Time to come clean. We’re a little bit obsessed with Birmingham’s 10-metre tell mechanical bull. It made quite the impression at the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games 2022. Since then it has taken up residence in Centenary Square and we’re not the only ones to have fallen in love. After it was revealed the bull would be destroyed after the games, Brummies have since been on a mission to save it. #SaveTheBull has been trending on social media and there is even a petition that has gathered nearly 10,000 signatures.
Why the bull?
So, why the bull? And, no, it’s not just a fancy alliterative nickname. The connection can be linked directly to the Bullring shopping centre. Well actually, two shopping centres. First there was The Bull Ring, which sat in the same location during the 1960s, before being demolished and rebuilt as the Bullring in 2003. Since then a 7 ft bronze statue of a running bull has sat outside its entrance. Created by Laurence Broderick, The Birmingham Bull has become a popular tourist destination and a de facto city mascot – although the new giant looks to usurp it, if saved. Of course, you probably know all of this already. But Birmingham’s history with the bull runs much deeper than a surface level naming of a shopping centre.
What is the Bull Ring?
It’s not exactly pretty, but the location of Birmingham’s shopping centre has a long storied past of bull-baiting and slaughter. Although there has been a market there since 1166, it was in the 16th century when John Cooper was given the right to bait the bulls there. Back then the area was known as Corn Cheaping. It had a patch of green by St Martin’s Church that was used for the blood sport that pit bulls and dogs against one another. This is what was first called The Bull Ring. The name specifically refers to a hoop that the bulls were tied to. Bull-baiting stopped at the Bull Ring in 1798 when it moved to Handsworth.
What about now?
This was all a long time, the sport was finally outlawed in 1835. The area’s association with the horrific sport is long dissociated. But to some it is still a controversial image. Even the mechanical bull comes with some animosity as it was used in the opening ceremony to represent the city’s dark, industrial past. To most, however, the Birmingham bull now symbolises the spirit of the city and its people. Determination, persistence, and strength.