Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands, England. It is the second-largest city and metropolitan area in England and the United Kingdom, with roughly 1.1 million inhabitants within the city area and 4.3 million inhabitants within the metropolitan area. Birmingham is commonly referred to as the second city of the United Kingdom. Located in the West Midlands county and region in England, approximately 100 miles from Central London, Birmingham, as one of the United Kingdom's major cities, is considered to be the social, cultural, financial, and commercial centre of both the East and West Midlands. Distinctively, Birmingham only has small rivers flowing through it, mainly the River Tame and its tributaries River Rea and River Cole – one of the closest main rivers is the Severn, approximately 20 miles west of the city centre. Birmingham's urban area is the second-largest in the United Kingdom, with its most recently estimated population in 2017 being 2,897,303, and it also lies within the most populated English district. By 1791, it was being hailed as «the first manufacturing town in the world». Birmingham's distinctive economic profile, with thousands of small workshops practising a wide variety of specialised and highly skilled trades, encouraged exceptional levels of creativity and innovation and provided an economic base for prosperity that was to last into the final quarter of the 20th century. The Watt steam engine was invented in Birmingham.The resulting high level of social mobility also fostered a culture of political radicalism which, under leaders from Thomas Attwood to Joseph Chamberlain, was to give it a political influence unparalleled in Britain outside London, and a pivotal role in the development of British democracy.
From the summer of 1940 to the spring of 1943, Birmingham was bombed heavily by the German Luftwaffe in what is known as the Birmingham Blitz. The city is a major international commercial centre, ranked as a beta − world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network the joint highest ranking with Edinburgh and Manchester of all British cities outside of London; and an important transport, retail, events and conference hub. Its metropolitan economy is the second largest in the United Kingdom with a GDP of $121.1bn , and its six universities make it the largest centre of higher education in the country outside London. Birmingham's major cultural institutions – the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Library of Birmingham and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts – enjoy international reputations, and the city has vibrant and influential grassroots art, music, literary and culinary scenes. The city will host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Birmingham is the fourth-most visited city in the UK by foreign visitors.
Data and Facts
- The New York Times once placed Birmingham in their top 20 places to visit. Birmingham attracts over 41 million visitors a year, with just over 1 million of these being international visitors
- Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe with almost 40 per cent of the population being made up of under 25's. It is home to five universities and over 73,000 students
- The city hosts over 50 festivals each year, including the Moseley Folk Festival, Flat Pack film festival, Fierce art festival and the massive Birmingham International Jazz Festival
- The Birmingham Jewellery Quarter produces 40% of all jewellery produced in the UK. It is also has the highest concentration of jewellery businesses in Europe
- Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has the world’s largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings
- Birmingham was home to the great scientists and inventors Matthew Boulton, James Watt and William Murdoch, leading Birmingham to be the first manufacturing town in the world. Birmingham chemist Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen in 1774
Birmingham's boundaries were expanded several times during the 19th and 20th centuries. Birmingham was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1838. The borough initially included the parishes of Birmingham and Edgbaston and part of the parish of Aston. In 1889, the municipal borough of Birmingham was reconstituted as a county borough. It was expanded in 1891 under the City of Birmingham Extension Order by adding Harborne from Staffordshire and Balsall Heath from Worcestershire, as well as Saltley, a further part of Aston parish. Quinton in Worcestershire was added in 1909. In 1931, parts of the parishes of Minworth, Castle Bromwich, Sheldon and a tiny part of Solihull were added, including the area of Castle Vale, then known as Berwood. Birmingham was reconstituted on 1 April 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, as a metropolitan district, which covered both the former county borough of Birmingham, and the municipal borough of Sutton Coldfield.
Birmingham City Council is one of the largest local authorites in Europe with, following a reorganisation of boundaries in June 2004, 120 Birmingham City Councillors representing over one million people, in 40 wards. The council headquarters are at the Council House in the city centre. Birmingham City Council is responsible for running nearly all local services, with the exception of those run by joint boards as detailed below. The provision of certain services has in recent years been devolved to several Districts, which each have an area committee made up of councillors from that district. From 5 April 2004, responsibility and budgets for a number of services were devolved to 11 district committees, as part of a growing trend in the UK to use area committees for large councils. Each now comprises four wards. Birmingham is unparished, apart from New Frankley, its only civil parish, which was established in 2000 in an area transferred from Bromsgrove in 1995, and which had previously been part of the Frankley parish.
Birmingham was the seat of regional government for the West Midlands region of England as the home of the region's Government Office, the regional development agency Advantage West Midlands, and the West Midlands Regional Assembly. Since 2011, Birmingham has formed part of the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership along with neighbouring authorities Bromsgrove, East Staffordshire, Lichfield, Redditch, Solihull, Tamworth, Wyre Forest. In November 2014, it was announced Birmingham was to create a combined authority with the four neighbouring boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. Coventry and Solihull later joined, making the entire West Midlands county involved. The authority is expected to be formed in April 2016 in a bid to gain greater devolved powers from the government.
Birmingham grew to prominence as a manufacturing and engineering centre. The Gun Quarter is a district of the city, which was for many years a centre of the world's gun-manufacturing industry. The first recorded gun maker in Birmingham was in 1630, and locally made muskets were used in the English Civil War. It is an industrial area to the north of the city centre, bounded by Steelhouse Lane, Shadwell Street and Loveday Street specialising in the production of military firearms and sporting guns. Following the Big City Plan of 2008, the Gun Quarter is now a district within Birmingham City Centre. Many buildings in the area are disused but plans are in place for redevelopment including in Shadwell Street and Vesey Street.
Today, the economy of Birmingham is dominated by the service sector, which in 2012 accounted for 88% of the city's employment. Birmingham is the largest centre in Great Britain for employment in public administration, education and health and after Leeds the second largest centre outside London for employment in financial and other business services. Major companies headquartered in Birmingham include the engineering company IMI plc, and including the wider metropolitan area the city has the largest concentration of major companies outside London and the South East. With major facilities such as the National Exhibition Centre and International Convention Centre Birmingham attracts 42% of the UK's total conference and exhibition trade.
Manufacturing accounted for 8% of employment within Birmingham in 2012, a figure beneath the average for the UK as a whole.Major industrial plants within the city include Jaguar Land Rover in Castle Bromwich and Cadbury in Bournville, with large local producers also supporting a supply chain of precision-based small manufacturers and craft industries. More traditional industries also remain: 40% of the jewellery made in the UK is still produced by the 300 independent manufacturers of the city's Jewellery Quarter,continuing a trade first recorded in Birmingham in 1308.Birmingham's GVA was £24.8bn , economic growth accelerated each successive year between 2013 and 2015, and with an annual growth of 4.2% in 2015, GVA per head grew at the second fastest rate of England's eight «Core Cities». The value of manufacturing output in the city declined by 21% in real terms between 1997 and 2010, but the value of financial and insurance activities more than doubled. With 16,281 start-ups registered during 2013 Birmingham has the highest level of entrepreneurial activity outside London,while the number of registered businesses in the city grew by 8.1% during 2016. In the inner-city wards of Aston and Washwood Heath, the figure is higher than 30%. Two-fifths of Birmingham's population live in areas classified as in the 10% most deprived parts of England, and overall Birmingham is the most deprived local authority in England in terms of income and employment deprivation. The city's infant mortality rate is high, around 60% worse than the national average. Meanwhile, just 49% of women have jobs, compared to 65% nationally, and only 28% of the working-age population in Birmingham have degree level qualifications in contrast to the average of 34% across other Core Cities.According to the 2014 Mercer Quality of Living Survey, Birmingham was placed 51st in the world, which was the second highest rating in the UK. The city's quality of life rating has continued to improve over the years and Birmingham was ranked 49th in the world in the 2019 survey. This is the first time it has featured in the top 50. The Big City Plan aims to move the city into the index's top 20 by 2026. An area of the city has been designated an enterprise zone, with tax relief and simplified planning to lure investment.According to 2019 property investment research, Birmingham is rated as the number 1 location for “The Best Places To Invest in Property in the UK”.
The UK’s ‘second city’, Birmingham is frequently chosen by domestic and international companies as the ideal location to establish their business. In recent years, Birmingham has shed its historic image of a grey and dreary manufacturing town, into one of Europe’s most influential business hubs. The city was voted the most investable location in the UK by PwC and the Urban Land Institute’s Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2019 survey, where it was also ranked as having the best investment prospectus by over 800 real estate professionals in Europe. Further investigation by the Centre for Entrepreneurs found that Birmingham is also the most entrepreneurial UK city outside London.
It isn’t just the business side of the city that separates it from other destinations in the UK. The region’s cosmopolitan, vibrant landscape is reflected in Mercer’s global Quality of Living Report, which ranks Birmingham in the world’s top 50, ahead of major global cities including Dubai, Hong Kong and Rome. There are many advantages that can be attributed to Birmingham as a business hub. Located at the centre of the UK, Birmingham is the best-connected location by air, road and rail for travel, both nationally and overseas, as it is within a four-hour drive for 90% of the population. Alongside this, the city welcomes nearly 13 million passengers each year, and Birmingham Airport flies to more than 140 international and domestic routes which are serviced by 50 airlines.
The city will be at the heart of the new HS2 network, which will bring people and goods to and from London within 38 minutes and improve connectivity to the northern regions. Andy Street, the former Managing Director of John Lewis and the Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority comments: «The West Midlands is ideally placed for connectivity and transport links as it is, quite literally, in the middle of the country. HS2 is only going to strengthen that, and I am confident any review of the plans will see that the pros far outweigh any cons. Locally, we have a vastly improved transport offering, including trams, buses and trains that are all seeing increased patronage.» Birmingham’s population is one of the UK’s most diverse. Its varied community comprises 190 nationalities, with more people speaking French, German, Polish, Russian, Urdu and Mandarin Chinese as a first language than any other regional core city. Moving away from historical links to industry, Birmingham is establishing itself as a true modern business destination. Birmingham has a burgeoning Business, Professional and Financial Services sector, with over 4,300 financial and professional services companies. These alone employ over 50,000 people, making it the largest regional cluster outside of London. This spike in activity has been grown within the city, as Birmingham has more business students than any other regional city outside of London. Due to this growth, the city is now a destination of choice for major companies, including the Big Four, PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and EY, who all have their largest regional offices based in the city. Big name banks also call Birmingham home, with HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Metro Bank and Secure Trust Bank all investing in the city in recent years. Global firms are consequently attracting more and more young professionals to pursue their business, professional and financial services careers in Birmingham as opposed to London. According to Office for National Statistics data, more people are moving from the capital to the West Midlands than to any other UK regional area, with Birmingham attracting more people away from London than it is losing. In total, the West Midlands’ BPFS cluster generated £24.5bn GVA annually, and is the region’s most significant sector, responsible for almost a third of its total GVA.
One of the world’s leading brands and financial institutions last year made the decision to relocate its UK HQ to the city. So, why did HSBC make this decision? Investing £200m in a purpose-built, ten-storey facility and relocating 1,000 jobs from across its UK and international operations, the bank chose Birmingham because of the strength of its transport links, talent pool and wider business supply chain. It isn’t just global institutions that are taking advantage of the current business climate in Birmingham. A mix of global companies and start-ups are now based in the city, with more software developers, programmers and software architects than any other regional city in the UK and, according to Monster research, is the best place in the UK for digital jobs. Tech is the fastest growing sector in Birmingham, with property group JLL and business consultancy Tech City UK predicting it will add £1.1bn in GVA to the economy by 2022. It is this growth that was a key factor for the city being chosen as the UK’s first multi-city test-bed for 5G. Vodafone recently began its live test of 5G technology at Birmingham New Street train station. This makes it the first 5G-connected train station in the UK. The future for the city is very bright, and its standing on the world’s stage was recently highlighted by figures from the Department of International trade, who stated that the West Midlands is the leading regional location for attracting Foreign Direct Investment outside of London and the South East. This international standing holds the region in good stead for the future, especially with the expansions happening across the city. Birmingham Airport is undergoing an ambitious £500m expansion to grow passenger numbers by 40% to 18 million by 2033. The works will see the airport’s departures terminal extended to increase capacity and improve facilities. The development will create 34,000 jobs for local people and generate over £2bn of economic benefit for the region.
Partly due to its central location, Birmingham is a major transport hub on the motorway, rail and canal networks. The city is served by the M5, M6, M40, and M42 motorways, and possibly the most well known motorway junction in the United Kingdom: Spaghetti Junction, a colloquial name for the Gravelly Hill Interchange. The M6 passes through the city on the Bromford Viaduct, which at 3.5 miles is the longest bridge in the UK. Birmingham is planning a Clean Air Zone from 2020, which will charge polluting vehicles to travel into the city centre.Birmingham Airport, located 6 miles east of the city centre in the neighbouring borough of Solihull, is the seventh busiest airport by passenger traffic in the UK and the third busiest outside the London area, after Manchester and Edinburgh. It is the largest base for Flybe, Europe's largest regional airline, and a major base for Ryanair and TUI Airways.Airline services operate from Birmingham to many destinations in Europe, the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania.
Birmingham Moor Street and Birmingham Snow Hill form the northern termini for Chiltern Railways express trains running from London Marylebone. Local and regional services are operated from all of Birmingham's stations by West Midlands Trains. Curzon Street railway station is planned to be the northern terminus for Phase One of the High Speed 2 rail link from London, due to open in 2026.
The National Express headquarters are located in Digbeth, in offices above Birmingham Coach Station, which forms the national hub of the company's coach network. The network includes: the busiest urban rail system in the UK outside London, with 122 million passenger entries and exits per annum; the UK's busiest urban bus system outside London, with 300.2 million passenger journeys per annum; and the West Midlands Metro, a light rail system that operates between Library in Central Birmingham and Wolverhampton via Bilston, Wednesbury and West Bromwich. Bus routes are mainly operated by National Express West Midlands, which accounts for over 80% of all bus journeys in Birmingham, though there are around 50 other, smaller registered bus companies.The number 11 outer circle bus route, which operates in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions around the outskirts of the city, is the longest urban bus route in Europe, being over 26 miles long with 272 bus stops.There is currently no underground system in Birmingham; it is the largest city in Europe not to have one. In recent years, ideas of an underground system have started to appear, but none so far have been planned in earnest primarily due to the ongoing expansion of the West Midlands Metro tram network being viewed as a higher priority.[An extensive canal system still remains in Birmingham from the Industrial Revolution.
Birmingham is home to world-class businesses, major R&D facilities, innovative entrepreneurs, renowned universities and one of the youngest populations in Europe. It is a dynamic, thriving and business-focused region. Well connected and centrally located in the UK, and with a highly skilled talent pool, the region provides the scale and size to service the largest of business functions. Businesses in Birmingham are recording higher productivity and wage levels – faster than the UK average with increasing numbers of people taking advantage of the quality of life and work opportunities it offers.
With economic resurgence in the region already in full swing, strong leadership in place and a clear blueprint for growing the economy in the future, the West Midlands region will further benefit from a series of once-in-a-generation events and opportunities over the course of this decade, which will thrust Birmingham into the national and global spotlight. Capitalising on these opportunities will yield economic growth, opportunity for residents and commercial success for businesses located here. At the heart of the country, Birmingham is undoubtedly the most connected regional city in the UK, with access to London, and to other major UK locations, by both road and rail. The region is home to an international airport, offering direct flights to 150 destinations worldwide. This influx of talent is driven by the region’s strong economic performance. The West Midlands is home to 9 world class universities and the region is encouraging this ready source of talent to stay where they studied. The region is backed by a £69 million UK Government Skills Deal to provide further digital and technical skills to the local workforce. A further £8 billion of devolved funding is supporting a 30-year investment programme to improve productivity and skills, deliver new transport infrastructure and homes for local people. The city boasts more businesses than any other core city in Fintech, BPFS, Automotive, Life Sciences, Food & Drink, Transport Technology, Medtech, Materials and Foodtech sectors.
Long the centre of the UK’s automotive industry, today’s Birmingham has a skilled workforce, to support the emergence of new technologies such as drones and intelligent buildings. The arrival of big banks, professional services firms and the planned HS2 rail link, have all accelerated this transformation. The cluster is bolstered by 18 universities, all within an hour’s drive of the city. Increasingly, graduates are also staying to put down roots, attracted by the affordable quality of life, opportunities and a thriving digital tech ecosystem.
Social Wellness and Human Resources
The 2012 mid-year estimate for the population of Birmingham was 1,085,400. This was an increase of 11,200, or 1.0%, since the same time in 2011. Since 2001, the population has grown by 99,500, or 10.1%. Birmingham is the largest local Authority area and city in the UK outside of London. The population density is 10,391 inhabitants per square mile compared to the 976.9 inhabitants per square mile for England. Based on the 2011 UK Census, Birmingham's population is projected to reach 1,160,100 by 2021, an increase of 8.0%. This compares with an estimated rate of 9.1% for the previous decade.The West Midlands conurbation had a population of 2,441,00 , and 2,762,700 people live in the West Midlands . According to figures from the 2011 UK Census, 57.9% of the population was White , 4.4% of mixed race , 26.6% Asian , 8.9% Black , 1.0% Arab and 1.0% of other ethnic heritage. 57% of primary and 52% of secondary pupils are from non-White British families.238,313 Birmingham residents were born overseas, of these, 44% have been resident in the UK for less than ten years. Countries new to the twenty most reported countries of birth for Birmingham residents since 2001 include; Iran, Zimbabwe, the Philippines and Nigeria. Established migrants outnumbered newer migrants in all wards except for, Edgbaston, Ladywood, Nechells and Selly Oak.
In Birmingham, 60.4% of the population was aged between 16–74, compared to 66.7% in England as a whole. There are generally more females than males in each single year of age, except for the youngest ages and late-30s and late-50s. In 2011, of all households in Birmingham, 0.12% were same-sex civil partnership households, compared to the English national average of 0.16%. 25.9% of all households owned their accommodation outright, another 29.3% owned their accommodation with a mortgage or loan. These figures were below the national average.45.5% of people said they were in very good health which was below the national average. Another 33.9% said they were in good health, which was also below the national average. 9.1% of people said their day-to-day activities were limited a lot by their health which was higher than the national average.The Birmingham Larger Urban Zone, a Eurostat measure of the functional city-region approximated to local government districts, has a population of 2,357,100 in 2004. In addition to Birmingham itself, the LUZ includes the Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull and Walsall, along with the districts of Lichfield, Tamworth, North Warwickshire and Bromsgrove.
Christianity is the largest religion within Birmingham, with 46.1% of residents identifying as Christians in the 2011 Census. The city's religious profile is highly diverse, however: outside London, Birmingham has the United Kingdom's largest Muslim, Sikh and Buddhist communities; its second largest Hindu community; and its seventh largest Jewish community. Between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, the proportion of Christians in Birmingham decreased from 59.1% to 46.1%, while the proportion of Muslims increased from 14.3% to 21.8% and the proportion of people with no religious affiliation increased from 12.4% to 19.3%. All other religions remained proportionately similar.
St Philip's Cathedral was upgraded from church status when the Anglican Diocese of Birmingham was created in 1905. There are two other cathedrals: St Chad's, seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham and the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God and St Andrew. During the late 1990s Ghamkol Shariff Masjid was built in Small Heath. The Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Sikh Gurdwara was built on Soho Road in Handsworth in the late 1970s and the Buddhist Dhammatalaka Peace Pagoda near Edgbaston Reservoir in the 1990s. Winners' Chapel also maintains physical presence in Digbeth.
The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's home venue is Symphony Hall. Other notable professional orchestras based in the city include the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia and Ex Cathedra, a Baroque chamber choir and period instrument orchestra. The Orchestra of the Swan is the resident chamber orchestra at Birmingham Town Hall, where weekly recitals have also been given by the City Organist since 1834. The Birmingham Triennial Music Festivals took place from 1784 to 1912. Music was specially composed, conducted or performed by Mendelssohn, Gounod, Sullivan, Dvořák, Bantock and Edward Elgar, who wrote four of his most famous choral pieces for Birmingham. Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius had its début performance there in 1900. Composers born in the city include Albert William Ketèlbey and Andrew Glover.
Jazz has been popular in the city since the 1920s, and there are many regular festivals such as the Harmonic Festival, the Mostly Jazz Festival and the annual International Jazz Festival. Birmingham's other city-centre music venues include Arena Birmingham , which was opened in 1991, O2 Academy on Bristol Street, which opened in September 2009 replacing the O2 Academy in Dale End, the CBSO Centre, opened in 1997, HMV Institute in Digbeth and the Bradshaw Hall at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. During the 1960s, Birmingham was the home of a music scene comparable to that of Liverpool. It was «a seething cauldron of musical activity», and the international success of groups such as The Move, The Spencer Davis Group, The Moody Blues, Traffic and the Electric Light Orchestra had a collective influence that stretched into the 1970s and beyond. The city was the birthplace of heavy metal music, with pioneering metal bands from the late 1960s and 1970s such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and half of Led Zeppelin having come from Birmingham. The next decade saw the influential metal bands Napalm Death and Godflesh emerge from the city. Birmingham was the birthplace of modern bhangra in the 1960s, and by the 1980s had established itself as the global centre of bhangra culture, which has grown into a global phenomenon embraced by members of the Indian diaspora worldwide from Los Angeles to Singapore.
- 57.9% White (53.1% White British)
- 26.6% Asian
- 8.9% Black
- 4.4% Mixed Race
- 2.0% Other