Birmingham · UK

In defence of Birmingham…

Defending Brum.jpg

There have been a plethora of newspaper articles recently about Birmingham, and how it’s an up and coming city (I though we were already up and here?) and how Londoners are moving here in their droves:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/10/londoners-birmingham-england-second-city

But the one thing that always gets my blood boiling is the reader comments.  Take this one for example from the above article:

“…Being stuck in a war torn city with ISIS breathing down your neck sounds the equivalent of Birmingham”

Yes “John O’Donnell” would rather be in Aleppo than in Birmingham.  Well “John O’Donnell”, Birmingham probably doesn’t want you anyway.  Because one thing we are good at is defending our own.  Usually with a wicked sense of humour and a self-deprecating put-down or two.  Unlike Londoners, and to a certain degree Mancunians and Scousers, we don’t think the UK axis revolves around us (although technically, being in the middle of the country, it very well could do).  We know it’s a bit shit at times. We know the public transport system is horrendous, and trains don’t seem to run after lunchtime on a Sunday, or when it’s dark, or when there’s a leaf on the line.  We know it’s hard to find anywhere to eat after 10pm at night (unless you frequent one of the ubiquitous curry houses).  We know we’re not going to win any sexy accent awards.  And we know that not all our new architecture is pleasing to every eye (although I personally am a huge fan of our fab buildings).

But if you’ve ever travelled through the outskirts of Paris, you will know that it is dirty, strewn with litter and covered in graffiti. Florence has amazing culture and beautiful buildings, but also a horrendous pollution problem.  And London?  Step out of the glittering centre and into the outskirts, and you will be surrounded by so many diverse languages, accents, colours of skin that you’d be hard-pressed to find a native Londoner.  Some cities dazzle you with their beauty, before revealing a slightly grimier side. You fall in love with the facade, but the everyday details can be ugly.

But Birmingham is the opposite.

You have to get to know Birmingham. She certainly doesn’t give it all away on the first date. There are hidden depths. The best bars, restaurants and shops are hiding in plain sight but you have to know they are there. For every piece of horrendous 70s architecture there’s a beautiful building.  For every chain store in the Bullring, there is a wonderful independent store hawking their wares to those in the know.  For every dodgy curry house purporting to serve the “best Balti in Brum” there’s a tasty street food offering or pop-up restaurant available. For every crowded, expensive German Market, there is an eclectic, intimate festival celebrating the best in music, culture, literature, food and drink.  For every shabby, rundown area, there is a Jewellery Quarter, a Digbeth, a Moseley; areas which delight in welcoming all, not just the rich, or the hipster, or the youth.  Put in the effort to find these places, and you will be rewarded.  Only those who explore a long relationship with Birmingham can appreciate what an amazing city this is.

And “John O’Donnell”?  I wouldn’t bother setting foot in our city.  I hear Aleppo’s nice this time of year?  I’ll pack you a suitcase bab.

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