The construction of a giant ship in the centre of Birmingham will mark the start of the city’s summer celebrations.
Named "Britannia" in recognition of Birmingham’s pride at being Britain’s Second City, the Bullring shopping centre’s cruise ship in St Martin’s Square will be finished in the next two weeks.
Once completed, it will act as a venue for a host of events during the holiday period for more than 200 people at a time.
The ship follows on from what Bullring describes as the "phenomenal success" of its beach last summer, which saw an eight per cent increase in footfall year on year for its 13-weeks duration.
Tim Walley, general manager of Bullring, said the ship was the first project of its kind in the country, and added: "Britannia is building on the incredible success of the beach last year, and will provide the people of Birmingham with free access to a premium attraction over the summer months.
"By building Britannia, we are bringing a unique and exciting event to the city and ensuring that Bullring is at the centre of everyone’s summer.
"We want people to really take the ship to heart as the symbol of the great holiday atmosphere that Birmingham has to offer."
The project is themed around a love of all things British and will be officially launched on June 4.
Events scheduled to take place on the boat include a Selfridges summer fashion show on June 11 – featuring makeovers with stylists, a karaoke competition on June 18 and an exclusive event for Cruise Card Holders.
The final celebration on July 2 will feature an afternoon of Wii gaming, followed by an evening of music. In addition to the boat launch, Birmingham City Council yesterday announced plans for the return of its own city centre beach, through a sponsorship deal with Dubai-based international airline Emirates.
The Emirates Beach in Chamberlain Square will open on July 4 for 10 weeks. The free attraction will be open daily from 11am to 7pm.
Visitors to the beach can relax and watch the world go by from their deckchairs, while sipping on a fruit cocktail. Emirates has planned a series of events with changing backdrops to reflect some of its top destinations, including Dubai, Australia, South Africa, Thailand and Mauritius.
In addition, there will be a number of activities to keep crowds entertained during Veterans Day, the Jazz Festival, the Latin American Festival and ArtsFest.
Laurie Berryman, Emirates’ UK North manager, said: "We are thrilled to help bring back this fantastic summer attraction to the people of Birmingham.
"Some of the best beaches in the world can be reached with Emirates, in destinations such as the Indian Ocean, Thailand and Australia, so we hope to bring a little taste of this paradise to the centre of Birmingham for summer 2008."
Coun Ray Hassall, the council’s cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture, said: "We are delighted that Emirates has agreed to sponsor the beach this year. It would not be possible without their support.
"We are sure it will again prove to be very popular with Birmingham families, city centre workers and visitors alike."