Life in Birmingham
Birmingham, the city of reinvention, transforming itself from an industrial heritage into a vibrant, young and creative hub for future talent. Statistics show the city is fast becoming the destination of choice for those wishing to escape the expense of London in terms of production and living, but still lead an affordable cosmopolitan lifestyle.
When mentioning Birmingham, the mind instantly goes to the aesthetic of the gritty and iconic award-winning drama ‘Peaky Blinders’, but Birmingham has also been the filming location for many high-end productions over the past few years, including Steven Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One’, ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ as well as ‘Line of Duty’, ‘Hustle’, ‘Boon’, ‘Crossroads’, ‘Dalziel and Pascoe’, ‘The Game’, ‘Danny and the Human Zoo’, and ‘Survivors’.
The city is also the birthplace of many names in the film and television industry such as the infamous Tony Hancock, Julie Walters, Jasper Carrott, Joe Lycett, Theory of Everything star Felicity Jones, silent film star Albert Austin, Director Michael Balcon, and Presenters Emma Willis, Alison Hammond and Toyah Wilcox. Film music composer Stanley Myers was also born here, as was Kenny Baker – that’s R2-D2 in Star Wars, twins James and Oliver Phelps, who played the Weasley twins in the Harry Potter films, and Judge John Deed himself, actor Martin Shaw.
Birmingham is a city that has truly risen from the ashes over the past few decades, shaking off a gritty former image and emerging as a cultural hotspot for up and coming talent. Historically recognised for its industrial legacy as the ‘City of a Thousand Trades’ due to the vast number of industries and business that flocked to the area towards the end of the 19th Century, Birmingham is actually one the UK’s greenest districts, featuring 600 parks and open spaces accumulating to over 8,000 acres.
It’s this multi-cultural eclectic mix of old meets new, nature meets industry, and art meets culture – which draws the crowds to the area, provides a canvas for filmmakers, and makes Birmingham such a fresh and innovative location for budding members of the film and television industry.
In August 2022 Birmingham will also play host to the Commonwealth Games at a cost of over £218m. The events will be precluded a six-month cultural festival across Birmingham and the West Midlands, encouraging visitors from all over the world and opening up the opportunities for coverage for local production teams.
The city also holds over 50 festivals annually, including the Birmingham Film Festival, the Flat Pack Film Festival, the Birmingham International Jazz Festival and the Fierce Art Festival, to name but a few. It’s not just an exciting and vibrant scene to enjoy socially – it’s an opportunity to meet and work with talented individuals from all aspects of the industry.
This collaborative and productive spirit and drive is what makes Birmingham stand out, and with 12 universities and over 185,000 students on average, the under 25s make up around 40% of Birmingham’s population, as the innovative and driven talent of tomorrow cluster to one of the UK’s most up and coming cities in the industry.
An inclusive city, Birmingham Pride the first paid-for event began in 2014 and has since awarded over £250k to deserving local community and support groups in the area, also cementing the district’s place as a diverse and welcoming city featuring a wealth of culture, galleries, theatres, cinemas and live music venues including the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, the Ikon Gallery, The Jewellery Quarter, and The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists.
As film and TV productions worldwide look for new locations, space, flexibility, and sound economic sense, Birmingham’s position in the global market as a location and source of talent is growing. Put your career centre stage, Birmingham could be the best location scouting choice you ever make for your career.
Over the past few years the Birmingham film industry in the city has grown exponentially, attracting big Hollywood productions and their Directors such as Steven Spielberg who filmed for ‘Ready Player One’ on the streets of the Jewellery Quarter, Digbeth and beneath Spaghetti Junction.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle was filmed around Cornwall Street, ‘Jawbone’ starring Ray Winstone filmed sequences in the Jewellery Quarter and Digbeth, and the classic ‘The Girl with All the Gifts’ featuring Gemma Arterton and Hollywood legend Glenn Close was filmed in the city centre. Birmingham-born film producer Michael Balcon’s psychological thriller ‘iWitness’, futuristic science fiction film ‘The Call Up’, comedy ‘We are the Freaks’, biopic ‘Stan and Ollie’, and psychological thriller ‘Monochrome’ were also filmed around the area.
Creator of the iconic Birmingham filmed Peaky Blinders series, Steven Knight, is currently working on plans to open a new film studio in Birmingham, opening huge opportunities for those in the vicinity.
The West Midlands Production Fund supports the development of a dynamic and sustainable film and TV drama hub in the area by providing access to finance for start-up small and medium enterprise companies such as production houses, who are actively progressing image content production. The organisation have previously invested in ‘Line of Duty’, ‘Spooks: The Greater Good’, ‘Dancing on the Edge’, ‘Toast’, and ‘The Call Up’.
Birmingham has many dedicated studios, agencies and production teams in and around the region, featuring traditional studio space, green screen facilities, audio production, animation and SFX houses, as well as warehouse space to permit large scale set construction. Add in the multitude of film festivals and networks and it’s all here ready to put your career centre stage, all you have to do – is say action.
One of Birmingham's most prestigious annual events. The international film festival is a platform for new films and emerging talent. Each year 200 films are screened over a 10 day period, as well as industry Q&A sessions, workshops, seminars, and the chance to network.
Every May bank holiday Flatpack appear at venues across Birmingham with the ‘magnificently eclectic’ Flatpack Festival. The annual festival is complemented by an itinerant year-round programme, including film-tents at music festivals and rural archive tours. Flatpack is a lead partner in Film Hub Midlands, part of the UK Film Audience Network aimed at developing a thriving film culture in the Midlands.
Home of the Birmingham Film Festival, Millennium Point is located in the city centre, close to Moor Street and New Street train stations. The iconic venue hosts a wide range of events each year.
Former site of the Birds Custard Factory, the area has been dynamically regenerated to create Birmingham’s buzzing creative and digital district. The hub of Birmingham’s creative scene, Custard Factory houses a plethora of boutique shops, restaurants, bars, cafes, and the delightful Mockingbird Bar and Theatre.
Film Birmingham is Birmingham City Council’s Film and Television office. Their aim is to encourage and support filmmakers and the film industry, making filming as easy and efficient as possible throughout Birmingham and the West Midlands by providing a one-stop-shop for production needs.
One essential thing you must ensure you have arranged prior to your studies at SFS Birmingham is your accommodation. Your living arrangement can be an important factor in your success as a student.
We do not have halls of residence at SFS Birmingham, which means you must find housing privately, but we have various resources available to help with every step of the process.
Birmingham hosts various possibilities for accommodation such as flats, shared houses, and private halls. However, as Birmingham is university city there is a heavy demand for student accommodation. We advise you to look as early as possible to find a place that suits your needs.
Check out our Screen and Film School Birmingham Accommodation Guide!
No cosmopolitan city is complete without a vast array of eateries and restaurants to suit varying tastes, and Birmingham excels in attracting not only popular chains of restaurants, pizzerias and fast food, but a stunning range of fine restaurants in which to lose yourself for a few hours.
Starting life in 2012 as a popular Birmingham burger stall, the Meat Shack, now located on Thorp Street opposite the Hippodrome Theatre, boasts a saliva seducing menu ‘Dripping Filthy Goodness’ to get the taste buds of the more carnivorous customer tingling.
If dirty burgers aren’t your scene and you’re looking for something a bit more chić, one of Birmingham’s most highly regarded chefs, Aktar Islam, delivers his delicious modern interpretation of Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine at the stylish and sophisticated venue Opheem, earning the esteemed restaurant a Michelin star in the process.
Gaigin Sushi on Bristol Street is renowned for its theatrical approach, and wows diners with their preparation, whilst the art deco style of The Oyster Club is sure to impress as Birmingham’s finest seafood restaurant.
If Italian cuisine is more your style then the family run Laghi’s Deli on the fringes of the city centre brings an authentic taste of Northern Italy to Birmingham.
If good old classics pub food is more your style then it’s hard to find better than The Pint Shop and their unique take on ‘pub grub’. Whether it’s their exhaustive list of beers or flair for a unique twist to their meals, there’s something to suit everyone’s palette in and around Birmingham.
No matter what your taste, Birmingham proves itself as a city full of flavour.
It’s hard to get much more diverse than Birmingham’s vibrant and bustling night time scene, featuring some of the best bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants the UK has to offer, from popular chains to unique boutique establishments, a flavour for every taste.
A rich and eclectic mix of live music, comedy and clubbing is available, whether it’s a retro and soul night you fancy at The Night Owl, a 1940’s style cinema evening at The Electric Cinema, hilarity at stand-up spot The Glee Club, indie vibes at at Snobs, or a mad night out devastating the dance floor at top clubs such as Lab11, The Tunnel Club, The Rainbow Venues, Hare and Hounds, the O2 Academy, The Mill, or Monastery, an actual former Monastery now transformed into a 21st century Birmingham nightspot.
Birmingham is an inclusive city, and the LGBTQI+ community have their very own ‘gaybourhood’ which is centered along Hurst Street, next to the Chinese Quarter in the city centre. Clubs such as The Nightingale, Bolts and the Village inn are weekly hotspots, whilst Club Kids Birmingham run events hosted by legendary RuPaul’s Drag Race stars such as Miz Cracker, Shea Coulee, Thorgy Thor and Bebe Zahara Benet.
There’s also Birmingham Pride held every Spring Bank Holiday weekend which attracts over 70,000 visitors each year and offers a variety of day and night time events for everyone to enjoy.
If headline acts are your thing you’ve come to the right place. Birmingham Genting Arena has featured A listers such as Adele, Metallica, Emelie Sandé and the Killers. The Utility Arena has hosted Ariana Grandé, Harry Styles, Queen, Elton John, Pete Tong and Erasure, whilst the BIC has hosted stars such as Little Mix, Aha, and The Pet Shop Boys,
With such a huge student population the city has become a hub for having a good time, and because everything is so close together it makes getting from place to place a few minutes walk, or you can travel around the city by taxi for less than a fiver.
With over 600 parks and open spaces over 8,000 acres, Birmingham is the ideal place to enjoy nature and get some fresh air. With its beautiful twisting paths, woodlands and orchards, Martineau Gardens is a bubble of tranquillity, whilst historic Winterbourne House and Gardens is the home of stunning landscaping and the perfect retreat on a sunny afternoon.
Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens features 10 acres of walled gardens in the Baroque aesthetic, and includes a holly walk, summer house, and maze. In the middle of town you’ll find the City Centre Gardens located next to the International Convention Centre, filled with exotic-looking plants it’s a great location to escape between lectures, or spend a day lazing.
Nearby you’ll also find the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses, which boasts 15 acres of stunning landscaped gardens, and 4 glasshouses for lovers of the more tropical, from cascading palms and ferns through to Mediterranean citrus and cacti, it’s the perfect way to relax.
Birmingham is an extremely well connected city with a wide variety of travel options, not just within the local area, but across the UK.
Birmingham is a cyclist friendly city, with traffic free cycling routes, on-road cycle lanes, signed routes and canal towpaths. There’s also community cycling clubs and cycle centres for those pound on the pedals!
For a wealth of information on cycling routes, maps, plans and downloads visit the Birmingham Cycling pages by clicking here.
With an immense bus network linking all areas of the city Birmingham is a city that’s easy to get around, with commercial bus services running into the city centre from all areas, it makes being a student easy, accessing the city centre hassle free.
Birmingham buses have facilities to allow access for everyone, such as low floors to allow entry for those with wheelchairs or assisted walking equipment.
There’s also a Swift Pay As You Go card which also offers discounts. You simply put money on your card and then present it when you board the bus or metro.
Birmingham is well serviced by taxi cabs, UBER and other similar minicab companies. Due to the way Birmingham is laid out it’s possible to travel around the city’s vibrant night spots for less than £5 at night.
Always make sure to pre-book your taxi from a fully licensed taxi firm.
Birmingham New Street is extremely well connected and one of the principal stations of the UK rail network as a whole, providing rail links all across the United Kingdom.
Three railway stations service Birmingham city centre, and there is a further station, Birmingham International 9 miles east of the city centre next to Birmingham Airport and the National Exhibition Centre.
There are two further stations. Five Ways in the south west of the city centre with connections on the New Street to Redditch line, and Jewellery Quarter in the north west of the city centre with connections on the Snow Hill to Worcester line and the West Midlands Metro.
The nearest airport to Birmingham is Birmingham (BHX) Airport which is 7 miles away and carries international flights to several countries. East Midlands (EMA) airport is 34 miles away also, but once the new HS2 line opens in 2026, both Heathrow and Gatwick will be reachable in just over an hour, making the world your oyster.
For any questions regarding Birmingham student life or if you’d like more information on how to apply to Screen and Film School, please contact our Admissions Team on 01273 602070 or email [email protected].