It’s the family-friendly market with stalls manned by local people selling things they’ve made themselves at the heart of the country’s most inventive region.
And all the signs are that the inaugural Christmas in Cathedral Square will become an annual event thanks to the creative talent behind the counters meeting the present-buying public’s insatiable demand for ‘something different’.
The mini ‘village’ is a microcosm of the means by which the city began to grow after a market charter was first granted in 1166, some 855 years ago.
The consecration of the then parish church of St Philip’s off Colmore Row followed 549 years later in 1715.
In just another 174 years, Birmingham was granted city status in 1889 by Queen Victoria and, 16 years later, in 1905, St Philip’s became a cathedral after the formation of a new Diocese.
Now, another 116 years later, it’s the comfortable home of the city’s newest market.
And perhaps the start of a new tradition whereby every year from now on, Birmingham Cathedral will welcome Colmore BID and commerce into its grounds in the run-up to Christmas.
Since the turn of the millenium, Birmingham German Christmas Market has dominated the city centre at this time of the year and is now in its 21st year.
To find out how the new market is really doing, we went to meet some of the latest traders to see, in the words of the late Eric Morecambe, what they made of it so far!
This stall is run by geography and mass communications graduate Yejide Adeoye.
Born in Edgbaston, fostered out at six weeks only to lose her white foster father at the age of 7, the 45-year-old mother took a while to find her place in life.
Now working out of the Jewellery Quarter, she handcrafts her own jewellery.
She even has a spin-off with her own-label ‘Places and Pieces’ laser-cut jigsaw puzzles – one has the names of the city’s wards printed on each piece, another has them all left blank to make finishing the puzzle much harder.
Her product lines include laser and digital designs for everything from customised cufflinks to homeware, giftware, accessories and jewellery.
Yejide, who has a 22-year-old daughter says: “I launched the business seven years ago in 2014 – I bought a laser machine and just started to create all sorts of things.
“When I was at university I went to Barcelona to see how the Olympics had changed it and in Temple Bar, Dublin, saw the impact of arts and crafts.”
She loves Christmas in Cathedral Square market and says she’s had many interesting conversations with customers.
“I’ve lived in Bromsgrove, Kingston, London and Nigeria but have come back to Birmingham.
“Geography covers all different aspects, how and where we live and how we connect. I’m home.”
You can see many more pictures from the Christmas In Cathedral Square market in our photo story here
Determined to inject some fun into daily life, artist and art tutor Robert Geoghegan is a familiar face on Birmingham’s craft markets including Moseley Art Market.
He was a regular trader at the old Christmas Craft Market on the other side of Paradise Forum (as was!) before Centenary Square was redeveloped.
He then tried the emerging City Social in the underpass opposite the Mailbox.
Though grateful to be under cover there if it rained, he is now delighted to be back outside in the open air and in a much better position than he had on a different 2018 Christmas market in Cathedral Square, where too many stalls were positioned with their backs to either Colmore Row or the footpaths.
“I am really enjoying my time here and there’s been a lot of interest in bus drawings which I’m best known for – never having driven in my life, I’ve used them a lot over the years!
“People really like the one with all of the different children’s characters in the window.
“And my Peaky Blinders’ range has been very popular, especially the one where the gang have a day out at Sea Life Centre,” smiles Robert.
And if you really want a chuckle, the back wall of his stall is the only place where you can see a tram in the city centre
West Midlands Metro suspended all services for at least a month from November 13 while it tries to repairs cracks to the chassis in its fleet.
The Crackling Candle Co
On the opposite side of the walkway that leads from the NatWest Bank corner of Cathedral Square is a new candle company which launched in October last year.
Matt Francis works in the events industry while Chloe is a nurse and wedding photographer.
When Covid-19 took away the fun side of her income, the couple sat down to plan a new way of earning a living – and The Crackling Candle Company was born.
Matt says: “Making candles involves a lot of trial and error, it’s not an exact science but we were inspired by lockdown and we’ve now got 25 lines and infusions.
“We’re here till Sunday 28 and would love to come back for longer next year.”
Summer and Silver
This jewellery stall is a spin-off from a shop on Vyse Street in the Jewellery Quarter.
Prices range from £10 to £120 for a neck cuff and items are hallmarked where required.
It is run by designer Ricky Harvey with cousin Karen Wigley who told us: “We used to be on the old Christmas Craft Market and had the best of times when we were up near to Paradise Forum.
“But we really like this new market and it’s good to be back in town.”
This stall is close to the Christmas Carvery and is only here for this week.
It sells handmade and personal gifts and features mother-and-daughter team of Kelly Powell and Ellie-Jo Huckvale.
Like Steve Woodham Art, who is on the path opposite the Helter Skelter, they are coming over from Bloxwich.
Ellie-Jo said: “We’ve really enjoyed coming to the market and hope to be back next year.”
Around the corner on the path leading down towards Cherry Street are food stalls, the Birmingham Commonwealth Games outlet and… Bear Bookshop.
Like Summer and Silver it’s a spin-off from a shop designed as a nice, family-friendly way of encouraging children to develop a lifelong love of reading.
Mum-of-three and former English teacher Jenny McCann opened her bookshop on Bearwood High Street with the promise to help parents to ‘Find magic books for curious kids’.
Jenny, who used to teach at The Phoenix Collegiate in West Bromwich, says: “Reading is so huge academically, it affects everything because it’s the foundation of everything they do.
“It benefits wellbeing, it’s a great way to relax and unwind, to help you to sleep and switch off.”
Christmas in Cathedral Square
There are 30 stalls, but not all of the traders are there for the duration – some have booked for odd weeks, alternate weeks or blocks of weeks – the idea being to give more start-up traders the chance to shine and to see if it’s for them.
So if you love it the first time and decide to go back, there will always be something different to see next time.
Running until 8pm on Sunday, December 19, Christmas In Cathedral Square is a partnership between Birmingham Cathedral, Colmore BID, Birmingham City Council and local family firm Danter Attractions.
Birmingham Cathedral Square (B3 2QB) is bordered by Colmore Row, Temple Row West, Temple Row and St Philip’s Place.
Birmingham City Council runs the nearest major car park at Livery Street Snow Hill, where prices are £4 for up to two hours, £6 for up to four hours, £9.20 for up to six hours, £12.80 for up to 12 hours and £15.80 for up to 24 hours. The car park closes at 11.30pm except Sundays at 9pm.
From there, it’s just a two-minute walk from Snow Hill Station (come out of the front on to Colmore Row and turn right).
Most Moor Street trains stop at Snow Hill in each direction, or you can alight there, cross Moor Street Queensway and head towards New Street via the steps opposite with the Rotunda ahead, or walk directly through Primark when open.
Simply walk up New Street to the crossroads with Lower Temple Street, but turn right up Temple Street.
If you arrive at New Street Station then leave via the Stephenson Street exit and simply walk for five minutes up Lower Temple Street and then Temple Street after crossing the Birmingham German Christmas Market on either side of New Street.
Danter Attractions are also behind Ice Skate Birmingham’s massive family-friendly presence in Centenary Square with the Ice Rink, 40-metre Big Wheel and 55-metre City Flyer – this site will close at the end of Sunday, January 9 (closed Christmas Day).
The Birmingham German Christmas Market ends on Thursday, December 23.
Founded in 2017 but missing last year, AllinAll Hospitality’s City Social is back with food, live music and stalls beneath the underpass next to the Mailbox.
Open Wednesday to Sunday from 12pm to 9pm after launching on Thursday, November 25. Its last day will be Saturday, December 18.