Part-time Traveller, Full-Time Brummie

In Defence of Birmingham

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. For example, this one from the Guardian. The 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” (if that is indeed your real name) 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.

Birmingham at night, Livery Street


15 responses to “In Defence of Birmingham”

  1. […] the blog: My hula hooping exploits can be found here! I got protective over my home city here, and wrote about our “Tweet to Eat” Brum Bloggers event at Ana Rocha.  I also […]

  2. Ritu says:

    I love Brum! Forever my home… I may live in Kent but will all ways be a Brummie by heart!!!

  3. mistybooks says:

    The Black Country forever! I can’t visit Brum, the Yam Yam Party won’t let me.

  4. Losing the Plot says:

    I went to Uni in Coventry, just down the road, so I used to be in Brum fairly regularly. The size of it was a bit overwhelming for a small time girl like me, but I always found the people to be warm and friendly. I think there has been a lot of investment and redevelopment int he past 20+ years, doubt I’d even recognise it now!

  5. Such a great post, just love your writing style. Brum would be very proud of your stance and love for the city. Going to share with my sister and her husband they called Birmingham home for 3/4years and they loved it!

  6. AJ.Dixon says:

    Having lived in the ‘Greater’ parts of London and Manchester, I can definitely agree with you on the unflattering points of both!
    I’ve always wanted to visit Birmingham, but the closest I’ve come is stopping there on a Megabus to Manchester! You’ve convinced me it’s a journey I’ll need to make, though! I’ll get to Brum, soon, Emmalene!

    • emfletche says:

      Just avoid Broad Street and the Bull Ring and you’ll be grand! I have plenty of recommendations if you ever find yourself over this way 😁

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