On the subject of dereliction, I spent the afternoon in Birmingham, and staring from the train window it really is amazing how much of the city lies derelict. When I think of British industrial decline and blight, I immediately picture distinctly 'northern' towns, miners, cobbles, that sort of thing. Birmingham seems so close to the south east that I find it hard to equate with being so violently backwards to its big sister London. But these days in the capital there is barely a square inch that has not been reappropriated and re-developed.
I was in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham and it was almost entirely empty. There are one or two 'trendy' internet start-ups, such as the one I was visiting, moving in to the rows of blank-fronted warehouses, but mostly it is street after street of empty dereliction. The area certainly paints a sombre picture of the remains of our once thriving manufacturing industry. In London, the entire place would have become loft apartments years ago. It actually reminded me a lot of Shoreditch when I first moved there in the mid nineties, just a few lonely artists and a pub, not even a corner shop to speak of. I wonder how long it will take for the Jewellery Quarter to become the seething wanky trend-pot that Shoreditch has become? It is of course inevitable, although I always dislike the gentrification of industrial areas. I like seeing the utilitarian victorian dirt lying alongside the sterile modern glamour in our cities.