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Brum: a refreshing alternative to London

Mon 9 Aug 2004 In: True Stories

I live only an hour from Birmingham, or Brum, as it's affectionately known, but for some reason I'd always avoided the city, heading instead for the gay hotspots of London, Manchester and Brighton. It was only the chance meeting with a handsome blond model at Action Club in London that bought me to the city for the first time, and I had to admit, by the end of my trip, that Birmingham didn't really deserve it's dubious reputation. Birmingham lies about and hour an a half from London's Euston station by high speed Virgin Train (First class is to die for) and you wind up right in the heart of it all at Birmingham's New Street Station. Birmingham International is well served by direct flights from New Zealand from operators including Qantas and Emirates, and you can fly direct from Birmingham to a number of European destinations with British Airways or British European. Once famous for it's friendly, blue collar, fiercely parochial locals with their strange, flat, slightly thick sounding accent (think Ozzy Osborne) and a prevalence of horrible '60s office blocks, Birmingham has had a bit of a makeover recently, to the tune of £7 billion, putting it well on it's way to becoming a very cosmopolitan city. The recent £300 million pound investment in an area of the city centre known as the Bullring literally changed the face of the city for good. What was once a solid concrete block of bargain basement shopping has now become the largest, most modern indoor shopping centre in Europe, including at it's centrepiece a fabulous off shoot of London's famous Selfridges Department store, bright purple, and covered with 15,000 silver disks. Selfridges is the first thing you see as you enter the city by car or train, and it's supposed to look like a naked woman's body. Instead it looks like a Purple blob covered in silver disks, but, hey, inside is every gay man's dream come true, if only you had the money. Prada, Gucci, Versace, Armani. The real stuff! Every fabulous fashion label you could dream of, delicious food to die for, accessories you'd kill for, but all at a very inflated price. I came away with a box of Oreos that cost me £5! Still, it got me a Selfridge's bag for all the other queens to seethe over!! The Birmingham gay scene lies barely five minutes walk from The Bullring, perfectly poised to welcome you into it's loving alcoholic arms once you've blown the national debt on your credit card. As you'd expect from the UK's second largest city, Birmingham does have a vibrant gay life. The scene centres around “The Village”, a collection of gay bars, clubs and pubs, loosely clustered around an old, rather dishevelled carpark, jostling for attention with adult shops and tattoo parlours. Cosmopolitan bars like Angel    Geoff Bargas - 9th August 2004

Credit: Geoff Bargas

First published: Monday, 9th August 2004 - 12:00pm

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