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Forward: Is Birmingham a city of considered progress or restless change?

Birmingham coat of arms and motto

Birmingham in the UK has had its motto since 1838, along with its coat of arms. And whilst the coat of arms has been altered along the way, the motto has remained unchanged. It could have been a Latin phrase but instead it's one simple word - Forward.

On the face of it, Forward can be a positive statement of a city of progress; one that's aspirational and innovative. All words which have charactersied a large part of Birmingham's history. Another aspect of a constant drive forward though, is change and that's not always so welcome.

Bull Ring buildings, Birmingham
Old and new: Selfridges and St Martin's, in theBull Ring

Birmingham's never going to be able to trumpet an intact historical cityscape, as other UK cities do, and which are catnip for tourists. The cranes are always on the skyline creating shiny new developments and many historic buildings have been lost. Some of that is out of the city's control - Hitler's bombing campaign targeted a city that was supplying the munitions and aircraft that would help win the war. But other buildings have been lost by choice.

In the twentieth century Birmingham's aspiration to be a motor city saw it carved up by major roads - the automobile was king in a city that became synonymous with flyovers and underpasses. Recent decades though, have seen the reversal of those developments and progress towards a more attractive and welcoming city centre, and a few weeks ago the City Council unveiled their new plan for change, which gives priority back to pedestrians and cyclists.

So, is this all just the breathless change of a city that doesn't give its history due regard and lurches from one fixation to the next? Or is it characteristic of a flexible city of progress, one that makes mistakes but learns from them and changes in order to survive and thrive?

In my view it's a bit of both. On the City Sights & History walking tour you'll find out more about the history of Birmingham and its approach to change and how it lives up to its motto - Forward. See the old alongside the new, history and progress. Good or bad its a Brummie characteristic. Let me show you...

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