Birmingham Press Club is the oldest Press Club in the world, having been formed on the foggy night of 16 December 1865 when a small group of journalists met at what was Suffield’s Hotel in the centre of Birmingham.
One of its initial rules was that reporters connected with the Daily Post, Daily Gazette and Midland Counties Herald should be the Club’s first members.
It was originally called The Junior Pickwick Club but by 1870 had become known as Birmingham Press Club. Over the years, the Club has been headquartered at a number of premises in the city, including Corporation Street, which was officially opened in 1966 by Prime Minister Harold Wilson (after the Club’s 43-year stay in Bull Street), and the Grand Hotel, Colmore Row, where Prime Minister John Major performed the opening ceremony in 1977.
Today, the Club holds its functions at various city centre locations.
Surprisingly, the Club ‘missed’ a major milestone in 1965 so preoccupied were members with negotiations to secure new premises! It wasn’t until seven years later that the Club eventually held a celebratory dinner at the Strathallan Hotel to mark its ‘centenary.’
Another landmark was reached in 1966 when Club directors agreed to the admission of women to the club as guests – for a trial period! Two years later the first women were admitted to full membership and HRH Princess Alexandra became the first woman life member in 1972.
But it wasn’t until 2016 that the Club appointed its first woman chairman – media personality Llewela Bailey.
Towards the end of 2005 the club secured a major sponsorship deal with Royal Mail, which pledged its support for an initial 12 months. But such was its success that Royal Mail continued to sponsor the Club for almost six years.
Today, the Club – now on a sound financial footing and with a loyal membership of around 250 –holds regular monthly networking events at various venues in the city in addition to flagship events such as the Midlands Media Awards, the Media Students Awards, celebrity lunches and its traditional Christmas lunch.
Club chairman Llewela Bailey said: “Just over a quarter of a century ago, the Club had a total of 500 members and although current membership is half that figure it still has an important role to play both in the life of the city and the media industry.”
Evidence of this is shown by global bank HSBC in taking over as principal sponsor of the Press Club, agreeing a three-year partnership in 2016.
HSBC – founded in the same year as the Press Club – is becoming an increasingly important business in the heart of the city and, by 2017, will be of one of the biggest employers in Birmingham. It is locating the national head office of its ring-fenced bank, which will serve its personal and business customers, in Birmingham in a new building at Arena Central in the city centre.
The move will involve relocating some 1,000 roles currently based in London to Birmingham from mid-2017 onwards to join the 2,500 staff already working in Birmingham.
HSBC took over the mantle of overall sponsor from Bournville College, which succeeded The Royal Mail as sponsor in 2011.
The college, which caters for up to 15,000 students, occupies a landmark campus in Longbridge, which was developed as part of the £1 billion regeneration of the former MG Rover car plant. It offers media courses for students seeking a career in film production, videography, journalism and public relations.