Council leaders accused of obstructing plans to protect heritage site.
Kings Heath music lovers are demanding a change of tune from city council chiefs because they are refusing to decide the future of the site of a former dance hall where sixties legends including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones made their Birmingham debut and members of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Move, The Spencer Davis Group and Slade cut their musical teeth.
Four years ago on 27th March 2013, the building that had been home to the Ritz Ballroom throughout the sixties and early seventies was destroyed by fire. Now campaigners are demanding the land at 2 York Road is listed as an Asset of Community Value as an important step in realising the dream of creating a suitable tribute to the venue’s rich musical heritage. The land was originally the site of a cinema and billiard hall before being converted by legendary Irish couple Ma and Pa Regan into a ballroom, then a bingo hall and being declared an Asset of Community Value would mean that the site would have to be offerede to local groups should it be put up for sale.
The campaign, which has gathered wide support from local residents and businesses, is led by local charity Kings Heath Walk of Fame. Set up in 2012 to celebrate the area’s artistic history, the charity has established a popular annual Beatles Festival at which local musicians ‘come together’ to perform Beatles classics on the anniversary of one of the Fab Four’s appearances at the Ritz in February 1963.
Co-organisers Bob Prew and Ken Whittaker said: “We have sent the council leader legal advice that the Localism Act requires them to list the site. We are very angry and concerned that the council believes they are above the law and can simply ignore the eight-week mandatory time limit for making such decisions. It also seems to us that they have no effective complaints policy. There are now growing demands for something to be done about what has become a derelict eyesore in an otherwise increasingly fashionable area and for us to be helped to realise our dream of making the Ritz rise from the ashes as a community resource celebrating its amazing heritage.”
The plans are to build on the site a performance space and a museum that tells the story of the site. Further fundraising for this ambitious project is taking place on 4th June at the Hare and Hounds next door to the derelict site when John Lennon’s sister Julia Baird’s favourite tribute band The Mersey Beatles perform a special show to jointly commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the release of the Sgt Pepper album and the 54th Anniversary of The Beatles’ third and final appearance at the Ritz. Tickets cost £15 from www.skiddle.com
Bob Prew added, “Liverpool earns millions of pounds from musical tourism. Birmingham could do the same if the Council started to promote our musical heritage in the same way. Listing 2 York Road as an Asset of Community Value would make a great start”.