From March to September, Birmingham is hosting the Commonwealth Games Festival, with over 200 events including the city’s largest tap dancing lesson, a new album featuring Birmingham’s finest musicians, queer power parties, a boating parade and so much more.
With so much happening, we’re making it easy to see what’s on offer with this ultimate guide to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Festival. What will you get tickets for?
What’s on at the Birmingham Commonwealth Festival?
The Key To The City
To kick off the festival, why not explore hidden parts of Brum? Gift a friend a key to the city, which will let them into private gardens, underground tunnels, a panoramic view of Birmingham and more. While the key will work until 7 August, grab one before 10 July. Sign up for free here, or turn up with a friend to exchange keys.
National Memorial Arboretum
Based in Staffordshire, the National Memorial Arboretum is home to over 400 memorials to communities from across the Commonwealth. Get involved with an outdoor escape challenge, an augmented reality experience and an immersive installation while you explore until 31 October.
Birmingham’s iconic canals are put on display in this delightful parade on 25 and 26 June.
Get playful at this natural, curated space in Smethwick, made for adults and children alike. The green environment has walls of herbs to smell and taste, areas for barefoot walking and hidden spaces to spark inspiration. An essential way to relax amidst the excitement of the festival until 3 September.
Dance at the Birmingham Commonwealth Festival
Birmingham International Dance Festival
Running from 17 June to 3 July, the Birmingham International Dance Festival is the largest in the UK. Opening with the premiere of SENSE by Critical Mass, there will be mass tap dancing with Tappin’ In, a new ballet show, dance meditations, outdoor performances and LGBTQIA+ sober dance parties. Dancing shoes at the ready!
Dance floors have historically been significant LGBTQ+ meeting places, and MOBILISE is no different. These radical, queer, accessible sober dance parties and silent discos aim to empower and celebrate, with tickets available here. 25 queer artists will also lead a processional protest at Birmingham Pride in September.
B-SIDE Hip-Hop Festival
The free festival celebrates all things hip-hop at the Birmingham Hippodrome, with breakin’ and graffiti plus DJ and MC sets. See it 17 to 19 June.
How can the Midlands welcome indigenous people in 2022? This dance work asks exactly that, in collaboration with the Canada Council and High Commission of Canada, exploring shared histories and an emerging dialogue between nations on 25 and 26 June.
Keep Dancing for the Commonwealth
There really is something for everyone at this year’s Commonwealth Festival. At Moor Pool Hall, Keep Dancing for the Commonwealth is hosting a tea dance and you’re all invited on 28 June.
Music at the Birmingham Commonwealth Festival
With eleven brand new songs from the likes of UB40, Bambi Bains and Dapz on the Map, On Record is a sonic love letter to the city. Grab it on limited edition vinyl and streaming online from 17 June, when you can also celebrate in person at the album’s launch. Later, check out On Record: In Conversation with Lekan Babalola and Kate Luxmoore, and a special live performance from Ella Chante on 12 June.
Your Love Lifts Me Up
This uplifting community song celebrates the 5,000 deaf children in the West Midlands. Created by artist collective Friends Of Cedar Church and staff and pupils of Longwill School For Deaf Children, the track celebrates British Sign Language, with three versions to listen to and a joyous song video. Keep an eye out for live performances, too.
Ceremony: Pop comes To Campus
Celebrating the history of music at the University of Birmingham, this exhibition shows unearthed posters, photographs and other materials from the likes of Joy Division, The Cure, UB40 and more. Catch it until 28 October.
Jam Jah Mondays
A weekly international reggae night at The Station, Kings Heath, Jam Jah Mondays is a free night that stems from the sound systems that have been a major part of the Birmingham music scene.
In the Que: Celebrating The Que Club
A sensory celebration of one of Birmingham – and the UK’s – greatest rave and dance music venues, this free exhibition is on until 30 October.
Feel the music in your entire body in this playful performance, which journeys through sound and silence. The performance is low capacity to keep it accessible, so get tickets quickly for 15 and 16 June.
Beyond the Bricks of Brum
Starring over 100 musicians including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Black Voices, Casey Bailey and SANITY, this night of spoken word and orchestra is not one to miss on 17 June.
In Her Shoes
This musical event features songs created by women who have journeyed to Birmingham as refugees, telling their stories about arriving in the UK and the welcome they’ve received. This is a women-only event, with tickets available here for 24 June.
Birmingham’s Children Commonwealth Music
Fun for all the family, this children’s event is open to all and full of live music and a collaborative atmosphere. Children from schools around the city have created their own piece of music, so join in with instruments or just your voice on 25 June.
Art at the Birmingham Commonwealth Festival
Head to Victoria Square to see Queen Victoria reimaged by Guyanese-British artist Hew Locke in collaboration with IKON.
One Giant Leap for Humankind
Standing tall at New Street’s Eastern Plaza, this sculpture by Jacob Chandler embodies the athleticism of the Commonwealth Games. Scan the QR code for augmented reality artefacts.
Eastside Projects are running a series of exhibitions throughout the Commonwealth Festival, including Looty Goes To Heaven, an animation by Amy Lam exploring the life of the Pekinese dog taken from China to be gifted to Queen Victoria. Rajni Perera’s Traveller looks at a diaspora of climate refugees and rapidly changing habitats through paintings, pollution wear, murals and sculpture.
From City of Empire to City of Diversity: A Visual Journey
This exhibition charts Birmingham’s journey from City of Empire to City of Diversity, including photography, portraits and stories of migration from those who laid down their roots in the city. Catch it until 18 June.
Healing Gardens of Bab
An uplifting alternative expression of gender, sexuality and family, head to the gardens to reflect on the lasting violent effects of the British Empire. Fierce will be running a number of other events until 17 July, with costume workshops, performance opportunities, talks, discussions, crafting and more.
As We Speak
Eight young artists and organisers from countries including Uganda, Malaysia, Pakistan and the UK will be showcasing their work until 30th september. Expect documentary, live performances, discussion spaces. Get tickets at beatfreeks.com.
Art and our Waterways
Take a wander down Birmingham’s famous canals until September to see some traditional canal art, immersive experiences and street art. Watch out for Past:Present too, a series of cultural projects celebrating the waterways.
Midlands Arts Centre is playing host to Garden State until 11 June, transforming MAC’s main state into a communal garden of local residents’ favourite plants. You can also enjoy yoga, photography, open mic sessions, food and music.
People, Place and Sport
It wouldn’t be the Commonwealth Festival without exploring sport in the city, and People, Place and Sport does just that. Celebrating local communities, artist Jaskirt Boora showcases a series of portraits alongside recorded conversations. See Jaskirt talk about the exhibition on 22 June too.
Mixed Rage Collective explore mixed-heritage identity in this exhibition at Midlands Art Centre. Explore the lack of representation, othering, microaggressions and displacement that being mixed-race can lead to until 26 June.
Sharon Walters: Seeing Ourselves
In her first solo exhibition, Sharon Walters’ beautiful and intricate paper cut pieces unapologetically celebrate and uplift Black women. Make space to see this at Midlands Art Centre until 26 June, and see Sharon speak on 24 June.
Blacklash: Racism and the Struggle for Self-Defence
This powerful exhibition, showing at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery until 30th October, charts the struggles of Asian and African Caribbean communities against street and state racism.
We Are Birmingham
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery’s iconic Round Room has been transformed for the gallery’s reopening. We Are Birmingham will showcase the vivid diversity of Birmingham as it is now and what it could become.
John Akomfrah: The Unfinished Conversation
Marking the ten year anniversary of John Akomfrah’s seminal film installation, The Unfinished Conversation at the Midlands Arts Centre will showcase the moving portrait of cultural theorist Stuart Hall. Catch it before 26 June, and visit the British Sign Language led tour on 23 June.
Found Cities, Lost Objects: Women in the City
If you haven’t managed to see Lubaina Himid’s work at the Tate Modern in London, don’t worry – the artist is curating an exhibition in Brum, inviting viewers to consider the experiences of women in the city as seen through art. See it before 4 September.
West Midlands Open
Celebrating the quality and diversity of the visual arts, this exhibition will showcase diverse artists from across the West Midlands. You can even take home some of the pieces you love – just take your pick before 25 September.
Blood and Fire: Our Journey through Vanley Burke’s History
One of the UK’s leading Black artists of the Commonwealth generation, Vanley Burke looks at the wider, connected Black British experience through a Birmingham lens. See it at Soho House Museum until 30 October.
Artist Julian Germain has been shooting four and five generation families in the Midlands in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games, culminating in these large scale photographic portraits. See it around the city in various locations until 30 September.
Birmingham City Transport Buses
If you love Birmingham’s iconic buses, a day trip to Transport Museum Wythall will get your wheels turning. Having owned and operated most of the buses in Birmingham until 1969, there’s a lot of history to uncover. Get tickets from £7 here, which includes free bus rides.
The Migration Blanket
This animated short by Birmingham artist and campaigner Salma Zulfiqar features over 200 pieces of artwork from students, activists, girls and women from around the Commonwealth. After the piece, which calls for a greener planet and an end to violence against women, will be followed by a live Q&A on 22 June. Get tickets here.
Theatre at the Birmingham Commonwealth Festival
Playboy of the West Indies The Musical
Showing at the Rep until 2 July, Playboy of the West Indies is set in the sleepy village of Mayaro as a mysterious stranger wrecks relationships, has women vying for his attention and men plotting his downfall. Get tickets from £14.50 here.
Where Are You? 17 - 18 June
How are Bearwood and Dzorwulu, Ghana connected? This theatre piece draws a thread between two people, thousands of miles away but both feeling like something is missing in their lives. This quest is told through live performance, live streaming, recordings and animation on 17 and 18 June.
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