Birmingham 2022 Festival and Fierce have announced Yale as the official sponsor of Key to the City and that the location of the ‘Key Exchange Ceremony’ site will be Birmingham New Street Station.

Security experts Yale will produce 15,000 keys (and their respective locks), which will give recipients access to 22 locations around the city region that, combined, create a compelling portrait. The specially designed keys will begin production in early May at the company’s Portobello factory. They will be presented to recipients from 28 May at the exchange site in Birmingham New Street Station in beautifully designed boxes, with an accompanying passport, which acts as a map and guide.

For 6 weeks from 28 May anyone will be able to award the Key to the City to whomever they want, for whatever reason they want. 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. Keyholders will be able to access these locations until 7 August 2022.

Locations include special access to 103 Colmore Row (a view of the city from the 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 commented: “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+ 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 said ‘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 intervention in which twenty-five thousand keys to private or normally inaccessible spaces throughout New York City were bestowed, revealing that culture can still be a freely shared experience, while also highlighting the increasing privatisation of urban space.

The Key Exchange Ceremony site, located beneath the departure boards at New Street Station, will be open from 11am - 7pm from 28 May - 5 June inclusive and thereafter from 11am - 7pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. There is no need to register in advance, just 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.

Key to the City will be running from 28 May – 7 August. It is a FREE event generously supported by Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.