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Exhibition Celebrates Birmingham’s Musical Heritage

TRIBUTE: The new Musical Roots mural at St Martin's Youth Centre in Birmingham (Photo - Rebecca Orleans)

CITY OF Colours – a Birmingham based urban arts company that hosts the city’s largest celebration of street art – is about 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, which include some deep reggae roots.

The Our Musical Roots project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Young Roots programme, involved children under 16 living in 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 per cent 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 were unveiled in Lozells and Highgate in October.

A final exhibition at the renowned Muthers Studio in Digbeth will display artwork that includes 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.

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

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