Birmingham: Rich in diversity

The Second City is one of Europe’s biggest cities and is predicted to become Britain’s first minority major city in the UK by 2020

Aerial view of Bull Ring in Birmingham

DESPITE CLAIMS from the likes of Liverpool and Manchester, with a total population that exceeded 1.1 million people, according to the 2011 census, Birmingham is firmly positioned as the second most populous city in England and the UK.

Birmingham is also one of Europe’s biggest cities, housing its population across over 80 square miles who all contribute to the city’s historically rich diversity.

Believed to be more ethnically diverse than London, according to World Population Review, just 58 per cent of its population is described as white, meaning the prediction that the Second City would become Britain’s first minority majority city in the UK by 2020 is still within reach.

Black people make up nearly 9 per cent of the ‘Brummie’ population, with the remainder including South Asians (27 per cent) and Chinese (1 percent). The city’s black population comprises 4.4 percent Caribbeansm 2,6 percent Africans and 1.7 percent “other blacks.”

Comparison to the 2001 figures shows the direction of population change: when 70 per cent of Birmingham were white, 19.5 percent Asian, 6 percent black and 0.5 percent Chinese.

ECONOMIC

The non-white population rose dramatically during the downfall of Britain’s imperialistic period, which was followed by the economic dev- astation brought on by two world wars. The members of its already drained Empire nations became natural candidates for economic migration to the major industrial centres; like London, Liverpool, Bristol and the Black Country as well as Birmingham.

Beginning in earnest in the 1920s and peaking in the 1960s, Birmingham became the home to an increasing number of new arrivals from the Asian sub-continent, Africa and the Caribbean commonly taking work in factories, hospitals and on public transport.

By the time the immgiration laws were tightening in the mid-1970s, due in part to the assertions of infamous local Tory mO Enouch Powell, tens of thousands of new arrivals from the renamed British Commonwealth had settled in the city, Minority communities typically gathered in the north of the city – areas like Aston, Erdington, Newtown, Winson Green and Handsworth, bordering on the fringe Black Country towns like Smethwick, West Bromwich and Warley, into Dudley and Wolverhampton.

From its earliest days, Birmingham has been a centre for international trade and business. Known as the ‘work- place of the world’ shortly after it was first mentioned in the Doomsday Book in the 12th Century, ‘Bernham’ as it was first called attracted an influx of traders and entrepreneurs who were tempted by its close proximity to iron and coalfields and transportation through its canal network.

With its subsequent population growth and development of a diversity of industries, plus the rise of local 18th century visionaries like James Watts (inventor of the steam engine) and Matthew Boulton (first user of gas lighting) firmly established Birmingham as ‘The City of a Thousand Trades’ as the Industrial revolution took centre stage.

Birmingham has undergone major re-development over the last decade and a half, with the rebuilding of its iconic Bull Ring Shopping Centre and Library of Birmingham. It is also the home of the largest branch of Primark in Europe, which recently joined the likes of Selfridges as an international retailer making its home in the city’s centre. Set to benefit from the UK’s groundbreaking but controversial HS2 (high speed rail) service, scheduled to open in 2026, Birmingham’s position among Europe’s most iconic venues is secure.

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