Welcome to my place ... Birmingham
Professor of Global Legal Studies at the University of Birmingham's guide to England’s second city
Fiona de Londras with the Barnacle geese in Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham
Fiona de Londras grew up near Dundrum in Co Tipperary, went to school in Tipperary town and university in UCC. In 2012 she became a professor at Durham University and commuted from Dublin until 2014. Since 2015 she has been the Professor of Global Legal Studies at the University of Birmingham. She lives in Moseley in Birmingham with her wife, a historian from Celbridge, Co Kildare.
What do you like about living in Birmingham?
The energy! Birmingham is a diverse, thriving city. That diversity gives Birmingham an incredible energy, which shows itself in everything from the food and cultural events, to the shops on the high streets of the villages that make up the more suburban parts of the metropolitan area.
Where is the first place you bring people to when they visit Birmingham?
The Pen Museum; truly the greatest museum in the city. The history of pen making in Birmingham is a history not only of how the city became rich, but also of the spread of literacy and empire-influenced industrial developments in Birmingham.
The top three things to do in Birmingham that don’t cost money, are ...
Visit Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to see the Staffordshire Hoard and pre-Raphaelite, Birmingham-school art.
Go to a free lecture, talk or concert offered by one of the city’s three main universities. Between them, Birmingham, Aston, and Birmingham City universities provide hundreds of free events for the city every year.
Walk! They say that Birmingham has more parks than Paris and more metres of canal than Venice. Walking the canals or the greenways is a beautiful way to explore the urban rurality of our surprisingly green city.
Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Birmingham?
Nobody should leave Birmingham without eating a curry, preferably a balti. There are some great, quite fancy curry houses in the city centre, but for a proper Birmingham curry experience take a bus out to Sparkbrook, Sparkhill or Balsall Heath and visit the Balti triangle. All curry houses are especially good for vegans and vegetarians, but be warned than in many of the very best ones no alcohol is available! You will have to go to an off licence for that and bring your own if it is acceptable.
Where is the best place to get a sense of Birmingham’s role in history?
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has an excellent local history section. The Pen and Jewellery Quarter Museums are unmatched for our industrial history, and there is a wonderful Back to Backs museum that offers a sometimes-grim insight into Birmingham’s social history. Birmingham’s urban development is intimately connected with Unitarian and Quaker history, and Winterbourne House (part of the University of Birmingham) offers a fascinating insight into the co-mingling of religion, industry and social justice activism in the city.
What should visitors save room in their suitcase for after a visit to Birmingham?
Samosas (best bought from sweet shops in Balsall Heath), silver or jewellery from any of the independent jewellers in the Jewellery Quarter, and a piece of iconic Brumhaus art.
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