Black Sabbath pub The Crown next to New Street Station to be restored by Birmingham Open Media

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The not-for-profit art and technology hub BOM is looking to give a new lease of life to the heritage pub, which was first built in 1881 and has hosted Black Sabbath, Status Quo, Led Zeppelin, and UB40

A city centre pub where Ozzy Osbourne and the original members of Black Sabbath played their first gig is to be restored after lying derelict for years.

The Crown opposite Birmingham New Street station is to be the site of a new live music venue and digital centre, a project led by arts organisation BOM (Birmingham Open Media).

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On the corner of Hill Street and Station Street, The Crown has seen some of the greatest names in Rock’n’Roll take to its stage. The not-for-profit art and technology hub BOM is looking to give a new lease of life to the heritage pub, which was first built in 1881.

BOM’s project will be delivered in two stages – firstly, the centre for digital inclusion in the pub’s car park at the back of the building will aim to support excluded and disadvantaged communities in accessing society through digital. It will also look to upskill diverse and economically inactive people with digital skills.

Secondly, the restoration of The Crown itself will look to celebrate the pub’s heritage but also look ahead and invest in young, creative talent. The pub will also have a combination of two and three-bed ‘boutique art hotel’ rooms.

A prominent location in the musical map of the UK, The Crown has hosted the likes of Status Quo, Led Zeppelin, and UB40 over its rich history. The pub provided a launch pad for the inception of heavy metal and first hosted Ozzy Osbourne and co back in 1968.

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The Crown pub next to New Street Station, where Black Sabbath played their first gigThe Crown pub next to New Street Station, where Black Sabbath played their first gig
The Crown pub next to New Street Station, where Black Sabbath played their first gig | Birmingham Music Archive

Birmingham Music Archive Creator Jez Collins has been looking to rejuvenate the pub for a number of years now. He is supporting BOM with its work to give The Crown a much-needed revamp.

“I’ve had a long-standing interest in the crown because of its musical heritage,” he told the LDRS this week.

“Sabbath had their first gig there, but it was also where the first-ever live folk album was recorded. From the early 70s to the 80s, it was arguably one of the most important venues historically not just in the UK but globally. It became the birthplace of metal.”

The Crown shut down in 2014 after it was bought by Japanese development company Toyoko. Since then, it has been left to rot and is often covered in graffiti.

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Mr Collins continued: “I’ve been delighted to hear BOM’s advanced plans for the innovation centre and the bar/venue/incubation hub for music in the city. I’m a very much enthusiastic supporter – it’s such a great location.

“The idea that it’s going to be open and function as a live music venue in the city is amazing. Can you imagine saying to bands, come and play where Ozzy, Tony, Robert Plant, Jon Bonham and Judas Priest were jumping around on stage? I’m super, super excited.”

Lady Leshurr performing at BOM in November 2019Lady Leshurr performing at BOM in November 2019
Lady Leshurr performing at BOM in November 2019 | LDRS

BOM founder and director Karen Newman said she also cannot wait to get started on bringing The Crown back to life. “I’ve always wanted to make a difference in Southside District,” she said, “which is why we set up base there back in 2014. Watching The Crown close just as we opened felt like such a massive loss for the city.

“In its heyday, The Crown was a really progressive space – a hotbed of musical talent. Locally best known and loved for its metal music history, it also brought together many different music cultures and communities.

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“I’m excited to see how we can bring The Crown back to life as a progressive live music venue, pushing forwards as it always did, whilst acknowledging and celebrating its past. There’s an exciting partnership model around how we do this.”

George Brizell, 12, receiving a DJ masterclass from House of God DJ Joe Robertson at BOM in November 2019George Brizell, 12, receiving a DJ masterclass from House of God DJ Joe Robertson at BOM in November 2019
George Brizell, 12, receiving a DJ masterclass from House of God DJ Joe Robertson at BOM in November 2019 | LDRS

BOM received the blessing of Birmingham City Council to take its project forward in September, which will be providing support and acting as the accountable body. BOM has worked with the council before, leading the technology development for the Queen’s Baton during the Commonwealth Games.

The project is expected to create at least 37 jobs and help 500+ families from economically disadvantaged backgrounds get online and gain access to services. It is hoped the project can reach at least 200,000 audiences and 5,000 participants each year.

Ms Newman continued: “There’s also a real opportunity with The Crown to link in with the really innovative stuff we’ll be doing at the new centre for digital inclusion, which we’re proposing to build on the car park at the back of The Crown.

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“This purpose-built space will enable us to reach many more children and young people through our creative digital education work, share the immersive and interactive audience experiences we’re creating on-site, and scale up our digital skills and digital literacy programmes with partners such as CodeYourFuture, who do amazing work.

“It will be a really inclusive building, a meeting place for lots of different communities, a brilliant space for families seeking awesome digital experiences.”

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