Nobody home in Birmingham, UK

Here's a question: can a city be a nobody, or should that be nowhere? Having moved from working in the creative sector in London during the dotcom boom to jumping ship just before the bubble burst to make camp in the Midlands, I've certainly noticed a similarity between the 'London' attitude and the so-called somebodies, the A-listers in the blogosphere.

Like many provincial cities in the UK, Birmingham has a thriving creative scene that produces some of the country's top visual, musical and multimedia work. Initiatives like the Custard Factory and the Big Peg (supported by the Chamber of Commerce) foster up and coming talent and sit in the city alongside established arts and media players such as the BBC and Channel 4's Ideas Factory. So why do businesses still gravitate towards London when they are looking to commission creative work?

Reputation is the obvious answer, although much of the work being produced in Birmingham can lay claim to being as well-known and widely seen as work produced in many of London's Soho-based studios. Image, is the key. The Midlands and specifically Birmingham suffer from a public image problem that seems to be the polar opposite to that of London. Funny sounding accents aside (although the Birmingham/Black Country accent has been consistently voted as one of the least liked/respected accents in the UK), the city itself is still widely perceived as the concrete jungle that it was 40 years ago. As part of a major redevelopment scheme, the city has rebuilt itself and is now a vibrant, attractive place to live and work. But the majority of the country still perceives Birmingham through the stereotype of the concrete and the 'yam-yam' accent. Conversely, London is still seen as 'swinging London' of the sixties, a place of edgy cool and Michael Caine movie charm despite having turned into an expensive, inhospitable tourist trap.

Fed-up with being on the wrong side of this image problem, Birmingham's creatives have banded together to create an industry run and led forum with the aim of changing these perceptions and getting the work Birmingham's creative industries (and hopefully as a result, the city itself) recognised. Much like the I.A.N, they've produced a blog and are even looking into getting a wiki and a squidoo lens (although I don't think they have coffee cups and t-shirts printed yet).

So, I urge you, even if you have no plans to visit Birmingham or the UK, take a look at what this nobody/nowhere city is producing and if it doesn't change your mind, at least leave them a comment or some professional advice.

(Pic half-inched from srboisvert via flickr)
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Birmingham does seem to have a communication problem. As a recent immigrant I find the mix of old and new, ugly and pretty, technological and industrial to be what makes the city interesting.

It's like being in a regenerating forest while London is all old growth.

Nice Picture.
(I'm the srboisvert who took and photoshopped it)

12:28 pm  
Blogger Pub said...

Interesting take on the city Stephen, I like it. Hope you didn't mind me 'half-inching' your picture (If you do, please let me know and I'll take it down straight away).

From your Flickr stream I'd say you were a fellow Harbornite, am I right?

1:00 pm  
Blogger Serge said...

Love the link to the accents page. Oiv traaid tu iemieteet it (thank god nobody was around to hear me trying) but have probably utterly failed. Would love to hear it live someday, though. And talking to you simply won't do, will it - being half a Dutchman/Londoner and all... :-)

1:25 pm  
Blogger Pub said...

It's a truly special thing to hear. When my friends come and visit they're in stitches (probably not the best approach in some of the dives I've taken them in). I'm trying to learn to do a passable Brummie imitation without accidentally adopting it like some of my fellow Birmingham cuckoos have.

Oh and don't take my accent to be any indication of anything, it wanders all over the place from rural South East, to London/Estuary via anonymous backpacker speak with rising intonation (must stop doing that).

I was brushing up on some Dutch with my next door neighbour at the weekend though and she found my pronunciation/accent highly amusing. Aparently I sound like 'a thick Dutch farmer'?

1:33 pm  
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