Five new digital audio tours have been launched to help people explore canals, streets and public spaces around Birmingham’s City Centre. Each of them launches from, or link to, the iconic Roundhouse, and were created as part of the project to revive the Grade II* listed site. The restoration was completed thanks to £3million National Lottery funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The tours hail a partnership between the Roundhouse Birmingham, National Trust, Canal & River Trust and Geotourist. Free and downloadable, the trails can be accessed on the Geotourist app. The trails can then be enjoyed on visitors’ own smartphones and in their own time. 

The five trails are:

Sensing the Roundhouse (and Beyond)

Revealing the Reservoir

Little-Known Ladywood

Brum Through a Lens: A Birmingham Photography Trail

Birmingham: A Duck’s View

In addition to a renewed interest in local areas, following the coronavirus pandemic, Geotourist trails support community reconnections with high streets, local walking routes, forgotten stories and overlooked gems that surround us in an inherently socially distant way, using immersive and supportive technology as the core of the modern way-finding experience.

All five trails – which are part of Roundhouse Birmingham’s #CommunityRoutes project - are navigated through the app, using GPS technology with a simple-to-use interface. These initial five trails have something to offer everyone and they help both visitors and residents to understand the importance of this historic building, as it sits against the backdrop of a modern British city. As well as setting out how Birmingham’s Roundhouse fits into Brum’s story, the trails bring a fresh perspective to local stories as well as points of interest that have had an impact on the global stage.     

Sensing the Roundhouse (and Beyond) – A wonderful, short, sensory walk that is both accessible and inclusive. This trail takes you through some of the lesser-noted points of interest around the local area and will call upon your senses. Created in collaboration with Dr Jieling Xiao, a leading expert on sensory experiences at Birmingham City University, this tour is stairless and is wheelchair accessible in its entirety.

Revealing the Reservoir – This trail was created in partnership with Friends of Edgbaston Reservoir and the Dreaming Tower Ballroom project. A short 15-minute walk from the Roundhouse, Edgbaston Reservoir is a hub for healthy activities, such as water sports, running and walking, as well as a wildlife hotspot. Home to the Tower Ballroom, the Rezza – as it is known locally – provided a much-needed blue/green wellness space during lockdown.

Birmingham: A Duck’s View – Explore the waterways of a city, that has more canals than Venice, to understand the importance of the role Birmingham and its canals played in the Industrial Revolution and beyond.

Little-Known Ladywood – This 20-point trail explores the local Ladywood area, revealing its hidden stories and secrets that include a celebrated Swiss chocolatier and the Birmingham music scene.

Brum Through a Lens: A Birmingham Photography Trail - Produced in partnership with West Midlands Photography Collective, this photography walk is designed to give local people a chance to see the city from a different perspective and offer new visitors a nice way to unlock the city centre. 
The audio tours were produced by Roundhouse Birmingham in partnership with Geotourist, with support from Canal & River Trust, National Trust and   The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Researched and written during lockdown as part of Roundhouse Birmingham’s #CommunityRoutes project, the trails were recorded in April 2021 under Covid-safe conditions and using a supporting cast of over 50 volunteers and local specialists.

All of the tours are designed to be free of steps and easily accessible.

One of the overarching drivers of this regeneration is the belief in creating a tangible social benefit which connects people with the unique stories and special places that Birmingham has to offer.

Chris Maher, Creative Producer at Roundhouse Birmingham said, “Shortly before lockdown, our Community Routes project began exploring people’s connections to the local area across streets, squares, waterways, and other public places. Our aim: to create a range of accessible city walks and trails with local residents and partners, presenting the heritage of Birmingham’s spaces across the green, the grey, and the blue, from the perspective of local people. Lockdowns, furloughs, and other very Covid obstacles made #CommunityRoutes quite an interesting project, but, in all, around 200 people took part: some suggested routes, histories or points of interest; others pushed themselves to become narrators (most recording at home, and often under a duvet!). Whether researching or mapping; walking or narrating; what everyone had in common was a passion for Birmingham and an eagerness to share its stories. We’re thrilled to be able to shout about Birmingham through these audio tours.”

Ian Lane, Head of Operational Projects for the Canal & River Trust, said “We are delighted to support this community project in partnership with Roundhouse Birmingham, the National Trust and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

“This Community Routes project features so many local people giving personal and historic insights for people to get a real insight into the local area when exploring Birmingham and the City’s waterways. We believe that life is better by water and know how much a stroll or walk along our waterways can make a real difference to people’s health and well-being - these self-guided tours are a great accompaniment to any day out.”

CEO and Geotourist founder, Shaon Talukder, who created the Geotourist concept said: “These trails at Roundhouse Birmingham are of great importance to the Geotourist platform. They perfectly capture the essence of what the Geotourist brand has always set out to do – to offer a reason and a reward for exploring the world around us, whether you’re a guest Birmingham citizen, or a true Brummie. The community perspectives and interesting anecdotes within the tours are inspiring, with the accessible Sensory tour of special mention. I’ve been visiting Birmingham regularly for nearly 20 years and I felt like I was visiting a new city for the first time. Birmingham is a city on the brink of a huge international sporting event in the Commonwealth Games next year; these tours are an amazing way for visitors from all over the Commonwealth to appreciate Birmingham’s importance in the nation’s history and the community spirit that makes it a vibrant place to explore today.”

For more information on the Roundhouse Birmingham, go to Roundhouse Birmingham.