The Big Wheel’s back for Christmas, will the Big Screen return in 2010?

I know the Big Wheel's only back for Christmas, but it's nice to see it back

With the temporary return of the Birmingham Big Wheel (hopefully without the Parisian commentary which made it all the more quirky the first time around), are we going to perhaps see a return of the Birmingham Big Screen?

For what seems like almost two years now, the Big Screen has remained resolutely dark, with nothing but a test pixel lit to show that it’s still got mains power. This is a real shame, as the screen’s a definite asset to the city centre; when I moved to the city in 2005 I enjoyed walking past it every day. I watched the news on it in the evening, I caught some short films and sometimes it even threw a few curveballs my way. As well as that, it screened the football and other major sporting events (drawing major crowds, not always without their own minor crowd control problems, but all in all well managed).

But then, one day, it went dark…

Image credit: Birmingham Mail

After the owners of Waterloo House obtained a High Court injunction against the City Council (claiming that it disturbed the workers inside), the Big Screen was switched off. As its temporary moorings in front of the then-unfinished Town Hall were removed, the screen had to move as well, and BCC (perhaps unwisely) built a more permanent plinth for the screen in Victoria Square. Costs for this lift-and-move have been reported as ca. £1million.

Attempts to gain planning permission for this new (re?)installation have garnered some opposition, and while I agree it will raise noise levels just perceptibly, I highly doubt that the sound would be that audible from the various office locations given the angle and the amount of surrounding street furniture which would help to disperse and diffract soundwaves (the screen’s PA was never that loud anyway). In short, the Birmingham Big Screen should definitely be turned back on, and About Brum fully supports its reactivation. It provides a tangible benefit to the locale, offers a focal point for people to meet and enjoy their lunchtimes and gives the city centre another venue for people to publicly enjoy sporting events and quickly catch up with breaking news. I never heard people complaining as they sat on the steps each lunchtime watching!

But what do you think? Do you work nearby or do you just love/hate the thing? Always interested to know.

Published by Christopher

The guy behind About Brum - living and working in Birmingham and the Black Country. I love this city!

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  1. That screen’s an obscenity, a noxious weed, a barnacle on the grand scheme of Victoria and Chamberlain Squares. The arbitrary decision to put it there is also an insult to both planning and civic sensibilities. Perhaps they should have hung it alongside the war memorial. That would have shown equal sensitivity.

    However, so long as it stands there in silence it does serve one purpose: as a very visible reminder of Whitby’s hubris in vandalising the civic centre.

  2. Hi pedestrian, thanks for your comment. That’s a fair amount of vitriol! There’s no denying the whole topic is verging on the ridiculous given how the council attempted to self-approve and then spent an inordinate amount of money on the project whilst still at pre-approval stages. Let’s not forget it was the Labour-controlled Council who first approved and oversaw the installation of the Big Screen the best part of six years ago, so we can’t apportion all blame to Whitby if you’re against the Big Screen project as a whole…

    Many other major cities in the UK have Big Screens; why shouldn’t Birmingham? I do believe the function of having a Big Screen is to provide maximum benefit to the largest amount of people. Pedestrian traffic past the Bullring will be high during weekends and evenings, but it’s nowhere like the focal point for footfall as Victoria Square and is. Thousands of people must commute through that space every day; when I was doing my degree, I made the journey through Paradise Forum, down the steps and past the Town Hall through Victoria Square on an almost daily basis.

    All other circumstances and aspects to the story aside – taking a purely logical look at the current scenario, basing the analysis on how many people get to see it on a regular basis – the screen’s currently location is probably the most relevant and appropriate one for it (short of being moved back to up against the Town Hall’s back wall). It’s backed by trees and offset at an angle so it’s not facing straight on to the Council houses. It would be less relevant to the general public if it was sited by the Bullring or elsewhere, so it makes sense to leave it in roughly the same central area.

    Or am I misguided in my outlook on the whole thing?

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