Local residents enjoy a unique visit ahead of the Commonwealth Games


The Key To The City project around Birmingham gave locals and visitors a chance to experience the city like never before.

Benji Whitehouse, from Digbeth, visited each of the 21 slots opened by a specially produced Yale key, which he collected at a key exchange ceremony at Birmingham New Street station.

Key To The City was part of Festival Birmingham 2022, a six-month celebration of culture and creativity, supported by money raised by National Lottery players.

Birmingham 2022 promises to be the biggest celebration of creativity in the region and one of the biggest Commonwealth Games cultural programs ever.

The National Lottery is investing over £40 million to support the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and its legacy in a variety of ways.

This includes investing in everything from infrastructure, national teams and grassroots sports programs to employment, training and volunteering opportunities, as well as the vibrant Birmingham 2022 Festival.

Key To The City lock locations ranged from West Bromwich Albion’s Hawthorns Stadium to Symphony Hall, and even an allotment garden, but Whitehouse picks two others as its favourites.

“I really enjoyed going to Touchwood Shopping Center in Solihull,” the official said. “The Key Experience is only open between midnight and 6am.

“So it’s not just something you can say ‘I’m just going to check that off my list.’

“You have to plan. The first bus is at 4:45 am, so I hopped on a bus.

“When I got to Touchwood, you ring the buzzer, the security guard comes and lets you in and there’s a little locked box on the information desk and you put the key in to open the box, but I don’t want to not spoil what’s in there.

“I also really liked 103 Colmore Row. There is a viewing platform in the offices, unoccupied at the moment, it is the highest point from which you can see across the town.

“It was raining and there was hail, but it was still an amazing experience and it is only available for the duration of the project.”

Birmingham Festival 2022 is a six-month celebration of culture and creativity, funded by the National Lottery with £3million from Arts Council England and £3million from National Lottery Heritage fund.

The National Lottery Community Fund has also invested in the events program.

Visitors had the opportunity to make their way to New Street Station to receive their key before setting off on an adventure around Birmingham, with key exchange open until July 10.

All 21 venues will remain open until the culmination of the Commonwealth Games on August 7, with Whitehouse set to hold onto the key in memory of a special summer.

He added: “There are 15,000 keys that have been made and there is a family in Aston who have made their back garden available.

“They want to make it available to the community and they’re pushing the boundaries of what they mean by community.

“It’s an incredibly personal journey. There are very few adventures left to be had, so to have something like this mapped out for you, you can just say “okay, I’m going to work through this at my own pace, in my own way” and I picked the see as an adventure.

“To make it easier in the best city in the country. Birmingham is just a beautiful city and with the Commonwealth Games coming up, it all fits together beautifully.

National Lottery players raise over £30m a week for good causes, including vital funding in the arts, culture and heritage sectors. Find out how your numbers make you amazing on www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk. Find out more about the Birmingham 2022 Festival supported by the National Lottery using the hashtag #B2022Festival