The Notting Hill of Birmingham

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Balsall Heath Forum website

I must admin I am as guilty as the next person of making assumptions about an area I’ve never visited based on what I’ve read. Balsall Heath was one of those areas. Although I am aware of the excellent work done by Balsall Heath Forum and others in the area, it still wasn’t somewhere I would immediately consider when looking for somewhere to live.

However, on behalf of the wellbeing KLOE, I recently visited a project run by ‘Saheli Women’, and spoke to residents of Balsall Heath. My previous misgivings have now changed completely.

‘A hidden gem’ and ‘The Notting Hill of Birmingham’ were two of the really positive descriptions that came from the residents. Another who moved there from another area of the city said “Balsall Heath is a wonderful place to live, much better than where I lived before. Not many people move away from this area, why would they?”

The overall view from the group was that it is a welcoming place having a real sense of community. People enjoy living there, its peaceful, residents help each other out, some neighbours will take round food to welcome newcomers. “You’ll never go hungry here at Ramadan”.

The sense of wellbeing within the group was high, based on the strength of community enjoyed there by people from it’s range of diverse backgrounds. They were keen to end the previous stigma attached Balsall Heath which is based on events of the past, and not on the vibrant urban area that it is now.

By the end of the session I was thinking ‘should I sell up and move to Balsall Heath?’. If anyone is in doubt, I would recommend they go and actually see the place and speak to the people who live there before forming an opinion based merely on perception.

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  1. orangejon

     /  27th June 2012

    Depends if you’re Muslim or not. My experience of living here (as an atheist) is that it’s nothing special. There’s lots of traffic and very little nightlife, cafes or other social space where you’re likely to be able to strike up a conversation with your neighbours, with the notable exception of the wonderful Ort cafe. On the plus side, the rent is cheap, Cannon Hill Park is beautiful and it’s well-located to reach Moseley (where there’s a couple of nice pubs), Kings Heath (where there’s some nightlife, restaurants and a couple of cafes) or the city centre.

  2. Emb

     /  6th July 2012

    I think to really bring the comminity to together, it is imperative to include the younger genrations.
    starting off with the really young people of the community from 5/6/7 plus years old, involving them in small projects arounds there area so they feel part of their community and in future are more likley to be proud of where they live and more importantly be relucatant to be part of any anti social behaviour, as they would know that there hard work has gone into improving their area.

  3. Nothing to do with what religion you are .Muslims go along to the Catholic church fete, Jews go along to Carabean evenings. Balsall heathens are the best because we all love food!!lol..
    Hilltop cafe has the most heavenly Somalian food and the Lebanese bakery is amazing. Up the road is food from Afghanisan..also delicious, and now we have a veggie cafe which i have not yet tried but intend to.It was me who called Balsall Heath Birminghams Nottingham Hill because i think it is .The Birmingham mix mixes well together here, because most of us are cool who live here , we just say ‘live and let live and make sure you eat well ‘!

    • orangejon

       /  8th July 2012

      Lucky you, nobody told me about that! The Balsall Heathen seems fairly useless for What’s On. The closest I used to get was when some children (and occasionally) used to knock on my door.. but as soon as they saw my white skin they said “oh sorry, not muslim!” and went away again. 😦

      Ort cafe, on the other hand, is amazing. The crown jewel of Balsall Heath, in my opinion. There’s always so much going on there and everyone is welcome.. it’s one of those magical places where it’s fine to go alone and just talk to random people you meet there! I definitely recommend checking it out and keeping an eye on their programme for all the concerts, etc. – it’s so much more than a veggie cafe.

  1. “The Notting Hill of Birmingham”: are we really communicating greater social inclusion? « Bigmouth Strikes Again

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