Birmingham’s Southside unveils strategy to support its future as a diverse cultural centre

Catherine Muxworthy February 7, 2023

Southside Business Improvement District (Southside BID) – home to Birmingham’s gay village – has unveiled an ambitious new strategic vision which aims to “drive economic growth and support its future development as a diverse cultural centre”.

This strategy will see three connected plans – covering access to transport, festivals and events, and Southside’s potential to become a Cultural Action Zone – come together to transform the area. The BID has worked with local businesses and key city stakeholders to propose a series of strategic and practical recommendations as part of their vision.

A press release explains: “Southside’s Access Strategy sets out new proposals to transform Hurst Street at the heart of the district into a space which is far more welcoming for pedestrians, cyclists and disabled people. This bold strategy will see a wholesale redesign of the current streetscape, removing kerbs, parking spaces and the separation between road space and pedestrian space to promote café culture and pedestrianising Hurst Street at night, reducing vehicle based anti-social behaviour. The strategy also seeks to make cycling routes safer and more user friendly, and introduce more green infrastructure into the district.”

The second plan in their vision covering festivals and events, aims to combat the city centre’s reduced footfall, which is still below pre-pandemic levels.

“Southside’s Festival & Events Strategy proposes a series of recommendations to support the return of major events to the district, enabling Southside to create a meaningful sense of place as well as contributing to the social, cultural and economic growth of the area.

“As the cultural heart of Birmingham, and home to a number of significant festivals including Birmingham Pride, Chinese New Year and Summer in Southside, the recommendations include the protection of a large open space within Southside, the creation of a festivals committee that can work together on funding applications and share learnings and insights, the appointment of a part-time coordinator who can support Birmingham’s creative network and encourage more festivals activity and the creation of an evaluation team who can monitor the social and economic impact.”

Closely connected to this strategy is the BID’s proposal to become a Cultural Action Zone, “positioning the district as a leader of world-class cultural events and visitor experiences with diverse communities and engagement at its heart.”

“Designed to create thriving areas for people to live, work and visit, Cultural Action Zones are a key driver to invigorate the economic recovery of city centres.”

Lawrence Barton, chair of Southside BID and Director of Birmingham Pride, said, “The pedestrianisation of Southside is something I’ve always been passionate about. Our vision as a BID is for Southside to be Birmingham’s Covent Garden – and I know we’re hardly there yet – but pedestrianising the area would be a big, positive step towards that.

Barton believes that pedestrianising the area may also help reduce hate crime in the area. He explains that, “upsettingly, we’ve also seen a continuation of drive-by hate crime in the area over the past year. I’ve had staff working at my venues who’ve had abuse hurled at them and things thrown at them from car windows.

For people living, working and visiting the district, having more open space would make the area safe and more pleasant.”

More information regarding all the strategies in this vision can be found on Southside BID’s website.