The new chairman of a Birmingham business improvement district has set out a bold vision for the area which could see it hosting ‘Westoberfest’ – the UK’s largest real ale festival.
Gerald Manton has taken over the post with Westside BID which encompasses the city’s famous Broad Street, a district hit particularly hard during the pandemic because of its large number of hospitality venues.
Mr Manton, who was born in Castle Vale and lives in Sheldon, has now set out his stall with plans to hold night markets, events to celebrate New Year’s Eve and what he claims will be the biggest real ale festival in the UK.
He is a real estate developer who owns and runs GNM Developments which specialises in the residential, care homes and student accommodation sectors and has a string of properties in Gas Street which comes under the Westside BID patch.
Having been a director of the BID for the past three years, he has now been handed the reins by outgoing chairman and NatWest regional director Dipesh Mistry.
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“I joined the BID board to help improve the area from a development point of view and, thanks to Dipesh’s encouragement, I’ve been actively involved from the start,” Mr Manton said.
“Westside is changing due to the numbers of new residential properties going up and I strongly feel it needs a better public realm.
“For example, I want Gas Street to look different, to be all lit up and better linked with the canal so that both people living in the area and visitors feel more comfortable.
“Night markets is another idea I’d like to pursue as, with more residential people in the area, we need to add events to keep them here, spending their money with our businesses.”
His previous experience includes a stint as chairman of Solihull Round Table during which time he helped to grow the town’s firework display by adding £90,000 in profit and visitor numbers hit 18,000 people.
He feels the Westside BID area does not make enough use of the new public space in Centenary Square so wants to see the city hosting “a huge” New Year’s Eve celebration every year outside the library.
“I also think the ‘golden mile’ of pubs, bars and restaurants would be ideally suited to host what could become the biggest real ale festival in the UK,” he added.
“I’ve been involved in helping the Shirley Beer Festival in the past and on Westside we could develop what might be called ‘Westoberfest’ – reflecting the tremendous success of Munich’s Oktoberfest.”
“With the Commonwealth Games coming up, I want to make sure that Westside is well promoted throughout the country, with people on public transport seeing ‘Visit Westside’ on the train, bus or trams bringing them to the city.
“The BID is all about improving Westside for businesses and I think we’ve got a fantastic opportunity to make that happen by working with the city council to utilise public investment. We all want to continue making the whole area a better place to both live and visit.”
Cllr Waseem Zaffar, Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for transport and environment, welcomed Mr Manton’s appointment and also his ideas for the BID area.
“He clearly has a bold inventiveness for positive change in Westside that will further energise the area and I look forward to working closely with him and the BID team on these exciting ideas,” he said.