101 Things Birmingham Gave the World: The Book

101 Book cover

This is the book that proves that Birmingham is not just the crucible of the Industrial Revolution, but the cradle of civilisation.

It’s the definitive guide to the 101 things that made the world what it is today – and all of them were made in Birmingham.

Read how Birmingham gave the world the wonders of tennis, nuclear war, the Beatles, ‘that smell of eggs’ and many more… 97 more. It also includes a foreword by Stewart Lee called ‘A Birmingham of the memory,’ all about his relationship with the city.

“101 Things Birmingham Gave The World, is not a Birmingham of the memory. It is a living breathing thing, wrestling with the city’s contradictions, press-ganging the typically arch and understated humour of the Brummie, and an army of little-known facts, both trivial and monumental, into reshaping its confusing reputation.”
Stewart Lee

The book is now available to order and released on 12th December.

Read more ›

Posted in misc

Premillennial Tension: revisiting Birmingham in 1999

It’s 1999, Birmingham, the end of the millennium and Jim Vale, aka Jimmy Tyrant, singer of one hit wonders The Tyrants, has lost everything he once loved. Like Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and many rockers before him, Jim tries to end it all by committing suicide at the age of twenty seven. Trouble is… he survives.  To clear his debts the band’s manager suggests Jim fake his own death – just for a while – so they can raise The Tyrants’ profile and sell some records.

But as the press and the fans wonder more and more about the disappearance of the mysterious  Jimmy Tyrant, Jim gets drawn deeper into Birmingham’s gangland and  further  away from his ex-girlfriend, his troubled family and music.

Karaoke-singing gangsters, reclusive teenage internet millionaires, sex, drugs and rock and roll all collide as Jim tries to understand the person he has become, to come to terms with his tumultuous past and somehow make it beyond the age of twenty seven.

27” is a book about one man’s search for love, music and his true self.

In this extract Jim has come back to a city in flux. Birmingham is leaving its industrial past to flat line. It is a city that’s centre has been ripped open and torn apart for the rebuilding of the Bull Ring Shopping Centre. Fin de siècle Birmingham was the ideal setting for a story of upheaval, confusion, fear and change.

Oh, and according to Nostradamus, it will soon to be the end of the world. And the millennium bug is going to help it along. Remember the millennium bug? The music industry was also mutating; the first Pop Idol TV show has been aired in New Zealand and is winging its way like a hungry Pterodactyl to our shores.

We join Jim after he has secured a bolthole in the city centre to hide from the not so bothered press. Now he needs to secure his future with a solo album and find the girl he left behind for a life on the road…
Read more ›

Posted in Fiction Tagged with: , , , , , ,

When was Birmingham most innovative?

101-infog

We analysed the years of the invention of all of the 101 things Birmingham gave the world in our forthcoming book, counted them up into decades, and made an infographic (invented in Birmingham of course – in 1769).

When was Birmingham most inventive? The 1920s.

Find out why: pre-order the book now (released on 12 December).

Posted in clickbait

Birmingham’s got a much greater John Lewis Christmas advert

A lovely upside down christmas tree

Mr John Lewis who is head of Birmingham, has decided that we should spend  £150,000 on an advertising campaign all about Greater Birmingham. It seems the marketing people have been taking their cue from Mr Lewis’s other business — as we can see from this leaked script.


 

From: Andy.Street@greaterbrumminghamlep.com
To: Andre.De.Jong@zaphiks.in
Re: Christmas
1st October 2014 11:01


Hi Andy,

Please find attached first script ideas for the Greater Birmingham campaign DRTV. I feel there may be a lack of Black Country in it — can you discuss with Walsall Council? We could swap Roy Wood for Noddy?

Need a URL for response on the end plate – do you talk to Capita or do I?

Greater Birmingham Winterval Advert

EXT NIGHT: YELLOW LIGHT, AND SNOW, DRIFTS ACROSS THE INNER RING ROAD BY ALPHA TOWER

UKELELE VERSION OF MR. BLUE SKY WITH A WHIMSICAL VOCAL BY NATALIE POWERS OF SCOOCH. It should take a while for people to go “ah that’s what it is.”

A SMALL BOY IN A PEAKY BLINDERS HAT IS WALKING THROUGH TOWN

THE SEA LIFE CENTRE, SAD PENGUINS STARE THROUGH SMEARED GLASS AT AN EMPTY BUCKET, BLOOD STAINS ON THE TILED FLOOR

THE CANAL BEHIND THE MAILBOX IS FROZEN – THERE IS SOME DISCARDED ONE SHOW BRANDING POKING THROUGH

HE STRUGGLES THROUGH THE GERMAN MARKET, THE GERMANS ARE DISMANTLING IT AND SOGGY WURST IS EVERYWHERE ON THE PAVEMENT.

HE GOES TO CAFÉ BLEND BUT IT HAS BEEN TURNED INTO STARBUCKS, A SUBWAY, AN OFFICE OF NEWS INTERNATIONAL AND THE JEREMY CLARKSON FAN CLUB HEAD OFFICE.

TRAFFIC IS BACKED UP FOR MILES, OUTSIDE A CLOSED QUEENSWAY TUNNEL.

SNOBS IS BOARDED UP – THERE’S A LOST LOOKING INDIE KID SITTING OUTSIDE. IN THE BACKGROUND A BULLDOZER ROLLS TOWARDS PARADISE CIRCUS.

HE SHUFFLES PAST BIG JOHNS AND UP PAST SMALL HEATH PARK, THE SWINGS ARE PADLOCKED UP FOR THE NIGHT, SOMEONE’S CHUCKED THE LIFE-RING IN THE BOATING LAKE AGAIN, BUT ZOOM OUT, DOESN’T IT LOOK LIKE A CHRISTMAS WREATH?

THE GARRISON PUB LOOKS A CLOSED AS EVER, PLASTIC ST. GEORGE BUNTING FRAYS FROM THE GUTTERING.

BUT THEN HE HEARS SOMETHING INSIDE – AND PUSHES THE DOOR OPEN ANYWAY…

WE SLOW DISSOLVE INTO HIS POV AS THE SCENE INSIDE IS REVEALED:

THE GARRISON TAVERN IS DECKED OUT IN LATIF’S FINEST XMAS DECS – IT’S A HAPPY CHRISTMAS LOCK-IN.

JAMELIA IS BEHIND THE BAR WITH CLAIRE SHORT – BOTH IN SAUCY BARMAID CHIC.

MARTIN SHAW IS PLAYING CLUEDO WITH TREVOR EVE, AND IS THAT KOJAK AS THE REV. GREEN ON THE CARD? IT SURELY IS.

BOB WARMAN AND NICK OWEN ARE ON THE QUIZ MACHINE, SUZANNE VIRDEE IS TRYING TO SEE OVER THEIR SHOULDERS BUT SHE’S TOO SHORT – SHE THRUSTS HER ARM BETWEEN THEM TO PRESS THE CORRECT ANSWER – “WHO WAS THE NEWSHOUND?  A) OSCAR B) CHIPPER”

STAN COLLYMORE THROWS SOME SCRATCHINGS FROM THE BAR TO ANOTHER PUNTER – TREVOR FRANCIS – WHO TAKES THEM OFF HIS CHEST AND BOUNCES THEM OVER STEVE BRUCE *WHO ROLLS HIS EYES* TO A GRINNING DWIGHT YORKE. FAT RON COMES THROUGH THE HATCH BEHIND THE BAR – HE’S THE LANDLORD, HIS SHIRT STRETCHES OVER HIS GUT – HE NODS APPROVINGLY AND SWITCHES THE KARAOKE MACHINE ON.

THE PISSED OLD CHAP AT THE CORNER TABLE, YELLOWING BRMB T-SHIRT,  WITH A PINT OF MILD AND A PLASTIC BAG OF VEG SPILLING OUT TURNS OUT TO BE A SMILING MIKE WHITBY. THE DOG AT HIS FEET IS THE SPIT OF THE ONE FROM WOOF!

SATNAM RANNA AND MALKIT SINGH WALK THROUGH THE DOOR. A COUNCIL PR (PLAYED BY SOMEONE FROM DOCTORS IF AVAILABLE) SURREPTITIOUSLY PUTS UP A SIGN THAT SAYS ‘WINTERVAL’ OVER A POSTER THAT SAYS ‘CHRISTMAS’ AND THEN GIVES THEM BOTH A WARM HUG.

THERE’S A SAD REFLECTIVE MOMENT AS NEIL MORRISSEY PAUSES AND RAISES A SILENT TOAST TO A PHOTO OF MICHAEL ELPHICK AS BOON FRAMED ON THE WALL.

CHRIS TARRANT AND SALLY JAMES ARE OBVIOUSLY AN OLD MARRIED COUPLE – IT LOOKS LIKE THEY’RE BICKERING, HE BRINGS OVER A G’N’T AND SAYS ‘BUT WE DON’T WANT TO GIVE YOU THAT’ – SHE LAUGHS AND IT’S ALL OK.

MARK ROGERS IS ABOUT TO DO THE KARAOKE – HE’S DOING DON’T YOU WANT ME BY THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

LAWRENCE OUT OF FELT IS ‘MINESWEEPING’ DRINKS FROM THE TABLES, FAT RON CATCHES HIM BY THE SHOULDER – SHAKES HIS HEAD BUT INSTEAD OF CHUCKING HIM OUT GIVES HIM A PINT OF BREW XI.

DIGBY JONES IS WRAPPING PRESENTS TO PUT UNDER THE TREE: A TOASTER, A KETTLE, SEVERAL HUNDRED COPIES OF 101 THINGS BIRMINGHAM GAVE THE WORLD.

THERE’S A BIG OLD SING SONG ROUND THE PIANO, ROY WOOD IS DRESSED AS SANTA, *WITHOUT LOOKING CREEPY* HE BECKONS SMALL BOY TO JOIN THEM. THEM IS WHOEVER WE CAN GET: ONE OF THE CAMPBELL BROS. TURNS TO CAMERA — NO WAIT IT’S ALL THREE, AND THE REST OF UB40 ALL MATEY, ADIL RAY AS MR KHAN, JOAN ARMATRADING, DAVE HILL FROM SLADE, APACHE INDIAN, ALBERT BORE, MARTIN MULLANEY, SUE LAWLEY, PROBABLY KING MALL THE DHOL PLAYER AS IT’S HARD TO GET HIM NOT TO TURN UP ANYWAY, PAUL HENRY – IN HIS HAT IF HE CAN BE PERSUADED, THE SAXOPHONE GUYS – YOU KNOW THE ONE OUT OF THE BEAT AND THE JAZZ ONE, IAN LAVENDER IN HIS PRIVATE PIKE VILLA SCARF, ROLAND GIFT, STEPHEN DUFFY & SIMON LE BON WITH ARMS AROUND EACH OTHER. DION DUBLIN IS TRYING TO GET GEEZER BUTLER TO PLAY A DUBE CUBE.

LES ROSS AND ED DOOLAN – SADLER AND WALDORF STYLE (CLOSE AS WE CAN GET WITHOUT COPYRIGHT PROBLEMS) – ARE SITTING TOGETHER NODDING.

LES ROSS:

There’s nothing like a good old greater Birmingham sing-song

ED DOOLAN:

And this is nothing like a –

HE IS CUT OFF BY TONY BUTLER PUTTING A – FESTIVE – BUCKET ON HIS HEAD

BACK TO THE CROWD – IT’S NOW GETTING TO THE END OF THE SONG, THE SAD BIT

JEFF LYNNE TURNS TO CAMERA FROM PIANO STOOL – HE’S PLAYING MR BLUE SKY NOW – AND WINKS

END CAPTION – IN BASKERVILLE:

Wish it could be THIS Christmas every day?

It can in GREATer BIRMINGHAM


As leaked to Jonathans Bounds & Hickman, Julia Gilbert and Tom Lennon.

Posted in folk heroes Tagged with: , , ,

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 65: Little Tescos in Petrol Stations

The Petrol Station

‘Does it have a mini-mart? A small supermarket, fits inside a garage, sells antifreeze and pasties, that type of thing?’. The words of Alan Partridge back in 1997. One of the most loved traits of Partridge is his ability to highlight the absurdity of the banal. Partridge is in thrall to modernism but the modernism of the mundane is all that he can access, hence his affection for the supermarket-cum-garage.

I’m Alan Partridge arrived during a tipping point for the forecourt shop. In the 1990s a petrol station with a supermarket was a sophisticated new metropolitan invention and as such it was a staple of stand up comedy routines – the gold standard being Eddie Izzard’s surreal queue of murderers waiting at the late night petrol station’s hatch to buy a Twix. Petrol dispensing was, though, still an artisanal affair in many places in 1997.

For example, the petrol stations of my youth, far away from Birmingham:

There were two pumps. You drove in, your tyres crossed the pneumatic tube which made the bell ring and a young guy came out. “Fill her up please, with four star” you’d say. Some light chat, perhaps about the news, weather or football, then when you were done you’d pop in to the little office. You’d hand over a few notes or perhaps you’d “book it” (my local garage was the sort of place that did things on account). There might be a few packets of sweets at the counter, and sundry motoring consumables like oil, tax disc holders and road atlases.

Those were the petrol stations of my youth. Those places were dying off in the 1990s though and the newer garages had more pumps, car parking, a cash point and where the small office used to be, there was a shop. Read more ›

Posted in 101 Things Brum Gave The World Tagged with: , , , ,

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 64: The Second (and Third, and so on) Iraq Wars

330626595_7ec31a2724_z 2

I was watching Sportsnight, or maybe Midweek Sports Special, when the first Iraq war really kicked off, it was the 17 January 1991 and the star attraction on the late night TV show was the Football League Cup fifth round tie between Chelsea and Spurs. Dennis Wise was scuttling around the midfield, about to swing a shin at a loose ball, when all of a sudden there was a flash of light.

The stadium appeared to go dark, lines and movement picked out in only a flickering glow. The floodlights were not white, but green — I would later find out when I watched again on a colour TV — and were picking out not the misplaced passes of Andy Townsend and John Bumstead but laser US Tomahawk Cruise Missiles.

I’d dozed off for a second and coverage of the game had been replaced with live action — of the start of ‘Stormin Norman’ Schwarzkopf’s bombardment of Baghdad. They never showed the end of the game. They haven’t shown much on telly since, apart from different versions of manly America and usually ‘us’ bombing the fuck out of some part of the Middle East. The first Iraq war begat the second, begat the third, and still it begets, much like the famous literature of that general region. And it begets because of oil, and of money, and of power and of war-mongering bastards like Tony Blair. But it also begets because it looks good on TV, and it looks good on TV because of Birmingham.

Back in 1918 Oliver Lucas’s company — Lucas’s to any Brummie — really got working on the military search light and the British forces were able to create “artificial moonlight” to enhance opportunities for night attacks. That practise continued, for many years, but it wasn’t until the days of rolling news that it became a form of infrared entertainment. An entertainment too good to resist sequel after sequel, whatever the quality.

I’ve just looked up the result of the game: it was 0-0. And that couldn’t be more apt if it was a metaphor.

It is a metaphor, guess where they were invented.

Photo, of the first Iraq war (Dennis Wise not pictured) CC By: John Martinez Pavliga

Read more ›

Posted in 101 Things Brum Gave The World Tagged with: , , ,

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 63: TV Box Sets

24 DVD

The TV box set is a thing. It’s so much a thing that it has now detached itself from its own material: a box set is no longer a TV series collected as a set and presented in a box, it is now simply the thing, collected, and placed in a set completely agnostic to the process of boxing. Here’s an example: Sky TV actively promotes watching “box sets” as part of its online services. So you can watch a box set on a computer without ever seeing a box, because the box doesn’t exist except as a metaphor within the marketing material. When I challenged them as to how a video on the Internet could be described as being in a box, Sky’s social media people seemed confused by the question as though through some Orwellian process a box set had always never been in a box.

But why should a company like Sky be so keen to sell us a TV box set in the first place? Well Sky are a very shrewd and successful media company and so they know about things like supply and demand. They also know about trend-spotting and how to make the most of changes in viewing practices. They’ve spotted that you like box sets of glossy telly – they probably knew you liked TV box sets before you did – and so they want to sell them to you. Read more ›

Posted in 101 Things Brum Gave The World Tagged with:

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 62: Nerds

Nerds explained

Pretty much anyone who ever invented or discovered anything of note was a nerd.

Just look around you: electronic devices; carpet; the shoes on your feet. All of those things, just like everything else man has created, from the world-changing discoveries to the mundane, everyday items, only exist in the first place because someone, somewhere had an idea and then worked obsessively to make it a reality.

In other words, someone was sufficiently nerdy about it to will it into being.

You’d think, then, that we’d celebrate the nerd. You’d think that the state of nerd-dom, the practice of nerdery, the act of nerding, would be highly prized. You’d think it would be something to aspire to, but it isn’t. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. Let’s look at the dictionary definition.

Nerd (noun: informal)

  1. a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious.
  2. a single-minded expert in a particular technical field

Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein & Marie Curie were all nerds by that second definition, and all are quite rightly held in high esteem by our culture. Chances are, though, that when you read the word ‘Nerd’ at the top of this article the picture that formed in your head was based not on the invention of the lightbulb, or the theory or relativity, or the fight against cancer, but was instead based on that pejorative first definition.

Not only that, but it’s also likely that the mental image your mind effortlessly conjured up is one that is very similar to the image many others would have arrived at. This is because it is a mental image that is deeply informed by popular culture: The Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons; Moss from The IT Crowd; Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters – socially awkward weirdos who will never, ever get laid. The customers of Nostalgia and Comics. Nerds.

These types of nerd, rather than the cancer-curing, electric light-giving nerd, have a particular function in our society: They are there to make you feel better about your own obsessions. Nerds are effectively a barometer of cool and sit firmly on the bottom rung in the social caste system. No-one wants to be a nerd.

But, and here’s the thing, we’re ALL nerds.

We’re all nerds because we’re all barking mad in one way or another and to varying degrees – we all have something (or more than one thing) that is our ‘thing’. Running, cooking, shopping, DIY, gardening – you name it and I’ll show you someone who is a little bit more into it than most.

My particular ‘thing’ is Pop Music and, as luck would have it, society deems that to be ‘quite cool’. My mate Robson’s ‘thing’ is poetry, and society deems that to be ‘quite interesting’. I’m sure your ‘thing’ is also an equally interesting and sexy ‘thing’. Well done, you.

If, however, your ‘thing’ happens to be science fiction, or computer games, or comics, or – heaven forbid – all three, well, you’re fucked. You are a first definition nerd, you sad sack.

Guess what? This brutal social and cultural apartheid in which all of Western culture blithely takes part would not be possible without the city of Birmingham!

It was here, in 1971, that the first meeting of the Birmingham Science Fiction Group took place. Initially the BSFG met informally in pubs and acted as a space where Science Fiction fans could discuss their ‘thing’ with like-minded individuals, but it soon evolved into a proper organisation with members all over the world and laid the groundwork for a network of other organisations that grew throughout the 1980s and beyond, all of which ultimately cemented the idea of the nerd-as-saddo in the collective consciousness.


Photo CC wheatfields

 

Posted in 101 Things Brum Gave The World

Great Brummie Chat Up Lines, No. 3: Stephen Bill’s Erection

The 70s. When men were real men and real men were Brummies.

As Finger, Birmingham’s Stephen Bill stole several scenes in Mike Leigh’s 1975 Play for Today film, ‘Nuts in May’. This five-minute clip of his loud, brash, and gloriously Brummie entrance into the idyllic campsite atmosphere previously enjoyed by Keeeeeeth, Candice Marie, and a compliant Ray, is notable not only for the staggering amount of innuendo it contains, but also for the precience with which it draws a picture of a modern-day Brum: For Keith and Candice Marie, see the nu-hipsters colonising many of Brum’s suburbs with their folksy bullshit, and for Finger and his bird, Honk, see the indigenous Brummies who have to put up with having their local boozers host Streetfood nights, or screenings of ironically hip 80s movies.

Keep an eye out for the line at 1m53s: “Look at all them bleedin’ bluebells. There’s millions on ‘em”, which serves as Finger’s heroically bucolic opening salvo in his attempt to take Honk up the Ackers in a poorly erected tent.

Use your own bleeding helmet. Eh. Eh. Just hold it. If I peg this out here. Hold it hold it hold it hold it. If I peg it out it it’ll hold it up

Posted in Romance

Silhouette

In this new story by Alex Wyatt, a man and woman get more than they bargained for on a night out in the second city.

Victoria Square at Night

Dark.

 

Darkshining outside and everywhere.

 

Dark through windows, alleyways and doors. Arm-in-arm, couples stroll steambreathed down Bennett’s Hill’s rainsmoothed cobbles. On Saturday, the day when the word is given. Some head home into light, into electric arms. Away from the grip of the dark.

 

Some.

 

Some hold firm in the clench.

 

The Lost and Found.

 

Read more ›

Posted in Fiction Tagged with: ,

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World

Birmingham was the crucible of the Industrial Revolution, but it gave the World so much more…

all of this.

Pre-order 101 Things Birmingham Gave the World: the Book now

The PC Satirical Cartoon

Described for you in text as we can't draw.

  • Interior of a council house meeting room, with wood paneling and a framed portrait of Neville Chamberlain doing his Munich paper waving dance. In the room is a big meeting table: one side are three men, we don’t really know who they are but luckily their name plates give us a clue.

    L to R: Albert Bore, Labour, Council Leader: he has a rosette.
    Bob Kerslake, Chairman.
    Thomas Shelby, Local Businessman: he wears turn of the last century dress including a smart looking flat cap.

    Kerslake is speaking to the assembled reporters (ie one man in a hat with ‘Press’ on it.

    “The conclusion of the review is that we should leave things just as they are, but with a greater role for business in governing Birmingham.”

    The cartoon is captioned: A local tradition upheld.

    Drawn by 

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Service Birmingham & Capita’s Auto Redacter

It's best for commercial confidentiality.

Code by Nick Moreton

Paradise Circus grew out of the famous, now mothballed, Birmingham: It's Not Shit that chronicled and championed the real Birmingham since 2002.