8. TELEVISION & RADIO
Birmingham has a long tradition of TV and Radio production with many shows recorded in studios in Birmingham or filmed on location in the city, while others have been produced here but filmed elsewhere. Among the programmes to come from Birmingham are Doctors, Hustle, Crossroads, Boon, New Faces, Spitting Image, Pot Black, Gangsters, Dalziell and Pascoe and Tiswas, plus the game shows The Golden Shot, Bullseye and Blockbusters.The Archers, the world’s longest running radio soap, is recorded in Birmingham for BBC Radio 4.
9. ST PATRICK'S DAY PARADE
Birmingham's St Patrick's Day Parade is the third biggest in the world, after New York and Dublin with more than 80,000 people turning out to celebrate the occasion. Birmingham has a large Irish community dating back to the Industrial Revolution when Irish people, known as ‘Navvies’ moved here to work in the construction of canals, railways and factories and is estimated to have the largest Irish population in the UK. The city has the UK’s only Irish Quarter, centred on Digbeth and Deritend.
Birmingham is the birthplace of Heavy Metal, with Black Sabbath and coming from Aston in Birmingham Tony Iommi learned to play guitar in a different way following an industrial accident that removed the tips of two of his fingers. He tuned the guitar down and relied on power chords, something guitarist Geezer Butler also did and together they produced the classic sound of Heavy Metal. Subsequent Heavy Metal bands Napalm Death and Godflesh also hail from Birmingham. Birmingham also boasts Dave Pegg (Jethro Tull, Fairport Convention), Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), and Blaze Bayley (Wolfsbane). Other music acts from Birmingham include ELO, Duran Duran, UB40, The Moody Blues, Fuzzbox, Ocean Colour Scene, The Move, Toyah Wilcox, Joan Armatrading, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Ruby Turner, Fine Young Cannibals, The Streets, Musical Youth, Jamelia and Pato Banton. Mother’s Club in Erdington was voted the world’s best rock venue in 1969 and 1970, with a Blue Birmingham Civic Society plaque unveiled in 2013 to commemorate the iconic venue where such acts as Pink Floyd, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Black Sabbath, The Who and Led Zeppelin played.
In the 1960s, Birmingham was the birthplace of modern Bhangra and is also the centre of the UK’s Asian music industry. Birmingham is the global centre of Bhangra music with almost 90 per cent of it made here.
In the classical world, Worcestershire-born composer Edward Elgar was the first conductor of the City of Birmingham Orchestra (later the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra: CBSO) when it was officially founded in November 1920. Elgar was also the first Professor of Music at Birmingham University. In 2002, the CBSO won the most prestigious Record of the Year prize at the Gramophone Awards, the classical counterpart to the Oscars. The CBSO’s most famous conductor is Sir Simon Rattle, for whom Symphony Hall was built, often cited as one of the best classical music concert halls in the world.
Oscar Deutsch, born in Balsall Heath and the son of a scrap metal dealer, opened the first ever Odeon cinema in Perry Barr in 1930. Deutsch was a master of marketing with Odeon standing for ‘Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation’.
Star City now has the UK’s largest cinema complex with thirty screens. Six screens are devoted to Asian films, making this the largest Bollywood movie centre in Europe. The Giant Screen cinema at Millennium Point has the largest screen in the Midlands (72ft wide, 40ft high) & the second largest in the UK.
The Electric Cinema in Station Street at the back of Birmingham’s revamped New Street Railway Station is the UK’s oldest working cinema dating from 1909.
As well as its famous waterways, Birmingham is home to the Gravelly Hill interchange, better known as Spaghetti Junction the best known motorway junction in the UK. The M6 passes through Birmingham on the longest bridge in the UK the Bromford Viaduct Birmingham was also the terminus for both of the world's first two long-distance railway lines – 1837’s 82-mile Grand Junction Railway & the 112-mile London and Birmingham railway of 1838 whose terminus at Curzon Street was the first railway station.New Street station is the busiest train station in the UK outside London In addition, the Number 11 Outer Circle bus route is the longest urban bus route in Europe, reaching a length of 28 miles.
Tennis originated in Birmingham when, in 1859, Harry Gem, Clerk to the Birmingham Magistrates, and his friend Augurio Perera, a Spanish merchant, combined elements of racquets and the Basque ball game Pelota on the lawn of Perera’s home at 8 Ampton Road, Edgbaston. The oldest surviving club Lawn Tennis club in the world is the Edgbaston Archery and Lawn Tennis Society, which pre-dates The All England Club by 3 weeks.
14. J.R.R. TOLKIEN
Acclaimed author JRR Tolkien, born in Bloemfontein South Africa, lived in Birmingham as a child variously in Kings Heath, Hall Green, Rednal and Edgbaston and attended King Edward’s School in New Street. Sarehole Mill, Moseley Bog, Perrott’s Folly, Edgbaston Waterworks Tower, Birmingham University Clock Tower and the nearby Lickey Hills in Birmingham inspired his famous works The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit.
The Jewellery Quarter is Europe’s largest concentration of jewellery businesses, and produces 40 per cent of jewellery made in the UK. It has the largest School of Jewellery in Europe, and the world’s largest Assay Office, which hallmarks about 12 million items a year. At its height in the early 1900s, the Jewellery Quarter employed more than 30,000 people. About 3,000 people work there today.
16. FOOD & DRINK
Birmingham has four Michelin-starred restaurants, more than any other city in the UK outside London. Glynn Purnell, Adam Stokes,Luke Tipping and Richard Turner are the Chef Patrons.
Birmingham is the birthplace in 1977 of the Balti - a type of curry served in a metal bowl (karahi) & home to the Balti Triangle, an area encompassing Sparkbrook, Balsall Heath and Moseley, where there are more than 100 Asian restaurants. Well-known food brands that originated in the city include Bird's Custard, Typhoo tea, Cadbury's chocolate and HP Sauce. Alfred Bird created Bird’s Instant Custard in 1837 as his wife was allergic to eggs used to thicken earlier versions of the dessert.
In 1863, William Sumner published A Popular Treatise on Tea and in 1870 started a grocery/pharmacy business with his son John in High Street, Birmingham. It was in 1903 that John’s son, John Sumner Jr, created Typhoo Tea - taking the name from the Chinese word for doctor after his sister said she had found relief for her indigestion by drinking a brew made from the tiniest particles of tea leaf, rather than the usual large leaf variety. Sumner Jr sold the tea pre-packaged rather than loose. Typhoo became one of the largest makers of teabags in the UK.
Chocolate giant Cadbury began when John Cadbury opened a grocery shop in Bull Street Birmingham in 1824. Among the products he sold cocoa and drinking chocolate which he prepared using a pestle and mortar. It was in 1831 that he started the Cadbury manufacturing business in a warehouse in Crooked Lane. In 1847, it moved into a larger factory in Bridge Street and when that site became too small, a new works was built at Bournville. The Quaker company produced its first chocolate bars in 1897 and Cadbury’s Dairy Milk in its purple wrapper is an icon.
17. UNIVERSITIES & EDUCATION
Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe with 25 year olds and under accounting for nearly 40 per cent of its population. Birmingham has five universities: Aston, Birmingham, Birmingham City University, Newman University College & University College Birmingham. Birmingham University was founded by Joseph Chamberlain and was the first ‘Redbrick’ University. The region as a whole produces over 111,000 graduates each year making it the second largest student area in the UK. In 2011 Birmingham had more than 78,000 students living in the city during term-time more than any other city in the UK outside London. The national educational charity University of the First Age was founded in Birmingham by Professor Tim Brighouse in 1996. Birmingham Business School founded in 1902 is the oldest graduate-level business school in the UK.
18. MUSEUMS AND ART
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery holds the largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art in the world as well as Europe's finest collections of ceramics and fine metalwork. Also on display there is the Staffordshire Hoard, the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork ever found. It consists of more than 3,500 items with over 5kg of gold, 1.4kg of silver and 3,500 cloisonné garnets. BMAG also contains the largest complete bronze sculpture of its kind in the world in the Sultanganj Buddha found in the North Indian town of Sultangani during the construction of the East Indian Railway & dates from 700-800 AD. The Barber Institute of Fine Arts has been described as one of the finest small art galleries in the world. Birmingham Science Museum Think-tank, has the world's oldest working steam engine and the UK's first purpose-built digital planetarium.
19. THE POSTAL SYSTEM/STAMPS