Even the coat of arms says it, Birmingham is forward thinking. It’s a city world renowned for it’s contribution to industry and the arts and the second largest city in the United Kingdom. It’s hard to believe that Birmingham started out life as a medium-sized market town in the medieval period. Later in the 18th century, the Midlands Enlightenment and subsequent Industrial Revolution, helped Birmingham grab the attention of the world. Birmingham became a city at the forefront of advances in science, technology and economic development, including the invention of the world’s first steam engine (which we saw and the Black Country Living Museum).
When the Luftwaffe bombed the bajeebies out of Birmingham in World War 2 they rebuilt. Some say a little less attractively, with cheap functional housing and later a complicated road system that coined the phrase ‘spaghetti junction’. Industry kept the city alive right up until the 1970’s but then when a recession hit hard in the 80’s Birmingham started making the news for all the wrong reasons, high unemployment and social unrest.
But, forward thinking Birmingham wasn’t about to be beat just yet. Those proud Brummies reinvented themselves once again as a centre for the arts and a thriving youth culture. Even today the city skyline is filled with cranes and building works. The proudest new addition to the city is it’s brand new, ultra modern library. It’s a bold, eco-friendly hub of learning, community and technology, and we thoroughly enjoyed visiting it.
For us, Birmingham left an impression as a city fiercely proud of it’s history, (the Museum is outstanding) but not being held back by it. There are pockets of the past, such as the Canals in the Gas Street Basin, beautifully restored against a modern backdrop of glistening mirrored buildings reaching for the sky.
It felt like a young city, the high student population is evident on the streets and multiculturalism is alive and thriving. Our visit to Birmingham would not have been complete without a wonderful curry dinner in the Balti Triangle.
Should you ever find yourself wizzing north on the motorway from London, consider taking a detour into this vibrant city, it’s well worth it… as long as you don’t get stuck on spaghetti junction!