We visit the Birmingham neighbourhood where locals live in the shadow of the Jewellery Quarter

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We paid a visit to an unpolished gem in Birmingham - a city neighbourhood that is often overlooked as it sits in the shadow of one of the UK’s ‘coolest placest to live’

Hockley, a district in Birmingham, England, is often overshadowed by its glitzy neighbour, the Jewellery Quarter.

While the Jewellery Quarter is known for its high-end establishments and vibrant art scene, and was recently praised by The Telegraph as one of the ‘coolest places to live’ in Britain. Hockley has a reputation that is more rough around the edges.

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However, this area, with its unique character and untapped potential, offers a different perspective on city life.

Hockley, BirminghamHockley, Birmingham
Hockley, Birmingham

Hockley is typically ‘inner-city’ in its appearance. The area is dominated by buildings, with little greenery to break the monotony. It’s a stark contrast to the Jewellery Quarter, which is home to well-preserved Victorian buildings and a bustling jewellery trade.

In the heart of Hockley, there’s a place that has remained a constant amidst the changing urban landscape - the White House Pub. This old-school pub, known for its friendly atmosphere and affordable prices, offers a stark contrast to the bustling high-end pubs of the Jewellery Quarter.

A bar worker at the White House Pub, who preferred not to be named, shared her thoughts about the local area.

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The white house pub, HockleyThe white house pub, Hockley
The white house pub, Hockley

She said, “I think for sure our local pub doesn’t care about the glitz and glamour the Jewellery Quarter has to offer. We focus on our customers having a good time, ain’t that right, Chris?”

Chris, a 72-year-old customer who used to live in Hockley, chimed in. He said, “I used to live in Hockley, it certainly has changed, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the appeal of the Jewellery Quarter. Hockley is behind the curtain, no one really knows the community and livelihood.”

Chris, who now lives in Harborne, a posher area of Birmingham with a lot of green spaces, still finds himself drawn to Hockley.

He added, “In Hockley, it’s always the community that I appreciate, that’s why I always come here and have a good time. And the price is certainly better too, compared to Jewellery Quarter pub prices. A Guinness here is £3.00, but Guinness there is £9.80. Come on, that’s certainly something to love more than in the Jewellery Quarter.”

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However, Hockley is not without its struggles. Zoey, who has been working at a dental repairs business in Hockley for over two decades, speaks of the challenges the area faces. “All businesses here have to clean the street themselves, repair the windows, roofs, and all things with no help from the council. There hasn’t been a street cleaner here in about two years,”

She adds: “The area has a rough reputation due to its appearance. We have locals from all areas that come here, but they don’t necessarily feel safe.”

Denture Repairs, HockleyDenture Repairs, Hockley
Denture Repairs, Hockley

Businesses have taken it upon themselves to maintain their premises, with no assistance from Birmingham City Council. The area’s appearance, marred by garbage and illicit activities, deters visitors and sometimes necessitates taxis for customers to feel safe.

These safety concerns, coupled with the area’s reputation, can deter potential customers and impact local businesses. Zoey believes that one thing that needs to change to make Hockley more appealing, like the Jewellery Quarter, is definitely its appearance.

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Hockley Flyover murals, HockleyHockley Flyover murals, Hockley
Hockley Flyover murals, Hockley

She said, “Hockley needs to do better, from garbage to the bad activity. It’s not good.”

Tamia, a 34-year-old resident of one of Hockley’s local flats, sees both sides of the coin. “Yeah, I’ve heard it all before. The Jewellery Quarter is the ‘high-end’ place, and here in Hockley, it’s ‘low-end’,” she says.

Flats in Hockley, BirminghamFlats in Hockley, Birmingham
Flats in Hockley, Birmingham

Despite the stark contrast in reputation and price, Tamia finds little difference between the two areas. “Living in Hockley, I really don’t care. It’s all the same to me, except the prices and the locals,” she explains. “You can also tell when someone lives near the Jewellery Quarter. They’re more high-chested as their houses are worth thousands to millions. But this side of Hockley is cheaper”

Both areas have an urban style, but the Jewellery Quarter is known for its thriving creative scene.

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Despite this, Tamia wouldn’t want to live there. “It’s too much of a fast-paced area, whereas Hockley is more quiet and has more of a community spirit as everyone knows everyone,” she says.

Hockley may not be the first choice for many, but for those who call it home, it’s a place of community, authenticity, and charm that’s hard to find elsewhere. Scratch beneath the surface, and you’ll discover a community that truly appreciates its unique character.

As Birmingham continues to evolve, perhaps it’s time to recognise Hockley’s hidden gems – not just the ones found in the jewellery shops.

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