BIRMINGHAM Birmingham is a major UK city in the West Midlands, considered to be the Country’s second city. Birmingham grew from a medium sized market town in the medieval period to international prominence in the 18th century during the Industrial Revolution. Birmingham has been at the forefront of advances, historically in manufacture producing innovations laying the foundations of the modern industrial society. Birmingham has thousands of small workshops and highly skilled trades. Considered the most important invention in British history, the industrial steam engine was invented in Birmingham. Birmingham also has a strong political background and produced leaders such as Thomas Attwood and Joseph Chamberlain, making it the most influential political city outside London. The manufacturing background of Birmingham has been overtaken by the service sector and is vital in the delivery of transport, retail, events and conferences. Having 6 universities, Birmingham is the largest centre for higher education outside London. Birmingham is now home to major cultural institutions including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Barber Institute of Fine Arts and the recently opened Library of Birmingham. No wonder Birmingham is the fourth most visited city in the UK by foreign visitors. Birmingham is also home to two major football teams. The most successful is Aston Villa who among their achievements have won the European Cup. It is also home to Birmingham City F.C. There are many sporting events including athletics and basketball at the Arena and in 2022 Birmingham will host the Commonweath Games. The Alexandra Stadium is undergoing development in preparation. Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in Europe. It is based at the Council House in Victoria Square. It has 10 parliamentary constituencies represented in the House of Commons. The City is also represented in the European Parliament and forms part of the West Midlands European Parliament constituency, which elects six Members of the EU. The City of Birmingham is bordered by Solihull to the south east and the city of Wolverhampton to the north west where you will also find Walsall and the Black Country. It is commutable from both Tamworth and Lichfield City in Staffordshire to the north. To the east is the city of Coventry and in Warwickshire the towns of Warwick, Nuneaton and Leamington Spa. To the south west you will find the Worcestershire towns of Redditch and Bromsgrove. Birmingham is home to 571 parks (over 3500 hectares) of public open space, more than any other European city. There are more than 250 miles (400 km) of urban brooks and streams. In the north is Sutton Park which covers 2,400 acres. This makes it the largest urban park in Europe and a National Nature Reserve. Close to the city centre you will find the Botanical Gardens.