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Made In England
Made in England: Birmingham
England's second city is a melting pot of the arts. Get a taste of artistic Birmingham...
We know Birmingham as England’s second capital but did you know this former hothouse of industry is now a melting pots of arts? You only need to look at the number of theatre and other arts venues to see that the city of a thousand trades now enjoys thousand art forms.
Music features heavily in Birmingham’s past - from blues and prog rock through to ska and reggae bands and it’s also thought of as the birthplace of heavy metal (Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin are from the area). Edward Elgar, who wrote four of his most famous choral pieces for Birmingham and composers born in the city include Albert William Ketèlbey and Andrew Glover.
On a more literary note, poets associated with Birmingham include Roi Kwabena, who was the city's sixth poet laureate and Benjamin Zephaniah, who was born in the city. JRR Tolkien was said to have been inspired by local areas and buildings in the city and Washington Irving wrote Bracebridge Hall and The Humorists, A Medley (based on Aston Hall) while he lived in Birmingham.
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery has one of the largest collections of Pre-Raphaelite art in the world. Edward Burne-Jones, born in Birmingham, was president of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists. The Ikon Gallery hosts displays of contemporary art. Local artists include David Cox, David Bomberg, Martin John Callanan, Pogus Caesar, Keith Piper and Donald Rodney.
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, the art deco branding of the Odeon Cinemas and the Mini.
Selfridges at the Bullring
Perhaps more recently, Birmingham has become famed for some of its more unusual architecture. While the recently refurbished Bull Ring attract crowds of shoppers - eyes are usually more drawn to the ‘bubblewrapped’ Selfridges building.
Made in England
Made in England is a joint partnership between BBC English Regions and Arts Council England to bring audiences and artists together in unique collaborations to provide exciting new cultural experiences.
It is a project dedicated to exploring how England – the place and the people - is expressed through creative and artistic forms.
Think about the Lake District - dramatic and elegant, the lush greens and icy blues depicting an unspoilt England. William Wordsworth was so inspired by the landscape he wrote poems, sonnets and ballads dedicated to it.
Non-traditional art is just as important to recognise - graffiti on the streets, estates built in the Sixties, and even regional accents. Does this architecture, history and culture inspire you to think of all things English?
If you’re bursting with enthusiasm at the thought of creating something - why don’t you see how you can get involved? Visit the main Made in England site to find out how you can get your creative juices flowing.
Catherine O'Flynn is a writer from Birmingham. In a specially commissioned piece for Made in England, she writes about growing up in her father's shop and eating a mouse's leftover chocolate:
last updated: 23/04/2008 at 13:44