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

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 ›
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50 or so things we love about Birmingham

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.

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Unpopular opinions about Birmingham

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.
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The Monaco of the Midlands – an exclusive extract of the Superprix novel

Tim Cornbill’s update of Jim Lamb’s original photo… Nicked from here.

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?

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Break the Brum listed building code

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.

Do they know it’s bin day? We release charity single in support of bin strikers

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.

Support the Brum Bin Strikers on Facebook.

Up the charts, up the workers!

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#Savetheflapper save our souls

The beautiful darkness inside the Flapper captured on a bright day.

Either you die a mouthy prick who gets barred for throwing the garden furniture into the canal, or you live long enough to see your city turn into a nameless suburb of Blandtopia. I’m drinking in the Flapper steeling myself for another bitter goodbye.

Me and the flapper have history, serious history. I remember being ten on a school trip to the canals in Birmingham. As a class we walked past and I remember the yellow building with arcade games in the window (it was a Firkin pub back then). I asked my teacher, Mr Goode, if we could go in and he just laughed. Possibly because even back then he could see the type of person I’d become. I remember because it was the only thing that day that I saw that I gave even half a shit about. Honestly, when it comes to the canals in town, it still is.

As a late teenager it was always a straight choice between Exposure and the Foundry then after, Eddies or XL’s. But on sunny days. No question, The Flapper. One of your mate’s shitty bands playing? The Flapper. Getting ID’d everywhere? The Flapper will definitely serve you.

But it’s going. It’ll go down swinging. But it’s going. BCC owns the freehold so could still block it but Birmingham city, partly through lack of funding, but mostly due its own incompetence, is skint. Birmingham City Council is a beaten dog with no master, cowering at anyone wielding a big enough moneystick. So poor it had to reach into its chest and pull out its very heart and sell it to developers for pennies. I’ll never forgive them for the loss of Central Library. And if they can’t see the value of a world famous historically significant and loved landmark, what chance does a pub the arse end of town stand? It’s worth fighting though. Sign the petition, show your support. Even if it is to show the developer wrong who said “All those people who come to defend that pub are like someone who’s got an old banger parked outside their house, and starts screaming when it gets keyed”.

The developers, Whitehorse Estates Ltd, claim the resulting block of flats will be addressing the badly needed housing shortage by offering two bedroom apartments for “young families and first time buyers” but similar properties in the area go for around 200k. I’m wondering who these first time buyers are. Maybe they’re the ‘london professionals’ we hear about in that article that the broadsheets write now and again. My favourite quote in the above linked article is from the developers describing a three metre wall as a “forgotten space” and a “den of iniquity of drugs and prostitution”. A three metre wall.

He also downplays its musical significance, but how many small venues are there left in Birmingham city centre? Two? Three? You don’t get big bands without small bands, and you don’t get small bands if there’s nowhere to play. Here’s the thing – when you chase all the artists, weirdos, musicians, punks, freaks, goths, and kids away they don’t come back. And all the vibrancy and excitement that drew people here in the first place disappears with them. Then the city becomes a Wetherspoons version of a city, sure it has all the features of the thing it’s replacing and certainly isn’t short of people there pretending it is, but the atmosphere will only ever swing between boredom to desperation and nobody will ever be proud of being there.

The Flapper is worth saving. I’ll say that again. THE FLAPPER IS WORTH SAVING. Every time I come back to Birmingham it’s a little more sterile. Another ‘flagship’ store has opened and another place with character, history, or heart has gone. Culture grows in the cracks and soon they’ll be nowhere left. Birmingham will be just another theme park to Mammon, a heartless temple of glass and brushed aluminium indistinguishable from the next city.

So fuck you Capitalism, double fuck you the cowards at Birmingham City Council, and triple fuck you Whitehorse Estates Ltd.

I fucking curse this ground. I curse any ‘cheeky’ glass of wine on your balconies to taste of cheap beer left in the sun. I curse any nights sleep to be ruined by the ghosts of a thousand lost nights of noise and lights and friends. And I curse your view never to be as beautiful as a summer afternoon with friends in the sun but only of a bland sprawling metropolis of cookie cutter developments occupied by wankers.

And people of Birmingham now more than ever we’re standing in front of a tidal wave of conformity and indifference. Keep being weird, keep being kind, and keep being you.

#savetheflapper

Last Week Tonight on tomorrow: how John Oliver could get out the vote in Erdington

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver host John Oliver is known for his viral TV rants about American politics, where he plays on his English outsider status to take pot-shots at President Trump, or ‘Drumpf’ as he’s christened him.

In a startling turnaround this week he moved closer to home—and spoke out on Brummie politics. He explained the electoral position in the UK and then launched into a routine all about the battle for the Birmingham Erdington seat in tomorrow’s election. For one reason or another—maybe the US public wasn’t ready to hear Oliver’s take on Cllr Robert Alden, or maybe censorship, or is it all fake news?—it never made it to the screen. But we have obtained a transcript…

Take my home town of Erdington, it’s supposed to be a safe Labour seat—that’s the Democrats, slightly angrier in worse clothes, but essentially the good guys—but it has become a marginal.

Or so the British media tells us. You can only really trust them to report two things: what’s on TV that evening, and that, yes, Pippa Middleton has indeed got a bottom.

But if it is now close in Erdington in Birmingham, this seems to be down to the personalities involved.

On the one hand, Jack Dromey a former union big wig who’s sort of semi-retired into being a Labour MP. On the other, Robert Alden who for some reason doesn’t seem to have ever had a proper job… almost as though his Dad was the Mayor and his mum is a councillor and wannabe MP too. Young Bobby has spent a lot of time in Erdington casting himself as the local compassionate conservative: all saving the bees, worrying about the environment, and opposing the opening of businesses and community centres which just happen to be run by immigrants.

So Dromey is a Labour guy from down south who got the gig for good behaviour, while Alden is a Tory who has put himself about the place fussing about bins and having photos taken cleaning up alleyways. And fair play to him. Have you seen some of the Erdington alleyways? I often saw them from the inside of those bins, where I was hiding from the local toughs after school. So, in some way thanks Bobby for keeping somewhere open for nerds to hide—after your lot closed all the youth clubs and cut the police.

You see the point is this: a vote for Robert Alden is a vote for the Conservative government. That’s the same conservative government who have forced cuts onto Birmingham Council—the same cuts which, as the leader of the local Conservative group in the council, Alden claims to oppose.

Now, Jack Dromey may look like a squashed cauliflower  on top of a Burton’s window mannequin

but he’s about as likely to change his mind – he’s tribal labour, it’s all in the family,  and that means attempting the best for normal people. Some people on the doorstep object to Jack because he’s married to Labour grandee Harriet Harman, like he’s some sort of cuck, and as though Bobby’s mom isn’t going to pick his ties out for him.

It’s like you’re being offered a choice between a grown man in a Lion King wig who’ll treat your public services like a fucking hyena and the volleyball from Castaway, who at least will vote the right way with Tom Hanks.

Alden thinks he’s Simba but actually he’s Timon and Pumbaa distracting you while Theresa May sneaks in to steal your kids’ lunches.

Animal caste systems are no basis for a system of government, and neither is hereditary councillorship. But in England it’s often the circle of life, in this case the Kingstanding Circle of life if you will.

Pauses for laugh but doesn’t get one

[aside] Kingstanding Circle is a place in Erdington, in Birmingham in Eng- aww, never mind

Oh, and one more thing—at the end of The Lion King Simba basically wins because it rains. No matter what the weather is like on June 8th, get out and vote—vote for the volleyball, vote for Harriet Harman’s husband, vote with Jeremy Corbyn, vote for the many not the few, for an Erdington with a future.

Hakuna Matata: it means No tories.

The last word on the Street: The Paradise Circus view on the WM mayor election

You may not think a mayor of the West Midlands is a good thing.

We’re getting one on Thursday anyway.

Andy Street, right.

The mayor might not yet have all the powers we need to take back that control from Westminster, the devolution deal might not be a real deal for the people of the region. But the mayor will have powers, they’ll have influence, they’ll represent you to the country and the world – and they’ll do that soon after the close of polls on 4th May.

There will be choice on your ballot paper, and the choice will be between someone on the side of central government and someone who isn’t.

Is central government policy working for Birmingham and the West Midlands? A glance around at the people sleeping on the streets, the closed libraries, the lengthening hospital waiting lists say it isn’t.

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Royal flush: Sutton’s town council awash with sponds

an old Royal Town signSutton has a Town council, they were even elected and everything rather that just being the last people propping up the bar at Moor Hall golf club when the motion was passed. The town had a referendum to set it up and allow them to add an additional charge to council tax in the ‘royal town’ – they get £1.8 million a year to spend.

But so far they’re struggling to find things to spend it on. They’ve decided to spunk invest half a million on a ‘CBSO play songs from the adverts concert in Sutton Park’—including ways to keep people without B72-76 postcodes out—but still £1.3 million remains. With the financial year end approaching from behind there are rumours of wolves circling with things like ‘civic wifi plans’ that will cost almost exactly the right amount.

We reckon there are better options. This is what £1.3 million could buy the residents of Sutton:

  • Two cursed restaurants:
  • 130,000 Freddos (pre-Brexit prices):
    • In Sutton Coldfield they have both types of conservatism—big and small c. In an independent Sutton Coldfield children will be able to play football in the streets, you’ll be able to leave your front door open, and Freddos will only ever cost 10p. The town could afford to buy a lot of them with £1.3m and then control the retail price through subsidy. Only two school children will be allowed in the shop at any time.
  • Schools:
    • £1.3m will go a long way to overturn the local effects of national spending cuts. If you just look at one of Sutton’s secondaries, Arthur Terry School, you’re looking at a drop of £900k over the next 2 years—and that’s just one of the town’s state funded schools. If a surplus of £1.3m could be achieved year on year it would relieve a lot of pressure—go further by not bothering with classical music concerts and lumping the whole budget on the children.
  • A wall around Perry Common:
    • Possible disadvantages will include poor stock levels on the shelves at Tesco New Oscott when people can’t get to work, but Ocado does deliver to all Sutton postcodes.
  • 10 buy-to-lets in Erdington
  • Harry Redknapp’s dog’s wages at Blues
  • A new ornate entrance to Sutton park for Andrew Mitchell MP,  with a smaller ‘plebgate’ next to it.
  • Libraries:
  • A shy Tory campaign in the mayoral elections: millions of leaflets, but no blue ink.
    • John Lewises’ Andy Street has spent over a million so far on leaflets to every corner of the West Midlands in order to make cash pay in getting the job of Mayor. Scared of being held to account for the record of the Tories in Brum and Westminster he’s mostly been trying to pass himself off as a green or independent candidate: even in his letters to residents in Solihull where being a Tory is usually considered a plus.
  • 260 biggest rabbits in the World.  
    • (Delivery not included) but they only have to come from Barnt Green.
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