We’re half empty, but still the second biggest in Europe

"we leave the Midlands Engine running and then..."

Half of Birmingham voted to leave.
Half of Birmingham wanted to stay.

We wanted to stay.

To the victors, no spoils.
You’ve set off an earthquake.

Just today, just right now, you’ve voted yourself poorer. And the man who got you here is already pulling things out from under you.

We said Brexit would be bad for Birmingham.
We hope we were wrong, we fear we were not.

We don’t know what’s next, but we’re ready.
Get ready too.

Let’s be ready to build our Birmingham for ourselves. Let’s be ready to call bullshit on the things that will come our way. Let’s stop hate wherever we find it and stand up to the commercial interests that let it grow. Let’s be ready, there are some battles ahead.

Together. Forward.
And join a union, you’ll need one.

Paradise Circus says: Vote Brumain

Local satirical miscellanies, so the mainstream media says, are not doing enough to get out their core constituency for the Remain vote.

We want to, we really want to. But a harder question than the one on the ballot is: is it possible to be funny about it? Sure it’s possible to do tiresome Python-referencing knock offs listing the shiny buildings we’ve built and placed plaques with european stars on them. But the rhetoric is dire, self-satirising, and so far removed from a rational debate that it’s hard to get purchase on.

The EU isn’t perfect, but it does provide some safeguards against the worst excesses of neoliberal capitalism – especially regards workers and individual rights – and of course the Brexit line-up is full of the worst of all people.

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Rivers of shit: Let us challenge hate, everywhere

It’s been a terrible decade or so. Flecks of blood splatter the hands of everyone who panders to racism, distrust and hate: Trump, Farage, Cameron, the Sun and the Daily Mail. But it’s also on the hands of the supposedly neutral, good, people who are afraid of offending racists because they want their money, or votes.

Casual racism, small pieces of hate, or general othering that goes unchecked or is pandered to creates a climate where division is the norm and the mould of active dangerous hate can fester in the cracks.

Paradise Circus quite regularly takes the piss of the comments on the Birmingham Mail’s Facebook page: “get in and read the nice story before the racists get there,” we’ll say. There are worse places too, the mention of travellers on the Bearwood Page on Facebook is the starting gun for vile behaviour.

Once in a while it might happen on one of our channels, we find attack the best form of defence. But right now tolerance across the board is needed. Nothing seems to be getting better, it’s getting worse.

Continue reading “Rivers of shit: Let us challenge hate, everywhere”

Birmingham and leadership: A challenge to democracy

Birmingham is to have a new leader. And we don’t get to vote. No-one does, apart from the outgoing leader and 77 other Labour councillors.

The leader of Birmingham City Council is potentially the third most important figurehead in the county: after the PM and London Mayor. There is control over millions and millions in council budget.

But: the majority of the one million people in Birmingham haven’t a clue who they are.

And that’s not least because they have no direct say in how they get there.

Sir Albert Bore, who is to step down, may have deserved all the plaudits he’s got for his work — but the truth is that who ends up leading Birmingham is decided behind closed doors. It’s luck, and friendships when it should be democracy and accountability.

We have a democratic deficit in the city: power is devolved to unelected groups of ‘business leaders’, council services are tied up in monolithic commercial contracts, there’s talk of wider bodies to which the public have no access. To have the leader of the council also ‘unelected’ is too much.

We believe that true power should only come with accountability and openness. So we ask those who have the power currently to work to change the system, but also to do what they can now.

We ask Labour Councillors, pledge to:

  • Be open about your positions on the leadership.
  • Take soundings from your constituents.
  • Listen to the people of Birmingham before you vote.

Leadership contenders, we ask you to pledge to :

  • Produce and publish a plain English manifesto with your vision for Birmingham and how you’d get there.
  • Commit to open hustings.
  • Talk to the public directly, your national party’s leadership understands the power of social media — use it.

Other public figures, both inside and outside the Labour party, also have a duty to encourage openness and change in this process. MPs, you have a platform, please use it for democracy.

Let’s make Birmingham democratic. Please ask your elected representatives to commit to these pledges, sign this petition.

Brummie of the year 2015: Kevin McCloud

KevinMcCloud_Brummie of the Year

We build our identity in different ways on different days, according to the situation and the politics of the time. So it is that we might be white, brown or black but at times of crisis or joy we can become nations under one flag.

Kevin McCloud is many things. To some he is a southern imperialist, like a one man John Lewis, coming to Birmingham to tell us what we’re supposed to want. At other times he is other things. Thinking woman’s crumpet. Architectural commentator. A member of the London metropolitan media elite. The guy whose name fits wonderfully into the theme tune to Blankety Blank. Coat wearer of the year 1999-2005 (finally losing out to José Mourinho).

Today we say he is a Brummie. And a fucking good one.

For is it not the true mark of a Brummie TO BE NOT TOO FUCKING EASILY IMPRESSED WITH THINGS?

It’s how we make things better.

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Book lack in anger

You can’t run an economy like a household budget, and you can’t run a library just by having a big stack of books that people can borrow, nothing is that simple. But it doesn’t take a genius — luckily for Birmingham given that opportunities to read books and learn are dropping like leaves from a battered old public library book — to work out the connection between the idiotic economic policies of Tory led government both nationally and locally and the fact that Birmingham now has a landmark library that can’t afford to buy even the latest Jilly Cooper to lend out.

Birmingham Council in language that invites derision insists that the lack of money that’s led local libraries to beg for donations of books, is merely a “pause in the book fund”. With £105 million of cuts passed through council this March it’s the first a noticeable sign of things to come: what is most galling is how much more interested people seem to be in this cut than Adult Social Care cuts that have the potential to kill people. And that the only response is a desire to give books, a response that struggles to make the connection between financial mismanagement and unneeded austerity and the book lack anger.

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When Fox News rented a quote on ‘creeping sharia’-like issues from terrorism ‘expert’ Steven Emerson he duly provided by saying, amongst other things, that there are

actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in

Brummies, Brits and other onlookers, following the script of the Twitter-storm, kicked out against the inaccuracies in Emerson’s argument with the most visible content coalescing into the Twitter hashtag #FoxNewsFacts.

Whilst I didn’t join in it was nice to see my Twitter streams alive like this as it’s felt like a long time since my particular network had come together in play. You see I’ve felt for a long time that Twitter is different these days (that is: it’s a bit boring these days) but for a few hours last night it could have been 2009 again: Twitter could be fun again. Nobody was selling me anything or live tweeting their way through TV shows I wanted to watch later; everybody was sharing, creating, and pushing back at the folly of an auld enemy.

But then feelings of doubt came to me.

Continue reading “Outfoxed”