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 ›

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You simply must: not touch the panes

Do not push on the panes

A series of things you must do when visiting Birmingham. No. 10: 1o Woodcock Street

Posted in you simply must

You simply must: not use this keypad at any time

Do not use this keypad

A series of things you must do when visiting Birmingham. No. 9: Ley Hill Surgery.

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You simply must: press top of dial (where it says ‘press’)

You simply must: press top of dial (where it says 'press')

A series of things you must do when visiting Birmingham. No. 8: Mere Green Library & Community Centre

Posted in you simply must

The Kerslake Review

It seems that Bob Kerslake isn’t put off by the threat of Albert Bore levelling a £100 fine for leaving a bad review. Bob prefers small ’boutique’ council austerities we hear.


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Brum’s best TV-theme pubs

An enterprising young chap has just re-opened Dale End dog-hole Saramoons as a theme bar: The Peaky Blinder. Despite now being much less likely to have any real gangsters in, it seems to have been a popular move — but did you know it was joining a proper crawl of pubs already themed around Birmingham-based TV shows?  Come with us and get smashed responsibly, in Brum’s best fictional boozers.

The Fox & Grapes, Birmingham City Centre

Coming soon: The Citizen Khan. Pic cc Roger Marks

The Boon (series 1-3 only) – Formerly Bassett’s Pole Harvester, staff at The Boon (series 1-3 only) are all dressed as has been bikers with ruddy cheeks and even more ruddy noses. There’s plenty of parking for your own motorbike outside and the country vistas offer nice sunsets to ride off into. Hi ho silver!

The Pebble Mill at One - With staff in friendly jumpers, and music on the easy side, The Pebble Mill at One is a pub from a gentler time, which will forever have afternoon closing. Open at one, and shut up again at two — just in time for your nap.

The Crossroads – actually a chain, The Crossroads is a new concept for the pubs you find inside a Travelodge or other budget hotel. “These spaces feel like you’re actually in the wobbly set of a pub and not a real pub” brand expert André De Jong, whose agency Zaphiks developed the concept, told us. “Drinking in our The Crossroads bar is more like drinking in a metaphor” he said, before explaining something complicated about the social graph. “Also they’re actually inside motels?” we asked. Andre just looked confused.

The Rosie & Jim – Genial landlord John steers this canalside boozer with a steady hand on the tiller but that’s not his real job. Ladies, try the salad. Stop laughing. Sister bar The Brum opens in 2015.

The Tiswas – The various bars at the Custard Factory have struggled for identity and solvency for many years but now one licensee is betting on TV nostalgia to keep him afloat. You can sing the famous Bucket of Water Song as you use the downstairs bogs.

The Gangsters – Themed around the ‘70s with a hint of crimplene, Benson and Hedges and danger, there has been little change since it was The Yenton.

The The One Show - Recently closed and moved to London.

The Central News - have the slops left by the other programmes a day later, round the back of Broad St.

The Hustle - a slick bar like they have in that London, but see if you can spot the tell tale Brummie signs — yep that’s a Brew XI tap over there, behind the Veuve Clicquot ice buckets. In a suspiciously empty street around Colmore Row.

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101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 66: Pissing

Armitage Shanks

This is one for the guys, ladies you might want to sit down. Remember when you were learning how to ‘do a standing up wee’? The hardest thing was getting your little soldier to hit the target. Now then: what did you aim for? That’s right! There was some writing near the back of the pan.

Now you probably couldn’t read at that age, but very soon you could and one day you’d be having a jimmy and you’d finally decode that writing: ’Armitage Shanks’. From that day on you’d see those letters every time you went for slash for they are the motto to which we urinate. The connection between those words and relief is so strong that I often need to stop several times to spend a penny when I drive past road signs in Staffordshire.

But there wouldn’t be an Armitage Shanks to shoot for if it wasn’t for, yes you’ve guessed it, Birmingham. For it was here that two great sanitary giants met to thrash out a peace that led to the formation of Armitage Shanks in 1969. Yes here in Birmingham, the Switzerland of Pissing, Armitage Wares of Armitage agreed to merge with Glasgow’s Shanks Holdings – and just as well for this writer would not be able to cope with the hilarity of piddling into toilets stamped ‘Shanks Holdings’ (‘Yes! I am!’).

So ladies – welcome back – the reason we never sprinkle when we tinkle is because of Armitage Shanks and all thanks to Birmingham. And if our aim goes wrong don’t worry – we’ll be sweet and wipe the seat.

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

image cc JJ Merelo

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2014 reviewed by Brummie kids

From Ebola to ISIS, 2014 has been a pretty shit year. Danny Smith is no stranger to shit years, having grown up in the 80s, so we sent him to find out what Brummie kids today made of it all. This piece was originally written for and published by Contributoria.

I grew up scared. This isn’t a ‘woe-is-me’ tale, I was a weird little kid born during the tale end of the Cold War and somehow, possibly through harrowing TV shows like Where The Wind Blows and Z for Zachariah, I absorbed the horrors of the nuclear bomb. I remember clearly looking at maps trying to work out the blast radius from the centre of the city to my house and my school. Would I be vaporized in the first detonation? Have my clothes melted to my body with thermal radiation? Or would I be forced to fight severely-mutated former friends for fetid water? Actually, I knew the last one wasn’t true – I knew I would kill myself before then. I was eight. As I said, I was a weird little kid.

But I’m not sure which is worse: gleaning what information I can by cultural osmosis, with all the myth and hearsay that involves, or having access to truly terrifying, peer reviewed, Wikipedia articles. Today we have unparalleled access to information, streams and screens spitting it right in our faces. So much, it could be argued. that its actually harder to filter the signal from the noise: leaving us information rich but data poor.

This past year has been tough for anyone who follows the news, the summer soundtrack was a percussive rhythm of images and stories of schools and hospitals being shelled into rubble in Gaza. While pop culture seems obsessed with zombie fiction and other pandemic diseasecore a genuine outbreak of an infectious disease has killed thousands of people. A whole aeroplane went missing. Read that last sentence again. that’s the year we’ve had.

My school contacts let me down but I was able to visit a scout troop in south Birmingham and ask them some questions. Scout ages are from 10 and a half to fourteen, with Explorers — a little older — there as well. The names have been changed, and picked by them. They’re disappointingly mundane considering on the same night they came up with team names for their games such as “Currybomb” “Epic Ninja Friends” and “Just Bob”. Read more ›

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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 ›

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When was Birmingham most innovative?


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).

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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.

Order 101 Things Birmingham Gave the World: the Book now

101 Book cover

The PC Satirical Cartoon

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

  • A man in a suit with a badge on that says ‘Sir Albert Bore, Leader of the Council’ is at the enquiries desk of the Library of Birmingham – you can tell that because of the sign.

    Further behind the counter are empty shelves, marked ‘Sports And Lesiure’, ‘Accoutancy’, ‘Children’s Services’ and so on.

    A fat bloke – Eric Pickles – is in the background with a wheelbarrow of books and cash and football and food.

    Sir Albert asks the librarian, “have you any books on standing up to the Tory government?”

    The caption reads “Shhhh.”

    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.