Well, if the city I live in needs a Christmas present, it’s got to be the recent onslaught about the place.
First of all, hipster bible Rough Guide calls it one of the top ten cities in the world that has to be visited: it lists the music, (one of the best scenes in the UK), Digbeth’s arty scene, its shopping, its business profile and its food cred. And to add an extra incentive for those that actively want to avoid the place, it looks forward to the squillion dollar New Street rail station that’ll open in 2015.
This laudatory note comes after Expedia says Birmingham is the fastest growing Xmas destination this year (not sure how this is computed, actually) and earlier this year the august New York Times drooled over Brum In its hi-tone magazine.
Neil Rami, head of the city’s strategic marketing group, simply says: “This is a dynamic place…”
He is not far wrong. And he’s backed up by the Guardian today with a full-page piece about how grubby down at heel old B-ham is new and shiny and the top destination for folks heading out of London to lead a vestige of a normal life (read house prices…)
Friends of mine continually ask when I will be leaving the city after three decades. I tell ’em I have no reason to scram to the elysian fields of Shropshire, the golden stones of an overpriced Cotswold village or further afield like Wales or one of those rugged northern counties.
I have what I need here.
But big problems remain.
Yes, the city is going through tough times. There have been scandals over education and child protection services. The city, the second largest in the UK, has seen its media disintegrate (no morning paper, two identikit TV news programmes, no real interest from movie location producers unless it is of city deprivation).
Circuses, but where’s the bread?
Also, basic services are being cut back, inner city transport still is a shambling joke, street cleaning seems non-existent and outside of the gleaming cloud-capped towers of the Bull Ring, Centenary Square or one or two of the main ‘circuses’, things do feel a bit neglected as council cuts dig deep.
As commentator Bob Kornreich said: “A lot of the writing has a lot about ‘circuses’ but, as usual, little about the ‘bread’ for local people.”
Or this re-tweet via the Paradise Circus website about the recent coverage: “If someone from Birmingham drinks a pint and no-one from London is there to write about it, does it make a sound?”