Birmingham set for Jamaican summer

Birmingham is set to hold the biggest party outside Jamaica this summer with the city hosting a number of sizzling events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence.

The celebrations will also coincide with the visit of the Jamaican track and field team, who will be using the University of Birmingham as their training base ahead of this summer’s showpiece Olympic Games in London.

Emma Gray, Director of Marketing Services for Visit Birmingham, said:

The celebrations will reflect the strength and diversity of the Caribbean community in the city, from music, food and performance, to arts and culture.

Birmingham has a lot to offer in each of these areas and I’m certain that all the Jamaica 50 events will offer something for each of the family to enjoy.

Boasting the largest Jamaican community outside London, Birmingham will host Bass Festival 2012 from June 19 – July 13, which will bring together the best in Jamaican culture including dance, music, fashion and visual arts. The festival will see performances from Birmingham’s own singer and producer Lady Leshurr and Grime MC RoxXxan, as well as a number of other events including arts exhibition and dancehall concerts.

Now celebrating its third year, the ‘Simmer Down Reggae Festival’ will take place in Handsworth Park on July 22. The event, which is organised by Europe’s first arts centre dedicated to promoting black arts and culture, The Drum, is one of a number of musical celebrations due to take place, including the Jamaica Independence International Reggae Showcase on August 4.

From August 2 – 6, the city will also host ‘Jamaica in the Square’, a five-day  festival outside the landmark Council House in Victoria Square. The event is anticipated to attract an attendance of approximately 150,000 guests, with food, dance, music, fashion, tourism and sport all key elements of the festival as Birmingham celebrates the best and brightest of Jamaican culture. As part of the ‘Jamaica in the Square’ event, the city will also be celebrating ‘Jamaica Day’ on August 6, marked by a civic ceremony and raising of the Jamaican flag in Victoria Square.

The best of urban music will also be represented at the Flyover Show, which will take place at Hockley Circus in Birmingham, on August 11. The festival, which is now in its fifth year, has previously boasted performances from Goldie, Ms Dynamite and Janet Kay. The celebration is organised by celebrated musician Soweto Kinch, who will also be performing at the extravaganza.
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Jamaica 50 – Celebrating 50 Years of Jamaican Independence
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
May 26 – September 30
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery presents ‘Jamaica 50’ – celebrating 50 years of Jamaican Independence through the country’s history, its national heroes and symbols. The exhibition tells the story of Jamaican Independence Day and the journeys which Jamaican people made to settle in Birmingham in the 1950s and 1960s through their own words, pictures, personal artefacts and memories.

Bass Festival
June 19 – July 15
Various locations across Birmingham
BASS Festival (British Arts and Street Sounds) is the UK’s only month long celebration of Black Music and Art. Every June, the UK comes alive with a phenomenal line up of events, new commissions, gigs, exhibitions, master classes, showcases, club nights, theatre, conferences and film. To mark the 50th anniversary of Jamaican Independence and to welcome the Jamaican Olympic team to Birmingham,BASS will have Jamaica as its theme in 2012. Taking place for the seventh consecutive year, the festival will see a range of music and arts events in venues across the city.

Simmer Down International Reggae Festival
July 22
Handsworth Park
12pm – 8pm
Birmingham’s biggest free international reggae festival, now in its third year, celebrates 50 years of Jamaica’s independence by paying tribute to Birmingham’s reggae history and fraternity. Jamaican culture and its music has transformed communities in Birmingham and around the world through its messages of unity and harmony. Aswad, UK’s internationally acclaimed reggae band takes centre stage alongside a massive line-up of local artists. Plus food and craft stalls from around the world, dance activities, arts and education workshops, the Simmer Down Festival is a fun day out for all the family in Handsworth Park - the heart of Birmingham’s reggae past and present.

Jamaica’s 50th Cultural Extravaganza Concert
July 25
Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Leading Jamaican athletes, music stars and artists will join forces to celebrate the Caribbean island’s 50th anniversary of independence in a spectacular Birmingham concert this summer. Taking a break from the pre-Olympic training camp at the University of Birmingham, Jamaica’s gold medal hopefuls will be entertained by a host of stars including Jamelia, Musical Youth and Jaki Graham. The event is being hosted by the Association of Jamaican Nationals (Birmingham) UK in association with Birmingham City Council, The Jamaican High Commission and The Jamaican Athletics Administrative Association. Proceeds from the event will go towards the Jamaican Athletic Administrative Association for sports development in Jamaica.

Jamaica Diaspora Day of Prayer and Fasting
August 1
New Testament Church of God (Handsworth)
A special gathering for the Jamaican community in Birmingham, the event is one of a number planned in the major Jamaica diasporan populated communities  in the UK, Canada and the USA.

Jamaica in the Square
August 2-6
Victoria Square, Birmingham
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jamaican Independence, there will be a free open-air Jamaica Festival outside the landmark Council House around Victoria Square. This event is anticipated to attract an attendance of approximately 150,000 guests over the five day period. Food, dance, music, fashion, tourism and sport will all key elements of the event.

The Flyover Show
August 18
Hockley Circus, Birmingham
Led by multi award winning Soweto Kinch, The Flyover Show is inspired by the diversity, richness and power of the individual & collective stories that take place in neglected urban areas. In the run up to the event there is a series of workshops engaging young artists, which are drawn from the Birmingham area. The workshops are led by Soweto, supported by some of the UK’s leading contemporary urban artists and producers. The Flyover Show is set to be the fifth in Birmingham. Artists have included a range of the most significant jazz and Urban artists from the UK and around the world including – Akala, Goldie, Ms Dynamite, Speech Debelle, Janet Kay, Eska and Bashy.

Jamaican Banquet
December 15
The inaugural annual Jamaican banquet will take place on Saturday 15th December 2012, marking the opportunity to end a phenomenal year of Jamaican branded activity in Birmingham with an evening of fine dining and the best of Jamaican entertainment and music.  

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