Artists.

David Cox (artist) was a famous Birmingham watercolour artist and President of the Associated Artists in Water Colour in 1810.

David Bomberg's first well known works date from the 1910s. They are rather complex geometric compositions built over relatively traditional subjects, and typically use a limited number of striking colours with humans being turned into simple, angular shapes, some have likened these works to 70's New York Graffiti (aka Bombing). Bomberg travelled France where he met Modigliani and Picasso.

The Birmingham Surrealists were prominent in the city's arts in the early and mid 20th century.

The Birmingham Arts Lab was an important centre for alternative comic art in the late 1970s.

Contemporary African Caribbean artists and photographers who have exhibited internationally include Pogus Caesar, Keith Piper and the late Donald Rodney

Graffiti (or "spraycan art") culture appeared in the early 1980s, with the area featuring in Channel 4 documentary Bombing. Graffitti art competitions are still regularly held.

Current galleries:

There are a variety of other small and private galleries in the city such as Harborne Gallery.

Birmingham Arts Fest is an annual citywide event which incorporates many venues and public squares, the events celebrate the West Midland art scene.

Festivals and shows

Birmingham is home to many national, religious and spiritual festivals including a St. George's Day party and the third largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the world, after New York City and Dublin.

The Birmingham Tattoo is a military show that has taken place in the city for several years. The currently biennial Caribbean- style Birmingham International Carnival was originally the Handsworth Carnival, held in Handsworth Park from 1984, but now takes place in Perry Barr Park. Birmingham Pride takes place in Birmingham's gay village and attracts up to 100,000 visitors each year.

Film and media

In 1742 Aris's Gazette was established as Birmingham's first newspaper.

Celluloid was invented by Brummie, Alexander Parkes (1813–90) in Birmingham, this man is thus responsible for the further development and evolution of film and photography.

The Electric Cinema on Station street is the oldest working Cinema in the UK and was once reputedly a haunt of George Bernard Shaw.

Albert Austin (born 13 December 1881 or 1885) was an actor, film star, director and script writer, primarily in the days of silent movies. He was born in Birmingham. He worked for Charlie Chaplin's Stock Company and played supporting roles in many of Chaplin's films, and working as his assistant director.

In the 1920's Oscar Deutsch opened his first Odeon cinema in the UK in Perry Barr. By 1930 the Odeon was a household name and still thrives today.

In 1930 the Birmingham Film Society was set up.

Brummiewood is a name given to the film industry in Birmingham. The Birmingham School of Acting recently won a Royal Television Society Award for their short film 'Soul Boy'. Moseley dance centre also contributes to the city's drama and dance tallent.

The Birmingham Film Festival takes place annually at various Broad Street venues. It highlights local talent as well as a wide spectrum of international productions.

Science and invention

Main article: Science and invention in Birmingham

People from Birmingham and the West Midlands are the most successful innovators in Britain.

Statistics published by the UK’s patent office confirm that in 2002 more than a quarter (28.7 per cent) of all applications filed with the Patent Office by West Midlands residents were granted, well above the national average of 16.4 per cent.

Some of the City's more groundbreaking inventors include Frederick William Lanchester who was arguably the single most innovative automobile developer in the world, he patented disc brakes in 1902, and in 1895 he and his brother built the first petrol driven four-wheeled car in Britain as well as the first all British Powerboat.

Matthew Boulton was proprietor of the Soho engineering works, his partnership with James Watt made the steam engine into the power plant of the Industrial Revolution, the term "horsepower" was coined in Birmingham by Watt. The measurement of Watts also originated there. Watt also was the first to apply a screw propellor to an engine in Brum, the consequences combined with the development of the engine being aero flight and modern shipping.

Sir Francis Galton, who created eugenics (the "science" of breeding "better" humans), questionnaires and many important tools in statistics, was born in Birmingham. Galton avidly supported the theories of his cousin Charles Darwin, who was born in nearby Shrewsbury, he also furthered the most important advances in fingerprinting.

Maurice Wilkins was educated at the University of Birmingham and later worked on the Manhattan Project on the separation of uranium isotopes for use in atomic bombs. Shortly thereafter, he discontinued his research in nuclear physics to concentrate on problems in molecular biology and shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery and documentation of DNA molecules.

Possibly one of the most significant inventors from Birmingham was Alexander Parkes who invented the very first celluloids which were eventually combined with electroplating to give birth to film. Parkes also showcased parkesine at the Great International Exhibition in London (otherwise known as the World's Fair) which is the first ever form of plastic. This substance — which the public dubbed parkesine — was an organic material derived from cellulose that could be molded after heating, but retained its shape when it cooled. (As opposed to Bakelite (also a primarily Birmingham produced substance), which is entirely synthetic.)

Other firsts from the workshop of the world include: gas lighting, malleable iron, roller skates wheels, the Baskerville Font, papier mâché, questionnaires, Custard powder, Foaming Latex, the Heat-Indicator and Fire Alarm, the first British patent for windscreen wipers, Brylcreem, The magnetron (which was the core component in the development of radar), the UK electroplating industry, the first ever radiograph used to assist in an operation, the first ever hole-in-the heart operation in England performed at Birmingham Children's Hospital.

Birmingham at war

Main article: Birmingham military history

From funding ships to fight off the Spanish Armada to the first Nazi U-boat to be sunk during The Great War (HMS Birmingham) the city has been linked to many major battles across the ages.

Gun manufacture in the city pre-dates 1689, from the development of the flintlock pistol to arms supply for the Napoleonic Wars and American Civil War Birmingham became the foremost arms producer in the world; by some one million items over its nearest rival, London, and was employing a few thousand people who in the main worked within a definite area, this became known as the Gun Quarter.

Munitions production for Britain was carried out by the women and children of Brum while immense recruitment drives took place in the city by the Government in the first and second world wars leading to the creation of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

During World War 2, approximately 75,000 Birmingham schoolchildren were evacuated to make way for the Battle of Britain. On 8 August 1940 the first air-raid on Birmingham took place, over Erdington. Due to her massive industrial and military significance a D-notice – an official request by the Government to news editors not to publish sensitive infomration – was served over Brum during the Blitz.

Over 2,000 women, children and elderly were killed and 3,000 more were seriously injured in the air raids. Many of the attacks were aimed at the thousands of factories that manufactured weapons of war including the Castle Bromwich aeroplane factory that mass produced the Spitfire fighter aircraft (Castle Bromwich being the main manufacturer of the spitfire in Britain). The longest raid took place on 11 December and lasted 13 hours, King George VI inspected damage the next day. As yet, no memorial exists in the city to commemorate the civilians who died in the air raids.

Famous residents

Neville Chamberlain, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ozzy Osbourne are amongst the many famous names associated with Birmingham.

For a full list see Famous people from Birmingham.

Nearby places

Twin towns and partner cities

(see twin towns)

See also

External links

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