The excuse for talking to Stephen Duffy is the release of the first Lilac Time album in ten years, but that really is just an excuse: we could listen to him forever. Paradise Circus is more named after the Lilac Time album  of that name than even the traffic island. That said, No Sad Songs is a wonderful collection that you should head out and pick up right now. “Yes, we have always been guilty of self mythologising,” Stephen Duffy tells me, so allow me to build my own. I’m talking to him not sitting on the grass near Nick Drake’s grave, nor in a dappled Digbeth pub where our words would be lit with dusty spikes of light though the stained glass, but over the phone. He’s at home in Cornwall, I’m in an almost quiet enough corner of a conference centre in London that will …

No sad songs, an interview with Stephen Duffy Read more »

This week, Danny writes a eulogy for Birmingham’s last independent bookshop. Some things, like grotty flats, go with a bang: a big showy controlled demolition surrounded by smug men in yellow jackets who pretend that playing with explosives doesn’t give them trouser tents. Some things, like the Central Library, go with a fight: even if all that fight actually consists of is an echo chamber of social media, people showing each other photographs of what was and what could have been. And some things, like dear Readers World, slip off in the night like a pensioner on the morphine train to oblivion: creaky middle finger raised in rigor mortis.

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Editor’s note: Some time ago we started working on a story about Snobs. Darren sent us this to use. It’s lovely. He told us ‘No tongue in cheek here, it’s a straight up poem about meeting my future wife at the Big Wednesday night in the mid ’90s. Love Snobs and have great memories of the place’. This poem is quite a big part of the story we are still writing, but we wanted to share it with you now, the day after Snobs as we all knew it closed. If you have anything to tell us about Snobs use the comments, and let us know if we can nick your story for our own (Jon H)   The Small Room On Big Wednesday He was a vertigo-liver, but for tonight he’ll spin. ‘Just gimme some more!’ The unworn denim sleeves are a counter balance, but it’s …

The Small Room On Big Wednesday Read more »

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Marti De Bergi first saw the legendarily punctual Spinal Tap in a little club called the Electric Banana but advised us “don’t look for it—it’s not there anymore”. And the director of Kramer Vs Kramer Vs Godzilla is right, nostalgia is a fool’s game. The gateway drug is TKTVP, street name ‘Talking about old Kids’ Television Programmes’. No matter how it makes those lonely first-year undergraduate conversations in the Union bar seem easier it’s just building up an empty existence propped up only by Shine compilations in your work cubicle. By my age, you’re drawn and haggard and fit only to frequent the back rooms of the seedier pubs in Moseley talking about bloody Tolkien. But like a pusher, I’m going to attempt to give you false nostalgia for a past you needn’t have bothered to remember. Let’s see if you can develop a simulacra of a …

Disappearing Brum Read more »

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The ‘BUSK’ (Birmingham United Services Club) round the back of the Mailbox isn’t the prettiest of buildings, but it is in prime development territory. Since the great fire of 2006 Eddies has been rocking there, but now there are problems — due to a ‘Change in Ownership’ of the ‘Property’ — so we’re officially placing the building on PC Buildings at Risk Register. Fires seem to plague buildings in nice areas that are well used or loved by uncommercial communities. It’s tragic when they go up in flames, only for structural tests carried out later to conclude that they are best knocked down. What’s lucky is that often firefighters are able to prevent flames spreading to nearby apartment blocks. It’s a curse that can dog some of the city’s brightest entrepreneurs. Who would know just what delights would have become of the Villa Leisure Centre or the …

The Paradise Circus Buildings at Risk Register Read more »

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The Andalusian Cafe in Moseley was a couple of shop fronts up from the Prince of Wales. No one ever went in… we did. The counter staff seemed uncertain when asked for food, there was no menu and they went in to a fizz when we opted for a plate of food with Harissa; they had none and had to go to their mum’s house for a tube of the stuff. The food did arrive. But just then so did a white van unloading domestic hardware such as fridges and washing machines which were trooped through the dining room and put at the back as we gobbled down what had to be the only meal ever served there. I asked why it was called The Andalusian. It was explained they always wanted to go to Morocco and we didn’t get out a map to show them Andalusia was …

Lost Shops of Birmingham, No.1: The Andalusian Cafe Read more »

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Snobs is to close. Well, to move venue. Let’s not fool ourselves that Snobs is something that can move, it’s not the people, it’s not the atmosphere, it’s not the DJs, it’s not the carpet. It’s the place. Unless it’s dismantled mirror by mirror, mould spore by mould spore and moved to the Black Country Museum the new Snobs will not be the old Snobs. New young fresh people will have a good time but we will draw a line or be disappointed with history. Before we consign the place to history’s wheelie bins let’s pause a moment and consider. We can build a complete and official history, a history of one night in Snobs. Because: If you go to the same place enough times, do the same things, and drink enough eventually every night blurs into one. Every night at Snobs was a great night. Except …

Go on, floor us: work on the Official Paradise Circus History of Snobs Read more »

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I don’t think I’ve ever taken a book out of the Central Library in Birmingham, nor used one for reference. I’m not really a library person. I used to copy CDs from there like everybody did before mp3s, and I’ve wondered around looking at the shelves, breathing the mites and the refreshing book dust. I’ve stroked the static and brushed the peeling selotape from the yellowing computers by the escalators. I’ve been frustrated by trying to use the photocopiers, toying with the intense flaccidity of the coin reject button. I’ve done pretty much everything it’s possible to do in a library. And, like a good boy, I’ve done it all quietly. But the prime function, no. While I love words I have an old fashioned compunction to own them. Imagine being in love with a story and having to give it away to be intimate with others …

Embarrassing Public Bodies Read more »

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Every town has a rallying point. Growing up in Guernsey it was “outside Boots”. Perfectly located at the intersection of the three main pedestrian streets (and a killer flight of steps from the sea front), and with good drop off points, Boots was the rendezvous for all my teenage adventures, shopping trips and, well, rendezvous (nudge, nudge). In Birmingham, for me, it was the New Street station Burger King. Perfectly located at the intersection between two sets of entrance doors and the platforms (and a killer escalator ride from the Pallasades Shopping Centre), and with the added advantage of selling chips, Burger King was the kick off spot for most of my City Centre expeditions. So where will I meet now that New Street has changed? One of the downsides of rejecting any sense of being a ‘hyperlocal blog’ is that we no longer get invited to the opening …

“Meet me by Burger King at 2pm”: New Street, New Start for the social map of Brum Read more »

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Say goodbye to the Premiere video club, Old Walsall Road, Hamstead.  This is at least the third premises for the ‘club’ along one stretch of shops on the edge of Brum—it first opened in the eighties when easy availability of ‘Driller Killer‘ and the movie ‘Shag’ (which seems to have vanished from existence) on VHS or Beta was upmost in the minds of the Great Barrians and quickly expanded. Like the universe what expands must eventually contract, and the tapes are finally disappearing in a gnab gib.  

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