I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Swallowed by the Shopping Centre

Swallowed by the Shopping Centre

James Moran
What Was Lost, by Catherine O’Flynn, Tindal Street Press, 242 pp, £8.99, ISBN: 978-0955138416 Of all British cities Birmingham has perhaps best reason to feel aggrieved by the work of the mid-twentieth century planners. Although the Luftwaffe mauled the area during the war, residents initially had good cause to expect a speedy recovery following VE Day. After all, the city had enjoyed consistent economic good fortune since the 1770s and had weathered the depression of the 1930s reasonably well – just as it had coped with earlier slumps in the 1870s and 1880s. What it could not however withstand was the sheer vandalism organised in the wake of the war by the local public works committee, whose energetic activities between 1950 and 1980 almost managed to make the work of the bombers look sensitive and considerate. The post-war remodelling of Birmingham came under the control of the amateurish but ebullient Sir Herbert Manzoni, who knew that the success of the region depended upon the internal combustion engine. He and his committee became fixated by the idea of making Birmingham a truly futuristic city, and believed they could accomplish this by building an inner ring road that would loop and spiral along a route that broadly followed the limits of the town during the second half of the 1700s, the last time at which the construction of such a throughway could conceivably have avoided wholesale demolition. Manzoni’s proposal appealed to local industrialists, who believed profitability would be enhanced if the nearby factories could transfer goods with greater speed and efficiency. Planners were given the freedom to scythe a path through any older part of the city, about which these businessmen knew little and cared less. At first there was little opposition. After all, many people’s livelihoods depended on the motor industry and there was a desire to assist it in any way possible. So the city placed its trust in Manzoni, who set about ensuring the long-term success of the area by turning much of Birmingham into a glorified racetrack. Just as Toad of Toad Hall felt he could poop-poop his way to happiness – and as today the Indian entrepreneur Ratan Tata believes selling a car for one hundred thousand rupees can solve the transport needs of the poor – so postwar Birmingham fell for the seductive chrome and glass delusion of the automobile. Only when the wrecking ball and…



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