Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony set to tell eclectic tale of Birmingham’s vibrant history

Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight, the man with the responsibility of Birmingham’s first night show, claims he loves a challenge ahead of Thursday’s showpiece event

It’s ten years since Danny Boyle set the bar improbably high for those creative minds charged with masterminding a showpiece opening ceremony.

But Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight, the man with the responsibility of Birmingham’s first night show, claims he loves a challenge.

Which is just as well because everyone is a critic on these occasions and social media hot-takes from the comfort of the sofa come with the territory.

Remember 2012 when Tory MP Aidan Burley, once sacked as a ministerial aide for attending Nazi-themed stag party, tweeted Boyle’s script was ‘multicultural crap’ and was duly slapped down by the prime minister? Expect more of the same.

2012 had the Queen jumping out of a helicopter, Mr Bean conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, Paul McCartney, David Beckham, JK Rowling and that guy who sung Bonkers.

Boyle also had a budget £120 million - which is just under 20 percent of Birmingham’s entire spending on this 12 day sporting show.

Those who compare the Commonwealths to the Olympics are invariably disappointed - so don’t. And Knight is embracing them for what they are, rather than what they are not.

“It is going to be mind-blowing," he promised, knowing he’s able to keep the details hush-hush in the name of not spoiling the surprise.

It’s fair to say Commonwealth Games openings can be a mixed bunch - Glasgow’s was sweet, with dancing Tunnock’s teacakes, Sir Rod Stewart and teams walking out with real Scottish terriers.

Melbourne set the bar high with a 2006 showstopper at the MCG, the Gold Coast four years ago featured a giant floating whale but, crucially, no Kylie.

Edinburgh in 1986 was without doubt the worst opening ceremony ever staged, featuring a mascot named Big Nessie designed to give children nightmares.

Knight is a proud Brummie and has promised a show that will hero the West Midlands. His team includes novelist Maeve Clarke as head writer, rapper Joshua ‘RTKal’ Holness as music consultant and award-winning theatre director Iqbal Khan. Duran Duran and Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi have already been announced as musical acts in a cast of 2,500.

And, report from the rehearsals, it’s rather good ... a well-crafted love letter to a city and region and an acknowledgement of the strengths and weaknesses of this fragile Commonwealth of nations.

"Birmingham is a city that doesn’t like to shout too much, we don’t get too big for our boots. It’s funny but it doesn’t really help to sell our city," added Knight.

"The idea that you are putting together a show that will be live, in front of a billion and half people, is terrifying but also a great challenge.”

There was that capital confidence about London’s Olympic opening a decade ago while Manchester, Commonwealth hosts 20 years back, produced a show with their trademark brooding swagger.

Birmingham, a place that sometimes struggles to know its place, will do it their way - a city with the UK’s oldest pub, more miles of canals than Venice, the birthplace of the Balti and the original home of tennis.

It’s an eclectic story Knight is tasked with telling.

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