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UoB Exchange IgersbirminghamUK

The University of Birmingham has a major economic impact on Birmingham and the West Midlands region.  The University educates students, is a major employer, a research leader in all sectors and a gateway bringing in global connections that benefit the city. Even though the University has a beautiful campus at Edgbaston, a physical footprint in the city centre has long been on the University’s wish list.  The old Municipal Savings Bank began to look an interesting project.  Especially with the location of the bank on the new look Centennial square.   

Produced by the University of Birmingham

The former Municipal Bank is a Grade II listed building and has historical links with the University.  Joseph Chamberlain was founder and first Chancellor of the University of Birmingham.  Neville Chamberlain, the son of Joseph Chamberlain was behind the building of the Municipal Bank on Broad Street.  It was first opened by Prince George in 1933 and has a long history of underpinning the wealth of an ambitious city.  However, the bank closed at the turn of the century and the last 20 years has seen the building empty with no tenants. It was famously portrayed as the AC-12 base in the BBC series ‘Line of Duty’.  The iconic safe deposit boxes in the vault were used in a Chanel advert amongst the various roles that the bank filled in these barren years.  In 2018, the University negotiated a long lease of the building with Birmingham City Council and the renovations began.

I was fortunate in my University of Birmingham role to see these renovations firsthand in October 2019 before the pandemic.  During my visit, I took a series of pictures on my iPhone.  I had no idea which room I was photographing, although I remember the vaults where the safe deposit boxes reside.  They are so interesting to see.  Rows and rows of metal doors with numbers on them.  One can only begin to imagine what was contained within them.  The building was being gutted and there was so much to do from floor to ceiling in each room.

UoB Exchange
Banking floor

Fast forward to October 2021.  Hasan Patel who is part of Communications Team at the University of Birmingham invited me to coffee at the Exchange after his Marathon Run. (Follow Hasan on Twitter to learn how to sponsor him on his running diary). We spent an enjoyable couple of hours putting the world to right.  Hasan introduced me to the University team at the Exchange and we visited several rooms in the building. 

Not long after my visit with Hasan, IgersBirminghamUK announced an Instameet at the Exchange.  Immediately I signed up and went along.  This Instameet is a friendly collection of photographers.   We were given access to all areas including the Board room and the former bank managers office which I did not get to see on my first visit.  The other interesting feature is the balcony where the bank manager opened the doors and looked out onto the banking floor to check that the bank was running smoothly.  During the Instameet, this was a favourite spot for all the photographers.

Whilst we were in the vault, we were also given access to a utility room where many of the safety deposit boxes were stored.  Now many of the boxes are placed strategically around the building and are a feature of those rooms which are used as teaching spaces and meeting areas.  This basement room had many of the old boxes and proved to be a fantastic place to take photographs.  There were still some stickers remaining and on one of the boxes the notice stated that this box could only be opened in the presence of a solicitor.  Once again one could only imagine what was kept in these boxes over the years.

We finished the tour and adjourned to the Distillery Pub next to the Roundhouse.   This is another interesting place to visit and includes a wall mural of a canal horse painted by one my favourite street artists, Annatomix.   The Roundhouse was used to care for the canal horses that pulled the boats and has been renovated as a historical place of interest. There is even one of the horse stables on view.

This was a day taking pictures of historical buildings that have been brought up to date in a city that is rediscovering its roots and moving forward.  Thank you to the team at IgersBirminghamUK for organising the tour and The University of Birmingham for opening the Exchange for this Instameet.

I have also included a blending of the old and new photographs in two of the rooms to show how the building has been modernised between my two visits.

Pictures taken with iPhone 11 and 13, camera Fujifilm x100v

If you are interested in joining an IgersBirmingham Instameet then please follow them on Instagram. An account of a previous IgersBirmingham Instameet at Moseley Market is also available on my blog.


There is a sense of achievement when BBC England select your picture to be included in the England’s Big Picture Gallery. This is the second one selected this year. It had quite a reaction on social media amassing lots of likes, if that is a good indication these days 🙂

This picture is taken during my exercise walk in Knowle, Solihull.  It had been raining the night before leaving some puddles on the path.  I bent down and dipped my iPhone into the puddle and got this reflection of the trees in front of me illuminated by the Sunrise. 

If you click on this link you are taken to the BBC England site where my picture is included for pictures taken from 30th March to 5th April

Every year the end of the degree ceremonies is marked by a celebratory dinner in the Great Hall. This picture taken with my iPhone gives a glimpse into the grandness of the night. It is a showcase for the University and many local dignitaries are invited to the event. The Great Hall looks magnificent as the Chancellor, Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea CBE, the India-born founder of Cobra Beer, delivers the welcoming address. The iPhone has captured the colours of the night well. The picture made explore on Flickr and received 10k+ views and was rated the 82nd photograph of the day.

I just thought I would share four of my recent photographs that I have taken so far in January with a story of how they were taken

Another perspective  – The family went for a cup of coffee in San Carlo Gran Café in Selfridges. (Incidentally the coffee there is very nice). I went outside with my grandson and looked up from the entrance to the top of the building. I saw a reflection. After a few goes I realised that the iPhone camera would give the best view. After posting the picture I received so many likes that I knew it was a popular photograph.

I called this the Selfridges Clam although others likened it to a pair of giant lips or a smartie

Metropolis – fun title for this picture of a West Midlands travel tram ready to go into Birmingham. There is another tram coming out of Birmingham and in the distance you can see the latest Snowhill building No3 and the rest of the city. I used my 40mm pancake lens on a Canon 6D. The lens makes you work for the view and it also gives a very crisp image.

The light from the St Paul’s station on the tram contrasts with those form the City

Sunrise over the Green Heart – The Green Heart is a spectacular open area in the centre of campus. This picture was taken on my iPhone and I wanted to catch the colours of a sunrise with a new view of the Chamberlain Clock Tower. The lights from under the benches provided a nice touch so much so that the picture will be featured by the University.

A new view created by the open space of the Green Heart.

Two sides to every picture – The Edgbaston tunnel on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal has been recently renovated and the towpath widened. Taking the photograph meant leaning over the railings and carefully holding the camera to get the picture. Picture taken with the 40mm and Canon 6D. The picture looks as if it is in two halves almost split down the middle.

I am just catching up on my photographs. The following are a set of pictures taken in Knowle Park on a misty morning. There is a part of the park that they have just allowed to grow wild. The early mist brought out the spiders webs and the dog walkers look like beings from another planet. All the pictures were done with my Sony RX100v5 and interestingly the most spectacular one was done with the iPhone!!!

Figures in the mist
More web activity
The beauty of nature
The iPhone picture

The iPhone is so versatile and useful to have on you.  So I always bring it with me when running as you can often capture interesting pictures.  This series shows a few I did on a recent run.  I did see a couple of Herons but the iPhone was not the right camera especially when they flew away.  However there will be other opportunities with another camera.  I remember someone saying the best camera is the one you have with you.  Never so true a statement.

Copt Heath Golf Course

Under the M42

Bottom of Knowle locks

Grand Union Canal