In Their Own Words: Andy Street
In every issue of JQ Life Magazine, we invite members of the JQ community to tell us about their JQ in their own words. In this issue, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, shares his favourite things about the JQ and his vision for its future. Read the full version of JQ Life Issue 8 on our website.
Name: Andy Street
Organisation: West Midlands Combined Authority
Job Title: Mayor of the West Midlands
My role as Mayor of the West Midlands is to champion Birmingham and the West Midlands, which means bringing together Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton as a team. Before being Mayor, I was Managing Director at John Lewis, and spent my working life on the High Street.
I think we have achieved a great deal, but there’s lots more to do. We’ve linked up the region better with the extension of the Metro, we’re building new homes quicker than anywhere else in the UK, and our Housing First scheme is starting to make a difference to help rough sleepers.
But the thing I’m most pleased about is I have shown that someone can come into politics, who isn’t a career politician, and I have proven that this job can be done in a business-like way. I’ve always thought that this role is like a job interview with two million people, and on the whole, I believe we have done what we said we would do.
Andy on the JQ
On the developing JQ…
What makes the Jewellery Quarter such a gem is the special mix that it has between brilliant places to live, small traditional workshops, brilliant places to socialise, and important heritage. As it develops, it’s essential that mix is maintained. So, that means that – while I’m not the planning authority – I’m very clear that any planning consent must always be respectful of existing businesses.
On independent businesses in the JQ…
It’s those businesses that bring uniqueness and differentiation. Individuals express themselves through their brand loyalty to those independent businesses, and they bring character to an area.
The Jewellery Quarter is an example of a place where independent businesses have thrived, and it’s something that a lot of other high streets would like to emulate.
On the JQ’s accessibility…
Public transport is improving, thanks to the extensions of the Metro, but my hope is that in a second term as Mayor we will be able to decisively improve pedestrian access by linking the city centre with the boundary of the Jewellery Quarter, which remains a barrier. This has been talked about for many years but I’m hopeful that the improving economy of the city centre would give us the justification for solving this once and for all.
My JQ, My Picks
What’s your favourite way to spend a day off in the JQ?
I’d start the day with a good walk along the canal. Then, I’d perhaps drop into one of the galleries to have a look at what’s going on. I’d finish the day at 40 St Paul’s gin bar, which is the best in the world. For a special treat, I’d have something to eat at Folium. Follow an exciting, innovative meal at Folium with an award-winning gin at 40 St Paul’s.
What would you change about the JQ?
Access to the Jewellery Quarter from the Colmore district is simply not good enough – that needs to be changed.
What do you wish people knew about the JQ?
I think people ought to know about all the famous Brummies who are buried in the cemeteries in the Jewellery Quarter. The list is incredible. If you go to the Warstone Lane and Key Hill cemeteries, you’ll find the last resting places of local people who genuinely changed the world. Discover the latest about the cemeteries on our website.
What’s your favourite memory in the JQ?
Attending St Paul’s Church Carols by Candlelight. It’s the perfect start to Christmas.
Where’s your lunch break go-to in the JQ?
For lunch, I’d pop into Urban Coffee or Pasta di Piazza. Enjoy a great selection of food and coffee at Urban’s JQ location (www.urbanemporiums.com/jewellery-quarter) or get an authentic taste of Italy at Pasta di Piazza.
Favourite fact about the JQ?
The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists is one of the longest established art societies in the country. And it’s incredibly impressive. The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) is an artist-led charity which supports artists and promotes engagement with the visual arts through a range of exhibitions, events and workshops.
What’s your top tip for a visitor to the JQ?
Take your time and open your eyes to take it all in – and start with the museums.
Favourite place in the JQ?
I love St Paul’s, the museums and galleries, and I know many of the restaurants in the Jewellery Quarter very well too, but I think I’m going to have to say the Big Peg because we have chosen it to be our campaign headquarters this year! Set right at the centre of the JQ, The Big Peg offers stylish office space to a wide variety of businesses.
What excites you about the JQ’s future?
Actually, I’m excited about how the influence of the JQ’s success is now spilling into the Gun Quarter and encouraging similar development over the road. The fact that it is spilling across the boundary into a neighbouring quarter illustrates the momentum behind the growth of the JQ.
How would you sum up the JQ in three words?
One word will do – unique!
Keep up to date with the latest from Andy Street at www.fb.com/andy4wm