Would people actually notice if Birmingham merely ceased to exist? If one day, everything from Birmingham disappeared, and its populace was dispersed into other, less irrelevant population centres, would there be any tangible effect felt anywhere?
For me, as someone whose nearest city is Norwich, to accuse somewhere of being culturally irrelevant, it really has to be the end of the earth. To put Norwich into perspective for you, it’s the kind of place where the Crown Court still conducts witchcraft trials and the very notion of air travel is regarded with intense, quasi-magical suspicion. Three years ago on Radio Norfolk, someone weighed in on a debate regarding the shortage of grit with: “isn’t it foreigners stealing it to put salt in their food?” The Shilling is still in circulation and people think Google is actually one person quickly making a list for all the things you just searched for.
Yet at least Norwich once did something. Norwich Cathedral is a fantastic, picturesque, almost fairytale building. Norwich has more Tudor buildings on one street than the whole of London, and a church for every single week of the year. It has the highest per-capita pub ratio anywhere in Britain. What does Birmingham have? Adrian Chiles and crap pies.
That’s the point, then. If you were to take any other city in Britain it would have a redeeming feature that pre-necessitates its continued existence as a city. Liverpool might be a slightly sorry place, but it has The Beatles, and a port. Leeds has party drugs and fabulous Victorian architecture. Manchester has football and a music scene. A lot of people get shot in Nottingham, but at least it has trams. Birmingham proudly boasts more canals than Venice. Find me one person who’d prefer to live in Birmingham than in Venice. Canals don’t count as a bonus if they’re shit.
Tourists don’t exactly rave about Birmingham, either. On a trip to London, I saw a group of Japanese tourists photographing St. Pancras station. How many Japanese tourists want to photograph Birmingham New Street?
It’s not just the Japanese who ignore Birmingham. We ignore it, too, and rightfully so. It’s just a backdrop to The One Show. Now tell me, honestly that (imagining you’ve ever watched that particular televisual half-hour car crash) if you would care that The One Show had, say, Sheffield, in the background. Tell me that Birmingham existing has a positive effect on your life. Tell me that Birmingham existing has any effect on your life.
So here’s the point: we should just demolish Britain’s third-biggest but thirteenth-thousand most (or should that be ‘least’?) important populace centre. Erase it from our memories and never speak of it again.
Actually while we’re at it maybe we should get rid of Hull as well.