Birmingham Chamber of Commerce is set to mark 200 years at the heart of the city’s private sector with a year-long bicentenary celebration.
The chamber is one of the oldest and largest in the country after being founded in July 1813, although it existed as a commercial society around 30 years before that.
To mark the milestone, the whole of 2013 will be devoted to celebratory events in partnership with Kraft Foods, including a gala dinner with royal and government attendees still to be announced, a concert, a debate, an exhibition and a look into the future of business.
Jerry Blackett, the chamber’s chief executive, said: “We are delighted to have Kraft Foods on board as our main sponsors. Cadbury has been part of the fabric of Birmingham for so many years, which makes them an ideal partner throughout the year.
“We feel it is appropriate to mark the Chamber’s 200th birthday as a celebration of Birmingham business as a whole, from its early days, through the industrial revolution and its renaissance to the present day. We will also be looking at the shape of business in the years to come, part of which will be a global video conference looking at several issues.”
Nick Bunker, president of Kraft Foods UK and Ireland, said: “We are delighted to support the 200th birthday celebrations of the Chamber of Commerce.
“John Cadbury opened his first shop in the city 11 years after the chamber was formed so it is entirely appropriate that we should celebrate the heritage of these two institutions which have played such a central role in Birmingham’s success over the years.”
The year-long celebration will include a look back at the chamber’s history through a commemorative booklet that will be available at all events and online.
As well as a gala dinner in July, the chamber is planning to stage several major events under the bicentenary banner.
A musical celebration with the City of Birmingham Orchestra is planned at Symphony Hall and there will be two high-profile business-related debates at the Town Hall and at Birmingham Science Park Aston.
There will also be an open week at Chamber of Commerce House in Edgbaston and an exhibition marking the anniversary with a look back at the rich history of business in Birmingham.
And a commemorative figure will also be created, possibly in silver, through a design competition between schools and colleges in Birmingham with the finished article and replicas manufactured by the city.