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|— City and Metropolitan borough —|
|Nickname(s): "Brum", "Brummagem", "The Second City", "City of a thousand trades", "Workshop of the World"|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Ceremonial county||West Midlands|
|Admin HQ||The Council House|
|• Type||Metropolitan borough|
|• Body||Birmingham City Council|
|• Lord Mayor||Cllr. Hanad Darwish|
|• Council Leader||Mike Whitby (C)|
|• Council Control||Conservative / Liberal Democrat Progressive Partnership|
|• MPs|| Richard Burden (L)
Liam Byrne (L)
Jack Dromey (L)
Roger Godsiff (L)
John Hemming (LD)
Khalid Mahmood (L)
Shabana Mahmood (L)
Steve McCabe (L)
Andrew Mitchell (C)
Gisela Stuart (L)
|• Total||103.39 sq mi (267.77 km2)|
|Elevation||460 ft (140 m)|
|Population (2008 est.)|
|• Total||1,074,300 ([[List of English districts by population|Ranked 1st]])|
|• Density||9,680/sq mi (3,739/km2)|
| • Ethnicity
|66.7% White (62.1% White British)
21.0% South Asian
3.2% Mixed Race
|Time zone||Greenwich Mean Time ( UTC+0)|
|• Summer ( DST)||British Summer Time ( UTC+1)|
|ISO 3166 code||GB-BIR|
|OS grid reference||SP066868|
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands county of England. It is the most populous British city outside London, with a population of 1,028,700 (2009 estimate), and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the United Kingdom's second most populous urban area with a population of 2,284,093 (2001 census). Birmingham's metropolitan area, which includes surrounding towns to which it is closely tied through commuting, is also the United Kingdom's second most populous with a population of 3,683,000.
Birmingham was a powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution in England, a fact which led to it being known as "the workshop of the world" or the "city of a thousand trades". Although Birmingham's industrial importance has declined, it has developed into a national commercial centre, being named in 2010 as the third-best place in the United Kingdom to locate a business. Birmingham is a national hub for conferences, retail and events along with an established high tech, research and development sector, supported by its three Universities. It is also the fourth-most visited city by foreign visitors in the UK, has the second-largest city economy in the UK. Birmingham is ranked as a gamma- world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network.
In 2010, Birmingham was ranked as the 55th-most livable city in the world, according to the Mercer Index of worldwide standards of living. 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 known as ' Brummies', a term derived from the city's nickname of 'Brum'. This may originate 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 dialect and accent, both of which differ from the adjacent Black Country.
Some of the earliest evidence of settlement in Birmingham are artefacts dating back 10,400 years discovered near Curzon Street in the city centre.
In the early 7th century, Birmingham was an Anglo-Saxon farming hamlet on the banks of the River Rea. It is commonly believed that the name 'Birmingham' comes from "Beorma inga ham", meaning farmstead of the sons (or descendants) of Beorma. Birmingham was first recorded in written documents by the Domesday Book of 1086 as a small village, worth only 20 shillings. There were many variations on this name. Bermingeham is another version.
In 1166 the holder of the manor of Birmingham, Peter de Birmingham, was granted a royal charter to hold a market in his castle, which in time became known as the Bull Ring, transforming Birmingham from a village to a market town. The de Birmingham family continued to be Lords of Birmingham until the 1530s when Edward de Birmingham was cheated out of its lordship by John Dudley.
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 Industrial Revolution (from the mid-18th century onwards), Birmingham grew rapidly into a major industrial centre and the town prospered. Birmingham’s population grew from 15,000 in the late 17th century to 70,000 a century later. During the 18th century, Birmingham was home to the Lunar Society, an important gathering of local thinkers and industrialists.
Birmingham rose to national political prominence in the campaign for political reform in the early nineteenth century, with Thomas Attwood's Birmingham Political Union bringing the country to the brink of civil war and back 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".
By the 1820s, an extensive canal system had been constructed, giving greater access to natural resources to fuel to 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 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.
Birmingham suffered heavy bomb damage during World War II's " Birmingham Blitz", and 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 reconstructed and New Street station was redeveloped. In recent years, Birmingham has been transformed, with the construction of new squares like Centenary Square and Millennium Place. Old streets, buildings and canals have been restored, the pedestrian subways have been removed, and the Bull Ring shopping centre has been completely redeveloped. These were the first steps in the ambitious plans of Birmingham City Council for the redevelopment of Birmingham, which has become known as the Big City Plan.
In the decades following the Second World War, 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 City Council is the largest local authority in the UK and the largest council in Europe with 120 councillors representing 40 wards. Its headquarters are at the Council House in Victoria Square. No single party is in overall control and the council is run by a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition led by Mike Whitby.
The city is also the seat of regional government for the West Midlands region of England as the home of the region's Government Office, the regional development agency Advantage West Midlands, and the West Midlands Regional Assembly.
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.
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 Reading, 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.
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.
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. Together these make up the West Midlands Urban Area, which covers 59,972 ha (600 km2; 232 sq mi) and has a population of 2,284,093 (2001 Census). Beyond the urban area, Birmingham's metropolitan area – the surrounding area to which it is closely economically tied through commuting – has a population of 3,683,000 (2001 Census) and 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, 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 20 °C (68 °F); and in winter (January) is around 4.5 °C (40.1 °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.
Occasional summer heatwaves, such as the one experienced in July 2006 have become more common in recent years, and winters had become milder until since the 1990s with snow becoming much less frequent, although this seems to have been reversed in the last couple of years with the winter of 2009-10 being the coldest for some 30 years. Similar to most other large cities, Birmingham has a considerable ' urban heat island' effect. During the coldest night recorded in Birmingham (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. 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.
|Climate data for Birmingham|
|Average high °C (°F)||6
|Average low °C (°F)||0.3
|Precipitation mm (inches)||56
|Avg. precipitation days||16.7||12.8||15.9||14.1||15.2||12.6||11.7||13.5||12.4||13.4||15.5||15.7||169.5|
|Source: United Nations World Meteorological Organization|
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.
The city centre consists of numerous public squares including Centenary Square, Chamberlain Square and Victoria Square. The historic Old Square is located on Corporation Street. Rotunda Square and St Martin's Square are two of the newest squares in Birmingham, being located within the Bullring Shopping Centre. Brindleyplace also consists of three squares and the National Sea Life Centre.
Birmingham has many corridors 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 Handsworth Park and Small Heath Park. The City's horticultural training facility at King's Heath Park is paired up with Pershore College. More traditional environmental concerns are constantly raised by volunteer pressure group Birmingham Friends of the Earth. That group advocate sustainable travel such as local rail revival, walking and cycling, reduction in energy demand and waste generally, and the development of environmental technologies in the city.
Birmingham is the second most populous British city outside of London, with a population of 1,028,700 according to 2009 estimates. Birmingham's metropolitan area is also the United Kingdom's second most populous with 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 9,451 inhabitants per square mile (3,649/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.
The ONS estimates that, in 2007, 62.1% of the population was White British, 2.4% White Irish, 2.2% Other White, 21% Asian, 6.7% Black, 1.2% Chinese, 3.2% of mixed race and 1.2% 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 Bimingham 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), Birmingham has the second-largest urban 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 gamma- 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.
The city's three Universities, ( Aston University, University of Birmingham and Birmingham City University) and two University colleges have over 65,000 students and employ around 15,000 staff, making a significant contribution to the city's economy as well as its research and innovation base.
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 Cars in Castle Bromwich and Cadbury Trebor Bassett in Bournville.
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.
Birmingham has had a vibrant and varied musical history over the last century. Birmingham bands have made a major contribution to the musical culture of the United Kingdom, with many contemporary bands citing Birmingham bands as a major influence. In the 1960s, the " Brum Beat" era featured blues and early progressive rock bands, such as The Moody Blues and Velvett Fogg. The city is often described as the birthplace of heavy metal music, with Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Magnum, and two members of Led Zeppelin being local. Then later on during the 80s bands such as Napalm Death, joined the Birmingham heavy metal scene.
In the 1970s, members of The Move and The Idle Race formed the Electric Light Orchestra and Wizzard. 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 lineups, mirroring social currents in Birmingham at that time. Seminal 1980s pop band Duran Duran are also from Birmingham.
Birmingham has also produced a number of popular bands and musicians including Ocean Colour Scene, The Spencer Davis Group, The Streets and The Twang. Musicians Jeff Lynne, Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, John Lodge, Roy Wood, Joan Armatrading, Toyah Willcox, Denny Laine, Sukshinder Shinda, Steve Winwood, and Fyfe Dangerfield all grew up in the city.
Jazz has a following in the city, and the annual Birmingham International Jazz Festival is the largest of its kind in the UK. Venues for the festival are also located out of Birmingham in Solihull. It was first held in 1984.
The internationally-renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's home venue is Symphony Hall. There is a City Organist; since 1834 only seven men have held this position. The current holder, Thomas Trotter, has been in post since 1983. Weekly recitals have been given since the organ in Birmingham Town Hall was opened.
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, which was built along with Paradise Forum and Birmingham Central Library, at Birmingham Conservatoire.
Theatre and performing arts
Among the many theatres in Birmingham, the largest are the Alexandra ("the Alex"), The Rep, the Hippodrome and the Old Rep. The Crescent Theatre and Old Joint Stock Theatre are other city centre theatres. Outside of the city centre are the Drum Arts Centre (on the site of the former Aston Hippodrome) and mac. The Fierce! festival collaborates with The Rep to present an annual series of performances from local and national companies.
The Birmingham Royal Ballet resides in the city as does the world's oldest vocational dance school, Elmhurst School for Dance.
Entertainers who were born or who have lived in Birmingham include comedians Sid Field, Tony Hancock, and Jasper Carrott and the actors - Paul Schofield, Trevor Eve, Adrian Lester, Julie Walters and Martin Shaw.
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. American author Washington Irving produced several of his most famous literary works whilst staying in Birmingham such as Bracebridge Hall and The Humorists, A Medley which are based on Aston Hall. 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.
Writer W. H. Auden grew up in the Harborne area of 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. Other famous residents include the award winning political playwright David Edgar.
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 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 sf event Novacon.
Art and design
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 watercolourist David Cox, whose later works make him an important precursor of impressionism; 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 and John Walker.
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 seventeenth 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 thirteenth 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, a popular attraction for fans of J. R. R. Tolkien. 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 an IMAX 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 concentrated mainly along Broad Street and into Brindleyplace. However, in recent years, stylish clubs and bars have started to establish themselves outside the Broad Street area. The Medicine Bar in the Custard Factory, The Sanctuary, Rainbow Pub and Air are large clubs and bars in Digbeth. Near Digbeth, there are bars and club nights in areas such as the Arcadian and Hurst Street Gay Village by the Chinese Quarter. Summer Row, The Mailbox, and St Philips/Colmore Row – where once a month there is a party night held for Polish residents in Birmingham – and Jewellery Quarter also feature clubs. There are number of late night pubs in the Irish Quarter. Outside of 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, the city hosted an annual arts festival ArtsFest, the largest free arts festival in the UK. In December 2006, the City Council announced that it would no longer hold Artsfest. The city's largest single-day event is its St. Patrick's Day parade (Europe's second largest, after the one inDublin). 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 Moseley Folk Festival (since 2006), which takes place in Moseley private park and mixes new with established folk acts, the Birmingham International Jazz Festival, Birmingham Comedy Festival (since 2001), which has been headlined by such acts as Peter Kay, The Fast Show, Jimmy Carr, Lee Evans and Lenny Henry and 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. During the festive season Birmingham is also host to the Frankfurt Christmas Market, held annually since 2001. Modelled on its German counterpart it has become the UK’s largest outdoor Christmas market, and is the largest German market outside of Germany and Austria, attracting over 2.8 million visitors in 2009, and 3.1 million the following year proving its popularity.
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 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 a lot of construction in the city centre in recent years, including the award-winning Future Systems' Selfridges building in the Bullring Shopping Centre, the Brindleyplace regeneration project and the Millennium Point science and technology centre. 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 due to 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 inland central location, Birmingham is a major transport hub on the motorway, rail, and canal networks. The city is served by a number of major motorways and probably the best known motorway junction in the UK: Spaghetti Junction.
The National Express UK headquarters are located on Birmingham's Eastside, alongside the newly developed Birmingham Coach Station, which forms the national hub of the company's coach network.
Birmingham Airport, located six miles east of the city centre in the neighbouring borough of Solihull, is the sixth busiest by passenger traffic in the United Kingdom, and the second busiest outside the London area. It is a major base for airlines including Flybe, Ryanair, Bmibaby, Monarch Airlines and Thomson Airways; and is connected by flag carrier airlines to major international hubs including Dubai, New York-Newark, Frankfurt, Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam.
Local public transport is by bus, local train and tram. Bus routes are mainly operated by National Express West Midlands, which accounts for over 80% of all bus journeys in Birmingham, however, 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.
The city's main railway station, Birmingham New Street, is at the centre of the national railway network. Birmingham Snow Hill station, another major railway station in the city centre, is also the terminus for the Midland Metro which operates between the station and Wolverhampton, also serving the nearby towns of Bilston, Wednesbury and West Bromwich. There are plans to extend the Midland Metro route further into Birmingham city centre. Birmingham has a large rail-based park and ride network that feeds the city centre.
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.
The 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. It also runs the library service, with 4 million visitors annually, and provides around 3,500 adult education courses throughout the year. The main library is Central Library and there are 41 local libraries in Birmingham, plus a regular mobile library service.
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. King Edward's School is perhaps the most prestigious independent school in the city. 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 is home to three universities: the University of Birmingham, Aston University, Birmingham City University; and two university colleges: Newman University College and University College Birmingham. The Birmingham Conservatoire and Birmingham School of Acting, both 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 Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower is a campanile located in Chancellor's court at the University of Birmingham. It is the tallest free-standing clock tower in the world.
Birmingham Metropolitan College is one of the largest further education colleges in the country, formed through a series of mergers between smaller colleges. Joseph Chamberlain College is the only sixth form college in Birmingham and Solihull to have been awarded both Beacon Status and an overall OFSTED grade 1 (Outstanding).
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 5–7 infant and 7–11 junior schools.
Although Christianity remains 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. Much more recently Darul Barakaat Mosque was built in the Bordesley Green area by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. 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, who were founded in 1874 and play at Villa Park; and Birmingham City, who were 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. Both teams currently play in the Premier League, with Villa having been League champions on seven occasions and European Champions in 1982. A third Premier League club, West Bromwich Albion, play just outside the city boundaries at The Hawthorns.
Six times County Championship winners Warwickshire County Cricket Club play at Edgbaston Cricket Ground, which also hosts test cricket and one day internationals. The venue 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. A second professional club, Birmingham & Solihull R.F.C., play at Damson Park in the neighbouring borough of Solihull.
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.
International track and field meetings take place at Alexander Stadium, the home of Birchfield Harriers which has many international athletes amongst its members. The GMAC Gymnastics and Martial Arts Centre, alongside Alexander Stadium, opened in 2008 and houses an international standard gymnastics hall and three martial arts dojos, including the headquarters of the Aikido Fellowship of Great Britain. The National Indoor Arena (NIA), opened in 1991, is a major indoor athletics venue, hosting the 2007 European Athletics Indoor Championships and 2003 IAAF World Indoor Championships as well as many WWE wrestling events. A fifty-metre Olympic sized swimming pool is planned for Ladywood. Professional boxing, hockey, skateboarding, stock-car racing, greyhound racing and speedway also takes place within the city.
Food & 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 restaurateurs and independent retailers as far as 100 miles away.
Birmingham is the only English city outside London to have three Michelin starred restaurants: Simpson's in Edgbaston, Turners in Harborne and Purnell's in the city centre.
Birmingham based breweries included Ansells, Davenports 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. The oldest inn in Birmingham is the Old Crown in Deritend (circa 1450). The city has a plethora of nightclubs and bars, notably along Broad Street.
The Wing Yip food empire first began in the city and now has its headquarters in the 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.
Science and invention
Birmingham has been the location for some of the most important inventions and scientific breakthroughs. Local inventions and notable firsts include: gas lighting, custard powder, Brylcreem, the magnetron, the first ever use of radiography in an operation, Lewis Paul and John Wyatt's first cotton Roller Spinning machine and the UK's first ever hole-in-the-heart operation, at Birmingham Children's Hospital.
Among the city's notable scientists and inventors are Matthew Boulton, proprietor of the Soho engineering works, Sir Francis Galton, originator of eugenics and important techniques in statistics, Joseph Priestley, chemist and radical and James Watt, engineer and inventor who is associated with the steam engine. Many of these scientists were members of the Lunar Society, which was based in the city.
Birmingham has six twin cities, which Birmingham City Council refers to as "international partner cities". They are:
Birmingham, Alabama, USA, is named after the city and shares an industrial kinship.