Theatreland is part of a larger Birmingham district that includes the Gay Village and Chinatown. Together, locals refer to these areas as Southside. It contains several important venues, including the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Library of Birmingham, Symphony Hall, the International Convention Centre, and Utilita Arena Birmingham.

Theatre has a long history in Birmingham. With a population of about 1.2 million, this city has more than enough people to support a vibrant arts scene. Originally, many of the city’s theatres were further east. But despite this, Theatreland has made a name for itself as a district that’s defined by its contribution to the arts.

Theatreland in Birmingham - one of the highlights of 10 Most Popular Neighbourhoods in Birmingham (Read all about Birmingham here)

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What are the highlights of Theatreland?

The Birmingham Repertory Theatre, or The Rep, opened in 1971. A repertory theatre typically rotates several shows rather than just one. Because of this, it’s much more versatile and can put on a wider variety of productions. These include family-friendly musicals and classic plays. The space is quite unconventional – the largest of its 3 auditoriums does not have pillars, boxes or balconies as do most UK theatres.

On the other side of the canal from The Rep is Utilita Arena Birmingham. It is the 3rd largest indoor arena in the UK. Only the AO Arena in Manchester and the O2 in London are larger. Since it opened in 1991, some of the world’s greatest singers and bands have performed on its stage, including Paul McCartney, Oasis, Coldplay, and Elton John. Besides concerts, it also hosts sporting events such as the Horse of the Year Show and Premier League Darts.

The Library of Birmingham (LOB) is right nearby. Don’t be fooled – this isn’t just any old library. Even if you have no intention of borrowing a book, you can’t miss out on seeing the magnificent architecture of this Centenary Square landmark. It’s certainly a whole lot better than the car park it replaced. The LOB is Europe’s biggest cultural space and Britain’s largest public library.

Mostly, especially on the outside, it is a modern building but inside, one room looks much more traditional. That’s because it is. Builders lifted the Shakespeare Memorial Room from the old library and reinstalled it without changing a thing. The collection contains 43,000 items and includes some truly rare editions of Shakespeare’s plays.

You’ll also find The International Convention Centre Birmingham in the Theatreland district. Blue tinted windows and white stones combine to give the building a striking appearance. Part of the space is a Symphony Hall, home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. It boasts world-class acoustics – tests proved that the audience could hear a pin dropped on stage from any of its 2,262 seats.

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Good to know about Theatreland

Surprisingly, some of Birmingham’s most iconic theatres aren’t in Theatreland. The Hippodrome (Britain’s busiest theatre) is actually in neighbouring Chinatown. It’s the home of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. It usually hosts touring West End shows, operas, dramas, and Christmas pantomimes.

The Hippodrome dates back to 1895 but has been altered several times – in the past, it contained a circus ring and a Moorish tower. The current auditorium dates back to 1924 and accommodates about 2,000 people.

The Old Rep Theatre is just outside Theatreland, near Birmingham New Street Station. Opened in 1913, it's the oldest repertory theatre not just in Birmingham, but also in the UK. In the past, actors Laurence Olivier, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, and Julie Christie have trodden its boards. These days, it’s a training theatre for new talent and amateur dramatics.

Theatreland in Birmingham

Julia Hammond | Contributing Writer