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The other day I was thinking about how Birmingham seems to always get a bad rep. From the general scepticism and negativity of those who live here (mainly my parents here) to the ever lengthening list of insults drip fed through our television screens from a certain curly haired car aficionado. While thinking about this I began to become quite aggrieved by this attitude towards my hometown. I mean, I’ve been hanging around here for over two decades now and I don’t think of myself as a culture-less dullard with a stupid accent. So with this in mind I felt dutifully obliged to do what every sensible person with an opinion to share and a working internet connection does; post a rambling article on the internet.This would be the defence of Birmingham that it deserved. I hear your scepticism. Well, no, I don’t hear it but I can feel it. I was sceptical myself about the importance of this article. Then a strange kind of pride took over and I no longer felt that I wanted to write this article. I needed to write it. If only in an attempt to undo the damage caused by Telly Savalas’ 1970s BBC promo video. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxZ1xn2ml10) Oh dear…
Now, I’m not going to be following Mr Savalas’ sycophantic lead and start by trying to point out any breathtaking aerial views of the City. Admittedly, it is easier now than in the Seventies. What with the Bullring, Selfridges and the new National Library development Birmingham. Also the museum and Birmingham’s Think Tank it is a City on the up; both culturally and visually. However, that being said I don’t believe that it is simply in its looks that Birmingham’s true vibrance shines. It is in the people, the places and every interaction between them that happens in the City. When talking about vibrancy in Birmingham it would be foolish to avoid the obvious and not begin with the nightlife in the City. This is going to be easy to write. All I need is some sweeping statement such as; whatever you’e looking for, you’ll find it!
Whatever kind of night you are searching for all you need to do is find the right part of the City. If you’re looking for a quiet night in a pub or bar, with good wholesome pub food then you can take your pick. There’s a myriad of pubs and bars dotted around the City Centre that range from sleek jazz bar to homely medieval pub. Seriously, depending on how you want to spend you’re night you can head underground to Bacchus on New Street for a pint of locally sourced ale and a comfy seat in a wing backed armchair next to a suit of armour. Or you can head to the Yardbird near the entrance of the Paradise Forums and hear a contemporary mixture of jazz and rap music. These are just examples, and every variation you can think of lies between them (ranging from cheap and cheerful wetherspoons to pricey-but-for-good-reason Bennets. Forget the beer and a burger, head to Bennets and get a beer and a seat by a mural).
Maybe, though, you’re not so prematurely aged as myself and you’d prefer something louder, with a few more bodies and a lot more alcohol. Well, depending on how loud you want to go and what you’re noise preference is the choices are great;
Want to dance to the Killers while downing vodka red bulls?
Then go to Snobs.
Need some weekend head banging to banish the stresses of the week?
Check out Uprawr every other Saturday at the Asylum venue.
Put down your guitar when you were fourteen and swapped it for some decks?
Go to the Custard Factory in Digbeth to see any top DJ you like.
Sick of your standard clubs and are looking for something more upmarket?
Get to Gatecrasher on Broad Street for a fully rounded club experience.
Prefer live music?
Local bands can always be found playing in the jewellery quarter. Or check out the O2 Academy, the HMV institute or the NIA or Indoor LG Arena for more mainstream events.
Don’t let the brevity of this list fool you. There is more. Much more. I simply don’t want to take the exploration of the City away from you. I can guarantee that if I tried my hardest to list and categorise every kind of venue and night in the City after a few weekend trips here you, dear reader, would already be beginning to point out a few tricks I missed in this here article. This City is big and I’d find it impossible to map the good times it throws up for a club goer here. Plus, there’s still so much we must talk about.
Are you hungry? Birmingham boasts a wealth of fantastic restaurants. Brindley Place sits alongside the canal system that snakes through the centre of the City and contains a restaurant for every kind of dish you desire. If you’re looking for something quick and easy, but are doing you’re best to avoid McDonald’s, you can head down to the canal side to Pizza Express of the Handmade Burger Company. Pizza Express sets the standard for all eat-in pizza parlours and the Handmade Burger Company tells you all you need to know within the name. Handmade burger; doesn’t that conjure up a wonderful image? If you’re looking for a more sophisticated evening, one to be truly savoured, then a few minutes along the canal you’ll find what you’re looking for. Several upmarket restaurants sit in Brindley Place, the best of which probably being the michelin starred Edmunds. Arrive at Edmunds and you’ve skirted around the pizza and burgers and could potentially be starting your meal with London cured salmon with Cornish crab, Avruga caviar, quails egg, salmon presque with nagai and wasabi dressing. Indeed, reader, some of us in Birmingham do eat like this. We might even choose to finish on a main course of Roasted loin of Anne Dennis’ lamb with braised shoulder of lamb, broccoli romanesco, aubergine caviar, slowly dried tomatoes, onion rings and tarragon butter sauce. The point I’m making here is that all preconceptions of Birmingham (and memories of Mr Telly Savalas) must be forgotten.
Over the three years at University I had to endure ridicule for both my hometown and my subsequent accent. None of my peers had ever actually visited the City, but all thought themselves to have a sound and rounded opinion on it.No doubt whenever they talked about it they saw grey buildings slowly weathering away under the grey rain streaked sky of a dull, quiet City. I don’t think there was anything I could say that could change their minds, and I couldn’t coerce them into a term time visit to Brum to disprove them. I couldn’t whet their appetites for the Midlands but hopefully this article has swayed you slightly in our favour. (If only made you hungry enough to seek out Edmunds).
Birmingham is a huge City with a lot going for it. There is so much more I could have written here, but now all of the fun is still waiting out there for you to find. Trust me, there’s a lot to find.
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