Perspective: What Is Bullring Actually Herding Us into?; as Shoppers Descend on Birmingham in Their Tens of Thousands, Eliot Whittington Reminds Us That Our City Is for Life, Not Just for Christmas

Article excerpt

Byline: Eliot Whittington

Coming home from a couple of days away I found Birmingham city centre was more musical than I normally notice. Walking through the Bullring shopping centre I discovered that we've gained our very own winter wonderland.

I think it must have a test run, because only a handful of people were there, taking in the music that filled the sweep of the square around St Martin's church, as well as the laser light shapes and spotlight snowflakes, and finally the machine-made snow.

The music was a mixture of dance music and classical. The scale and thought that had gone into the whole thing made seem distant from the tinny Cliff Richard and Slade songs that usually soundtrack December shopping trips.

I hate that Christmas shopping music but I liked the effect of what the Bullring was trying. But still something about it stirred a small worry with me. As shopping music goes it was good, but St Martin's square looks to me like a public space and it was strange to be reminded that it's not.

Bullring is a shopping centre. It is not managed by the council in the same way Victoria Square is or Centenary Square is. Unlike those spaces it's not a common area under our collective democratic control, it's private land we use under someone else's permission.

And perhaps we're less worried about that change because our faith in our elected representatives is at an all-time low. It becomes harder to worry about the erosion of our democracy when it feels less and less like we have any voices anyway. …