Birmingham City Centre transformed into 'Garden oasis' as 17-day PoliNations festival kicks off

The PoliNations festival will include a programme of free events including poetry and music to celebrate horticulture and cultural diversity. Credit: Trigger Collective, THISS, Carl Robertshaw, Bronia Housman

Birmingham's Victoria Square has been transformed into a 'spectacular garden' for a 17-day festival celebrating cultural diversity which begins today.

The PoliNations festival, held between 2 and 18 September, will see the city centre dressed in colour and a programme of free events including poetry and music.

It was inspired by the surprising fact that over 80% of plants found in UK city-gardens originate from overseas.

It's part of the Birmingham 2022 festival which showcases homegrown creativity for, with and by people from the West Midlands.

Commissioned by UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, it aims to shine a spotlight on cultural diversity in the UK through the lens of British horticulture.

The PoliNations festival will be held between 2 and 18 September. Credit: Trigger Collective, THISS, Carl Robertshaw, Bronia Housman

What is the PoliNations festival?

The garden is made up of five towering tree installations reaching 40ft high and sculptures inspired by ‘iconic plants’ which despite being non-native have become staples of UK gardens.

There will also be thousands of colourful living plants - grown by local community groups - creating a forest and a meadow.

600 marigolds have been grown by over 1,000 local residents and will be planted by the clubs the on the opening weekend during 'Plant Up!'.

After the event, plants from the 'magical garden' will go back out to re-green the city centre.

PoliNations will see Victoria Square transformed into a 'spectacular garden' for 17 days. Credit: Trigger Collective, THISS, Carl Robertshaw, Bronia Housman

The festival will celebrate how migration and cross-pollination have shaped Britain’sgardens and culture.

The programme includes daily garden tours led by Birmingham BotanicalGardens, lunchtime talks exploring issues from sustainability to decolonisation, and magical evening light and sound show the Sunset Shift.

The visionary team behind the super garden, Trigger Collective, include experts in horticulture, arts, science and architecture, brought together by arts organisation Trigger.

What will the festival include?

All events are free and open to the public.

  • Plant Up! (2-5 September): The opening weekend will see diverse local community groups and schools planting flowers in the super garden, and the launch of the Iconic Plant Talks exploring themes such as sustainability and freedom of expression.

  • Ballistic Seed Party (15-18 September): A four-day grand finale weekend combining the joyful spirit of Carnival, Holi and Mardi Gras with music and performances from Horse Meat Disco, Kofi Stone, and a troupe of 50+ carnival dancers, as well as giant Rangoli street art and a Catwalk Extravaganza like no other.

  • Poetry & Performance Festival (9-11 September): In partnership with BBC Contains Strong Language featuring performances from rapper Soweto Kinch (Mercury Prize Nominated), slam champion Jasmine Gardosi and hot new UK talent.

PoliNations is one of ten major commissioned as part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK taking place in 2022 in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Martin Green, Chief Creative Officer at UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, said: "PoliNations is a fabulous collision of art, design and horticulture and a dazzling start to the final month of the Birmingham 2022 Festival, as the buzz continues around the city following the Commonwealth Games.

"Like other UNBOXED projects, it shows what can happen when creative minds from different sectors and backgrounds come together.

"This wonderfully positive technicolour experience has also involved local people who have helped make it happen and I’m excited to see PoliNations burst into bloom."

Arts Minister Lord Parkinson said: "Continuing the fantastic success of this summer's Commonwealth Games, Birmingham city centre will now be transformed into an artistic garden celebrating creativity and diversity as part of UNBOXED, the UK-wide celebration of science, technology, engineering and arts."