Late last year, the Birmingham Post came up with what I think is one of the cleverest features to be invented by a local news brand in a long time.
‘Hidden Spaces’ was a photographic project which showed people hidden corners of Birmingham, arranging access to places which were off-limits to the public.
It was produced as two print supplements, shared on its app as a special edition, and turned into a section on the Birmingham Post website too.
Such was the interest in the project, led by Post editor Stacey Barnfield, both from the Post’s target readers (the business community and those with a sense of civic pride in England’s second city) and the wider public, that it went on to become an exhibition, held in one of the hidden spaces highlighted in the first supplement. It then secured funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to keep the work going.
Now it’s back again, and if there is one idea every editor should nick and do themselves over the next 12 months, it’s surely this one.
Highlights for me include the derelict underground Odeon Cinema, inside the landmark BT Tower and a secret tunnel from Birmingham’s Mailbox to the train station.
What makes it stand out for me (other than the stunning photography) is the way the project has built up a community around it – from the architects who worked with the Post to provide an expert perspective to the thousands who turned up for the exhibition.
Journalists have a unique position which enables them to often gain access to places others can’t, and the Post has used it to help celebrate the city and tap into a civic curiosity which exists in many communities, but which often goes uncelebrated.
That’s why I think it’s probably the one idea every editor should be planning to copy in 2015.