Council ignoring city’s musical heritage, claims campaign group

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

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”.

4 thoughts on “Council ignoring city’s musical heritage, claims campaign group

  1. I very much support the call for the site of the former Ritz Ballroom to be made an Asset of Community Value and the work that Ken and Bob have done to promote the venue’s history and importance is highly commendable.

    However, it should be noted that The Beatles performed at this venue just once – on February 15th 1963 – and not three times as is being claimed. This was a rescheduled show, postponed from January 11th when heavy snow prevented the group from travelling to the venue. Beatles live performances are now very well documented and researched and I have seen no evidence or documentation to support the claim that they made three appearances in Kings Heath. If anyone can prove otherwise I, and I imagine many serious Beatles’ historians, would welcome the evidence.

    • It depends on what you mean by evidence. If this includes oral evidence, then we believe that research by the Sunday Mercury (16.1.16) and us last year revealed that The Beatles played at the Ritz 3 times. The most famous of these is the one you mention but they are reported to have played there earlier in 1962 with Pete Best on drums (but we haven’t so far been able to ascertain the exact date) and on 5 July 1963 when the Regans changed the venues The Beatles played on their circuit at the last minute. (Google: John Lennon nickedmypint!) They often did changed their bookings round.
      The Who were booked to appear at the Ritz on 28 March 1965 but played the Regans’ Brum Kavern in Small Heath instead so that a show advertised as “All Birmingham R&B night with Hit Paraders The Moody Blues and The Spencer Davis Group” could take place at the Ritz

  2. This venue is mentioned on an upcoming episode of Streets Of Birmingham: Musical Heritage on the Made in Birmingham Television station, Sky 117, Virgin 159 or Freeview 7

  3. We are talking about the past here rather than the present or the future, aren’t we? I just don’t understand how a heritage site like this will actually add anything to the economy of York Rd or Kings Heath for that matter. More shops are needed that will boost the local economy and provide real jobs. I would see this idea as a white elephant within 2 years of reopening

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