This past weekend saw The Hippodrome, The Arcadian and all surrounding areas taken over, once again , by the annual B-Side Hip Hop Festival. A free family-friendly street arts’ get together that, thankfully, saw the sun beaming down on Brum for what felt like the first time in a long time.

And, as a result, it brought out Brummies to soak up the sights and sounds on offer, with the largest noise – and largest crowds – being pulled towards Break Mission’s awesome break dancing competition that ran throughout the weekend and really created a vibrant, infectious buzzing energy around it that seemed to radiate out and envelope anyone who came anywhere near these B-Boys and B-Girls doing things with their bodies that I didn’t think possible. A real highlight of the festival and a huge crowd pleaser.

The upcoming High Vis Festival was part of this year's B-Side Hip Hop Festival in Birmingham Olly MacNamee / I Am Birmingham
The upcoming High Vis Festival was part of this year’s B-Side Hip Hop Festival in Birmingham

It was also the culmination of over a week’s worth of events with a programme of workshops, talks and mini-events that offered up everything from Hip Hop’s links to Marvel’s The Infinity Gauntlet to Hip Hop dance workshops and anything in-between.

There was even a mini-comic con thanks to Juice Aleem and his Afroflux collective. A real first for a festival such as this one. I was lucky enough – as part of the High Vis Festival Board of Directors – to be invited down to the unveiling of a very specially commissioned mural. A mural painted by some of Birmingham’s finest – Gent 48, Si “Wingy’ Wingfield and Panda Brown – and marking the 120th anniversary of The Hippodrome.

It was a great little event and when I popped back in again, to take it all in this past Saturday, I felt a real party atmosphere palpable in the air. People were there to enjoy the day and watch as artist from across the country – and some from further failed too – took their time to create a magnificent set of murals that will, hopefully, last till next year and brighten up this part of Birmingham.

It always amazes me why many artists have to scramble around for money and recognition, when its the businesses of the local area that take on then benefits from the increased economic injection that is brought about by such events. It’s an issue I still haven’t found the answer to, and it’s a shame that many businesses are happy to take the additional income without putting anything back into the local arts. It’s a conundrum I’m still trying to work out myself, ahead of this year’s very own High Vis Fest later this year.

Let me know if anyone has an answer to this age old question can you? While the Renaissance artists had the powerful Medici family to sponsor their art, where are these people in this day and age? Thank the gods for The Hippodrome, then, for committing so passionately to this event year on year. I take my hat off too you all, and the fine work Fiona Allan and her team do to support the arts across the year.

Live street art is a staple at the B-Side Hip Hop Festival in BirminghamOlly MacNamee / I Am Birmingham
Live street art is a staple at the B-Side Hip Hop Festival in Birmingham

Birmingham has always had a proud tradition in the street arts, with many artists now gainfully employed within this growing sector of the arts. And, the B-Side Hip Hop Festival is testament to the love shared by many for this once-illegal art form. It’s also the reason, last year, I was invited to get involved with High Vis Fest which is another street arts’ festival, but one done-in-a-day and which returns again this September 7th.

With two of our directors behind the success of this week long celebratory festival behind the wheel, I reckon we’ll be even bigger bolder and better than last year. And, like this year’s B-Side Festival, we’re keeping it free. Who knows, with two events spotlighting the street arts in this way, we may even find the next Bansky out there on the streets of Birmingham.

The B-Side Hip Hop Festival, for me, is a glorious, brash, swaggering start to the summer here in Birmingham and, as the many, many empty cans of paint were swept away by a dedicated clean-up team come Sunday night, Birmingham was once more left a far better and more beautiful place than it was just a few days earlier. Next up, High Vis Festival, see you all in September, people!

Visual street art graffiti at the B-Side Hip Hop Festival in Birmingham Olly MacNamee / I Am Birmingham
Visual street art graffiti at the B-Side Hip Hop Festival in Birmingham

You can find this year’s High Vis Fest on Facebook, Twitter, Insta, or check out the event’s official website here.

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