Bullring & Grand Central | Black Country Nostalgia | Visit Birmingham


Bullring Birmingham

Bullring & Grand Central Birmingham

Birmingham B5 4BU, England

There has been a huge amount of modernisation in Birmingham recently and the Bullring & Grand Central Station are no exceptions. The Bullrings history dates way back to 1154 and it's been a centre for shops and stalls ever since. In the 60s the first shopping mall was built known locally as the Bullring. At the turn of millennium the centre was redesigned with shops restaurants and break out areas. The shopping centre itself is built on different levels and self contained. It has a good range of shops but not many you cant find everywhere else.

One of the huge changes to the Bullring was the addition of the Iconic landmark department store Selfridges which can be accessed via the shopping mall. There is also a huge car park underneath so wheel chair access is made easy, its also very close to New Street Railway station.  The fa├žade of the Selfridges building is quite unique with hundreds of metal discs lined up across its kidney shaped exterior. It sits next to and  in stark contrast to the Victorian church St Martin which in turn backs onto Birmingham's famous rag markets. Here as in many areas of Birmingham the old meets the new. This can clearly be seen if you walk past the main entrance and past the bronze bull through to Special Street where the area turns into a kind of viewing platform looking south of the city. You can catch an awesome sunrise in this area in the early mornings of Autumn watching the market traders preparing for their day ahead as they have done for nine hundred years. Selfridges is an amazing shopping experience in itself  with a multi level layout it offers some of the most amazing merchandising displays you are likely to see outside of London. The Christmas promotions here a sight to behold with  a 20ft glittery silver stiletto and a Robin Red Breast the size of an air balloon coming to mind.

grand central birmingham

One of the most significant changes to the Brummies' commuter way of life was the reconstruction of New Street Station and the creation of Grand Central. Anyone who knew it before and knows it now must be somewhat in awe of the positive changes that have been made.

From a dark dingy hole to a beautiful bowl of light this place encompasses the ever changing face of Birmingham. It has a great range of places to eat on the upper level and some interesting and unique shops too. It's bright and airy and pleasant to travel through unlike yesteryear when the diesel fumes stung your eyes.

I like what they did here with the tented ceiling it really gives it an open air feeling. I recently travelled through and watched someone playing the grand piano there, it's a refreshing change from the stresses of travel in London. I'm however not that keen on the shiny exterior, rumour has it that they had to go for a cheaper option than originally specified and it shows. Most of the panels are already dull and stained but fair play for trying.

The eye shaped LED advertising signs are quite interesting too. They are watching us.... watching them.... differentiating between the groups of people walking by then playing the appropriate advertising content. This really is the city of the future!

Next up learn and read more about: The Birmingham Hippodrome

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The Telegraph

Peter Donnelly's prize-winning essay offers a brilliant example of how local, and often unprepossessing, backgrounds can provide the material for an outstanding colour story. All his photographs were taken within a few miles of his home in Birmingham, Brierley Hill, at Blackheath, Bilston and Cradley Heath. He took them over a period of several months while on weekend walks along the deserted banks of the local canals. "Most evenings I never met a soul," Mr Donnelly recalls. "There was an air of isolation, and often desolation, over the whole scene, and this is what I have tried to capture in my photographs." The camera used was a Pentakon F and the film Agfa and Kodachrome.
by Dr Carl Chinn MBE
Peter Donnelly was born in Birmingham, educated at Corpus Christi junior school, Stechford and later at the holy rosary, Saltley. While at the Holy Rosary he took and passed a drawing examination for Moseley school of art at which he spent several years tuning his artistic talent.

On leaving the art school he joined Birmingham printers, Sam Currier & Son in brook street, St Pauls square, as an apprentice commercial artist. After completing his apprenticeship he left Sam Currier and worked at various printers and advertising agencies gaining valuable experience before starting with his working associate Bob Burns (typographer). Donnelly Burns Graphic Design studio was in Chapel Street, Lye before moving to larger premises in Cradley heath then Harborne.

Before starting the business Peter entered and won the Sunday Telegraph national photographic competition. He submitted an essay of photographs illustrating the demise of the Birmingham and Black Country canals with fellow photographer Norman Fletcher. To Peter and Norman, Midlands photographers and photographic societies seemingly had ignored the once great industrial arena that surrounded their everyday lives.

What an arena! what powerful exiting subjects for the camera; neglected canals, weed and web woven towpaths, old worn out narrow boats – redundant and half submerged in silted murky brown waters; steam trains rattling, hissing and bumping their waggons into line and the rail men who worked the line at that time.

Old foundries, run down factories and scrapyards – the industrial flotsam of a once great manufacturing region. Many six o’clock early morning starts were walked and many miles covered by Peter and his camera.

Now over 60 years later, photographs taken during those early excursions are being published - looking back at the time, long before the surge of change and reconstruction 1962 - 1965