101 Songs Birmingham Gave the World


As part of our making our 101 Things Birmingham Gave the World book, we promised to make an ‘album’ – an album of 101 songs that Birmingham gave the World. And we did, for backers of our book kickstarter only. Go on, back now: you’ll get the book in time for Christmas — which we invented by the way — and more cheaply that people will be able to buy after it’s in the shops. So it was secret, but the playlist leaked out online so you may as well all hear it.

Our rules were simple — the songs couldn’t have existed in this form without the city of Birmingham. That means Brummie songwriters, musicians, instruments, recording studios or subjects. Where the connections are a little more tangential, well we’ll let you work those out, and you can hassle us and each other in the comments. The other rule: it had to be on Spotify, so no Funky Moped, or Brummie moptops The Beatles.

We’re not saying that it’s the best 101 songs that Birmingham has produced*, but it’s a fantastic 6 hour listen — and of course it will finish with Mr Blue Sky.

101 Songs Birmingham Gave The World: Now that’s what I call Paradise Circus.

See the full 101 rundown here:

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The Wilko Report: Copy, right?

This article was commissioned by backers on the ‘crowdfunding’ journalism site Contributoria, but was not published. However as it is CC licensed we are able to publish here. Contributoria members are able to see the article’s production history.

Local newspapers are fighting a war against the web for digital attention — their advertising revenue and their lives depend on it. But are some fighting more dirty than others: reading smalle websites and ripping off their content?

If this were a case of copy and paste it would be solved easily. If it were a case of news stories it would be just what newspapers have been doing to each other since the first coffee house pamphlets — reporting what’s out there, borrowing each other’s exclusives. But this is more insidious: newspaper websites now trade in non-news pieces and ideas and content for these can be taken from anywhere. Possibly you.

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101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 56: The ‘ice bucket’ challenge

Why did Sir Edmund Hillary drag a lot of people up Everest before taking all the glory himself? Supposedly ‘because it was there’. Why do celebrities stand outside (or in other places that it doesn’t matter if they get wet) in old, but presentable clothes (that won’t be ruined if they get wet) and have some cold water poured on them? Because someone told them too. And because they are just scared of missing out.

Would Stan Collymore jump in the fire just because Benedict Cumberbatch told him to? He’d tell his mum ‘no’, but if it was a jug of chilled Evan, on camera, with a promise of being seen as a fun stand-up guy… All hail ‘the ice bucket challenge’: the challenge being to make sure your audience thinks about you fondly for a few seconds.
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Disappearing Brum

Marti De Bergi first saw the legendarily punctual Spinal Tap in a little club called the Electric Banana but advised us “don’t look for it—it’s not there anymore”. And the director of Kramer Vs Kramer Vs Godzilla is right, nostalgia is a fool’s game.

The gateway drug is TKTVP, street name ‘Talking about old Kids’ Television Programmes’. No matter how it makes those lonely first-year undergraduate conversations in the Union bar seem easier it’s just building up an empty existence propped up only by Shine compilations in your work cubicle. By my age, you’re drawn and haggard and fit only to frequent the back rooms of the seedier pubs in Moseley talking about bloody Tolkien.

But like a pusher, I’m going to attempt to give you false nostalgia for a past you needn’t have bothered to remember. Let’s see if you can develop a simulacra of a misty eye over these gone, or soon to be gone, Birmingham fixtures:

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Lolitics: The power of civic satire


Local councillors often communicate in a torturous combination of management speak and political spin. They share the oratory and obfuscatory ambition of government ministers but lack the support of hundreds of SPADs or the rhetorical benefits of a classical education. But for a time the ruling officials of Birmingham — the largest local authority in Europe — spoke to the city in the simple, grammatically incorrect, language of the internet cat.

A site called Lolitics from 2008 to 2012 took the publicity images — hard hats, awkward grins, pop-up banners and all — of the politicians and added lolcat-style captions, poking a very new type of satirical fun at a group of people who hadn’t quite grasped how communications were working in the world of social media. Council Leader Mike Whitby, a blustering older David Brent in a multicoloured tie, was lampooned as a man who spoke in one noun sentences, while Councillor Deirdre Alden, the most thrusting of a husband/wife/son team on the Conservative benches, became a paranoid princess obsessed with building her ‘shiney (sic) army’ (a group of supporters, most often in hi-vis jackets performing some community good).

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101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 55: Environmental catastrophe


Technically, you could argue that, as the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, Birmingham and the Midlands will eventually gift to all humankind a catastrophic environmental collapse that will ultimately destroy the human race. Some might say it’ll be our just desserts for pillaging the planet’s resources. But knowing what form our destruction will take? Well, that can be laid at our door too.

The time was 11:15pm; the place, latitude 35, some 24 degrees west of Greenwich; the ship, the ‘Guinevere’. Our narrator and his new bride watch as mysterious red glowing lights fall from the sky into the ocean. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that an alien life-force has colonized the ocean depths. In theory, we could have lived peacefully together, co-existing in our separate corners of the Earth. But no, the humans have to go and fuck it up it, sending down submarines to investigate and, when these are destroyed, dropping nukes into the sea to upset the new arrivals. What follows is an escalation of attack and counter-attack until the aliens unleash their most devastating blow: they melt the polar ice caps. This causes sea levels to rise, flooding many major cities and resulting in social and political meltdown across the globe. Serves us bloody right.
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I haven’t walked across the city for a very, very long time

I haven’t walked across the city for a very, very long time. Certainly not since my parents shuffled off this mortal coil. You won’t find many urban ramblers in a city built for cars. But this afternoon I’m going to walk to Kings Heath. If I’m here I may as well see what’s happened since I left. First I strike out at the courtyard of the upside down library, that inverted pyramid of Alpine chocolate that was supposed to say something about the city. Now they’ve opened up three fast food outlets and a truly shocking pub in its atrium, this concrete beast of a building says everything it needs to. I buy a coffee from one of the gaudy takeaways. It tastes cheap and nasty, but I hold on to it, sipping from it as I cross the bridge built over the Inner Ring Road when they started the long job of making the place more pedestrian-friendly in 1989.

Through Centenary Square, avoiding the skateboarders, past the site where the ill-fated Forward statue once stood proudly, like a fat polystyrene gurgle, or a motorway services sign in 3D. Like Birmingham, it was ugly but almost adorable. Almost.

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B’ham Student Guide: how to avoid students

Students are annoying: they sit around in groups wearing clothes that blogs tell them are cool, quoting Noel Fielding (probably, I haven’t listened since 2006), and have endless conversations that are inextricably pulled towards them all listing their fucking A-Level results. You don’t want that sort of thing putting you off your beer, so here’s where to go for a pint in Brum without seeing the skinny-jeans of anyone doing a degree in Meeja Studies:
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David Harewood: Autumn Is Brumming

David Harewood, the actor, is from Birmingham — but has made an advert for London. We think it should be about his home city.

So we recut it, with a little help from Kojak.

We love you Dave.
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Ten things you can get in Birmingham for a pound that will change your life forever

  1. A record from Reddingtons

  2. Eat like a King (or Queen) at Mr Egg


  3. A double vodka in Snobs. And then all the indie you can eat comes for free.


  4. Have 3.33 pisses at New Street Station.


  5. Anything (but not everything) from Poundland as it was founded by a Brummie.

  6. A packet of waxy, horrible posh crisps from the Hare and Hounds when you just want some Smiths or Walkers.


  7. A bag of dodgy Loom Bands off one of the New Street trading posts.


  8. 5 disposable lighters off some guy in the pub.


  9. All rides (Dodgems £1.50)


  10. A trolley from The Asda, to take back to halls of residence or to throw in the Tame.


BONUS: And you can get a photo of Mr Egg from us for £1 when you make the minimum pledge on our Kickstarter.

Pictures: Sean O’Sullivan, Jon Bounds, Dominik Schwind, Sunchild 57 Photography, Vijay Chennupati, Carl Baker, Anne, Elliot Brown

Extra reporting by Jon B, Jon H and Midge.

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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. Pledge now to get 101 Things Birmingham Gave The World: The Book

The PC Satirical Cartoon

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

  • In a park with a sign saying “Moseley Folk Festival”. One of those black-face Morris dancers from Kings Heath is talking to a security guard of African descent in a high-viz jacket with “security” on the back. The security guard is saying: “so you couldn’t find any actual black people at this festival then?”

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