Waving to Mr Khruschev; Welcome: Khruschev Waves outside Birmingham Council House on the 23rd A Pril 1956
Birmingham Welcomes the World. I wonder if the man is still alive who gave his own special welcome to a visiting world leader 42 years ago. In 1956 Birmingham played host to one of the key diplomatic missions of the post-war world. A brief stop-overit m ay have been - all of four hours, in fact - but it had its place in history for the most unexpected, and unscheduled of reasons.
In April 1956 the Russian leader, Nikita Khruschev, and Prime Minister, Marshall Bulganin headed the first Soviet mission to the West since the end of the Second World War. There were talks with the British Prime Minister, of course, and a meeting with t he Queen, but there was also a flying visit (literally so) to the British Industries Fair at Castle Bromwich and a reception at the Council House.
The people of Birmingham, however, had little chance to pay their respects to the second most powerful man on Earth, and the reverse was also true. Security was overwhelming and the trip tightly orchestrated, and the procession of diplomatic cars from th e airport did not proceed at the funereal pace usual for a state visit. Indeed, the car rarely dropped below 40mph.
It was therefore surprising not only that a man managed to escape the police cordon in order to shake his fist at the Russian leader, but also that Mr Khruschev managed to spot him. Khruschev was not a man to observe the diplomatic niceties: he shook his fist back. After all, the head of the USSR had shaken a fist at far more important individuals than this over the years and indeed, in two years' time he would be shaking his fist at Marshall Bulganin, and that would be the end of Bulganin.
Anyway, that awkward little moment over, the procession made its way, swiftly and discreetly, to the Council House for a grand mayoral reception. …