Over the last decade or so, the Midlands has been quietly going about its business and is now gaining the recognition it deserves as one of the most rapidly growing and innovative counties in Britain. Although it’s true that the existence of some of the high-profile football clubs such as Aston Villa, Derby County and Leicester City, have helped put Birmingham on the map in the past, the area is now becoming widely known for an altogether different set of reasons. So, in what ways has the Midlands sought innovation and what is currently driving the area forward?
The Transformation of Birmingham New Street Station
Train stations are fast becoming destinations in their own right and often act as catalysts for inner-city development and regeneration. It’s fair to say that before its refurbishment, disembarking at Birmingham New Street station was akin to stepping into a poorly lit concrete box; it was even voted one of the UK’s ugliest buildings in a 2003 magazine poll. However, New Street is now the envy of nearly every major city in the UK, thanks to its redevelopment.
As part of a wider revamp of the entire area, around £600m has been spent on transforming the city-centre station. For a city as lively as Birmingham, the old rail station served as a dark cloud hanging over the general area. Thanks to this recent development, Birmingham can once again be at the forefront of innovation with regard to everything travel related. Add in the minor details relating to HS2 and the extension of the Midlands Metro tram and “Brum” is more attractive than ever, when it comes to both living and working in the city.
The Midlands Continues To Thrive Within The Gaming Industry
The Midlands may not immediately spring to mind when the word gaming is mentioned but over the past few years, the area has been secretly transforming itself into one of the most formidable gaming regions in Europe. The region has always had a fruitful relationship with the gaming industry; Tomb Raider protagonist Lara Croft was conceived in Derby all those years ago and both Banjo- Kazooie and cult classic Conker’s Bad Fur Day are all products of well-known Leicestershire developer Rare Gaming.
In terms of its more recent exploits, the Midlands continues to thrive in the gaming arena. The Formula 1 gaming series continues to be published and developed by Codemasters in Birmingham and remains one of the most popular and lucrative franchises within the gaming landscape. Leamington Spa based company Playground Games now work closely with Microsoft on their groundbreaking Forza Horizon series – in fact, Leamington is known in many quarters as Silicon Spa due to the area’s recent boom in gaming developers such as Lab 42, Lockwood and Pixel Toys.
Aside from the video gaming arena, the Midlands is also a hive of activity when it comes to brick and mortar casinos. Although it was feared that the concept of a traditional casino was dead in the water, the recent resurgence of online casino coupled with the vast array of special offers such as free spin no deposit bonuses has helped rekindle the interest of the punting public when it comes to classic games such as blackjack and roulette. Whether it’s video gaming, online gaming or casino-related entertainment, the Midlands is well respected in every area of the gaming sector.
The Midlands On Screen
The continued success of crime drama Peaky Blinders has meant that Birmingham and its surrounding areas have been at the forefront of the public eye for some time now. Such is its rich history and historical architecture, Birmingham has often been used as a location for major TV series and films even if they weren’t actually set in the city itself. The popular con-based TV show Hustle, was set in London but series 6, 7 and 8 were all filmed in Britain’s second city, with the cast and crew moved to Birmingham for the whole of 2009. The first series of acclaimed BBC drama Line of Duty was also filmed in Birmingham, whilst spy thriller The Game was set in 1972 London but filmed largely in on location in the West Midlands.
In terms of the Midlands in the movies, the area has seen much more action than most people are aware of. Both Robin Hood and This Is England were quite famously shot in and around the Midlands but very few know that Steven Spielberg chose Digbeth, Spaghetti Junction and Jewellery Quarter, as the locations for his 2018 hit, Ready Player One. In addition to this, much of Cornwall Street was blocked off back in 2016, in order to film car chases for Kingsman: The Golden Circle and the fight scenes in Winstone-led Jawbone were also filmed in and around the area.
The Future of Industry in The Midlands
West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, wants the Midlands to be at the leading edge of a “new, clean industrial revolution” and has plans and strategies for the future of industry in the area. At the moment however, it appears that the region is riding the crest of a wave and will continue to do so thanks to the hard work put in behind the scenes from those in their respective industries. All in all, the Midlands has gone from strength to strength in the last couple of decades and there is nothing to indicate that this will change anytime soon.