The day after they approved their new budget (with £86 million in cuts), Birmingham City Council have announced that they will sell off the NEC Group to help balance their books, worse for them they’ve had to cancel 18,000 bus lane driving fines. We were upset by this news, but luckily we are children of the 80s and we have watched a lot of Blue Peter. We know that when times are tough regular people can dig deep and rally to all sorts of fundraisers. When we did it in the 80s, to pay for a guide dog or a well in Africa or a lifeboat or something, the huge targets on the totalisers would always come good because it’s known that poorer people give more to charity and it’s known that none of us had any money in the 1980s. So we’ve decided to raise some money to save our city, just like we saved whales and stuff when we were kids. We’ve reached back to tea time telly for inspiration, added in some trendy modern ideas too, and are proud to present a range of fundraising options to save the city and to save the NEC. So come on! Get fundraising today and the city can continue to benefit from the profit on Robbie Williams concerts. Forward!
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Meet Gary Sambrook, he’s just been elected as Tory Councillor for Kingstanding, after quite a few goes. Congratulations, Gary. His mates made him a song.
He seems to be attracted to road signs.
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Tagged with: Gary Sambrook
Posted in lolitics
If you’ve seen any coverage of the Oscar ceremony, or any Oscar ceremony, you’ll know it’s all about the clothes. The women’s clothes. The women’s bodies, the ladies’ bras. Male attendees get to dig out evening dress and pass without comment. It’s an everyday sexist world, but let’s turn the male gaze on its head. Or feet rather.
Posh men’s shoes are always shiny, and that’s hard to keep up. Unless you have a basic military training, polishing leather is boring hard and messy. Luckily for the servants of the rich and famous, there is an alternative. An for that alternative the maids in Manhattan have to thank: Birmingham.
Back in 1793 a chap called Hand, in Birmingham of course, obtained a patent for preparing flexible leather having a glaze and polish that renders it impervious to water and need only be wiped with a sponge to restore it to its original luster. This is patent leather, and it’s been responsible for awful shiny shoes all the way from Bacons to Freeman Hardy and Willis, to Hollywood (which we invented too).
Birmingham: it scrubs up well. Or wipes up with a sponge easily. Or something.
Photo CC by: Dave Gates
An unchained psychogeographic adventure from the authors of Pier Review.
Can you drink in all of Birmingham city centre’s independent hostelries in one day in 2011? Yes of course, although it might not be sensible. This is the first appearance on the web of this adventure, although it has been available as an eBook for some time.
CC by: Danny Wolpert
As a part-time journalist and aspiring avatar for the gods of debauchery you are asked to do some unsavoury things. Be it covering some average indie band’s third ‘my dad drives the van’ gig. Or having to find an interesting angle on Valentine’s Day, despite having all romance crushed out of your soul by a government intent on turning the country you live in into a feudal system where big business robber barons set up their own personal fiefdoms using jazzy branding and clown make-up. But sometimes you get given a task that you are so attuned to, so personally right for, that it feels like the hand of Baron La Croix himself has pushed you to this point. Granted, the email only asked for a small article about my favourite independent pubs in Birmingham, but I knew this was a coded communication from the Furies, a challenge. Could I drink in all of the independent pubs in Birmingham in just one day? Of course I knew it was possible, just not very sensible. In my head I counted ten probable targets and beer maths did the rest. One pint in each meant ten pints at least. I was going to need back-up.Jon Bounds is a man with a lot of pie-placed fingers, his intelligence is sharpened by an odd wit. He seems to be the only person whose capacity for the Devil’s Dishwater exceeds my own and can understand the startlingly lucid and intelligent observations I tend to make after four or five small beers. So recruiting him was important and understandably easy given his weakness for strong continental lager and odd tasks.Please note the following account is pieced together from handwritten notes that degenerate into a language, I suspect, is a drunken dyslexic cuneiform, and a memory that doesn’t work properly in the first place.
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All bands eventually get back together, except for the only two that you might actually want to see again: Slade and The Smiths. They all get back together because they all split up and then find they need the money, and the reason they split up is called ‘musical differences’. The ‘differences’ being ‘the difference between the cash they each pocket in royalties’ and the ‘musical’ being Oliver! on VHS on the tour bus.
Oasis ran out of ideas, yes, but the creative bankruptcy just made it all the more galling for Liam that it his brother was earning in the region of seven times what he was: because Noel wrote the big hit songs.
Readers of Morrissey’s autobiography (and hi readers, these spaces in between groups of sentences are paragraphs) will know that El Moz and Johnny Marr got 40 per cent each while the other two Smiths got 10. And they’ll know all about the recriminations afterwards. And what the judge in the court case had for breakfast. When these bands split, like so much from Up North, it’s bitter rather than mild.
But they wouldn’t have split if it wasn’t for Birmingham.
Because back in 1914 as the World geared up for War, Birmingham invented musical differences—there just wasn’t enough real conflict around.
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Shops used to be different back then, from now and from each other. Each one had its own smell and atmosphere. Visits to Witton Road were infrequent, as the concrete shopping centre at Perry Barr was the preferred destination, but when we did go it was usually for something exciting and interesting. Turning right rather than left at the bottom of our street was quite a treat.
Each block on the Witton Road started with a larger shop, and the sides of the buildings were painted with signs. ‘Leslie Smith for Television’ read one. I never went in as we had a TV and no need for another, but it was a special shop as I’d been told Leslie Smith used to play for Aston Villa whose ground was on the next main road over. On the next corner was Dick Taylor’s sports shop. Everyone called him ‘Discount Dick’, despite the name over the door saying ‘R. Taylor’, and he too had once been a Villan. I got my first pair of football boots there, a reward for making the school team, and the place had a beautiful dark smell of rough cloth. My dad wouldn’t have taken me anywhere else as he would get a good deal there. He often bought whole kits for the football team he helped to run, and a good customer would be remembered.
The shops nearer to our house were also interesting. The greengrocer was known as ‘Dick Turpin’, which gave him an air of untrustworthiness. As well as an apron, my image of him has a black fedora which I very much doubt a greengrocer wore in the late seventies in Aston, Birmingham. But my favourite shops were just along from the highway-robbing fruit and vegetable man, a chemist and a newsagent next to each other.
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In 1908 26 men lost their lives just on the edge of Birmingham, but also on the edge of our understanding of the earth itself. Opened in 1876 Hamstead Colliery was at that point the deepest mine in the World—2000 feet down beneath the surface. Not too far from where the Aldi is now.
At this point Birmingham led the globe in the technology of digging holes in the ground, the heroic deeds of those that went down them created stories and songs and flooded popular cognition: along with fishermen, miners were the working class cultural heroes that built a nation. These miners would be the foundation of the celebration of the differences between the rich and the poor—which is the central tension in all great Great British culture.
The high point—celebrating but diametrically opposite to the deep seam miners—is 1962′s Hole in the Ground by Bernard Cribbins, which peaked at number 9 in the charts. The numerologists amongst you will have spotted that there’s a 9 in 1908, and also that 1+0+8=9 (much like how 1962′s 1+6+2=9)—that’s no co-incidence. 54 years later (54/9=6, turn that around much like the miners and Cribbins were opposite terraneally, and they were both opposed to the ruling class and you get—a 9) Cribbins punished the capitalists, puncturing them with the sharp end of his spade. He dug it round when they wanted it square, he dug it where he wanted it to be: but most of all he dug it towards those class martyrs of Hamstead in Birmingham.
Noël Coward chose the record as one of his Desert Island Discs, probably unaware of the implied class genocide in the last verse. Hole in the Ground is one piece of popular culture where the working man comes out on top—literally—and that’s a tribute the those that we lost. It’s a tribute to the courage—and digging skills—of the men of Birmingham. Together they produced a message to the capitalists—and that’s that.
The Subterraneans guided tour was developed for the 2013 Flatpack Film Festival. Exploring the Metropolis was a sub-theme of the festival that month and David Bowie had just released his album The Next Day after a decade of silence. From him I borrowed a song title to set the scene for my journey beneath the city.
It was to be my personal ‘Bowie’ moment, with tickets for the event selling out the same day. The festival office reported that every other phone call was a request to go onto the returns list for the event. The landlord of one of the tunnels we visited decreed that only 17 people, plus cameraman, volunteer and myself would be able to have access, once photo ID had been provided. ‘Inaccessible’ had translated into ‘exclusive’. Why such demand to visit dark, dripping, uninviting places? This is one attraction the city provides in freely and in abundance. The answer partly lies in the event being presented as a guided tour: someone else tests the ground, tracks down the key holder, completes the risk assessments and shoulders the responsibility. Exploring alone is lonely, dangerous and marks you as an outsider. Group solidarity defers the anxiety of becoming a marginalised troglodyte.
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Tagged with: issueUnderground
Posted in place
Tagged with: issueUnderground
Posted in misc