Posted by: Nicky Getgood | August 25, 2009

A personal journey through the neighbourhood

This documentary of one man’s journey into the derelict Birmingham Battery building is one of the best YouTube films I’ve ever seen.  Not because of the production skills of creators Living Proof Films (great though they are), but because of the quite emotional narration.  You really do see inside the iconic building from the photographer’s perspective:

You begin to see the building as having a life of its own.  It has characteristics and charms, like a person does.  I must admit, I felt an attraction to the Birmingham Battery.

Although you do learn some things about the building whilst watching it, you are not left feeling you’ve been told all its facts and figures, instead you go on quite an intimate journey with the narrator and learn how he feels about the space.

Expressing a personal preference like this is far from a bad thing – buildings and spaces are not only special because of their architectural or scenic merit, they become special to people because of the responses they illicit or what happens within them.

For instance, many born and bred Brummies I know get quite nostalgic when walking past Snobs nightclub, a nondescript building which contained many a night of youthful abandon and coming-of-age episodes.  During a recent pub conversation no sooner had one person mentioned Snobs than everyone else enthusiastically chipped in with their stories.  It ended with plans to take a group trip there, to share more memories that walking through the nightclub might bring to mind. That’s the great thing about expressing your reactions to a shared space like that – others will be compelled to join in the conversation with their own tales about it.

Jon Bounds highlighted the importance of sharing personal stories about spaces when he created his Campaign for Real Heritage blue stickers, encouraging us to see that what we feel is important about a place holds as much value as the National Trust’s seal of approval, and should be duly marked:

‘…the real people have history too. It deserves recognition, YOUR history deserves a blue plaque.’

Ben Whitehouse spoke of creating a tour of alternative Birmingham landmarks, asking for suggestions of stories rather than traditional tourist spots.

I’d like to put together a list of places around the city (preferably the city centre) that hold personal resonances for people who’ve visited Birmingham, people who live, work and play here.

I’ve been running my own hyperlocal blog Digbeth is Good for just over a year now and, although it initially just contained local news, events and reviews, as my confidence grew it also unashamedly became my own personal journey through the area.  But I found readers reacted rather well to this, sometimes responding in kind with their own take on things.  For instance, an early post about Guardoggy prompted Bobbie Gardner to comment with her encounters of the dog.

So don’t be afraid to get personal with your site, and convey to readers your own reaction to the area as well as news and infomation about it.  You never know, it may encourage readers to chip in with their own stories and your site could become more than an information hub, it could be a place where a community feels free to express itself.

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