'Longbridge - Remembering the past and looking to the future'

By Richard Burden Thursday 17 April 2014 Updated: 17/04 22:03

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Buy photos » MP Richard Burden with members of the Bromsgrove and District MG Owners’ Club. Mr Burden is a member of the group and owns a limited edition 2001 MGF ‘Trophy 160’. s

LAST Saturday saw the ninth annual Pride of Longbridge car rally.

It’s an event where owners of MGs, Austins, Rovers and the other marques that have a connection with the Longbridge factory descend for an April day out at Cofton, the park which sits between Longbridge in Birmingham and the Cofton Hackett area of Bromsgrove.

It’s a tradition which started in 2006, exactly one year after the (then) MG Rover company went into administration.

None of us who were living or working in the area at the time will ever forget those days in the spring of 2005.

Over 6,500 people lost their jobs and we Longbridge lost a factory that had defined the identity of that part of South Birmingham and North Worcestershire for a century. People who had witnessed the impact of pit closures on mining communities in the 1980s say it was the nearest thing to that they had ever seen.

It would have been understandable if the first anniversary of closure in 2006 would have been a day of mourning, but those organising the event were determined it would not be that. Pride of Longbridge that year was what it said on the tin - a celebration of 100 years of car making and of a community determined to build a new future. Owners of hundreds of cars built at Longbridge came to join them from across the country and the annual Pride of Longbridge was born.

Nine years on, there’s still a lot more yet to be done to complete the Longbridge of the future and develop the jobs, skills and aspirations that can transform the lives of young people growing up in the area. But Longbridge is on the march and it’s visible. The fact car assembly is now on much smaller than before, does not alter the fact over 300 engineers at Longbridge today design cars of the future for markets from the UK to the Far East. All this just across the way from a new college, an innovation centre, a new park, new homes and a new Longbridge town centre.

And every April the owners of cars made by generations of workers still return to Cofton Park to celebrate the pride of Longbridge. The atmosphere is unique. With 2,800 people attending, this year’s was the biggest yet. Roll on 2015.

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