I’m pleased to see that Birmingham is in the running for City of Culture 2013. I was disappointed when they lost out to Liverpool in 2008, though Liverpool has made the most of it and it’s clearly been a successful venture. Actually, the UK is not due to host another City of Culture until 2032 (because of the expansion of the EU), but the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has decided to “bring the competition closer to home”, as well as to emphasise that “excellence and innovation in the arts does not begin and end inside the M25”. The UK is good at celebrating its culture, generally speaking, and has some amazing arts events to offer, so anything that encourages and supports this seems like a good thing.
The shortlist for City of Culture 2013 includes Barnsley, Carlisle, the whole of Cornwall, Durham, Sheffield and Derry. Obviously I can’t comment on the relative merits of these places (though having the whole of Cornwall up against some quite small cities seems unfair!) But Birmingham, I hope, is well-placed, both geographically and in terms of its commitment to the arts. The Birmingham Repertory Theatre is about to undergo a major facelift along with the building of a spectacular new public library; the Rep puts on a wonderful programme of plays and other events every year, while the library is fantastically well-stocked and has informative and helpful staff. We have other theatres, of course – from the Alexandra, which has a lot of big musicals etc, to the Hippodrome, home of Birmingham Royal Ballet, and the Crescent, which puts on smaller plays, not always professional but always interesting. There are some brilliant concert venues here in Brum, and, of course, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, with a wonderful collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings. If to these amenities was added a further range of public cultural and artistic events, Birmingham would become an even more exciting place to be. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next, and what moves the council makes to ensure our bid is successful.
There is a website with more information about Birmingham’s bid for City of Culture, where you can have your say – have a look at http://www.birminghambigcityculture.com/.