Wednesday 21 September 2011

Progressive Birmingham

Mike Whitby, leader of Birmingham City Council, of "Global City, Local Heart" fame, calls the coalition with the Lib-Dems a progressive partnership - Something which has surprised many of the critics he calls 'Jeremiahs'.  Perhaps not such wise words for his critics - Jeremiah wrote the book of lamentations, a cheery tome, where he revealed the sins of the people and the coming consequences,[10][11]and in typical prophetic style, got it spot on.  But in calling the leadership a 'progressive partnership' Mike Whitby shrewdly attempts to take the 'progressive' title from the left, while associating the partnership with Birmingham's tradition of 'progressiveness'.

'Birmingham Faces and Places' is a late nineteenth century publication celebrating the great and the good in Birmingham, people and places. I talked to Dr Andy Green about 'Faces and Places' and Birmingham in the late nineteenth century, when it was granted city status, and attempting to define itself as a modern, progressive city.  Like now, grandiose 'big city plans' were being brought to fruition under a Liberal Mayor, Joseph Chamberlain. He forcibly purchased Birmingham's gas, water, and much of the city centre for BCC proclaiming:

Chamberlain was most certainly a progressive.  The original Faces and Places was being published during his lifetime, and attempted to manage and present a particular image of Birmingham, both in its editorial choice of 'great and good', and in it's objective - to present a 'progressive' city.  It was a respected reference for anyone looking to find our anything about Birmingham in the late nineteenth century, be it a local-based enquiry or relating to the 'global' reputation Birmingham was already shaping.  It was a masterpiece of political spin.

Connecting Histories 'faces and places' project invited everyone to contribute their own 'faces and places' - people and places we think have contribute to our great city.  This represents something quite different to the original 'faces and places', and offers exciting possibilities for considering our identity in Birmingham, as a city which belongs to all of us, not just 'the great and the good'.

The continuing challenge, to be a truly progressive city, is to give voice, represent and value everyone in Birmingham.


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