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October 7, 2021

A Look Back at Life in Birmingham in the 1980s

Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands, England. By the 20th century it had become the metropolitan hub of the United Kingdom's manufacturing and automotive industries, having earned itself a reputation first as a city of canals, then of cars, and most recently as a major European convention and shopping destination. The recession of the early 1980s, however, saw Birmingham’s economy collapse. The city itself lost 200,000 jobs between 1971 and 1981, with the losses concentrated in the manufacturing sector; relative earnings in the West Midlands went from being the highest in Britain in 1970 to the lowest in 1983. By 1982 the city’s unemployment rate approached 20%.

Princess Diana arrives to officially open Acorns Children's Hospice, December 1988.

As one of the United Kingdom’s major cities, Birmingham is considered to be the social, cultural, financial, and commercial center of the Midlands. In the years following the Second World War, the face of Birmingham was heavily changed by a major influx of immigrants from the Commonwealth of Nations, with large communities from Southern Asia and the Caribbean settling in the city. Birmingham also saw a new wave of immigration beginning in the early eighties, this time from communities that do not have Commonwealth roots, such as Kosovo and Somalia.

Nevertheless, it was without a doubt that the eighties left some impressive marks in people’s memories, with the opening of the first SuperPrix, the construction of the International Convention Centre, the coldest ever winter since 1908, and the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. Take a look back at life in 1980s Birmingham through these 34 fascinating vintage black and white photographs:

Prince Charles on a visit to Balsall Heath, 1980.

Workers on strike outside Round Oak Steelworks, Brierley Hill, February 1980. The site was later to become the Merry Hill Shopping Centre.

Rover workers take a ballot at Longbridge, October 1980.

Great wet snowstorm and the coldest spell of weather the UK had experienced at this time of year since 1908, April 1981.

Street party for the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer at Blythswood Road in Tyseley who set up a rousing cheer as their party got underway, July 1981.

Scenes from the Handsworth riots, July 1981.

Hundreds of people, including an 80-strong party of sailors from H.M.S. Birmingham, attend the Remembrance Day service at Birmingham Hall of Memory, November 1981.

Castle Vale flats, April 1983.

Corporation Street showing some of the shops including C&A, ABC Warehouse and H. Samuel jewellers, July 1983.

Duran Duran in Concert at Villa Park, July 1983.

Muhammad Ali is mobbed by fans and supporters in the streets of Birmingham, August 1983.

Smoke darkens the wintry scene as fire rages through Bingley Hall, Broad Street, January 1984. This was to become the site of the ICC.

Pickets at Lea Hall Colliery, Rugeley, Staffordshire, March 1984. Arthur Scargill, president of the NUM, declared that strikes in the various coal fields were to be a national strike and called for strike action from NUM members in all coal fields.

The Queen receiving flowers from the crowd at the opening of Birmingham International Airport, May 1984. This is the new terminal building moved from the old Elmdon site.

Billy Graham, American Christian evangelist, Mission England Crusade, Villa Park, Birmingham, July 1984, with special guest, singer, Cliff Richard.

Mell Square in Solihull, with the fountains in the middle, October 1984.

Penns Hall Hotel in Penns Lane, Walmley, being set up as the Crossroads Motel for filming, May 1985.

Grand opening of Hamleys Toy Shop, Bull Street, October 1985.

The Bull Ring market at night overlooked by the Rotunda, 1986.

The Woolworth store in the Bull Ring, March 1986.

Bristol Road Selly Oak looking towards the railway bridge with the Birmingham University clock tower in the background, May 1987.

Completed trackwork inside Snow Hill Tunnel ready for the re-opening of rail services from Birmingham to Stratford, August 1987.

The Superprix in Birmingham, August 1987.

Shoppers at the Pavillion Centre, November 1987.

A typical Thursday afternoon in the open air markets in the Bull Ring, December 1987.

Solihull Central Library and Theatre before Touchwood encased it, December 1987.

Thousands of young pop fans gather at the Bull Ring Shopping Centre for pop singer Tiffany, January 1988.

Thousands of young pop fans gather at the Bull Ring Shopping Centre for pop singer Tiffany, January 1988.

Aerial View of Spaghetti Junction, June 1988.

Bros at BBC's Pebble Mill Studios, to launch Radio One's new frequency, September 1988.

Bros at BBC's Pebble Mill Studios, to launch Radio One's new frequency, September 1988.

ICC under construction, October 1988.

Crowds gather at Sarehole Mill for the start of the Walkathon, April 1989.

(via Birmingham Mail)


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