Forget New York: This is Birmingham!

I’m sure anyone that has walked around the Bullring in the last week or so will have noticed a Statue of Liberty and a mock up yellow taxi just outside the Selfridges building.Taxi

I don’t know if this is a marketing ploy or stunt (although I assume it is) but it doesn’t half look out of place. Firstly, they’re not particularly evocative; it doesn’t grab the eye and whisk you over the mental pond to the land of steaming grills and Christmas movies. Secondly, and this maybe over the top, it is right next to Birmingham’s biggest landmark and symbol.

New York wouldn’t have a mock up Bullring, Custard Factory or ‘Floozie in the Jacuzzi’, it doesn’t need to because it’s a well established, world class city.

So is Birmingham, we’re not New York (yet) but we have unique landmarks and a distinctive culture. That means we no longer have to rely on basking in the glory of other cities. Our re-invention from industrial powerhouse to cultural and creative hotbed in little over 10 years is remarkable, and there is a genuine community and life force growing within the city.statue-of-liberty

Selfridges and the NEC give us an immediate draw and the beauty of the Council Building, Town Hall, and Centenary Square provide the city with a scenic dignity comparable with any European city.

I’m probably wrong, they’re probably a littlebit of fun but I think Birmingham has enough of a grounding and culture to not need to decorate our town with trinkets from New York or Paris.

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2 Comments

Filed under Big Cat Group, Big Questions

2 responses to “Forget New York: This is Birmingham!

  1. Robert Sharl

    Hmm yes, I was thinking the same just yesterday. Gigantic stickers saying “Welcome to New York” all over the glass panels overlooking St. Martin’s Church. So who thinks up this nonsense?

    Birmingham seems to me to have the balance between commercial and civic, private and public space all wrong: We sell off parts of beautiful civic squares for ugly video screens that no-one wants and which end up unused and ugly. We hand over our summer events to commercial partners (like the ‘beach’) which turns a loved area into an noisy eyesore while other areas lie derelict. We permit private retail groups like the bullring to dominate the centre and then sit back as they turn it into a low-rent disneyland while they close off the main access steps (because noone’s clearing the rainwater) and let a shoddy coffee shop open and then abandon an architecturally acclaimed building in a prime location.

    If we’re serious about building a city that others might want to emulate, we really need to rethink exactly who the city belongs to, and what it’s for. Retailers can lease a part of the centre, but it’s a privilege not a right, and it carries some serious responsibilities (keeping it open, keeping it safe, playing nice with others, making things better than they were). The same rules need to be applied internally to public projects if we have any hope of succeeding.

    Everyone who works for the city council should be given 3 days holiday to go and read Jane Jacobs on the American City. That might be a start.

  2. Thanks for your comment Rob. Its funny you mention the steps, I was just complaining to my friend yesterday that its completely pointless to shut off the steps just cos of rainwater (particularly in Britain).

    I agree about ruining public spaces, I think the markets etc bring a much more colourful and vibrant edge to the city rather than fake beaches.

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