Home of Metal director calls for Black Sabbath and music museum in Birmingham - here’s why

With Black Sabbath back in the spotlight following their brilliant performance at the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony, there are now calls for a more permanent tribute in Birmingham to honour the band and the city’s musical heritage

The director of Birmingham’s Home of Metal project has called for either a permanent exhibition or Black Sabbath museum to be installed in the city to honour the iconic hometown heroes.

Lisa Meyer is the director of Capsule, the organisers of the Home of Metal community project which held extremely successful Black Sabbath exhibitions in 2011 and 2019. The 2019 exhibition, which honoured Birmingham’s influence on the heavy metal genre by producing a three month programme of exhibitions and activities across six venues in the city including the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, attracted 24,000 paying visitors from 52 countries around the world.

Following Black Sabbath’s performance at the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony - and with the city’s MPs calling for Ozzy Osbourne to receive a knighthood - Lisa believes it’s time Sabbath had their own permanent tribute in Birmingham.

Lisa Meyer with Black Sabbath’s Tommy Iommi and Geezer Butler during the exhibition in 2019

The birthplace of heavy metal

Birmingham is often referred to as the birthplace of heavy metal, having spawned some of the pioneers of the genre including Sabbath, Napalm Death, and Judas Priest. Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant also hails from West Bromwich, with the band’s drummer John Bonham born in Redditch. It’s clear to see the West Midlands has had a huge influence on heavy metal and rock and roll, which is why Lisa believes it’s time for Brum to really embrace its musical history.

Speaking toBirminghamWorld, she said: “We have all of these incredible innovators of the heavy metal genre in Birmingham. in 2011, the City Council said the exhibition we put on was the most successful cultural project in the region other than the Pope’s visit.”

Ahead of the 2019 exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Lisa was invited to LA to meet with Sharon Osbourne, Bill Ward, Geezer Butler and his wife Gloria, and she also met up with Sabbath guitarist Tommy Iommi in the UK to prepare for the exhibition. Fans travelled to the city to see rare objects from the band. Items include Ozzy Osbourne’s iconic glasses and crucifix, part of Bill Ward’s drum kit used in the 1974 Cal Jam, in which Black Sabbath performed in front of 250,000 people, Tony Iommi’s home studio and outfits worn on stage at some of the band’s most legendary shows, including an one worn by Geezer Butler at a concert at Birmingham’s Town Hall.

Black Sabbath merchandise at the 2019 exhibition

The project was a huge success.

“For the exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery we had 24,000 visitors. So there is no doubt we have proven that there is an audience for this. People will flock to come and pay homage to the band. And it’s ever evolving, it’s not something that happened 50 years ago,” Lisa said.

“What’s come from Sabbath; you think about the heavy metal scenes in places like Indonesia, India and Brazil - metal is massive and it’s constantly evolving, so this is something which we should really lay claim to and we haven’t still. That’s my aim - to look at how we can do that and create something permanent for fans to come and visit.

“I think it’s really important that the city creates some kind of honour not only for Ozzy but for the whole of the band - it’s really important that they are recognised because in many ways they are bigger than the city and it’s for the city to recognise the notoriety that the’ve brought.

She added: “I know it’s a cliche, but you look at Liverpool and how they celebrate The Beatles, you look at Manchester and how they celebrate Joy Division and the other bands. There’s such a great music scene here, but there isn’t a confidence about shouting about what we’ve given to the world, and it’s not the lack of talent, it’s the lack of confidence to celebrate that talent.”

Some of the band’s most legendary shows at the Sabbath exhibition in 2019

‘There should be a museum to honour the band’

Lisa says there should be a permanent exhibition or a heavy metal museum installed in the future to celebrate Birmingham’s contribution to music, and it’s something the Home of Metal group has been working towards for a number of years.

She said: “We’ve done a lot of research, and it’s something we really want to make happen, but we need the city to work with us because I think for cultural tourism it would be such a valuable thing for the city in terms of economic regeneration, and you think about all the empty spaces that we have in the city, and I also believe it’s a catalyst for businesses.

“I think Sabbath playing the Commnwealth Games closing ceremony shows this is much broader than just your hardcore fan, and Sabbath are loved by Brummies and the world over aren’t they. For me, it’s needs to be a museum of the future and it’s about not only telling the story but also looking forward and what’s happening.”

Artwork of the Prince of Darkness

Lisa says the media coverage of the exhibitions was worth £3.3 million across major TV, radio and press outlets including the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV.

Black Sabbath fan Helen Maidiotis started a petition for Ozzy to receive a knighthood, and says the band deserve to be honoured permanently in the city. She said: “They deserve to be honoured for being Birmingham’s sons. Black Sabbath have put Birmingham on the map as they are the pioneers of metal. Without them, most of the bands today would not have existed or had the success that they have had today if it weren’t for them. The music industry owes them so much.”

Ozzy Osbourne surprised fans by closing the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022

What has Birmingham Museum said about a permanent tribute for the band?

The museum confirmed that while there are currently no plans in place to honour the band, when the museum reopens in 2024, Birmingham’s musical heritage could be a part of the museum’s gallery and exhibition spaces.

A spokeswoman for the museum said: “There are currently no permanent plans to honour Ozzy. However Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery will shut its doors again in a few weeks time whilst we continue our electrical works.

“Whilst we are closed, we will be revising all of our gallery and exhibition spaces. It’s too early to say what the museum will look like when we reopen in 2024 but I am certain that Birmingham’s musical heritage, including heavy metal, will be part of that conversation.”

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