Tag Archives: Birmingham city centre

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Spiceal Street Opening

Spiceal Street has been a long awaited addition to the city centre. Perfectly positioned between Bullring and the St Martin’s Church, the new restaurant dining complex has been undergoing creation since March this year. The new selection of restaurants includes Birmingham’s first Brown Bar, ChaoBaby, a chic thai banquet-style outlet, locally-run Handmade Burger Co. and a Nandos, bringing a new dimention to St. Martin’s Square.

The complex features a modern, curved facade with a sweeping metallic design, including large glass panels allow an open-plan view of each restaurant and allow light from inside to warmly shine in the square. Spiceal Street’s architecture has obviously been designed with careful consideration for the area; though in line with the style of Bull Ring’s modern shape and silver spheres, the soft edges of the complex and natural wood surfaces are at the same time un-intrusive to the traditional beauty of the St Martin’s church.

The opening was an all day event reaching into the evening with a performance from innovative dance company Motionhouse. This particular performance was a ‘Machine Dance’ production called ‘Traction’, featuring dancers interacting with mobile JCB diggers in a hauntingly captivating display. Darting in and around the moving machines, the performers deftly embraced the large vehicles as part of their routine through various jumps, lifts and sequences, leaving the crowd looking on in amazement. The music from surrounding speakers was notably dark and charged, echoing the intensity of the display alongside dramatic sweeping spotlights on the performance area.

The dance was not only impressive due to the technical abilities of each of the dancers but in its complete originality. Aspects of modern industry and the place of man in relation to machine were inevitably triggered by the performance, perhaps providing a suitable accompaniment to the setting of modernity in the form of this new restaurant complex, placed in contrast with the age and tradition still made present by the church.

Spiceal Street has certainly brought a new zest to St. Martin’s Square. The sleek design and welcoming atmosphere brought about by the opening has established it as a potential landmark of Birmingham’s centre. Not only has it created more opportunities for good food and dining in the city, the appearance of Motionhouse and their memorable performance definitely created a new sense of diversity and culture to Bull Ring and the surrounding area.

Words by Anna Lumsden
24th Nov 2011

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Birmingham Christmas Parade

On Saturday evening celebrations for the festive season began in Birmingham with a Christmas Parade through the city. Heralding the start of preparations for the famous Frankfurt Christmas Markets that will occupy the centre from Thursday 17th of November until Christmas Eve, the parade saw Victoria Square and the surrounding streets crowded with about 35,000 people of all ages, buttoned up warm and waiting in anticipation for the procession to set off.

They were in for a very varied sight: taking the lead was Santa Claus pulled in a sleigh by his reindeer, then a Nativity scene float, complete with a live donkey, closely followed by the decoratively dressed three wise men, each sitting aloof real live camels, majestically loping between the barriers of excited crowds. In a second sleigh rode Lord Mayor of Birmingham Anita Ward, alongside the Mayor’s Consort and several elves and reindeer.

Next, lofty angels on stilts looking almost ethereal drifted along in their white robes, a convoy of snowy scenes lit by sparkling fairy lights and an appearance from Frosty the Snowman. Brass band carols and a rendition of ‘Winter Wonderland’ brought a warm Christmas cheer to the scene, whilst marching drummers added a real sense of occasion to the festivities, pounding the procession forwards along a two mile route of looping from Victoria Square around Colmore Row, Temple Row, Cherry Street, Bull Street, High Street and back up New Street to the Town Hall, all beneath the city centre’s sparkling Christmas lights.

Also joining the parade were a snowman family, balloon red and white candy-canes bobbing along on stilts, gingerbread men and penguins, all followed up by another Santa Claus: this one with mechanical arms, towering high over the streets and interacting with the excitable crowds with shouts of ‘Happy Nearly Christmas Birmingham!’ Excitable children, clutching their glowing neon wands and bright, flashing wind spinners, gazed on entranced by the different characters and costumes as they passed. Another prominent feature of the event was the traditional carousel in Victoria Square, which is to remain for the duration of the Christmas Markets. It stands colourful and bright against the stately backdrop of the Town Hall and the delicate wisps of snow billowing from the Christmas trees on the Council House balcony.

Despite the undeniable atmosphere of excitement and early sense of Christmas cheer in the air on Saturday evening, an article in the Sunday Mercury the next day suggested the parade had been cause for disappointment. Birmingham’s display was criticised as being ‘lacklustre’, causing it to be overshadowed by the efforts of rival cities and for not focusing on the ‘real meaning’ of Christmas. Sure enough, a traditional Christmas is not one where Darth Vader can be found following the nativity scene flanked by an army of Storm Troopers – indeed, this does on the surface make these criticisms appear more than justified. Other more trivial aspects such as the addition of tap dancing turkeys to the parade also raised issues of relevance and were dismissed not just as ridiculous, but as a pitiable attempt to cut costs.

A spokeswoman for Birmingham City Council defended the proceedings, acknowledging the less traditional characters in the procession as a ‘different take’ on festivities, but emphasising that such additions allowed for the event to be more directed at families, particularly those with children of a young age group. It has also been revealed that some spectators voiced disappointment about no celebrity presence at the parade. However, the fact remains that were there to be an appearance of a famous face, this would most probably have been advertised to promote the event, implying that the sheer number of people who turned up to watch were purely there for the draw of a festive parade.

Surely the real meaning of the Christmas season, regardless of its extra trivialities and dressing up, is the importance of family and friends, something made clear from the fantastic turn out. Possibly more importantly is a sense of community at Christmas, which was clearly illustrated by such a wealth of different people gathering at the heart of the city, whether or not a celebrity was bothering to make an appearance.

Words by Anna Lumsden
12th Nov 2011