What can we expect of Birmingham’s Commonwealth Games opening ceremony? Sir Albert Bore on an open topped 11A? Roy Wood riding Brum the little car? Not wanting to spoil the surprise but we’ve got a leaked email from the artistic team…
Giant monsters are always analogies. Godzilla, in early incarnations at least, is agreed to be a 30 storeys high metaphor for Japan’s terror of the atomic age. Not just the destruction it could cause, but the ineffable effects of nature itself.
When King Kong first appeared in 1933 the story was worked on by Edgar Wallace, a writer who as a reporter had covered the Second Boer War and the atrocities committed by Belgium in the Congo. A liberal (capital L too, he stood for David Lloyd George’s party for parliament), he would have thought hard about the fear of Africa engendered in the European white working class. A fear that built the idea of racial differences in order to excuse the slavery and colonialization.
That othering would be crucial to ‘jungle pictures’ of the sort that were popular when RKO made the first Kong film, cinema providing new ways to exploit any cultural fears to make a buck. They did as much to promote the trope of the Great White Hunter as turn of the century literature had done, and the wildness those hunters faced would — perhaps subconsciously — reflect a fear of reprisals for the treatment of Africa.
Meanings evolve: Roland Emmerich’s 1998 Godzilla film seems less nuclear-scare than to reflect American nervousness in the face of increasing episodes of seemingly random terrorism — such as the Centennial Olympic Park pipe bomb a few years earlier — which conventional forces could not contain. Peter Jackson’s Kong is more about how much Peter Jackson loves the process of filmmaking that anything to do with monkeys, like much of his output.
But Kong had already had a re-invention: in Birmingham. In 1972 the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation commissioned the statue to sit in Manzoni Gardens. (Yes, it was cigarette marketing all along. But more darkly the company was named after Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch director-general of the colony of New Netherland, their colony on the east of the USA.) Nicolas Monro was one of the few pop artists working in sculpture, so taking the brief to make something ‘city orientated’ he chose King Kong because of its association with New York City and, he said, “for my own petty reasons”.
Most of our notions of modern Christmas come from the Victorian author Charles Dickens, who being the rock star of his time toured the country reading from ‘A Christmas Carol’. Turning a then barely-noticed mark on the calendar into the jolly family oriented affair we associate today.
He really saw the value of a time of year where we take time to connect with family and give out nothing but love. The story of Scrooge is ultimately one of redemption, not one of spiritual redemption but one of redemption through the forgiveness of others and connection with his family.
The place where Chucky D chose to first read from this book? Birmingham Town Hall, So really Birmingham is Christmas’s Bethlehem: and so we here celebrate the Brummiest Christmas thing going: our relationship with the German Market.
A few years ago Danny told us about how each December “we welcome the disruptive crapfest most call the ‘German market’ but the council insist calling the ‘Frankfurt Market’ because according to the website, ‘Birmingham has been twinned with Frankfurt for more than 40 years. But the connection is so tenuous you might as well say that Birmingham is twinned with Elvis, or Monster Munch or the colour blue.”
Continue reading “Birmingham: we invented Christmas – our history with the German Market”
We’ve obtained a leaked internal email showing early designs and concepts for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games mascot. No bull.
Something something largest unsafe reopening of a Primark in Europe. We sent Danny Smith to die for capitalism.
Her voice is mournful, an acapella lament closer to a wail than a dirge. I don’t speak the language but it vibrates with loss and a pleading sorrow. The lady has lines on her face chiseled in by the pain in her voice. She’s wearing a hijab and blue nitrile gloves. Another glove is stretched over the McDonald’s cup she is collecting money in. The cup sits in front of the empty crate she is sitting on, head back to allow the long notes of fragile misery to escape her body.
Opposite the queue for Poundland trails down the street in impossible perspective like an Escher print.
During the last three months I think we’ve all had the fantasy of when lockdown ends, a shared utopian vision of happiness in the streets, greeting our neighbours and strangers with warm hugs and handshakes. Sunlit pub gardens full of smiles, and cider with ice in.
Continue reading “Danny Smith: Non-essential”
Last bin day, we went out to see if the bags had been collected outside PC towers and instead found a package addressed to us. It contained the master tape for a song with more hooks than we have different types of bins to sort our recycling into. No other details were provided, it’s like the bin made a record. So we’re putting it out, and leaving it out.
(I’ve Lost All My Respect For You) Since the Bin-Men Went On Strike is the first release on Paradise Circus Records.
The way the strike has been covered in the media has created a bit of a bad smell with a lot of rubbish spoken, recycled with dumb opinions all over social media. No-one goes on strike lightly, it’s always a last resort for workers to give up pay to protest, and we felt that they needed to hear that a lot of Brummies appreciate how hard they work to keep our city clean and the collections safe.
Without our refuse workers things have wheely bin bad, and that shows how much we need them. We hope the single is picked up, and makes a clean sweep in the charts.
The single is on sale on iTunes, everywhere else you can buy digital music, and you can stream it on Spotify.
All proceeds will be donated to the union strike fund.
Up the charts, up the workers!
Apologies to Conservative (yes, who knew?) mayoral candidate Andy ‘Mr John Lewises’ Street for this image macro. In a previous version we originally suggested the Tories had cut £.13bn from councils in the West Midlands Combined authority. The actual figure is at least ten times that at £1.3bn.
£1.3bn which — ironically for a campaign that is ‘shy Tory’ — is a conservative estimate as it includes some councils only up to 2104 and excludes police, fire and health service cuts in the area.
Please share this image and not the previous one, many thanks.
A letter we sent to the Birmingham Post the other day, do they still have ‘letters to the editor’ in papers these days?
I think we all agree that there are times when Birmingham should blow it’s own trumpet, excepting of course those times when we need our hands free to bang our own drum, but articles such as Birmingham ‘most entrepreneurial city outside London‘ (16 Jan) do us no good at all.
The article – based on data from Startup Britain – informs us that our city has more new businesses were registered last year “than any other city outside the capital.” Great news, for the second city: but it would only really be newsworthy if we weren’t — as we have by a long way the largest population of any UK city ‘outside London (over a quarter of a million more people more by any calculation).
Birmingham (population approx one million people) had 17,473 new businesses, Manchester (population approx 430,000 – less than half a Brum) registered 9,416. It doesn’t take an entrepreneurial maths wizard to see that England’s third city is doing a little better than its second by this arbitrary measure.
Startup Britain’s own data, (which is freely available to all) suggests that Birmingham was in fact the 16th highest area in Great Britain for new businesses registered per 1000 people.
Friend of the show Dave Harte used to do a bit about how the most popular posts on his hyperlocal website was called “When are the supermarkets open over Christmas?”. This is the sort of ‘content’ which successfully remediates the local newspaper onto the web. Forget live-blogging, periscoping, and making things ‘interactive’ — what people really want is useful information delivered in a timely manner.
This is an example of what academics call a ‘news gap’—something people want, which isn’t being provided by the mainstream, commercial media companies. Hyperlocal websites tend to go around sticking their finger in these news gaps in a metaphor which becomes quite difficult to complete because, having evoked the idea of a little Dutch boy plugging a big dam, I need to flip it to a little Belgian boy pissing into a tiny font which then feeds his endless stream of piss.
It turns out that this noticeboard stuff SEOs really fucking well, so inevitably the “proper” newspapers have piled in. This is a common feature of the relationship between hyperlocal and mainstream media: once the news gap can be shown to turn a buck or two by rank tracker, the big guys put a six lane motorway over it on a viaduct, destroying anything that remains of our figurative landscape.
And so, the other weekend we were searching for the start times of the England V Germany friendly and we found SEO laden copy from national newspapers, including our local’s big brother the Mirror. You can also outsource your linkbuilding to an agency and get your brand more recognition. But they can’t just tell you the info, they’ve got to make it into a bit of a story: because they are newspapers, but also because if it’s too short the nugget of fact you need will appear in the Google preview — and then there’s no ad revenue. Here in Birmingham, the Evening Mail keep a category of these SEO landing pages, so you can see for yourself the sort of thing they are optimising for here:
We’re expecting “What time and when are Birmingham’s St Georges celebrations? And are they racist? Does it offend the moslems, Stew?” to land today.
But a big UB40 concert, a sponsored ‘zombie walk’ resembling the Tory party conference, or a new series of — Liverpool filmed — Peaky Blinders, doesn’t come round every week, it just feels like it. We have to have things that people want to know all the time, things that are hard to find information out online… only problem is we don’t know the answers either.
When's the new series of BBC One sitcom set in Birmingham Citizen Khan on TV and is it Islamophobic? Everything you need to knowSoon there will be a new series of the BBC One sitcom set in Sparkhill, Birmingham, Citizen Khan that stars comedian Adil Ray on television, on the BBC One channel and iPlayer. Wikipedia says that Citizen Khan “is a family-based British sitcom produced by the BBC and created by Adil Ray now in its fourth … Read More »
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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.