Tommy Nagra is on a mission to encourage Birmingham to fall back in love with the BBC.
Please introduce yourself
I’m Tommy Nagra, head of business development for the BBC, responsible for creating a new vision and identity for BBC Birmingham and putting us back on the broadcasting map. I’m a born and bred Brummie who has returned to the city after five years away in Manchester. I began my career at Pebble Mill in the early 90s and have worked inside and outside the BBC over the last 20 years. I live, breathe, eat, sleep and work in The Mailbox.
What does the BBC do in Birmingham?
We’re the home of key BBC output, including Doctors, Father Brown, WPC 56, The Archers, Homefront and the Asian Network, Midlands Today and Radio WM as well as the HQ for BBC English Regions. The BBC Academy is moving to Birmingham to make it a Centre of Excellence for People, Talent & Skills. We are also setting up a new Digital Innovation Unit at Fazeley Studios in the Custard Factory in 2015 and will be hosting events with partners in the city starting with 1 Xtra in November. In excess of 200 roles will be relocating to Birmingham over the coming six months building our presence across the city with three bases – our HQ at The Mailbox, Drama Village in Selly Oak and Digital Unit in Digbeth.
Is Brum a good place to do business?
Our central location brings real opportunity if we can galvanise our collective efforts to make Birmingham a magnetic proposition for business. Our young, diverse population is the UK demographic for tomorrow and there’s no shortage of talent on our doorstep. Bravery, courage and visionary leadership can really make the difference.
What are your biggest gripes with it?
I hate being called the ‘second city’ – we should be focussing on what we can be first for rather than constantly comparing ourselves with other cities. We are a big city, let’s start talking like one! Our self-deprecating manner is part of our charm but holds us back from showcasing all the great things we have under our very noses. Birmingham was once known as the workshop of the world – the City of a Thousand trades. I now call it the City of a Thousand Twigs – brilliant ones spread across our landscape but what we need are branches and a big tree that screams ‘BIRMINGHAM’ to the rest of the world.
How do you feel your audiences see the city?
Many people outside Birmingham still think of us as the old Bull Ring and Spaghetti Junction. Staff relocating from London are pleasantly surprised when they see the amazing new library, Brindleyplace, Cannon Hill Park and places like the Jewellery Quarter – it’s not what they expected.
What should our priorities be as a city?
To look into the future and start planting seeds now that will flourish over the long term. Our city motto is Birmingham Forward. We need to build on our past legacy and create a new story for Birmingham in a world that is changing at a frenetic pace. We can either watch the bus go by or jump on it and grab the steering wheel. As Marty McFly would say – let’s go Back To The Future!
If you had £1bn to spend on improving Brum what would you do with it?
Build a time machine that allows us to look into the future. Failing that, I’d overhaul our whole transport infrastructure and join up the city through a myriad of connections – whether it be trams, an underground network, or opening up our canals to a world of water taxis and waterbuses. If our time machine became a reality we could even think about skytrains across the city!