Birmingham’s Mannequin Challenge—Forward whilst standing still

Villa’s defence have been doing the mannequin challenge since last season, way before the current craze started. And Birmingham is always ready to jump on such a bandwagon for promotional purposes, but what would a Birmingham mannequin challenge look like? Luckily we’ve got a leaked email from internet marketing guru Andre de Jong…

To: John.Clancy@birmingham.gov.uk

From: Andre.De.Jong@zaphiks.in

Re: Forward while standing still!

29th November 2016 11:03

Hey John Clancy!

How’s everything going? Not too worried that the new metro mayor will usurp all your powers? Good job on hiring Paul Dale btw, all the better to neuter any scrutiny. Anyway, Andre here, we met at the social media cafe thing, where the students are students and the PR people are nervous.

We’ve been brainstorming a thought shower for you on the new internets sensation. And the best bit is you don’t have to do anything at all. Literally Birmingham just has to stand still. Like under the Tory/Lib Dem coalition, am I right, JC?

So, how about we do a mannequin challenge with all of Brum’s great stars? We just set up a Brumagem Hogarthian tableau and film it. Then, profit!

I figure we do this at an artisanal street food market. If we can’t do it tomorrow then there’s another one the next day. And now the MDMA stall’s closed there’s not too much movement anyway.

So first we see the bar staff at the fighting Cocks—they have a craft beer pop-up and are moving speedily to serve you.

The pie stand has run out, and Steve Bruce is standing nearby looking embarrassed. Some Villa supporters are cheering him but there is a long queue made up of Blues fans, Remi Garde and Tim Sherwood who all look sad. The pie shop is run by Andy Street who is disappointed that he knowingly oversold.

Talking of the football, ex-Villa star Gareth Southgate is full of anticipation as a man from the FA looks like he might be about to give him a job sometime soon.

Lenny Henry is half way through delivering one of the many duties that BCU’s chancellor actually has. Maybe he’s sorting out the bins or something. Talking of bins, Marco Pierre White’s team from the restaurant at the top of the Cube are doing ‘everything they can’ to clean up and get a better safety certificate.

At a table with a laptop, Jess Phillips is writing a column. She’s done one word: “I”. Her husband is making a sandwich and picking up a good pay cheque.

Keith from the Prince of Wales is there with his laptop too: caught halfway through starting an online petition to stop something that isn’t happening happening.

The UB40s who like Jeremy Corbyn are running a falafel store. The UB40s who don’t like Jeremy Corbyn are telling people how falafel stores are so over.

Now the camera swings around to where the Mosley Labour Party are doing some voter ID, moving as quickly as ever to open the train station, and we keep moving over to the entrance to the market. Andrew Mitchell is caught having a nice joke with a police officer—he’s holding a gate open so the officer can wheel his bike through, and all is forgiven. Another police officer is buying some sourdough bread from Jamelia, but she’s insisting on seeing his ID before giving him the forces discount. You can never be too sure.

And who is next? Here’s Gisela Stewart! She has a bap of something pulled she thought she wanted but she seems a bit taken aback by the price. Careful what you wish for.

And then lastly the camera comes past Albert Bore who is looking in the back of a cupboard for the Capita contract.

Kind Regards

Andre

Posted in clickbait, lolitics Tagged with:

Promoter explains Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market

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On Trump(ets)

By popular demand, here is our hot take on the Trump election. Sorry we kept you waiting, it’s a complicated business.

A Trump rally. It's in Birmingham, Al.

Broadly speaking, this isn’t a Birmingham issue. We are not aware of anyone with a Birmingham connection called D. Trump who we can interview about their tangential relationship to the President-Elect. We do not know of anyone from a B post code who is a distant relation to Hilary either. We do not know how Birmingham can make America great again.

We do know that Trump’s election is one of several markers of a shift to a less tolerant and less progressive world. The other markers include the rise of the right at home and abroad, the Brexit vote, the movement of Tory policy in the direction of their right and the hardening against the left by those who claim to be on that side of the centre.

We know that amidst that backdrop we are electing a Metro-mayor next year. Listen not just to what candidates are saying, but look at what they represent: the ideologies and records of their parties and partners; they may talk anti-politics or ‘best midlands’, but be sure that this is politics and those businesses or media organisations that help candidates are buying influence for them, not you.

You can’t do anything directly about Trump, but you can make small steps against that system by focussing on the things you can affect.

Birmingham can make America great by starting with making Birmingham great. Actually great: fair, equal, friendly, welcoming, rather than boosteringly tooting on your tremendously, I mean really tremendous, Trumpet bigly. Go do something: buy a homeless person a tea, help someone with their bags at New Street, call out the Mail’s Facebook commenting racists—just be nice.

It’s not the End of the World, for that you have to get the 16 to Handsworth.

Posted in comment, Politics

#boingboing — John Lewis comes to WBA

Continuing the hot 2016 meme of unsecure private political comms, here’s another hacked correspondence from digital experience agency Zaphiks to their biggest client

To: Andy.Street@greaterbrumminghamlep.com

From: Andre.De.Jong@zaphiks.in

Re: Christmas Teasers — #boingboing

8th November 2016 14:02

Hi Andy,

How’s the shop going? I hope it is ready for Christmas because my goose is fat.

As you know the advert for your shop is super important for Christmas. So we started today the teaser campaign. It is very cool. The campaign is called “Boing Boing” and we went big on the #boingboing hashtag for it today

I think some people think we made a mistake because we didn’t realise that the football fans of West Bromwich use this hashtag all the time, but actually it’s all part of the plan. The advert isn’t about a dog, that’s just a red Hollandse nieuwe haring. We’re bringing Christmas to the Midlands!

Yes actually the advert is a story about the “football widow” and her husband is at the big game doing boing bounce. How will they connect and talk? They’ll buy some things from the shop! Happy Christmas to everyone!

Here’s a rough cut for you.

Sure it’s a bit 1970s but it’s all very Brexit, and I think your mayor voters will like it a lot. Also the Labour guy likes this team, so it’s good for you mix it up a bit.

Kind Regards

Andre

ps we just need to add the pay off now, what present can he get for her on the way home from the game? Do you sell Baggies hats and orange chips?

 

 

Posted in lolitics

Eating out

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A film and a burger. Deck chairs in a little square off Broad Street, customers in Jimmy Spices watching out the window and some staff at the Hyatt waving to us from up above the screen. That was my Thursday night, how was yours?

But it wasn’t just any film, it was Take Me High – a musical set in Birmingham starring Cliff Richard where he pulls off the banking deal of the century, gets the girl and re-invents local cuisine with the ‘brumburger’. But more about the burgers later.

Showing as part of Flatpack’s excellent Birmingham On Film season, Take Me High is a cult piece of Birmingham nostalgia, only ever released on VHS and as a free DVD given away with The Daily Mail six years ago (though there is a version on Youtube if you can get round the geographical content restrictions). It currently flickers as brightly as Cliff’s eternal flame.

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Posted in history

South Birmingham Trolley Problem

Psychologists say that your answer to this problem reveals a lot about you.

sbham-trolley

There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. On Camp Hill are the Camp Hill chords, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch over the Camp Hill chords. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track towards Moseley. The Camp Hill chords, however are not open.

Given that Martin Mullaney and the Labour lot have been promising the reopening of the Moseley and Kings Heath stations in a war of pledges to outdo each other for the last 15 years, despite it actually being in the gift of Centro (who are about to be shut) and now the WMCA who are desperate to spend all available money in the black county to pacify them about being part of Greater B’ham: what the fuck are you meant to do?

Posted in lolitics

13 things you’ll only know if you grew up at my parents’ house in Coleraine Road, Great Barr, B42

We all remember being alive in the past. Sometimes we remember shops that were in the same place as a different shop is now, or that bus tickets were slightly different. And we all grew up in our own local area – how mad is that? The internet papers are full of it as the past makes us feel good. But how much of a person that grew up at my parents’ house in Coleraine Road, Great Barr, B42, are you? Find out by looking at this prime number of things you’ll only know if you grew up at my parents’ house in Coleraine Road, Great Barr, B42.

 

  • The hot water won’t be on if the heating isn’t, (and the heating won’t be on until October) you’ll have to run a bath with the shower.
An old bathroom, yesterday.

An old bathroom, yesterday.

  • The circuit board that provides hooky cable should be unhitched if you’re not watching the sports or the movies, as they can tell, you know.
  • Bin day is Wednesday.
  • There’s no point trying to break in by climbing over the back fence into the garden if you come home a bit drunk one Christmas eve in the early ’90s. You’d still have to put the window of the back door to the lean to through and that is simply not worth the hassle.
  • The bloke next door has pinched a bit of garden up the back by the shed, but it’s not worth challenging him on it, just give him the cold shoulder.
  • The alarm code is a portion of the old phone number before we switched from British Telecom to the Birmingham Cable Company and had to get a 681 number.

    How this bus stop looks now.

    How this bus stop looks now.

  • It takes exactly four minutes to walk to the number 16 stop by the Beaufort pub. If you leave at 7:25 you’ll get to school on time.
  • You can’t get Channel 4 as the aerial has to point to the Wrekin rather than Sutton Coldfield because Hamstead hill is in the way. The TV will sometimes go green when it’s been on for a bit, if it bothers you you’ll have to switch it off and let it cool down, banging it does no good.

    The TV's gone green!

    The TV’s gone green!

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Posted in clickbait, future nostalgia Tagged with:

Don’t go topping yourself—chain pizza is in Moseley to stay

Our pals over on Eye on Moseley have run a piece on the opening of Pizza Express and Prezzo in B13 and it’s a tasty slice of deep pan fun. There’s an obvious nimby trap laid out for the unsuspecting writer here—it’s tempting to moan about ‘chains’ and ‘independents’ and witter about bringing down the village—The Eye deftly avoids doing that and adding too much cheese (though many of their readers fall into the hole in some of the online chat that surrounds the article).

There’s a point we want to pick up on though which is that the opening of these restaurants makes no business sense. The Eye says:

“opening two almost identical restaurants within months of each other is just ridiculous. Opening two massive restaurants demonstrates little comprehension of how business works […] So one of these is going out of business, once they have bled their parent companies dry.”

The thing is, weirdly, it does make sense, it’s not ridiculous and it is exactly how business works. Pizza Express doesn’t act on emotions—it acts on numbers, maps and intelligence. It also doesn’t open a restaurant in Moseley to serve the village, it opens a restaurant in Moseley to serve the city, and it wouldn’t open it unless it also served the shareholders a wedge of dough. Marketing for multiple outlets relies on coverage, brand, and relationships with customers. Casual dining pizza restaurants have this down to an art.

The pizza chains’ websites and apps broker relationships between customers and the brand not between locals and restaurants. They direct us to our nearest touch point from where we are now, not from where we live, and they use voucher based incentivised pricing to keep us in the sweet spot of a reasonably priced dinner at all times. To be effective we always need to be near enough to a restaurant to be able to get there. That’s where these new restaurants come in: there’s a hole in the map where coverage can be improved and that hole is Moseley, in the Birmingham, Northfield area.

These restaurants will draw from miles around in a way that a locally owned place can’t: they don’t need to build a reputation through word of mouth. They’ll attract families that need a quick meal at a known price point (we haven’t time to explain, but the Pizza Express children’s menu is an exquisitely designed customer journey, which maximises income for the restaurant whilst feeling very reasonable). Teenage couples from a few miles down the road will come because it’ll be just far enough for them to feel like they’ve been out but close enough that they won’t have trouble getting there (the fact that the menu is so good for veggies helps put bums on seats in a multicultural city, and only a Nando’s would do better with the dietary requirements of most Birmingham kids).

Just imagine a local, bearded, entrepreneur decided to take up one of the premises and install a ‘food concept’. Even if it’s brilliant, a conceptual masterstroke like balti-pork scratching cobs with orange chips and a scallop served on a scale replica of King Kong, it will take time to build up word of mouth. Pizza Express is in like Flynn. Terry Flynn who opened Al Capone pizza in 1987.

We are in favour of variety and admire passionate people doing their own thing—despite our willingness to get a rise out of all things “street food” and “artisanal”—but we recognise that doing anything that starts small and builds is hard and that actually companies like Prezzo and Pizza Express are more likely to succeed over time because they have a method that works. That is why UK high streets all look the same. That is why these restaurants won’t close as quickly as The Eye thinks. Just look at the Pizza Express and Ask restaurants in Sutton Coldfield which have thrived for years separated only by a Wetherspoons (and just across from a Nando’s) whilst next door plucky indie after plucky indie has withered and died on a seemingly cursed plot, most recently ending in a frankly bizarre alleged murder plot which fails to take into account the fact that diesel fuel can’t melt steel beams.

And that’s why we are going to make a bet with The Eye: we bet them a slap up reasonably priced pizza dinner that Moseley will have a thriving Pizza Express in 2020.

And if there isn’t, we’ll get them an artisanal falafel.

Jon B & Jon H

Posted in comment Tagged with: ,

Birmingham: you get the culture you deserve

16388604342_4d65b15676_o

Once, Birmingham had a scene. For a hot minute, somewhere between 2008 and 2009, it found something. And then we fucked it up.

By way of example, remember when the Birmingham Bloggers were a thing? I know there’s technically still a Facebook group or whatever, but it’s not like it was in 2008-09. With that group of awkward nerds came the sharing of knowledge and the birth of creativity; the kind of ideas that start from pub chats, or from blog posts or even single tweets. The ‘wouldn’t it be cool if’ ideas, like building cocks in the snow, or running a 5k at midnight, or sitting on the #11 for a day. Or even coming to a pub to hear some interesting people speak.

In that time we had barcamps and ‘cafés‘ – which are just meetups with a poncey name – and then towards the tail end of 2009 we lost it. Some of us tried to keep it going. Some of us tried to help put a radio station together, or build an events listing website, or start a magazine, or build an events listing website

I think there are two problems at play in this city. For one, the social media scene got fucked up because all those with the best ideas went off to seek their fortunes, and the ones who were taking notes started charging people.

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Posted in comment

Jack Dromey Twitter photo short story competition – September

It’s time for this month’s Jack Dromey MP Twitter photo short story competition. To enter,  just write a short (no limits) story based on this photo that Erdington’s MP Jack ‘Mr Harriet Harman’ Dromey has posted to his Twitter account. Post them in the comments, winners win a special Herne Hill, South London and Suffolk related prize, compo ends noon Friday 16 September.

Posted in Competition Corner