Dear Editor, I had a wonderful evening in Manchester on Friday, watching the legendary Leonard Cohen at the city's Opera House.

While I am fond of Manchester, I do feel it lags behind Birmingham in terms of redevelopment. The whole city centre seems to me to be a cramped hodge-podge of old and new, with very little thought given to the overall impression.

It seems as though buildings have just been dumped in any available space without consideration as to how they complement their neighbours.

Some of the old industrial warehouses are impressive enough, but not that suitable to being converted into flats.

There seems to be little in the way of inner city green space and the quality of the air was terrible.

Birmingham, on the other hand, has several recent iconic buildings that show we can do things well when we put our mind to it.

The Bullring is famous the world over for its bold architecture.

The Rotunda is a great example of how to take a piece of heritage and bring it back to life. Ditto the work at Fort Dunlop.

The Opera House is a decent venue, similar to our Alexander Theatre in worn comfort and period detail, but I couldn't help feel cheated that Leonard Cohen had bypassed Birmingham in what will probably be his last European tour.

The gig would have been perfect in Symphony Hall with its great acoustics and sightlines. However, Cohen's promotoers booked him into Manchester, Edinburgh and Dublin instead.

The Manchester gigs were to mark the city's annual Festival, a hugely ambitious programme of world-class events, covering all aspects of the arts.

It then occurred to me that this is precisely what Birmingham lacks. Although we have one-off events such as Supersonic, Fierce and Artsfest, wouldn't it be something if all the different strands could come together for a few weeks a year to give us something to be really proud of?

We're clearly the second city in terms of style, so why not be it in terms of culture too?

Geoff Makepeace

Balsall Heath.


Why not adopt the Maglev system

Dear Editor, It's very good to see that Birmingham appears to have been included twice in plans for new rail links.

Isn't it time to think a bit differently though about a successor to conventional railways. Shanghai has the first Maglev system, manufactured in Germany, which is pretty impressive.

This raises the question why Britain is developing a Maglev system.

Maybe it's expensive to start up but look at the gains. The track is simpler than conventional rail and the train has a motor with no moving parts, which means there is virtually no maintenance needed. Since the vehicle is suspended above the track there is no friction from contact - no wheels involved.

I am amazed that anyone should contemplate looking at a system which is now superceded by modern and superior technologies, whereas laying more conventional rail track across the length and breadth of the country with bridges and tunnels.

I don't know, but would imagine that a Maglev track could easily be raised to go above or round obstacles much more easily too. In theory there would be no limit to speed whereas conventional rail will quickly reach one.

John Tyrrell

by email.


Are the people of Zimbabwe prepared to fight for freedom?

Dear Editor, Alex Achurch is astounded that the world is to sit around and watch as Mugabe stays in power in Zimbabwe (Post, June 24)

Isn't that precisely what supporters of democracy in Zimbabwe are doing?

Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has fled to the Dutch Embassy in Harare.

Democracy has been fought for and won in nations all around the world and if the people of Zimbabwe really want it then they should be prepared to fight for it, not wait for the sons of other nations to lay down their lives for them.

It is quite right that the UN Security Council has declared that any fair vote is impossible because of the campaign of violence waged by Mugabe's henchmen.

Pictures have been flashed around the world of thugs chasing Tsvangirai supporters across the landscape and dishing out beatings in order to reinstall Mugabe's tyrany.

My advice to those fleeing is to stop, turn and fight.

If you are in the majority, as seems to be the case, you can only win.

Yes, there will be bloodshed. Yes, people will die. But I quite honestly believe that this nation of ours has spilt enough blood on foreign shores fighting for freedom and democracy for others and it's time for other nations to step up to the plate.

So, people of Zimbabwe, are you prepared for the fight?

Harold Morgan

Chadwick End.


Tell-tale date on photograph

Dear Editor, I was interested to read the article in today's paper (Post, June 23) concerning Carroll's friendship with Edith Blakemore.

However, you refer to the picture having been produced in summer of 1877. If you look at the picture you will see that it is clearly dated Sep.14/80, indicating that it was actually produced on September 14, 1880.

Whilst he may have first met the girl in 1877, it would seem that the drawing was done some three years later.

C R Woodall

by email.