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Regeneration… and culture?

September 27, 2016

Off to Birmingham today to a meeting with the Arts Council.  It is an opportunity to revisit this midland hub after a 10 year absence.  A lot has changed, like many larger UK cities the cranes are in abundance and signs of infrastructure work are everywhere.  The Midland Metro tram has eventually made it into the city centre, the 1960s central library building is now just a massive hole in the ground and the railway station has been revamped.  Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is in the middle of this redevelopment but still largely unchanged.  The City Council has relinquished control of its museums and galleries and they are now run by a charitable Trust, which includes Thinktank at Millennium Point in Birmingham’s Eastside.

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Chamberlain Square, work in progress with the City Museum in the background

Birmingham has been going through a spate of transformations in the past half century.  A 100 years ago it was still the workshop of the world, although you can still glimpse manufacturing around the city if you look hard enough.  The motorway city of the 60s and 70s has been softened, with the barriers between road, pedestrian and canal broken down.  Indeed the canals round Brindley Place are now packed with countless chain eateries.  The pace of redevelopment has meant that even the late twentieth century rebuilding is being knocked down or revamped.  Perhaps the most dramatic work is around Chamberlain Square next to the museum were the 60s municipal buildings are being replaced with 2 large office blocks.

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A Brummie Guggenheim? No its New Street Station

It almost seems that the cultural, or at least, the museum sector has been left behind.   Does culture have a part to play?  A lot of this development is financially driven and the mantra of inward investment seems paramount.

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