The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games were a triumph for Brum and its surrounding areas. 1.5 million people are estimated to have visited the city during the Games. This is, of course, fantastic to see but did leave me wondering why Birmingham is not always as busy considering all that the city has to offer.
As Birmingham has been the host city of the 22nd Commonwealth Games in 2022, here is a list of 22 things you may not know about the city… some of which may make you want to stay a bit longer or come back!
1. The Midlands Enlightenment
In the 18th century, Birmingham was at the centre of a revolution that saw developments in science, technology and medicine known as the Midlands Enlightenment. The developments allowed Birmingham to flourish and put the city on the world stage as a manufacturing hub. At the forefront of these developments were the scientists Matthew Boulton, James Watt and William Murdoch. A statue of the scientists can be found outside the Birmingham Library today. James Watt revolutionised the steam engine and went into business with Matthew Boulton who helped to commercialise the invention. Working with William Murdoch, they all managed to refine the technology to make it usable, laying the groundwork for the Industrial Revolution.
2. The biggest public library in Europe
The Library of Birmingham, found in Centenary Square opposite a certain bull you may have seen during the Opening Ceremony, is the largest public library in all of Europe. Malala Yousafzai, another highlight of the Opening Ceremony, officially opened the library on 3 September 2013. The library contains 800,000 books as well as one of the largest Shakespeare collections.
3. A young city
Birmingham’s population is so young that it is the youngest city in Europe. Almost 40 per cent of the population is under 25.
4. A centre for education
Birmingham is home to five major universities: the University of Birmingham, Aston University, Birmingham City University, Newman University and University College Birmingham. Brum is a student city with around 80,000 students living here in total. If you are thinking of coming to study in Birmingham, you could join the list of inventors to come from the city or add to the list of 10 Nobel laureates who have studied at the University of Birmingham.
5. Celebrations at scale
Birmingham holds the third largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the world just behind New York and Dublin, as well as the largest Christmas Festival in Europe outside of Germany.
6. Old Joe
The Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower, known as ‘Old Joe’, can be found on the grounds of the University of Birmingham and is the tallest freestanding clock tower in the world.
7. St Chad’s Cathedral
Located north of the city centre, St. Chad’s Cathedral was designed by Augustus Pugin, who also designed Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
J. R. R. Tolkien lived in the city from a young age and took inspiration from some of the landmarks and surrounding areas when writing his stories: The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings. Old Joe and its illuminated clock face provided inspiration for the ‘Eye of Sauron’, the land known as the Shire in his books was based on the village of Sarehole where he grew up, while Moseley Bog inspired the ‘old forest’ in his works.
9. Birmingham and The Windy City
Birmingham is twinned with Chicago, also known as The Windy City. Brum has other sister cities, including Milan, Guangzhou and Lyon.
10. Heavy Metal
The music genre Heavy Metal was created in Birmingham. The industrial sounds and working-class feel of the city have been said to have influenced the kings of Heavy Metal, Black Sabbath. Our recent blog ‘Birmingham… the City of a Thousand Sounds‘ delves into the musical history of Birmingham.
11. Going to the Pictures
The Electric Cinema on Station Street is the oldest working cinema in the UK. The cinema showed its first silent film on 27 December 1909.
12. The Second City
Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in Europe and the most populated local council in the UK. On this basis, Birmingham can technically be considered the largest city in the UK.
13. An artistic city
Birmingham is home to some fantastic works of art, including pieces by Van Gogh and Rembrandt. We have several art galleries and museums across the city including the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, The Ikon Gallery in Brindley Place, The Mac by Cannon Hill Park and The Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham.
14. History of stained glass
St. Philip’s Cathedral in Birmingham contains stained glass windows designed by Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones, who was from Birmingham.
15. Well located
Due to Birmingham’s central location in the Midlands, you can get to 90 per cent of the UK from Birmingham within four hours.
16. Show time
The Birmingham Hippodrome is the busiest theatre in the UK, with over 520,000 visitors every year. The theatre is also home to the Birmingham Royal Ballet, led by the world-famous Cuban dancer and director Carlos Acosta.
17. A green city
Birmingham has over 8,000 acres of green space. According to an Ordinance Survey study, Birmingham is the city with the most accessible green space in the UK. Sutton Park in Sutton Coldfield is the largest urban park outside of a capital city in Europe.
18. World-class food
Birmingham and its surrounding areas contain 11 Michelin-starred restaurants, with five being contained within the city, more than any area of the UK other than London. Birmingham is also home to the Balti and has a rich heritage of Indian cuisine. One area synonymous with curry in Brum is the ‘Balti Triangle’.
19. Iconic brands
Some of the UK’s most iconic brands come from the city such as Cadbury’s, HP Sauce, Typhoo Tea and Bird’s Custard. The site where Bird’s Custard used to be manufactured is now a bustling area of bars and cafes known as the ‘Custard Factory’.
20. All that glitters
Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter produces 40 per cent of all the jewellery in the UK. The Queen’s Baton used in the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay was made there as well as both Wimbledon trophies and the original FA Cup.
21. New balls, please!
It is said the modern version of tennis was invented on a lawn in Edgbaston, Birmingham in 1859. The LTA Rothesay Classic tournament is held at Edgbaston Priory Club.
22. Sporting city
Birmingham is also a popular location for elite sport including football, cricket and golf. There are four major clubs in the city and surrounding areas with Aston Villa, Birmingham City, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers all nearby. Edgbaston Cricket Ground, home of Warwickshire CCC and the Birmingham Bears, also held the T20 competition at Birmingham 2022 and will be the home of Birmingham Phoenix in this year’s The Hundred. Edgbaston will also welcome Australia for the Ashes next summer. The Belfry Hotel is the host of the British Masters and has welcomed the Ryder Cup on four occasions.
The Games has been a brilliant opportunity for people to get to know our city and its people, but there are far more than just 22 things to explore. The Birmingham 2022 Festival will be continuing until September, so do make sure to come and experience Brum for yourself.