I've considered visiting Solihull on previous trips to the West Midlands but baulked, so decided this was finally the time to go. Compare and contrast.
Solihull very much isn't Walsall. It lies eight miles southeast of Birmingham, rather than eight miles northwest. It was never industrial, having ridden out the 19th century as a small market town. It's well-connected and verging on the rural. It retains numerous heritage buildings. It's affluent rather than just coping. And it's not a very interesting town to visit, as the now-scrapped tourism website confirmed.
The town centre is very much about shopping, always has been, even if the timbered units in the High Street now belong to Laura Ashley, JoJo Maman Bébé and Cafe Rouge. More unexpected is the huge 60s-style piazza carved out at Mell Square, which could feel like stepping into Harlow or Basildon were it not for the abundance of independent boutiques. The latest mall is called Touchwood, a sassy millennial warren ticking the Nespresso, Tesla and Apple boxes, frequented by the determinedly well-turned-out. John Lewis moved into Solihull a decade and a half before they bothered with Birmingham.
The only municipal cultural offering is The Core, a rebranded arts complex containing a theatre, a small collection-less gallery and the town's library. I understood it also contained a museum, but the Heritage Gallery turned out to be a wall of posters and couple of cabinets relating to an anniversary which passed last year, while the Tourist Information section was a rack of leaflets and several out-of-stock bus timetables. If Solihull were a London borough I reckon it'd be Bromley, with the added frugality of Wandsworth and all the thrills of Sutton. I nearly stayed an hour.