1. It’s all about the novel writing, baby
J.R.R. Tolkien grew up, went to school and found inspiration for parts of Middle Earth in Birmingham. And he’s not the only great author to have lived, worked and been inspired by the city. Others include John Wyndham, Jane Louden, Washington Irving, Barbara Cartland, David Lodge, Jonathan Coe, Clare Morrell, Catherine O’Flynn and more recently the wonderful My Name is Leon author Kit de Waal.
Birmingham also has a vibrant community of self-publishing authors. Some are members of New Street Authors and many showcase their work at The Gunmakers Arms. Aspiring authors are supported by Writing West Midlands who provide training and organise the annual Birmingham Literature Festival.
2. . . and the screenwriting
Two Words: Peaky Blinders. This smash hit, cinematic, TV epic, written by Brummie Steven Knight, has shone the spotlight on Birmingham and not before time. Based on his family’s stories about the post WW1 gangsters that hung out in Small Heath, this gritty, gripping and beautifully shot drama shows Birmingham can be the inspiration for great screen writing.
Oh lawdy, Cillian.
But it’s not all about Peaky Blinders. Documentary TV makers Maverick (Embarrassing Bodies) are based in the city and the BBC makes Doctors and The Archers here. There are also many independent production companies doing great things such as Blue Hippo Media, Stickleback Productions and Yamination Studios. Screenwriters can access support, networking and training from The Producers Forum and also online at Film Forum West Midlands.
3. . . and the poetry
There’s a shed load happening for poets too! The city has its own Poet Laureates, Nyanda Foday and Matt Windle (Poet by Day, Boxer by Night) and its where the great Benjamin Zephaniah was born and raised. There’s regularly poetry workshops and readings across the city with The Poetry Society’s BrumStanza group meeting at the local Waterstones. The Emma Press is based here and there’s two annual poetry festivals Verve and the Birmingham Poetry Festival.
4. . . and the blogging and the editorial
Birmingham is full of bloggers! Some like FulltotheBrum, I Choose Birmingham and Paradise Circus (which grew out of the famous Birmingham: It’s not shit) profile the city’s food and drink, arts and culture and nightlife. While others specialise in everything from fashion, parenting and music. Bloggers can pick up assignments from the Birmingham Bloggers Facebook page and journalists can network through Birmingham’s Press Club, which is oldest in the world.
5. . . AND the playwriting!
The Rep has been producing theatre and supporting new writing in Birmingham for a century. There’s also a dynamic community of theatre makers like Tea and Tenacity and Stan’s Café. Theatre Cuppa WM offer networking events and Friction Arts and OJS Open Doors are keen to facilitate table reads, scratch nights and development workshops. And of course, the Bard lived just down the road in Stratford upon Avon. In fact, Birmingham’s library holds one of the world’s best collections of works by or about Shakespeare. What better place to hone your craft or find inspiration?
6. The library
Talking of the library, have you seen our freakin’ library?! It’s a massive, golden ‘people’s palace’ full of books (obv), desk space and snazzy escalators. When you need a break from the reading or writing, you can take a stroll on its terraces which provide amazing views across the city.
7. The people
Birmingham’s residents brought the world heavy metal, Cadbury’s chocolate, the Balti, and Britain’s first St Patrick’s Day Parade. The stories nestled here provide rich pickings for any writer.
8. The places and settings
Diversity isn’t just found in our people. Birmingham is home to a variety of landscapes from industrial to countryside and we’ve more canals than Venice! Tolkien found inspirations for his settings here and you can too.
9. The arts, culture and heritage
Birmingham is home to a number of world class venues. There’s the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Town Hall and Symphony Hall, the Hippodrome, the Alex and the MAC all showcasing art, artefacts, music, dance, theatre and cinema to move your emotions and get your creative juices flowing. The RBSA and The Pen Museum, in particular, are reaching out to writers with the former offering exhibition inspired writing workshops and the latter hosting the eminently kickass Writers’ HQ writing retreats.
10. It’s time
For years Birmingham has been much criticised, seen as second rate, ugly and undesirable – even by the people who lived here. But now the city centre is being made over and people’s perceptions are changing. The brilliance of Birmingham and the creativity of its residents is being celebrated. Groups like Badego and TedXBrum unite Brum-based creatives to boost confidence and pride and to orchestrate change. We’re in the midst of a revolution! It’s time for Birmingham’s voices and its stories to be heard.
Book your place on the new Birmingham Writers’ Retreat now –>
PS let’s have one more of these before we go…