As summer enters its Indian phase it's time to roll up the barriers on Broad Street and roll out the stages in Centenary Square for ArtsFest 2005, another in the series of Britain's biggest free arts festivals.
Last year an estimated 115,000 people turned out to enjoy around 300 free taster events ranging from the CBSO and Birmingham Royal Ballet to young indie bands, performance poets, theatre and dance of every kind.
This year, thanks to enhanced funding from the Urban Fusion programme, a Friday night programme has been reinstated for the first time in several years. It begins where last year's ArtsFest finished, with Reggae Rockz (Centenary Square, 7.30pm-11pm), a package of highlights from the West Midlands' impressive contribution to the history of reggae and ska which frankly would be a bargain even if you had to buy a ticket.
Last year this show wound up festivities on the Sunday night and even rain and a hint of approaching winter couldn't dampen the enthusiasm of a slightly less than huge crowd. Let's hope for balmier weather this time as legendary Handsworth revolutionaries Steel Pulse make what ought to be a triumphant return to their home town alongside key members of The Beat and The Specials, Dawn Penn and Basil Gabbidon, with the debut of the Reggae Rockz Young All-Stars.
There is more reggae in Centenary Square on Saturday night, with Pato Banton and his new band following on from The Big Voice (see above), after which Sampad presents specacular Indian contemporary dance company Samudra.
Saturday night regulars Birmingham Royal Ballet have both moved to other parts of the weekend. BRB trail their forthcoming autumn season in Centenary Square at 3.30pm on Saturday afternoon, while the CBSO move to Sunday night alongside Birmingham jazz hero Soweto Kinch.
The indoor venues include the usual eclectic mix of choral and instrumental performances, poetry readings, theatre tastings (including the Rep in snippets from its forthcoming Wizard of Oz and Birmingham Opera Company with its next project, Don Giovanni). The now traditional outdoor film screening which ends the weekend is Edward Scissorhands.
Don't forget the usual attractions of the visual arts tents in Brindleylace, the cornucopia of shorts by West Midlands film makers being screened at the Library Theatrefrom 6pm on both days, and of course the programme of events for children at the Secret Garden ( otherwise known as City Centre Gardens) on Cambridge Street.
For those new to the ArtsFest experience, the concept is simple. Turn up, collect your free programe and plan your way through hundreds of free events, choosing from up to ten in each half-hour slot.