When Charles Henry Foyle invented the cardboard box, in Birmingham, in the late 19th century, he by turn invented supermarkets: for would they be able to pile ’em high and sell ‘em cheap if they didn’t pile neatly in cartons and boxes? They, including Jack Cohen who came up with that motto and founded Tesco, would not have been able to. That the real idea turned out to be to pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap, force other smaller retailers of ‘em out of business, before using your virtual monopoly of ‘em to control both supply of ‘em and the eventual higher price of ‘em isn’t Charles Henry Foyle’s fault. He just originated the process that made manufacture of brightly coloured containers to put ‘em in cost effective. They call it the ‘folding carton’. Charles was lucky to be in Birmingham. Birmingham as we’ve discovered is a …

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World No. 82: The Cardboard Box Read more »

Tagged with:

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 …

People hear two different things from the same audio clip and the internet is going bananas Read more »

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 »

Tagged with: ,

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 …

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World No. 81: Books about Birmingham Read more »

Tagged with:

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 …

Eye-opener – leaked email reveals the code behind New St advertising screens Read more »

Tagged with:

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 …

The Monaco of the Midlands – an exclusive extract of the Superprix novel Read more »

Tagged with: