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EDL made presence known but it was soon business as usual on Broad Street

EDL made presence known but it was soon business as usual on Broad Street

🕔02.Aug 2013

The English Defence League (EDL) in claiming to be “not racist, not violent and no longer silent” are certainly right inasmuch as they get one out of three. Whatever the merits of that conundrum they certainly know how to mess up a city centre even be it for a few hours as they did on Saturday 20th July. Yet what was the effect on trade on Broad Street?

One of the big problems of the EDL protesting anywhere is the type of people they attract. Be it football hooligans, Unite Against Fascism (UAF) or any like minded fellow travellers. Put bluntly they are all as disruptive as one another. The EDL announced they would be assembling in Centenary Square. Some representing the UAF encouraged their supporters to assemble opposite outside the House of Sport. Had the UAF so assembled, numerous of their supporters could have been severely injured if not killed. As it was, the Police had to physically fight (with shield and baton) valiantly to protect the UAF protestors. Without the Police there could have been carnage and the UAF could have suffered.

That of course is a well considered theory. What is fact, is that wherever the EDL protest the City or Town centre concerned loses out. Broad Street seems to be visited every six months or so by EDL type protests. It’s not pleasant but we do live in a democracy. If I and a few chums want to stand outside the Council House and shout the Queen down, we are free to do so. Long may that be so. Equally if ardent royalists wish to stand nearby to oppose our treachery they can. Long may this be the case also. Irrespective of the EDL’s message, they have a right to speak out. As do the UAF et al.

In the meanwhile we have to put up with all the nonsense that goes with it. The Broad Street area has a multi billion pound built infrastructure. It contributes over £100 million in local taxation towards the Council, Police and Fire Service each and every year. The Exchequer, nationally, is further rewarded with countless hundreds of millions in taxation. Again each and every year.

In “old money” the Broad Street area economically houses the equivalent of five, maybe even six car factories. The Jaguar plant at Castle Bromwich employs about 2,000 and Europe’s largest plant, the Nissan factory in Sunderland 4,500. The Broad Street area comfortably employs 17,000 plus. It is a powerhouse of our local economy par excellence. So when EDL and assorted fascists against fascism descend on the area they are likely to cause no end of problems. But do they?

Certainly during the protest period it was ugly. This accounted for three, four hours, maybe a bit more. Within minutes of the last EDL coach leaving Broad Street on Saturday the 20th, it was business as normal. Stags and Hens in their delightful and ridiculous costumes appeared as by magic. By early evening Broad Street was back in full stride. Admittedly a couple of restaurants closed that evening due to windows kicked in by “not violent” EDL supporters.

Normally we would have expected to see 32,500 people plus on that Saturday. What we actually had was 30,111. Given that Broad Street was at the epicentre of a nasty nationwide news story, that’s not bad. Sure some bars and restaurants lost up to three quarters of expected turnover during the protest period, but overall the street held up well.

Consider also that Broad Street is a destination venue so when the sun shines brightly people tend to drink local. Indeed one of our more experienced bar operators commented of the sun “it’s been shining too strong for too long”. That day it shone very bright. It would be fair to say trade that evening suffered more due to BBQ’s than the EDL. So no, trade is not that affected by the EDL. Broad Street is too strong for that, but the image of our City, well that’s another question.

 

Honorary Alderman Mike Olley writes here in a personal capacity
He is also Manager of the Broad Street Business Improvement District

Cover image: http://visitbirmingham.com/birmingham-areas/birmingham/broad-street-/

 

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