Birmingham the City of Festivals

Glastonbury proves the British public loves a festival. Whether it is the chance to break out of the ususal routine, the unique atmosphere, or just the over priced beer, there is something about a festival that we love. I mainly stick to my own lane with festivals – Literature festivals – but of course over the years I’ve been to all sorts. They have popped up across the UK in high numbers. Whether a week of music streamed onto our TV sets, or a volunteer led day event in the local pub, there is something for someone anywhere!

It can be hard to keep on top of what is going on in Birmingham. The amount of times I will tell someone about a festival in the city that they knew nothing about is too many to count. Having said that, it does end in some happy accidents of walking in on a festival taking place right in the middle of the city.

Birmingham has over 80 festivals, most of which are listed in the festival goer’s life line: The Birmingham Festivals Guide 2019. You can check the website for the most up to date info, or pick up their little pink booklets that you can find around the city. This list only covers the biggest, Birmingham based festivals. There are even more in the surrounding area, but if you want to be right in the city, there’s plenty to choose from. And just to really show that there is something for everything:

Number of festivals by type

Film: 7 | Theatre&Performance: 8 | Literature & Spoken Word: 3 | Science & tech: 2 | Dance: 3 | Food & Drink: 13 | Art, Craft & Design: 9 | Outdoor: 12 | Community: 13 | Music: 19 | Heritage: 2 and LGBTQIA+: 3

My Personal Favourites

The Birmingham Literature Festival : Okay, lets get it out the way. I am completely biased as I work on this festival but I feel that the time the team puts into curating events really pays off. We have a mix of everything lit based, from walks to afternoon tea, from shows to panel discussions we have quite the range! (3rd October – 13th October 2019)

Verve Poetry Festival : Obviously, the city’s innovative poetry festival is going to be next in my list. The team behind the festival is passionate, caring and just out right excited about the current state of poetry! It also has a sister poetry press – but that is a whole other post…. (Feb. 2020)

Bournville Book Fest: in the idyllic setting of Bournville (the chocolate factory town!) this family friendly festival is all about the joy of reading and imagination! (March 2020)

Festival of Audacity : Brought to you by the Beatfreeks collective, this festival is all about Birmingham and the city’s voice. Tour the unique arts spaces of Brum while seeing new multi disciplinary art pieces … you never know quite what you are going to get, but you know it will be eye opening and inspiring. The festival takes place next weekend, so get your tickets! (18th July – 21st July 2019)

Birmingham International Dance Festival : This month long festival runs every two years and when you go to their events you understand why! The level of skill, artistry, and dedication from the artists and organisers is amazing. I love this festival, especially as it is focused around something we all do every day but never give much thought – movement. Keep your eyes and ears open for next June. (June 2020)

I hope you can see that you don’t need to jump a train and invest in a tent to get your ultimate festival experience. Birmingham is a wonderfully diverse and big city, and this is pretty evident in the festivals on offer.

Side note, this year Glastonbury’s clean up was done in record time. One week later, 90% of the clean up was completed with only 500 of 55,000 tents left on site. This unprecedented result just shows how the attitudes of festival goers and the population as a whole is changing. Festivals don’t have to be big and messy if we respect them and our environment. More and more is being done by these organisations to be accountable for their affects on our public spaces. We need to take ownership of our impact on the spaces we inhabit and city festivals are finding new ways to look at everyday, practical places and make them something special!

Published by Heddwen Bethan

I have a Masters in English literature and Creative Writing and work as an arts administrator in Birmingham. I spend my free time cooking, talking about nothing in particular, and writing.

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