Dominic Fisher, author of Praguetory offers some tailored thoughts for delegates visiting his home city of Birmingham for this year’s party conference.
THE MAIN VENUE
Conference is being held at the International Convention Centre (ICC), which is located at the top of Broad Street about half a kilometre west of the city centre. Recently, the ICC complex has played host to a travelling circus and an infamous corporate junket. Within the complex, is the sumptuous Symphony Hall – acclaimed as a breathtaking music venue.
The ICC lies within former Labour MP Clare Short’s Birmingham Ladywood seat, which has the highest unemployment of any constituency in the UK. So, naturally, this Conference’s Social Action Project is taking place five miles away in the highly marginal constituency of Birmingham Edgbaston.
The anchor hotel this year is the multi-storey Hyatt hotel which is connected to the ICC itself by an enclosed footbridge. If you’re lucky enough to be staying in the Hyatt, surveying Birmingham through the blacked-out window that forms one of the bedroom walls, is an invigorating way to start the day. The hotel also has a swimming pool and a bar named Pravda! Unadventurous sorts lucky enough to be staying in the Hyatt could conceivably hunker down in the cordoned off zone for the entire conference.
NEAR THE MAIN VENUE
In the immediate vicinity of the Conference area are a few obvious gathering points - top marks for laziness if you pick the Rep Bar on Centenary Square. Better to head to the Brindley Place complex – during Conference this will only be accessible from Broad Street (not the ICC itself). Prominent here, are better than average outlets of Cafe Rouge, All Bar One and Pitcher & Piano. The stylish Cielo Italian restaurant has been getting excellent reviews, but the recent pre-conference session with local media was held at Piccolinos. Birmingham is understandably not famed for its marine attractions, but you may be interested to learn that a Sealife Centre is located here.
From Brindley Place, you can follow the canalside path east to the Mailbox or head back to Broad Street itself. Broad Street hasn’t quite recovered from the butchering it took at the hands of the previous Labour council but, although a 2,500 capacity flagship nightclub has just opened at the Five Ways end of the street. I am also told that Walkabout bar and nightclub will be good fun (and possibly the place to pull for those minded) and don’t let Keith and Jacqui getting jiggy at Shimla Pinks put you off the excellent food they serve.
The Mailbox is an elegant conversion of a building that was previously a massive postal sorting office. As well as being used for the offices of BBC in the West Midlands, it now contains an upscale shopping centre, numerous dining and drinking destinations and exclusive residential developments for ‘city living’ types. For a romantic meal, I recommend Bar Epernay complete with piano.