I grew up in a small country town in Worcestershire. As a young teenager one of the highlights of my cultural life was when my mate’s Dad (himself an exiled Brummie) would drive us on a sixty-mile round trip to the Birmingham ODEON to see our favourite bands play. As we approached the venue we'd always drive up Smallbrook Queensway, past a bold sweeping arc of a building the length of two football pitches. It impressed me back then. Its six-storey frontage was peppered with strange pre-cast concrete mouldings and bathed in a gold light from uplighters fixed at intervals along its curve. It seemed kind of glamorous and unusual, and whenever it came into view it always made me feel like we’d arrived in the city.
I’ve lived in cities all my adult life. In recent years I’ve sat on the street several times to sketch the same building, which I now know as Ringway Centre.
On this particular day, I shelter in a doorway from the intermittent drizzle. Shoppers pass me on their way from TK MAXX back to the car park, heads in umbrellas. Ringway Centre doesn't seem so glamorous now. Although I still find it interesting, it’s looking a bit worn round the edges, more tired than it was, almost as if it has grown weary of fending off its recent detractors on the planning committee.
From sketching it I've learnt more about the building. I discovered that it was in fact conceived at the same time I was, and that it was a teenager at the same time I was. It’s then that it becomes hard not to feel some kind of connection.
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Main image © Paul Quigley