With thousands of international students flooding into the city, Birmingham should be booming, but the stats show that just isn't the case. But why say countless 2nd City residents, promoters, local celebrities, politicians and entrepreneurs?
Usain Bolt, the fastest man on earth, will train at Alexander Stadium in preparation for the 2012 Olympic games but
as some may remember, Birmingham wanted to host the Olympics back in 1992 and, 20 years later, it has to be content watching the capital revel in all the glory the event brings with it under the shadow of the big smoke. Even the world class motor show was taken away from the NEC in favour of the capital. Now it seems that Birmingham City Council are even planning to charge members of the public for watching training sessions, further cementing their reputation as being a "scrooge" or "Mr Burns" council who are simply out for themselves, rather than for the good of their people. The high speed rail plans that could see passengers travelling between Birmingham and London in just 49 minutes on 400m long double-decker trains will cost the tax payer dear and may end up being more of a benefit for the uber rich and business class traveller than the common man or woman.
Birmingham has a shocking unemployment rate too, more than double the national average at 11 per cent and the city is bracing itself for budget cuts in excess of £212 million. The BBC pebble mill site closure was another blow for Brum, spearheading much of the Midlands broadcasting operations setting sail for Salford.
Another crisis is the constant turmoil over how to overcome its tarnished reputation. In other parts of the UK, there’s almost a deliberate ignorance of what the 2nd city has to offer, often based on a dislike of the Brummie accent or the fear of the harmonised multi-cultural society.
Birmingham put a great deal into its bid for the European Capital of Culture in 2008 and lost out to Liverpool largely because of a pop group and its influence over the bid. Last year the city was shortlisted again to be the UK Capital of Culture – but was beaten by Londonderry largely due to timing. The city never quite seems to come out on top. Hopefully, wins for Birmingham City at Wembley are signs that the tides may be turning and with more and more young entrepreneurs setting up businesses it seems that there is hope yet.
Many forget Birmingham’s origins as the heart of the country, and its firm foundations as the capital of the industrial revolution. The inventors of pens, homes to the largest gun factories in the world, the creators of many well known brands, Birmingham had it all but as manufacturing declined, the city struggled. Birmingham tried to create buildings that would lead it out of depression, spending £150m on an International Convention Centre, £30m more on a Symphony Hall and then opening a 13,000 seat National Indoor Arena aimed at making the city a hub for sport. But by the mid-1990s the council was realising that the anticipated influx of tourists, business people and sports fans was not having the desired effect in regenerating the city's poorer residential areas.
On a visit to Birmingham there are still a magnitude of things to do and see. Tourists can discover the maze of Victorian canals which stretch further in miles than those in Venice, the Balti curry houses of Ladypool Road, the green suburbs of Sutton Park and the Lickey Hills, the low cost of living, music events at stunning venues like the Hare and Hounds pub in Kings Heath and restaurants such as Purnell's, run by the Michelin-starred Birmingham chef Glynn Purnell.
There is still hope for Birmingham getting the recognition it deserves as a global city of choice, community spirit and opportunity, but it will start with Brummies themselves, who need to promote the place they are from and be proud of their roots and cultural heritage.