Birmingham Festival 23 updates

Published: Wednesday, 17th May 2023

Birmingham Festival 23 organisers update on this summer's free, 10-day festival.

  • Birmingham Festival 23 announces Mukhtar Dar and Elizabeth ‘Zeddie’ Lawal as Artistic Asociates, funded by Arts Council England
  • Additional funding from Arts Council England secured for Artistic Associates
  • Programme partners Sampad, FABRIC and ACE Dance & Music share a taste of what’s to come in their takeover days
  • Birmingham Festival 23 - a  10-day festival of free cultural events will take place from Fri 28 July - Sun 6 August in Centenary Square

Following the announcement of Birmingham Festival 23, and confirmed funding from Arts Council England, we are pleased to reveal that local artists Elizabeth ‘Zeddie’ Lawal and Mukhtar Dar joined the Festival team as Artistic Associates.

Mukhtar and Zeddie have been working closely with Creative Director Raidene Carter and the wider producing team to bring their broad experience, perspective and knowledge of the city’s cultural communities to help ensure a varied and exciting festival programme that is relevant to the city’s diverse audiences. Both artists were involved in Birmingham 2022 Festival activities last year and their role this year has already seen their direct involvement in decision-making and influencing how the festival shapes up, with a particular nod to supporting new talent. Each will also present specially curated work in the programme which will be revealed in late June.

Mukhtar said: ‘There is huge potential in this city, we are one of the youngest cities in Europe, we are super diverse, and the creativity in Birmingham is incredible. As an Artistic Associate I aim to ensure the programme is diverse, inclusive and welcoming to all.’

Zeddie said: 'It’s been almost a year since the Commonwealth Games came to an end in the city, and now is the time to ask ourselves, ‘what does the future look like?’ How do we make sure that this festival is about Birmingham and honours the talent that is right here? How can we speak to our global communities that are linked by our past, present and future.’

Raidene said: I’m really excited about Mukhtar and Zeddie - with them we’re already unlocking new networks and fresh ideas that push things forward. Having Artistic Associates helps ensure that the voices of freelance artists remain an important part of cultural decision-making in the city, and it’s also about sharing leadership of events of this scale. Both Mukhtar and Zeddie are well-known in the city for their work which spans music, live events, digital art, poetry and festivals, and I can’t wait to see how their influence features in the Festival programme.’

Partner Organisations Sampad, FABRIC and ACE Dance & Music today give us a taste of what’s to come in their ‘Takeover’ days.

On Saturday 29 July Sampad’s ‘Takeover’ explores the theme of Home From Home. With a day-long programme featuring live music, dance and spoken word it will be a celebration of the lives and creativity of the city. Vibrant and colourful it will bring together a hugely diverse array of artists, performers and communities that represent generations of people who have made this city their home. There will be time to reminisce and reflect on inherited cultural traditions and also to look towards a bright future with pride and ambition.

Piali Ray, Director of Sampad said ‘By marking the one year anniversary of the Games, we are creating a springboard that will be loaded with energy to catapult everyone involved in the festival - performers, participants and audiences alike - into the future. Recapturing the wonderful atmosphere of summer 2022 with a programme that delves into our roots and takes a good look at where we are now  so that we can move forward with positivity and pride.’

Dance takes centre stage on Sunday 30 July as FABRIC, the region’s strategic dance development organisation, takes over Centenary Square with EveryBody Dancing, an exciting programme of amazing dance full of free opportunities to get involved.

Becky Bailey, Head of Participation and Learning at FABRIC says, ‘EveryBody Dancing is a celebration of work inspired by and made with artists and communities in the region. Our programme will feature engaging promenades, pop up performances and opportunities for everyone to get dancing!’

The highlight of the day will be a specially commissioned new work by ZoieLogic Dance Theatre co-created with Critical Mass Dance Collective (CMDC), the inclusive dance company featuring an integrated cast with people identifying as D/deaf, Disabled and non-disabled. Directed by Zoie Golding and supported by Dance Development Leaders Group, the new show is funded by United by 22, whose mission is to maintain the momentum of the Commonwealth Games across the whole of the West Midlands.

Members of the CMDC were previously seen dancing their way through key moments of the Birmingham 2022 Festival and the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. Zoie is excited to build upon these unforgettable experiences in this year’s show.  “Our plan is to be even more ambitious and bring Birmingham to life again with this inspirational, inclusive dance collective.”

On Saturday 5 August ACE dance and music, the Birmingham-based, Black-led, contemporary dance company, presents Carnival is Colour. Witness a collage of carnival colour, dance, and the pulsating rhythms of Trinidad as vibrant costumes soar, amidst the backdrop of a Community Mass Choir led by Black Voices, and Dutch Marching Band Eternity Percussion, as they fill Centenary Square with the magical energy. ACE dance and music invites you to experience the  sights and sounds of Caribbean Carnival extravaganza in full swing.

Gail Parmel MBE from ACE dance and music, said ‘Our mission is to promote the power of dance through cultural exchange. ‘Carnival is Colour’  provides us with the perfect opportunity to reveal carnival dance costumes, music and singing with a Caribbean cultural mix that will have you dancing around Centenary Square like never before!’

Commissioned and supported by Birmingham City Council to celebrate the city’s creativity, and as a sign of its ongoing commitment to funding culture, Birmingham Festival 23 will take 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. 

When Birmingham Festival 23 was announced, an open call to submit ideas for the Made In Brum strand of the programme was announced and in less than a month had hundreds of applications - the full Made In Brum programme will be announced in June.

The Festival will echo the city-centre experience of the Games with live music and performance, creative and participatory activities, and big-screen content to conjure the shared experiences, magic and memories of the summer of 2022. The Festival also serves to celebrate the city’s creativity through programming committed to diversity, inclusion and homegrown talent and will be another bold showcase of Birmingham’s talent, character and reputation as a world-class destination for major events.

Steven Knight CBE, and former gold-medal winning Team England Netball Captain, Ama Agbeze are Patrons of the festival, signifying the city’s cultural and sporting ambitions.


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