Bernie or Hillary: Birmingham

Every brummie has as much of a stake, and as much of a say, in deciding who runs the USA as they do in deciding who runs the council. As primary season swings into gear, it’s important to know what prospective Democratic Party nominees think of B-Town, so we present this primer for you:

bern or hill?


Birmingham is a great city. I always think of it as England’s ‘Mo-town’, and like Detroit it has a history of industry and musical invention. As progressives we must stand together to preserve that legacy for everyone. This great city’s Floridian policies have secured a growing and prosperous young middle class but we mustn’t lose sight of the needs of those outside of it: the old, the sick, those out of work, and those young people who lack the skills and connections needed to work in creative industries. And let’s not forget that inequality and poverty affect women and children disproportionately, a fact which is even more apparent in Birmingham. I also remember how Brum’s Lunar Men were influential in the founding of our constitution and country, and of course I love Boon (series 1-3) repeats on PBS.


Bill loved the Malt House

Posted in lolitics


The Evening Mail ran an article about how to spend 24 hours in Birmingham, a few months ago. It sounded fun, so we sent Harry Vale to check out their recommendations. Eventually, after we got him to ask John Chillcot and Pete Townshend for some advice on deadlines, he submitted this. It was worth the wait, a gonzo journalist Jack Bauer, pissed off and hungry in the rain. In the meantime, the Mail took the times off the article, so he was also performing something of a public service in checking out the logistics. Thanks to everywhere he visited for looking after him.

I couldn’t wait to delve into Paradise Circus’ Scrooge McDuck-esque expenses vault and spend all their money following the Mail’s itinerary to the letter. I’d be a tourist in my own city, rediscovering the hidden gems (that haven’t been bulldozed or cordoned off), discovering other gems that weren’t hidden but I just hadn’t heard of them, and gems I’d heard were a bit shit but I’d go anyway, because the Mail told me to.

CC: Elliott Brown

CC: Elliott Brown

I picked a humid, wet day to do this, which is just how I like my 24 hour adventures to be. I nudge the missus into giving me a lift, but she rolls back over, murmuring something about a “kidney infection” (the oldest trick in the book), so I jump in a minicab and mentally calculate how much this is going to cost as we slowly slip through the Hagley Road traffic. My taxi drops me off at Broad Street and I head to Marmalade, to try their eggs Benedict. The Mail suggested I get there for 8am, but I am slightly late. Luckily, it doesn’t matter, because the Mail are stupid and the place doesn’t open until 9.30am. This has thrown my whole day out of whack, because they’re sending me to the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter at 9am.

Guess what doesn’t open at 9am? If you said the largest municipal library in Europe, you’d be right. If you also said the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, you’d also be right. Now I don’t know what I’m doing, I feel like I have to work to plan, I need to stick to the schedule. The Birmingham Mail promised me 24 hours in Birmingham and now I’m standing in the rain, confused and hungry. I head to the nearest pub, grab possibly the worst coffee in the world (it looks like the stuff that Papa Shango cursed Ultimate Warrior with) and try and work out an alternate plan.

So my new plan: go back at 9.30am, ram breakfast down my throat as fast as possible, then jump in a cab to the Jewellery Quarter. I’ll spend as much time as I can there, then bus it to the Botanical Gardens at 10.30am, my next scheduled stop.

Guess what’s not open at 10.30am?

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Posted in culture Tagged with: , ,

More revealing than the Kerslake Report

Library Story: a history of Birmingham Central Library by Alan Clawley

“I read book once,” says Mr Heslop — played by Brian Glover — in Porridge, “green it was.” And I’m fairly sure if the green book Mr Heslop had read was on architecture or morality then it was one more book than any of the people involved in the decision to demolish John Madin’s Birmingham Central Library have ever skimmed.

I’ve just read a book, called Library Story, by long time campaigner for the library Alan Clawley — which is nothing more than heartbreaking as it reveals how influence and patronage rips through the city, how the cosy collusion of the media — it’s a small town, after all — allows scrutiny to be sidelined. And it shows just how decisions are taken, and defended against logic.

What the book isn’t is a book about the building, or really about about the history of its use. It moves very quickly from construction and opening to the campaign to prevent demolition. But that campaign, doggedly and determinedly helmed by the author reveals more about decision making in Birmingham than anything the Kerslake Report has done, and more than a million council consultation events will ever do.

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Posted in Brutalism Tagged with:

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 79: The White Line Down The Middle Of The Road


To be a Cockney, you need to be born within earshot of the sound of the Bow bells. To be a Brummie, so Lawrence Inman’s joke goes, you need to be born within earshot of someone moaning.

The truth, however, is somewhat cooler: Anyone can become a Brummie, and that’s the beauty of it.

When outsiders do move to Birmingham – reluctantly or otherwise (although it’s usually reluctantly) – they are indeed welcomed with open arms. All they have to do is ride a full circuit on the 11 bus and they can collect their lifetime Brummie pass. It’s as simple as that.

In truth, no-one actually checks if you’ve done the 11 thing, and most Brummies haven’t done it themselves.

Once settled into their adopted city, these nu-Brummies begin to notice something strange: They find, perhaps in spite of themselves, that they begin to like the place.

When pressed on this, they will say things like, “Well, it’s not as bad as I expected,” which, whether these interlopers know it or not, is a very Brummie way of positively appraising a situation. Or, “the people are really nice… and they talk to you on the bus/in the street/at the shops”, or, “It’s a lot greener than I thought it would be”. Slowly, but surely, we reel them in, just as we have done since the city was founded.

The newcomers also point out unlikely things. They point out things that the indigenous Brummie would miss, or not consider important, or not even dare to dream true. For example, one adopted Brummie I know, who spent a decade here, thinks the accent is a genuinely beautiful, lilting tone, and has described it as ‘the English Italian’. Mind you, he was from New Zealand (a Brummie invention, incidentally) so perhaps he was just pleased to find a tribe of people who are more malicious to vowels than his own.

The other thing a lot of these adopted Brummies almost always point out is how crackers it is on the roads. Brummies, it seems, have what has been described by another outsider-cum-Brummie I know as a ‘free jazz’ approach to motoring. Birmingham is a town where ‘No U-Turn’ signs, for example, are an affront to the driver’s inner Ornette Coleman and are often viewed and read as a direct challenge, rather than an instruction. As with the lilting accent compliment above, we’re perhaps too close to notice this because we’ve lived with it all our lives, but it’s probably true.

Whatever it is they teach you, for instance, about how to behave when negotiating roundabouts when you learn to drive is something we Brummies swiftly and proudly forget. This is highlighted by the fact that we, uniquely, refer to them by the more conceptual and poetic name of ‘islands’. In fact, as any Brummie knows, the only real and true function of an ‘island’ is to provide, along with pubs, collectively understood points along an imaginary breadcrumb trail that enable us to give another Brummie directions from A to B in the city.

The irony in all of this motorised lawlessness is that road signs, whether they be warnings or general travel instructions in the form of images, collectively understood these days as ‘street furniture’, would not exist without the city of Birmingham.

It was here, in 1921, that following a series of traffic accidents at the junction of Maney Corner in Sutton that white lines were painted down the middle of the road, instructing drivers to keep to their lane and to WATCH IT. The experiment duly reduced low-speed pile ups between men in driving gloves and goggles and the practice quickly spread throughout the world. The rest is history and inevitable progress, and one that has recently returned to bite visitors to Birmingham in the wallet with the introduction of 200-metre-long Bus Lanes that appear and disappear at the will of Birmingham City Council, who use them to fine unsuspecting drivers.

Beyond it’s original motoring safety function, the white, centralised line – the middle of the road, in other words – has taken on a number of other, separate meanings throughout modern culture. A politician who deliberately occupies a position that makes them seen less of an arsehole than the others occupies ‘the middle ground’, for instance, just as a piece of popular culture, a film, or a pop song perhaps, that is inoffensive but entertaining is often said to be ‘middle of the road’. No-one likes the middle of the road particularly, but there are sometimes worse places to be, and sometimes it’s the best and most expedient place you can be. Which brings us back around to those newly arrived, newly minted Brummies.

So, next time you go out to or watch, listen, eat or vote for something, and upon reflection you find that it was dull, uninspiring, but, ultimately, not as bad as you were expecting, and if you then manage to make it home in one piece, just remember that you have Birmingham to thank for that entirely forgettable evening.

Posted in 101 Things Brum Gave The World Tagged with:

Christmas is for sharing

It was the best* of times it was the worst of times, King Osborne had decreed that all citizens of Birmingham must journey back to their home wards for a local government boundary review, leaving him free to remove all funding from children’s services. No-one knew yet, however, why he wanted to kill all the firstborn in Ladywood…

Joseph De Jong, and his partner are about to give birth to a start-up, it’s an app that will let anyone hire out their own social capital when they’re not using it. Mary had a vision, in Austin, Texas. It’s called G-Zus, as most sensible domain names were already gone. Money is tight, and they’re struggling to afford office space in digital Digbeth, so Joseph and Mary are looking at renting desks at a co-working space.

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Posted in clickbait Tagged with:

Size is everything

Size is everything. The most important part of faster, higher stronger is: bigger. When you’ve the second largest in Europe you’ve got to shout about it.

Birmingham’s a grower and a show-er. But a shower of shit when it comes to having a sense of identity. Not a statement announcement or boosterist pronouncement comes without a comparison, but not a comparison comes without qualification: “biggest outside London”, “largest in Europe outside Germany”, “vastest within those areas not traditionally regarded as having a large one of this type of thing”.

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Posted in identity Tagged with:

Three Hipstermen (from Paradise Circus Live)


That was, literally, a lovely flat white?



..and those artisan chipotle fish tacos were really quite something too.



Best I’ve had since I went to visit my more successful friends down in Islington.



Who’d have thought, eh, that three years ago, we’d all be sitting here, in Birmingham, in a crowd-funded pop-up streetfood bazaar, watching a circus skills workshop, eating a fine selection of ethically-sourced Italian meats served on a piece of slate, eh?

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Posted in misc Tagged with:

Brutal, beautiful, battered: we’re losing the war for our soul


The demolition of Madin’s Library is victory for cliché and gormless ‘opinion’. A triumph of pluralistic ignorance, with the blood on the hands of an unimaginative fourth estate who sleepwalked with what passes for a second round these parts into an act of pointless vandalism.

Karl Marx developed a theory of what’s now called creative destruction: he postulated that capitalism needs continual cycles of devaluation or destruction in order to clear the ground for the creation of new wealth. As Stereolab explain, this is often by recession or war — but in our local context neglect and bogus ‘civic renewal’ serve the purpose. Capitalism has won over beauty, and the cheers of the braying classes as the thin exterior is punctured celebrate the powerlessness of all under money’s rule.

It is a war, a war for history and the public realm. The casualty of this war is beauty. The collateral damage the psyche and soul of the city.

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Posted in Architecture, Brutalism, identity Tagged with:

He made a comment about a black security guard: the found poetry of the Evening Mail’s Facebook updates


He made a comment about a black security guard,
Remember this, cult TV fans?
I don’t remember seeing this in any nativity story,
Will you welcome Tyson Fury to Birmingham?
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Posted in misc

Pub Timelord

I don’t have a problem. Or rather, I don’t have the problem you think I have.

I’m not drunk. I’m unstuck in time.

I slipped into the Rose Villa for a swift half. The gathering night battled with the street lamps and swooshing, the tyres scratched and the dull hum of a bus cream and blued it’s way through a puddle.

There was light behind the door, through the mottled glass. ELO playing on the jukebox. But first I needed a slash. “Ahh, that’s better,” I said to myself.

The bar looked the same, but different somehow. I didn’t recognise anyone, but I guessed I must be early. Or late. Nearly Christmas and everyone’s routines get shot to pieces.

But I couldn’t get my bearings. I searched the taps for anything I knew. No Brew, no M&B, no Ansells, no Black Label.

So I ordered pop, reasoning that it might wake me up. Half a coke. Through the heavy air I watched furry post-mixed cola, spluttering and coughing from the hose. But when the glass reached me, it was empty except ice and rough cut lemon. Placed next to it on a napkin — unsuited to the job of beermat — was a bottle. Clean, cold, open. But with a Victorian label. It tasted sweet, but so cold, so watery with the ice that there was nothing there.

A bitter. It’s Friday, I’ve been paid so I handed a fresh note over and pocketed the change without looking. The glass was tall, too straight. No handle. The beer not right.

Still no-one here. No-one I know. Everything has changed. Get me another, I’ll wake up then.

Posted in Fiction Tagged with:

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World

Birmingham was the crucible of the Industrial Revolution, but it gave the World so much more…

all of this.

Order 101 Things Birmingham Gave the World: the Book now

101 Book cover

"irreverent, informative and laugh-out-loud hilarious"

"one of the funniest books I have read in quite a while"

"the industrial language was uncalled for"

"Good if you finish Viz before the next edition is out"

The PC Satirical Cartoon

Described for you in text as we can't draw.

  • David Cameron is in a four-poster bed, wearing a Dickensian nightcap. He’s cuddling a big stuffed toy, which looks a little like a pig. He’s smiling, content snoozy Zs waft up from his chubby face. There’s an old-fashioned medicine bottle on the bedside table, it’s labeled ‘Dr Murdoch’s Neo-liberal Sleep Soundly Juice’, there’s a hardback copy of Hard Times which is covered in cobwebs unread. Readers may like to familiarise themselves with the oeuvre of Mr Dickens to get the most from this cartoon.

    In front of him are stood three ghosts, you can tell they are ghosts due to the fact they’re a bit faint. And you can tell what they’re representing as each one has a descriptive sash around them: Albert Bore (Past) wears threadbare clothes and a haunted (gettit) look, Andy Street of John Lewis (Present) is carrying a metaphor for the public’s influence over the region’s economy wrapped up as a gift, and John Clancy (Future) carries a ballot paper for a metro mayor , he doesn’t look too chuffed.

    The ghosts are shrugging, because Cameron won’t wake up and listen to them.

    In the background a wrecking ball is swinging through Central Library, and some children are crying in front of a dour looking Christmas tree with no decorations. The tree is covered in hazard tape and a sign that says ‘cancelled’.

    Caption: Gods bless us all, every one.

    Drawn by

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Service Birmingham & Capita’s Auto Redacter

It's best for commercial confidentiality.

Code by Nick Moreton

Paradise Circus grew out of the famous, now mothballed, Birmingham: It's Not Shit that chronicled and championed the real Birmingham since 2002.