Our opening event ‘One City, A Thousand Memories’

Opening Event: Friendly Fire Band

Our opening event ‘One City, A Thousand Memories’

Opening Event: Friendly Fire Band

On 28 July Birmingham Festival 23 kicks off the 10-day celebrations by marking the one year anniversary of the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Audiences can expect a party atmosphere in Centenary Square at the opening event, welcoming a host of artists and special guests to conjure the magic and memories of summer 2022.

‘One City, a Thousand Memories’ is the opening event on 28 July which will kick off the 10 day, completely free, Birmingham Festival 23.

Soulful house DJ Echo Juliet and BBC Asian Network’s Bobby Friction will build excitement on the square from 6pm ahead of the show which will start at 7pm. Turn up early to grab a good spot and soak up the atmosphere. The event will be hosted by award-winning BBC presenter Ayo Akinwolere and DJ and Radio 1Xtra presenter Kaylee Golding, who will bring their energy and enthusiasm, guiding everyone through a packed evening which is set to finish at around 10pm.

The Festival site on Centenary Square will feature a big screen where you can expect to see newly-commissioned short films, B2022 highlights and messages from a few familiar faces which will be kept a surprise until the night. 

‘We think Birmingham deserves a massive pat on the back for what we all achieved last year, and we want everyone who comes along to remember that they played some part in it all and should feel an enormous sense of pride. One City, A Thousand Memories will be entertaining and rouse positive emotions; by re-looking at some of the highlights of last year, but through a new cultural lens, we hope to recreate some of that big Summer of 2022 atmosphere, relive some of the memories and importantly, show just how creative the Games were’.

Raidene Carter, Festival Creative Director

B2022 Mascot, Perry, will make a special appearance with his favourite Bhangra group the Dhol Blasters, to fire up the audience and get people moving. As a standing event, people should come prepared to move around but there will also be an accessible viewing platform for those who need it. Accessibility is really important to the Festival, and the event will be BSL interpreted and audio described. 

A collaboration with Team England will bring a parade of Birmingham 2022 medal-winning athletes followed by an emotional performance from Birmingham Conservatoire-trained Mezzo-Soprano, Samantha Oxborough (who performed the national anthem at the 2022 Opening Ceremony) with The Choir with No Name (who were part of Birmingham 2022 Festival’s opening event ‘Wondrous Stories’). They’ll be supported by community BSL choir Music in Motion who came through the Festival’s Made in Brum open call – for a moving musical tribute that organisers think everyone will want to join in with. 

The final part of the evening will take place on the fountain area of Centenary Square in front of the Festival’s iconic stage which will literally light up Birmingham! Ayo and Kaylee will introduce speeches and interview guests before welcoming a live music finale courtesy of Birmingham Music Archive.

‘I’m so excited to be part of the team programming the opening night of Birmingham Festival 23. Last summer was so joyous and I was so proud that On Record was the sonic love letter to Birmingham that helped to soundtrack the Games. To hear the songs in the stadium and at the Live Sites was magic but this event promises something we didn’t manage to make possible last year with three On Record artists performing live together for the first time. Think of this as a Sonic ‘Live’ Letter to Brum!’

Jez Collins, Birmingham Music Archive

Drawing from Birmingham Music Archive’s On Record album – the specially-commissioned ‘Sonic Love Letter’ to Birmingham for the B2022 Festival last year – the final part of the evening will feature an eclectic mix of Birmingham’s musical talent, some of whom became household names as a result.  Singer, dancer and multi-instrumentalist Bambi Bains will kick off, followed by Urban Music Award winner SANITY, before headliner, Friendly Fire Band, take to the stage for a finale that everyone will know the words to and go home singing!

‘Being part of On Record and the Games and B2022 Festival last year was incredible. When we wrote It’s A Brum Ting, we knew it was a catchy song but we had no idea that Brummies would take it so much to their hearts. To hear it sung back at us is amazing! And it’s not just popular in Birmingham! It’s part of our set and always gets a great reaction wherever we are playing. We can’t wait to play it on the opening night of Birmingham Festival 23 and get the whole crowd singing along. What a way to start 10 days of fun in Brum!’

Robin Giorno, Friendly Fire Band

Commissioned by Birmingham City Council as a sign of its ongoing commitment to accessible culture for everyone, with additional support from Arts Council England, Birmingham Festival 23 celebrates the city’s creativity taking over Centenary Square from Fri 28 July – Sun 6 August. A 10 day programme of free events that showcases the City’s rich cultural offer will be announced in June.

The full programme for Birmingham Festival 23 will be announced on 28 June.