The religious and ethnic diversity in Birmingham makes the city “wonderful”, but can also lead to tensions, abuse and segregation, residents of the UK’s second-largest city have told HuffPost UK.
British white people are set to become the minority in “super diverse” Birmingham by 2021, according to a report last month.
More than half of the city’s 1.2 million-plus population will be from an ethnic minority, with 60 per cent of under 18s already coming from a non-white British background.
People on the streets of Birmingham shared their views on diversity, community and Brexit when they were asked what they cared about for HuffPost Listens, a project which saw our reporters go out in the city and listen to people.
Christine Barron, who wasn’t born in Birmingham but moved there, said it was “absolutely wonderful” to move somewhere she felt interracial relationships are “accepted”.
But Sanj K, who didn’t want her surname to be used, said that there was huge variation in terms of deprivation in different areas of the city, which means it is “segregated racially and by class”.
Vahid Ghulam said that there was racism in “the system” in the city. He believes cuts to services like youth centres disproportionately affect people from ethnic minority backgrounds.
While many people celebrated Birmingham for its diversity, some said that there were also tensions between the many communities co-existing together.
Ferzana Akram even felt that riots could occur in Birmingham - as they did in 2011 when there were also riots in London and around the country - if different voices aren’t listened to.
While Denise Mensah said there were positives and negatives to people of the same race sticking together.
Isha Badham felt that other cities like London could also be segregated, saying that how an area functions depends on the people: “Some are very mixed, some are willing to accept [diversity], some aren’t.”
Several people mentioned feeling less of a sense of community in their neighbourhood than in the past.
For Leave voter Daniel Barker, the Brexit vote was all about immigration, something that has shaped Birmingham for decades.
But others, like Sylvia Edwards, linked the vote to employment issues and problems around deprivation and poverty in some areas.
As HuffPost spoke to people about what they care about, diversity came up in other contexts too.
Jaspreet Nocaste, a student leader at Birmingham City University, said that international students were often used as “political footballs”.
Ella Cunningham, who is part of the LGBT community, said that there was concern over Pride celebrations becoming too commercialised.
While Herbie Vore, a vegan and campaigner, felt his movement was becoming a “voice for the voiceless” in Britain’s second biggest city.
HuffPostListens – Birmingham
HuffPost wants to get out of the media bubble and tell the real story of the UK. For one week in July we relocated our newsroom to the heart of Birmingham and invited people to tell us what they care about - we listened, followed their tips, and went out and reported on what we heard. We’re also hiring more reporters out of London, starting in Birmingham. We don’t think the media has listened to people enough, so that’s what we’re doing. Listening to the stories of Birmingham, opening up our newsroom to its people and telling the real story of Britain from the heart of one of its biggest and best cities. You decide the news. We’ll tell your story. Birmingham, be heard. #HuffPostListens
Read more about the project here