Lifestyle 3 – Birmingham
In the first of my series of location guides I will be showcasing the hip and happening hub of Birmingham. Hip and happening? To all you doubters out there, Birmingham is officially one of the top ten cities in the World. It comes in ninth in the Rough Guide top ten cities in the World.
Birmingham has often missed out on its share of the limelight. Creative hotspots are beginning to emerge in the urban sprawl however, like the old industrial district of Digbeth, where vintage shops and street food stalls have begun to appear in and around the old Victorian buildings. Head to the old Bird’s Custard Factory for vintage kilo sales and live music performances. Plus with Birmingham New Street station reopening in 2015 after a much-needed renovation.
As the city of my birth I am now proud to say I am from Birmingham. I’m even prouder to now say I live and work in Birmingham. In fact I’m a little bit smug. Gone are my London days, and good riddance. My elbows don’t have to be as pointed in the Midlands and people actually talk to each other. Don’t just take my word for it: the Office for National Statistics says Birmingham is the most likely destination for Londoners in their 30’s leaving the capital. Birmingham should bask in it for now: it won’t be long before HS2 opens and they all trickle back.
Mr Clarke says that two years ago, you struggled to get a pint of real ale, let alone craft beer, in most of Birmingham. Now, from Colmore Row (Pure Bar and Kitchen being his favourite), down John Bright Street, to Digbeth, the city centre is awash in the stuff. It’s as if a phalanx of hipsters, fleeing London’s housing market, have swept up the West Coast mainline to alight at New Street.
Why are all these thirtysomethings flocking back to Brum? It’s great industrial history, vibrant cosmopolitan communities, an extensive canal system, or for having the most Michelin stars in the UK outside of the capital? Possibly. Is it because it joins the likes of San Francisco, Wellington and Oslo in a global network of biophilic cities – urban centres celebrated for their green credentials, their open spaces and their links to nature? I doubt it, but it is an interesting fact.
Birmingham’s emergence as the favourite city for those tired of London may surprise many of you. When I was growing up Birmingham was derided as an unfashionable, ugly city, even the accent was a lugging stock. No longer. Birmingham has been transformed and last year attracted record levels of foreign business investment. The region is already a global hub for advanced manufacturing, but exciting companies in sectors like digital technology and e-commerce are springing up all the time. The accent has suddenly become cool following Peeky Blinders.
The once-unloved metropolis also boasts impressive pull factors that are attracting the culturally savvy. Four Michelin-starred restaurants, a new library which is the largest public cultural space in Europe. It is also home to a world-famous symphony orchestra and a world-class ballet company.
All of the good things that have happened in London over the past 20 years are now happening in Birmingham. It is fresher, more vibrant and more personable than the capital. You can sense the aspiration and ambition of the place and its people. The quality of life is high, and the cost of living is low compared to London, where astronomical house prices are punitive for young families.
There are times when I crave a bit of London, it is the capital and still the first city after all. When the big smoke, crowded tubes and Bond Street call it only takes me 1 hour and ten minutes to get there and more importantly, get home. I can be at Birmingham airport quicker than I could ever get to London Heathrow or Gatwick.
So if you are looking for somewhere to live that is better than London, move to Birmingham.