When I tell people I recently moved to Birmingham I’m often greeted with “Birmingham? Why?” Having spent time getting to know the city, I can’t help but smugly reply; “Why not?” My wife and I now have a standard of life we’d only ever dreamed of in the South East and I’ve no doubt that whatever you’re looking for, the West Midlands is sure to delight.
A rich history
I found a visit to the famous Ironbridge and the Black Country Museum helped bring the region’s rich history to life. Birmingham is one of Europe’s newest cities, and one of its greenest. Brum - and the Black Country - came to prominence as the heart of the industrial revolution, and much of the West Midlands’ heritage and architecture harks back to its past.
If you’re looking for something more sedate, the many picturesque villages and small towns dotted around the region will charm you. They include Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare’s birthplace), and Bridgenorth in neighbouring Shropshire, where my family often hop onto the Severn Valley Railway to Kidderminster and back.
Another thing I really love about the area is its diversity. After World War II, people flocked to the region from around the Commonwealth to help the country rebuild. This helped to create one of the most diverse areas in the country, which it remains to this day, and it’s not uncommon to see groups of people from various ethnicities socialising together.
A region growing and thriving
Since relocating to the area last year, my wife and I have grown to love Birmingham and have been surprised at the quality of life we now enjoy.
Sadly, too many people’s experience of the region goes no further than looking through their window while passing through by train or the M6. Rest assured this region has plenty to offer.
It hosts great shopping with the iconic Bull Ring and Mailbox shopping centres and many local high streets including Solihull and Longbridge, which is undergoing major redevelopment. Both are just a couple of miles down the road from our Wythall office.
If like me, you’re a foodie, the area boasts more Michelin stars than anywhere outside of London. Unsurprisingly given its great diversity, you’ll find most cuisines are available and the standards are high.
The area has a proud history of the arts. The music scene is still thriving with many venues, ranging from small bars to the large Arena Birmingham, O2 Academy and NEC hosting some of the biggest names in music and comedy.
Birmingham is home to the renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, or if you like your music louder, Heavy Metal originates from the area with many local bands still paying homage to the region’s musical past in local pubs and bars. Besides the music, there are many theatres and galleries catering for fans of both classic and modern.
This is also a keen sporting region. Boasting ten teams in the football league, two professional rugby clubs in Coventry and one in Worcester, two county cricket teams, countless golf courses and many other sports clubs ranging from athletics to sailing. It’s fair to say the West Midlands will meet everyone’s sporting needs, regardless of ability.
Of course, the city’s sporting facilities are set for big improvements. Birmingham will host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, with a new aquatics centre in Sandwell, and planned revamps for a number of other venues, including the Alexander Stadium, which will host the athletics, and the opening and closing ceremonies.
Wythall - the home of Phoenix
The area around our Wythall office offers the best of both worlds; city and country life. Our Wythall Office is based to the south of Birmingham, just across the Worcestershire boundary, in a pleasant rural setting. The south of the city offers many leafy suburbs. Moseley and Harborne are popular areas for pubs and restaurants, while Bournville, built by John Cadbury, a Quaker and founder of Cadbury’s, provides an idealistic and tranquil urban village.
Heading out of the city, we’ve found numerous small friendly towns and villages, and areas of outstanding natural beauty with seemingly endless canals and rolling Lickey and Clent Hills. If living in the big city isn’t for you, smaller towns include Bromsgrove, Dickens Heath, Redditch and Droitwich Spa.
If you’re considering bringing your family to the region, some of the West Midlands’ top schools and colleges are located in the area around South Birmingham, while there are twelve universities in the region.
A prosperous future
Having only moved to the West Midlands last year, what excites me most when visiting Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country (including Wolverhampton, Walsall and West Bromwich) is the amount - and speed - of redevelopment. Better still, it feels like it’s only just getting started.
In recent years the West Midlands has been growing quietly and quickly, both in its population and economically. Big banking groups including HSBC and Lloyds and have created hundreds of new jobs, while large companies, including J Sainsbury’s have chosen to move their headquarters to the region.
In June 2017, Andy Street was elected as the first Metropolitan Mayor of the West Midlands, taking charge of the newly formed West Midlands Combined Authority.
I’ve been impressed how under his stewardship, the Authority has set about regenerating the region, initiating projects to create the modern work and public spaces capable of supporting the region’s rapid growth.
They’ve also put exciting plans in place to improve the transport infrastructure and capacity, including extending the Midland Metro tram network, and introducing a high quality cycling network and a new devolved railway. Not to mention the Government’s HS2 project, due to begin services in 2026 that will cut the journey time between central London and Birmingham to just 49 minutes.
The Government also has plans to build thousands of new homes with the Chancellor announcing a £350m housing deal for the region in March 2018. Many of these new homes will be close to our Wythall office.
Being from Coventry, my wife is constantly reminding me that in 2021, the city will be UK City of Culture, which will help continue build our reputation as a forward thinking and welcoming region with a prosperous and exiting future ahead of us.
The only question remaining, will you choose to be part of it?
Adam Price, Communications Consultant