The Bullring is celebrating its 20th anniversary which has seen it grow from a retail centre into a multi-cultural venue with one of the world’s most recognisable pieces of art at its heart
Next time you’re passing the Bull in the Bullring, give him a pat on the head and wish him Happy Birthday. It’s 20 years since he took up residence in the then newly-opened Bullring, and what started out as very much a destination for shoppers has become a centre not only for retail but for leisure, the arts, food, celebration… and much more. So, we decided it was only right to mark this important anniversary ourselves this month!
When the Bullring opened in 2003 it was one of Europe’s largest city centre retail regeneration projects, helping revitalise Birmingham city centre, connecting important streets while spearheading the regeneration of both New Street and Moor Street stations and the surrounding areas. It created a new meeting point and civic heart for the city.
The dramatic bonze Bull, weighing 6 tonnes and standing 2.2 metres high, created by sculptor Laurence Broderick, became not only the symbol of the new Bullring locally, but also of the city itself nationally and globally. On opening day, the Bullring welcomed 276,000 customers – today more than 30 million visitors come to the centre every year. Famous faces have included Victoria and David Beckham, Peter Andre, Girls Aloud, JLS and McFly to name but a few. The Bullring has played a significant role in Birmingham’s economic growth in both supporting employment and attracting visitors from near and far.
Toby Tait, director of asset management of Bullring owners Hammerson, said: “We’ve evolved considerably during our 20 years. We sit at the heart of the city’s social, cultural and arts programme and today you’re just as likely to visit us to shop in Zara and Selfridges as you are to participate in Birmingham Weekender or B Side Hip Hop Festival.”
A partnership with Birmingham Hippodrome six years ago has been instrumental in realising ambitions and changing the perception of the Bullring and Grand Central from a place where customers come only to shop. “Over the years we have delivered some fantastic events, including Birmingham Weekender, B-Side Hip Hop Festival and It’s Carnival which have all created new reasons for people to visit,” said Toby.
“A personal highlight was our sponsorship of the Commonwealth Games last year. This was a proud moment for Birmingham and showed the world how fantastic this city is. Through our partnership, we provided a suite of charging points within Bullring’s car park for the Games’ official fleet of electric vehicles – supporting the ambition to be the most sustainable Commonwealth Games yet.”
The 20-year landmark comes amid a big year for the Bullring and Grand Central with exciting new concepts and leading brands in the offing. New entertainment and leisure brands include Sandbox VR, Lane7 and TOCA Social, alongside high-profile retailers including M&S, Bershka, Pull&Bear and Watches of Switzerland.
Toby added: “There are plans to re-imagine a former 200,000 sq ft of retail space to create Drum, a new wellbeing designed office space complementing the existing food and social hub in Grand Central and the retail and entertainment brands Bullring has to offer. With an exciting selection of upcoming occupiers, brand partners and the repurposing and introduction of Drum, along with our continued efforts to innovate, we are poised to shape the next chapter of Birmingham’s retail legacy. I can’t say for certain what Bullring will look like in 20 years’ time but we don’t plan to stand still and are already looking ahead to seeing Bullring at 40.”
One thing is for sure – the Bullring Bull will continue to guard the centre and remain the undisputed emblem of Birmingham. And don’t just take out word for it – a prestigious World Top 10 of pieces of public art featured Brum’s Bull in its listing, along with the likes of New York’s Empire State Building, Florence’s sculpture of David by Michelangelo and Landseer’s lions in London’s Trafalgar Square. Now, that’s what we call making a mark…