Northfield by the sea


I know, I know: when you say the word ‘Northfield’, the first thing that comes into your head is not likely to be ‘seaside’, is it? But that is what the South Birmingham suburb became during those glorious days of sunshine between 25th and 29th July.

With help from Yellow Bus Events of Sheffield, and tons of sand, the normally grey Price’s Square on Northfield High Street was transformed into the kind of British seaside beach scene I remember from my own childhood. Buckets, spades, ice-cream, face-painting and Punch and Judy shows were all to be seen. There was even garish pink rock with ‘Northfield’ written all the way through it. And there were children – lots of them – noisily playing on the beach with Moms, Dads, Grandmas and Grandpas sunning themselves in stripy deck-chairs all around.

It helped that Britain was blessed with Mediterranean weather that week. But nobody can take away what the people at Northfield Business Improvement District (BID) and Northfield Town Centre Partnership achieved here. It was quirky. It was Northfield poking a bit of fun at ourselves and enjoying it along the way.

In doing so, Northfield showed a new confidence: a self confidence in ourselves and in the Northfield High Street area both as a focus for that community and as a centre for local business looking for something a bit different.

Northfield is starting to challenge its own stereotypes. That was not only illustrated by Northfield-By-the-Sea last month. You could also see it in the overwhelming vote to create the BID last year and you can see it in the kinds of initiatives now being championed throughout the year by the free sprits at Northfield Eco Centre just yards from the Northfield Shopping Centre.

What could the future bring? A farmers market in the centre of Northfield maybe? Something else? Let’s see.

Either way, the creation of Northfield-By-the Sea last month was a great success. You can watch a video on YouTube and see photos on Facebook. And, if, like me you are addicted to Twitter, follow what is going on here @VisitNorthfield.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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