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Bursting with creativity, the West Midlands boasts a burgeoning contemporary arts scene. Home to an internationally-renowned orchestra, opera and art, the region’s literary pedigree gave us William Shakespeare and JRR Tolkien, which goes hand-in-hand with cutting-edge exhibitions, festivals and more.
Find eclectic music booming from a disused custard factory in trendy Digbeth. Take a graffiti tour around the city, or explore Birmingham’s canals by kayak. Discover one of Europe’s best hidden art collections or watch opera in pop-up locations. Alternatively, throw on some threads and head for a night of cabaret in its booming gay district. Whatever takes your fancy, here’s a look at the West Midlands’ creative scene.
Like…the Birmingham Festival
To accompany the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, the Birmingham 2022 Festival celebrates creativity across the region. From eye-catching displays to imaginative exhibitions, a packed events calendar concludes in the summer, including a city-centre planted forest where you’ll be able to move to live music under a canopy of trees.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Birmingham’s Pride Festival. Hit the city’s vibrant gay village, and discover cabaret fit for kings and queens. Look out for Pride House Birmingham’s extensive entertainment programme too.
Discover…a Mela with a difference
Attracting A-list performers from Bhangra to Bollywood, Europe’s largest South Asian Mela also has a village-sized area of food stalls to munch your way around.
Like…the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Typically putting on more than 150 performances a year in Birmingham and around the world, the Birmingham's Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) is internationally renowned. Stretching its strings beyond just classical, you can expect to hear anything from symphonic disco to film scores. Also check out the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire for some high-end post-grad performances.
Love…the city’s ballet and opera
The gravity-defying athleticism of the Birmingham Royal Ballet comes to life in this triple bill to mark the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. But if you fancy something altogether quirkier, see a performance by the Birmingham Opera Company, which in the past has sung its way around aircraft hangers and a burnt-out ice rink.
Discover…the West Midlands’ musical roots
The West Midlands boasts musical giants like Duran Duran and award-winning Laura Mvula. But Coventry is the birthplace of two-tone music. Or head to the retro industrial vibe around Digbeth’s The Custard Factory, for thumping musical venues. Check out house music at The Mill, indie acts at The Sunflower Lounge, rock at Deadwax, or slip into some late-night jazz at The Jam House.
Like…quirky contemporary art
Birmingham canal quarter is home to the Ikon Gallery. Home to ever-changing contemporary art exhibitions, check out its range of ‘off-site pieces’, including a statue in Victoria Square reimagined by artist Hew Locke for the Birmingham 2022 Festival.
Love…getting hands on in Coventry
Coventry’s Herbert Art Gallery and Museum hosted the 2021 Turner Prize and supports eclectic collections and classes. Alongside one on the legend of Lady Godiva – who supposedly once rode naked on horseback through the streets of Coventry – there’s also classes on silversmithing, figure drawing and more.
Discover…art in unassuming places
In an unassuming university building in the heart of the city campus, you’ll find one of the most impressive collections of European Art, spanning 500 years. Find works by Van Gogh and Picasso at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, as well as a concert hall celebrated for its opera and theatrical offering.
Like…bringing the world of Shakespeare to life
Head to Stratford-upon-Avon to explore the birthplace of the bard, William Shakespeare. Wander around Anne Hathaway Cottage and New Place, or watch on as the Royal Shakespeare Company put their twist on the playwright’s work.
Love…the inspiration for Middle Earth
Britain will become the new home for the second series of Amazon Studios’ Lord of the Rings. Why not whet your appetite and get a feel for the places that inspired The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, including Sarehole Mill, on the J R.R. Tolkien trail?
Discover…a new side to Birmingham’s past
Take a guided canal tour of Birmingham by kayak with volunteers at the Roundhouse to see the city from a new perspective. You can also whip your kayak away from the centre and discover the city’s greener, more tranquil stretches of water.