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Tag Archives: Key to the City Brum

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Touchwood

After two abortive attempts to get to Touchwood, one at the wrong time and the other at the right time but too near the stores opening time, I arrived at the ideal time.  Midnight is when the centre allowed #keytothecitybrum holders to enter the shopping centre. As you can imagine, this is not an easy time for most people and as I walked down a dimly lit alleyway in Solihull next to McDonalds, I started to get second thoughts.  

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Touchwood
In a dark dark street….

The after-hours entrance is not a solubrious placeI as I walked down to the gates and pressed the intercom.  A voice kindly welcomed me, but I had to wait while they did their evening checks around the centre.  After 10 minutes I was admitted.  In the meantime, two other key holders had arrived.  It was dark foreboding alley, and I was apprehensive as they approached but then reassured when I saw their blue boxes holding the key. 

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Touchwood
Out of hours entrance to Touchwood

Once inside the main shopping hall, the security people took us to the information kiosk.  The key opened a locked box on the desk.  Inside were sachets of Cadbury’s drinking chocolate which the security team used to make mugs of drinking chocolate for their visitors.  We were then allowed to wander around the deserted shopping centre with our cups in hand.  It was a surreal experience.  

All the shops looked like there were in stasis just waiting for the people to arrive.  The area around the cinema was interesting without people around.  I think it was the lack of voices and general noise that made the centre feel so different.  I loved the Polestar car showroom where all the cars had their headlamps full on.  The Apple shop did not have queue outside it but of course it was not open!  The restaurants had the chairs upturned ready for cleaning.  I spent a good 45 minutes looking around, taking selfies, and looking around the empty shops.  Time then to go home and get to bed after my late night visit!

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Touchwood
No Queues at the Apple Shop LOL
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Touchwood
Night time driving in an empty shopping centre
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Touchwood
No noisy working machines
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Touchwood
Cineworld is empty!
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Touchwood
The selfie had to be done.

My Journey with the Key
If you wish to review my journey then I have published all my visits on my blog as follows.


Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, 103 Colmore Row

By far the most popular venue for the #keyofthecitybrum was Birmingham’s newly built skyscraper, 103 Colmore row. On the 18th floor, there is a south facing viewing platform that provides amazing views of the City’s major buildings.  When the Key started, Instagram was inundated with pictures of the City of Birmingham from this platform.  Many of these pictures were excellent and circulated by the social media team at 103 Colmore Row.  I left my visit to the building till late July and wondered how I could do a different picture from the platform.

Arriving in the foyer of the building with Nicky Warwickshire, my photo companion for the day @nickywarwikshire, we were met by Touwa, one of the volunteers for the Key to the City Brum.  Touwa welcomed us to 103 Colmore Row, Birmingham, England. He explained that the newly built building was a 108-metre tall 26-storey commercial office skyscraper.  We were going to the 19th Floor and above this floor is the soon to be opened restaurant on the 24th floor. We were not going to the viewing platform but to a floor that provides a 360o view.  The floor was empty, and I was able to get pictures of buildings such as the BT tower and the Rotunda.  I even did a panorama to take in the skyscrapers.  It was also possible to capture views of the people visiting who were fascinated with the views.

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, 103 Colmore Row
Admiring the view
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, 103 Colmore Row
Panorama of the City

My different picture?  I got down low and framed the top of the BT tower in the frame of the windows.  I was pleased as I had got a different view which still conveys the sense of height above the city.

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, 103 Colmore Row
A different view of the BT Tower
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, 103 Colmore Row
My picture on BBC Midlands Today

Finally a few more pictures showing the colours of the City for the Commonwealth Games taken from the 19th floor of 103 Colmore Row.

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, 103 Colmore Row
Looking over the City and beyond. What can you see?
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, 103 Colmore Row
Colours on the pillars.
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, 103 Colmore Row
The view with everyone’s favourite the BT Tower.

My Journey with the Key
If you wish to review my journey then I have published all my visits on my blog as follows.


Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Lapworth Museum

Northfield Community Garden

The 61 and 63 buses routes are ones I know well as I use them to visit the dental school at Pebble Mill. I don’t often stay on the bus but for the keys of the City Brum, I carried on and headed down to Northfield.   The final bus stop was only a short walk from the Northfield Community Garden.  There were large iron gates which were locked by the heavy but majestic Yale lock.  The gates had to be pushed open and then I entered.  

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Northfield Community Garden
The gates to the garden with lock
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Northfield Community Garden
Welcome to the garden

There was a lovely welcome sign, and a garden-decorated tractor was also there to greet you.  The garden, next to a busy road, is a mixture of different influences.  My first thought is that the plants needed a good watering, but one could not overlook the enthusiasm that the gardeners have for the place.  There are several car tyres used to good effect providing places for the growing plants.  There were some welcome benches where one could sit down and take in the area.  In one way it was chaotic, but this was also its charm.  

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Northfield Community Garden
Colourful display
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Northfield Community Garden
Colourful tyres
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Northfield Community Garden
Colourful chairs
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Northfield Community Garden
Colourful Garden Shed

As the garden sits next to the busy Longbridge bypass, there is a dull noise of traffic in the background.  Over time this noise recedes, and it is possible to relax, reflect and take in the surroundings.   I loved the garden shed which was a colourful metal container painted with several colourful designs.  Overall, a pleasant place to visit and wander around.

Lapworth Museum

I took the 61 bus back up the Bristol road and jumped off for the University.  This #keyofthecitybrum was home territory for me as my visit was to the Lapworth Museum which is part of the University of Birmingham.  The museum has won several local awards and been nominated for national awards.  Geology is the theme, and this is highlighted by the magnificent Rock wall which reaches up to the ceiling.  The display cabinets have many drawers to pull out with each one revealing different parts of the collection The large number of windows make the museum a delight and the light streaming through is a feature of the place.  

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Lapworth Museum
Lovely designs

But the centrepiece is a large dinosaur which is centre piece to the main museum room.  Rory the Allosaurus is a commanding skeleton, and he is also the key to finding the lock as described in the instructions.  Finding the lock could have been a challenge but I was ready for something hidden having already been to Acocks Green Cemetery.  I found the lock in the cabinets opposite to Rory and inside there was a fascinating display of various rocks and fossils.  The pictures of the colours from the rocks is shown in the pictures. This treasure hunt for the key was rewarded with a lovely display.  Very well done.

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Lapworth Museum
Rory shows the way

My Journey with the Key
If you wish to review my journey then I have published all my visits on my blog as follows.


Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Green Lane Mosque

This venue like all the others was unique and the #keytothecitybrum takes you to places that you would never normally visit. Green Lane Mosque is in Small Health Birmingham not far from the Birmingham City Football ground. It is an easy venue to find and parking in the supermarket car park, I made my way over to the Mosque. It once was a swimming pool and the red brick architecture stands out against the modern supermarket buildings.

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Green Lane Mosque
Anna who was one of the #keytotheciotybrum visitors

This is Anna who is a Key to the City participant, and I met her whilst I was waiting to enter Green Lane Mosque in Small Heath Birmingham.  She was with her friend Myrtle who I met previously when I went to pick up my Key at New Street station.  Anna picked up my Manchester accent.  These days I forget about my life in Bolton and Manchester and even though I have lived in Birmingham since 1985, my original accent still comes through.  Anna is from Birmingham but left during her teenage years and then returned.  She is dressed up modestly with long hem and scarf for her visit to the mosque.  We are by door G for key holders.  We found that the electronic key did not work, and we chatted as we went around to the main office.  I also learnt that Anna had lived in North Wales as well.  

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Green Lane Mosque
Salim the centre manager greets us and explains the day to day activities in the Mosque

Salim, the centre manager for Green Lane Mosque, met us and introduced himself. He explained that the full name is Green Lane Masjid and community.  As a Key to the City holder, we are invited to observe the Dhuhr (noon) prayer. The exact time of prayer changes each day, so I checked the time on the website and found it was 1.30pm.  I arrived 15 minutes before prayer time and Salim greeted myself and the other Keyholders.  He was very patient with us and explained what would be happening at prayer time and then showed us to our viewing area.  Once prayers had finished, he gave us a tour of the mosque. 

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Green Lane Mosque
Dhuhr (noon) prayer and the observer room.

 The history of the building was fascinating as it was once a public swimming bath.  I put some pictures of my visit up on Facebook and one of my friends came back saying she remembered her swimming lessons at Green Lane.  We were shown different parts of the mosque including the library, the activity area and the area leading to the tower.  At the end of the visit, we were given a bag with a copy of the Koran in English, a keyring, and some chocolates.  Overall Salim and the community extended wonderful hospitality to us and I left with some wonderful memories.

Dhuhr (noon) prayer.
The half round metal surrounds were part of the design of the swimming baths.
Dhuhr (noon) prayer.
The black and white brings out the architecture of the building.
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Green Lane Mosque
Shoes off
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Green Lane Mosque
View of the Mosque

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Green Lane Mosque
Salim with the incense burner

My Journey with the Key
If you wish to review my journey then I have published all my visits on my blog as follows.


Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Hall Green Library

The following visits were quiet and enabled me to reflect on my journey around Birmingham with my #keytothecitybrum. Two different venues but each allowing a key holder to stop, pause and take in life.

Robin Hood Cemetery

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Acocks Green Cemetery
Approach to Lavender walk
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Acocks Green Cemetery
Opening the vault.

The key took me to Robin Hood Cemetery near Hall Green, a place I have visited several times previously saying my respects to good friends who have passed away.  This time it was for the #keyofthecityBrum project.  The place was relatively quiet as when a large funeral is access is difficult with the number of cars around.  When I arrived, there was a funeral in process and I kept discreetly in the background.  Passing the main buildings, I made my way to the pergola over a path called Lavender walk.  Here the overground vaults were laid out along the walk.  The key opens one of these vaults.  There were no signs or indications of where this would be.  After 5 minutes I looked up a photographic colleague, Elliot Brown who had already discovered the vault.  Reading his account, I realised which vault I should focus on.  Immediately I saw that there was one vault which was slightly different to the rest and had a lock on the front.  My key opened the vault and inside there were drawings, ceramic pins, and other objects.  There was a lovely poem about the sea and a few other notes.  An interesting find that makes one pause and reflect.

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Acocks Green Cemetery
Mementoes left in the vault
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Acocks Green Cemetery
A poem about the sea.
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Acocks Green Cemetery
The Lavender walk

Hall Green library

All the public libraries in Birmingham were participating in the #keyofthecityBrum project.  You just needed to visit one of the listed libraries to access a lock.  

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Hall Green Library
Entrance to Hall Green Library

As it turned out Hall Green library is not far from Robin Hood Cemetery.  I arrived just after lunchtime as the Birmingham libraries close for an hour and reopen at 2pm.  The place was busy, but the librarian showed me the metal box which was padlocked.  My key opened the lock allowing me to access a red book.  Opening this book, I found that I was asked to write down a list of my experiences of visiting the various places in the #keytothecityBrum.  The book was brand new, and the librarian informed me that I was the first person to visit Hall Green Library and ask to see the box.  I wrote down my entry replaced the book and  locked the padlock.  I left thanking the librarians.  Outside I took several pictures.  My thoughts outside included asking how libraries are surviving in the present era of digital changes. This library may look a little dated on the outside, but it was very much part of the community judging by the number of people who were using it.

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Hall Green Library
The safe box in the Library
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Hall Green Library
Retrieving the book out of the safe.
Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022, Hall Green Library
My reflections.

My Journey with the Key
If you wish to review my journey then I have published all my visits on my blog as follows.


Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022

My next visits with #keytothecitybrum involved both a train station and a football ground. This is an account of my travels to two different venues.

New Street Train Station

Having passed through New Street Train station countless times, I wondered what surprise the key would provide.  The instructions were to go the end of platform one and announce your arrival at the door.   There was a wait as a prior party made the visit and then it was my turn.  There were two members of staff who took me down the stairs.  One of them, worked at the station but had never seen the underground tunnels.  We walked along an access tunnel and then we entered the area under the platforms.  Whilst you were allowed to take pictures along this access corridor, I was given strict instructions not to pictures of the tunnels under the platforms.  The tunnels were originally used to connect with the Mailbox for mail delivery.  They are now used to deliver refreshments to the trains that pass through New Street. This was a good key location and gave access to a very interesting part of the City of Birmingham.

A trip to the Hawthorns

Taking part in the #keyofthecitybrum is not just about the places you visit. The key allows you to meet people who live and work in the West Midlands.  My journey with the key took me to the Hawthorns, the home of West Bromwich Albion Football club.  My key worked in the lock and when the opened door led to a viewing platform where you could take in the football stadium. The picture is of Leah who works in the WBA Club shop.  Leah opened the door to the ground and introduced me to the football club.  She and her colleague were good company.  We talked about her father who is a lifelong WBA football supporter.  In turn, I talked about my love of Manchester City.  Two of my boyhood heroes were Jeff Astle and Tony Brown even though they did not play for my beloved City.  I told Leah that I remember WBA winning the FA cup in 1968 as it was the year before City won the cup.  This stadium is a very friendly place and happens to be one of my favourite football grounds.  I just like the Hawthorns and thank you to Key of the City Brum for allowing me to visit once again.

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022
The Hawthorns, home to West Bromwich Albion

My Journey with the Key
If you wish to review my journey then I have published all my visits on my blog as follows.


Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022

Now that the #keytothecitybrum project is over, I can reveal my full journey around the sites. I have grouped them into themes whether I visited the sites on the same day or the story of the unlocking the venues were linked together by themes. The first Chapter was described earlier in my blog where I picked up my key and visited my first venue “Artfull Expression”.

This chapter covers the story of my visits to the IKON Gallery, Symphony Hall and Selfridges.

kon Gallery 

My second key venue took me to the IKON gallery.  When we arrived, the receptionist on the front desk gave us directions.  Our key opened a rather inconspicuous cupboard in the entrance hall.  Once opened there were the letters ‘Miss You’ lit up in Neon.  That was the surprise and I laughed out loud.  I loved the installation.  

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival,
Art work by Savage

My photo buddy, Nicky was convinced there was something else and looked for some form of opening beyond the cupboard space.  The reception staff were very knowledgeable and helpful and explained that this neon letter writing was created by the artist Savage who had lifted the letters from Graffiti in the City of Birmingham.  I did return to the IKON gallery to see the “Made in Birmingham/Made in Sydney” exhibition as this was advertised during my visit.

Symphony Hall

I realise that the #keytothecityBrum is a large undertaking and that many people are going to descend on your location.  The Symphony Hall had placed an ornate box which the key opened.  Once inside there was a QR code to scan which linked to a YouTube channel. I understand that if you were lucky there were prizes to be gained but we were not winners.  

I was disillusioned with the venue as the Symphony Hall looked uninviting, and the box office personnel were not that interested in what was taking place.  Compared to the other venues, this was the most disappointing.  The success gained from this location was that we had used our key, opened the box and therefore another key location was done.  I left thinking that so much more could have been done and it was an opportunity missed.

Selfridges 

This was a fun door to open and Selfridges had put a lot of thought into what you would find.  The key gave you access to the music system in the menswear floor of Selfridges.  It was a bright yellow compartment with a bright yellow door.  Once inside you accessed a touch screen that allowed you to add your choice of record to the music being played in the store.  My choice was “Whiskey in the Jar” by Thin Lizzy.  The bright yellow colours against the dark surrounds were a photographer’s dream and I had fun taking lots of pictures.  Well done Selfridges.  To oversee the music in the menswear department was an inspired choice.

My Journey with the Key
If you wish to review my journey then I have published all my visits on my blog as follows.


Key 01 - Artfull Expression, Jewellery Quarter

Collection and the first lock

There is a “key to the city Brum” that unlocks doors around Birmingham.  What a great idea.  Such doors give the entry to special places.  Ones that you could only open with a special key. Intriguing. I always loved a good treasure hunt but how do I get access to one of these fabled keys?  The project caught the imagination of the people of Birmingham and social media was rife with the #keytothecitybrum hashtag. 

Key to the City Brum 2022
Key to the City Brum 2022 passport box.

 When the launch took place in Grand Central on a Monday morning in June, I jumped in the car and made my way to New Street station, Birmingham.  I arrived just when the launch was taking place with all the media and other important people talking about the keys.  I even got a glimpse of the artist Paul Ramírez Jonas who came up with the concept.  The project had previously taken place in New York city and was now being launched in Birmingham as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival taking place prior to the Commonwealth Games.

Key to the City Brum 2022
The reception desk at New Street Station
Key to the City Brum 2022
Sarah from the Birmingham 2022 festival who signed the pledge with me.
Key to the City Brum 2022
Me and my key!

I was near to the front of the queue to receive my key and got talking to people around me.  The picture shows Sophie who works for the Birmingham 2022 festival committee. They were instrumental in bringing ‘Keys to the City’ to Birmingham. Sophie is pictured in New Street Station holding up the pledge that we had to read and then sign before getting our ‘Keys’. To sign our pledge, there had to be two people signing it together on a table. Sophie kindly buddied up with me so that we could correctly enact the ceremony and then collect the key. Thanks to Sophie for allowing me to take her photograph. The key came in a presentation box with a leaflet in the form of a passport.  All the doors were listed with maps and instructions on how to get to them.  One of the helpers then asked me to put a sticker on the map of Birmingham postcodes. This is to show everyone where all the key holders liven around Birmingham.  The story of the places I visit will be photographed in the following weeks.   I did write up the first few places and posted my pictures on Instagram.  However, people want the opening of the doors to be a surprise so I will release my journey after the 7th August when it ends.  Until then this is the first place that I visited to give a flavour of what you encounter with your key. 

Key to the City Brum 2022
The board showing where all the participants live

There is a website for the key to the city Brum and also a link to Fierce Festival who are also involved with the organisation. Finally a link to the artist Paul Ramírez Jonas.

My first lock venue that I visited was Artfull Expression which is on Warstone Lane in the Jewellery Quarter.  My key opened the contents of the cabinet which held items used in the manufacture of jewellery.

David is the owner of Artfull Expression. His premises are one of the venues of the ‘Key to the City Brum’ event organised by the Birmingham 2022 festival. When I arrived, I was warmly met by David who explained the downstairs studio was not open due to unforeseen circumstances. He directed me to a locked cabinet that they had prepared. My ‘Key to the city’ fitted the Yale lock on the cabinet. I freed a metal rod that once removed allowed the cabinet to be opened. Inside was a description of jewellery making. David enthusiastically explained the manufacturing process to me. Also, I learnt that David is one of the Guardians of the Birmingham Assay Office. He also told me how Birmingham obtained the anchor hallmark on its jewellery. Apparently, Matthew Boulton, the 18th century industrialist, won the right on the toss of a coin in a London pub. Sheffield was the loser and was given a castle logo which they changed to a rose. David has expertise in jewellery design and Sandy will be returning to have some jewellery redesigned by him. This was a fascinating visit and the first lock opened in my Keys to the City journey.

If you want to know more then visit David at the website for Artfull Expression

My Journey with the Key
If you wish to review my journey then I have published all my visits on my blog as follows.