Birmingham’s musical heritage commemorated with two new murals for the city

City of Colours – a Birmingham based urban arts company that hosts the city’s largest celebration of street art – is to unveil two new murals and stage an exhibition highlighting the city’s musical heritage created by young people.

Organisers worked alongside Jez Collins founder of the Birmingham Music Archive and Birmingham City University Researcher, to run a ten-month project aimed at highlighting the city’s rich musical history. The Our Musical Roots project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Young Roots programme, involved children under 16 in underprivileged areas of Highgate, Digbeth and Lozells, and was designed to break down perceptions and increase awareness of Birmingham’s musical heritage.

City of Colours, who spoke to a group of young people under 16, discovered that 89% of those interviewed could not name a single musician from Birmingham.

City of Colours and Birmingham Music Archive worked with three youth groups to produce street art murals that reflected their research into Birmingham’s musical roots. The murals will now be unveiled in Lozells and Highgate in October, with a final exhibition at the renowned Muthers Studio in Digbeth displaying reimagined album artwork, vinyl collages, a lyrical installation and a timeline of Birmingham musical heritage in November.

Young people from St. Martin’s Youth Centre, Highgate and the youth homelessness prevention charity St. Basil’s, explored the rich musical history of Birmingham, focusing on music of black, Asian and white origin. The young people attended a summer school, where they took part in a number of music heritage based workshops and activities, with a number going on to complete a Bronze Arts Award.

Jez Collins, founder of Birmingham Music Archive, said:

Birmingham’s impact on the global music industry is criminally overlooked in comparison to cities like Manchester and Liverpool, yet Birmingham has a rich, diverse and sustained history of music activity. The roots of reggae dig deep – four blokes from Aston conquered the world and spawned heavy metal in the process and the city is home to the centre of England’s Asian music industry. It’s so important to keep this history alive and to celebrate, preserve and embrace it! Projects like this are vital in inspiring young people to be proud of their musical roots, to create their own music and to pass it down for generations to come.

Becci Wright, director at City of Colours, said:

We’re extremely proud of the work that the young people have produced through the Our Musical Roots programme and can’t wait to unveil their findings. Music is such a big part of our cultural heritage and has a huge impact on many aspects of our lives. It’s essential for Birmingham that its great musical history is kept alive and by instilling a sense of pride in our history, we stand a greater chance of preserving it.

The first Our Musical Roots mural will be unveiled at St. Martin’s Youth Centre, Highgate on Saturday 22 October, 1-3pm, with a special guest speech delivered by Amlak Tafari of Yellow Wall Productions and Grammy Award-winning Steel Pulse at 1.35pm. The second launch will be launched at Aspire & Succeed, Lozells on Saturday 29 October at 1pm – 3pm. Entrance is free, and there will be live music, workshops and street food available on the day. Our Musical Roots Exhibition takes place on Thursday, 17 November from 7pm at Muthers Studio.