Once renowned for its prostitutes, Balsall Heath rose in prominance once more during 2005 when it became wrapped up in the vortex of Brum’s very own tornado. A fundraising campaign was launched, not dissimilar to that for the recent Pakistan flood disaster, as it transpired that the vast majority of residents appeared to have no household insurance to rectify the damage. Thankfully, liberally-minded Britons came to the rescue and bailed them out, along with a hefty grant from the city council (a quango was also set up to advise on how residents could protect against future ‘natural disasters’).
All very well, but one must ask: why bother? Balsall Heath was never an affluent area, however, it appears that the hard working classes have long moved on. Today, Balsall Heath resembles a shanty town; once grand buildings (civic and otherwise) have decayed and fallen into disrepair, whilst the shops flanking either side of the Moseley Road consist of a hotchpotch of cheap mobile phone dealers, tatty grocers and halal meat parlours, and neon lit fried food joints nestling in between sari dressmakers and asian gold jewellers. Anything else is boarded up, though ‘activity’ goes on above – usually under the guise of ‘immigration solicitors’.
Driving through the area is advised; those who are respectably dressed are conspicuous by their absence, however, if it’s religious fundamentalism you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. The liberal intelligentsia of Moseley who reside on the ‘frontline’, aka Park Hill, Augusta Road and Trafalgar Road, merely role their eyes in distain over a glass of vintage Shiraz and send their offspring to independent schools, well away from from the horror that confronts them in their local establishments.
And if you thought daytime was bad enough, do not under any circumstances get out of your car at night. This is when Moseley Road fills up with an ‘eclectic’ mix of locals, including bad boys racing up and down in brum brum go faster suburus and imprezzas, individually crafted from welded chassis complete with blacked out windows, neon headlamps and bass speakers whose raps and beats can be heard in China.
You have been warned!