Like a Treehouse of Horror one, from a later series, switch over now…
If you haven’t already, listen to this audio recording right now.
What do you hear?
Some people hear the name of the car race that was held on the streets of Birmingham city centre in the 80s, where as some hear the Mayor of the West Midlands – who has been spending time trying to bring the car race back rather than doing, y’know, anything useful like tackling homelessness in the city – being insulted.
If you heard the second answer, you’re technically correct. Apparently it’s all due to your hearing, and gullibility. It’s like that other thing on the internet where some people hear the word ‘laurel’, which you might win for winning a car race, and ‘pranny’, which you might be if you where an elected official and spent your time working on vanity projects rather than sorting out the people who are homeless, or hungry in your area. #WMGeneration
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 and a vaguely familiar girl with a slightly grown out undercut and a comfortable hoodie. The guy had definitely spent more time on his look today. They continue their conversation somewhat performatively and I oblige them with a tip of the tongue blank the viking was having. (‘Westlife’ btw). They hand me Export I have no recollection of ordering, and in fact distinctly remember vowing never to drink it ever again. Time will make a liar of us all.
Like Neville Chamberlain before you, you have the opportunity to hold in your hand a piece of paper. And, per page at least, it could have fewer lies on it. Why not buy 101 Things Birmingham gave the World right now? A fantastic Christmas gift.
But there wouldn’t be books about Birmingham without the work of the 18th century’s Thomas Warren, who was the first publisher to come from Brum: and let’s face it no-one from anywhere else was going to publish them.
From his house over the Swan Tavern on the High Street, he founded a modest book making empire, and eventually a book shop. No records of the shop remain, or of any other independent bookshop in Birmingham at all.
Warren edited and published Dr. Samuel ‘Dictionary’ Johnson’s first book – a translation of Jerónimo Lobo’s Voyage to Abyssinia – which was a huge success and sold hundreds of copies, absolutely none of which ended up for sale second-hand at Reader’s World.
Without Thomas we’d never have had: David Lodge’s campus novels which pretend not to be set in Birmingham, Alton Douglas’s Dogs In Birmingham, Jonathan Coe’s Rotters’ Club, Henry Green’s Modernist classic Living, Washington Irving’s Bracebridge Hall (set in Aston Hall), Benjamin Disraeli’s 1845 novel Sybil which uses Birmingham as a background political barometer, or the wonderful work of Catherine O’Flynn. Nor this one, which has been called “wiser than it seems” by non other than Solihull’s Stewart Lee.
He also founded and published the Birmingham Journal – in 1732 – our first newspaper, and a hard slog that must of been too as there were no existing papers or websites in the city to copy content from.
Three cheers for Thomas Warren, a man who managed to change the world, despite living over a pub.
This is the book that proves that Birmingham is not just the crucible of the Industrial Revolution, but the cradle of civilisation.
It’s the definitive guide to the 101 things that made the world what it is today – and all of them were made in Birmingham.
Read how Birmingham gave the world the wonders of tennis, nuclear war, the Beatles, ‘that smell of eggs’ and many more… 97 more. It also includes a foreword by Stewart Lee called ‘A Birmingham of the memory,’ all about his relationship with the city.
“101 Things Birmingham Gave The World, is not a Birmingham of the memory. It is a living breathing thing, wrestling with the city’s contradictions, press-ganging the typically arch and understated humour of the Brummie, and an army of little-known facts, both trivial and monumental, into reshaping its confusing reputation.”
Big brother, is watching you apparently. We’re all scared of the Bladerunner-ish techno future where the big screens outside New Street station target you personally with adverts that you ignore on the way to get a train. But how do they actually work? This leaked email from one of Birmingham’s many top PR/social media/smart city conglomerates could reveal all…
To Andy Street From: Andre.De.Jong@zaphiks.in Re: Code Hey Andy, How’s the shop doing? Nearly time for one of those adverts with the anthropomorphism, eh? It gets earlier every year. Or are you in charge of the buses and sorting out the ever increasing homelessness problem on the streets now? I forget. And you do too, also. Anyway, I know it’s a bit late but, I’ve finally finished the code that makes the eye screens around the shopping centre on top of New Street Station check the crowds and respond with appropriate advertisements. Glad we kept the PR about them vague, but assuming that the tech to actually detect faces hundreds of yards away and check their sex and age and that exists and is plugged in, this should work. It’s a Beta or maybe earlier than that, Feta or something. Read more ›
To set some balance, another Twitter thing, where people are challenged to post a thing one ‘loves’ for each like a post can get. We could have gone on, but no-one liked it.
It’s a Twitter thing, where people are challenged to post an ‘unpopular’ opinion for each like a post can get. We had a go… it cost us a few followers.
Read more ›
Monaco of the Midlands is a novel by Alex Dennistoun, which I really enjoyed reading. It’s set in modern Birmingham but is most interested in a time about 30 years ago — much like this site. I’d be trying to pay it a massive compliment if I said it reminded me of novelisations of TV programmes from the ’70s like The Sweeney, it’s honest, straight, and gritty, it’ll go down well. Someone should be looking to make that slightly retro Netflix series out of this. Anyway, here’s an exclusive extract: go see what you think.
Recently released from prison, Tony Walker spends his days pretending to be Polish to get cash-in-hand work at the local car wash. All the while he’s carrying ten grand’s worth of £20 notes in an old jiffy bag.
The money belongs to him, but he can’t spend it. He needs it to realise his dream of re-staging the Birmingham Superprix, a street motor race held around the streets of England’s second city for five consecutive years between 1986 and 1990.
Can they endure the help of a drunken ex-racing driver, an over-zealous investor, and an unwelcome face from their past, as they set about attempting to triumph against the odds and reignite Birmingham’s racing future?
Signs and symbols used as a code to mark listed buildings in Birmingham before a suspicious fire or a demolition order have been revealed, and now ‘experts’ have explained how to protect yours. Look out for these drawing on walls, doors and even bins outside your property.
Some indicate that it’s not worth the effort of battling local opinion, others that they may be a prime target.