Birmingham Festival 23 opening event in Centenary Square: dates, times & more

The thrilling opening event for the huge free 10 day Birmingham Festival being held in the city centre tomorrow (Friday, July 28) - full details of One City, A Thousand Memories in Centenary Square

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Brummies are invited to experience Once City A Thousand Memories - the thrilling night of free entertainment which will open Birmingham Festival 23, the 10 day event celebrating the legacy of the Commonwealth Games.

Centenary Square is set to be transformed into a giant open air festival to stage a wealth of talent from across the city and beyond tomorrow (Friday, July 2). The free entertainment will continue daily until Sunday, August 6 with the full line being announced in coming weeks.

Steven Knight CBE, and former gold-medal winning Team England Netball Captain, Ama Agbeze, are Patrons of the Festival, signifying the city’s cultural and sporting ambitions, and B2022 mascot Perry the Bull will be making a star-studded return.

The Opening Night for Birmingham Festival 23 show will start at 7pm, but you are being asked to turn up early to ensure you can get a good view of the exciting opening night, with warm up entertainment with DJs starting from 6pm and a big screen in situ to help everyone get a glimpse of the extravaganza.

Here’s a rundown of everything that has been planned for the opening night of Birmingham Festival 23 in Centenary Square:

  • Soulful house DJ Echo Juliet and BBC Asian Network’s Bobby Frictionwill build excitement on the square with live VJs from 6pm ahead of the show which will start at 7pm.
  • The event will be hosted by award-winning BBC presenter Ayo Akinwolere and DJ and Radio 1Xtra presenter Kaylee Golding, who will bring their energy and enthusiasm, guiding everyone through a packed evening which is set to finish at around 10pm.
  • The Festival site on Centenary Square will feature a big screen where audiences can expect to see newly-commissioned short films, B2022 highlights and messages from a few familiar faces which will be kept a surprise until the night.
  • B2022 Mascot, Perry, will make a special appearance with his favourite Bhangra group the Dhol Blasters, to fire up the audience and get people moving. As a standing event, people should come prepared to move around but there will also be an accessible viewing platform for those who need it. Accessibility is really important to the Festival, and the event will be BSL interpreted and audio described.
  • A collaboration with Team England, the English Commonwealth Games team, will ensure a host of medal-winning athletes from Birmingham 2022 feature on the evening.
Friendly Fire Band to perform at the Opening Night of Birmingham Festival 2023Friendly Fire Band to perform at the Opening Night of Birmingham Festival 2023
Friendly Fire Band to perform at the Opening Night of Birmingham Festival 2023
  • Athletes will parade before an emotional performance from Birmingham Conservatoire-trained Mezzo-Soprano, Samantha Oxborough (who performed the national anthem at the 2022 Opening Ceremony) with The Choir with No Name (who were part of Birmingham 2022 Festival’s opening event ‘Wondrous Stories’).
  • They’ll be supported by community BSL choir Music in Motion-who came through the Festival’s Made in Brum open call - for a moving musical tribute that organisers think everyone will want to join in with.
  • The final part of the evening will take place on the fountain area of Centenary Square in front of the Festival’s iconic stage which will literally light up Birmingham!
  • Ayo and Kaylee will introduce speeches and interview guests before welcoming a live music finale courtesy of Birmingham Music Archive’s On Recordalbum - the specially-commissioned ‘Sonic Love Letter’ to Birmingham for the B2022 Festival last year, featuring singer, dancer and multi-instrumentalist Bambi Bains who will kick off, followed by Urban Music Award winner SANITY, before headliner, Friendly Fire Band, take to the stage for an It’s A Brum Ting finale!
King G’s Dhol Blasters to perform at the Opening Night of Birmingham Festival 23King G’s Dhol Blasters to perform at the Opening Night of Birmingham Festival 23
King G’s Dhol Blasters to perform at the Opening Night of Birmingham Festival 23

Who has commissioned Birmingham Fesitval 23?

Commissioned and supported by Birmingham City Council, Birmingham Festival 23 is set to celebrate the city’s creativity, and act as a sign of its ongoing commitment to accessible culture for everyone,

Arts Council England and University of Birmingham were announced as Principle Partners in May and Hollywood Monster as Presenting Partner.

The 10-day programme of free events that showcase the City’s rich cultural offer will be announced at the end of June.

When the Festival was launched in March, an open call to submit performances for its ‘Made In Brum’ community programme was announced and had a fantastic response in just a few weeks.

The Festival will echo the city-centre experience of the Games with live music and performance, creative and participatory activities, and big-screen content to conjure the shared experiences, magic and memories of the summer of 2022. 

The Festival also serves to celebrate the city’s creativity through a programme committed to diversity, inclusion and homegrown talent and will be another bold showcase of Birmingham’s talent, character and reputation as a world-class destination for major events.

The Choir With No Name to perform at the Opening Night of Birmingham Festival 23The Choir With No Name to perform at the Opening Night of Birmingham Festival 23
The Choir With No Name to perform at the Opening Night of Birmingham Festival 23

What Birmingham Festival Creative Director says about the Opening Event:

Festival Creative Director, Raidene Carter, says of this part of the event: ‘We think Birmingham deserves a massive pat on the back for what we all achieved last year, and we want everyone who comes along to remember that they played some part in it all and should feel an enormous sense of pride.

“A Thousand Welcomes will be entertaining and rouse positive emotions; by re-looking at some of the highlights of last year, but through a new cultural lens, we hope to recreate some of that big Summer of 2022 atmosphere, relive some of the memories and importantly, show just how creative the Games were.”

What Birmingham Music Archive & Friendly Fire Band says about Birmingham Festival 2023

Jez Collins, Birmingham Music Archivesaid: ‘I’m so excited to be part of the team programming the opening night of Birmingham Festival 23. Last summer was so joyous and I was so proud that On Record was the sonic love letter to Birmingham that helped to soundtrack the Games.

“To hear the songs in the stadium and at the Live Sites was magic but this event promises something we didn’t manage to make possible last year with three On Record artists performing live together for the first time. Think of this as a Sonic ‘Live’ Letter to Brum!’”

Robin Giorno, Friendly Fire Band said: Being part of On Record and the Games and B2022 Festival last year was incredible. When we wrote It’s A Brum Ting, we knew it was a catchy song but we had no idea that Brummies would take it so much to their hearts.

“To hear it sung back at us is amazing! And it’s not just popular in Birmingham! It’s part of our set and always gets a great reaction wherever we are playing. We can’t wait to play it on the opening night of Birmingham Festival 23 and get the whole crowd singing along. What a way to start 10 days of fun in Brum!”