‘Second City, Second Class’, this was the headline from the Economist in 2012. Fast forward eight years and the Economist have based their new Technology Centre in Birmingham. So, what has and is changing in the Midlands?
For years Birmingham and the West Midlands have been seen as the ‘bleak’ county of the country following; horrifying unemployment figures, low household income and dilapidated city centres. But now things have changed we are now BRIGHTER BRUM!
So much has changed over the past decade and now in 2021, we look to make this the decade of the Midlands, so let us show you why we are proud to be Brummy!
Birmingham has a rich and exciting past that has seen many changes throughout the years, dating back to the early 12th Century when Birmingham was originally a popular market town. Today we pass all kinds of factories with every journey we take around the city centre but back in the 1700’s factories represented a completely new way of working. The industrial revolution saw the development of Birmingham’s metal trades and new factories like the one in Soho, this was the first real factory ever built, filled with thousands of workers; men, women, and children. The industrial revolution alone proves that Birmingham has always been ahead of its time, with constant changes and developments.
Do you know who the world’s most famous poet and author is? It is William Shakespeare, who was born and bred in the West Midlands, to be specific he was from Stratford-upon-Avon and with one of the world’s greatest poets & authors being from the Midlands, people flock from all over the world to Stratford-upon-Avon just to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace. Shakespeare has written some of the world’s most timeless classics such as Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet.
“He that is thy friend indeed,
He will help thee in thy need:
If thou sorrow, he will weep.
If thou wake, he cannot sleep:
Thus, of every grief in heart
He with thee doth bear a part.
These are certain signs to know.
A faithful friend from flattering foe.”
William Shakespeare, The Passionate Pilgrim
Birmingham was second only to London for the creation of new jobs between 1951 and 1961, during this time there was rapid growth in the population and employment within Birmingham, which you would think would be a good thing, right? Well actually, no it was not for the City Council as many people were concerned it was a ‘threatening situation’. In 1965 the Government introduced the “Control of Office Employment Act 1965” which was adopted by the Birmingham conurbation from 1965, effectively banning all further office development for almost two decades! This meant that over 220,000 Brummies would have to leave the city over the following 14 years and if that were not bad enough, some of the city’s industries would have to been removed. This came into force to centralise London because Birmingham was increasingly growing and overpowering London.
Birmingham bounced back from this and came back stronger than ever, initially we relied on traders coming through the city to purchase our goods and supplies, following on from this, the Millennium saw a new era of shopping bringing in many tourists; in fact, Birmingham attracts around 26 million visitors in every year with, 47% here for shopping as we are in fact home to the world’s biggest Primark which attracts as well as of course of the beloved Bullring shopping centre. We have an ever-increasing reputation as a vibrant and diverse city, offering world-class business, cultural facilities and being the most attractive UK regional city for quality of life.
Being Brummy does not have to mean you are from Birmingham! We are fortunate to have a range of different people with different backgrounds, leading to us being one of the most diverse cities, not just in the United Kingdom, but in the world! What if we were to tell you that Birmingham hosted the largest Eid celebration in Europe? Or one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the world? How about the largest LGBTQIA+ parade in the United Kingdom? For these celebrations, we close our city down to host festivals that are not necessarily associated with your typical ‘Brummy’. We love the diversity in our region, and we want to welcome everyone with open arms. The people of Birmingham actively look forward to these celebrations of culture; 70,000 people attend the Eid festivals every year and over 75,000 attend the Pride celebrations.
Perhaps the best way to show our Cultural awareness and openness is the awarding of ‘City of Culture’ to Coventry. The award is designed to help a city display its diversity and celebrate its cultural range. Coventry will host ongoing events throughout the year with over 6,000 proud volunteers helping prove this; imagine 6,000 giving up their time and effort for free to help show off their city! Luckily for Coventry, they have that, and we could not be prouder.
We are a community of three million people with near one million identifying as an ethnic minority. Brummies do not do minorities, we are one!
As you can see, Birmingham and the West Midlands is incredibly diverse. From Spark Hill to Leamington Spa, from Wolverhampton to Solihull, we have amazingly diverse communities within a few miles of each other. So, how do we link them and develop these communities further?
We present the Midlands transformation through the Green Revolution.
You may not know it, but we are at the forefront of diverse solutions and, development of creating an eco-friendly, greener, and happier environment for us and future generations to live and thrive in. Through our progress in developing options for the electric car market, changing the way we travel through the midlands and persevering, as well as developing, our natural wildlife centres, the Midlands is an exciting place to be!
The West Midlands is set to be the home to many new and upcoming projects, Coventry will be the brand new 5G testing region! I am sure you are wondering what 5G testing is, well look no further. 5G testing equipment is one of the most advanced technologies in terms of mobile phones and network connectivity, this is designed to do a variety of things that can transform our lives, including giving us faster download speeds, low latency, and more connectivity for millions of devices. Coventry will also be home to the Wasps 5G lounge which will change the way the Wasp games are experienced for the better and will establish new 5G technology into the city.
Now have you heard of a ‘Gigafactory’? If so, then well done, if not, we are not surprised. There are three worldwide. Now imagine one of them being built in Coventry. This factory produces electric car batteries on a mass scale thus meaning we can produce more electric vehicles in the UK. The site is proposed to be next to the Jaguar Land Rover site in Coventry as they prepare to have a fully electric fleet by 2025. This is fantastic for the Midlands as we plan to expand our ‘Clean Air Zone’ throughout the county however, how can we facilitate this and maintain these new vehicles? Well for a start, we have 445 charging points over the Midlands with more coming. As for the maintenance of the vehicles and charging points, we are specialising in training for these roles as we develop our dependence on electric vehicles. We are also producing schemes to reduce the use of older, polluting vehicles. The ‘Mobility Credits’ scheme looks to scrap your 10-year (or older) vehicle and replace that with £3,000 worth of credits to use other modes of sustainable transport!
In fact, here at UVA UK we are planning to have our very own green fleet of cars. Our sustainable transport plan centres on the growing development of our HS2 plan, Tram development and increased funding of cycle routes as well as bicycle production. We will host the Arden Cross station for HS2, linking London to Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester. This will develop its community village, thus creating further jobs and linking the manifold of the country into our great county. Our continuous links do not stop there; following a £20 million influx of funding, we shall be expanding our Tram network across Birmingham to further reduce the use and high emission transport systems.
As you can see in the West Midlands, we are open to change; change in how we travel, change in our local communities, and change in our perception of our environment. Interestingly the West Midlands is the vesical in change for the United Kingdom, as demonstrated by us hosting the movement of civil service departments as well as being the beacon of the BBC’s new “Centre of Excellence”.
On the BBC, they have opted to start their “Centre of Excellence” in the heart of the cities creative district, Digbeth. This venture will also coincide with Steven Knight’s (he of Peaky Blinder fame) studio being developed in Birmingham l; this shows how the creative arts are dissolving away from London into the Midlands. Civil services ministers will be joining the BBC’s movement in also relocating to the Midlands. For the first time in Government’s history, they are looking to redistribute a large portion of their civil service ministers to the West Midlands from Whitehall.
All this shows bright signs with how the Midlands is moving forward and how major departments, as well as institutions, are moving into what will be the most forward-thinking part of the country.
Whilst saying we are the most forward-thinking part of the country is a bold statement our hosting of the Commonwealth Games will aptly demonstrate our capabilities to show off the claim. The West Midlands, for the first time, will be the home of the Commonwealth Games in 2022, the games are a huge event that takes place every four years which will unite all the different commonwealth nations together. Birmingham hosting the 2022 games will bring a range of different opportunities to the Midlands including thousands of jobs, a chance for local business to work with new people and it will boost local tourism with over two million spectators expected to attend the games.
What helps makes this event so unique is their famous mascot “Perry the Bull” which was designed and created by a 10-year-old girl, Perry the bull consists of multiple-coloured patches all over his skin which represents the diverse cultures of the Midlands’s.
In conclusion, Birmingham is bright because we are constantly finding new ways to improve and e be the best, we could ever be. We are striving to be better by going green, accepting change and being the most diverse city, we can be. A Brighter Brum can be represented through ‘Perry the Bull’; Perry demonstrates how inclusive and accepting we are whilst also being prepared to charge for change.