The Birmingham 2022 Festival today announces that the six-month celebration of creativity attracted an audience of over 2.4 million making it the largest cultural programmes to have accompanied a Commonwealth Games.
Audiences came from across the UK, with more than 750,000 enjoying the programme on offer at the 9 free Festival Sites during the 11 days of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Furthermore, an audience of nearly 500,000 saw artworks displayed in public spaces and there were over 500,000 engagements with artworks digitally.
Now, with the festival in its closing days it is projected that audiences of more than 730,000 will have also attended events, exhibitions and performances across the six-months of the festival bringing the total figure to over 2.4 million.
Since March the festival has hosted a packed programme of over 200 events with thousands of individual performances, talks, screenings, exhibitions openings, workshop sessions and opportunities to take part in activities, ranging from a tap-dance on Ironbridge to making carnival costumes in Perry Barr as well as crafting gifts for competing Commonwealth athletes.
The Birmingham 2022 Festival was very much made by the region with 82% of creatives from Birmingham and the West Midlands. This included 106 community-led projects through the festival’s Creative City initiative, funded by Birmingham City Council, which connected local communities through art right across the city which incorporated arts activities and events created with residents in the city’s 25 most deprived wards.
There were also contributions and collaborations with 23 Commonwealth countries.
Early estimates also show that festival audiences came from a diverse range of backgrounds that reflected the programme and its celebration of the region. All audience findings will be made available in a full evaluation report to be published in January 2023.
Martin Green, Chief Creative Officer at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games said: “The success of the Birmingham 2022 Festival speaks for itself and is a testament to Birmingham and the West Midlands’ amazing creative sector. The last six-months have brought so many people together through a diverse and vibrant programme. We’re really proud of how the region’s creative organisations got behind Birmingham 2022 and to have had honest conversations about the Commonwealth. I’d like to thank all the creatives whose work always inspired and our funders for their trust and belief in the talent of the West Midlands.”
Raidene Carter, Executive Producer for the Birmingham 2022 Festival said: “We hope everyone who created and came to the festival will be as excited as we are by these early findings. There’s a lot to be proud of and I’m delighted we’ve been able to showcase how diverse and inclusive the West Midlands is through a festival of wholly brand-new work. In many ways it’s been a creative time capsule for 2022 and it’s so exciting for the future. Working with our partners, we will now turn our attention to defining what the legacy of the festival can be to make the most of this moment.”
Birmingham 2022 Festival’s ambitious programme aimed to tell stories of our place in the Commonwealth; the present moment; and stories of Birmingham and the West Midlands. It included:
- The outdoor spectacular Wondrous Stories which was seen by an audience of over 20,000 in Centenary Square and watched by a further 14,000 online.
- 15,000 keys were awarded to the people of Birmingham in Key to the City - an extraordinary gesture which gave anyone and everyone the freedom to visit a range of private and intriguing spaces around the city.
- On Record – a new album by Birmingham artists featuring specially commissioned tracks such as It’s a Brum Ting by Friendly Fire Band and Champion by UB40 – gave global music fans a chance to listen to the sound of the city for free and to date has had 400,000 streams.
- Birmingham’s city-centre sculpture of Queen Victoria was stunningly reimagined by Guyanese-British artist Hew Locke. Foreign Exchange created a vision of Queen Victoria standing in a boat surrounded by smaller replicas being sent out to represent her across the British Empire.
- Queer artists from Commonwealth countries - including South Africa, Ghana, Canada, India, Australia and New Zealand - were celebrated in Healing Gardens of Bab – an epic and reflective programme of queer art in streets, squares and shopping centres as well as traditional spaces.
- Critical Mass, the festival’s flagship participation programme funded by Spirit of 2012, engaged 242 young people aged 16 - 30 who identify as D/deaf, Disabled and non-disabled giving them the opportunity to perform side by side at major events including the opening of the Birmingham 2022 Festival and the Opening Ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The Birmingham 2022 Festival was made possible thanks to generous support totalling £12.4 million from a range of funders including Arts Council England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Birmingham City Council and Spirit of 2012.
John Crabtree OBE, Chair of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, said:
“The Birmingham 2022 Festival extended the experience of the Commonwealth Games contributing to unforgettable moments in the spotlight for Birmingham and the West Midlands. Thank you to the incredibly dedicated and hard-working Festival team for delivering such an innovative, rich and generally amazing programme of events. These results are a testament to the way all of us embraced Birmingham 2022.”
Peter Knott, Area Director for Arts Council England, said: “We’re so proud to have supported Birmingham 2022 Festival as part of the Commonwealth Games. The Festival has allowed people from Birmingham and beyond to experience and take part in world-class culture on their doorstep, as well as unleashing their talent and creativity on an international stage. Large-scale cultural programmes that surround events like the Games have the power to transform places and make people and communities happier, and I look forward to seeing how the Games will continue to shape Birmingham’s future.”
Anne Jenkins, Executive Director - Business Delivery, at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “We are delighted that over two million people engaged with the Birmingham 2022 Festival over the Summer. Thanks to funds raised by National Lottery players, we were able to shine a spotlight on the unique creativity and heritage of the West Midlands, and it’s been wonderful to see to see visitors from far and wide enjoy our region’s rich cultural heritage during these once in a lifetime Commonwealth Games.”
Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “If anyone needed any evidence the Commonwealth Games was more than 11 days of fantastic sport, the Birmingham 2022 Festival is just that.
“Over the last six months it has showcased the creativity and vibrancy of the city and wider West Midlands to a huge audience from far and wide, helping showcase and support our amazing breadth of artistic talent.
“As the Proud Host City for the Games, it is particularly pleasing we were able to fund the Creative City strand of the Festival – the first time there was a community-led strand of a formal Commonwealth Games cultural programme, representative of all communities in the city. We will build on this with our emerging plans for an annual Birmingham international festival, as one of our key legacies from what the city has just achieved.”
Ruth Hollis, Chief Executive, Spirit of 2012 said: "It was a joy to see the Birmingham 2022 Festival unfold this summer alongside the hugely successful Games. We are very proud to have been able to fund Critical Mass whose inclusive dance performances across the summer and at the Opening Ceremony certainly were exceptional, as well as community projects Playing Out in Canley and All Roads Lead to Alexander. What's important now is to ensure from this a lasting legacy of arts participation, inclusion and volunteering to benefit West Midlands residents for years to come."
Sports and Arts Minister Stuart Andrew said: "The Birmingham 2022 Festival showcased the fantastic creativity of the West Midlands and helped make Birmingham 2022 a Games for everyone. I am delighted it has reached so many people from across the UK and hope it will inspire many more to enjoy the vibrant art and culture of the region."
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The Commonwealth Games this summer represented a spectacular moment of collective celebration for our region. These Games were always about so much more than the sport alone and the Birmingham 2022 Festival was a shining example of that – putting on a cultural programme of epic size and scale.
“Here in Birmingham and across the wider West Midlands, we’re blessed with a vibrant, world-class, and dynamic creative industry. So the Festival was a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase the creativity of our artists, citizens, and organisations to the world - instilling pride and belonging.
“Congratulations to the Festival team for helping local people to feel a part of something truly special and historic that happened right on their doorstep.”