The unmissable Polinations event in Victoria Square for the Commonwealth Games Festival finale

A magical forest of real plants and manufactured ‘supertrees’ will take over the centre of Birmingham city centre for a fortnight from September 2

The PoliNations event will mark the end of the Commonwealth Games and its cultural Birmingham 2022 Festival.

The garden of magical proportions is taking over Birmingham’s city centre from 2 - 18 September for a celebration of cultural diversity in the UK through the lens of British horticulture.

Organisers have announced the programme for the event, which will see 40-feet high-engineered trees tower over Victoria Square.

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    What events are planned?

    The PoliNations programme will unravel across two main stages, including the Main Stage and Mother Tree Stage, as well as a workshop dome, Wondersphere.

    From September 2-18 there will be daily free events in the forest, with live music, tours, talks and performances, and a spectacular light show every evening. The Glam Dome will house designers including Joey A Frenette, aka Bourgeoisie from RuPaul’s Drag Race, helping people make their own costumes.

    An artist render of PoliNations, courtesy of Trigger Collective

    Plant Up!

    Friday 2 - Sunday 4 September

    Plant Up! will see diverse local community groups and schools planting flowers in the super garden accompanied by Head Gardeners from The Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

    Poetry & Performance Festival

    Friday 9 - Sunday 11 September 2022

    The Poetry & Performance Festival, in partnership with BBC’s Contains Strong Language, will highlight 22 poets from across the Commonwealth, including both regional and UK poetry talents.

    Special performances will include ‘White Juju’, a live musical performance written in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, Black British History and lockdown by saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch.

    Jasmine Gardosi, a poet, slam champion and beatboxer whose poems explore sex education, LGBTQ+ issues and mental health, will present a genre-defying performance with ‘Dancing to Music You Hate’.

    The Ballistic Seed Party

    Thursday 15 - Sunday 18 September 2022

    The Ballistic Seed Party will be a four-day weekend finale celebrating self-expression with queer, South Asian, African and Caribbean artists from the West Midlands leading the programme.

    Thursday offers a day of glitz and glam for all the family, whilst Friday evening provides an Indian summer’s evening of dance and music.

    On Saturday September 17 as part of the colourful finale, the supertrees will burst into a cloud of confetti and colour for the Ballistic Seed Party. It’s described as “Pride, Carnival and Holi combined in one brilliant, messy, playful all-day-all-night party”.

    At Chamberlain Square, visitors can attend free costume-making workshops with esteemed designers Clary Salandy and Bourgeoisie, aka Joey A. Frenette, in preparation for the final party on Saturday.

    Visitors will also discover vibrant Rangoli street art by Ranbir Kaur unfolding across Chamberlain Square and Victoria Square and will be able to have their hands decorated by henna artists.

    Polinations coming to Victoria Square, Birmingham

    Iconic Lunchtime Talks

    A series of Iconic Lunchtime Talks hosted by drag artist Yshee Black will delve into topics including freedom of expression, protest, decolonisation, sustainability and wellbeing.

    See, Taste & Touch

    Tea Tuk Tuk Chai Wallah, in partnership with Dishoom Restaurants, will be a place to enjoy a cup of tea every day whilst exploring the history of the beverage and its journey to the UK.

    From Soil to Sip will invite participants to discover fragrant seeds and plants and brew the perfect mix of herbs and spices.

    Touch Tours of the super garden will also be offered on selected days for those who are blind, partially sighted or would benefit from a tour of the site exploring textures and sounds.

    Wellbeing & Relaxation

    Daily events to relax the body and mind will span the PoliNations site.

    Each day begins with the Awakening, a soundscape by internationally renowned composer Max Perryment and closes with the Sunset Shift, a light and soundscape created by Lighting Designer Matt Daw and Sound Designer Tom Gibbons.

    It is inspired by the sound of the bullroarer and transitions the super garden from day to night.

    An artist render of PoliNations event at the Commonwealth Games Festival (Credit THISS, Carl Robertshaw)

    Is there a message behind the wonderful display in Victoria Square and what happens to all the plants when the Commonwealth Games Festival is over?

    Part of the message behind PoliNations is to show the importance of migration for plant life as well as people, as 77 per cent of plants found in the UK’s cities originated overseas. For example, weeping willows were introduced from China, apple trees from Kazakhstan and tulips from Central Asia.

    PoliNations is part of Unboxed: Creativity in the UK, a programme featuring 10 large-scale events throughout the UK in 2022, bringing together top minds in technology, engineering and arts.

    The Birmingham event will include a Spoken Word Weekend from September 10-11, featuring performances from local and international poets. Also planned is a massive Rangoli artwork that will sprawl out into the forest, with henna artists creating intricate designs.

    Once PoliNations ends, the plants and saplings will be shared with local communities, public institutions and private homes to help make the city greener. And the supertrees’ ability to use wind to generate electricity will reduce the project’s carbon footprint.

    An artist’s render of PoliNations (Credit Trigger, THISS, Carl Robertshaw, Bronia HousmaTrigger, THISS, Carl Robertshaw, Bronia Housman)

    What have the organisers said about the gorgeous display?

    Angie Bual, creative director of PoliNations, said: “PoliNations takes its inspiration from the fact that the very landscape and plant life that surrounds us each day is multicultural.

    “It celebrates the colour and vibrancy that plants and flowers have brought to the UK and invites us to reimagine our cities as greener and wilder places to be.

    “Combining engineering, horticulture, theatre and music from around the world, PoliNations is a spectacular forest garden that will ignite the senses and bring people together with an utterly unforgettable finale.”

    Martin Green, chief creative officer of Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and Unboxed, said: “PoliNations promises to be a dazzling mix of music, performance and sensational design, with something for people of all ages and backgrounds.”

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