The announcement that Manchester will be the home of the UK's first super-casino, is another feather in the cap of a city that is shouting about its renaissance. RACHAEL RICHARDS – ex-PR executive for Marketing Manchester and new arrival at Birmingham-based Kinetic Communications – argues the city is maintaining an edge over Birmingham when it comes to image.
Manchester – Birmingham’s rival in the big cities race – has triumphed again with news it will soon be welcoming a ‘super-casino’.
However, we should avoid the envy and, instead, start emulating the skills behind Manchester's success. What has Manchester got that Birmingham hasn’t?
You could call me an objective commentator – I left home in mid-Wales to study at Birmingham University and UCE for five years and then relocated to ‘Manc-land’ and worked at ‘Marketing Manchester’ for a year. I loved the city but the opportunity at Kinetic drew me back.
It saddens me to say, compared to Manchester, Birmingham seems to have lost its momentum as a brand. We need to create a strong urban identity and a good place to start is with infrastructure. Let’s see some exciting and feasible plans for New Street and create a stylish first impression.
Let’s clean-up our transport system – we all know we need it!
In comparison, Manchester or ‘Madchester’ as it’s known, has a great atmosphere.
The streets are buzzing. There is an attitude, a certain confident swagger and this is helped by the city’s strong musical and television heritage.
One other important reason for this is that Sir Richard Leese, head of Manchester City Council with Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of the Council and their team, have tapped into this and should be praised for making the ‘brand’ happen.
Despite the tragedy that was the IRA bomb of 1997 – there was a silver lining. The city used it as an opportunity to accelerate its regeneration.
I love Birmingham and I’m not alone. Positive impressions of Birmingham internationally are echoed by many of the graduates I know who feel a great affection for our city. It's large, clean green spaces; its cultural venues; its friendliness and its central transport links.
One of our friends in the north talks of Birmingham as 'classy and clean’. He believes Birmingham's cultural offer is unrivalled except for London.
But what Birmingham lacks is self-belief and confidence. It's these qualities at play in Manchester which automatically deliver great reputation. Birmingham trails Manchester because the self-proclaimed ‘capital of the north’ uses publicity shrewdly to create a brand and individual urban identity whilst Birmingham hides behind its past glory.
So how can we unlock Birmingham’s potential? The answer's certainly not another talking shop.
We need action.
Having worked with regeneration groups and as host of regular Businesswatch meetings, Kinetic is already part of a network of groups and individuals seeking to further the potential of Birmingham as a brand and hub for investment.
What we need now is a regional ‘call to arms’ to work together as a community to lift our game.
With the Tory Party Conference set to visit the city in both 2008 and 2010, injecting a much-needed boost to Birmingham’s lack-lustre reputation, let’s use the opportunity to make something happen and turn words into action.
It’s time to speak up for Birmingham before we wake up one day to discover that we're now officially the UK's third city.