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Birmingham keys

As part of arts events around the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Yale is official sponsor of Key to the City. The location of the ‘Key Exchange Ceremony’ site on Saturday will be Birmingham New Street railway station in the city centre.

The locks and physical security product manufacturer Yale, part of the multi-national Assa Abloy, will produce 15,000 keys (and their locks), which will give recipients access to 22 locations around the region. The specially designed keys began production in early May at the company’s Portobello factory in the West Midlands, a historic base of lock making. They will be presented to recipients from May 28 at the exchange site in boxes, with an accompanying passport, which acts as a map and guide.

Then for six weeks anyone will be able to award the ‘Key to the City’ to whoever they want. It’s free. Key holders will be able to explore private and intriguing places and spaces that they might not have happened on before, bringing a new perspective to the city, say organisers. Keyholders will be able to access these locations until August 7, as the Games close.

Locations include access to 103 Colmore Row (a view of the city from an 18th floor terrace); Northfield Community Garden; Minworth Green Bridge; Green Lane Masjid and Ikon Gallery.

Harry Warrender, Senior Vice President and Head of UKI. ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions says: “We are honoured to be the Official Sponsor of the Key to the City project and play our part in the Birmingham 2022 Festival. With over 180 years’ experience in lock making and as a Midlands-based business, it felt like the perfect partnership. The bespoke Yale keys will offer anyone visiting Birmingham the opportunity to unlock and explore new experiences around the city. We hope as many people as possible get the chance to use one of the keys and be part of this exciting event.”

Louisa Davies, Senior Producer for the Birmingham 2022 Festival, adds: “Key to the City and Yale is a match made in Birmingham! This is a project that will unlock so many surprising experiences for 15,000-plus people. It will paint a portrait of the city that reflects our vision for the Festival – to inspire people to explore and celebrate this unique cultural landscape.”

Creator of Key to the City Paul Ramírez Jonas says: ‘What if everyone, not just the chosen few, could be recognised with the Key to the City of Birmingham? What if anyone could decide who is deserving of the Freedom of the City? What if this key could open dozens of previously unexplored spaces around the city? And what if all those spaces together created a portrait of Birmingham?’

Paul Ramírez Jonas’s Key to the City in New York (2010) was a citywide event; some 25,000 keys to private or normally inaccessible spaces throughout New York City were bestowed.

The Key Exchange Ceremony site, beneath the departure boards at New Street, will be open from 11am to 7pm from May 28 to June 5 inclusive and thereafter from 11am to 7pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. There is no need to register; turn up on the day. Arrive in pairs or solo to be partnered up to collect your keys – all locations are accessed using this single key.

The £12m Birmingham 2022 Festival runs from March to September; visit and


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