HuffPost UK has moved its news room to Birmingham this week. While I am pleased that for once we are not all droning on about London as if nothing happens anywhere else, I approach any scrutiny on my hometown with caution. Not because I worry it won’t pass muster - it will - but I worry because Brummies are naturally laid back about promoting the place that they come from. If Birmingham had a tag line for tourism to the city it would be “come if you want.”
In Birmingham, the word “alright” is the highest form of praise. I said to my husband this morning: “can’t believe this weather.” He replied, “yep, it’s alright”. You might not realise if you were from Manchester or Newcastle that this means he absolutely bloody loves the hot weather and can scarcely believe his luck that he’s been able to sit in the garden every day for weeks. “Yep, its alright“ means he is literally ecstatic.
Birmingham gets talked down all the time, our accents are ridiculed and we are thought to be stupid. When we do make the news it is usually a criticism of our diverse communities, the famous example being when a Fox News idiot described the city as being a ‘no go zone’ for non-Muslims. I’m not sure I have ever been prouder of my people than on that day when they roundly took the piss all day, taking pictures of Mecca bingo halls and empty playgrounds as an example of the Islamification of our city.
Our diversity is one of the things people actually know about Birmingham. No corporate video about the city is complete without the view of hands covered in mehndi or people playing steel drums. The reality for me, however, was that day of piss-taking was the best representation of the diversity of my home. Because no matter where your parents grew up, the Brummie language of sarcasm and self-deprecation was present in all.
To me, being a Brummie isn’t about a history of working in the car industry, it isn’t in the history of heavy metal or the peaky blinders, it is an attitude that makes us special. We just don’t really give a toss if people like us or not.
This has not always aided our cause on a national or global stage, but it is what it is. Being able to shrug and say “never mind, bab” on a city-wide scale makes us resilient, if not attractive. I love Manchester very much, its people are some of the friendliest and I’m jealous of the amount of vibrancy in their city, their sport and their culture, but I think their want to be the best is a little bit needy. Don’t get me started on London - I’m not sure I’ve got anything better than a tut and an eyeroll for how much it thinks of itself.
If you cut me, I bleed Birmingham. Every fibre of my being is Brummie. I was in Wales at the weekend and my nine-year-old son took it upon himself to do a census of everyone we met. “Are you Welsh?” He asked. One man replied, “yes are you English.” My son didn’t respond at first and just looked puzzled, eventually he said “I’m from Birmingham.”
Being from Birmingham matters to me and my family, we feel pride about it. The difference between our pride and the pride of other places is we’re not really bothered about how you feel about us. We’re alright.
Jess Phillips is the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley
HuffPostListens – Birmingham
HuffPost wants to get out of the media bubble and tell the real story of the UK. For one week we relocate our newsroom to the heart of Birmingham and invite people to tell us what they care about - we will go and report on it. 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
HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
- Visit our open newsroom at the Bullring and tell us your story: Unit SU734 - The Newsroom, Upper East Mall, Bullring, Birmingham, B5 4BG
- Opening times: Mon-Friday: 10am-8pm, Sat 9am-8pm, Sunday 11am-5pm
- Find us across the city on mobile “Listening Posts” and tell us your story: MediaCom Birmingham, Birmingham Moor Street Station, Birmingham Town Hall, Birmingham City Centre, Marks & Spencer
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or WhatsApp +44 78968 04043 and tell us your story
- Join our Facebook group and tell us your story
- Visit huffpost.co.uk from Monday and read your stories there