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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 September, 2003, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Bullring opens its doors
Selfridges at Birmingham's new Bullring

A 500m shopping complex has welcomed its first customers.

Birmingham's new Bullring boasts more than 140 shops and kiosks and is expected to attract 30 million visitors in its first year.

One of the centre's flagship stores is Selfridges, which is covered in 15,000 aluminium discs and is said to have been inspired by a Paco Rabanne chain-mail dress.

Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore marked the official opening of the complex on Thursday by unveiling a five-ton bronze bull sculpture in Rotunda Square.

It was the signal for the start of business, with retailers opening their shutters for the first time on the stroke of 1000 BST.

The unveiling of the bull sculpture at the opening ceremony
The bull statue was unveiled in a cloud of smoke
A celebratory Mardi Gras-style parade followed the ceremony, beginning in Victoria Square at midday and ending in St Martin's Square about 30 minutes later.

The opening ceremony was watched by hundreds of people - who had mixed opinions about what they witnessed.

Anthony Carty, 37, from Birmingham, said: "I thought there would've been more people here. The impact wasn't that brilliant, the crescendo wasn't there."

Joe Bohling, 29, from London, said: "It is a futuristic, amazing centre, but there was a fairly tame band and overall it was reserved for the dignitaries rather than customers - it could have been a bit more fun."

But Betty Jackson, 79, from Tamworth, was more impressed.

"I was beginning to think there was not many people about as I was approaching the city on public transport, but there is a wonderful atmosphere," she said.

'New era'

The developers, Birmingham Alliance, used 15,500 tons of steel to construct the new buildings, a quarter of the metalwork needed to erect New York's Empire State Building.

Bullring, which has been renamed as one word, replaces the much-maligned old Bull Ring which was demolished between June 2000 and March 2001.

Sir Albert said the complex is a landmark in Birmingham's history.

"This event, long anticipated not just by me but by everyone in the city, marks the culmination of years of preparation involving thousands of people," he said.

"I really cannot over-emphasise the significance of the opening for Birmingham and its citizens.

"It marks the start of a new era for the city, reborn as a major retail capital and tourism destination, and also with renewed confidence in our future as an international city."

Read a selection of your comments below.

The Selfridges store is one of the few buildings that takes my breath away
Neil, Wolverhampton, UK
An absolutely stunning development! The Selfridges store is one of the few buildings that takes my breath away - you feel a real emotional attachment to it. Standing next to it feels like you're about to be deluged by a huge wave.
Neil, Wolverhampton, UK

I think this will do for Birmingham what the Guggenheim Museum has done for Bilbao - really put it on the map. Even though I live in Durham I cannot wait to travel down to visit this wonder.
Mike Ferrison, England

The new Selfridges store looks amazing but many of the other buildings (which I believe are by a different architect) look fairly average. It all looks a great deal more inviting and better-planned than the old Bull Ring though.
Robert, London, UK

Well, anything had to be better than the old Bullring - probably the grottiest place I've ever been in any country. One problem with the new Debenhams though - as soon as the sun comes out, it's going to blind people on the street in all directions...
Rob Cheesman, UK

I wish it all the best
David, England
I used to live and work in the West Midlands (Walsall, Wolverhampton and Dudley) and I have to say that the old Bull Ring was a complete 1960's mess; concrete slabs, dark and dank underpasses, designed by architects who knew they would be living and working somewhere out in the country. In recent years Brum has been revitalised, with its conference, exhibition and convention centres, canal side pubs and restaurants, and the redesign of the centre. I wish it all the best.
David, England

Well, it's nice to see we're moving towards the 1950's dream of sci-fi architecture in our cities. However I'd hate to be the guy whose job it is to clean all those metal discs.
Jo, UK (currently in Texas)

As a reinvention of the area, no doubt it will serve its purpose (although personally I find the Selfridges building hideous). I fail to see, however, that the buildings will weather and age any better than the original Bull Ring did. I give it 30 years.
Stuart, Birmingham

I think that Birmingham will fall into the same trap as when it was very first built, it will become dated very quickly, although I hope not. My daughter is working in House of Fraser and I am quite sad that it hasn't had much of a look in as they have gone to great lengths to improve what was already a brilliant shop.
Jennie Anderson, UK

The BBC's Peter Lane
"Everyone who we have spoken to has given the new development the thumbs up"

Historian says Bullring lacks heart
04 Sep 03  |  West Midlands
New Bullring but same old problems?
03 Sep 03  |  West Midlands
Crowds cast their eye over Bullring
04 Sep 03  |  West Midlands
Changing faces of Bullring
03 Sep 03  |  Photo Gallery


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