Category: culture

At school, that term, or at least that week, the obsession was small rubber balls, an inch across and patterned with a muted tie-dye, with a thin piece of elastic through them which was tied to a plastic ring. The elastic stretched around – I’m now guessing – six to ten feet, the balls were very bouncy. No-one ever took toys to school, I don’t know if they weren’t allowed, but it didn’t happen. Once a kid brought a Beano in and there was a whole line of nine year-olds sitting on the brick line at the edge between the playground and the grass looking over their shoulder. We mainly played games that involved running, in different combinations. It wasn’t until I moved from the Churchill Road ‘annex’ to the big school up the road that we played football. And even then it was football if we …

Rebound Read More »

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Christopher Bealand’s new novel is out this week, it’s ‘a black comedy about love, loss, the death of dreams, failure, bad TV, bad jokes, brutalist buildings. And Birmingham.’ And we have an extract so you can see that for yourself… “Belinda the main, but absent, character in The Wall in the Head says she has written a book about ”love and architecture” and this too is a book about love and a book about architecture – or at least our relationships to them both. More than that it’s a book about our connections to place and people, and how they shape our feelings and actions. “It’s a love letter to brutalist buildings and the sheer hope for humanity with which they were built, it’s a love letter to the places that are left behind by trends and culture and Birmingham as a prime example of that. It’s …

The Wall in the Head Read More »

School uniforms are odd, especially for teenagers. You take the group that are producing the largest smells and the greatest number of secretions and you develop a system where they wear the same clothes every day. Shirts for two days, unless you spill something, trousers all week, blazers for a least a year. Dry clean only. But non-uniform days are worse. As a teenager, my eyes swelled with frustration as I didn’t know what ‘Gallini’ was, nor why everyone would be wearing it tomorrow. Without the internet, and Tower Hill library was no help on this, how would I have known?

You’ll never see the back streets in the same way I do. They change, things change fast round here, but even if they don’t your connection will not be the same. I won’t be able to show you the old pubs, the thick green leather stapled to the heavy wood, the splinters and the tears. But when it’s time, I’ll share a pint with you anywhere. The streets have a new brick, clad with a special kind of fresh decay. There’s a new corner around every corner. The roads have moved themselves, move traffic differently. I won’t be able to show you the back ways. I haven’t kept up and that’s soon to be your problem — if you chose to care. Will you care? I think so. Sometimes I feel such a deep connection to the roots of my caste I can’t believe you won’t. It’s …

From a man to his son, on missing his home town Read More »

Like a bad penny, licked and then pushed quickly into a chip shop slot machine, Danny Smith returns to Birmingham. Delighted to have him back, we wanted him to stay in Northfield, its streets his alma mater and tell us all about it. The first thing he did was get the bus out. Stepped on a snake and slid back down to Birmingham. Tired, grumpy, and trapped in a city I escaped two years ago. The continuing adventures of a man lost in his own city. I’m on a bus in Northfield, it’s Saturday: so it’s full, and only getting fuller. Only the people getting on seem to confused by the whole bus business and are approaching it with the time consuming trepidation of first-time flyers on a steampunk zeppelin. The bus is waiting for an usually long time. Luckily buses now have TV monitors and cameras so, …

Danny Smith: The A38 killed my dog Read More »

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We sent Danny Smith down the re-opened Costermongers, Brum’s finest underground alternative drinking hole near a market, because he was going anyway.  The weather today isn’t really weather just an unremarkable middle ground between everything. Spring is the ultimate liminal season. Probably best to put your head down and plough through till summer. I’m in Birmingham and my feet have already began taking me to Costers, like there are ruts in the road. No conscious decision, like the newly reopened pub is the bottom of a steep hill. The door is ajar and a sign proclaims “WE ARE OPEN!” as if the sign itself can’t believe it either. But the dark dark staircase still leads to the dark dark door and behind the dark dark door is two people behind the same old bar. A six foot viking type a couple of stone away from being intimidating …

Subterranean, homesick, Blues (although we don’t think he goes down much) Read More »

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“I curse any nights sleep in these flats to be ruined by the ghosts of a thousand lost nights of noise and lights and friends.”

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. The circuit board that provides hooky cable should be unhitched if …

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

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Really, nobody gives a fuck. Today it’s a empty space, a ghost town, but has it really been anything more? Does anybody have any fond memories of the place? Devoid of shops you can see the artless early nineties post-modern design, which looks a lot like the pastel flourishes of late eighties blandness. Even the Evening Mail’s frothing gang of wow merchants can’t summon the energy to care in this hilariously empty “news” article. Six years ago I’m at a public exhibition speaking to an Argent representative about the redevelopment of the Central Library, they’re pretty vague but they’re talking about turning the whole area into their other achievement Brindleyplace and the Gas St Basin. I swear for a little bit, and leave. Recently it’s been used as a shortcut to the bus stops opposite Moor St and a place for the bus drivers to eat their …

Goodbye Pavilions* Read More »

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Number 11 by Jonathan Coe is now out in paperback, like many of his works there’s Birmingham in the prose. If you’ve watched a football match recently, you’ll have noticed that it looked not like football should: but something more pristine. Perfect grass, shining at you at the right colour,  the crowd static, the players all so universally healthy: so universally quick that the speed of the game is uniform and appears slow. Every game has the lustre of a meaningless pre-season friendly. Don’t all new bands look like bands created for a film, walking like a duck, but not quite being Chuck Berry. Is the spectacle broken? It might be possible that the angle of incidence no longer equals the angle of reflection. It might be possible that recuperation no longer quite works in the end game of capitalism. Maybe Debord was wrong. I tried to …

Number 11: satire and the skewing of the spectacle Read More »

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