Local residents enjoy unique city tour ahead of Commonwealth Games

·3 min read
Key to the City. For 6 weeks from 28 May anyone will be able to award the Key to the City to whomever they want, for whatever reason they want. Key holders will be able to explore private and intriguing places and spaces that they might not have happened on before, bringing a new perspective to the city. Picture by Shaun Fellows / Shine Pix Ltd (Shaun Fellows)

The Key To The City project around Birmingham offered locals and visitors a chance to experience the city like never before.

Benji Whitehouse, from Digbeth, travelled to each of the 21 locations that are opened by a specially-produced Yale key, which he picked up in an exchange ceremony at Birmingham New Street station.

Key To The City was part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival, a six-month long celebration of culture and creativity, supported by money raised by The National Lottery’s players.

Birmingham 2022 promises to be the biggest celebration of creativity in the region and one of the largest ever Commonwealth Games cultural programmes.

The National Lottery is investing over £40million to support the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and its legacy in a variety of ways.

This includes investing in everything from infrastructure, the home nation teams and grassroots sport programmes to employment, training and volunteering opportunities, as well as the vibrant Birmingham 2022 Festival.

The locations of the Key To The City locks ranged from West Bromwich Albion’s Hawthorns stadium to Symphony Hall, and even a family garden, but Whitehouse selects two others as his favourites.

“I really enjoyed going over to the Touchwood shopping centre in Solihull,” the civil servant said. “The key experience is only open between midnight and 6am.

“So it's not just something you can say ‘I'll just tick that off my list.’

“You have to plan. The first bus is at 4:45 in the morning, so I jumped on a bus.

“When I got over to Touchwood, you buzz the buzzer, the security guard comes and ushers you in and there's a little locked box on the information desk and you put the key in open the box, but I don’t want to spoil what’s in there.

“I also really loved 103 Colmore Row. There's a viewing platform in the offices, unoccupied at the moment, that's the highest point where you can see out across the city.

“It was howling with rain and there was hail, but it was still an incredible experience and it's only available while the project's running.”

Birmingham 2022 Festival is a six-month long celebration of culture and creativity, funded by The National Lottery to the tune of £3million from Arts Council England and £3million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The National Lottery Community Fund have also invested in the events programme.

Visitors had the opportunity to go along to New Street station to receive their key before setting off on an adventure around Birmingham, with the key exchange open until July 10.

The 21 locations will stay open until the culmination of the Commonwealth Games on 7 August, with Whitehouse to hold on to the key as a keepsake of a special summer.

He added: “There are 15,000 keys that have been made and there's a family in Aston who've made their back garden available.

“They want to make it available to the community and they're pushing the boundary of what they understand community to mean.

“It's an incredibly personal journey. There are very few adventures left to have, so to have something like this mapped out for you that you can just go ‘okay, I'm going to work through these in my own time, in my own way’ and I've chosen to see it as an adventure.

“To have that facilitated in the best city in the country. Birmingham is just a gorgeous city and with the Commonwealth Games coming up, it just all wonderfully fits together.”

National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into the arts, culture, and heritage sectors. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk. Find out more about the National Lottery supported Birmingham 2022 Festival by using the hashtag #B2022Festival

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