The bright side of Brum

It has developed a reputation as one of the ugliest cities in the UK, but these pictures show Birmingham in a new light.

A photographer has set out to change the popular perception of Birmingham for its residents, more than a million of them, as well as people further afield.

Verity Milligan, originally from Northamptonshire, has captured these stunning images to illustrate some of the beauty around the city.

The vistas seem to fly in the face of Birmingham being voted fifth in the UK’s list of ugly towns last year, with Hemel Hemstead being given the crown of thorns.

The 31-year-old photographer said: “It has changed my perspective on the city by exploring it from different angles and now I think it’s very beautiful.”

In one photograph, the city can be seen as it comes to life and the sun rises. 

The shot captures the evolution of Birmingham from the historic architecture of St Martin’s church to the ambition of the Rotunda and the city’s multi-cultural development with the Chinese quarter in its shadow. 

To the right of the shot, you can appreciate more recent attempts to give Birmingham its own distinct identity for its buildings in the form of the Bullring – the appearance of which has split opinion since it was unveiled. Here you can see the silver shell of the Selfridges building glinting in the sun.

To the foot of the picture, you can see the city’s attempts to reconcile both the old and the new with the restaurants linking the church and entrance to the Bullring.

The city’s new £188 million library, which has drawn tourists from all over the world, is painted in its best light in another of the pictures.

Designed by Dutch architecture practice Mecanoo, the outside of the facility is hit with the soft reflected shimmer from the sunrise, as it bounces off Birmingham’s Hyatt Regency – two symbols of the city’s resilience in these austere times – as well as representing two of its most striking buildings.

Just as many of the best 24-hour cities come to life at night, these photos also seem to make a similar point about Brum.

One of the most eye-catching photos in the collection is that of Fox Hollies Park as night falls.

The nature spot, known for its large pool and the variety of fish there, seems to smoulder with heat in the photograph as it is bathed in red from the sunset.

As the city gives in to the onset of night, another picture gives a hint to more highlights of the West Midlands metropolis. 

With the contrast of bold yellows and the metallic burst of blue and silvery light, the still of the Ferris wheel and the library’s underground rooms could well be a quiet corner of Hong Kong, but this photograph illustrates some of the modern beauty that can be found right on our doorstep. The black and white view of Victoria Square underlines the permanence of the city’s heart – with one of its best-named landmarks in centre of view – the iconic Floozie in the Jacuzzi.

The sprawling canal network, which represents both the city’s beauty and its industrial past, is also captured in soft light.

The network is one of the city’s least-appreciated features, as it is even more extensive than that in Venice.

Ms Milligan, who teaches video production, regularly gets up up early in the mornings to get the best pictures.

“There might be prettier cities, but I think there are parts of Birmingham that are absolutely beautiful, and worth exploring,” she added.

She also had wise words for those that would criticise the look of the city, saying: “If you explore any city and give it your time, it can change your perspective.

“The city is really quiet at sunrise, you don’t see it when it’s not busy with people running around.” 

Birmingham has previously scooped a host of unwanted accolades – not only being named one of the ugliest cities in the UK, but the famed Bullring Selfridges building was even voted the ugliest building in the UK in 2008.

Even the author Jane Austen had a pop at Birmingham in her writings, which to the city’s detriment, have been read the world over.

A line from her book Emma reads: “One has no great hopes of Birmingham.

“I always say there is something direful in the sound.”

While the legendary author might have had her own view, these photographs clearly show it is worth a second look.

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