2007 European Brass Band Championships - Introduction to Birmingham


4BR looks forward to the 30th European Brass Band Championships and the delights of the fine city of Birmingham.

The 30th European Brass Band Championships make a welcome return visit Birmingham, bang in the heart of the England and based this year at the fantastic Symphony Hall. Birmingham itself is now a tremendous city to come and visit and if you do get the chance to have a look around it is well worth the time and effort.

The city itself has a population of just over 1 million people and the ‘Brummies' are a very friendly and cosmopolitan people. The surrounding conurbation area of the West Midlands houses another million or so people in smaller towns such as Wolverhampton and Solihull and there are thriving ethnic communities which bring a vibrancy to the area which can most readily be found in its food and local cultural life.

Birmingham has been around for a round a Millennium or so and the name derives from the Anglo Saxon ‘Beorma ingas ham' meaning ‘home of the people of Beorma'. Come the Doomesday Book it was said to be a small town worth 20 shillings! How times have changed then (perhaps).

The advent of the Industrial Revolution really saw the area exploded in terms of industrial growth and population with a major network of canals created and the advent of the railways bringing huge amounts of raw materials for the heavy goods industries which in later times developed most readily into the huge car industry.

Today however it is the service sector that provides the main source of employment with banking (it is home of two of the major big five banks), conference and exhibitions and white-collar work. People have always used their brains in the city and the famous Lunar Society of forward thinking industrialists and the like used to meet regularly here.

An example of a Birmingham 'Council' house

Architecturally the city boasts numerous fine buildings; both civic and private that are well worth a visit, notably the original parish church of St Martin in the Bull Ring, the City of Birmingham Council House, the Museum and Art Gallery and St Chad's Cathedral. Newer buildings of note are also being built, although the awful and infamous 1960's Bull Ring Shopping Centre complex has been pulled down. The new Selfridges building and Millennium Point science and technology centre are worth a visit and are great to just look at, whilst Symphony Hall itself is a fantastic building both outside and in.  

Sports wise there is just the one premiership football team in Aston Villa, although Birmingham itself may well gain promotion by the time the Europeans are over and the local cricket ground in Edgbaston, home of Warwickshire CCC is well worth a visit too. The NIA and other venues also cater for a whole host of international events from greyhound racing to bowls and darts!

bull ring
The old Birmingham sights... (part of the old Bull Ring shopping complex)

Famous Brummies include the politician Joseph Chamberlain, JRR Tolkien, Nigel Mansell, Ozzy Osbourne and the great Tony Hancock and there is a fair old sprinkling of blue plague around the place to show that the old city has its fair share of the great and good.

The new Birmingham sights - Selfridges space age store

If you are in need of a bite to eat, the city and the surrounding districts are chock full of excellent and reasonably process restaurants with ethnic food a real speciality. The ‘Balti' Indian dish was invented in the city and there are a plethora of good quality Indian restaurants in particular a stones throw away from Symphony Hall. For those with a bit more dosh in the pocket there are even two Michelin star restaurants too at ‘Simpson's' and ‘Jessica's' both in Edgbaston.

elgarMusically the city is always alive and throbbing to the sound of some sort of beat any day of the week, from heavy metal (Birmingham is the home to the famous Black Sabbath rock band) to jazz and more easy listening material too. The city even hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998, and Symphony Hall is of course home to the famous City of Birmingham Orchestra.

Elgar's ‘Dream of Gerontius' was premiered in the city in 1900, and so it is fitting that Martin Ellerby's ‘Elgar Variations' will be premiered here too at the contest some 107 years later.

Lots to see and hear then, so take the chance if you can to find out more about England's ‘Second City'. It is well worth taking the time. 


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