A Look Back at Life in Birmingham in the 1980s

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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.

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