Banking, nightlife, Covid rules and memorial services: no two days are the same on Westside

Westside is a banking centre as well as the largest entertainment district in the Midlands, which means almost no day is the same. MIKE OLLEY reports on a week that saw the BID dealing with Covid restrictions and paying tribute to those who have passed in the street community.

I can’t begin to explain how diverse the days can be working in a major hospitality centre around Broad Street, Brindleyplace and Broadway Plaza.

I must also make the point that Broad Street is such a pleasant challenge. It’s a cheesy old adage often repeated that “no two days are the same.” Yet in my 6,000 odd days in and around Broad Street some have been the same but most not. Indeed, of those that haven’t been the same, they are all very different.

It’s only fair to say that Westside is not only about hospitality. We have significant banking and financial services in the area. More than Frankfurt and Edinburgh. That makes us a very serious area of the City.

Listen and watch this vlog here:

Banking and finance is serious business and we need to remind ourselves of that and certainly respect it. Whoever thought to put a hospitality sector right in the middle of all that? Truth is of course it all grew up together. We built Brindleyplace and the banking and financial institutions came. We built the ICC and NIA and bars, hotels and great restaurants they came.

I actually, as a young fellow-me-lad, sat on the council committees that gave shape to all these building developments. I’m not claiming to be as highly influential as Sir Albert Bore, Sir Richard “call me comrade” Knowles. But I was around when the then Thatcherite government was dismantling our light industrial engineering sector.

It was Sir Albert and Sir Richard that recognised the need to create new dynamic opportunities for wealth and work. I should mention the cross-party support they received. It was truly a joint all-party effort and well done to all those involved. Paul Tilsley CBE, Sir Neville Bosworth, Sir Bernard Zissman to name but a few. So please, I’m not naming me, I was just a very privileged, close-up onlooker.

This week was largely in two halves. We had the rash decision by the government to introduce half a lockdown. I’m personally lost as to why they did this.

This month gives hospitality perhaps a third of their profits for the year. To kick hospitality in the sensitives this way is devastating for us. There is no science behind it. The World Health Organisation knows next to nothing about the variant other than it is a variant.

Whilst I would not openly criticise the government on this, I do feel they have been urged to action more around the fact that a party may have or may not have taken place over a year ago.

Economically this semi lockdown could cost hospitality £4 billion, and I can’t see how this is a price worth paying. Frustrating. But trust me, Westside provides the best and safest of environments you will encounter anywhere in the UK. I’m going to my Christmas party next week, and even as a teetotaller I shall be enjoying myself along with my hard-working colleagues.

At the end of the week, we had a sad event. Every year (Covid allowing) we have a lovely service of remembrance for our associates from the street community who have passed on. We started this some years ago. No one seemed to care, but we do and so we set up the service with the Vicar of St Luke’s on Gas Street.

It’s a simple service. We name those who we know to be beggars, addicts, homeless, sometimes all of those things and more, who have died. We say a few words about their lives. We light a candle offer up a symbolic bottle of water.

Our Wardens move beggars on, but we always offer a bottle of water. We pray for and think about their lives. Vicar Tim offers some kind words and sings a song. Tim Hughes is a rock star of vicars – look him up on You Tube.

I find it a very moving occasion and it resonates with me. I just wish I could turn back the clock and say something to those who have passed that could prevent the early end of a life. You can’t, but we can take solitude and remembrance in their lives and celebrate our fellow humans. God Bless them.

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