The much maligned, and often forgotten, second city of the UK has forever languished behind its arguably more famous and fashionable northern neighbours: Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool. But, that’s the thing about the UK – it has so many cities to celebrate, and each almost as fiercely passionate about its culture as the other, but none (to me) more so than my home city, ‘brutalist Brum’.
Birthplace of the gambol, and with a Jacuzzi fit for a floozy, it sits between a network of 35 miles of canal (more than Venice apparently) and, for this summer, host of the 22nd Commonwealth Games.
So, you can imagine my restrained brummagem enthusiasm when I found out that Gowling WLG had succeeded in its ambitious bid to become Official Legal Advisers to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. Three years in the making, but it’s felt like the city has been on fast forward from 2021 to Birmingham 2022 as we continue to navigate COVID-19 and the ongoing turbulence around the world.
We’ve now gone forward into the main event – the Opening Ceremony came and went – and what is colloquially known as “the friendly games” is well underway.
A new Brummie icon
One thing that seemingly never wanes throughout life, is the love of a freebie. Merchandise, “merch”, is something that comes with the territory when sponsoring a major sports event, however, one thing I didn’t count on was the possibility of bringing the pride, spirit and joy of a home city major sporting event to a whole new generation…
As part of our sponsorship we gained access to a brand new team member, naturally considering our location, in bull form – no, not the idolised statue outside the nationally renowned shopping centre, but the one and only, larger than life – Perry. Doing his bit for the local community, Perry joined my daughter’s primary school for a special assembly in which the children learnt all about the history of the Commonwealth and, in turn, the Games.
It is hard to comprehend the profound effect moments like this can have during your formative years – and nothing evidenced this more than my daughter’s throwaway comment, “Commonwealth? That’s what we are doing!”, as she overheard a local presenter on the radio. What followed was a growing interest in gymnastics, swimming and, of course, the new Birmingham icon – Perry!
These are moments you cannot buy – or even bribe with free merch!
So, as the Games continues, why shouldn’t we revel in the Birmingham buzz that the Games have brought to the city? Our brutalist past is being replaced by a post-industrial era sameness, which can lead to cities becoming homogeneous shells of themselves. But glass facades and new skyscrapers cannot change a culture steeped in individualism.
Self-deprecating humour is another great Brummie trait but, as said during the conclusion of the Queen’s Baton Relay, maybe it’s time to tell our story and stand six inches taller…
Without being too sentimental, it is highly likely we will never experience another moment like this in our lifetime around the city of Birmingham. So, if you get a chance, go experience some history for yourself.