So, a couple of weeks ago I was in Birmingham.
It was a destination chosen mainly for practical reasons. I was meeting with my friends Scott and Ian for a day of high-jinks. Ian lives in London, Scott lives in Birkenhead. Birmingham was roughly in the middle, and London Midland‘s Great Escape offer enabled us to reach there for just £15.
Aside from Moor Street station (which everybody spent a lot of time coo-ing over), my companions complained about how rubbish everything was. In fairness, we did seem to see only the very worst of the city: the dank caverns that are New Street and Snow Hill stations; the horrendous, pedestrian-unfriendly gridlocked roads that surround said stations; the Midland Metro with its unrelenting window views of derelict factories. We ended up in Wolverhampton, where a drunk man shouted obscenities at the people disembarking from the tram.
Birmingham gets a bad press. It’s the UK’s second city, with over a million inhabitants, and yet it is sneered at. It’s unfairly portrayed as a concrete mess of ugly 60s architecture, populated by Black Country simpletons with rubbish accents.
I can’t join in with the Birmingham mockery, however. This is mainly because I live in Liverpool, which is probably the one English city which gets more of a slating than Birmingham. I live and breathe Liverpool every day, and I know that the image of thieving and yobbery is untrue and unfair (except, perhaps, when the Mathew Street Festival is on). By the same token, I refuse to believe the stereotype that Birmingham is all concrete and ugliness. Over a million people choose to live there – it must be doing something right.
The tram system is a bit rubbish, though.