Living near Broad Street, I am frequently asked what the noise levels are like. The answer truthfully is: horrendous. Yes, everything is on your doorstep but there is a price to pay- and it’s not just your rent.
Living in Party Central is no picnic. When I first visited our flat it was morning and the street was ridiculously quiet with hardly any traffic. In the back garden, the fountain trickled serenely and all was well. At the bottom of the street was the tow path and the Mailbox. This is the way I walked back to the train, having been lulled into a false sense of tranquility. I took the flat. We needed somewhere near the station and quickly. We moved in and the very same night were introduced to the full consequences of Broad Street crossing the top of our peaceful side road.
Party-goers drive in en-masse from the quiet suburbs to vomit, drink their weight in alcohol, shout, fight (and sometimes other things) in our neighbourhood. Then they loudly drive back to get some well needed sleep and leave other people to clean up after them (by the way, it’s weeks before anything gets cleared up so thanks for that).
Drunken cat-fights, revving cars, motorcycle races. Ambulances turning up as stretcher-bearers. You name it we’ve heard it. We have developed tricks such as sleeping with a fan on to block out some of the noise. But rest
unassurred, as soon as the pubs and clubs let out, the chaos begins. And it isn’t just confined to the weekends either.
Weirdly, for a while the worst night of the week was Sunday, when there was a bizarrely scheduled club night which let out a t 3 AM and prompted a traffic jam complete with rolled-down windows, turned-up base and competitive honking of horns. And don’t get me started on the riots…
A few months after we moved in, a meeting was held at the Town Hall to discuss the anti-social behaviour blighting the residents of these unfortunate side-streets. I heard tales of residents going to their cars in the morning , only to find party-goers snorting cocaine off the bonnets. Then there was the time someone left a mattress on the gates of the opposite building. It was moved over to our side and just left on the floor in the rain. The next night we were awoken by a couple having sex on the dirty, wet mattress – euuughhhh, right? Not to mention the time my husband and I found a drunken, middle-aged Japanese businessman urinating into our street by the Jury’s Inn. Luckily a policeman was standing nearby and we got him to deal with it. The police seldom venture down our road. Why not?
But the overwhelming response of the council was a big ‘so-what?’ They would not finance police patrols down the side streets even though these are mainly residential areas. They were mainly concerned with keeping the club and pub owners happy as Broad Street makes them a lot of money. Fine. But do not keep advertising this area of Birmingham as glamourous and upscale if there is no thought for the professionals who live here and pay the high rent and council tax. The city can’t have it both ways.
And So To The Conservatives…
Now that the big three political parties have decided it’s worth holding their conferences in the heartland of their country, Broad Street plays host to a party conference. This year it’s the Conservatives so this week , there has been the stellar presence (and accompanying circus) of Boris Johnson and the PR-savvy Prime Minister clearing out the Mailbox for those all important ‘I’m just like you’ photo opportunities.
As I write this there is at least one helicopter circling the area 24 hours a day (James Bond and the Queen ready to make their entrance perhaps?)
The major differences on our street are to do with protests. We are normally informed when these are to take place. This year’s TUC protest was unhelpfully scheduled on Saturday as the residents of our street recovered from the usual Friday night onslaught. Instead of the 2 PM start as planned, it kicked off at noon and as the area outside the conference was shut off to the public, the protest went right down our insignificant side street. Complete with whistles, drums, chants and several brass bands:
So no lie-in then. We escaped to a cafe for breakfast. The evenings at the conference are not much better (those Conservatives sure like to party too) as taxis whiz down the street throughout the night and keep the engines humming as they wait in the oversubscribed ranks. The voices we hear outside our windows may be more well-spoken, but the drunken ramblings are pretty much still the same.
It seems a little rich when governments promise to tackle antisocial behaviour to make the lives of quiet people better but then contribute negatively to the atmosphere of my little corner of the world.
Next time, keep it down will you, party animals?