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Issue No 01 Autumn 2017

The magazine of Birmingham City University

Young. Diverse. Sharp. How Birmingham became the place to be.


AMBITIOUS AT HEART

bcu.ac.uk/opendays


Autumn 2017

Contents

Editorial team Deputy Director Marketing and Communications: Joseph Devo Head of Communications and Public Affairs: Mark Malbas Alumni Relations Manager: Kristina Anders

Page 12 Secret history

Page 24 On subcultures

Page 48 Centre of the universe

A step back in time to the 150-year-old Eagle & Ball pub – a BCU institution

Goths, Grindcore, Bhangra, B-Town. The city's subcultures are as strong as ever

Second year Hafsa Rehman takes us to Cannon Hill Park for pizzas and memories

Page 16 Why Brum is best

Page 30 Pay to play

Page 15 Brainwaves

Page 46 Adventures in...

From tired high rise to Rotunda and Cube, Birmingham is a city on the move

Why Pac-Man's popularity says as much about capitalism as it does about gaming

Dr Imran Awan says we have to talk about Islamophobia or risk it getting worse

... digital technology, and the potential role of the Raspberry Pi in disaster relief

Page 44 City slickers

Page 42 This working life

Meet the Alumni of the Year winners, BCU graduates and leaders in their fields

Warren Jukes, director at Associated Architects, turns out his work bag

Produced for BCU by YBM Limited www.ybm.co.uk. The opinions expressed herein are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of BCU or YBM. Cover photography by Megan Taylor

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News in brief

Welcome Letters First impressions

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome! From the Chancellor, Sir Lenny Henry

Illustration by Leon Edler

Welcome to the first edition of City, the new magazine of Birmingham City University. City is our way of celebrating what’s great about the city of Birmingham: its people, its culture and its energy (and Dudley, obviously). Birmingham City University is smack bang in the heart of this vibrant, creative and innovative place. In recent years, our University has transformed radically, just like the city around us, and we hope that City captures the sense of progress and excitement that we can feel every day. Our first edition covers topics as diverse as Doctor Who, Pac-Man and Goth culture, right through to big issues such as Islamophobia and our attitude towards criminals. Our new Vice-Chancellor, Professor Philip Plowden, also gives us his early impressions of the University. We hope that City will inspire you to turn off The Great British Bake Off, try something new or find out more about something you’ve read about in our exciting new magazine. So as the late, great James Brown would say: get up, get motivated and get involved! Peace.

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It was January 2010, my first time in the UK and Birmingham city. It was a chilly night when I checked into a hotel in Perry Barr, near the City North Campus. The following day, I went to Millennium Point on the City Centre Campus. On my way there, what struck me sitting on the bus to the city centre, peeping through the window, was the multi-ethnic mix in Birmingham. I could see people of various ethnic backgrounds mingling in the streets. My first impression was: I love this city! Yunusa Isa, (Telecommunications, 2013)

Memories of Gosta Green There was a pub just off Gosta Green called, I think, The Warwick Castle. Between 1969 and 1972 the Aston Campus Drama Club, Reaction, used to repair there after rehearsals. We became favourites of our host, an Irishman called Gerry, and he often lavished free drink and sandwiches on us. I'll certainly never forget his generosity. Pete Fairhurst, (English, 1972)

In the picture Since graduating in 2014 from Media and Communication (Photography), my photography work was featured as part of a student programme at the Sony World Photography Awards at Somerset House, London. I continued to work as a freelance photographer in my hometown, Birmingham, and worked in the field of hair and fashion. In 2016, I moved to London and I currently work for womenswear company Hobbs London as a Photo Shoot Coordinator. The most valuable part of my course was the support we received from our lecturers – their personal knowledge and experience of the industry. The range of modules was also valuable, as were the work placements to support my studies. This gave me an insight into the expectations of working in the industry and also helped with networking and building contacts. Thank you for keeping me updated with graduates' success, it’s so lovely to see everyone's achievements! Danielle-Simone Gibbs, (Media and Communication (Photography), 2014)


Love it? Hate it?

Around Town

Get in touch, we'd love to hear from you. Twitter @BCUAlumni Facebook facebook.com/alumnibcu Email alumni@bcu.ac.uk Post Alumni Office University House 15 Bartholomew Row Birmingham B5 5JU

Events

Brand new greenfield festival at BCU

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Beyond The Tracks also offered plenty to students who just wanted to hear some incredible music, including Leftfield, Ocean Colour Scene, Faithless, The Twang, Carl Barrat and The Jackals, Wild Beasts and Jagwar Ma. The festival ran over three days in September at Eastside City Park, outside BCU's City Centre Campus. beyondthetracks.co.uk

Jolyon Holroyd

n September, BCU teamed up with Beyond The Tracks – Birmingham’s first urban greenfield festival – to offer students first-hand experience of working at a major music event, featuring household names such as The Jesus and Mary Chain and Orbital. Working at a music festival requires a diverse set of skills, says Claire Dobson, Deputy University Events Manager. “Many of the disciplines we excel in as a University – including visual communications, media production and journalism – are all vital elements that help plan, run and document a major festival. "It’s therefore fitting that the organisers invited our students to be part of this huge event, allowing them to apply the skills gained during their studies at a festival on their home turf.” Students got to work with a team who have previously brought artists such as Public Enemy, De La Soul, Laura Marling, Johnny Marr, The Proclaimers and Super Furry Animals to Birmingham.

One field. Three days. No mud.

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Happy Birthday BCU! Twenty five years ago, on 16 June 1992, Birmingham Polytechnic gained university status. Jewellery designer and BCU graduate Katy Tromans presented the University with a custom-made silver coin commemorating the occasion. To find out more about our history, please visit: bcu.ac.uk/about-us/ our-history.

Deconstructed

Inside the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

State of the art: Among the Conservatoire’s many facilities are a 500-seat concert hall, the more intimate 150-seat recital hall, seven industry-standard recording studios, an organ studio, 100 practice and rehearsal rooms and Birmingham’s only dedicated jazz club.

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Space to play: The £57 million building has 9,000 sq m of purpose-designed teaching, rehearsal and state-of-the-art performance space. The audio and video digital infrastructure is designed to enhance and support live performance and allow students to experiment with new technologies.

Design-led: The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire was designed by award-winning architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, who have worked on projects including Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre, the Victorian Theatre at Alexandra Palace and Brighton Dome. It is the first new build Conservatoire since 1987.


Brexit presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities for the UK and it is important that people are seriously looking into all areas of the process. Opening the Centre for Brexit Studies gives us the chance to investigate a complex and significant time in British history, as well as to present a resource which the public can tap into. PROFESSOR ALEX DE RUYTER ON THE LAUNCH OF BCU'S CENTRE FOR BREXIT STUDIES

A building for Birmingham: The Conservatoire has played an important part in the major reconfiguration and reimagining of the city centre. The performance venues are a huge benefit to the people of Birmingham, as well as providing opportunities for students. The spaces have been acoustically modelled to ensure the best possible experience from every seat.

Making dreams reality: “The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire is an inspiring creative community in which passionate artists support one another to reach new heights,” says Paul Bambrough, Vice Principal of Music. “It is a place where dreams become reality and the impossible is made possible.”

Research

The low-speed pod revolution A state-of-the-art driverless, low-speed vehicle known as an Autonomous Pod went on display to the public for the first time at the Thinktank Science Garden in Birmingham’s Eastside. The pods are designed to help plug the gap for short low-speed journeys and are a ‘last mile’ transport solution, ideally suited to moving people and luggage. Unlike the pods currently in use at Heathrow Airport, the BCU Pod doesn’t need guides or tracks: instead, it uses sensory data to move around safely. The research is being undertaken by BCU's Institute of Sustainable Futures, led by Dr Umar Daraz.

The lowspeed, hightech future

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You could earn £300,000 more in your lifetime thanks to a postgraduate degree* If you gained your degree at Birmingham City University you could be offered a loyalty scholarship of 20% off your tuition fee. We’d love to see you back. Find out more www.bcu.ac.uk/loyalty *Graduate Labour Market Statistics 2015


Words Diane Shipley Photography Kat Green

In the club

The Time Traveller's Life Meet the BCU students putting the fun back into fandom at the Doctor Who and Fandoms Society.

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octor Who and his welltravelled TARDIS might not seem the most obvious place for a spot of romance, but at BCU’s Doctor Who and Fandoms Society, love has blossomed. “We've had a few couples form over the years,” says president Rebecca Wallace (Early Childhood Studies, 2018), who met her girlfriend via the society. “It may not seem romantic, but it does bring people together.” Rebecca joined during her first week at university. “Basically, I saw a bunch of other nerds and thought: 'Yep, I can fit in here’.” Initially intended as an exclusive space for Doctor Who aficionados, the society now welcomes fans of all types, and has always provided a refuge for those who prefer a quiet chat to chugging pints. A typical meeting involves watching an old Doctor Who episode, maybe reading some comics, and then decamping to Wetherspoon's or Pizza Hut. Founder member Frankie Eldridge (English and Creative Writing, 2014) says it brought them out of their shell. “When I started university, I was a bit

of a recluse. But then I started going to the society, clicked with a few people and we started hanging out. It kind of changed my life.” Former president Julia Bloomfield (Fine Art, 2016) says members really support each other. “When it was anyone's birthday, especially if they were too far away to see their families, we'd buy a cake and do candles. We are saying: ‘Here's your geeky family, we’re here for you’.” The unveiling of the first female Doctor has got

Details The Doctor Who and Fandoms Society meets every Tuesday evening at Millennium Point. For more information, visit bcusu.com/ organisation/7457

everyone talking. “It’s a great move forward!” says Julia. “Shows like Doctor Who mean so much more to us than the promise of escape to incredible fantasy worlds – they teach us so much about how to live our lives, and to learn and grow as people.” And while the society might be tight-knit, it’s not cliquey. “It's a fun environment,” says Rebecca, whose twin passions are Doctor Who and Harry Potter. “Everyone's got some sort of fandom that they're into and we welcome all of them." 07


We built this city on...

I remember the bomb damage, the economy, the unemployment rate. Change was needed. Liberal Democrat councillor and alumnus Paul Tilsley says his career has been built on his memories of growing up in Birmingham after the war.

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hen Britain was being bombarded during the height of the Second World War, nearly 2,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Birmingham. The rebuilding couldn’t happen quickly enough. “My memories of the 1950s and 60s in Birmingham are in black and white, because it was dreary – the economy was exhausted,” says long-serving Liberal Democrat councillor and former Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Paul Tilsley. Paul would cross the city from The Maypole pub to beyond Kings Heath to see his grandparents, and what struck him over and over again was the bomb damage. “You see history in streets,” he says. “There’d be a Victorian terrace with the middle bit missing, just a big gap. Needless Alley, between Corporation Street and the cathedral, was an open expanse for a long time. It’s a posh shopping centre now. In the late 60s and 70s there were slum clearances and the gaps started to be filled in with post-war homes.” These sites show the development of the city itself, Paul says, from being an

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industrial and manufacturing centre to the cosmopolitan city it is today. “The city was totally dominated by large employers, such as Austin cars at Longbridge,” he says. “Then, after the Second World War, there was an enormous thirst for consumer products and we took our eye off the ball in the UK as far as quality was concerned. We were slowly overtaken by other European countries, and the service and finance industries overtook manufacturing here.”

Social conscience Paul’s interest may have been sparked by the bombsites of Birmingham, but he had more fundamental reasons for going into politics in the first place. “I believe in the Parable of the Talents,” he says, “and when mine were handed out I got

the social conscience and the big mouth, useful when I was elected Aston ward councillor aged 23. “I grew up listening to my father’s generation talking about the Second World War and what a terrible waste of life it had been," he explains. "It seemed to me that the catalyst for armed conflict was the relationship between France and Germany. So the answer was Europe coming together. The Liberal Party were the only ones interested in that back when I joined them, aged sweet 16.” In 1993, when he became Lord Mayor, there were 90,000 unemployed people in Birmingham – 20% of the male working population. But, he says, the development of the NEC and Symphony Hall was a catalyst for change. “It led to Brindleyplace and the ICC. Birmingham became a destination. Now we have the retail offer to go with it and we attract a huge number of visitors.” Later, BCU’s move from Perry Barr to the city centre helped too, he says. As deputy leader of Birmingham City Council from 2005-12 (he was group leader

of the Liberal Democrats, in coalition with the Conservatives), Paul presided over many of these changes, including a “maligned” deal with Capita and subsequent downsizing – without which, he says, given central government cuts, the council would now be bankrupt.

Perry Barr Aside from politics, he also had a successful career in voluntary sector management, for which he thanks the time he spent at BCU (then UCE). “I studiously attended D-Block in Perry Barr twice a week for my part-time degree in Government,” he remembers. “Then I did an MBA. My degrees gave me credibility and strategic management skills – thinking about five and 10 years hence, and being able to impart that vision.” For a man who says he spent “the best part of 51 years” working for a united Europe, the Brexit decision was a sad day. “There was once a famous headline: ‘Fog in the Channel. Europe cut off.’ Well, there’s fog in the channel again. Hopefully it will blow away.”


Words Megan Welford Photography Megan Taylor

Quote Din bold ntures nis earum si occus essimi, omnihil Whenloriber the itiscitas prero dunt qui quassent talent was atur aciatur moloratur handed out, aut estiore

I got the social conscience and the big mouth

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Alumni News London calling for BCU alumni A new networking group for London-based alumni has been launched, to help forge professional links in the capital. Both online and in person, the aim of BCU in London is to bring alumni together in a formidable network of professionals whose careers have been impacted by our University. For more information on all alumni events, visit: bcu.ac.uk/alumni.

Research

New research sheds light on what audiences find funny on-screen

Student success

Art competition win! Visual communications student Sarina Kaur has won an art competition to mark the arrival of high speed rail – her winning design is now on display at the former entrance to Curzon Street station. Sarina’s work was praised by the design panel, headed up by Sarah Weir OBE, for its "thoughtful combination of graphic and artistic style which references both the beginning and end of Curzon Street's previous incarnation as a working railway station". Birmingham City Councillor John Clancy said: “Sarina’s artwork symbolises the start of an exciting period of change for Birmingham Eastside.”

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Online audiences still crave the format of the ‘traditional’ sitcom, new research has found. In the first major study of screen comedy audiences in almost 20 years – and the first focused on social media – Dr IngerLise Kalviknes Bore, Senior Lecturer in the School of Media, scoured thousands of audience responses to comedy online. She found that viewers still want ‘old fashioned’ situation comedies that can be enjoyed together as a family, resisting the trend towards ‘highbrow’ narrative comedy, which has a more serial format. However, Dr Bore also points out that the rise in the online distribution model – such as YouTube, Netflix and Amazon – ensures that comedy fans have access to new episodes at the same time, helping to create international communities who discuss their preferred shows online. Dr Bore also considered the marginalisation of women, using responses to the film Bridesmaids. "Reflecting on hierarchies and boundaries in Western comedy culture, the book examines what happens when comedies seem to challenge this established structure,” says Dr Bore. Dr Bore's new book, Screen Comedy and Online Audiences, is out now.


BCU Alumni is now on Facebook! To stay up to date with everything that's happening, like our page and share it with fellow alumni. facebook.com/alumnibcu

IN BRIEF Augmented reality

ARD E H R OVE RUM B ...IN

Researchers at Birmingham City University’s Digital Media Technology Lab (DMT Lab) are developing a mixed reality system allowing medical practitioners to view and interact with virtual replicas of organs, bones and body parts. The new system allows users to manipulate, navigate and demonstrate patient data using hand motions and gestures, showcasing medical procedures, lifestyle choices and treatment effects.

STEAMlabs

// I don't buy this

Illustration by Leon Edler

old Snobs new Snobs stuff. If I want to see what old Snobs was really like I just need to get my dad on the dancefloor!

Got a great idea and want to take it further? Then come along to the next STEAMlabs intensive challenge workshop. You’ll be working in a supportive, experimental learning lab environment, using the interdisciplinary approach of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) to develop new ideas for a range of organisations. To find out more, visit: bcu.ac.uk/ business/steam/steam-labs.

BCU Family Day In June, hundreds of families from across the region joined BCU for our first-ever Inspired Family Day. Visitors enjoyed a host of activities and performances aimed at all ages, from trying out TV presenting or designing their own train station, to watching a virtual reality showcase. Visitors also had the chance to meet world-class academics who are training the next generation of creative professionals. To find out more about Family Day, please visit: bcu.ac.uk/inspired. 11


Secret history

Raising the Bar More than 150 years old, the Eagle & Ball pub is a step back in time – and a BCU student institution.

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Good ale, good times and an array of musical entertainment” promised the publicity for the brand new Eagle & Ball pub when it opened its doors in the 1850s. The pub is now incorporated into the very 21st Century Curzon Building on the City Centre Campus – so visiting this Victorian gem is like stepping back in time. “One minute you’re surrounded by all this contemporary space and daylight pouring through the glass, the next you’re in one of the very few remaining, proper traditional Birmingham pubs,” says Linzi Sandbrook, Students’ Union Marketing and Communications Manager.

Moby Dick's Originally built in the 1840s, the Eagle & Ball thrived as a community pub for more than 100 years. But by the 1970s, it was losing its appeal. New management and a new name – Moby Dick's – gave it a much-needed facelift that saw it through the 80s and beyond, but by the noughties the pub was losing money again and the plug was eventually pulled on it in 2007. After that, says pub manager Glen Watson, it fell into disrepair, along with the surrounding site. But the spirit of the Eagle & Ball refused to die. “When BCU moved to its new city centre site and started 12


Clockwise from left: front downstairs bar; original tiles cover the hallway between the main bar and the small back bar; cover of

work on The Curzon Building, they were told they couldn’t knock the pub down because it was Grade II listed. So they decided to bring it back to life under its original name – it reopened as the Eagle & Ball in 2015.” Now a student favourite, the pub is split into six rooms over two floors, many of them with original features, such as wooden floors and fireplaces. But it’s not just the décor students love. There are also its reasonable prices (“probably the best in the city,” says Glen), the homemade pizzas and the weekly themed nights. “Most students’ union bars are dingy, youth-clublike rooms, whereas this is a really nice pub," Glen says.

Words Kate Hilpern Photography Kasia Fiszer

Polygon, magazine of Birmingham Polytechnic; Moby Dick's signage displayed in a courtyard; front bar seating area.

There were still glasses on the tables. It had been locked up after a night's drinking and left for years

"As for the general public, we get people coming in because they’ve heard it's a hidden gem, as well as people who used to visit it decades ago and love the fact that it’s been reclaimed." In 2016, the last family to run – and live in – Moby Dick's dropped by for a drink. “They couldn’t believe the change,” Linzi says. “We invited them to see the upstairs – then their living quarters and now our Students’ Union offices. They were thrilled with it. Even if people don’t remember it from before, they often gasp when they first arrive – just because it’s done so well.” When the builders first walked into the derelict pub to get it ready for the 2015

launch, it was as though the customers had only left the day before, adds Linzi. “There were still glasses on the tables! It had literally just been locked up after a night’s drinking and left for years.” The final phase of bringing the pub back to life will be redeveloping the courtyard. “We ran a competition, open to the University’s architecture students, which means that it’s student-designed. The winning design, called Ground to Glass: A Journey through the Beer Making Process, is fantastic. Quirky touches throughout the outside space, including images on the tables, will tell the story of how malt grain turns into the pint in your hand. It’s brilliant.” 13


What do these graduates have in common? Enterprising Revolutionising

Influencing

Supporting

Creating

Defending

Leading

Game-changers. Trailblazers. Success stories. Who will be our Alumni of the Year 2018? www.bcu.ac.uk/alumnioftheyear

Transforming

Inspiring


Brainwaves

We have to talk about Islamophobia. Because if we don't, the abuse gets worse Dr Imran Awan is Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the Centre for Applied Criminology.

Illustration Sue Doeksen. Interview Kate Hilpern

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hen I first joined Twitter, I found I suffered vitriolic abuse every time I posted anything about my work on Islamophobia. I received death threats, and it became so bad that the Birmingham Mail ran an article about it in 2014, noting the various attempts to demonise what I had to say and threaten me with violence. The whole experience made me want to investigate Islamophobia even further – although that presented additional challenges, as some people, especially Muslim men, told me I wouldn’t ever really understand the impact Islamophobia had on people

because I wasn’t a visible Muslim myself. So I grew a beard and wore traditional Islamic dress for a month, while my colleague, Dr Irene Zempi – who isn’t a Muslim at all – wore the full veil. We then recorded our experiences. It wasn't pleasant, but important because I really wanted the wider public to understand what we went through.

Online abuse I was recently commissioned by the charity Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) to explore the impact of anti-Muslim hate speech online on people’s offline lives. Ours was the first ever qualitative investigation of its kind and we found, overwhelmingly, that people who experienced online antiMuslim hatred were more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, and that they changed the way they lived their lives as a result. One woman, for instance, changed the locks on her door because she was worried that the people who threatened her online would target her; other people stopped getting the train they had been catching

every day before the online attacks. We also found that Muslim women were the ones most likely to be targeted because of their appearance, and that one of the triggers to online spikes of anti-Muslim hatred online are events such as terrorist attacks. The conclusions we drew were that hate crimes have a ripple effect on communities. It helped me appreciate the need for society to understand the causes and drivers of Islamophobic hate crime and what we can do to prevent it. Importantly, I have learned that the effects of hate crimes online are the same as offline.

Impacting policy Most important to me is the way in which my research has shaped policy and influenced people in power. One of the most pivotal results so far is the funding now available for faith institutions to protect themselves. We first raised this issue back in 2013. After the recent attack on a mosque in London, the government has announced funding of more than £1 million that faith institutions can draw on. Other outcomes have arisen

from my ongoing advisory role: the Crown Prosecution Service now has a much more comprehensive set of guidelines to follow for offences committed online – with sharing harmful content now a specific offence; Twitter has introduced multiple reporting mechanisms (if people can report multiple tweets, we know that it’s easier to find the perpetrators); and social media companies are coming round to the idea of looking at the contextual side of how language is used, including the wider profile of the individual posting the messages. Without doubt there is an urgent need for better awareness and understanding of Islamophobia. In particular, I feel that government can play a role in reassuring communities and providing support with financial backing. It also requires more specialist training for police officers when tackling online hate speech. Ultimately it’s essential that we keep up the momentum in using academic research to tackle Islamophobia while spikes of hostility continue to arise. 15


From concrete jungle to a slice of Paradise, from tired high rise to Rotunda and Cube, Birmingham has changed out of all recognition over the past two decades. Today, we are one of the UK's youngest, best educated and most diverse cities. Frankly, we're bostin'. And in case you were wondering, it hasn't happened by accident. Oh no.

Words Lucy Jolin

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Photography Megan Taylor


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rom Digbeth to Smithfield, and Millennium Point to Paradise, there’s a buzz about Birmingham like never before. Over the past two decades the city has changed beyond recognition, becoming what BCU’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Julian Beer, calls ‘Britain’s first city’ (“You can rule out London, as it’s a mega-city,” he says). Today, Birmingham is the UK’s youngest, most student-focused and most diverse city. And that reputation means a can-do atmosphere where new thinking can grow and thrive. Take BCU graduates Chris Williams and Steve Thornton (both Media and Communication (Radio), 2011). When the pair finished their degrees, they decided to start the marketing business they’d conceived during their course. The time was right: it was 2007 and social media for marketing was just taking off. They had no office, no funding and no equipment. But that was no problem. This, after all, was Birmingham: city of doers, makers and grafters. If you want something done, you get on and find a way to do it – and chances are someone will help you out along the way. “BCU was transitioning from their old campus and there was plenty of old office space,” says Chris. “So we said: ‘Can we use your offices, as you’re not using them? Oh, and have you got any computers or recording equipment we could borrow?’ BCU said: ‘Stick around for a year and we’ll try and get you off the ground.’ They gave us the opportunity to save money, buy equipment and have that freedom to experiment – and to mess up.”

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01 Harry Jawanda - founder and CEO of education social network Wambiz 02 Selfridges Building - the famous facade, designed by Future Systems, comprises more than 15,000 anodised alumnium discs

03 Tom Cahill-Jones - director and founder of Ingot Studios, co-founder of Stirchley Happenings and development manager at BCU’s Institute for Creative Innovation 04 Innovation Birmingham – home to Wambiz, and a hub for the city's digital and tech communities

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The city enables collaborations that can turn improbable ideas into something real and successful Tom Cahill-Jones

Ten years later, 470 Media is a successful agency helping Birmingham bars, hotels and restaurants tell their brand stories. The company now operates from a slightly swankier office in the Jewellery Quarter. It’s just one of thousands of businesses – from one-man bands to massive global corporations – which are choosing to start up, put down roots or relocate to the West Midlands area. Birmingham is unquestionably buzzing. The official campaign to bring Channel 4 to Birmingham is just getting started. If that’s successful, it’s predicted to add £5 billion to the local economy. As West Midlands mayor Andy Street recently told the Birmingham Post: “If we are successful in persuading Channel 4 to relocate to the West Midlands, the impact on our region would be genuinely transformative. Not only would our creative and digital sectors receive a massive boost, but there would also be huge regeneration and investment benefits.” Meanwhile, work on HSBC’s new 10-storey, 210,000 sq ft headquarters is due to complete in January 2018. Around 1,000 roles will relocate to the new offices at Centenary Square, and there will be room for another 1,500. The numbers don’t lie: the city’s economic output is around £23 billion, with growth of 4.7% outstripping the UK average of 2.6%. A total of 104,100 private sector jobs have been created since 2010, and last year saw 17,000 startups – more than any UK city except London. Big projects are everywhere, from the planned HS2 high-speed rail link which will cut travel time from Birmingham to London to just 49 minutes, to the glittering regeneration of the Bullring. 19


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Banking the buzz

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It feels like a level playing field – if you have a DIY approach and think there's an opportunity, you can do it Ben Neal

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So just how has the West (Midlands, that is) become the best place in the country to innovate and do business, and the top destination for those leaving London (around 6,000 last year)? It’s taken money, of course. “External investment is definitely pouring into the city and a lot of that revolves around the big city plan: the redevelopment of Digbeth, the canals, Smithfield and obviously HS2,” says Tom Maher, co-founder of burger restaurant Original Patty Men. “However, all of the major investments are over the next 10 years. Because it’s imminent, it’s helped to generate real internal investment and more people are realising the opportunities that Birmingham is beginning to show.” Birmingham’s five universities are also an essential factor in the city’s renaissance, providing a constant stream of new ideas and cutting-edge skillsets in purpose-built facilities. BCU’s £41 million extension to its City South Campus will accommodate the new School of Health Sciences and the School of Education, offering a range of new courses in life sciences and sports. Links to business are vital. These are reflected in numerous projects, such as Innovation Fest and the Inspired Festival – showcasing BCU talent from the worlds of computing, engineering and the built environment – and services such as BCU Advantage, offering businesses the chance to connect with graduates, get funding and access business growth products and services. And in early 2018, Phase One of STEAMhouse is opening on Digbeth High Street, with Phase Two following in 2019. This is BCU’s purpose-built facility supporting thinkers and makers along their entire journey, from generating ideas to prototyping


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05 Curzon Building - home to BCU's City Centre Campus 06 Ben Neal - creative technologist and founder of Psicon Lab

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and commercialisation, with integrated research support and courses for students who want to train in this way. The STEAM agenda in particular – a twist on STEM (Science, Technology, Economics and Mathematics), with added Arts – is a perfect fit for the city, says Professor Beer, marrying its industrial and artisan past and present. Birmingham used to be known as ‘the city of a thousand trades’, making everything from guns to jewellery, and some of those still survive today. “If you want to get something made, you can,” says Tom Cahill-Jones, Development Manager at BCU’s Institute for Creative Innovation (ICI) and director and founder of Ingot Studios, a shared workspace for artists and makers. “Digbeth still houses loads of small manufacturing businesses close to the city centre, which is unusual: it’s a kind of hotbed for creativity.” Tom has played his own part in the city’s renaissance. Back in 2010, he and fellow BCU alumni started Stirchley

07 Curzon Street station – the Grade I listed building will soon be home to a visitor and education centre, and stand next to the new HS2 station 08 Professor Julian Beer Deputy Vice Chancellor who leads on Research, Enterprise and Business Engagement

Happenings, a project aimed at bringing disused spaces back to life with film showings, art exhibitions and workshops. It gave rise to the Stirchley Community Market, selling locally-made food and crafts, which still thrives today. “Look at Birmingham’s coat of arms and you’ll see that it depicts both the engineer and the artist,” points out Professor Beer. “That reflects Birmingham’s history. If you go into the museum you'll see artefacts that were given by philanthropists from industry to inspire the creation of products and new services from all over the globe. We are, as BCU, putting back that creativity into manufacturing and the service sector by focusing on the STEAM agenda, not the STEM agenda. The two are side by side. It's the co-location of science, technology and mathematics next to arts and creativity and culture. That's our distinctiveness.” It’s a way of thinking that appeals to people like Ben Neal (Fine Art, 2003), creative technologist, who uses his technical know-how to deliver creative solutions for clients such as Land Rover and GlaxoSmithKline – and who is also an Artist Fellow at Birmingham Open Media (BOM). “There’s this sense that there isn’t a set path you have to follow,” Ben says. “I think that’s why entrepreneurship and innovation are so prevalent. It’s a level playing field. It feels like a place where if you have a DIY approach and you think there’s an opportunity, you can do it. Look at the Supersonic and Flatpack festivals that are big, European-renowned events. I’ve known the people who have run these things since they were in the corner of a pub in Digbeth. They’ve grown massively and become these really influential and exciting things.” 21


09 Chris Williams and Steve Thornton - founders and directors of digital marketing agency, 470 Media 10 Original Patty Men – founded by Tom Maher and Scott O'Bryne

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BCU gave us the opportunity to save money, buy equipment and have that freedom to experiment – and to mess up Chris Williams

Startup heaven The city’s flourishing business and creative ecosystem gives startups an edge, creating a virtuous circle, says entrepreneur Harry Jawanda (IT Management for Business, 2009), founder and CEO of Wambiz, a private social network solution for education. Tribal Group has just acquired its intellectual property rights for use in education, a deal worth £2 million over the next three years. After working at IBM and Morgan Stanley, he came back to Birmingham to start his company. Why? “Contacts,” he says. “I knew BCU could put me in touch with people who could help get the business going. My degree massively set me up with the right skills: a mix of business and tech which enabled me to run a development team and run the business side. Employers were very involved with the curriculum, and you got to meet them, too – both my jobs at IBM and Morgan Stanley came from employer events at BCU.” As a result, Harry met David Hardman, CEO of Innovation Birmingham (IB), the city’s centre for digital and tech communities which has so far incubated 140 startups and raised £13.3 million in startup funding. Through IB, he was introduced to his main funder and had access to help and support, from finding developers to tax advice. “It definitely feels like there’s an ecosystem here,” he says. “It’s almost like replicating what that degree did for me but city-wide. Employers like HSBC and Deutsche Bank are coming into the city, and universities are linking them to those with the right skills.” And then, of course, there are the people. Birmingham is young, diverse and educated. Under-25s account for almost 40% of the population, making Birmingham the

UK’s youngest city. Some 42% of residents identify with an ethnic group other than white, and there are 65,000 students studying at five universities. They’re part of a factor at work in Birmingham that’s harder to measure: people help each other. They’re connected both online and in real life, and that bodes well for the challenges of the future. “For me, one of the most positive aspects of business within Birmingham is the network of individuals and businesses that are prepared to help and support you,” says Tom Maher. “I’m not sure if it’s across the board, but within the food scene we've definitely found it to be the case. There’s a genuine belief that by helping those in a similar position that it can only have a positive effect on your own business.” Tom Cahill-Jones agrees. “Birmingham is a place where it’s easy to get things off the ground, and to meet people who share the same kind of thoughts and ideals,” he says. “You can test things out. The level of risk is manageable and the support network in place is nourishing. Nobody does anything alone. It’s everybody relying on someone else for part of their vision or their project. The artistic, entrepreneurial spirit of the city enables those collaborations to take place, which makes improbable ideas turn into something real and successful.”

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Words Dorian Lynskey

Fig 1. Goth

sub 24


Illustrations Craig Robinson

Fig 2. Folk

culture 25


Goths. Bhangra. Grindcore. B-Town. Birmingham has long been the beating heart of some of Britain's many competing subcultures. So what's going on? We bypass the mainstream to examine the rise and rise of youth culture. t’s 2006. Jerome Conreen is walking down Yardley Wood Road in his usual goth regalia – leather trousers, trenchcoat, frilly shirt – when a man in a white van drives past and shouts “Oi! Meat Loaf!” Jerome sighs. This kind of occasional and ignorant heckle (Meat Loaf was never a goth) is the price of belonging to Britain’s most recognisable – and misunderstood – music subculture. Fortunately, then, as today, Jerome (now a business analyst at BCU) was not alone. Growing up in Oldham, he felt like “the only goth in the village”, but in Birmingham he found a thriving goth scene dating back to the 1980s – and one which still persists today. He could dance to classic goth songs at Edwards No 8 or the Goth Ball, drink with fellow goths at Scruffy Murphy’s and buy goth clothes at The Oasis Market. “What I liked about Birmingham was that it was all in one place,” says Jerome, who runs a goth night called The Crypt Club. “All the places that people hung out at were close together. If you spotted someone else who dressed similarly you’d make a point of talking to them.” Subcultures play a vital role in the lives of many young adults as they decide who they want to be and how they want to present to the outside world. Goths may have been the first, but they weren’t the last. Through Bhangra, grindcore and, more recently B-Town, Birmingham has long been a hotbed of competing youth subcultures. “It gives us a sense of belonging,” says Dr Elle Boag, Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology at BCU’s School of Social Sciences. “In our family and school groups, our contacts are very much prescribed. Once we get to adolescence we want to find our own sense of identity. For a lot of people that’s through music culture. It’s a means of making ourselves appear distinct.”

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Identifying with a subculture is often a means of visibly rejecting and critiquing mainstream culture. Goth, for example, has a reputation for appealing to people who are well-read, artistic, thoughtful, curious about alternative lifestyles and, in many cases, socially awkward. People who feel out of place in everyday society can make themselves feel empowered by embracing and accentuating their difference rather than downplaying it. Unsurprisingly then, goth, says Elle, has a particularly strong outsider allure. “People who feel socially outcast in one way or another may be drawn to a group who are also seen as social outcasts.”

Spectacular subculture Goth has endured – and endured long past the point when most subcultures fizzle out. It emerged in the early 1980s as a dramatic offshoot of post-punk and reached its commercial peak towards the end of that decade with hits from such totemic bands as The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy and The Mission. By then, goth’s morbidly flamboyant aesthetic was so firmly entrenched that it refused to fade away when the music’s popularity waned, and it became a fixture of British life. Still now, twice a year, hundreds of goths flock to a weekender in Whitby, North Yorkshire, to attend gigs, club nights, markets, get-togethers and even participate in a charity football match. “Goth is a spectacular subculture,” says Professor Paul Long of Birmingham School of Media. “Music fans are still partisan, but the do-or-die qualities don’t seem to be as pronounced as they used to be. In 2017, it’s difficult to maintain a sense of authenticity or distinctiveness. Piercing and tattooing have become generic. You can buy Ramones T-shirts in Primark. But being a goth is


Fig 4. Grime Fig 3. Rave

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Fig 6. Punk

Fig 5. Bhangra

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We know what function subcultures perform in adolescence and early adulthood, but why would that still operate when we have romantic partners, children and jobs?

something you can spot because it takes dedication to maintain that look. There’s a lot of attention to detail.” “A lot of goths seem to be shy and I feel that maybe dressing up like this is a way to counterbalance that,” says Jordan Herry (Jewellery and Silversmithing, 2015) a graduate of BCU’s School of Jewellery, whose designs are goth-inspired (his signature piece is a Grim Reaper ring). “I was a really shy kid myself. When I wear leather and metal it’s almost like armour. Goths are often artistic people. They see the way they dress, the way they act, as an extension of their art in a way. It feels good to go against the flow.” Most subcultures fade because they are pinned to a particular music movement during a particular period – witness the firework-like rise and fall of the 70s ska revival 2 Tone or the pop-led New Romantics – but goth is both extremely distinctive and impressively flexible. It has assimilated new sounds, from metal to electronic music, and new aesthetics like steampunk without losing its fundamental character. “Over time goth has changed and diversified,” says Jerome. “It did go underground but it popped up every now and then when someone like Marilyn Manson took it more mainstream. It gets a lot of kids into it.” So while outsiders tend to see goths as a homogenous black mass, within the subculture it’s possible to forge a unique identity and follow your own interests. However forbidding a coven of goths might appear to the uninitiated from a distance, it’s a welcoming, open-minded subculture. “One reason you gravitate to subcultural spaces is that they look like they’re exclusive, but you discover they’re actually quite homely and inclusive,” says Paul.

The dark side of life But why has goth flourished in Birmingham? For all the city’s musical achievements – heavy metal, 2 Tone, Bhangra – it has never produced a flagship goth band that might explain it. “The creation of a music scene is not necessarily attached to local musicians,” explains Asya Draganova, Lecturer in Media and Communication at the Birmingham School of Media. “It has to do with specific cultural agents: a small network of people who enthusiastically continue to create the right events and spaces. Goth in Birmingham has continuity.” Those cultural agents include Anna Bee, who has been selling gothic clothing in The Oasis since 1980, and the veteran local character known as Phil the Goth, but Asya thinks it also has something to do with the city’s own identity. “Birmingham is somehow peripheral despite being the second biggest city. It’s never too close but never too far away. There’s a struggle for

identity and I think this creates a particular desire for a scene that can accommodate people’s will for authentic expression.” A city like Birmingham is a benign environment for a misfit subculture. It has both the necessary nightlife ecosystem and a tolerance for heterogeneity that is harder to find in Britain’s small towns. But to be “the only goth in the village” is often to be a target for verbal and physical abuse. “Goths still elicit fear because they’re pierced, they’re tattooed, they wear black, they’re not known for being full of sunshine and smiles,” says Elle. “That elicits a feeling of threat that makes people either want to run from them or beat them up.” The cruel irony is that goth, despite its fixation on the dark side of life, is far more threatened than threatening. Birmingham’s goth scene has weathered a few blows. The popular Barrel Organ venue closed down in the late 1990s, the Toreador pub was demolished and the original Edwards No 8 (since reborn as Eddie’s Rock Club) burned to the ground in 2006. Nonetheless, some old haunts survive and the true believers continue to open new nights, such as the Zombie Club, Funeral Nation and Jerome’s Crypt Club, where diehards mingle with new converts. Jerome, who still follows veteran bands like The Mission and Fields of the Nephilim around the country when they tour, is one of many goths who has kept the faith. For them, the identity they chose in adolescence has stuck with them deep into middle age. “As a psychologist I find that really interesting,” says Elle. “I know what function subcultures perform in adolescence and early adulthood, but why would that function still occur when we have romantic partners, children and jobs? It must be doing something else. It must fulfil something in them in adulthood that they’re not getting from any other source.” Asya is less surprised by goth’s tenacity. She distinguishes bona fide subcultures from more transient youth tribes. “A subculture has a sense of identification that is not floating or temporary. It’s part of everyday life – not just to do with music but the places you go to, the way you dress, the friends you make. It’s about longterm dedication and commitment.” It makes sense that some of the participants don’t want to leave it all behind just because they’ve settled down. For many goths, the explanation for their enduring love is simple. “It’s helped me make a lot of friends,” says Jerome. “There’s a community, a support network, I suppose. There are people at work who are into clothes and when I show them something I’ve bought they don’t know whether to laugh or look at me in horror.” He grins. “But people I know outside of work will say, ‘Fantastic!’” 29


Payto Play Dr Alex Wade explains why Pac-Man's

enduring popularity says as much about capitalism as it does about gaming.

Illustrations Rami Niemi

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PAC-MAN is a registered trademark of Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc

1980s

Pac-Man was launched in 1980 into a world just waking up to the delights of the Atari games console, boom boxes, chopper bikes, VHS and the surprisingly common 'wooden' television.

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And once Pac-Man started munching, he couldn't stop. He munched through the 1980s and then through the 1990s, moving from the arcade and into our homes, alongside CDs, DVDs, Britpop and Nintendo.

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PAC-MAN is a registered trademark of Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc

1990s


ellow. Eyeless. Endlessly hungry. Pac-Man might seem an unlikely cultural icon but, over his 40-year career, he’s morphed into various versions of himself, starred in more than 30 games, spawned an animated TV series and created a million-selling single. This kind of staying power doesn’t spring from nowhere. Toru Iwatani, the great Japanese game developer and creator of Pac-Man, purposefully set out to make a game that could appeal to women and men in equal measure, a radical aim in a games landscape dominated by the militaristic, even masculine, pursuits of shooting and defending the world from alien attack. But Pac-Man’s enduring popularity and sunny nature hides something darker: its pay-to-play model speaks to our times. Everyone’s invited. Everyone can play. It’s fun. But there’s a cost. Iwatani’s desire to broaden Pac-Man’s appeal can be seen in its design. The grid-like patterns are evocative of the mazes of early-modern England and ancient Greece, supposedly a ‘safe place’ where the role of women/the feminine is often essential to success. For example, in Athens’ labyrinth, Ariadne weaponises Theseus by giving him a sword to kill the Minotaur. Ariadne also provides Theseus with a ball of thread so that he can find his way out. In doing so, she provides a literal and literary escape from the maze and from the monster’s monomania. As players munch their way through the 240 dots that comprise the Pac-Man maze, they encounter four power-pills that enable our hero to chow down on scared blue ghosts. Players are urged to escape back to a safe place with their lives intact, echoing modern fairytales: like Ariadne’s ball of thread and Pac-Man’s dots, breadcrumbs are used in the fairytale Hansel and Gretel to guide the siblings to safety. The eating of the breadcrumbs by other animals demonstrates the difficulty of staying safe in a literal and literary state-of-nature. The experimentation and adventure which Hansel and Gretel toy with, a theme common to the safe places of games, can, in itself, border on the gamble of stepping outside of the normal boundaries of everyday life and into the maze which permeates these narratives and structures of games.

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But if you’re quick and clever and eat your power-ups at the right time, you can vanquish these ghosts and monsters with adroitness of thought, feminine maturity and child-like inventiveness. Tucked up in bed, listening to the story of loss in Hansel and Gretel, the place where we feel safest is also the arena where we look to challenge the boundaries of that safety. Usually (but not always), there is a happy ending, akin to the experience of Pac-Man operating in the face of insurmountable odds, limited resources and hostile environments.

Playing at life Here’s where Pac-Man becomes something more – consider Cold War capitalism in the West. A rise in living standards was closely allied to the development of microprocessor technologies used in everything from missile guidance systems to magnetic resonance imagers to arcade games. The Minotaur of Communism was held in check by spending on the warfare state. This thread of global protection against the threat of global destruction was woven into individual safety nets in Western European countries in the shape of the welfare state. It provided protection to the populace of Western countries against the everyday threats of disease and destitution. This was seen in state spending on universal education, health services and shelter for all. Yet this came at a price. If you want to get a high score on Pac-Man, you’ve got to follow the game’s rules and objectives. As Martin Amis notes, the “longer a player can play, the more points he can earn, and the more clout he has in the competitive social environment of the arcade”. This notion of competition attained through thriftiness and skill applied equally to the wider social, ethical and political system. And where better to see the ultimate results of that competition than in that post-Cold War capitalism’s space of consumption – the mall? While the space Pac-Man occupies is classical in its structure and narrative, it has an equal and parallel orientation towards the modern world. Frictionless and contactless, the smooth spaces that allow Pac-Man to move around the labyrinth away from monsters and spectres resemble the happy, mappedout shopping centre with its wide concourses and smooth, shiny floors. There is no natural light here, and no time, though there are many signposts telling you where to go to buy. You become something akin to Pac-Man on a power pill, temporarily and irrepressibly able to munch through goods and crunch through credit with the end, both entrance and exit, hidden from your – the consumer’s – view. But the comedown can be hard to face. It’s easy to get into a shopping centre, but hard to leave. The satisfaction of shopping is almost always accompanied by the slight niggle that, like the

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classical labyrinth itself, there is something mortal left in the centre of consumption when the red thread of money, or of blood, runs dry. The means to play Pac-Man mirror an economic model with a high price to pay. In the amusement arcades of the 1980s, where, with tenacity and dedication, one coin could be made to last all day, hard work was rewarded by extended play. (‘I got a pocketful of quarters and I’m headed to the arcade/I don’t have a lot of money but I’m bringing everything I made’, run the opening lines of Pac-Man Fever.) For the children who grew up in the arcades of the 1980s, this is normal and normed behaviour. Want to play? You have to pay. Indeed, for the late-1990s meritocracies of Europe and America, where these children became adults, the pay-to-play economic model was adopted wholesale: a necessary bargain of citizenship were that rights and responsibilities were in check and balance. If you have no job, you have to work at getting one. You have a right to smoke, but a responsibility not to in public. The idea of the umbrella protection of the welfare and warfare state was left behind. Everyone had to eke out that pocketful of quarters and if you didn’t have enough, tough luck: you clearly wasted them elsewhere. Less was more. More must be done with less. This pay-to-play model has had a permanent and tragic legacy, the results of which are being felt today and stretch far into the future. Today, in our current state of post-Cold War capital, many of the mazes of consumption are open only to individuals who have the code to enter them. Like the initials on a high score table, only those with enough currency to 'Insert Coin' have access to the games that reward the pay-to-play model found in the exorbitant

Alex Wade is Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences at BCU. His book, The Pac-Man Principle: A User’s Guide to Capitalism, is to be released by Zero Books at the end of 2017. 34

fees of higher education, healthcare plans and private pensions. The enjoyable, if empty, thrill of the modern-day power pill – clothes shopping, the absent amnesia of online purchasing, the post-splurge latte – all these are obtainable by consumers with the requisite credit rating and zeroes in their current account. For others, who do not possess the code or currency of pay-to-play, there are other mazes to explore. These are not smooth, or easy to move through. There are the endless grids of forms to be filled out for benefits applications. The phone mazes to be negotiated by employment support ‘candidates’. The mesmerising morass of payday loans and the monster-like enforcement of debt repayment. Most pertinent are those mazes of social housing. That idea, founded at the beginning of the Cold War where the doctor could live next door to the baker, the barber next to the coroner, soon found itself abandoned by the individual pursuit of wealth and state neglect on an industrial scale. The pedestrian-friendly paths became rat-runs for drug dealers: Pac-Men chomping on pills, erratically avoiding the ghostly blue police: the wide open green public spaces a site for the fly-tipping of refuse. Detritus is most widely distributed where money is not. Most chilling are those spaces between the rich and the poor: the cavities in the cladding where flames are free to channel, but people, trapped in a labyrinth not of their own making, could not escape from. These are the pay-to-play models where no amount of currency can buy abstinence from the systematic failure of every one of us to Insert Coin into the slots of poverty. These are the spaces that are a shame to us all. There is no happy ending at the end of this maze. Instead, there is the realisation that by not fulfilling a responsibility that we all have to each other to provide safe places for everyone, we have created dangerous spaces from which there is no exit. Iwatani’s motivation for Pac-Man was to make the game as inclusive as possible, irrespective of age, race, religion, gender. All were invited. The cost was the pay-to-play model. The question we must ask ourselves is, as those labyrinths of despair are cleared from Kingston-on-Hull to Kingston-on-Thames, what game do we go to next? Will we be haunted by the ghosts of the pay-to-play past, or create a safe place of a better tomorrow?


PAC-MAN is a registered trademark of Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc

now

Today, Pac-Man is almost 40 years old, but he remains just as relevant in a connected world as he was back in the 1980s.

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TRUE CRIME You can lock them up and make them pay – but it won't necessarily make any difference. Professor Elizabeth Yardley explains why positive criminology is helping to find a new way forward.

Words William Ham Bevan Photography Megan Taylor

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he headlines scream their outrage and the Twittersphere is awash with keyboard warriors: criminals must pay; lock ’em up; how did we ever get to this state?; what’s to be done? But when it comes to the ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ mantra, maybe we’re asking the wrong questions. There’s no shortage of debate about the risk factors that can lead people to commit crime and trap them in a cycle of offending. But what forces and influences can actually steer people away from criminal behaviour? This is one of the key missions of positive criminology, an emerging discipline that is being pioneered at BCU. “As criminologists, we’ve always been interested in the negative elements of crime – looking at why people offend, the harmful impact of crime and the punitive measures taken against offenders,” says Professor Elizabeth Yardley, director of the Centre for Applied Criminology. “Positive criminology takes a slightly different angle. When people have offended, they need to be held accountable, of course. But under this approach, part of that involves looking at what they’re good at – focusing on their strengths in order to stop their offending, rather than concentrating on the risks.”

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A change of focus Positive criminology is one of five research clusters at the Centre, providing a hub for academic staff and doctoral students working in the field. From a fringe interest just a few years ago, it has blossomed into an approach that is taken seriously by practitioners and policy-makers in the criminal justice system – though it remains controversial. Professor Yardley says: “I’ve always been very victim-focused in my research, so I struggled a bit with shifting the focus onto offenders. But what has become apparent to me is that the line between victim and offender isn’t as stark as I once thought. “When you spend time with offenders, particularly those convicted of homicide or violent crime, you find many of them were victims before they committed those crimes. They were exposed to chaotic, disturbing experiences as children and that has played a significant role in their decision to offend.” She explains that the greatest single influence on positive criminology is the "Good Lives Model of Offender Rehabilitation", developed by New Zealand clinical psychologist Tony Ward. It suggests that initiatives that help offenders achieve more positive and fulfilling lives are an effective way to reduce crime. “It basically says that offenders and non-offenders have the same drives and desires, and are essentially looking for the same

Professor Elizabeth Yardley is Reader in Criminology and Director of the Centre for Applied Criminology in the School of Social Sciences.

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things in life,” says Professor Yardley. “It’s just the way that they’ve gone about getting these things that means some people end up breaking the law and some people don’t.” Her own recent research has examined the effects of employing an artist-in-residence at HM Prison Grendon in Buckinghamshire. She says: “We’re looking at the impact that his residency has had, not only on the staff and inmates within the prison, but on the outside as well, in terms of what people think of prisoners, crime and punishment. “The trouble is that programmes concentrating on people’s strengths are not seen as an essential part of rehabilitation. Interventions that use music or art have lost public funding and are heavily reliant on the voluntary sector. So we have to develop the evidence base for these approaches. One of the challenges of positive criminology is getting across to policymakers the changes that we’ve seen in the offenders we work with, so they will fund these programmes.” The research students working within the positive criminology cluster are shining a light on many under-researched topics in the criminal justice system. Cristiana Viana Cardoso, a 2015 graduate of the MA in Criminology, is now working towards a PhD on the experiences of women who have perpetrated child sexual abuse. She says: “We have this sexist view that women are fragile, and that they stay at home and protect the children. This type of crime goes totally against all that. So if a child comes to someone and says that their mother is abusing them, it gets dismissed. The perpetrators are never caught because the crime isn’t investigated. “It’s the same with the research community: if something doesn’t exist, we can’t research it. It’s only now that people are realising that this does happen, and women do commit these crimes because women can do anything – good or bad.” The research is in its early stages, with Cristina currently surveying the existing academic literature and determining which theories from other fields of criminology may be of relevance. But, in keeping with the Centre for Applied Criminology’s practical ethos, she plans to undertake extensive first-hand fieldwork. She says: “I’ll be talking with the women who have become offenders, some in prison and some already back in the community. I’ll also be speaking to the charities that deal with this on a daily basis. We always work closely with practitioners. They’re the ones who are in closest contact with offenders, and they can guide us.” Unlike traditional approaches that concentrate on the negative risk factors that make individuals more likely to commit crimes, Cristiana’s research seeks to uncover the positive ‘protective


factors’ that lessen the likelihood of offending. “I expect to find things like psychological strength and parenting skills are key factors,” she says. “And a lot of women are coerced into doing these things by a male co-offender, so empowering women may be a protective factor. “We can then create interventions that will enhance these factors, and practitioners will be able to know what sort of interventions are appropriate to use. The bottom line is to prevent these offences from ever taking place.” Shona Robinson-Edwards, an Assistant Lecturer in criminology, is doing her own PhD on the role of religion in the lives of convicted killers – another topic that has received scant attention elsewhere. She says: “A lot of research focuses on the importance of housing, employment and family structure to offenders. But for some of them, religion holds equal value in their lives. “My research is on faith after homicide: for example, if someone has been to prison for murder or manslaughter but has now embraced religion. It’s about getting government agencies and charities to understand that religion is a crucial element to the whole existence process of these people.” One of the foundations of her work is that offenders must be understood as individuals rather than a group – and that, however heinous their crimes, they should be listened to. She says: “It’s about giving people who don’t normally have a platform the chance to express their personal views in a positive way. Offenders are still human beings, and for us to understand their subjective perspective, we need to hear their voices. “These offenders attract a large amount of stigma, and they’re labelled as murderers. Religion can help them to overcome the

I struggled a bit with shifting the focus on to offenders. But the line between victim and offender isn't as stark as I once thought

barriers of identity and rehabilitation. People who are usually scrutinised and labelled can make sense of their lives in a new and positive way.”

The power of intervention Like Shona, Sophie Rowe works with prisoners on long-term sentences. Since graduating from the MA in Criminology in 2012, she has both researched and supported New Bridge – a befriending service that matches prisoners to volunteers, who maintain contact through letters and visits. She says: “It helps them to develop self-esteem, social ties and appropriate relationships, and to discover potential in themselves that they didn’t think they had. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that a positive link to the outside world improves chances of successful reintegration into the community.” According to a survey conducted last year, around a third of the prisoners taking part in the scheme have no other contact with the outside world. Many have been convicted of violent or sexual offences and have lost contact with their families. For the volunteers, a long-term commitment is required. Unlike similar programmes, New Bridge is not tied to a particular prison; the befriending relationship continues for the whole sentence, even if the prisoner is transferred around the country. Having been operating for more than 60 years, New Bridge can be seen as anticipating many of the policy concerns of positive criminology. Sophie says: “Volunteers treat every prisoner as an individual, and help them to rebuild their lives. The majority of prisoners will be released at some point, so we may as well invest time in ensuring we’re releasing individuals that we’d want back in our community.” While accepting that there will always be circumstances outside the power of intervention, Professor Yardley believes that the work being done by the cluster’s researchers has the potential to change attitudes, improve outcomes and transform lives. She says: “We want to contribute to knowledge and policy development that really does reduce crime and prevent future harm. We can do this through strengthening our partnerships with people working in the criminal justice system, and providing a platform for voices that aren’t getting heard.” But it is not just the research community of BCU that benefits from the insights yielded by positive criminology. “We’re also embedding it in the teaching here,” she says. “So our hope is that the next generation of prison governors, charity workers and people working with troubled families will go into their careers with a broader outlook on offenders – and how to work with them to stop their offending.”

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University matters

My job is to ensure students can transform their lives by achieving at the highest level Professor Philip Plowden became Vice-Chancellor in September. Here, he sets out his vision for the University.

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ince becoming Vice-Chancellor at Birmingham City University in September, I have been struck by the richness of the institution. The energy and talents of our students, the commitment and professionalism of our staff and the stunning facilities our entire community is now able to enjoy, whether at our City Centre or City South campuses. I have no doubt that even greater successes and opportunities lie in wait – the fantastic potential of a university at the heart of a city which itself has experienced a phenomenal transformation in recent years.

City of a thousand trades Birmingham is the economic powerhouse of the West Midlands and it’s come a long way since the Domesday Book of 1086, in which it is described as a small hamlet worth 20 shillings. Once known as ‘the city of a thousand trades’, Birmingham is now a leading European business destination at the centre of a £90 billion regional economy. Companies such as HSBC and Deutsche 40


Photography Alun Callender

Bank are locating major offices here, and Londoners leaving the capital city to live elsewhere in the UK are choosing Birmingham as their number one destination. Indeed, the work of another company which has now set up its headquarters in Birmingham, HS2, will eventually cut journey times between London and our city to just 49 minutes, further reinforcing Birmingham’s status at the heart of the national economy.

Kick-starting regeneration The University’s £260 million investment in our estate has played no small part in driving the city’s growth. Our multimillion pound City Centre Campus has formed a key part of the regeneration of Birmingham’s Eastside – just minutes from the Bullring and New Street station – while the expansion of our campus in Edgbaston not only provides superb new sports, life sciences and teaching facilities for our students, but also an extension of our offer to the city and beyond. Central to our investment in the centre of Birmingham

is our new Conservatoire, both the first of its kind to be built in the UK in a generation and the latest incarnation of an institution dating back to 1886. The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire is an international class facility that matches both the ambitions and achievements of our staff and students. And this state-of-the-art music and performance facility is an asset for all our students, as well as opening up access to arts and culture across the city and region. It is a bold statement of the University’s commitment to being a central part of Birmingham's burgeoning cultural scene. I look forward to advocating for the city and promoting our assets to those beyond our institution. However, my central role as Vice-Chancellor will be to ensure that Birmingham City University continues to excel in its core mission – challenging our students to achieve at the highest level – and through that process transforming their lives. This is something that I know is close to the heart of our Chancellor, Sir Lenny Henry, with whom I

share a passion for giving life-changing opportunities to young people from a range of different backgrounds. We have a rich history and can be proud of the achievements of so many of our graduates who have gone

Whatever your association with our University, I'd like to hear from you – please do get in touch

on to do great things in their careers. My role is to both celebrate that and to work intensively across areas where we can do better.

Three priorities So there are three priority areas that I am particularly focused on in my first year: we need to ensure that the teaching and the research which are at the heart of our academic offer are of the highest standard; we need to continue to develop the ways in which we support the experience of our students, who come from such wide and diverse backgrounds; and we need to ensure that all of our systems and processes support our students and staff in their pursuit of excellence. In meeting these challenges and more, I am drawing on the talents and expertise of those inside the University, and beyond – speaking to employers, influential stakeholders, graduates and others. And I would very like to hear from you, whatever your association with our University, so please do feel free to get in touch at vc@bcu.ac.uk. 41


This working life

Warren Jukes Director at Associated Architects, Warren Jukes (Architecture, 1996) turns out his work bag. 1

Moleskine black notebook Most architects will have a black notebook; it's where we make our notes and test sketch ideas. At first I had no idea what I should be writing down. I knew that I had to develop design ideas and details, but at university you didn’t have to ring up suppliers and get specifications, so the technical side suddenly became apparent. Associated Architects was my second work placement. They offer a bespoke design for every project – that was an amazing opportunity for a trainee!

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iPhone We used to struggle to be able to open drawings and see them on the screen of a BlackBerry, but with the iPhone it’s much easier these days. It’s essential, too. As our practice’s HR director I’m dealing with issues from all 65 members of staff, as well as leading a team of 15 people, running 10 to 15 projects at various stages and handling client queries and requests, so I need to be able to react accurately and quickly. I've got staff who work remotely and they text, Facebook message or email me.

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Banana Often I don't get time to have lunch, so I just grab a banana and keep working. I could be dashing out to a meeting or interviewing graduates. I became a director in 2003, and it’s been incredibly busy – but also challenging and rewarding. That year, we won a competition to design Leicester University’s new £25 million library. At the opening, I had lunch with the Queen to explain the design to her. We’re still getting work from it, so my days are full-on and I often don’t have the luxury of a lunch break.


Words Diane Shipley Photography Alex Paganelli

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Yellowtrace® paper Everyone’s got a roll on their desk. It looks like yellow baking paper but it’s see-through, so you'll draw one thing, then you’ll test another idea on top of it. I really enjoy working with the people on my team, developing ideas with them, getting them down on paper, and turning them into three dimensions. I’ve been lucky, I’ve worked on some prestigious projects. As a complete design from scratch, the University of Birmingham's new library is the best one I’ve done yet. It’s gold and deliberately shiny, the students love it, it’s got 62 km of shelving, which was difficult to plan out to get the collections to work. It’s a very exciting space, and it’s very sustainable. Everything we’ve learned from designing libraries in the past 14 years, we’ve put into that project.

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Scale rule If you don’t have a scale rule, it's very difficult to judge how to lay something out at the correct dimensions. When I started here in 1996, I was a RIBA Part 2 architectural assistant. You’re not allowed to call yourself an architect until you take the Part 3 exam. I was working with an architect who was very experienced, so it was almost like having a traditional apprenticeship. I qualified in 1999, and my first new build project was a BCU teaching building for the Faculty of Health. Being a BCU graduate and working on their projects, which I did from 1996 to 2003, was great, not least because they’re an educated client and they've got a large estate. BCU was not only supportive in terms of my education, I was then able to grow with the University by testing built ideas as they developed their estate.

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Alumni winners

Barrister Rachelle mentors law students and trainees, works for international human rights organisations and has set up a network for new barristers, as well as a local youth club.

This year, the Alumni of the Year awards has recognised BCU graduates who have become leaders in their fields.

Photography Kasia Fiszer

Rachelle Harrison

(Law with American Legal Studies, 2010)

Details To view previous Alumni of the Year winners and to nominate alumni for the 2018 awards, please visit: bcu.ac.uk/ alumnioftheyear 44

I believe you have to be the change you want to see – and that you can change society by helping one person at a time. Studying law is difficult; there are very few bursaries, so a lot of people are overlooked. I truly have a passion to help the next generation as much as possible. When I was six, I came downstairs in the night and my dad was watching a civil rights movie showing the Ku Klux Klan hurting a family. Of course, I was ushered back to bed, but my father explained what I had seen and I boldly told him that I would one day become a lawyer and then a judge in order to help everyone receive justice. BCU has helped me greatly in achieving my goals, expanding my ambition into international law and human rights. When I was at BCU, it was the only university that allowed students to undertake international placements as part of the curriculum. I went to New York, where I was asked to work on a case defending one of the 2005 London bombers after his extradition back to New York. Even though I was petrified, I fell in love with the idea of advocacy at BCU's Mooting Society. Debating helped me work through my nerves. Once I had to ‘defend’ Aung San Suu Kyi from being thrown out of a hot air balloon (not literally!). It was all part of the process of opening my eyes to what a big area international human rights really was.

Interviews Megan Welford

City slickers


Under her pen name Buddy, Yifan is one of the best known comic artists in China. Her manga story, Guarding, has been viewed more than a billion times and is being made into a TV series.

Entrepreneur Shezad runs three companies and offers consultancy for startups and SMEs. Profoundly deaf, he was awarded an MBE in 2017 for services to business and diversity.

Yifan Ling

Shezad Nawab MBE

Before I came to BCU, my work was kind of stupid. I taught myself to draw aged six, watching online videos and I found comics were a brilliant way to talk about an issue. It’s a simple version of a movie, it has words and pictures, you can make it all by yourself – and it’s really cheap to do. I studied industrial design in China and then worked as a freelance comic artist for a year. The work was really successful, but although I was writing these romantic stories that young girls liked, I quickly ran out of things to say. I was in my very early twenties and I really didn’t have much life experience. I thought: "I need to live in a different country, meet new people". At BCU, my tutor, Andrew Kulman, told me: “Live your life and observe yourself, observe how you feel about things. Then you will know what to write.” His words really changed things for me. As a result, I created Cactus, about a cactus in a forest of tall trees. It was about my real life, about feeling lonely and like an alien, it wasn’t like anything I’d done before – to my astonishment, it won the Macmillian Prize Best Recommended award for a children’s book in 2006. At BCU I learned new drawing techniques, and learned from the movie-makers, animators and photographers on my course. Alone in a new city, I learned I could rely on my own qualities and skills.

When I was little, I asked my dad: “How can I be rich?”. I wanted to be an airline pilot but was told I couldn't because I was deaf, so then I wanted to be a CEO. He said: “Son, I’m worried about the barriers you will have.” He got me working in the post office with him, doing taxes and counting money, which was good experience. When I later tried business studies, I knew I’d found my passion. At first, I found the BCU campus huge, like an Olympic stadium. Being deaf did present me with challenges – the videos, for example, were never subtitled, so I had to somehow watch the images and my interpreter at the same time. My tutors had a wide range of experience and were at the top of their game. Our young minds were undeveloped, so they gave us balanced views and knowledge – they guided us. I still draw on what I learned about writing a business plan, finding creative solutions and how to assess risk. I love working on a business cycle of three to five years, teaching people how to grow and exit from a business. I do some work with deaf businesses and my success makes me a role model, but I mainly work with hearing companies. Once I used the name Deaf Business Services and everyone thought it was a charity! Being recognised by BCU and in the Queen’s Honours List has motivated me to carry on doing what I love.

(Master’s in Visual Communication, 2006)

(Business and Marketing, 2009)

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Adventures in...

In a disaster, everything goes down. Saving lives means getting your tech back up again in hours, not days. Computer scientist Professor Ron Austin explains how pairing the Raspberry Pi with a new framework could transform disaster relief.

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Illustration Giacomo Bagnara 46

Interview Sarah Woodward

n October last year, Ron Austin was idly watching television when the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti flashed up on screen. “I saw immediately that these people had absolutely nothing left. The island was absolutely flattened.” But as a communications technology specialist, he also noticed something else. “There were no communication towers still standing, so the power and mobile phone systems were out,” recalls Ron, Associate Professor in the School of Computing and Digital Technology. In these horrific circumstances, he began to wonder how the relief agencies were going to coordinate their efforts and let people know about the desperate situation, particularly during those vital first 24 hours where 85-95% of live rescues are made. Without a communications system, how could rescuers know where they were most needed? “And then it came to me – the Raspberry Pi might offer a practical solution.” This small, single-board computer was originally developed to promote teaching basic computer science in schools and in developing countries. The low-power, low-cost device is only about half as powerful as an Apple iPhone, but Ron reckoned that, by clustering Raspberry


Associate Professor of Networks and Security, Ron Austin is a specialist in wireless networking and VoIP networks. He teaches within the School of Computing and Digital Technology.

Pis together in a system known affectionately by Raspberry users as a ‘Bramble’, he might be able to create a smaller replica of the kind of large computing network traditionally used in disaster zones. “Relief agencies can take 48 hours to get onsite and set up their communications network. And large processors need power. Raspberry Pis operate on very low voltage and can offer up to 24 hours battery life.” Ron’s idea was to define a framework and then develop a practical deployment strategy using next generation networks (SDN) and infrastructure technology (virtualisation and containerisation of software) so that the time – and cost – to respond to a critical situation could be reduced. “I thought that if you could set up a central Docker or software containers, with a satellite uplink, then you could drop in Raspberry Pis where they were needed, set up with voiceover IP (VOIP) to enable them to be easily linked in to the network. And you could do that much more quickly – and cheaply.” He had the idea, but the maths was more complicated. However, Ron, who worked in industry for 17 years, including managing operational systems support at Energis (later acquired by Cable & Wireless, now Vodafone), was undeterred. “I’ve always been involved in building networks, so I am in my comfort zone.” Nonetheless, at first he wasn’t sure his idea was even feasible. Now, almost a year on, he believes he has “mostly cracked the theory”. Ron wouldn’t even have been able to contemplate his novel solution without the latest model of Raspberry Pi 3, which comes with more memory – although he says he

The solution is immediate, cheap and scalable – exactly what is needed in an emergency situation

Details To find out more about Professor Austin's research please visit: bcu.ac.uk/ research/our-people/a-e/ ron-austin

could really do with another 1GB of memory to fix the problem to his satisfaction. The latest processor means that “three or four” other academics have come to the same conclusion about the possibilities. But he believes he is the only researcher attempting to replicate a data centre using virtualisation through the Docker software container. One of the advantages of his approach is that the more Raspberry Pis connected to the software container, the more the load is shared. This means that the more the system is used, the more effective it becomes. Another is that the Raspberry Pi, currently retailing at around £30, offers an affordable computing solution, especially compared to the £100,000 routinely needed to set up a large data centre. And being as small as an iPhone 5, they are of manageable size, with the flexibility and durability to operate in unusual situations. Ron has even considered placing them on cattle. Once set up, a Raspberry Pi can undertake environmental monitoring, measuring levels of temperature, moisture and light. He has discussed using them with a Swiss dairy farmer who is interested in tracking his cows as they graze far and wide on the summer pastures of the Alps, checking whether the animals are too hot or cold. But for the moment, Ron’s focus is on creating rapid response communication networks for communities caught up in disasters. He has yet to find the right person to talk to at the relief agencies but is satisfied that, technically, his idea offers a new approach. “I am hoping that the repercussions of my research are going to snowball.” 47


Words Diane Shipley Photography Kasia Fiszer

Centre of the known universe

Cannon Hill Park Hafsa Rehman is a second year Business and Management student.

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here is no competition for the centre of the known universe as far as I’m concerned: it has to be Cannon Hill Park. It was my grandma who helped make it such a special place for me. When I was in primary school, my family used to drive to Big John’s after school, get a pizza and take it to the park. Other times we’d have picnics there with my extended family – it was awesome.

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Every family would bring something, but my grandma would cook for a picnic like it was a feast We would spread out a mat and every family brought something like biryani, samosas, kebabs and homemade burgers. No one could beat my grandma, though, because she would cook for a picnic like it was a grand feast. And it wouldn’t be a family day out without everyone trying to play football – it was adults and kids mixed up, 15 to 20 of us having fun.

The park has been an important place throughout my entire life, and it’s as special to me now as it has ever been. When my friends and I were little, everyone went there. I learned how to ride a bike there. They have swan paddle boats on the lake now but, back in the day, it used to be rowing boats. My uncle took me and my brother out in one and we were stuck in the middle near some overgrown

bushes for ages. It was hilarious. Now I go with friends all the time. We do everything: go on the boats, go to the MAC (Midlands Art Centre) – that’s a massive place. There's even a particular flower bush that’s the perfect selfie background. We love Robert Wilkinson’s Funfair. We go on the rides hundreds of times and put our hands in the air and scream and take videos for Snapchat and Instagram. I want to make memories every chance I get. I like to go back to the places I went when I was young and relive those moments, where it’s fun, with no hardships. We all know how hard university life can be. It can be very overwhelming at times and we all need a place to relax. One day in a place like that with no technology – except maybe a camera – makes your experience so much better. I like to go to the park in the winter, when it’s quieter. If you go in the summer it gets very busy, you will have nowhere to sit, but it’s fun as well because everybody’s out. They sometimes have a mini beach going on and children playing in the sand – everyone just enjoying themselves. If you're feeling a bit down, it’s the best place to go: you can breathe and just experience life going on around you. You feel like everything’s going to be OK. I crave that feeling – that’s what I go for.


Can you support the next generation of BCU graduates? We want our students to be as prepared as possible for the world of work. What could you offer? • • • •

Provide an internship or work placement Give a careers talk or guest lecture Advertise your graduate roles Mentor a student

If you would like to offer your support, contact us at alumni@bcu.ac.uk.


FOCUSED AT HEART

bcu.ac.uk/opendays

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City magazine issue 1  
City magazine issue 1