Sarah Holmes,  third year English student

Sarah Holmes guides you through Birmingham

Sarah Holmes, a third-year English student, gives her guide to the city

When I first arrived in Birmingham, I was overwhelmed. Coming from a mid-sized town, Birmingham seemed to go on forever, yet while you soon get to know your way around the main areas, there is always a new hidden gem to be found, a new perfect coffee shop, a new best bar, a new event or opportunity to be found.

Shopping

Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre has over 160 shops and is open until 8pm during the week. If you can’t find what you need there, you’ll find it in Birmingham city centre or nearby Solihull, where there are plenty of shops but a lot less hustle and bustle. Digbeth is home to Birmingham’s string of vintage boutiques, namely COW vintage warehouse, and the Custard Factory – home to independent retailers, galleries, music shops and host of monthly Vintage fairs. Another alternative shopping destination, the underground Oasis Market, is where you’ll find independent retailers, music stores, piercing shops and unique fashion.

Art

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery hosts attractions including the priceless treasure of the Staffordshire Hoard and the largest public Pre-Raphaelite collection in the world. With Birmingham’s great rail connections, you can also get to The New Art Gallery in Walsall and The Herbert in Coventry in less than 30 minutes, both hosts to regular exhibitions. Sophie Bancroft, a recent graduate from MA Fine Art, says: “Brum has the kind of arts scene that makes you want to live here even beyond your degree, from painting shows to performance events, galleries in all corners of the city and events in the coolest of bars. The arts scene in Brum is a proper community and so exciting to be part of whether as a practitioner or just a viewer.”

Music

Depending on whether you like big, loud, world-class names or you prefer local acoustic guitar musicians with your decaffeinated coffee, Birmingham can cater for all. Urban Coffee Company in Church Street puts on monthly Open Mic nights, Live Music Friday, where they stay open late and serve coffee and tea as well as alcoholic beverages. The Yardbird is a good bar with live music most nights (and an ostrich burger stand outside).

At the other end of the scale, two of Birmingham’s larger venues, the LG Arena and the National Indoor Arena, have upcoming gigs including Little Mix, Robbie Williams, Dolly Parton, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga. The O2 Academy and The Institute also have regular gigs and club nights. If pop isn’t your thing, Birmingham is the only city outside the capital to have a world-class symphony orchestra, and the Symphony Hall puts on regular shows.

Food

Birmingham’s Balti Triangle is famous for its array of restaurants and takeaways offering spectacular curry dishes. The multi-cultural city offers an abundance of worldwide delicacies. Every nation is represented in Birmingham with Portuguese, Hungarian, Lebanese, Indian, Polish and Caribbean restaurants dotted about the city.

Recent eateries tried and tested include The Plough, a pub in Harborne serving excellent meals with 2 for 1 on brunch, pizzas and burgers during the week and Cafephilia in Moseley which offers Has Bean coffee (a favourite of mine) along with a range of snacks including freshly baked bread toasted and served with butter and jam – simple but perfect! I also highly recommend Mount Fuji, a Japanese restaurant in Spiceal Street, part of The Bullring, and Indianos in Acocks Green, a short train ride from the city centre. And when you’re cooking for yourself, you’ll never fail to find an ingredient you need in Birmingham’s range of world-food stores, supermarkets and farmers’ markets.

Cinema

Alongside two Odeons, a Cineworld and the Big Screen at Millennium Point, Birmingham city centre hosts the UK’s oldest working cinema, The Electric. With sofas, a bar and waiter service, you can enjoy screenings of independent films, foreign movies and classics alongside the best reviewed mainstream releases in style. Hannah Giblin, a third-year English and Media student and film aficionado, suggests: “Birmingham is a brilliant place to get lost in the world of film. Filmmakers flock to Birmingham throughout the year to experience the Flatpack Festival, a film and performance festival that takes place all over the city and can unearth new and upcoming talents.”

Outdoors

Despite being known as Birmingham’s second biggest city, it doesn’t take too long to find some peace in the great outdoors. Birmingham’s canal system offers relaxing routes for walking and cycling and the cycle paths are undergoing a great improvement. Most notable for me is the Rea River Valley route which takes you from Digbeth to Longbridge via Cannon Hill Park. Winding paths through parks full of football players and kite flyers alongside the River Rea make for a beautiful, easy Sunday afternoon. Many also don’t know that Europe’s largest urban park is in north Birmingham: Sutton Park covers 2,400 acres and has seven lakes, beautiful woodland, restaurants and a donkey sanctuary!

Nightlife

Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe with under-25s accounting for over 40 percent of the population. Because of this, the city has an abundance of opportunities for the young including a booming nightlife scene. From the glitzy bars and multi-roomed clubs of Broad Street, the underground scene in Digbeth and the pubs and bars of student rich Selly Oak, there is something for everyone. My housemate, also an English student, loves the alternative nights at bar Scruffy Murphy’s and club Subside. In the city’s Jewellery Quarter, bars include The Rectory, with cocktail deals if you get there before 9pm. My favourite bar, BrewDog, prides itself on interesting ales but also stocks great whisky and bar snacks.

Events

I recently went to the mac to watch a performance by Kate Tempest, a spoken word artist, and one of the best experiences I’ve had in Birmingham. Strong rap-esque vocals blasted triumphantly from the enigmatic performance artist over a live score. In the introduction, Kate told the audience how much she loved Birmingham, saying that unlike London, her hometown, everyone in Birmingham was so friendly.

The mac, based in one of Birmingham’s largest green spaces, Cannon Hill Park, is well worth a visit. It hosts regular art, theatre, dance and music events along with independent cinema showings. This year Birmingham played host to the Wireless festival, which was held less than one mile from our City North Campus at Perry Park, between 4-6 July. Other events include Fusion Festival, Moseley Folk Festival and Supersonic. Birmingham event guide livebrum.com is your one stop resource for what’s on.

Recruitment and Career Opportunities

Many former students have chosen Birmingham to launch their careers, start businesses and improve their CVs. Birmingham City University offers many degrees that integrate work placements and sandwich years, and we also have our own employment agency, OpportUNIty – Student Jobs on Campus, providing work while you study. Birmingham is home to around 42,000 companies and over 900 international firms (Source: Business Birmingham), providing plenty of opportunities for part-time employment and work experience.

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