Birmingham (i//, locally //) is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the second most populous city in the United Kingdom with 1,074,300 residents (2011 census), an increase of 96,000 over the previous decade. The city lies within the West Midlands conurbation, the third most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a population of 2,440,986 (2011 census) of which the Birmingham built-up area was 1,085,810. Its metropolitan area is the United Kingdom's second most populous with 3,683,000 residents.
A medium-sized market town during the medieval period, Birmingham grew to international prominence in the 18th century at the heart of the Midlands Enlightenment and subsequent Industrial Revolution, which saw the town at the forefront of worldwide developments in science, technology and economic organisation, producing a series of innovations that laid many of the foundations of modern industrial society. By 1791 it was being hailed as "the first manufacturing town in the world". Birmingham's distinctive economic profile, with thousands of small workshops practising a wide variety of specialised and highly skilled trades, encouraged exceptional levels of creativity and innovation and provided a diverse and resilient economic base for industrial prosperity that was to last into the final quarter of the 20th century. Its resulting high level of social mobility also fostered a culture of broad-based political radicalism, that under leaders from Thomas Attwood to Joseph Chamberlain was to give it a political influence unparalleled in Britain outside London and a pivotal role in the development of British democracy.
Today Birmingham is a major international commercial centre, ranked as a beta−world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network; and an important transport, retail, events and conference hub. With a GDP of $90bn (2008 estimate, PPP), the economy of the urban area is the second largest in the UK and the 72nd largest in the world. Birmingham's six universities make it the largest centre of higher education and academic research in the United Kingdom outside London. The city's major cultural institutions, including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, enjoy international reputations, and it has vibrant and influential grassroots art, music and literary scenes. The Big City Plan is a large redevelopment plan currently underway in the city centre with the aim of making Birmingham one of the top 20 most liveable cities in the world within 20 years.
People from Birmingham are called 'Brummies', a term derived from the city's nickname of 'Brum'. This originates from the city's dialect name, Brummagem, which may in turn have been derived from one of the city's earlier names, 'Bromwicham'. There is a distinctive Brummie accent and dialect.
- 1 History
- 2 Government
- 3 Geography
- 4 Demography
- 5 Economy
- 6 Culture
- 7 Architecture
- 8 Transport
- 9 Education
- 10 Public services
- 11 Religion
- 12 Sport
- 13 Food and drink
- 14 Media
- 15 Twin cities
- 16 See also
- 17 References
- 18 External links
Pre-history and medieval
Birmingham's early history is that of a remote and marginal area. The main centres of population, power and wealth in the pre-industrial English Midlands lay in the fertile and accessible river valleys of the Trent, the Severn and the Avon. The area of modern Birmingham lay in between, on the upland Birmingham Plateau and within the densely wooded and sparsely populated Forest of Arden.
There is evidence of hominid activity in the Birmingham area dating back 500,000 years, with stone age artefacts suggesting seasonal settlements, overnight hunting parties and woodland activities such as tree felling. The many burnt mounds that can still be seen around the city indicate that modern humans first intensively settled and cultivated the area during the bronze age, when a substantial but short-lived influx of population occurred between 1700 BC and 1000 BC, possibly caused by conflict or immigration in the surrounding area. Further evidence of subsequent iron age settlement can be found at Berry Mound, a hill fort located in the Bromsgrove district of Worcestershire, near Shirley. During the 1st-century Roman conquest of Britain, the forested country of the Birmingham Plateau formed a barrier to the advancing Roman legions, who built the large Metchley Fort in the area of modern-day Edgbaston in AD 48, and made it the focus of a network of Roman roads.
Birmingham as a settlement dates from the Anglo-Saxon era. The city's name comes from the Old English Beormingahām, meaning the home or settlement of the Beormingas – indicating that Birmingham was established in the 6th or early 7th century as the primary settlement of an Anglian tribal grouping of that name. By the time of the Domesday Book of 1086, however, the manor of Birmingham was one of the poorest and least populated in Warwickshire, valued at only 20 shillings, with the area of the modern city divided between the counties of Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire.
The development of Birmingham into a significant urban and commercial centre began in 1166, when the Lord of the Manor Peter de Bermingham obtained a charter to hold a market at his castle and followed this with the deliberate creation of a planned market town and seigneurial borough within his demesne or manorial estate, around the site that became the Bull Ring. This established Birmingham as the primary commercial centre for the Birmingham Plateau at a time when the area's economy was expanding rapidly, with population growth nationally leading to the clearance, cultivation and settlement of previously marginal land. Within a century of the charter, Birmingham had grown into a prosperous urban centre of merchants and craftsmen. Within another fifty years it was the third-largest town in Warwickshire.
As early as the 16th century, Birmingham's access to supplies of iron ore and coal meant that metalworking industries became established. By the time of the English Civil War in the 17th century, Birmingham had become an important manufacturing town with a reputation for producing small arms. Arms manufacture in Birmingham became a staple trade and was concentrated in the area known as the Gun Quarter. During the 18th century, Birmingham was home to the Lunar Society, an important gathering of local thinkers and industrialists.
The Industrial Revolution, innovation, science and invention
Birmingham's explosive industrial expansion started earlier than that of the textile-manufacturing towns of the North of England, and was driven by different factors. Instead of the economies of scale of a low-paid, unskilled workforce producing bulk commodities such as cotton in increasingly large, mechanised units of production, Birmingham's industrial development was built on the adaptability and creativity of a highly paid workforce, practising a broad range of skilled specialist trades with a strong division of labour, in a highly entrepreneurial economy of small, often self-owned workshops. Levels of inventiveness were exceptional: between 1760 and 1850 – the core years of the Industrial Revolution – Birmingham residents registered over three times as many patents as those of any other British town or city.
Innovation in 18th-century Birmingham often took the form of incremental series of small-scale improvements to existing products or processes, but also included major developments that lay at the heart of the emergence of industrial society. In 1709 the Birmingham-trained Abraham Darby I moved to Coalbrookdale in Shropshire and built the first blast furnace to successfully smelt iron ore with coke, transforming the quality, volume and scale on which it was possible to produce cast iron. In 1732 Lewis Paul and John Wyatt invented roller spinning, the "one novel idea of the first importance" in the development of the mechanised cotton industry. In 1741 they opened the world's first cotton mill in Birmingham's Upper Priory. In 1765 Matthew Boulton opened the Soho Manufactory, pioneering the combination and mechanisation under one roof of previously separate manufacturing activities through a system known as "rational manufacture". As the largest manufacturing unit in Europe this come to symbolise the emergence of the factory system. In 1746 John Roebuck invented of the lead chamber process, enabling the large-scale manufacture of sulphuric acid, and in 1780 James Keir developed a process for the bulk manufacture of alkali – together these marked the birth of the modern chemical industry.
Most significant, however, was the development in 1776 of the industrial steam engine by James Watt and Matthew Boulton. Freeing for the first time the manufacturing capacity of human society from the limited availability of hand, water and animal power, this was arguably the pivotal moment of the entire industrial revolution and a key factor in the worldwide increases in productivity that would follow over the following century.
Regency and Victorian
Birmingham rose to national political prominence in the campaign for political reform in the early nineteenth century, with Thomas Attwood and the Birmingham Political Union bringing the country to the brink of civil war during the Days of May that preceded the passing of the Great Reform Act in 1832. The Union's meetings on Newhall Hill in 1831 and 1832 were the largest political assemblies Britain had ever seen. Lord Durham, who drafted the act, wrote that "the country owed Reform to Birmingham, and its salvation from revolution". This reputation for having "shaken the fabric of privilege to its base" in 1832 led John Bright to make Birmingham the platform for his successful campaign for the Second Reform Act of 1867, which extended voting rights to the urban working class.
By the 1820s, an extensive canal system had been constructed, giving greater access to natural resources and fuel for industries. Railways arrived in Birmingham in 1837 with the arrival of the Grand Junction Railway and, a year later, the London and Birmingham Railway. During the Victorian era, the population of Birmingham grew rapidly to well over half a million and Birmingham became the second largest population centre in England. Birmingham was granted city status in 1889 by Queen Victoria. Joseph Chamberlain, who was once mayor of Birmingham and later became an MP and his son Neville Chamberlain, who was Lord Mayor of Birmingham and later the British Prime Minister, are two of the most well-known political figures who have lived in Birmingham. The city established its own university in 1900.
20th century and contemporary
Birmingham suffered heavy bomb damage during World War II's "Birmingham Blitz". The city was also the scene of two scientific discoveries that were to prove critical to the outcome of the war. Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls first described how a practical nuclear weapon could be constructed in the Frisch–Peierls memorandum of 1940, the same year that the cavity magnetron, the key component of radar and later of microwave ovens, was invented by John Randall and Henry Boot. Details of these two discoveries, together with an outline of the first jet engine invented by Frank Whittle in nearby Rugby, were taken to the United States by the Tizard Mission in September 1940, in a single black box later described by an official American historian as "the most valuable cargo ever brought to our shores".
The city was extensively redeveloped during the 1950s and 1960s. This included the construction of large tower block estates, such as Castle Vale. The Bull Ring was reconstructed and New Street station was redeveloped.
In the decades following World War II, the ethnic makeup of Birmingham changed significantly, as it received waves of immigration from the Commonwealth of Nations and beyond. The city's population peaked in 1951 at 1,113,000 residents.
Birmingham remained by far Britain's most prosperous provincial city as late as the 1970s, with household incomes exceeding even those of London and the South East, but its economic diversity and capacity for regeneration declined in the decades that followed World War II as Central Government sought to restrict the city's growth and disperse industry and population to the stagnating areas of Scotland, Wales and Northern England. These measures hindered "the natural self-regeneration of businesses in Birmingham, leaving it top-heavy with the old and infirm", and the city became increasingly dependent on the motor industry. The recession of the early 1980s saw Birmingham's economy collapse, with unprecedented levels of unemployment and outbreaks of social unrest in inner-city districts.
In recent years, many parts of Birmingham has been transformed, with the redevelopment of the Bullring Shopping Centre and regeneration of old industrial areas such as Brindleyplace, The Mailbox and the International Convention Centre. Old streets, buildings and canals have been restored, the pedestrian subways have been removed and the Inner Ring Road has been rationalised. In 1998 Birmingham hosted the 24th G8 summit. Major projects currently under construction include the building of a new Library of Birmingham, the redevelopment of New Street station and the extension of the Midland Metro into the city centre. These are steps in the ambitious plans of Birmingham City Council for the redevelopment of Birmingham, which has become known as the Big City Plan.
Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in Europe with 120 councillors representing 40 wards. Its headquarters are at the Council House in Victoria Square. The council currently has a Labour Party majority and is led by Sir Albert Bore, replacing the previous Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition at the May 2012 elections.
Birmingham's ten parliamentary constituencies are represented in the House of Commons by one Conservative, one Liberal Democrat and eight Labour MPs. In the European Parliament the city forms part of the West Midlands European Parliament constituency, which elects six Members of the European Parliament.
Birmingham was originally part of Warwickshire, but expanded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, absorbing parts of Worcestershire to the south and Staffordshire to the north and west. The city absorbed Sutton Coldfield in 1974 and became a metropolitan borough in the new West Midlands county. Up until 1986, the West Midlands County Council was based in Birmingham City Centre.
Since 2011, Birmingham has formed part of the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership along with neighbouring authorities Bromsgrove, Cannock Chase, East Staffordshire, Lichfield, Redditch, Solihull, Tamworth, Wyre Forest.
Birmingham is located in the centre of the West Midlands region of England on the Birmingham Plateau – an area of relatively high ground, ranging around 500 to 1,000 feet (150–300 m) above sea level and crossed by Britain's main north-south watershed between the basins of the Rivers Severn and Trent. To the south west of the city lie the Lickey Hills, Clent Hills and Walton Hill, which reach 1,033 feet (315 m) and have extensive views over the city. Other than its canals, Birmingham is only served by minor rivers and brooks, such as the River Cole, and the River Rea.
The City of Birmingham forms a conurbation with the largely residential borough of Solihull to the south east, and with the city of Wolverhampton and the industrial towns of the Black Country to the north west, which form the West Midlands Urban Area covering 59,972 ha (600 km2; 232 sq mi). Surrounding this is Birmingham's metropolitan area – the area to which it is closely economically tied through commuting – which includes the former Mercian capital of Tamworth and the cathedral city of Lichfield in Staffordshire to the north; the industrial city of Coventry and the Warwickshire towns of Nuneaton, Warwick and Leamington Spa to the east; and the Worcestershire towns of Redditch and Bromsgrove to the south west.
Much of the area now occupied by the city was originally a northern reach of the ancient Forest of Arden, whose former presence can still be felt in the city's dense oak tree-cover and in the large number of districts such as Moseley, Saltley, Yardley, Stirchley and Hockley with names ending in "-ley": the Old English -lēah meaning "woodland clearing".
Geologically, Birmingham is dominated by the Birmingham Fault which runs diagonally through the city from the Lickey Hills in the south west, passing through Edgbaston and the Bull Ring to Erdington and Sutton Coldfield in the north east. To the south and east of the fault the ground is largely softer Mercia Mudstone Group (formerly known as Keuper Marl), interspersed with beds of Bunter pebbles and crossed by the valleys of the Rivers Tame, Rea and Cole along with their tributaries. Much of this would have been laid down during the Permian and Triassic periods. To the north and west of the fault, varying from 150 to 600 feet (45–180 m) higher than the surrounding area and underlying much of the city centre, lies a long ridge of harder Keuper Sandstone.
The climate in Birmingham is classified as a temperate maritime climate, like much of the British Isles, with average maximum temperatures in summer (July) being around 21.5 °C (70.7 °F); and in winter (January) around 6.5 °C (43.7 °F). The absolute maximum temperature, set during August 1990, was 34.9 °C (94.8 °F). Extreme weather is rare but the city has been known to experience tornados – the most recent being in July 2005 in the south of the city, damaging homes and businesses in the area.
Similar to most other large cities, Birmingham has a considerable 'urban heat island' effect. During the coldest night recorded (14 January 1982), for example, the temperature fell to −20.8 °C (−5.4 °F) at Birmingham Airport on the city's eastern edge, but just −12.9 °C (8.8 °F) at Edgbaston, near the city centre.
Relative to other large UK conurbations, Birmingham is a snowy city due to its inland location and comparatively high elevation. For the period 1961–1990 Elmdon averaged 13.0 days of snow lying annually (Compared to 5.33 at London Heathrow), this despite Elmdon being one of the less elevated and thus less snow prone part of the city. Snow showers often pass through the city via the Cheshire gap on North Westerly airstreams, but can also come off the North Sea from North Easterly airstreams.
For the Period 1971–2000, the warmest day of the year on average is 28.8 °C (83.8 °F) and the coldest night typically falls to −9 °C (15.8 °F). Some 11.2 days of the year should rise to a temperature of 25.1 °C (77.2 °F) or above and 51.6 nights report an air frost.
|Climate data for Birmingham Elmdon, 99m asl, 1971–2000, extremes 1901– (sunshine 1961–1990)|
|Record high °C (°F)||15.0
|Average high °C (°F)||6.6
|Average low °C (°F)||1.2
|Record low °C (°F)||−20.8
|Precipitation mm (inches)||66.21
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||49.7||60.0||101.5||129.2||178.0||186.2||181.0||166.8||134.3||97.2||64.2||46.9||1,395|
|Source #1: Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute
|Source #2: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
There are over 8,000 acres (3,237 ha) of parkland open spaces in Birmingham. The largest of the parks is Sutton Park covering 2,400 acres (971 ha) making it the largest urban nature reserve in Europe. Birmingham Botanical Gardens are a Victorian creation, with a conservatory and bandstand, close to the city centre. The Winterbourne Botanic Garden, maintained by the University of Birmingham, is also located close to the city centre.
Birmingham has many areas of wildlife that lie in both informal settings such as the Project Kingfisher and Woodgate Valley Country Park and in a selection of parks such as Lickey Hills Country Park, Handsworth Park, Kings Heath Park, and Cannon Hill Park; the latter also housing the Birmingham Nature Centre.
Birmingham is the most populous British city outside London, with 1,073,000 residents (2011 census), an increase of 96,000 over the previous decade. The West Midlands Urban Area has a population of 2,440,986 (2011 Census); and Birmingham's metropolitan area, which is the United Kingdom's second most populous, has a population of 3,683,000. At the time of the 2001 UK Census, Birmingham's population was 977,087, having fallen since reaching a peak of 1,112,685 in the 1951 Census.
The population density is 10,391 inhabitants per square mile (4,102/km²) compared to the 976.9 inhabitants per square mile (377.2/km²) for England. Females represented 51.6% of the population whilst men represented 48.4%. More women were 70 or over. 60.4% of the population was aged between 16 and 74, compared to 66.7% in England as a whole.
According to figures from the 2011 census, 57.9% of the population was White (53.1% White British, 2.1% White Irish, 2.7% Other White), 4.4% of mixed race (2.3% White and Black Caribbean, 0.3% White and Black African, 1.0% White and Asian, 0.8% Other Mixed), 26.6% Asian (13.5% Pakistani, 6.0% Indian, 3.0% Bangladeshi, 1.2% Chinese, 2.9% Other Asian), 8.9% Black (2.8% African, 4.4% Caribbean, 1.7% Other Black), 1.0% Arab and 1.0% of other ethnic heritage. 57% of primary and 52% of secondary pupils are from non-white British families. 16.5% of the population was born outside the United Kingdom.
60.3% of households were found to be owner occupied and 27.7% were rented from either the city council, housing association or other registered social landlord. The remaining 11.8% of households were rented privately or lived rent free.
The Birmingham Larger Urban Zone, a Eurostat measure of the functional city-region approximated to local government districts, has a population of 2,357,100 in 2004. In addition to Birmingham itself, the LUZ includes the Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull and Walsall, along with the districts of Lichfield, Tamworth, North Warwickshire and Bromsgrove.
With a city GDP of $90bn (2008 est., PPP), the urban agglomeration around Birmingham has the second-largest economy in the United Kingdom and the 72nd-largest in the world. Although the city grew to prominence as a manufacturing and engineering centre, its economy today is dominated by the service sector, which in 2008 accounted for 86% of its employment. Birmingham is the largest centre for employment in public administration, education and health in Great Britain, and after Leeds and Glasgow it is the third-largest centre for employment in banking, finance and insurance outside London. It is ranked as a beta- world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network.
Two of Britain's largest banks were founded in Birmingham – Lloyds Bank (now Lloyds Banking Group) in 1765 and the Midland Bank (now HSBC Bank) in 1836 – as well as Ketley's Building Society, the world's first building society, in 1775. In 2010, Cushman & Wakefield stated that Birmingham was the third best place in the United Kingdom to locate a business and the 18th best in Europe.
Tourism is also an increasingly important part of the local economy. With major facilities such as the International Convention Centre and National Exhibition Centre the Birmingham area accounts for 42% of the UK conference and exhibition trade. The city's sporting and cultural venues attract large numbers of visitors.
With an annual turnover of £2.43bn, Birmingham city centre is the UK's third largest retail centre, with the country's busiest shopping centre – the Bullring – and the largest department store outside London – House of Fraser on Corporation Street. The City also has one of only four Selfridges department stores and the second largest branch of Debenhams in the country. In 2004 the city was ranked as the third best place to shop in the United Kingdom, behind the West End of London and Glasgow, being described as a "world-class shopping centre".
Manufacturing accounts for 10% of employment in Birmingham, a figure below the average for Great Britain as a whole. Despite the decline of manufacturing in the city several significant industrial plants remain, including Jaguar Land Rover in Castle Bromwich and Solihull and Cadbury Trebor Bassett in Bournville. Jewellery manufacture is still prominent in Birmingham with an estimated 40% of all UK produced jewellery being manufactured in the Jewellery Quarter.
Although the city has seen economic growth greater than the national average in the 21st century the benefits have been uneven, with commuters from the surrounding area obtaining many of the more skilled jobs. The two parliamentary constituencies with the highest unemployment rates in the UK – Ladywood and Sparkbrook and Small Heath – are both in inner-city Birmingham. Growth has also added to stresses on the city's transport. Many major roads and the central New Street railway station operate over capacity at peak times. In 2011 it was announced that Birmingham will become an enterprise zone, which will help small businesses in the region to increase economic growth.
The internationally-renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's home venue is Symphony Hall. Other notable professional orchestras based in the city include the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia and Ex Cathedra, a Baroque chamber choir and period instrument orchestra. The Orchestra of the Swan is the resident chamber orchestra at Birmingham Town Hall, where weekly recitals have also been given by the City Organist since 1834.
The Birmingham Triennial Music Festivals took place from 1784 to 1912. Music was specially composed, conducted or performed by Mendelssohn, Gounod, Sullivan, Dvořák, Bantock and Edward Elgar, who wrote four of his most famous choral pieces for Birmingham. Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius had its début performance there in 1900. Composers born in the city include Albert William Ketèlbey and Andrew Glover.
Birmingham's other city-centre music venues include The National Indoor Arena, which was opened in 1991, 02 Academy on Bristol Street, which opened in September 2009 replacing the 02 Academy in Dale End, The CBSO Centre, opened in 1997, HMV Institute in Digbeth and the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire.
During the 1960s Birmingham was the home of a music scene comparable to that of Liverpool. Although it produced no single band as big as The Beatles it was a "a seething cauldron of musical activity", and the international success of groups such as The Move, The Spencer Davis Group, The Moody Blues, Traffic and the Electric Light Orchestra had a collective influence that stretched into the 1970s and beyond. The city was the birthplace of heavy metal music, with pioneering metal bands from the late 1960s and 1970s such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and half of Led Zeppelin having come from Birmingham. The next decade saw the influential metal bands Napalm Death and Godflesh arise from the city. Birmingham was the birthplace of modern bhangra in the 1960s, and by the 1980s had established itself as the global centre of bhangra culture, which has grown into a global phenomenon embraced by members of the Indian diaspora worldwide from Los Angeles to Singapore. The 1970s also saw the rise of reggae and ska in the city with such bands as Steel Pulse, UB40, Musical Youth, Beshara and The Beat, expounding racial unity with politically leftist lyrics and multiracial line-ups, mirroring social currents in Birmingham at that time.
Other popular bands from Birmingham include Duran Duran, Fine Young Cannibals, Ocean Colour Scene, The Streets, The Twang and Dexys Midnight Runners. Musicians Jeff Lynne, Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, John Lodge, Roy Wood, Joan Armatrading, Toyah Willcox, Denny Laine, Sukshinder Shinda, Steve Winwood, Jamelia and Fyfe Dangerfield all grew up in the city.
Since 2012 the Digbeth-based B-Town indie music scene has attracted widespread attention, led by bands such as Peace and Swim Deep, with the NME comparing Digbeth to London's Shoreditch, and The Independent writing that "Birmingham is fast becoming the best place in the UK to look to for the most exciting new music".
Theatre and performing arts
Birmingham's leading producing theatre is the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, which was founded by Barry Jackson in 1913 to "serve an art instead of making that art serve a commercial purpose". The Rep pioneered innovations such as the performance of Shakespeare in modern dress, and launched the careers of performers including Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Peggy Ashcroft, Paul Scofield and Albert Finney. Other theatre companies in Birmingham include the experimental Stan's Cafe, the politically radical Banner Theatre, the Birmingham Stage Company and the Maverick Theatre Company. The Alexandra Theatre and the Birmingham Hippodrome host large-scale touring productions, while professional drama is performed on a wide range of stages across the city, including the Old Rep, the Crescent Theatre, the Custard Factory, the Old Joint Stock Theatre, the Blue Orange Theatre, the Drum in Aston and the mac in Cannon Hill Park.
The Birmingham Royal Ballet is one of the United Kingdom's three major ballet companies and the only one based outside London. It is resident at the Birmingham Hippodrome and tours extensively nationally and internationally. The company's associated ballet school – Elmhurst School for Dance in Edgbaston – is the oldest vocational dance school in the country.
The Birmingham Opera Company under artistic director Graham Vick has developed an international reputation for its avant-garde productions, which often take place in factories, abandoned buildings and other found spaces around the city. In 2010 it was described by The Guardian as "far and away the most powerful example that I've experienced in this country of how and why opera can still matter." More conventional seasons by Welsh National Opera and other visiting opera companies take place regularly at the Birmingham Hippodrome.
Literary figures associated with Birmingham include Samuel Johnson who stayed in Birmingham for a short period and was born in nearby Lichfield. Arthur Conan Doyle worked in the Aston area of Birmingham whilst poet Louis MacNeice lived in Birmingham for six years. It was whilst staying in Birmingham that American author Washington Irving produced several of his most famous literary works, such as Bracebridge Hall and The Humorists, A Medley which are based on Aston Hall.
The poet W. H. Auden grew up in the Harborne area of the city and during the 1930s formed the core of the Auden Group with Birmingham University lecturer Louis MacNeice. Other influential poets associated with Birmingham include Roi Kwabena, who was the city's sixth poet laureate, and Benjamin Zephaniah, who was born in the city.
Author J. R. R. Tolkien was brought up in Birmingham, with many locations in the city such as Moseley bog, Sarehole Mill and Perrott's Folly supposedly being the inspiration for various scenes in The Lord of the Rings. The award winning political playwright David Edgar was born in Birmingham, and the science fiction author John Wyndham spent his early childhood in the Edgbaston area of the city, as did Dame Barbara Cartland.
Birmingham has a vibrant contemporary literary scene, with local authors including David Lodge, Jim Crace, Jonathan Coe, Joel Lane and Judith Cutler. The city's leading contemporary literary publisher is the Tindal Street Press, whose authors include prize-winning novelists Catherine O'Flynn, Clare Morrall and Austin Clarke.
Birmingham is the home of the UK's longest-established local science fiction group, launched in 1971 (although there were earlier incarnations in the 1940s and 1960s) and which organises the annual science fiction event Novacon.
Art and design
The Birmingham School of landscape artists emerged with Daniel Bond in the 1760s and was to last into the mid 19th century. Its most important figure was the watercolourist David Cox, whose later works make him an important precursor of impressionism. The influence of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists and the Birmingham School of Art made Birmingham an important centre of Victorian art, particularly within the Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts movements. Major figures included the Pre-Raphaelite and symbolist Edward Burne-Jones; Walter Langley, the first of the Newlyn School painters; and Joseph Southall, leader of the group of artists and craftsmen known as the Birmingham Group.
The Birmingham Surrealists were among the "harbingers of surrealism" in Britain in the 1930s and the movement's most active members in the 1940s, while more abstract artists associated with the city included Lee Bank-born David Bomberg and CoBrA member William Gear. Birmingham artists were prominent in several post-war developments in art: Peter Phillips was among the central figures in the birth of Pop Art; John Salt was the only major European figure among the pioneers of photo-realism; and the BLK Art Group used painting, collage and multimedia to examine the politics and culture of Black British identity. Contemporary artists from the city include the Turner Prize winner Gillian Wearing and the Turner Prize shortlisted Richard Billingham, John Walker and Roger Hiorns.
Birmingham's role as a manufacturing and printing centre has supported strong local traditions of graphic design and product design. Iconic works by Birmingham designers include the Baskerville font, Ruskin Pottery, the Acme Thunderer whistle, the Art Deco branding of the Odeon Cinemas and the Mini.
Museums and galleries
Birmingham has two major public art collections. Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is best known for its works by the Pre-Raphaelites, a collection "of outstanding importance". It also holds a significant selection of old masters – including major works by Bellini, Rubens, Canaletto and Claude – and particularly strong collections of 17th-century Italian Baroque painting and English watercolours. Its design holdings include Europe's pre-eminent collections of ceramics and fine metalwork. The Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Edgbaston is one of the finest small art galleries in the world, with a collection of exceptional quality representing Western art from the 13th century to the present day.
The council also owns other museums in the city such as Aston Hall, Blakesley Hall, the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Soho House and Sarehole Mill. The Birmingham Back to Backs are the last surviving court of back-to-back houses in the city. Cadbury World is a museum showing visitors the stages and steps of chocolate production and the history of chocolate and the company. The Ikon Gallery hosts displays of contemporary art, as does Eastside Projects.
Thinktank is Birmingham's main science museum, with a giant screen cinema, a planetarium and a collection that includes the Smethwick Engine, the world's oldest working steam engine. Other science-based museums include the National Sea Life Centre in Brindleyplace, the Lapworth Museum of Geology at the University of Birmingham and the Centre of the Earth environmental education centre in Winson Green.
Nightlife and festivals
Nightlife in Birmingham is mainly concentrated along Broad Street and into Brindleyplace. Although in more recent years Broad St has lost its popularity due to the closing of several clubs, the Arcadian now has more popularity in terms of nightlife. Outside the Broad Street area are many stylish and underground venues. The Medicine Bar in the Custard Factory, hmv Institute, Rainbow Pub and Air are large clubs and bars in Digbeth. Around the Chinese Quarter are areas such as the Arcadian and Hurst Street Gay Village, that abound with bars and clubs. Summer Row, The Mailbox, O2 Academy in Bristol Street,Snobs Nightclub, St Philips/Colmore Row, St Paul's Square and the Jewellery Quarter all have a vibrant night life. There are a number of late night pubs in the Irish Quarter. Outside the city centre is Star City entertainment complex on the former site of Nechells Power Station.
Birmingham is home to many national, religious and spiritual festivals including a St. George's Day party. The Birmingham Tattoo is a long-standing military show held annually at the National Indoor Arena. The Caribbean-style Birmingham International Carnival takes place in odd numbered years. Birmingham Pride takes place in the gay village and attracts up to 100,000 visitors each year. From 1997 until December 2006, the city hosted an annual arts festival ArtsFest, the largest free arts festival in the UK at the time. The city's largest single-day event is its St. Patrick's Day parade (Europe's second largest, after Dublin). Other multicultural events include the Bangla Mela and the Vaisakhi Mela. The Birmingham Heritage Festival is a Mardi Gras style event in August. Caribbean and African culture are celebrated with parades and street performances by buskers.
Other festivals in the city include the Birmingham International Jazz Festival,"Party in the Park" was originally a festival hosted by local and regional radio stations which died down in 2007 and has now been brought back to life as an unsigned festival for regional unsigned acts to showcase themselves in a one day music festival for the whole family. In 2013 it is on 30 June and hosts over 33 acts and bands with lots of family orientated events on during the day such as street dance workshops and ball games. Birmingham Comedy Festival (since 2001; 10 days in October), which has been headlined by such acts as Peter Kay, The Fast Show, Jimmy Carr, Lee Evans and Lenny Henry, and the Off The Cuff Festival established in 2009. The biennial International Dance Festival Birmingham started in 2008, organised by DanceXchange and involving indoor and outdoor venues across the city. Since 2001 Birmingham is also host to the Frankfurt Christmas Market. Modelled on its German counterpart it has grown to become the UK's largest outdoor Christmas market and is the largest German market outside of Germany and Austria, attracting over 3.1 million visitors in 2010 and over 5 million visitors in 2011.
Birmingham is chiefly a product of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries; its growth began during the Industrial Revolution. Consequently, relatively few buildings survive from its earlier history and those that do are protected. There are 1,946 listed buildings in Birmingham and thirteen scheduled ancient monuments. Birmingham City Council also operate a locally listing scheme for buildings that do not fully meet the criteria for statutorily listed status.
Traces of medieval Birmingham can be seen in the oldest churches, notably the original parish church, St Martin in the Bull Ring. A few other buildings from the medieval and Tudor periods survive, among them the Lad in the Lane and The Old Crown, the 15th century Saracen's Head public house and Old Grammar School in Kings Norton and Blakesley Hall.
A number of Georgian buildings survive, including St Philip's Cathedral, Soho House, Perrott's Folly, the Town Hall and much of St Paul's Square. The Victorian era saw extensive building across the city. Major civic buildings such as the Victoria Law Courts (in characteristic red brick and terracotta), the Council House and the Museum & Art Gallery were constructed. St Chad's Cathedral was the first Roman Catholic cathedral to be built in the UK since the Reformation. Across the city, the need to house the industrial workers 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.
Postwar redevelopment and anti-Victorianism resulted in the loss of dozens of Victorian buildings like Birmingham New Street Station and the old Central Library. In inner-city areas too, much Victorian housing was redeveloped. Existing communities were relocated to tower block estates like Castle Vale.
Birmingham City Council now has an extensive tower block demolition and renovation programme. There has been much redevelopment in the city centre in recent years, including the award-winning Future Systems' Selfridges building in the Bullring Shopping Centre, the Brindleyplace regeneration project, the Millennium Point science and technology centre, and the refurbishment of the iconic Rotunda building. Funding for many of these projects has come from the European Union; the Town Hall for example received £3 million in funding from the European Regional Development Fund.
Highrise development has slowed since the 1970s and mainly in recent years because of enforcements imposed by the Civil Aviation Authority on the heights of buildings as they could affect aircraft from the Airport (e.g. Beetham Tower).
Partly because of its central location, Birmingham is a major transport hub on the motorway, rail and canal networks. The city is served by the M5, M6, M40, and M42 motorways, and probably the best known motorway junction in the UK: Spaghetti Junction. The M6 passes through the city on the Bromford Viaduct, which at 5,600 metres (18,400 ft) is the longest bridge in the United Kingdom.
Birmingham Airport, located six miles east of the city centre in the neighbouring borough of Solihull, is the seventh busiest by passenger traffic in the United Kingdom and the third busiest outside the London area after Manchester and Edinburgh. It is a major base for airlines including Flybe, Ryanair, BMI Regional, Monarch Airlines and Thomson Airways; and is connected by flag carrier airlines to major international hubs including Dubai, New York-Newark, Frankfurt, Munich, Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam.
Birmingham New Street railway station is the busiest in the United Kingdom outside London, both for passenger entries and exits and for passenger interchanges. It is the national hub for CrossCountry, the most extensive long-distance train network in Britain, and a major destination for Virgin Trains services from London Euston, Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley. Birmingham Snow Hill and Birmingham Moor Street, the other major railway stations in the city centre, form the northern terminii for Chiltern Railways express trains running from London Marylebone. Local and regional services are operated from all of Birmingham's stations by London Midland.
Local public transport in Birmingham is co-ordinated by Centro, the Integrated Transport Authority for the West Midlands county. Branded as "Network West Midlands", Centro's network includes the busiest urban rail system in the UK outside London, with 122 million passenger entries and exits per annum; the busiest urban bus system outside London, with 300.2 million passenger journeys per annum; and the Midland Metro, a light rail system which operates between Snow Hill and Wolverhampton via Bilston, Wednesbury and West Bromwich, and which is currently being extended from Snow Hill further into Birmingham city centre. Bus routes are mainly operated by National Express West Midlands, which accounts for over 80% of all bus journeys in Birmingham, though there are around 50 other, smaller registered bus companies. The number 11 outer circle bus routes are the longest urban bus routes in Europe, being 26 miles (42 km) long with 272 bus stops.
Birmingham is also notable for its extensive canal system and the city is often noted for having more miles of canal than Venice. The canals fed the industry in the city during the Industrial Revolution. Canalside regeneration schemes such as Brindleyplace have turned the canals into tourist attractions.
Birmingham is home to six universities: the University of Birmingham, Aston University, Birmingham City University, University College Birmingham, the University of Law and Newman University. Birmingham is also home to the Open University's West Midlands region, which has 60 staff, 600 tutors and 12,000 students. The Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham School of Acting and Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, all now part of Birmingham City University, offer higher education in specific arts subjects. The range of universities and colleges means that there are over 65,000 higher education students in Birmingham, making it the UK's second largest student city to London.
The Birmingham Business School, established by Sir William Ashley in 1902, is the oldest graduate-level business school in the United Kingdom. Other business schools in the city include Aston Business School and Birmingham City Business School.
Birmingham is also an important centre for religious education. St Mary's College, Oscott is one of the three seminaries of the Catholic Church in England and Wales; Woodbrooke is the only Quaker study centre in Europe; and Queen's College is an ecumenical theological college serving the Church of England, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church.
Primary and secondary education
Birmingham City Council is England's largest local education authority, directly or indirectly responsible for 25 nursery schools, 328 primary schools, 77 secondary schools and 29 special schools. and providing around 3,500 adult education courses throughout the year. Most of Birmingham's state schools are community schools run directly by Birmingham City Council in its role as local education authority (LEA). However, there are a large number of voluntary aided schools within the state system. Since the 1970s, most secondary schools in Birmingham have been 11-16/18 comprehensive schools, while post GCSE students have the choice of continuing their education in either a school's sixth form or at a further education college. Birmingham has always operated a primary school system of 4–7 infant and 7–11 junior schools.
King Edward's School, founded in 1552, is the oldest and perhaps the most prestigious independent school in the city. Other notable independent schools in the city include the Birmingham Blue Coat School and Edgbaston High School for Girls. The seven schools of The King Edward VI Foundation are known nationally for setting very high academic standards and all the schools consistently achieve top positions in national league tables.
Birmingham was set to receive up to £2.4 billion of central government funding for the replacement and modernisation of many of its secondary schools as part of the Building Schools for the Future programme. Procurement commenced in 2009, with the Lend Lease Group being the successful Local Education Partnership company contracted to resource and undertake the work. The first three sample schools were all designed, constructed and completed by 2011, however the programme was scrapped shortly before their completion in July 2010, with only a few other schools and the remaining Academy schemes continuing through to construction, and now due for completion in 2013.
The former Birmingham Central Library, opened in 1972, was considered to be the largest municipal library in Europe. Six of its collections were designated by the Arts Council England as being "pre-eminent collections of national and international importance", out of only eight collections to be so recognised in local authority libraries nationwide. A new Library of Birmingham in Centenary Square, replacing Central Library, was opened on 3 September 2013. It was designed by the Dutch architects Mecanoo and has been described as "a kind of public forum ... a memorial, a shrine, to the book and to literature".
Law enforcement in Birmingham is carried out by West Midlands Police, whose headquarters are at Lloyd House in Birmingham City Centre. With 87.92 recorded offences per 1000 population in 2009–10, Birmingham's crime rate is above the average for England and Wales, but lower than any of England's other major core cities and lower than many smaller cities such as Oxford, Cambridge or Brighton. Fire and rescue services in Birmingham are provided by West Midlands Fire Service and emergency medical care by West Midlands Ambulance Service.
The former Central Fire Station, a Grade II listed building, is now set for redevelopment as student accommodation, shops and leisure facilities.
There are several major National Health Service hospitals in Birmingham. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, adjacent to the Birmingham Medical School in Edgbaston, houses the largest critical care unit in Europe, and is also the home of the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, treating military personnel injured in conflict zones. Other general hospitals in the city include Heartlands Hospital, Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield and City Hospital in Winson Green. There are also many specialist hospitals, such as Birmingham Children's Hospital, Birmingham Women's Hospital, Birmingham Dental Hospital, and the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital.
The Birmingham Corporation Water Department was set up in 1876 to supply water to Birmingham, up until 1974 when its responsibilities were transferred to Severn Trent Water. Most of Birminghams water is supplied by the Elan aqueduct, opened in 1904; water is fed by gravity to Frankley Reservoir, Frankley, and Bartley Reservoir, Bartley Green, from reservoirs in the Elan Valley, Wales.
Energy from waste
Birmingham is home to the Tyseley Energy from Waste Plant, a large incineration plant built in 1996 for Veolia, that burns some 366,414 tonnes of household waste annually and produces 166,230 MWh of electricity for the National Grid along with 282,013 tonnes of carbon dioxide. It has been strongly opposed by Birmingham Friends of the Earth for contributing to climate change, causing air pollution and reducing recycling rates in the city.
Although Christianity is the largest religion within Birmingham, with 59% of residents stating that they were Christian in the 2001 Census, the city's religious profile is highly diverse: outside London, Birmingham has the United Kingdom's largest Muslim, Sikh and Buddhist communities; its second largest Hindu community; and its seventh largest Jewish community.
St Philip's Cathedral was upgraded from church status when the Anglican Diocese of Birmingham was created in 1905. There are two other cathedrals: St Chad's, seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham and the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God and St Andrew. The Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Midlands is also based at Birmingham, with a cathedral under construction. The original parish church of Birmingham, St Martin in the Bull Ring, is Grade II* listed. A short distance from Five Ways the Birmingham Oratory was completed in 1910 on the site of Cardinal Newman's original foundation.
The oldest surviving synagogue in Birmingham is the 1825 Greek Revival Severn Street Synagogue, now a Freemason's Lodge hall. It was replaced in 1856 by the Grade II* listed Singers Hill Synagogue. Birmingham Central Mosque, one of the largest in Europe, was constructed in the 1960s. During the late 1990s Ghamkol Shariff Masjid was built in Small Heath. The Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Sikh Gurdwara was built on Soho Road in Handsworth in the late 1970s and the Buddhist Dhammatalaka Peace Pagoda near Edgbaston Reservoir in the 1990s.
Birmingham has played an important part in the history of sport. The Football League – the world's first league football competition – was founded by Birmingham resident and Aston Villa director William McGregor, who wrote to fellow club directors in 1888 proposing "that ten or twelve of the most prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home-and-away fixtures each season". The modern game of tennis was developed between 1859 and 1865 by Harry Gem and his friend Augurio Perera at Perera's house in Edgbaston, with the Edgbaston Archery and Lawn Tennis Society remaining the oldest tennis club in the world. The Birmingham and District Cricket League is the oldest cricket league in the world, and Birmingham was the host for the first ever Cricket World Cup, a Women's Cricket World Cup in 1973. Birmingham was the first city to be named National City of Sport by the Sports Council. Birmingham was selected ahead of London and Manchester to bid for the 1992 Summer Olympics, but was unsuccessful in the final selection process, which was won by Barcelona.
Today the city is home of two of the country's oldest professional football teams: Aston Villa F.C., which was founded in 1874 and play at Villa Park; and Birmingham City F.C., which was founded in 1875 and play at St Andrew's. Rivalry between the clubs is fierce and the fixture between the two is called the Second City derby. Aston Villa currently play in the Premier League and have been League champions on seven occasions and European Champions in 1982. Birmingham City currently play in the Championship, the second tier of English football. Another Premier League club, West Bromwich Albion F.C., play just outside the city boundaries at The Hawthorns.
Seven times County Championship winners Warwickshire County Cricket Club play at Edgbaston Cricket Ground, which also hosts test cricket and one day internationals and is the largest cricket ground in the United Kingdom after Lord's. Edgbaston was the scene of the highest ever score by a batsman in first-class cricket, when Brian Lara scored 501 not out for Warwickshire in 1994. Birmingham has a professional Rugby Union club, Moseley R.F.C., who play at Billesley Common; with a second professional club, Birmingham & Solihull R.F.C., playing at Damson Park in the neighbouring borough of Solihull. The city also has a rugby league club, the Birmingham Bulldogs, who compete in the Co-operative RLC Midlands Premier League (RLC). The city is also home to one of the oldest American Football teams in the BAFA National Leagues, the Birmingham Bulls.
Two major championship golf courses lie on the city's outskirts. The Belfry near Sutton Coldfield is the headquarters of the Professional Golfers' Association and has hosted the Ryder Cup more times than any other venue. The Forest of Arden Hotel and Country Club near Birmingham Airport is also a regular host of tournaments on the PGA European Tour, including the British Masters and the English Open.
The AEGON Classic is, alongside Wimbledon and Eastbourne, one of only three UK tennis tournaments on the WTA Tour. It is played annually at the Edgbaston Priory Club, which in 2010 announced plans for a multi-million pound redevelopment, including a new showcase centre court and a museum celebrating the game's Birmingham origins.
The Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr is the headquarters of UK Athletics, and one of only two British venues to host fixtures in the elite international IAAF Diamond League. It is also the home of Birchfield Harriers, which has many international athletes among its members. The National Indoor Arena hosted the 2007 European Athletics Indoor Championships and 2003 IAAF World Indoor Championships, as well as hosting the annual Aviva Indoor Grand Prix – the only British indoor athletics fixture to qualify as an IAAF Indoor Permit Meeting – and a wide variety of other sporting events. Professional boxing, hockey, skateboarding, stock-car racing, greyhound racing and speedway also takes place within the city.
Food and drink
Birmingham's development as a commercial town was originally based around its market for agricultural produce, established by royal charter in 1166. Despite the industrialisation of subsequent centuries this role has been retained and the Birmingham Wholesale Markets remain the largest combined wholesale food markets in the country, selling meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and flowers and supplying fresh produce to restauranteurs and independent retailers from as far as 100 miles (161 km) away.
Birmingham based breweries included Ansells, Davenport's and Mitchells & Butlers. Aston Manor Brewery is currently the only brewery of any significant size. Many fine Victorian pubs and bars can still be found across the city, whilst there is also a plethora of more modern nightclubs and bars, notably along Broad Street.
The Wing Yip food empire first began in the city and now has its headquarters in Nechells. The Balti, a type of curry, was invented in the city, which has received much acclaim for the 'Balti Belt' or 'Balti Triangle'. Famous food brands that originated in Birmingham include Typhoo tea, Bird's Custard, Cadbury's chocolate and HP Sauce.
Birmingham has several major local newspapers – the daily Birmingham Mail and the weekly Birmingham Post and Sunday Mercury, all owned by the Trinity Mirror. Forward (formerly Birmingham Voice) is a freesheet produced by Birmingham City Council, which is distributed to homes in the city. Birmingham is also the hub for various national ethnic media, and the base for two regional Metro editions (East and West Midlands).
Birmingham has a long cinematic history; the Electric Cinema on Station Street is the oldest working cinema in the UK, and Oscar Deutsch opened his first Odeon cinema in Perry Barr during the 1920s. The largest cinema screen in the West Midlands is located at Millennium Point in the Eastside. Birmingham has also been the location for films including Felicia's Journey of 1999, which used locations in Birmingham that were used in Take Me High of 1973 to contrast the changes in the city.
The BBC has two facilities in the city. The Mailbox, in the city centre, is the national headquarters of BBC English Regions and the headquarters of BBC West Midlands and the BBC Birmingham network production centre. These were previously located at the Pebble Mill Studios in Edgbaston. The BBC Drama Village, based in Selly Oak, is a production facility specialising in television drama.
Central/ATV studios in Birmingham were the location for the recording of many programmes for ITV including Tiswas and Crossroads, until the complex was closed in 1997, and Central moved to its current Gas Street studios. These were also the main hub for CITV, until that was moved to Manchester in 2004. Central's output from Birmingham now consists of only the West and East editions of the regional news programme Central Tonight.
The city is served by numerous national and regional radio stations, as well as local radio stations. These include Free Radio, 102.2 Capital FM Birmingham, Heart West Midlands, Kerrang! Radio, BBC WM, New Style Radio 98.7FM and Smooth Radio's West Midlands News & Admin Team. The Archers, the world's longest running radio soap, is recorded in Birmingham for BBC Radio 4.
- Chicago, United States (Since 1993);
- Guangzhou, China
- Frankfurt am Main, Germany (Since 1966);
- Johannesburg, South Africa (Since 1997);
- Leipzig, Germany (Since 1992);
- Lyon, France (Since 1951);
- Milan, Italy.
- Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine
There are also Treaties of Friendship between Birmingham and Guangzhou in China, and between Birmingham and Mirpur in Azad Kashmir from where about 90,000 Birmingham citizens originate. Birmingham, Alabama, USA, is named after the city and shares an industrial kinship.
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