Birmingham’s musical heritage commemorated with pop up exhibition

via Suzie for City of Colours and Birmingham Musical Archive

Birmingham’s musical heritage commemorated with pop up exhibition

City of Colours – a Birmingham based urban arts company that hosts the city’s largest celebration of street art – is to 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.

By Rebecca Orleans

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 were unveiled in Lozells and Highgate in October. A final exhibition at the renowned Muthers Studio in Digbeth will display artwork, research and findings from the young people, which includes 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. They 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.

Photo by Rebecca Orleans

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.”

Our Musical Roots Exhibition takes place on Thursday, 17 November from 7pm at Muthers Studio, and is free to attend.


City of Colours is an urban arts company with a community interest mission to provide an accessible platform for artists of all levels and backgrounds to produce, exhibit and engage with the artistic community. Our aim is to educate, influence and inspire marginalised groups and all Birmingham residents to unlock their hidden potential and participate in the regeneration and development of their local area.


The Birmingham Popular Music Archive has been established in order to recognise and celebrate Birmingham’s rich musical heritage. We want Birmingham to take pride in its musical heritage and to start shouting out about it – our rather big ambition is to capture the entire history of popular music in and from the city.


Sharing Heritage is for any not-for-profit group wanting to explore their community’s heritage. With a commitment from HLF of £3m each year, Sharing Heritage grants between £3,000 and £10,000 are now available to groups who want to discover their local heritage. Projects can cover a wide spectrum of subject matter from exploring local archaeology and a community’s cultures and traditions to identifying and recording local wildlife and protecting the surrounding environment to managing and training volunteers, and holding festivals and events to commemorate the past.

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.

This is not a sponsored post.