My journeys will take me far, but for two nights I’m in Birmingham…and not the one in Alabama!
And yes, I admit it…I have long harboured a prejudice against our second city. Whether this is due to the old Bullring or, more likely, the what I consider to be a rather irritating accent is uncertain. Brum would not be on my top ten destinations in the world, nor ever will be. However, it has climbed up the league table. Look beyond the BNS train station and the ‘newish improved’ Bullring, and you discover something rather exciting; an eclectic mix of old and new. And whilst I could not argue that the architecture blends seamlessly, it is not offensive.
I never visited the old library, but my first stop was at its much maligned recent reincarnation. And what a treat; light and airy. Gone were the feelings of stepping back in time that many a corporation lending library still has in many towns and cities today. And alongside sits The Rep, a three auditorium theatre that caters for both large and more intimate viewing. Modern and inviting.
From here it’s a short walk thought the International Convention Centre which houses Symphony Hall, across the footbridge that spans the canal, and you arrive a BrindleyPlace. A plaza that provides cultural and business opportunities.
Housed here is the Ikon Gallery, a small exhibition that caters for the less prominent artist (apologies if you are they!). Currently displaying work by Tim Johnson, an Australian who incorporates different cultures and what he sees as enlightenment into his work; and David Tremlett, an installation artist or “art as a whole-wall covering” as I termed it. As you might expect, I spent considerably longer inspecting the former.
From here a walk back into town, past the many eateries, leads us to the Brum Museum & Art Gallery. There are the usual collection of artefacts such as the Anglo-Saxon relics that are the Staffordshire Hoard; paintings from the 14th century onwards; and the history of Birmingham itself. Shockingly, another prejudice was about to be shattered though. My general rule is that if you want a photo-quality image, take a photograph; but this perception was put to the sword. A exhibition of paintings called ‘Photorealism’ demonstrated the finesse of hand and paint, and an eye for detail that I had not fully appreciated previously. Not a recent phenomenon as I presumed; works dated back half a century.
Birmingham has much to offer. Will I come back? Yes. Only forty minutes by train and I can easily access if not a sea, then a bloody big puddle of culture – sorry, it has rained incessantly!
Retail ‘therapy’ is also available.