101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 78: The sound of silence


I’ve got something I need to tell you about Birmingham. It’ll be legend…

– wait for it –


I need to tell you about Birmingham and how it invented the dramatic pause. Well, the one they have on the telly anyway.

Rhetoricians have always known that the pause is a powerful thing: it’s the white space of oratory design. Just as a graphic designer needs to balance harmony and discord to create, and then play, with tension on the page, so too the public speaker uses silence, the pause, as negative space to better punctuate their message.

In broadcasting one cannot be quiet. Radio folk talk of ‘dead air’ – silence in other words, a moment when no one is speaking, no music is playing, nothing is being advertised. The one thing a radio broadcaster can never have on their show is dead air because the moment that you are silent is the moment that you lose your audience. Dead air suggests that the receiver has lost signal from the broadcaster. Perhaps the radio needs to be retuned, or perhaps the station is off air – whatever it is it’s time to touch that dial. On most stations there is an ‘emergency tape’ (a copy of an M People record) that will kick in automatically should quiet pervade for too long.

When the BBC started to broadcast television, they essentially showed radio with pictures. The techniques of broadcasting had been shaped on the radio, and everyone who worked in television had worked on radio, so television was merely radio remediated with an extra quality: the picture. It took 70 years for the innovation that changed everything: it took 70 years for the invention of a broadcast silence.

It took Brummies, of course, to take the big risks and to bring about these changes: it took a Brummie mindset to realise that with a picture you could sustain a silence in your work because the audience could see that you were still there. This was intentional silence, not dead air: it took Brummies to bring the art of public speaking back to mass entertainment and they did that when they invented the silence.

I can tell you how they did it. I’ve got the answer here in my hand…

…but we don’t want to give you that.

Will you read on, or take the answer? You’re going to play!

Posted in 101 Things Brum Gave The World

Meet the new Bore, same as the old Bore

I have an obsessive nature – not addictive, thank god – but definitely obsessive. Whenever I am reminded of 1976 classic Carrie the voices echo about my brain for days. I have spent hours researching Michigan J. Frog (the frog in the cartoon that only dances for one man until it drives him mad) Did you you know he had a name? I did, because I have thought about him about three times a day for the last ten or so years. That’s more than some people think about their god.

This obsessive nature means that I stay away from certain things, things that tickle my pleasure centres in that special way that be it in a dangerous life destroying way like gambling or hard drugs that could have me out doing unspeakable things and burning bridges, or smaller things, hobbies or small chunks of pop culture that could have me memorising league tables and waiting for Saturday match day.

I’ve never been bothered by football, but politics does it for me. The Venn diagram where ideals, manipulation, and power overlap, that flicks my switch. Like a 4D chess game crossed with a soap opera with a cast of the worst people in the world. Which is why I stay away, I dabble, much like the casual football fan I’ll follow the big matches but at a local level not so much. I’m just not prepared to put in the work of crushing banality that local politics is made up of.

So when I was asked to cover the hustings for the leader of Birmingham City Council I was hesitant. Normally I only get sent to things that either of the Jons don’t mind getting banned from. But I went. And it was as boring as I thought it would be. One of the things that’s clear is that despite being the being the biggest local authority in England, being its head affords you very little power. In fact it seems the whole machinery of the local council is powerless, with its committees, sub-committees, panels, boards and commissions, all layered on top of each other and threaded together like a cake made by a boring drunk spider.

So on a rainy Thursday evening I found myself at the CBSO. Looking around the room, I felt a bit out of place, my hair is a weird pink colour, but it wasn’t just that my hair was pink, it was that my hair had any colour at all. The crowd were made up of mostly middle aged white people. The people of colour I did spot were Labour councillors themselves so don’t count.

Oh Gawd, what will Danny do next?

Posted in In the news

In Labour

With the announcement of a West Midlands mayor just a day or so before, this hustings started to feel a little bit like bald men fighting over a comb. But that’s not true; one of the candidates is a woman. We sent Jonathan Todd to see what went on at the Birmingham Labour leadership hustings.


Worst. Kraftwerk. Gig. Ever. Pic by Afzal Hussain

79 Labour councillors will on Monday vote to decide the next leader of Birmingham City Council. Some of these councillors were in the CBSO last night, including the four standing for this office. They were joined by about 100 of the great Brummie public, who questioned the candidates after they’d presented their pitches.

Female, young, and non-white demographics were underrepresented in the audience (and, in the non-white case, on the stage). Perhaps we can’t blame the four leadership candidates for this (or for being white). It reflects a broader malaise of political disengagement.

The candidates commendably made themselves available for a grilling from those who, for the most part, do not have a vote on Monday. The candidates had, therefore, little to gain and much to lose. Poor performance would be punished by the watching media (BBC West Midlands filmed from the floor as the event was ongoing), while strong performance would largely not be witnessed by those who hold their fate in their hands.

Read more ›

Posted in In the news

Hate the German market? Buy a candle and shut the fuck up


People complaining about people complaining that Christmas gets earlier every year gets earlier every year doesn’t it? And as well they might, it seems the only thing stopping the lights going up as soon as the kids go back to school is Halloween.

One of the biggest proponents of this christmas creep in Birmingham is the Frankfurt Market, known locally as the ‘German Market’ the ‘Christmas market’ or just ‘the market’ by most of Birmingham who seem to unwilling to split hairs at that point but will delight in telling you that most of the people that work there are “Polish anyway”. The Market has been a fixture of Birmingham since 2001 and time was you couldn’t say a word against it without being labelled as a grinch the equivalent of a 60ft mecha-Scrooge with orphan-killing eye lasers. Of course I publicly coated it off every chance I could get.

But recently people have started grumbling, the odd bad sausage here, the occasional commuter gripe there. So taking advantage of Twitter’s new ‘poll’ function I asked the public.

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Posted in clickbait, culture Tagged with:

Labour councillors: Stop gagging Brum

Despite calls in the media, old and new, and noises from some quarters (not as many as we’ve got, like but…) it’s being reported that the Labour group on Birmingham City Council is actively against having an open debate and a hustings event for the election of a new leader of the largest local authority in Europe.

With five candidates now declared that leaves 73 people voting on who leads a city of over a million. And they won’t even be open about the process.

They’re gagging the people of Birmingham and that’s not good enough.

Sign our petition for an open process. Add a gag to your social media profiles in protest. Read more.

Chamberlain Square features still a statue of Birmingham’s great campaigner for electoral reform, Thomas Attwood. One wonders what he would make of it.


Posted in In the news

Satan over Birmingham

A dark force is at work in industrial Birmingham. The evidence is there before us in our streets, in our museums, in the halls of power, our entertainment venues, our dark mills. Yes the devil himself pervades the fabric of Birmingham culture.

Nowhere is this presence felt more than in the imposing effigy in the main atrium to the Museum & Art Gallery in Chamberlain Square – the Civic focus of art and tradition in Birmingham. It is the first ambassador to welcome the casual visitor or tourist to the culture of Birmingham.

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Posted in Architecture, art Tagged with: ,


There are spaces in the city which are designed to be a terminus. Shops are a terminus. Pubs are a terminus. We run to them. We pop to them. We are at them, we are in them or perhaps we are down them. We never travel through them.

Run with me now, run with me through the pubs.

One of my regular city centre running routes pushes me through—never to—the Arcadian.

The Arcadian. Image cc: El Bingle.

The Arcadian. Image cc: El Bingle.

Launched as a confusing architectural proposition of East-meets-West in the city’s China Town, time and use have added to the Arcadian’s cocktail of ideas. Originally its anchor tenant was a cinema which enjoyed a symbiosis with chic bars, chain pubs, High Street restaurant names, and hole-in-the-wall Chinese cafés.

The cinema is now an apartment block stuffed into a multiplex outline whilst those chic drinking holes, still wearing their first fit out, stand as a tired testament to spent 90s optimism—Blair’s Bars. Even the few pubs which have changed hands recently wear this tired air on top of their fresh decor, as though a consumption sits deep in the development’s bones.

The Arcadian is a split level open air mall. I run across first floor wooden walkways, and plunge myself down steel staircases. I choose the path through here because sometimes a runner seeks a certain distance or must complete their exercise within a certain time and we pick the paths that give us the outcomes that we most need; I choose this path because it feels transgressive, to enter a destination but always with trajectory, to derivé but never to arrive; I choose this path because its mishmash of signs and ideas lend a dramatic backdrop to my run, because running through here is weird, like running through the set of Bladerunner.

Posted in place Tagged with: ,

Review to a Kill: The Resorts World Birmingham Is Not Enough

Editor’s Note: The PR Who Loved Me.

We have rules, you have to have rules or everything falls apart. But you can bend them…

Despite our rules, we still get offers — a lot of offers: “Come to the opening of this”; “Help us celebrate that”; “Hot new band blah blah”. We normally bounce them back: “nope”; “read the manifesto”; “in the nicest possible way, please fuck off”. Sometimes we bait them for a bit, for lols, or just to prove a point. And on a few occasions we are just brutally honest “we love free lunch, and will come to your launch and eat but you are not going to get a write up out of it” (PRs normally say “fair cop, in the nicest possible way please fuck off”).

So what did we do when a PR type invited us to a ‘premiere’ of the new James Bond film at the launch of casino-hotel-shopping-thing Resorts World Birmingham?

Well, we are interested in Resorts World Birmingham because we don’t really get it and because it’s in Solihull not Birmingham. So we thought it would be fun to send our Special Features Editor. You see, when we’re offered something we don’t want to do we ask Danny. Danny said yes, but then he disappeared into the deep cover of his day job, leaving us with tickets to an event which promised the chance to rub shoulders with “important Solihull and Birmingham MPs, Dion Dublin and Jasper Carrott”.

So we thought about it again and then thought “Spectre is a spy movie. We could send someone pretending to be Danny instead” so we asked Harry Vale, who spends quite a lot of time pretending to be Danny anyway, if he’d like to go to the pictures with the tab being picked up by some venture capitalists. As he’s a good lad, he said yes.

We gave Harry a secret mission to go with his secret identity, and it was all going swimmingly… but then things got serious and the PR types offered to send a limo. This was clearly a big deal.

We were nervous but, like Bond, now too balls deep in the deception to pull out. So we decided to keep the British end up and carry this thing through. And now here is a report from the field agent, who is most definitely called Danny Smith, 0011A, license to thrill.

After pro wrestler, video game designer and astronaut, secret agent was definitely what I wanted to fail at when I grew up. Endless Bond marathons on ITV had promised exotic adventures and beautiful ladies (Danny Girls I would call them, as I am Danny Smith) all of which convinced me that spying was what I had to do.

My credentials include beating GoldenEye on the N64 on the second hardest difficulty, and managing to talk at least one woman into bed, so when Paradise Circus offered me a top secret, for my eyes only infiltration job at Resorts World Birmingham (It’s Definitely Not Solihull™), I couldn’t say no.

For Your Lies Only

The day began with J sending me my mission by email. This message will self-destruct, I was told, in a confusing mixture of spy franchise universe references. My job was to infiltrate the exclusive (Birmingham) IMAX premiere of Spectre and see what the new shopping centre was like. I donned my best and only suit, grabbed a plus one, a beautiful femme fatale (or designated driver, as she’s known in the biz) and waited for a driver to pick me up.

Would Genting – the Malaysian lads making this wonderful new addition to Birmingham’s growing range of shops and spas and casinos – send a limo, or hire a local Uber? Bit of both, it turned out. A lovely chap called Azeer showed up in a fancy Mercedes Something, which did look a bit like a car that Bond would have driven in the Dalton years. Flashy, lots of buttons, but ultimately forgettable. No ejector button or champagne, but a bottle of Nestle mineral water and free mint imperials; I was already feeling like the member of high society I was going to pretend to be.

The driver dropped us off at the parking for plebs, not the VIP parking I was promised/demanded, and I sat awkwardly as I decided whether to open the door for myself or wait for him. I decided Bond would wait. Or snap his neck and shag the nearest parking attendant with a pulse. Out of respect, I waited, awkwardly thanked him and went looking for the red carpet.

Quantum of Solihull

Resorts World Birmingham is a shopping centre (in Solihull) with some luxury extras. There’s a hotel, a spa, none of which I was allowed into or bothered to sneak into. I accidentally missed (or stealthily avoided, if you like) the red carpet and went looking for the cinema. I passed many wondrous sights, like a Next, and a Thornton’s, and a Nike shop. A shop that sold tiny red telephone boxes and post boxes. Small replicas of England that only exist in the backgrounds of Bond films and the minds of soon to be disappointed Birmingham (not Solihull, guys) tourists.

There are fancy touch screens, that are basically massive iPhones turned sideways. They didn’t work. None of them worked, but they looked cool. Empty units promised bars with a million beers from around the world, and even a future branch of The Works, in case you need to find a closing down sale whilst in between gambling and watching a film.

Genting Casino Royale With Cheese

Ah, the international casino. We were directed here after being refused entry to Cineworld because we didn’t have tickets. It’s the night of the Spectre premiere, so I was hoping this was going to be something special. Instead, it’s basically a high street bookies, but with way more machines. The clientele are slightly more higher class than the ones in your average Ladbrokes, in the sense that they’re fully dressed and aren’t shitting on the floor, but it’s not exactly Bond. Remember that scene in Casino Royale when Bond loses all the money to Le Chiffre in a tense game of Lucky Larry’s Lobstermania 2 (the best of the long-running Lucky Larry series in this spy’s opinion)? Remember when a very angry-looking, but well dressed member of security approached him and asked him to stop making a scene and if he’d consider filling out a self-exclusion form? DER NER NER NEEERRRR.

Bored croupiers desperately tried to grab my attention, but I only had coins on me, and this didn’t seem like the sort of place that had minimum bets of 5p. We finally managed to escape the grip of the flashing lights and depressing drone of the gamblers, and went to meet our Spectre contact on the red carpet. A lovely, excitable chap, who kept asking me about my blog and my work, and because I’m definitely Danny Smith, I had to talk about “my blog”, which they were very excited about (and I was happy to thank him and take credit for) and my book, Pier Review, which is a book about piers and a travelogue about childhood memories of the sea? Or something? He bought it, because I am an awesome spy.

Live and Let Dine

We got to the High Line bar, which was really nice and dark and had loud techno music, which really set the mood for an intimate, VIP Bond setting. They had an ice block with “Spectre” and “Cineworld” written on it for some reason. Attractive women with not many clothes on kept giving me wine and tiny pieces of food.

“Would you like an artisan sourdough flatbread slice with basil and crème fraîche?”


“It’s a tiny pizza.”

“Yes. Yes, I would.”

Soon I’d created a small cardboard graveyard of various miniaturised snacks. Taking them down like nameless henchmen. I headed to the bar and asked for a vodka martini, shaken not stirred, and got a laugh from the barmaid and a look that told me she’d heard that 50 times already that night and wanted to die. I felt awful and empty after that, like I’d just watched Quantum of Solace, so returned to my femme fatale. My contact showed up again, and was again lovely and laughed at all my jokes. The innate pressures of the spy business were getting to me now, I was too inexperienced, it was exactly like the bit in Casino Royale where Bond had bitten off more than he could chew and was getting his bollocks pulverised by Hannibal, but in a socially anxious sort of way in a dark room surrounded by Q-list celebrities.

I made a bad joke, that he was contractually obliged to fucking love, and escaped to the rooftop bar to get some air and check out the amazing views. If you like trees, motorways, and red neon, you’ll love Resorts World Birmingham (Because No One Knows What Solihull Is™). Unfortunately the bar wasn’t finished and was taped off, and various bits of the floor were unfinished, knackered-looking and wobbly, a bit like Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again. A tiny, shit green laser spat out the 007 logo and a gun the that looked like it was drawn by a child. Bond themes played over the roof speakers, but the crap ones, and now the celebrities started pouring in. TV’s Dion Dublin – star of Homes Under The Hammer – was there, as was Jane and the Lost City star Jasper Carrott. They really helped give the evening a shot of glamour and style that you just couldn’t attract at a non-Genting backed gala.

Spectre? I hardly touched her!

After more tiny food and free drinks, it was time for the film. Or rather, it was time for 8 people to stand in line and talk about how awesome Genting, Cineworld, Resorts World Birmingham (Because There Isn’t A Casino In The Bull Ring, Is There?™) and Hollywood blockbusters are. Everyone from Genting’s IT people to the chap who arranged the free popcorn got a namecheck and round of applause and it was at this point that I realised this was less a VIP gala event, and more a couple of celebrities who had literally nothing else to do, the lord mayor, and the employees of Genting at this thing. Sales figures for Spectre and Star Wars VII got cheers and applause. The design of the building, which honestly screams first draft, got a round of applause. It was all a bit sad, but I’m a guy writing this in his underwear, surrounded by empty crisp packets listening to Nobody Does It Better on repeat, so it’s hard to judge. Not impossible, but hard.

Bond wouldn’t be here. Bond would be at the Everyman Cinema, or the Electric Cinema, pretending to like the uncomfortable seats and tiny screens. Alas, I’m merely Danny Smith 00 agent for Paradise Circus, so I watched everyone talk about how revolutionary and beautiful the place was.

The urge to scream “THEY’RE JUST SHOPS” was pushed back down my throat by not wanting to upset Karen from marketing, who worked her arse off for this, and by the free popcorn and miniature box of Celebrations.

Spectre, then. Take the worst type of fan service-y references from Die Another Day, add a dash of Star Trek Into Darkness’s pointless attempt at a plot twist, and a sprinkling of Bond pretty much raping a grieving woman, and you’ve got a classic Bond film. Nothing made sense, the CG was shit, the main henchman was shit, Blofeld (spoilers, idiots) was shit, the theme song was shit. If you liked the old Bonds where he was basically a racist cock, you’ll love it. If you liked Casino Royale, you’ll probably hate it.

I left feeling like I should have a refund, even though I didn’t pay anything, and settled for nicking some more free popcorn, like the bit in Tomorrow Never Dies where he steals the GPS encoder, but nothing like that.

Never Say Never Again?

I don’t see the point in Resorts World Birmingham (SHOPS. CASINO. SPA. HOTEL. COME ON™), but then I don’t see the point in a lot of things this city does. If you’re ever in town and think “this is okay, but I wish this looked more like a dystopic, neon wasteland”, then Resorts World Birmingham is for you. If you wish the Pallasades was still a thing, but bigger, this is for you. It’ll create lots of jobs, I hope, and it gives the poor plebs of Solihull somewhere new to go, but otherwise it’s a bit like The World Is Not Enough. Looks fine, lots of pretty ladies, but I never want to experience it again.

Posted in misc Tagged with: , , , ,

So you’d like a say in who leads Birmingham City Council?

Want to feel enfranchised? Like you have some influence in the direction of your city? Then you need to have a say in who leads your local council.

How to get that? Well you need our guide.




Of course, only 0.01% of Birmingham residents actually get a vote.  Find out more and sign the petition for a more open process.

Posted in In the news, lolitics

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 77: The kitchen-sink modernist novel


Two o’clock, 1929, Tyseley, Birmingham, Henry Green walked Warwick Road, near current DFS, Foam Cut to Size, Hollywood Monster.

Standing in Tyseley, son of Mr Yorke, thought in mind and it seemed to him that these factories were beautiful and he reached out feeling to them and he touched them; he thought only in Birmingham now was honesty left for in the county and Oxford and Eton, in society, words were like sheep while here men created what you could touch, soft like silk, flowing without definite article, which would last, although not as well as those of contemporary Orwell or Oxford tutor C.S. Lewis.

He thought, he declaimed to himself, this was life to lead, making useful modernist novels that were beautiful, and glad for making them, which you could touch; but when he was most sure he remembered. He remembered how it has all been said before and experience of father’s bottling factory became basis for great work of modernism; first to use working class experience. And then what had been so plain, stiff and bursting inside him like pumps at Mermaid on Stratford Rd, died like fun at Acock’s Green Wetherspoons, and he felt embarrassed standing as he did in fine clothes.

Apologies to Henry Green’s great modernist masterpiece Living which is set in Tyseley.

Posted in 101 Things Brum Gave The World Tagged with:

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

"irreverent, informative and laugh-out-loud hilarious"

"one of the funniest books I have read in quite a while"

"the industrial language was uncalled for"

"Good if you finish Viz before the next edition is out"

The PC Satirical Cartoon

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

  • Two men, in suits, are standing in front of a large square building. The building has no distinguishing features apart from its sign, which says ‘Birmingham City Council’. The men have no distinguishing features at all. Near the men is a newspaper headline board, like we don’t really have any more, it reads ‘Birmingham Labour Leader to be announced’. On top of the building is a chimney, like we don’t really have any more: white smoke comes out.

    One man says to the other, “They must be burning the evidence”.

    Matt nails it again.

    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.