This week, the Tories are in Birmingham for their annual conference. I don’t mean to be political, but JRR Tolkien based the Shire, the idyllic homeland of the hobbits on it’s greener pastures, and it feels a little as though Sauron has popped into town to say hello. Although, to be fair, it’s nice to see that any politician is aware that life thrives outside of the M25.
Anyway, my offense at their being here made me wonder why I am so offended at their presence. The somewhat predictable answer is that I love this town.
I am from a small town on the furthest eastern edge of Kent. I dare not repeat it’s name, for fear that more Londoners will arrive and attempt to further gentrify the place. So in short, I am a southerner, brought up with my southern ways, and not made for life north of Watford.
I first came to Birmingham a decade ago, to meet my girlfriend’s (now wife’s !) parents. The warmth with which I was treated, from when I got off and had a swift half by Digbeth coach station, to the reception from her parents in the heart of the Black Country, to when I went out to Snobs, the indie disco par excellence in town was unparalleled by any city I have been before or since. Only Melbourne has come close.
Since then, I have been unable to sit at the bar alone for a pint without getting involved in a conversation, which could never happen in most London bars. Think about the last time you were approached by somebody in a bar in London. I may be paranoid, but there I generally think, “Okay, do you want to shag me, kill me, shag me and kill me, or kill me during the shagging?” Here, it’s purely just a thing you do, because people should talk, and give a shit about one another.
Yes. The talking is in that accent, especially in the Black Country. But you know what? Asian accents are phonetically amusing too, and you don’t impersonate those do you? When you get used to it, it’s musicality is second only to the Welsh accent, and I wouldn’t change a yam of it.
The town also has a reputation for being ugly. I’d say to anyone of that misconception, take a walk around Victoria Square, or by the new, architecturally brave city library, or best of all Brindley Place, centered around the old industrial canals. In fact, take the time to take the canal 13 miles from the city center to Wolverhampton, and watch the city change from huge, wild, emotive valleys, to ruined old industrial buildings, to relaxed parks along the side. Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice, and best of all they don’t stink like crap.
Go to Cannon Hill Park, enjoy the scenery and the nearby hipster vegan café scene of Moseley, and Moseley Arts Center. Birmingham seems to be left behind when you consider art cities. London, Liverpool and Manchester all wave their musical heritage around like nobodies business, but Birmingham essentially ruled metal with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath hailing from here, the British reggae scene was kept alive here, Duran Duran, Slade, The Streets. Maybe it’s because Brum has nothing to prove that it doesn’t have to bleat on about its past successes.
In food, Brum gave us Nigel Slater, to my mind the best cook, and Glynn Purnell, one of our most inventive chefs. In comedy, Stewart Lee. No more needs saying there. Although I have a soft spot for Jasper Carrott.
Not to mention that the town has a legendary cricket ground in Edgbaston, and four league football teams in the city alone. One of which is great, but I won’t start a fight over it.
And best of all, in London, the hipsters, minorities, rich, poor, middle class, everyone can live in zone 1. The town hasn’t been ruined by oil, gas and inherited money.
I’m only scratching the surface here. There’s tons more to love, and I’m the new idiot in town. I can’t wait to find it.
So please, Call Me Dave and your Bullington friends, please get out of my town before the other wankers realise how good it is.