Birmingham Festival 23 is excited to announce details of the One City, A Thousand Memories, opener which will kick off the ten-day event on 28th July.

Soulful house DJ Echo Juliet and BBC Asian Network’s Bobby Friction will build excitement on the square with live VJs from 6pm ahead of the show which will start at 7pm. Audiences will be advised to turn up early to grab a good spot and soak up the atmosphere. The event will be hosted by award-winning BBC presenter Ayo Akinwolere and DJ and Radio 1Xtra presenter Kaylee Golding, who will bring their energy and enthusiasm, guiding everyone through a packed evening which is set to finish at around 10pm.

The festival site on Centenary Square will feature a big screen where audiences can expect to see newly commissioned short films, B2022 highlights and messages from a few familiar faces which will be kept a surprise until the night.

Festival creative director, Raidene Carter, says of this part of the event: “We think Birmingham deserves a massive pat on the back for what we all achieved last year, and we want everyone who comes along to remember that they played some part in it all and should feel an enormous sense of pride. One City, A Thousand Memories will be entertaining and rouse positive emotions; by re-looking at some of the highlights of last year, but through a new cultural lens, we hope to recreate some of that big summer of 2022 atmosphere, relive some of the memories and importantly, show just how creative the Games were.”

B2022 Mascot, Perry, will make a special appearance with his favourite Bhangra group the Dhol Blasters, to fire up the audience and get people moving. As a standing event, people should come prepared to move around but there will also be an accessible viewing platform for those who need it. Accessibility is really important to the festival, and the event will be BSL interpreted and audio described.

A collaboration with Team England, the English Commonwealth Games team, will ensure a host of medal-winning athletes from Birmingham 2022 feature on the evening. Athletes will parade before an emotional performance from Birmingham Conservatoire-trained Mezzo-Soprano, Samantha Oxborough (who performed the national anthem at the 2022 Opening Ceremony) with The Choir with No Name (who were part of Birmingham 2022 Festival’s opening event ‘Wondrous Stories’). They’ll be supported by community BSL choir Music in Motion - who came through the Festival’s Made in Brum open call - for a moving musical tribute that organisers think everyone will want to join in with.

The final part of the evening will take place on the fountain area of Centenary Square in front of the festival’s iconic stage which will literally light up Birmingham! Ayo and Kaylee will introduce speeches and interview guests before welcoming a live music finale courtesy of Birmingham Music Archive.

Drawing from Birmingham Music Archive’s On Record album - the specially-commissioned ‘Sonic Love Letter’ to Birmingham for the B2022 Festival last year - the final part of the evening will feature an eclectic mix of Birmingham’s musical talent, some of whom became household names as a result. Singer, dancer and multi-instrumentalist Bambi Bains will kick off, followed by Urban Music Award winner SANITY, before headliner, Friendly Fire Band, take to the stage for a finale that everyone will know the words to and go home singing!

Commissioned and supported by Birmingham City Council to celebrate the city’s creativity, and as a sign of its ongoing commitment to accessible culture for everyone, Birmingham Festival 23 will take over Centenary Square from Fri 28 July - Sun 6 August. Arts Council England and University of Birmingham were announced as principal partners in May and Hollywood Monster as presenting partner. 

The 10-day programme of free events will showcase the City’s rich cultural offer will be announced at the end of June. When the Festival was launched in March, an open call to submit performances for its ‘Made In Brum’ community programme was announced and had a fantastic response in just a few weeks. 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 a programme 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.