Birmingham is battling hard to boost its image. But if you are outside of the city looking in – is it working? John Marsden carried out a snap poll of marketing executives around the UK to find out
It's something of a case of the exceptionally Good, The Bad and the formerly Ugly.
Most of the people we spoke to in our whistlestop tour of the UK agreed Brum had improved beyond recognition.
And one London-based interviewee revealed, with some incredulity, that having visited the city he'd actually consider living here. Heavens above, whatever next?
Gas Street Basin, Brindleyplace, the Bullring – they all got a big tick in the Good section.
The Bad –well, people really, really don't like the traffic.
The M6 came in for some serious criticism – but then, how many locals would disagree with that one?
Question marks were raised, however, over the city's credentials as a major creative player. Sorry to say it – but the usual suspects (Liverpool, Manchester and that big place down south) largely caught the imagination of our mini-panel. That gets filed in the Bad category.
The Ugly? There was a general mood that the city has yet to shake off a lingering image of industrial greyness despite all the recent improvements.
Yes, Birmingham is much improved – but do people outside the city really know it yet...
Colin Hewitt, a Belfast man and director of Edinburgh-based design studio IfLooksCouldKill said simply: " I don't think of Birmingham as a creative hub."
Mr Hewitt said: "If you ask me I think of it as just a 'big city' and certainly not as creative as other big cities such as Liverpool and Manchester.
" It doesn't have a strong image in my mind in the way those places do.
"I don't think of it in negative terms particularly but there is nothing about the place that leaps to mind other than its size."
But Channel Islander Adrian Rowe, joint managing director of Red C which was founded in Manchester and also has offices in London, is a Birmingham optimist.
He said: "I think the city is very strong. My experience is that of a canal boat visit two years ago and mooring at Gas Street Basin – which was an absolutely fantastic site.
"Then, later, I visited the Bullring on behalf of a client and was tremendously impressed."
In creative terms he believed the city has come on in leaps and bounds.
"I think five years ago Birmingham was not have rated in the same breath as Manchester but I now I think it's up there with the bigger cities, although its probably fair to say that there are currently more people working in the creative sector in Manchester."
Wirrall woman Karen Whitehead of Liverpool's New Mind said the first thing that leaps out when she thinks of Birmingham is – "it's damn difficult to get to".
She said: "I've got memories of endless queues of traffic going nowhere on the M6. I suppose that's a bit negative? Think of something positive...
"Ermm. . . . I don't know, I can't say I think it rates as highly in creative terms in my mind as London and Liverpool and Manchester.
"But I guess that could be largely because we look to the north west for most of our clients."
Glasgow man Robin Shuker is a founder of Brands in Action in London and Glasgow. He had largely damning words for the city.
Mr Shuker said: "I've suffered terrible traffic problems in Birmingham and I think there is a lot of work to be done to shake of the image of industrial greyness which is perhaps part and parcel of the city's industrial heritage. I couldn't name a marketing service or creative services business in Birmingham –in those terms I don't think you're anywhere close to where you'd like to be.
"The city centre itself has improved immeasurably. When I was last in Birmingham I thought – hey, it's not too bad. Maybe I could live here...
"But I'm unsure that message of improvement is getting out – as I say, there's a lot of work to be done on the brand."