Organisers have announced the first details of the Birmingham 2022 Festival – a six month celebration which will spotlight creativity and culture in the West Midlands.

Running from March to September 2022 as part of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, the festival will feature hundreds of creative commissions across the region including art, photography, dance, theatre, digital art and more.

Members of the public are urged to register at birmingham2022.com/festival to be amongst the first to discover the full programme when it is unveiled in January.

The Birmingham 2022 Festival will open with Wondrous Stories (pictured), a large-scale production by world renowned and Leamington Spa based dance-circus company, Motionhouse. Wondrous Stories will be created and directed by Kevin Finnan, artistic director of Motionhouse, who was choreographer and movement director of the London 2012 Paralympic Games ceremonies.

Wondrous Stories will transform Birmingham’s Centenary Square with an extraordinary production featuring a giant aerial spectacle with a flying book and a colossal globe alongside innovative digital projections. Motionhouse’s professional dancers will be accompanied by local choirs and a community cast of more than 300 from the Birmingham 2022 Festival Critical Mass participation project.

There will be seven performances ofWondrous Stories from March 17-20, 2022, with expected combined audiences of more than 80,000 people both in person and watching via a live stream.

Martin Green, chief creative officer at Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, said: “We are thrilled to officially announce the Birmingham 2022 Festival, shining a spotlight on the incredible creativity in the West Midlands. This spectacular festival will feature over 300 brand-new creative works, providing essential funding direct to artists and thousands of participatory moments for audiences with art, dance, theatre on their doorstep. I couldn’t think of a better way to begin than with Motionhouse’s awe-inspiring spectacle which will be free for everyone to enjoy.”

Finnan said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be making Wondrous Stories. We travel the world with our touring productions, and in recent years have made several large-scale events for major international celebrations. It’s wonderful to now be creating this spectacular show right here in our home region, working with an extraordinary team of talented artists and performers to thrill audiences in Birmingham.”

Other highlights of the Birmingham 2022 Festival announced today include Generationsby Julian Germain, a large-scale photographic portraiture exhibition that will appear in public settings across the region.

Birmingham’s Flatpack Festival will present Wonderland, a heritage project telling the film-going story of Birmingham – from fairground film shows to the birth of the Odeon, from South Asian picturehouses to the multiplex era.

Digbeth-based Eastside Projects will explore Birmingham’s positions, affinities and complicities within the Commonwealth by working with four international artists from Toronto and Johannesburg  to create a series of new site-specific projects across the city.

Raidene Carter, executive producer of Birmingham 2022 Festival, said: “It’s a huge privilege to finally announce our plans for the Birmingham 2022 Festival. We are working with artists, creatives and communities from across the West Midlands to celebrate our creativity and shine a light on the region for six months, leading up to and following the Games. The projects announced today are just the tip of the iceberg of the extraordinary festival programme we will announce in January. In many ways it’s going to be audacious and bold but it will also provide a space for thought and conversation – we can’t wait to share it all in what is set to be a landmark year for the region.”

The £12 million festival has been generously supported by a range of funders with the aim of animating the entire West Midlands with ambitious creative works. Major support has been dedicated by Arts Council England and The National Lottery Heritage Fund plus Spirit of 2012, Birmingham City Council, British Council and national trusts and foundations such as the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Cllr Jayne Francis, Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Culture at Birmingham City Council, said: We have a world class cultural offer in Birmingham and the wider region, so it is exciting that the Birmingham 2022 Festival can offer us another platform to demonstrate the bold creativity and vibrancy of people and organisations here.

“The Birmingham 2022 Festival is another clear example of how the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games are more than 11 days of sport and the Festival will provide a very timely boost for a sector that has been significantly affected over the last 18 months by the coronavirus pandemic.”

Image: Wonderous Stories/Iain Jamieson