101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 50: Panhandling


If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Despite the protests of anyone who’s ever wanted to make it from one end of New Street to the other, asking people for money is profitable and it will continue. Birmingham has some world class panhandling: the girl with the odd voice and dreads who needs 65p to get home to Bearwood, the squaddie who’s missed his train back to base, Vernon the Big Issue seller who made a Christmas single, and not to forget the historical local begging on a global stage that bought us the ICC with all that European money.

So would you be surprised to see that the city invented a certain type of begging? Of course not, but it happened some way before there was a city to beg in.

In the Domesday Book, Birmingham is recorded as one homestead: worth about two goats. But in 1166 the Lord of the Manor Peter de Birmingham obtained a royal charter from Henry II permitting him to hold a weekly market “at his castle at Birmingham” and crucially to charge tolls on the market’s traffic. Money, in effect, for just passing up New St.

This was one of the earliest of these charters that would be granted in England, and definitely the cheekiest: imagine charging people to come into a rough area to look at some stalls of turnips and mead. Not only did Lord de Birmingham invent panhandling, it seems like he started the first farmers’ market.

Come to Birmingham, it’s yer money we’re after, baby.
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4 defaced Birmingham road signs that won’t surprise you, and then some undefaced ones that might

It’s a cliché, but one of the best things about Birmingham is this sign:

And we salute the indefatigability of the young scamps that keep it going.

Some don’t put the effort in, but scrape a pass:

Some try but fail:

Hey, we’re all in the gutter but some of us are looking at a road sign that can be made to look a bit rude.

But, in general, kids today just can’t be bothered. They’re probably too brainwashed with that aggressive Islamist agenda they have in school these days. Where’s the next Banksy going to come from?
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Start here.

We’re in the paper today as part of one of those broadsheet articles they have about Birmingham these days. We’re actually right at the top of the article, with a link and everything. So this little post is aimed at new people who have come here. It’s a primer in what we’re about.

Firstly, you need to know that we have a manifesto. It spells out what we’re about and how we work.

Secondly, the work. We’ve actually already been around the houses on the generic ‘Birmingham isn’t that bad’ broadsheet feature. That should tune you into our tone. We have a number of recurring features, the main one being 101 Things Birmingham Gave the World (think nuclear war, tennis, Star Wars, the Internet, kettles and the FIFA World Cup).

There’s a lot of other stuff here: short stories, poetic asides, and popular toys such as Birmingham in Real Time – go there to see, in real time, the cost of running the second city – and the Birmingham Transport Strategy Generator.  Our most popular post covered Benefit Street. Oh, and if you’re early interested in that Trojan horse thing, here’s what we have to say about that.

We tweet @paradisecircus.

Thanks for stopping by.

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Paradise Circus is backing Birmingham to win the World Cup


Birmingham’s biggest hyperlocal satirical website is backing Birmingham to take the World Cup by storm — and it’s putting its money where it’s mouth is. In a betting shop, in Paradise Forum.

The team behind Paradise Circus have attempted to devise the most Brummie World Cup bet possible, and they’re staking their all on it — at odds of over 200,000 to 1 — with what they’re calling the Brummie Backing World Cup Accumulator™.

Did they back Germany, three times winners and again one of the favourites? There are connections as ex-Villa star Thomas Hitzlsperger still claims to be 100% Brummie:

But he’s retired.

Did they back Switzerland for the title? After all it’s where Lord Birmingham Digby Jones’ mates probably have their bank accounts. No, as Birmingham itself is unfairly excluded from entering the championship, the bet is all about the players.

First on the team sheet was Villa’s Ron Vlaar who we backed to score the first goal in the Netherlands’s first match against defending champions Spain. As a centre half this might not be likely but the Villa captain has brummie spirit in his bonce and a nod from a set piece is in the plan.

United States and Aston Villa goal-saver Brad Guzan is Paradise Circus’s bet for the Golden Glove award. He might not be first choice between the sticks for Team USA, but that means he’s less likely to let any offensive kickers net past him — right?

England’s potential Golden Boot Winner, Hockley’s Daniel Sturridge is the website’s star man — they’re backing the Brummie to be the top scorer in the whole tournament. His uncle, Birmingham City legend, Simon scored 30 goals for city and the first in the Leyland DAF Cup win against Tranmere in 1991 — so big game experience is in the DNA.


The Paradise Circus team have already started to mentally spend the money,  possibly on 211,806 vuvuzelas or something. They’re still hip, right?

Thanks to Midge and Harry for help and advice.

House photo CC by: Elliot Brown 

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You can lead a horse to Severn Trent Water, but can you make him think?


The Trojan Horse story is a Trojan Horse itself, with more Michael Gove reforms inside. Howard Wilkinson prescribes a shot of localism to be injected into the moral panic.

Do you remember when you could drive right up to an airport terminal door to pick up or drop off your loved ones? But then someone tried to drive a car into Glasgow airport and now you have to spend a fortune to park a long way away instead. There’s no profit in peace boys, but the cunning can derive themselves a real benefit by sneaking in wrapped in a cloak of moral panic and moving everything around whilst you’re not looking.

And so it is that this story of Islamist school governors is a real gift horse for Michael Gove, and he’s gone Greek on it; the moral panic of the Trojan Horse opens a door through which the Education Secretary can burst with a fresh crop of reforms that also happen to play well as a response to “the UKIP earthquake” (copyright everyone). Yes, the real Trojan Horse here is the story itself, and Michael Gove is hanging out of its arse waving a policy paper that says “Britishness”. GOTCHA.

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The Paradise Circus Buildings at Risk Register


The ‘BUSK’ (Birmingham United Services Club) round the back of the Mailbox isn’t the prettiest of buildings, but it is in prime development territory. Since the great fire of 2006 Eddies has been rocking there, but now there are problems — due to a ‘Change in Ownership’ of the ‘Property’ — so we’re officially placing the building on PC Buildings at Risk Register.

Fires seem to plague buildings in nice areas that are well used or loved by uncommercial communities. It’s tragic when they go up in flames, only for structural tests carried out later to conclude that they are best knocked down. What’s lucky is that often firefighters are able to prevent flames spreading to nearby apartment blocks.

It’s a curse that can dog some of the city’s brightest entrepreneurs. Who would know just what delights would have become of the Villa Leisure Centre or the old Holte Hotel if they weren’t so damn flammable in the late 80s and early 90s.

It can happen to old bingo halls like King’s Heath Kingsway, or even beloved pawnbrokers like King’s Heath’s Cash Converters. If it can happen in these areas of high rented housing need it can happen anywhere.

Do help, add buildings to the register here…

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101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 49: England’s 1966 World Cup Triumph


48 years of hurst and counting. On that glorious summer afternoon, 30th July 1966, the sun shone on the British Empire for perhaps the last time. Kenneth Wolstenholme, Alf Garnett, future Birmingham City Manager Alf Ramsey and Jimmy Greaves were all at the apex of their happiness and together they ushered in an age of self-referential Aquarius. But would they have done it without the city of Birmingham?

Of course not.

It wasn’t Sir Alf’s premonition of managing the blues that did it, nor was it Villa park hosting West Germany’s group games and the players possibly drinking too much at the Reservoir Ballroom in Ladywood. It wasn’t even that the whistles blown were Birmingham made.

We won because of the nation’s belief that it was really possible. We won because Mr Ramsey said we would. Mr Ramsey said we would, not because he really needed to to audition for the top job at St Andrews, but because he believed anything was possible.

And anything was possible because of one black a white collie: Pickles who found the Jules Rimet trophy after it had been stolen before the tournament. And was that perky collie from Birmingham? No.

But it couldn’t have been found if it hadn’t of been taken. And it couldn’t have been taken if it wasn’t at Westminster Central Hall (not in Birmingham) for the Stanley Gibbons (not from Birmingham) Company’s Stampex exhibition. Thieves bypassed the millions of pounds worth of stamps, which were being heavily guarded, to half-inch the trophy, which wasn’t. They wouldn’t have had the idea for the heist had Brummies not been there first — pinching the original F A Cup from William Shillcock the jewellers in Newtown Row. But we can’t claim that, that’s way too tenuous.

You see, there isn’t a stamp exhibition if there aren’t stamps to exhibit. And there would be no stamps at all if it wasn’t for Birmingham.

After inventing the post, in Birmingham, Sir Rowland Hill was working out how to make sure people could use it — in May 1840 he came up with the Penny Black, the first adhesive postage stamp. Invention, exhibition, theft, dog, happiness, triumph, ennui — it’s the way we can trail our history and identity, and Birmingham is the lickable, stickable, basis for it all.

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101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 48: Startup Culture

Help yourself to some stock

When Matthew Boulton, James Watt, and William Murdoch stood at the bottom of Broad Street and stuck some post-its on the wall to plan their first sprint, little did they know they would set in motion a revolution that would see the word “silicon” put in front of every inanimate object known to man. Read more ›

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So you want to write a generic ‘Birmingham isn’t that bad’ feature for a broadsheet…

Spaghetti Junction at night

Spaghetti Junction: subs… to the photo library. CC by: Chris Gin

We know that a lot of local journalists look to us for, ahem, inspiration but we were wondering what we could do to help out the hacks on the nationals. Now, the national press do like to show a passing interest in our welfare, but they only really have limited frames available for their stories. We’ve parsed that through our computers to come up with the basic boilerplate you, the national newspaper hack, need to write about the second city*.

To start, lower expectations: Of Birmingham, not your article, silly. The best way to do this is point out that someone ‘right thinking’ said something bad. You could try doing a Google Books search for Birmingham to see if there are any literary quotations, or you could just use the Jane Austen quote. You know the one:

“One has no great hopes from Birmingham, I always say there is something direful in the sound”

And if you like you can forget that it’s not Jane Austen who said it, but a character in Emma. A Character — Mrs Elton — that Jane Austen wrote as a voice of the fashionably stupid.

And talking of fashionably stupid, you could maybe quote Jeremy Clarkson “There are signs directing you away from Birmingham but nothing enticing you in.”  But quote him ironically while you agree with him really (a joke like on Top Gear), which ties neatly into…

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You simply must: be mindful that conversations can be overheard


A series of things you must do when visiting Birmingham.

No. 7: In the Council House smoking area.


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The PC Satirical Cartoon

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

  • A sleek modern train is standing on a platform, it gleams. A sign above it says ‘London HS2 Terminus’. On the information screens the departure is at 12:00pm and the arrival time is 12:45pm at ‘Birmingham Digbeth Curzon St’.

    In the background streams of city gent types are getting off the train laden with boxes, cheap Christmas decorations, toys, plastic stuff spilling over.

    Two more bowler hatted gents are about to get on, they are carrying briefcases that say ‘Dept of Transport’ on.

    Says one to the other: “A few more trips up to Latif’s and we’ll have clawed back that £150M investment.”

    Drawn by 

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.

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