A not quite so Conservative Experience - Birmingham performs for the Conservative Party Conference

It could have been hard not to miss the headlines coming from Birmingham as the Conservative Party held it's annual Party Conference in Birmingham on the 28th September. The conference breaked from it's traditional seaside locations of Blackpool, Bournemouth and Brighton to bring around 15,000 delegates, activists and journalists to the ICC for the four day event. It was the biggest show in town since the G8 Summit and Eurovision contest were both hosted in Birmingham in 1998 and comes after the ICC hosted Labour’s spring conference and the first Cabinet meeting outside London earlier this year. The Conservatives are booked again for 2010 with Birmingham hosting 25,000 Rotarians meanwhile next year.

Birmingham Post and Mail.
Conservative Party Conference 2008, ICC.
David Cameron key note speech.
All Rights Reserved, BPM Media Ltd (Midlands).

The conference was a great opportunity for Birmingham to show it's continuing regeneration and the moves it has made to transform it's image together with the legacy of Conservative Party moves in regeneration in the 1990s and the current Conservative led local council.

Matthew Parris reflected on the visit in a Times Article Come to Birmingham...it's nicer than you think saying how much he enjoyed the place and it's lack of pretentiousness compared to Manchester and it's showy Labour Party Conference.

Birmingham is... and I realise at once that I was never cut out to be a branding whiz-kid because what I really want to say is: “...so much nicer than you think”; and “Birmingham is so much nicer than you think” is not the stuff of which great marketing concepts are made.

The ICC, the International Convention Centre, which for some journalists still was mistitled as the international conference centre provided a great location for the conference being adjacent to Brindleyplace and hosting what Matthew Parris calls 'one of the finest auditoriums I've seen in Britain', Symphony Hall. The photo above, taken during David Cameron's key speech on Wednesday 1st October provided a great backdrop for the conference and to show Birmingham as the revitalised city many didn't realise it had become.

There's an openness about the wide public spaces, the architecture, and the people too - who, if asked for help or directions go to great pains. The stone-paved squares and grand 19th-century neo-classical sandstone and white Portland stone buildings have all been cleaned up and opened out. The light and space and the indefinable modesty of Birmingham contrast with the snivelling swagger of Manchester.

Not only did the Conference help to change views but importantly was expected to bring a £20 million bonus to the city from the 15,000 delegates and media in the city's hotels, bars, restaurants and shops. This is important as it encourages delegates to return and boost visits, supporting Birmingham as 'the second most visited city in Britain, enjoying over 32 million visitors a year and cementing it's position as rated among the top cities in Europe to locate a business or hold an event or conference' (http://www.birminghammail.net/news/birmingham-news/2008/09/27/20m-bonanza-as-conservative-party-conference-comes-to-birmingham-97319-21912340/) It's hard not to come back to the comments people have made on their experience as the conference has changed the view many had on Birmingham.

Comments made to the BBC on delegates experiences of Birmingham included:

it's very vibrant. You just feel safe walking around.

"It's my first time in Birmingham. I've been to Brighton and this is much more pleasant. "It's quite charming with the canals and it's quite picturesque.
"Everthing is well laid out and easy to get to. It seems very clean and accessible."

"I don't miss the wind at Blackpool. Birmingham is a really exciting city. "There are a lot of young, interesting, fashionable people.



Popular Posts