Lord Heseltine pays visit to open Birmingham City University site

Former deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine has opened a new multi-million pound Birmingham City University building at the heart of what is earmarked to be the city’s future learning quarter.

The Tory grandee officially opened the institution’s Parkside Building yesterday. It is opposite the site earmarked for the new Birmingham Curzon train station for arrivals to the city on the HS2 line.

It is also near the recently-opened £188m Library of Birmingham, Aston University and Birmingham Metropolitan College.

As he unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion, the Tory peer quipped university chiefs should have done a better background check into his unfortunate track record at official opening events in the past.

He said his record was ‘unequalled in modern politics’ and included a plaque falling off a wall as he revealed it, as well as not knowing which side of a dirk – a dagger – to cut the tape with at a similar event in Scotland.

His peak, however, came in Shanghai when, according to the event’s programme, he was the guest of honour to ‘unveil a plague’ on the city.

University vice chancellor Cliff Allan said it was an honour to host such a revered guest, and to have had such a memorable opening speech too.

The Parkside building has been opened under a £180 million programme to consolidate the university’s eight campuses into two more modern facilities.

Mr Allan added: “This university building will be at the heart of the regeneration of the city and will have a dramatic impact on the population. This will become a learning quarter for the city.”

Among the dozens of guests were former Aston Villa chairman Sir Doug Ellis, chairman of the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership Stewart Towe CBE and former Midlands Today presenter Kay Alexander MBE. While at the university, Lord Heseltine visited the unique papier mâché exhibition depicting the first day of the Battle of the Somme – July 1,1916.

Life-size trenches, poor outdoor sleeping quarters and injured soldiers have all been fashioned as part of the special exhibition, made entirely from paper and cardboard.

The exhibition includes everything from the weaponry and uniforms to lanterns and communications equipment, all of which was thoroughly and meticulously researched to create the TPE Paper Installation: Battle of the Somme.

The 31 theatre performance and event design students took 20 days to painstakingly create the trenches scene down to the finest detail, including facial expressions and buckles on satchels.

Its visitors are bombarded with the noises of war, including gun fire, artillery bombardment and the shouts of soldiers.