German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023

Amazingly, I have not written a blog about the German Christmas market in Birmingham. I have taken pictures of the Christmas markets but many of them are single photos on my social streams. My first observation is that the markets are set up way too early. The present one opened up on the 2nd November 2023. This is crazy yet when I visited the city centre a week after the opening, there were many visitors enjoying the early experience of Christmas. Over the years there is a pattern as the markets extend more and more. However, there was a grand reset in Christmas 2020 with the Pandemic but now the markets are back to their former self.

German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
Centenary Square at Christmas.
German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
The big wheel in Centenary Square.

In Centenary square, there is the Big wheel, an ice skating rink and other spinning attractions. The pedestrian link to Victoria square is more subdued as it is private land although the restaurants in and around Chamberlain square are doing well.

German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
I love this street photograph. A store called Filthy Fries! How do they arrive at such names.

The real noise and excitement starts in Victoria square and this is with you all the way down to the Bull Ring. Shops selling food and drink. The prices are very high considering there is standing room only. The shops also sell other items such as candles, jewellery and gifts you never knew you wanted. I expect most of these gifts will be put away or recycled after Christmas.

German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
Christmas market in Victoria Square, Birmingham.
German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
A long exposure of the Carousel in Victoria Square.
German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
Looking down to New Street.

My purpose for going to the early Christmas market was to take pictures. Every photographer in Birmingham has to post a picture of the market on their Instagram account. I did not want to be left out so armed with my iPhone and x100v, I braved the crowds on a Thursday night. Taking pictures with the iPhone is straightforward although I hold onto it firmly as I do not want it snatched away from me. Taking a camera out and then putting it on a tripod does generate some attention so I used the tripod sparingly and looked for convenient surfaces to rest the camera.

My plan for photographs including taking pictures of spinning things including the beautiful carousel in Victoria Square. I was also keen to capture some of the atmosphere and fun that people were having by being around the market. Taking pictures is not easy as people get in the way and are not posing for you. Therefore at different places in the market, I grabbed what opportunity that I could and moved on. I also walked back from the Bull Ring via Gas Street basin which was less crowded and therefore easier for photographing.

When I got home, I was initially disappointed with my pictures. I am always like this as I want every picture to be a winner. I know that is never the case and I was just hoping that I had captured some good ones. I am always surprised by the pictures that look good and were opportunistic rather than the ones that I had planned in my mind.

German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
This is a feature every year.

So this is a snapshot of the Christmas market in Birmingham 2023. I am sure that I will look back on these in a few years time and cringe at them. There is still another Christmas market to open around the Birmingham Cathedral which happens to be more picturesque. Maybe some photographs of this market will feature in my future blog postings.

German Christmas Market, Birmingham, Nov 2023
Signs in the market.

Walking back along the canal to Gas Street Basin, there was the opportunity to take some long exposure pictures. I liked this one of Stop Lock Bridge on the Old Birmingham Canal.

Looking back in the archives I found that I have Christmas in 2018 and also what Christmas Trees looked like in 2020, the year of the Pandemic. They make for interesting comparisons.

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Brighton Beach fun

Brighton Beach fun

I was fortunate to visit Brighton as part of a conference. My hotel was on the seafront and in between…

Ozzy the Bull arrives in New Street station, Birmingham. 2023

Since the Bull was unveiled in a spectacular showpiece at the Commonwealth Games in the summer of 2022, the Birmingham public haven fallen in love with him.  As soon as the opening ceremony was over, the Bull was brought to Centenary Square where thousands of people came to view him.  His popularity was immense, and this soon created a new problem.  What to do with Bully after the games had finished? There were many suggestions but no concrete solutions and before long the Bull was moved from the square to a lock up location in Ladywood.  There he stayed underneath a tarpaulin sheet as Birmingham leaders decided what to do with him.  The public learnt that a solution had been found but first the bull needed to be upgraded for his new location. Time moved on and then there was an announcement of a competition to find a name for the Bull.  After a public vote, the name Ozzy was selected.  We also learnt where he was to be housed.  In the large atrium of New Street Station.  Then in early July a space was set up followed by parts of Ozzy being delivered to the station over one night in July.  Commuters woke up the next day to see the construction of Ozzy. First the body, then the head and horns.

Ozzy the Bull arrives in New Street station, Birmingham. 2023
Ozzy is tall and stands with a sheet over his head.
Ozzy the Bull arrives in New Street station, Birmingham. 2023
People move around as normal while Ozzy waits to be unveiled.

Every photographer in Birmingham rushed to take pictures of Ozzy as he is being constructed.  When I visited the feet were still missing although the rest of Ozzy is pieced together.  I had forgotten the size of the Bull and the distinctive head is high into the Atrium.  Someone has placed a white sheet over the head of Ozzy. Brummies are unsure why this has been done as it is not possible with a single sheet to hide the identity of the bull.  However the sheet does give an air of mystery to the statue.  

Ozzy the Bull arrives in New Street station, Birmingham. 2023
You just wonder what all the fuss is about.
Ozzy the Bull arrives in New Street station, Birmingham. 2023
This picture provides an idea on how impressive Ozzy is.

Enjoy these pictures and stay tuned for the unveiling of Ozzy in all his glory later this month. You may also wish to see two of my earlier posts which chronicle the history of Ozzy the Bull.

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Brighton Beach fun

I was fortunate to visit Brighton as part of a conference. My hotel was on the seafront and in between…

The Bull in the Car Park, Ladywood, Birmingham, October 2022

The Bull enjoyed an intense period of adulation during the Commonwealth Games as the Birmingham Public took the Bull to their hearts.  Standing tall next to the Central Library, the Bull became the main attraction in Centenary Square.  I visited the square several times with the family.  Whether you were young or old everyone loved the Bull.  However, rumblings about its future began to surface as we learnt that it was not going to be a permanent fixture.  There was an open debate what would happen after the Commonwealth Games were over.  My blog account of that first day when the bull was moved to Centenary Square after that amazing opening ceremony, shows how much it was loved.  There was much discussion about the future and the decision was to keep the Bull on show till the end of September.  

The Bull at the peak of its powers during the Commonwealth Games

On the hour during the games, there was an amazing display from the Bull. The animatronics included leg movement, shaking of the head and smoke coming out of the nostrils.  All this ceased as the team who operated the internal levers and controls moved onto other contract work in the UK.  The Bull remained standing proud and was admired by the many visitors who came to Birmingham.  Then not quite at the end of September, the Bull was moved from the square.  It quickly transpired that its new home was a piece of waste ground in Ladywood near to the Birmingham canal navigations.  There were coverings over the structure to protect it from the elements.  Protection is needed as the Bull is of mixed construction with a metal outer skin, but internal organs made of foam and electronics.  Within its centre was a telehandler, a type of tractor that enabled the bull to be moved around.

The Bull in the Car Park, Ladywood, Birmingham, October 2022
The Bull behind barbed wire

So how is the Bull these days?  My pictures reveal life as a Bull in Birmingham after the Commonwealth games.  The Bull stands alone by the canal behind barbed wire, covered with a tarpaulin. There is a single security guard on duty.  My pictures show it is lonely and that people do not know it is around.  My picture of the lonely bull with the couple passing by captured the imagination of Instagram and it was featured by BirminghamLive bringing its plight to the attention of the whole of Birmingham.

The Bull in the Car Park, Ladywood, Birmingham, October 2022
Behind bars and do not touch.
The Bull in the Car Park, Ladywood, Birmingham, October 2022
The lonely Bull in the Car Park

The Birmingham Bull. Centenary Square, Commonwealth Games 2022

The star of the commonwealth games is the mechanical bull that was revealed at the opening ceremony. It stands 10 metres tall and sits atop a motorised vehicle that allows it to be manoeuvred. Both the head and the legs move and there are numerous working clogs and gears. When viewed close up, the details are astounding.

The Birmingham Bull. Centenary Square, Commonwealth Games 2022
The Bull fenced in with emblems of the Commonwealth countries.

The Bull wowed the world at the opening ceremony and then immediately afterwards was escorted to centenary square in the City Centre. The public response has been amazing and as soon as news leaked out that it would be dismantled after the games, there have been a multitude of calls for it to stay. A petition has been set up and Birmingham City Council is being lobbied to keep the bull. The difficulty is that it is not easy to find a place to display a 10 metre high mechanical bull but a lot of thought is being given on how to achieve this. Meanwhile the Bull is attracting large crowds and everyone wants to have a selfie taking in the backdrop of Birmingham. Here are some pictures including intricate details of the bull for you to enjoy.

The Birmingham Bull. Centenary Square, Commonwealth Games 2022
A man in the bull
The Birmingham Bull. Centenary Square, Commonwealth Games 2022
The bull casts a majestic pose

At the start of the week, the plan was to dismantle the bull at the end of the games. Now the City Council are planning to keep it due to the popularity of the structure. Fingers crossed people far and wide will be able to enjoy seeing this remarkable metallic puppet for many years to come.

Read these articles from the BBC to find out more.
Commonwealth Bull” A tourist attraction
Birmingham Commonwealth Games: Council considers keeping bull in the city

The Birmingham Bull. Centenary Square, Commonwealth Games 2022
The Bull has become a tourist attraction and a sensational one as well.

Having done Digbeth, I felt brave enough to go into Birmingham again and look around both Gas Street Basin and Centenary Square.  My first difficulty was parking as car parks and on street spaces were either shut or there were traffic cones preventing you from parking.  I found a place and wandered down into gas street.  What I noticed was how many runners there were out and about plus cyclists using the tow path.  It is wide enough to do social distancing and it was being patrolled by two police officers as well.  

Some parts are locked up
The basin is still colourful
Many runners around

After Gas Street I went to Centenary Square and I had brought along my lensball as I thought it might give me some different and creative photography.  Sometimes the lensball is frustrating as it just does not add anything more to the picture.  In this situation, the shallow pool of water allowed you to place the crystal at the water’s edge and then lie low to line up a picture.  I was pleased with the result and it was well received on the social media.  I also noticed that whilst Broad Street is undergoing changes for the metro tram, there are social distancing notices all over the pavement.  The virus is still around and although walking around the streets of Birmingham has a normality about it, you do realise that we are sill in a state of crisis.

Work on the tram makes for lockdown pictures of the Library
The lensball likes being reflected
When will the Rep open for performances?
Centenary Square is quiet
Evidence of neglect on Broad Street
Changes and more Changes on Broad Street
It is a difference world
Social distancing on Broad Street

Centenary square has a new water feature and it is a very large reflecting pool. It offers photographers the chance to take some beautiful pictures. Whilst it has been opened there is still work taking place on the square and it will be even more spectacular when it is completed. If you search Instagram there have been many pictures already taken with children splashing in the fountains or late night shots with sparkling lights. I am sure that I will return with even more pictures over the year to come. When I posted my pictures on Twitter, some one suggested that it could be a ready made advert for Birmingham in a similar mode to the Thames TV iconic reflected picture. I rose to the challenge and made one with Birmingham on the picture. If you are reading this then you must visit Birmingham!!

The library
Reflections to the cube
The ICC and the Rep
A lovely looking reflection
The Rep theatre
Doing the walk with your reflection