A creative introduction to Birmingham

On Monday Helga’s most recent column for the Birmingham Post went to print, you can find it here.

“Fierce Earth recently announced the exciting arrival of its new joint Artistic Directors, Laura McDermott and Harun Morrison. Hailing from London, most recently from Battersea Arts Centre, relocating to Birmingham later in the year…

So how best to introduce Laura and Harun to the city and its creative and cultural life? In particular, what hidden gems could they find in the region beyond the usual suspects.

To find out, I did what is now called “crowdsourcing”, but in my day was known as “asking around”. What follows is a selection of my creative colleagues’ brilliant ideas. I don’t have space to name-check them here but, thank you, you know who you are!

From our office in the Jewellery Quarter, they could nip into the Pen Museum and make their own steel pen using Victorian presses. Or the button factory at Toye, Kenning & Spencer.

In addition to the world-class Pre-Raphaelite paintings at the Museum and Art Gallery, they could enjoy the Burne-Jones stained glass windows at St Phillips Cathedral, then the Pugin architecture of St Chad’s.

You encounter the creative city where it socialises. The Rainbow on Digbeth High St, coffee and patisseries at Maison Mayçi, Kings Heath, fabulous Thai food and architecture at Bartons Arms, Newtown.

My personal hidden gem, Russells on Lozells Road, for a feast of mutton soup, chicken and dumplings, rice and peas washed down with tropical “Sexy”.

Perhaps you only truly know Birmingham once you’ve travelled the entire Outer Circle bus route. Perhaps Laura and Harun could join the psychogeographers of www.birminghamitsnotshit.co.uk. Every 11 November, they board the 11C for eleven hours, disembarking at ten that night, having documented the experience (and taking breaks of up to 30 minutes wherever they fancy).

Probably because our suburbs are essentially a network of connecting villages, they are a fund of under-appreciated treasures, including Moseley private park, home of Moseley Folk Festival, Perrot’s Folly in Edgbaston and Saint Nicolas Place at Kings Norton Green (one of the oldest collection of Tudor buildings in the UK). One is never far from a green space, be it Cofton Park, Cannon Hill or the Waseley and Lickey Hills.

At this rate, Laura and Harun will have an unusually pleasant induction process! Discovering Birmingham’s treasures can take a lifetime. By showing our city off to newcomers, we discover it ourselves.”

Can you suggest any more of Birmingham’s hidden treasures?

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One thought on “A creative introduction to Birmingham

  1. Being locals we’re fans of Edgbaston Reservoir and Summerfield Park is under-rated and all those bandstands around the City, indeed around the Country. Why can’t I ever have a good bandstand idea?

    Getting from the Reservoir to the Fierce office, that’s a canal walk waiting to happen.

    The Tap and Spile, far from the best pub in Birmingham but a pleasant way of getting a less than totally corporate pint near Broad Street.

    The Bullring outdoor and indoor markets won’t come as a shock to those familiar with Brixton Etc. but they always help me regain my sanity.

    The Ladypool Road also works when needing the faith restored.

    High up in the newly referbished Rotunda with a huge window slid back, dusk and the elements blowing in, bring it on.

    The vibe at the Friends Institue in Highgate.

    The vibe at The Edge down behind Bradford Street cooked up by Friction Arts.

    And so on and on…

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