The two faces of Birmingham

To Birmingham for a conference yesterday and a meeting this morning. Stayed in the Holiday Inn on Hill Street, which really needs a refurb internally (and is getting it), but is comfortable enough. Free wi-fi broadband as well, which is more than can be said for some hotels.

Had dinner at Zinc, on the canal near Five Ways, which was a pleasant experience – unlike the 80s retro bar across the road. A stylishly-designed Pitcher and Piano nearby was more relaxing, if a bit corporate.

This morning, out to a meeting in Star City, a casino-bowling-cinema development at Nechells in Aston. Took the bus out there like the good boy I am, but it was a fairly depressing ride. Row after row of sad looking 60s/70s houses – still maintained by their owners, but looking very faded overall. The slaughter of central Birmingham by the ring road is really tragic.

There were a few architectural high spots – a nice row of possibly mid-Victorian terraced houses on Nechells Park Road, and a wonderful public baths, which might be a bit later: full of Victorian civic pride with a vast coat of arms on the front. A bit of research shows that it closed in 1995, and is now the home of the local regeneration project. They couldn’t pick a better building: the city’s motto is proudly emblazoned over the door: FORWARD.