Sharon Heal

Birmingham bounces back

Sharon Heal, 26.08.2014
There's an air of confidence in England's second city
Birmingham is a complicated city in more ways than one. It is tricky to navigate the city centre and the buildings and roads sometimes look like they have been glued together by a manic toddler – the Birmingham Blitz has got a lot to answer for, as has the postwar rebuilding.

Recent rumours that the city could go bankrupt and press reports about extremist takeovers of local schools have added to a negative image of England’s second city.

Despite all this it feels like the place is undergoing a renaissance. There is a bubbly air of confidence and even the taxi drivers are perkily optimistic about the city’s future.

I was in Brum last week for meetings with Arts Council England and Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery (BMAG) and I was impressed by the positive spirit in the city and in the museum service.

Birmingham Museums hasn’t had the easiest of rides lately; transfer to trust status, directors coming and going and big funding cuts could have left staff down in the dumps – but this doesn’t seem to be the case. The museum was buzzing with visitors – after a record summer – and the newly refurbed Edwardian Tearooms looked funky and just the kind of place that shoppers and workers want to drop into.

I talked to staff about what makes the city different and they said that as well as the diversity of the city it is also its resilience and the fact that collaboration, working with others and partnership mark it out.

These are all attributes that will be useful when the Museums Association conference goes to Birmingham next year. There is real enthusiasm from Birmingham to host the conference and plans are already underway for parties, music and of course challenging, fresh and stimulating content. It has all the makings of a great conference in a city that is feeling its way to recovery.

Oh and a last thought. Birmingham is great for eating out. From Michelin starred restaurants to the Balti Triangle there’s lots of choice; I started my background research for Come Dine With Me 2015 at the Lasan and had the best dhal I’ve ever tasted. I’ll be back for more – if you’re a local let me know if you have any suggestions of where to eat and I’ll do my duty by carrying on the investigation…


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Reyahn King
MA Member
Head of HLF West Midlands, Heritage Lottery Fund
27.08.2014, 23:17
Hi Sharon,
Lots to try:
Shiraz on Hagley Rd for Persian (bring your own wine)
Jojolapa on Newhall St for Nepalese
Chung Ying Central or Garden (Chinese)
Zagora (Moroccan) in Fletchers Walk
Al frash for Balti
Bank or Opus at Ikon in Brindleyplace
Opus in city centre

Have fun!