FAMOUS FOR 15 YEARS
For such a big city, Birmingham has an incredibly small town attitude to fame reckons Dave Woodhall. We just can’t resist basking in the reflected glory of folk who couldn’t leave the area quickly enough.
I used to know someone with relatives in a small village in Ireland. She said that when she graduated there was a story in the local paper over there about how her aunt and uncle’s niece had recently attained a degree over in the UK.
That’s not poking fun at the paper or the area it covered; it’s a small place and they were quite rightly proud of the people who came from there. However, I also think it’s similar to the attitude of Birmingham and the surrounding area. When it comes to the lifestyles of the rich and famous, this city has got a very smalltown attitude.
We love to see our own doing well - fair enough. We make a big fuss every time anyone with any connection to the city, however tenuous, makes the headlines. We get starstruck if glamour, even second-hand glamour, so much as glances in our direction.
Karren Brady has long since been regarded with awe by the local media, on the basis of her supposed business success. However, her track record at Birmingham City (still in the same division as when Brady’s employers took them over 14 years ago) and in attempting to forge a media career, belie her reputation. It’s difficult to get past the idea that Karren Brady has dazzled this area based on the fact that she’s (a bit) glamorous and works here.
Equally, I well remember the opening of Harvey Nichols in the Mailbox. A coachload of C-list celebrities were brought up to the Mailbox and asked to comment on the fact that a posh shop was opening right here in little ol’ Birmingham. When you’re happy being patronised by Sara Cox, questions really ought to be asked.
The story continues, with Ozzy Osborne regarded as the patron saint of Birmingham when he moved away more than thirty years ago and lives 6,000 miles away. We claim Victoria Wood on the basis that she attended Aston University, and Tony Hancock although he moved to Bournemouth when he was three.
Julie Walters is our very own Hollywood superstar, even though she too has little modern connection with the area except when she needs a comic accent. Does anyone else ever wonder why Walters’ Scouser/generic Northern characters are always sympathetic and realistic while her Brummies are such caricatures?
We all know that Birmingham should do more to promote itself. We’ve allowed Manchester to steal our claims to pre-eminence in industry and in pioneering league football and we’ve never bothered to push our advantages in many other fields. But we do ourselves no favours when we react with awe if someone born in this area becomes famous, or when we claim as our own those who have at best a slight link to the city.
More than two million people live in the West Midlands. It’s hardly surprising that a few of them are well-known outside the number 11 route. Birmingham is a big, vibrant city; it should stop behaving like a village.Is Dave right? Do we over-rate celebrity - even of the C-list kind? And who are the other famous Brummies who never come near the place or have only a tenuous link to the place? Leave a comment in the Miscellaneous section of our messageboard.
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