Archive for December, 2007

Mr Birmingham

As a health warning, most of this post was written sitting in a Euston station café after I found out that my train ticket to Birmingham New Street was for off peak travel only. That left me with nearly three hours (!) to spare, so I have probably gone overboard here.

I was in London because I had a meeting with Michael Wolff. I have blogged about him before (here, here and here) after his visit to Birmingham as part of the Plus International Design Festival. The interview I did with him also provoked quite a big reaction from the city’s great and good.

The meeting was more of a chat over lunch than anything formal (I am on holiday after all!). We talked about the process of branding businesses and about how the process might apply to a city.

He had some interesting points to make. One was about the importance of understanding what you want your city to be about, before you start reflecting that through design.

If Birmingham was a person, or a family, what would it be like? If it was a verb, what would happen if you Birmingham-ed?

It’s an interesting exercise and I didn’t have an immediate answer. However, I think it that says a lot in itself.

Some people might say you can’t simplify a city down to just a few key features but, in fact, we do it all the time. Manchester isn’t just about its football and its music, but there is no denying that it has benefited from those associations and, I bet, most Manchester residents are pretty proud of that.

So, being stranded in Euston station for two-and-a-half hours gave me ample opportunity to mull it over! If Birmingham was a person, what would they be about?

I got rather carried away and it ended up quite detailed covering home life, leisure, family, work, education and more!

I imagine a lot of people will disagree with what I’ve written. I hope they do. I’m more than aware this image says as much about me as it does about Birmingham. I only hope it is not as soaked in middle class stereotypes as I fear it may be.

However, the point still stands: the more people that undertake the exercise there is more of a likelihood that common themes will emerge.

This could then be used to develop perhaps five key areas that could be developed to help define the city, Michael suggests.

Maybe it is committing to developing the best care homes in the UK, or perhaps there is something else that Birmingham is good at that can be built upon, boosted and made part of the city’s image.

I’m not sure. But below is my “Mr Birmingham”. See what you think:

Birmingham is a warm, welcoming and outgoing person.

He has lived his life in the city of his birth and has a strong identity with its traditions and heritage. He is proud of what it has achieved and likes to be associated with the great innovators of the past.

But, along with this sense of place, he has a strong cultural connection to one or more other countries/cultures. His parents/grandparents/ great grandparents arrived in this city and made their home here. He likes to share this cultural background with his friends and to hear about their cultures and traditions. As a result, his musical, artistic and culinary tastes are eclectic and diverse.

His home is a popular destination for parties and events, as he has the knack of making everyone feel at home, no matter who they are and where they come from.

He has a great sense of humour and can laugh at himself. That doesn’t mean, however, that he isn’t proud of who he is.

His house is not showy, pretentious or egocentric. It is comfortable, clean, welcoming but also well designed and stylish. Its innovative and environmental features often impress guests.

But, despite this, he is, generally, modest and is not a man that indulges in crude status symbols. He is no yuppy. Making people feel comfortable is more important than showing them how successful he is.

That is not to say, however, that he is unsuccessful. His creativity and education combine to make him refreshing and inspiring in his work. He is very good at what he does and embraces new developments in his industry as opportunities, not threats. He is often at the forefront of these developments.

When it comes to clothes and fashion, he is confident and innovative enough to have developed his own sense of style. But he remains constantly open to, surprised and delighted by new ideas.

His car looks good, but it is more likely to have been chosen because of its clever use of design. This is a trait that he is very proud of. After all, doesn’t he deserve something that is more than just adequate?

He loves playing and watching sport and is a great supporter of his local teams, especially football and cricket.

Family is important to him. He recognises the sacrifices made by generations before him and wants to provide them the best possible care for them as they get older.

For his children, he wants them to have an education that opens doors and provides opportunities. Although he’d love them to stay in the city to develop their careers, he is happy that if they have to move on, they will be proud to say where they have come from.

He is also passionate about instilling an attitude of creativity and invention – it’s ok to fail if it is part of how you improve and develop.



I’m back!

I have just arrived back in Brum a week-and-a-bit of jet setting and very happy I am too. It’s nice to see the old place again and to be reminded of what my flat looks like!

Hong Kong was fascinating and I will post more about the trip soon. The people I met were fantastic and I really enjoyed my week there, although I perhaps wouldn’t rate Hong Kong amongst my favourite cities.

The skyscrapers are imposing and relentless for those more used to low-rise living. There is constant noise, lights, pollution and clamour and nothing ever seems to sleep.

As I have said elsewhere, the experience felt like being hit with a sledgehammer… repeatedly.

Which cam?

Now I hear that Hong Kong is the place for all things electrical, so I am am hoping to use the excuse of Christmas to pick me up a new little gadget.

Top of my wish list is a camcorder, so that I can play around with making my own videos. The problem is I haven’t got a huge budget (£200 max.).

Is there anything small and whizzy that I could get for that price? It doesn’t have to produce the best quality video, just something that wouldn’t be horrible to view on this blog.


Over-excited traveller

Well, I haven’t even got into the air yet and already I’m blogging again!

Having inherited my mother’s over-cautious attitude to flying, I arrived at Heathrow four (!) hours before my flight was due to leave.

I have spent almost two of these mooching around the departure lounge getting stressed out by wailing kiddies and wheelie suitcases running over my feet. I also used up most of my laptop battery transferring tunes to my Mp3 to try and drown out the noise.

Then, on a hunt for a power socket, I remembered: I’m allowed into the Cathay Pacific Business Lounge. Having never been in a business class lounge, I thought I’d check in out.

Now I’m sitting in heaven! Peace, quiet, free broadband and as much food and drink as I could want. I’m not sure there’s much more on this mortal coil I could desire… expect perhaps a few friendly faces to talk to.

It does feel slightly odd though, as if any minute those well-manicured attendants will recognise me for the fraud I am and throw me out on my ear.

But… until that happens… I’m off to get another sandwich!

Hong Kong

Hong KiongFresh back from my trip to CERN, I’m repacking my bags to jet off to Hong Kong tomorrow!

I must stress, this is a one-off. Before this week my only foreign jaunt in three years as a journalist was a 24-hour stay in Brussels!

The trip is organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and focuses on three Expos – World SME ExpoInno Design Tech Expo and (of personal interest) Business of Design Week.

In case anyone is interested, below is a rough itinerary.

Arrive in Hong Kong


8:30am Gather at hotel lobby for shuttle pick-up
9:30am Meeting with Mrs. Helen Chan, Principal Economist, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
11.45am Visit to Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
1.00pm Lunch.
3.00pm Visit to Hong Kong International Terminals.
5:45pm Briefing by Mr. Parker Robinson, Head of Corporate Communication, Hong Kong Trade Development Council.
7:00pm Welcome Dinner, Top Deck, Jumbo Kingdom.


8.30am Gather at hotel lobby for pick-up by Andrea Chung
10.00am Opening Ceremony of World SME Expo and Inno Design Tech Expo
(Time tbc) Joanna Lavan, China Connect
3.00pm Ian BaileyTrade Commissioner, British Consulate-General


World SME Expo / Inno Design Tech Expo / Business of Design Week.
Please proceed directly to the events.
3.00pm Brigadier Christopher Hammerbeck, Executive Director, The British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.


World SME Expo / Inno Design Tech Expo / Business of Design Week.
Please proceed directly to the events.


Depart Hong Kong.

If there are any Hong Kong/West Midland related issues anyone thinks I should be checking out, let me know!

NUJ Multimedia Commission

The report is out! But, I must confess, I haven’t read it yet.

At the moment I’m trapped between writing up my trip to Geneva, preparing two weeks of media & marketing stories, completing the registration for a postgraduate course and preparing to go to Hong Kong on Sunday (I know! I will tell all soon!).

However, Paul Bradshaw picks up on some interesting bits of the NUJ report. Press Gazette also covers it and so does the Guardian. There is a lot I want to say, but I want to hold out until I’ve read the whole report (something for the plane perhaps?!).

Also, I’ve been really interested in the creative director for Birmingham debate that has taken place of late and will have more to say on that very soon. I read the posts by Stef and Paul with interest. There have been a few developments and I’ll fill you in on these soon too.

Sorry for the poor post!

Any Qs: Andrew Gilligan

Andrew GilliganAh! How I wish this were one of my interviews.

Mr Gilligan, of ‘sexed up’ dossiers, weapons of mass destruction and Dr David Kelly fame/infamy is being interviewed by journalism student/blogger Dave Lee.

This will form part of Dave’s dissertation and he is crowdsourcing questions to ask the ex-BBC journalist. So, go! Ask questions!

I’m very jealous. Back in the days when I was a literature student I did try and get hold of Gabriel Garcia Marquez but, oddly enough, was unsuccessful.

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