Life in Birmingham
A central UK city packed with vibrancy and culture, boasting a buzzing creative quarter, beautiful canals, strong musical heritage and dynamic local music scene – yep, we’re talking about Birmingham.
In fact, some of the best new independent music is being brewed here, right now. The underground music scene is evolving fast, experimenting and pushing boundaries. Rap and grime artists are killing it on the Birmingham live music circuit.
It’s not hard to see why. Birmingham is the birthplace of many musical legends, such as heavy metal titans Black Sabbath, as well as Electric Light Orchestra, Duran Duran, UB40, Jamelia and Steel Pulse. More recent artists such as Laura Mvula and Lady Leshurr are also paving the way for the next generation of musical talent.
With a year-long programme of phenomenal festivals and plenty more opportunities to see live music in Birmingham, you’ll be spoilt for choice with Birmingham music venues like the O2 Institute in Digbeth, Sunflower Lounge and Mama Roux’s.
Young, progressive, experimental – there aren’t many better places to study music than Birmingham.
You only need to scratch the surface to see that Birmingham is a city with so much to shout about. Bursting at the seams with heritage and culture, the city boasts more canals than Venice (yes, really), more Michelin star restaurants than any other UK city besides London, and one of the country’s busiest theatres (The Alexandra).
Birmingham is also home to the youngest population in Europe. With its unrivalled nightlife and clubs in Birmingham, world-class library facilities and programme of inner-city festivals, this is a city that’s made for its students.
But, don’t just take our word for it. Hear from Cole Stock, our second-year Songwriting student, and his three reasons to study in Birmingham.
The glamour and grunge of a New York dive bar, with a strong focus on local music.
Find live music and club nights at this 100-year old venue most nights of the week.
A cosy Irish pub with live music at its heart. Here you’ll find jazz, blues, classical & more.
Once voted the best rock bar/club by Kerrang! Magazine, hosting live bands every week.
The Midlands’ only Northern Soul and Motown bar, a visit here is like stepping back in time.
Birmingham’s musical heritage is as diverse as its communities: from the beating drums of Bhangra to the birth of Black Sabbath in the 60s and the distorted guitars of the 70s punks that still seem to echo around the city streets. Plus, this city still has the vinyl scratches of the early 80s rave scene reverberating around it.
Fast forward to today, and on a ten-minute stroll through the city, you might hear an orchestral piece from Symphony Hall, an Indie band sound-checking in the Sunflower Lounge, or the beats of the burgeoning Grime scene pouring out of a warehouse in Digbeth. Living in Birmingham introduces you to a music scene unlike any other place in the UK.
Whatever mood you’re in, Birmingham’s music bars, pubs, and Birmingham venues have always got plenty going on. Listen to a local DJ over a pint at The Mill, get on The Night Owl’s sprung wooden dance floor and party to energetic Northern Soul, catch the best in up-and-coming new talent in The Sunflower Lounge’s basement, or find live music and club nights spanning every genre at the historic Hare & Hounds.
Birmingham’s Music Festivals
As well as its incredible live music scene, Birmingham boasts an impressive programme of annual festivals covering swing, jazz, funk, soul, folk, rock, and more.
Birmingham Weekender is the city’s biggest arts festival. This collaboration between artists and organisations is produced by Culture Central and showcases just how much the city has to offer. Boasting everything from dance, music, and theatre, to exhibitions and activities, this free weekend of events takes over galleries, bars, cafes and outdoor spaces across Digbeth and Southside.
Named the UK’s premier experimental music festival, Supersonic Festival plays host to live performances by some of the world's most extraordinary artists. Its visual art and audience participation make it a legendary, one-of-a-kind festival. Since starting out as a one-day event back in 2003, Supersonic Festival is now an internationally renowned, and plays a huge part in Birmingham’s cultural programme.
Love food? This city is a foodie’s heaven. Diners from all over flock to the Balti Triangle (home and birthplace of the Balti Curry), while a bustling Chinese district sits alongside pubs serving traditional, hearty grub.
You’ll find food festivals serving up Michelin star food at student prices throughout the city, as well as farmers’ markets like Moseley’s, which have the best fresh local produce. Enjoy award-winning dishes at Digbeth Dining Club, Earth’s Kitchen and Cherry Reds.
For more expensive tastes – or special occasions – Birmingham boasts multiple Michelin star restaurants, including Turners at 69, Purnell’s and Simpsons.
There’s also always faithful places like Byron Burger and their student discount offers. Oh, and we hear Three’s Coffee Lounge serves up some of the best vegan food in the city. You’re welcome, plant-lovers.
Get your retail fix in Birmingham’s iconic Bullring Centre, with its 110,000 square-metre of retail space, including the attention-grabbing skin of the Selfridges store with its 15,000 aluminium disks.
Home to the largest Chinatown outside of London and the biggest jewellery quarter in Europe, it’s easy to see why Birmingham is one of England’s top three most visited places to shop.
Support the city’s local retailers at The Custard Factory, and get down to PMT for any music equipment you need (they’ve just moved to a brand-new store, and it’s definitely something worth seeing). COW Vintage is also a students’ favourite for finding clothes.
Birmingham has more parks than any other European city of its size, ten of which boast the prestigious Green Flag Award.
Cannon Hill Park is one of the city’s most popular spaces, spanning 250 acres including woodland and sports spaces. During the summer, this is the place for boating, fishing, bowls, tennis, putting, picnics and more.
You can also get your fresh air fix at Sutton Park (the largest urban nature reserve in Europe), as well as the beautiful Birmingham Botanical Gardens which date back to the Victorian era.
What better way to explore the canals and wider region than by bike? There are cycle lanes or paths on many of the major routes into and across the city that take in some of the most beautiful parks and waterways en route. National cycle route five also runs through Birmingham.
There are buses to all suburbs and areas of Birmingham, making it a brilliant city for easy, affordable travel. Night buses also go throughout the evening and early hours, making getting home after a gig pretty easy.
TAO taxis are Birmingham’s black cab operators. They can be hailed in the street (old school) or reached at one of the many taxi ranks throughout the city. The main taxi ranks are at New Street Station, Stephenson Street and Digbeth Coach Station. There’s also handy Uber right from your phone.
Birmingham has eight local railways that cross the city. Birmingham New Street is the largest and busiest of the three main railway stations in the city centre. It’s also the central hub of the British railway system and makes travelling throughout the UK a breeze.
Got a gig in the surrounding cities and towns? Midland Metro makes getting between Birmingham and Wolverhampton a breeze.
Birmingham has its own airport with flights to Europe, India and further afield (full moon party in Thailand anyone?). The airport is only eight miles from the city centre, making it easy to get to by train, car, or even bike if you fancy (and are going luggage-free!).
For any questions regarding Birmingham student life or if you’d like more information on how to apply to BIMM Institute Birmingham please contact our Admissions Team on 0344 2 646 666 or email [email protected].