UB40 have launched a series of maps celebrating Birmingham’s musical heritage that will be featured at every railway station across the city.
Revealing the first of 30 specially commissioned works at Hall Green station as part of the Musical Routes project, the reggae group welcomed the installation that celebrates the underappreciated musical impact of the city.
“Birmingham has been a cultural melting pot for generations and it’s made some very successful musicians of all different genres, but we’ve never celebrated it really. Birmingham has never blown its own trumpet,” said Robin Campbell, one of four founding members of the band at the official unveiling of the map.
Speaking alongside fellow bandmates James Brown, Earl Falconer and Norman Hassan, as well as new vocalist Matt Doyle, he said: “It’s about time we shouted it from the rooftops because really we’re proud of our Birmingham heritage.”
The maps celebrate Brummie artists including Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath, the Beat, Laura Mvula, Joan Armatrading, Andy Hamilton, Jamelia, and Duran Duran. They also profile venues in the city such as the Que Club and Rum Runner.
Jez Collins, director of Birmingham Music Archive, which produced the project, said: “I noticed that we didn’t celebrate or recognise the achievements of musicians from the city, so I wanted to challenge that narrative and say actually Birmingham is a city of music. Manchester, Liverpool, London, Glasgow – they have all recognised their music culture and we haven’t.”
The wooden 3D maps, designed by local artists Bobbie-Jane Gardner and Claire Hartley and funded by West Midlands railway, each features a scannable code that links to a specially curated Spotify playlist featuring musicians from each area.
Collins said the maps were the first stage of a wider project to celebrate the city’s musical heritage, which will culminate in the opening of Birmingham Music Museum in Digbeth in 2025.
“If you don’t know about the things that have happened in your area, and you’re told that nothing of value ever comes from the place you live, you can stop and look at these maps,” said Collins. “Music culture resides everywhere and hopefully these maps will inspire people a little bit.”
Adam Regan, director of Birmingham live music venue and club the Hare and Hounds, which hosted UB40’s first ever gig in 1979, said: “I think Brummies need to be cajoled into shouting about what they’re good at. There’s a lot of talent and music that has come from the region, and this will hopefully get people talking about it.”
“Birmingham informed everything we do, we wouldn’t exist without Birmingham,” said UB40’s Brown. “The cultural mix of the band, the style of the music, all that is informed by the fact that we were brought up in the city of Brum.”
“People are starting to recognise things more, we have a walk of fame here now and they’re starting to put benches in the city commemorating different artists,” said Campbell. “I think it’s wonderful, the more of that there is, the more we can celebrate it. And it’s about time too.”