AC

20 great things from the Midlands

Gary LinekerThe Midlands has long been the source of almost everything that is good about English – and, indeed, world – culture and history

From Shakespeare to Walkers crisps to oxygen, there’s more to the Midlands than Spaghetti Junction. In fact, it’s where anything of any value – ever – started life

The Midlands – that great swath of England squeezed between the self-mythologising power blocs of north and south on the national map – has an image problem. And that problem, essentially, is that it doesn’t have an image.

1. Gravity

Isaac Newton

Photograph: The Gallery Collection/Corbis

Midlanders are very grounded people, so it should come as little surprise that it was a Midlander – Sir Isaac Newton – who discovered gravity. The Royal Society named the former Grantham schoolboy as the most influential scientist of all time. Beat that, smarty-pants London!

2. Creswell Crags

Creswell Crags

Photograph: Don McPhee for the Guardian 

Did you know that the Midlands is home to what archaeologists have dubbed “the Sistine Chapel of the ice age”? That’s right: at Creswell Crags, a limestone gorge on the Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire border, ice age Midlanders invented Britart.

3. Mercians

Staffordshire Hoard

Photograph: David Jones/PA 

The recent recovery of the Staffordshire Hoard from a field in Hammerwich has provided a useful reminder that Anglo-Saxon Mercia (the Midlands) was politically, culturally and militarily far superior to Northumbria (the north) and Wessex (the south).

4. The US

US flag

Photograph: John Foxx/Getty Images/Stockbyte Silver 

The idea of the US was first cooked up in North Notts by a group of religious separatists who would eventually set sail for America on the Mayflower. Those first persecution-fleeing Midlanders invented the concept of the Land of the Free.

5. The Great Reform Act

Reform Actst Midlands, c1832 (c1895).

Photograph: Print Collector/Getty Images 

The 1832 Great Reform Act laid the foundations of our modern electoral system. And it was basically all Brum’s doing. As Lord Durham declared: “The country owed Reform to Birmingham, and its salvation from revolution.”

6. Gary Lineker

Gary Lineker

Photograph: Andy Paradise/Rex Features

All Midlanders are nice people – that’s a scientifically proven fact – but that doesn’t stop them being high achievers. The sporting world’s Mr Nice, Gary Lineker, is a Leicester lad. The Match of the Day host isn’t above poking fun at himself: since 1995 he’s played an arch-villain in advertising campaigns for Walkers crisps, also from Leicester.

7. Rebecca Adlington

Rebecca Adlington

Photograph: Paul Childs/Action Images

Midlanders are also modest, almost to a fault. Can you think of a more self-deprecating sporting over-achiever than Mansfield-born swimmer Rebecca Adlington? She’s England’s most decorated female Olympian ever.

8. The Salvation Army

Salvation Army

Photograph: Alamy 

The East Midlands has been home to a long line of spiritual radicals, including William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army and a notable equal-opportunities employer. “My best men are women!” he declared with winning Midland eccentricity.

9. Stilton

Stilton

Photograph: Foodstock/Alamy 

The distinctive blue-veined cheese may take its name from a village in Cambridgeshire, but it’s a strictly Midland phenomenon – by law it can only be produced in Leicestershire, Derbyshire or Nottinghamshire using local cow’s milk.

10. Mass tourism

Thomas Cook

Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Leicester cabinetmaker Thomas Cook effectively invented mass tourism in the 1840s. Note that there is very little tourism, never mind mass tourism, to the Midlands.

Full Piece

Why the Midlands is the best place in Britain

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