Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham's German Market: Singing moose and 'ugly huts'

Crowds at the German Market Image copyright Edward Moss Photography

Birmingham's annual Christmas market, which opened last week, is undoubtedly a high-profile event, but not everyone is a fan.

For some, the six-week attraction, with its singing moose and endless stalls, is a highlight of the city's calendar. But others regard it less favourably, seeing it as a yearly invasion of "ugly" wooden huts and premium-priced beer.

BBC News asked Heart FM Breakfast Show host Ed James and Birmingham Mail journalist Graham Young for their views on the yearly event.

What do you think? Is it a bit of festive fun or a crowded carnival of Christmas tat? Send your thoughts to newsonline.westmidlands@bbc.co.uk


The case for the German market

By Ed James, Heart FM

Image copyright Ed James Group

It's time for one of my favourite events in the Brummie calendar. The Frankfurt Christmas Market has once again descended upon the city and filled otherwise dark and cold evenings with merriment and Glühwein.

What's not to love?

1. The Christmas Moose

Without a doubt, the Christmas Moose (also known as Chris to his mates), has become quite an attraction in his own right.

Directly opposite the council house, the singing sensation is entertaining for any age.

2. So much….STUFF

No matter how bah-humbug you are, you can't but help get excited when you approach the twinkling maze of stalls packed with treats, stocking fillers and all sorts of goodies.

3. Community Feeling

Image copyright Christopher Furlong\Getty Images

You're part of one big Brummie family at the market. I love how it brings the community together regardless of age or beliefs.

Plus, it's impossible not to make friends whilst queuing for the food stalls. Which leads nicely on to my next point...

4. Bratwurst

Image copyright Birmingham City Council

So many to choose from! How the Bratwurst is served varies by region, but it is commonly served with a Brötchen, or roll.

Why not challenge yourself to trying them all?

5. Compulsory embarrassing hat, gloves and body warmer combo

Image copyright CRAIG LASSIG/EPA

Yes, I may be dressed for Arctic conditions, but I don't get to dig out my stylish array of beanies, bobble hats or, my personal favourite - the one with the furry ear-flaps - otherwise.

6. The Carousel

Image copyright Getty Images

The musical carousel in Victoria Square is a staple of the Christmas market. I don't know who enjoys it more - me or my kids

7. Countdown to Christmas

Image copyright Science Photo Library

Finally, you know that when the Frankfurt Christmas Market arrives, Christmas is little more than a month away.

Advent calendars at the ready!


The case against the market

By Graham Young

Image copyright Birmingham Mail

I've previously suggested alternating the German market with a more traditional Dickensian or Victorian version because the current setup is losing its appeal.

I visited the event again this year and although the layout has improved, there are a few things that were less than impressive.

1. Victoria Square takeover

Opened by Princess Diana 21 years ago, Victoria Square is the most appealing part of Birmingham - the Town Hall and Council House are offset beautifully by Dhruva Mistry's water feature, The River.

And yet, the Frankfurt Market virtually obliterates it with unsightly sheds.

That might not matter if things returned to normal afterwards. But, despite the market's high prices, where is the money to turn the much-loved Floozie in the Jacuzzi water feature back into a working fountain again?

2. Damage to pavements

The square is disintegrating year on year. The paving is becoming increasingly uneven and, in places, is either chipped or worse - note the badly-cracked inscription "RIA" of Victoria on the main wall.

As if to rub salt into our wounded pride, the stone paving in Victoria Square was already filthy before thousands of people chewing with open mouths began dropping food and litter everywhere.

3. Noise for workers

Image copyright Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Visiting the market from afar will, undoubtedly, make for a fun day out. Only Scrooge could not see that.

But anyone who works in the vicinity of what is the commercial heartland of Britain's second city must find the constant noise, smell and congestion an unbearable hassle.

4. Cheap tat?

One visitor I overheard talking to his partner last weekend said: "If we get to Lapland, at least the items for sale will be genuine and not cheap tat."

Fair comment?

5. Healthy eating?

There's only so many sausages you can eat - especially at £4 a go.

Ham on a plate, £10! Portions of sliced, fried potatoes are also overpriced at £2.50.

In an increasingly obese society, there's very little for sale that could be considered a health food.

6. Christmas message

Christmas is supposed to be about the birth of Jesus and exciting for children.

But despite the 44-day run-up to 25 December, there's still nothing here to stimulate those under six - children in prams often look exhausted and the Nativity display is almost out of sight again at the back of the council house.

7. Glass Hire

And finally... just what would you say to your local pub landlord if he tried to charge you £3 to borrow a glass?

More on this story