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Bid to market Birmingham’s heavy metal music roots hits a flat note

Bid to market Birmingham’s heavy metal music roots hits a flat note

🕔08.Oct 2013

A bold plan to promote Birmingham as a music heritage city and birthplace of heavy metal has made limited progress following months of discussions involving as many as 20 different organisations and stakeholder groups, the city council has admitted.

In February 2012 the then Tory-Lib Dem controlled council agreed that Birmingham’s place as a city of popular music should be “embedded” in cultural and economic policy, and began attempts to organise an event to celebrate the reunion of the rock group Black Sabbath.

At the heart of the strategy was the notion that Birmingham’s strong musical heritage and a thriving independent music sector could drive economic growth, if promoted properly.

The approach – dubbed Destination Birmingham – was backed by Sir Albert Bore, who became Labour council leader in May 2012 and spoke about the of the music industry at an arts and culture summit soon afterwards.

Since then efforts to find a location for a permanent Birmingham music heritage exhibition have failed, while talks with Black Sabbath’s management about a possible reunion have not been successful, although the band will perform at the LG Arena in December.

Moves to lure a major pop awards ceremony to Birmingham have been dropped on the grounds that the expense to the council of subsidising such an event would outweigh any economic benefit.

Deputy council leader Ian Ward said in a written progress report: “Initial inquiries into celebrating the reunion of Black Sabbath in the summer of 2012 could not be brought to fruition but discussion is on-going with representatives of the band members to explore possible future opportunities for recognising the significance of the band, and of heavy metal music, to Birmingham.”

Cllr Ward accepted that many of the recommendations about developing ‘Destination Birmingham – Birmingham a Music City’ are yet to be delivered.

He told the Birmingham Economy Scrutiny Committee that some 20 months after the council initially backed the music strategy, a fresh approach is underway.

Birmingham Cultural Partnership, which was to have driven the Destination Birmingham project, is no longer in existence.

It has been replaced by the Creative City Partnership, consisting of representatives from the independent cultural sector and the creative industries, as well as Creative England, the BBC, Arts Council England, Marketing Birmingham, Birmingham City University and the University of Birmingham.

Consultation about how best to develop Birmingham as a music city now involves a plethora of other bodies including the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, Town Hall, UK Trade and Investment, Library of Birmingham, Arts Council England, UK Music, the London-based agency MusicTank, Performing Rights Society for Music, and the further education sector.

Cllr Ward explained: “The Creative City group has developed its own initial assessment ‘How Culture and Creativity Can Stimulate Economic Growth in Greater Birmingham and Solihull’ which makes explicit reference to music, music tourism and the economic impact of music events.

“This document, together with recent research commissioned by the group into the barriers to growth of the creative sector, will be used to underpin a new strategic approach to creative industries development.

“A review of previous consultations and a two month process of further consultation and meetings across the local music industry supply chain, musicians, managers, labels, studios, venues, and promoters, identified a number of issues, opportunities and barriers to growth.”

A move to mount a temporary exhibition of Birmingham’s heavy metal roots at the Water Hall was unsuccessful. The NEC Group is now involved in finding a suitable location for the Capsule-curated Home of Metal exhibition, Cllr Ward said.

He added: “It is important that Capsule, which owns the intellectual property to Home of Metal and the connections to previous donors, lenders and funders, lead this process with continued support and advice from Birmingham City Council.”

City music coordinator James Burkar has identified local collectors and archivists across different music genres and city communities who might be willing to contribute to an exhibition.

Cllr Ward said: “Potential collections and archives have been contacted, with each collector open to discuss sharing. The potential exists to create and collate materials profiling acoustic music, rock, reggae, bhangra, pop, dance music and other musical areas.

“The music coordinator has met the two recognised leaders in this field – Capsule and Birmingham City University – to define a basis drawn from good practice for working with collectors and creating a shared archive resource.”

Moves to develop a musical digital archive have been given a big boost following the opening of the Library of Birmingham in Centenary Square.

Cllr Ward said: “Conversations with the Library of Birmingham have been extremely positive in principle about working with the music co-ordinator and collectors to collate, digitise and promote sharing of such materials.

“The idea of joint fundraising from external sources to support a collaborative initiative has already been discussed and this will continue to be explored as the business plan for operating the library is developed.”




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