An amazing array of events and exhibitions celebrating film, art, music, sport and dance is on offer in the city this summer as part of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The series of creative events, taking place in the city from now until early September, celebrates Wolverhampton, the wider region and the city’s Commonwealth connections.
Together, they form part of one of the largest ever cultural programmes to surround the Games.
Black Country Beats, currently open at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, celebrates the diverse musical genres that emerged from the area between the 1970s and 2000s. It spotlights iconic artists whose styles were influenced by the unique heritage of the region and the social and political change that happened here during their formative years.
From Slade to R&B, reggae to bhangra via 90s indie bands, the exhibition includes a wide range of memorabilia, instruments, costumes and even a customised jukebox. Black Country Beats runs until September 4. Opening on 9 July at the city gallery is the national touring exhibition Where is Home? that explores global migration of South Asian communities.
2022 is a momentous year for South Asian heritage, marking India and Pakistan's 75th anniversary of partition, and the 50th anniversary of Asian Ugandan expulsion. These globally significant events have shaped modern Britain and Where Is Home? will look first-hand at the stories of those directly affected by these cultural shifts and explores the origins of how they began.
On July 16 and 17 powerful dance performance All About the Fight - Going the Distance! will be at the Arena Theatre. The show honours the skill, culture and spirit of boxing and tackles issues and personal fights through empowering storytelling that promotes the resilience and strength of the human spirit.
Performed by Sterran Dance Theatre, the work has been choreographed by Katy Sterran in collaboration with Bright Star Boxing Academy, composer Matthew Peters and city-based Grime artist J Man. For tickets visit www.arena.wlv.ac.uk
West Midlands-based filmmaker Beverley Bennett has been specially commissioned to produce a film for the Commonwealth Games. Her work, Nation’s Finest, Putting Down Roots and Birthing, plays homage to the pioneering Blk Art Group and its legacy and influence on the art scene and her personal practice.
Her film, which is part of a larger work involving local gatherings and public billboards across Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton, features two young black gymnasts from Sandwell Flyers gymnastic club and captures their skilled routines and tumbles, determination, focus and dedication to their sport.
The film will be shown on August 4 at Wolverhampton city centre’s Festival Site in Old Market Square where people can also watch all the excitement of the cycling Time Trial on the big screen. The cultural programme rounds off with To The Streets, an uplifting new concert musical, bursting with ska, calypso and rock ‘n’ roll and inspired by the 1963 Bristol Bus Boycott.
The performance tells the story of youth worker Paul Stephenson who led the boycott of the Bristol Omnibus Company, which refused to employ black or Asian drivers or conductors, and teenager Lorraine who joins the fight for equality. To The Streets will be performed in West Park on Sunday, 28 August at 1.45pm and 7.45pm. For tickets visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com
Councillor Stephen Simkins, City of Wolverhampton Council’s Deputy Leader and cabinet member for city economy, said: “A momentous event for our city deserves a spectacular build-up, and the range of cultural and creative events on offer for residents provides just that.
“The Commonwealth Games will shine a light on Wolverhampton and the wider area. We have a wealth of creativity, ambition and diversity in our region which this wide range of events showcases, and I would encourage our residents to pop along and enjoy one – or all – of the exhibitions. We also want to encourage people to come and visit Wolverhampton as part of the Games and to return to us to enjoy future events.
“The Games are getting ever closer and there will be an impact on our city. I’d encourage all local residents and businesses to prepare by visiting: www.wolverhampton.gov.uk/commonwealth for details about road closures, parking, bin collections and other information you may need.”
Wolverhampton will be hosting the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay on July 24 and will see the nail-biting cycling Time Trial start and finish in West Park on August 4. Residents are encouraged to plan ahead for both events.