A brief history of the Tower Ballroom ✨
Originally opened in 1876, the Tower Ballroom began life as a roller skating rink. It was located in Ladywood in was set within 80 acres of land that surrounding Edgbaston Reservoir, originally known as the Rotton Park Reservoir.
By the middle of the 19th century, roller skating had become a firm British favourite for the middle classes as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert themselves famously used to go on skating trips to get to know each other more. The skating rink in Birmingham was one of the first of its kind with most Ice Skating rinks dating form 1850 onwards.
By 1892, the reservoir site had evolved into a pleasure resort with a roller-skating rink, jetty for boat hire, and even small steam ship.
In 1920 the skating rink was converted to a dance hall ‘The Tower Ballroom’ thought to be named after the nearby Waterworks Tower (Chamberlain and Martin) along with assimilation with Blackpool’s famous Tower Ballroom.
The reservoir and Tower Ballroom really was THE place to be in Birmingham in the 1920's!
In 1944, Edgbaston Reservoir or "Galaland", was acquired by the holiday camp and amusement park firm Butlins Ltd of Skegness, Birmingham may have been 100 miles away from the coast bit it still had reservoir views and entertainment.
The Tower Ballroom changed it's identity a number of times to stay on trend as one of the cities most celebrated and largest dance halls . Starting foremost with ballroom, to more upbeat styles such as northern soul and disco. No handbags on the floor though... the dancehall had its own bespoke handbag storage come makeup room.
The building's name has changed quite a few times from "Mecca Dancing, Tower Ballroom" to "Tower Ballroom -Come Dancing" as well as "The Gay Tower" and more recently "The Tower".
Alongside regular dance nights, the venue hosted many; parties, club nights, variety performances, shows, tea parties and weddings. Many people remember the revolving dancefloor, magnificent reservoir views, spending time with friends, and of course the well stocked bar!
Many famous musical acts played at the Ballroom including The Smiths, The Drifters, Three Degrees and Frankie Vaughton.
In more recent times, under a number of new owners the venue has become a popular venue for concerts, boxing matches, parties and weddings - big Desi weddings in particular.
A newly revived roller skating night and beauty pageants were popular among local residents. The Tower was a place to meet friends, family and celebrate intercultural togetherness.
There has also been regular: local and high profile boxing nights, all genre concerts, and regular all night University student events.
The Tower closed its doors in 2017, but reopened briefly in March 2019 as a venue to host Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk - Graham Vick’s Birmingham Opera Company, the night was a storming success getting 5 star national reviews.
At present the Tower Ballroom is earmarked for development and it is looking likely it will demolished as part of the cities "masterplan".
"Closure" has happened twice in recent years, once in 2005 and later in 2014.
We really do not know what the future holds for The Tower building, but, we feel strongly that we should preserve and capture the memories, dreams and legacy of this magnificent venue. There is hope that this project will act as a live project to help develop an already established community led vision for the future of the Reservoir site.
We would like to thank Birmingham City Council, Arts Council England and Edgbaston Reservoir Consortium for their initial support and conversations regarding this project and related community led visions for the local area.
We strongly believe that Ladywood, indeed Birmingham, is one of the most intercultural and culturally exciting places in Europe. The talent is there, and we want to help local people achieve their potential. There is still a lot to develop to ensure that everyone can gain access to culture, the arts, sports and education.