Portrait Of A City: This Is How Birmingham Spends Its Saturdays

We asked residents to keep a diary.

You can tell a lot about a city from how it spends its Saturdays. For many, the weekend means downtime; for others, it is just another working day.

HuffPost UK asked people from around Birmingham to keep a diary last Saturday [30 June] to capture the heartbeat of the city. From the 90 Sikhs who took part in Cannon Hill Park’s weekly ParkRun race after completing the couch to 5k training, to the students leaving their homes in Sellyoak, where most of the University of Birmingham undergraduates live, here’s what Birmingham got up to:


Student John Wimperis, 20, coming to the end of his second year of studying, started his Saturday much earlier than usual: at 4am, he could be found cleaning his house. The reason? It was moving day. “Saturday began not by me waking up, but midway through an all-nighter spent cleaning my house that I had to be out of by noon,” says John.

Around this time every year, the city witnesses an exodus of some students and the movement of many more, as tenancy agreements for their house shares come to an end. John is spending the next year abroad and deferring his third year until 2020, so the process of moving out basically meant moving his stuff into girlfriend Emelia’s new house on the other side of Selly Oak.

“I vacuumed my room at about 4am, while feeling very bad for my housemate across the hall, and shortly after dawn broke, I crossed Selly Oak,” John says.

John Wimperis and his girlfriend Emelia.
John Wimperis
John Wimperis and his girlfriend Emelia.

Emelia and John met at university and have been together for just over a year. “She was in the same situation as me, so I took some of her stuff to her new place and then went back to mine to start carrying my things over there,” he says.

Fahima Jilani, 24, also spent her Saturday morning heavy-lifting, but rather than moving out she was travelling from her home in Bromsgrove to a market in Brindley Place, Birmingham, where she runs an Asian fusion food stall, Mosa Mosa.

Fahima Jilani.
Fahima Jilani
Fahima Jilani.

“I arrived at market at around 8am and started setting up the stall, preparing food ready to sell. I spent some time talking to other market traders about what they were selling and praying the weather would stay nice all day,” she says.

On the menu were lightly-spiced mac n’ cheese balls with pineapple chutney, saag (spinach) sweet potato samosas, omelette paratha and her popular (and delicious sounding) chocolate samosas.

Fahima takes inspiration from social media or adds spice to recipes where you might not ordinarily find it: “The omelette paratha was a post I saw on Instagram, where a very authentic food vendor was selling them in India – proper street food. I get a lot of Indian customers in this country asking for this dish, I think it reminds them of back home.

“I usually prepare food at home and cook it at the stall. I don’t like to overcrowd my menu with too many things, so it’s not too much of a heavy job preparing it all by myself,” she says.

A post shared by Mosa Mosa (@mosamosauk) on

Not far from John’s moving day, Helen Bloomer, a 52-year-old paralegal assistant, started her Saturday with a 5K run around Canon Hill Park as part of the local community ParkRun. Helen launched the run with her friend Mary Ross eight years ago. Their first meet-up attracted 30 people, but now they average about 800 runners each week - with a record turn-up of more than 1,000 people.

I started running when I was 36. I’m more of a marathon runner than a short distance runner, but I love how sociable ParkRun is - it’s nice to get out and run with everybody as we all know each other now,” she says.

Sometimes there are some new participants – on the Saturday in question, there were about 80 or 90 from the local Ramgharia Sikh Temple who took part. “They’d been training using couch to 5K, and this was their 5K,” Helen explains.

Also in attendance was 107-year-old Fauja Singh, the world’s oldest marathon runner. “He is a huge inspiration to all runners, but especially the Sikh community,” she says. He stopped running a few years ago, but has broken numerous age bracket records.

(L-R) Helen Bloomer with Fauja Singh and her friend Mary Ross co-founder of their local ParkRun.
Helen Bloomer
(L-R) Helen Bloomer with Fauja Singh and her friend Mary Ross co-founder of their local ParkRun.

After the run was over, Helen headed to her local farmer’s market in Moseley where she lives - about a mile away from the park - to pick up some eggs for brunch.


Katie-Alix Smith, 30, spent part of the afternoon having her final makeup trial for her wedding in August, at the Make Up Spot in Solihull.

“I’m so excited for the wedding, we’ve been planning it for almost two years now. I’ve had quite a few makeup trials as I’ve been trying to find the right person to do it - I don’t normally wear a lot of makeup during the day so I really didn’t want to look ‘painted’ on,” she says.

Things became a lot less glamorous later, as she headed for the DIY shop - full makeup, fake eyelashes and all - to pick up supplies for her fiancé, Ben, a 33-year-old lawyer, who was working on the garden in their home in Bourneville, a stone’s throw from the world-famous Cadbury’s factory. Rarely has weedkiller been sold to anyone looking more glamourous.

On the other side of the salon floor, hairdresser Izzie Philpott, 21, spent the day at work in Olton before picking up boyfriend Jack – the pair are moving in together for the first time soon.

Izzie and Jack headed to Moseley Park for a barbecue with friends – although things didn’t quite go according to plan. “We had three barbecues between us, but we weren’t able to get any of them lit, so our barbecue consisted of mainly crisps!” she says; Jack describes their efforts as “woeful”.

Jack Partridge and Izzie Philpott.
Izzie Philpott
Jack Partridge and Izzie Philpott.


Exhausted and famished from a day’s moving, John and Emilia headed to student pub The S’Oak for baked camembert with a side of chips and a falafel burger. “It’s good food,” says John.

Also enjoying dinner out were Katie-Alix and Ben, albeit at somewhere slightly more upmarket - the very fancy Michelin-starred restaurant, Purnell’s. “We eat out quite a lot as a couple, and enjoy going out – but it’s not every Saturday we do this,” Katie-Alix says. “I was given a voucher for the restaurant by my lovely in-laws for my birthday in March. We decided to use it this weekend as we were at home and we’ve both been away a lot recently.”

An incredible seven courses followed: including a scallop dish, cod, lamb and chocolate pudding. Along with two bottles of wine. “I work in the wine industry so I wanted to be sure we had different choices for both the meat and fish dishes,” explains Katie-Alix. “We were so full by the end, we wanted to go for another drink afterwards, but instead just decided to roll home to bed.”

Helen Bloomer's cat Yasmin helping her to do a puzzle.
Helen Bloomer
Helen Bloomer's cat Yasmin helping her to do a puzzle.

For Helen, after spending the day (quite literally) running around Birmingham, she spent the afternoon at her aunt’s house in Solihull before dropping her parents back home at Handsworth Wood – the evening involved chilling out at home completing a puzzle, while football played on TV in the background.

“I’m addicted to puzzles,” she says. “Currently I’m doing one of an old French station, but my favourites are cottages with beautiful gardens. I like to buy them in charity shops, complete them and then donate them to a charity shop again for someone else to complete.”

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