Birmingham was the surprise jewel on my extended UK exploration which lasted three weeks. To many outsiders the city does not evoke the same passions as say, London or Edinburgh - mainly because of its industrial history and reputation. Yet, if I should describe Birmingham I would say that she might not be the "prettiest" but she sure has more personality and attraction than most. It was a place of openness and welcome opposites. It is both unpretentious yet sophisticated, quirky but serious, happy and sometimes reserved.
The city appears to be so comfortable with it's multiculturalism and diversity that you are transported from one experience to the next all by an extended network of cobblestone walkways and streets. A glimpse of Korea, India or the Caribbean can all be witnessed within a week although you are always aware of the city's British foundations. The obsession with tea, grande public spaces, museums, general politeness and the orderliness of everyday tasks were apparent from the start.
This ambiance extended to the University of Birmingham were we sat down and worked together as Brazilians, South Africans, French and Brits. The campus feels modern and advanced and the flurry of people and activity provides great energy in which to work in. I've also realized the importance of spending real time with colleagues and how often richness and details can be lost if we rely solely on Skype and the internet to communicate.
The time spent together was very important and I think all will agree that thoughts were streamlined, good discussions were made and the SAPER project is on the right track.
All and all it was very rewarding.
Thank you, team Birmingham for being amazing hosts.
Prof Verna Nel and Chief Executive Officer of SACPLAN, Martin Lewis* attended the second Urban African Planning Conference held in Lisbon, Portugal on 7 and 8 September 2017. It was hosted by the Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning (IGOT), University of Lisbon and the International Planning History Society. They presented two papers; first on the Standards and Competencies process undertaken by SACPLAN and the second about the resilience of the urban and regional planning profession over the last century. Both papers were well received and their presentations can be found under the ‘Resources’ section of this website. Verna and Martin also chaired a successful parallel session at the conference. There were several South African delegates representing seven planning schools, alongside others from different African countries and European nations. *Martin Lewis is also a doctoral candidate at the University of the Free State.