Forget London... visit Birmingham: New York magazine tells readers that England’s second city outdoes the capital

So often the butt of jokes about Brummie accents and traffic junctions, but, for the second time in two years, the city has received glowing praise from across the Atlantic

The citizens of Birmingham are keenly aware of the snobbery and accent-mocking humour about their beloved home, emanating mostly from London’s chattering classes. But, for the second time in two years, England’s second city has received glowing praise from an international destination that outdoes London in many respects: New York.

New York Magazine has advised its readers to go to “Birmingham instead of London” in an article this week that trumpeted the city’s attractions from the culinary delights of the Balti Triangle to “the world renowned” Birmingham Royal Ballet, its thriving jewellery trade and music scene. A lack of tourist hordes was another reason.

That came after The New York Times last year declared it was “no longer simply flyover country” but a “big-shouldered, friendly and fun” place that its readers should definitely visit. Over the last five years, visitor numbers have seen double-digit percentage growth to some 34 million a year.

Singer-songwriter Jamelia is a feisty defender of the city where she was born and bred. But even she confessed when she first began traveling to work in London at 15 she was “embarrassed to say I was from Birmingham. It wasn’t a place I was so proud of”, she said. “Today, it’s a different story. It’s a fantastic city. I’m such a proud Brummie. There’s no place better on Earth.”

She said she was such a regular in its designer fashion stores and gourmet restaurants in the extensively redeveloped city centre that she feared they might be “sick of me”. She admitted she had once lived in London for about a year, but when her two children, now aged 12 and 8, started talking like southerners it was too much.

“We do have a distinctive accent, but at the same time I love the accent – that’s one of the reasons I moved away from London,” she said. “My children were speaking in this RP accent. I thought ‘Actually no, we’re from Birmingham, we’re very proud of it and want people to know. Let’s get back to Brum’.”

Ian Taylor, a director of Marketing Birmingham, the body charged with selling the city to the world, said the city had “changed beyond all recognition” over the last two decades, but was aware there was a lingering perception problem in the UK. “There are people who probably haven’t been here for a long while... who come and say ‘wow’ this place is fantastic,” he said.

Mr Taylor, a Newcastle native who chose to move to Birmingham eight years ago, said the city had always attracted large numbers of people for business conferences, mainly from the UK. But there had been a recent surge in tourists, particularly from the US, China and India. “There’s much greater recognition of what Birmingham has to offer internationally,” he said.

Second city stats: The best of Brum

History

Birmingham dates back to Anglo-Saxon times with the name derived from the “ham” or home of the followers of Beorma, thought to have been a Saxon warrior or noble. The Domesday Book lists just nine houses in 1086. Peter de Bermingham was granted a charter to set up a market in 1166. In 2009, a vast haul of 7th century Anglo-Saxon gold and silver valued at £3.28m was found in the area: the Staffordshire Hoard is on display at Birmingham Museum.

Population

Birmingham is bucking the UK trend and has one of the most youthful populations in Europe with nearly 40 per cent of inhabitants aged under 25. This “New Beat Generation” is helping to create something of a cultural renaissance in art, literature, dance and music.

Music

Soul singer-songwriters Laura Mvula, shortlisted for this year’s Mercury Prize, and Jacob Banks are the leading lights of the new music scene, but Black Sabbath, Duran Duran, ELO, UB40, Ocean Colour Scene and Jamelia all hail from Birmingham. The 19th-century Czech composer Antonin Dvorak once wrote of the city: “It’s terrifying how much the people here manage to achieve”.

Film

The Electric Cinema near Birmingham New Street station is the oldest working cinema in the UK, having been established in 1909, when it showed silent films with piano accompaniment.

University

The University of Birmingham, or Mason Science College as it was previously known, has proved to be something of a hothouse of prime ministerial talent. Stanley Baldwin, who occupied 10 Downing Street three times in the 1920s and 1930s, was a graduate as was his successor and fellow Conservative Neville Chamberlain. The current prime ministers of Saint Lucia, Kenny Anthony, and the Bahamas, Perry Christie, also studied there.

Library

The futuristic new Library of Birmingham is Europe’s largest public library. The £189m building, designed by architect Francine Houben, has ten floors and will house the city’s archives.

Engineering

James Watt and the leading lights of the renowned Lunar Society radically changed the world in the 18th century. Lunar Society member and clergyman Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen, while other innovations made in the city include the spinning jenny and the pneumatic tire. It is also the home of Cadbury’s chocolate and the Mini.

Parks

It may have been built on the back of heavy industry but it is also one of the greenest cities in the country with 6 million trees and more parks than any other European city.

Transport

With 32 miles of canals, Birmingham has more than Venice and attracts millions of people a year – more, it was once claimed, than the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. And for motoring enthusiasts, there’s the spectacle of Spaghetti Junction, one of the biggest motorway interchanges in Europe.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
News
people
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star