Freshers’ week: a time when Westside becomes one of the love capitals of the world

As tens of thousands of freshers descend on Broad Street, business leader MIKE OLLEY describes how Westside looks after its new customers. And he introduces a new venue called The Exchange.

I’ve lost count of how many freshers we get in Birmingham: its tens of thousands, at the very least. Indeed if I am being candid, I can’t really remember how many universities we have in Birmingham. But I do know higher education is a fantastic industry within the Midlands and that Birmingham leads the way.

I recall my first week at university: I went as a mature student, so didn’t get involved in the full immersion experience. However, it was a daunting process. For a bunch of 18 and 19-year-olds the process is a massive mixture of fun and apprehension, along with numerous other anxieties and pleasures. This is why we in Westside try to do our very best to make it a wonderful experience as it can be.

Freshers’ week is important, it starts a rite of passage. It’s not lost on me that many of our students who step out onto Broad Street for the first time will end up with marrying someone they meet over the next few months. According to The Student Room at www.tsrmatters.com, a whopping one fifth of students meet the love of their life on campus. Of those in Birmingham, hundreds if not thousands will meet on Broad Street. We could be the love capital of the world! Who knows?

In any event, freshers are an important customer for us. We understand that we need to look after them, and look after them well. For not only will Broad Street give them a husband or wife, in one fifth of cases, it will set the impression of our great city and region forever.

We bear a high bar on behalf of the city, and I think we carry that challenge well. Let me boast for just a while, if I may. Freshers is very much about getting out and about into the night clubs, yes of course it is. But also its about orienteering the home that you will enjoy for the next three or four years. So yes, night clubs are important, but there is so much more. Theatres, cinemas, indoors crazy golf, rock climbing and, of course, our café society is par excellence.

I visited The Exchange the other day. Some may know it as the old TSB or Birmingham Municipal Bank on Broad Street. Correctly speaking, that part of Broad Street is now renamed Centenary Square, however the Exchange is more than worth a visit, as one of the leading coffee and chill locations in the city .

It’s part of the glitz, glamour and style that Birmingham has to offer. It’s a part of Birmingham University (my old uni) and it offers facilities for MBA students, students with entrepreneurial talent and so much more. I have and will be using it as a watering hole for coffee and delightful cake.

If you take a look at the video version of this blog at https://youtu.be/sIuPpOGx7Uk, Matt Knight the general manager of The Exchange gives a stylish account of his superb venue.

Main image: Mike Olley talks to Prof David Bailey at The Exchange

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