101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 59: The 45th President of the USA


On Tuesday, November 8, 2016 voters in the USA will choose their 45th President. If it’s not Hillary then Hillary will at least be the story, and behind every great woman is a man and behind that man is a song and behind that song is a woman and that woman is from Bearwood, behind which is: Birmingham.

The song that catapulted Bill Clinton to the presidency was Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac: a hopeful song forged in adultery, a message between two parts of a powerful professional couple whose careers were intertwined.

Don’t Stop was written by Christine McVie who grew up in Bearwood, the daughter of a concert violinist and music teacher. She studied art in Birmingham and played in bands, getting connected within the music scene. Her own career was going pretty well but it wasn’t until she met and married John McVie, and then joined his band Fleetwood Mac that she really found success in the music industry. Both partners to the marriage found greater success during their period of professional and marital partnership then they had before, peaking with Rumours the album that gave us Don’t Stop – Bill’s election theme – and the tour that preceded the McVie’s divorce.

McVie has said that the song is about her feelings about the break-up of her marriage. As she’d also written another song on the album about how much she was enjoying her affair with Fleetwood Mac’s lighting director, this might seem bastardly behaviour but it was pretty standard in the Mac at the time. Christine, being an honest Brummie type, at least wasn’t as bad as Lyndsay Buckingham whose contemporary practise was to write songs about how he didn’t love Stevie Nicks: and then give them to her to sing. This author likes to cast her in the role of Bill and so we look again at the lyrics, hopeful but also personal, a love letter to Hillary perhaps:

“Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow,

Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here,

It’ll be, better than before,

Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.


Don’t you look back,

Don’t you look back.”

What’s next? Hillary in 2016, that’s what.

Image CC Ableman. Fleetwood Mac facts checked by Howard.

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101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 58: The Last Night of the Proms


As the orchestra parps, the squiffy toffs bray, and the BBC commentators struggle with pitching their insight towards an audience that pretty much only wants to watch for the 1812 Overture, please remember to direct some of your swelling pooterish patriotism towards Birmingham. For without the global city there would be no local musical pride.

The Proms were launched in 1895 by some people in London, but they were not the first regular musical festival season, not by a long way. That may well have been the Birmingham Triennial Musical Festival which pre-dated the proms by over one hundred years.

That first music festival in Birmingham, held over three days in September 1768, was to help raise funds to complete the new General Hospital on Summer Lane. It took another event ten years later in 1778 to achieve the funds to open the hospital in September 1779. A further five years on, in 1784 the performances became the Birmingham Triennial Musical Festival, and after calling it that they decided to run it every three years.

It was so bloody popular they built the Town Hall (in 1834) to house it, and it took the War to End All Wars to end it. But that spirit lives on, every September: with added plastic Union Jack bowler hats.

And the Last Night of those proms wouldn’t be the same without the Pomp and Circumstance of one Edward Elgar who was Professor of Music at the University of – wait for it… – Birmingham. He wouldn’t be where he is today without the city or its musical ambitions, four of his major choral works were commissioned by the Birmingham Triennial Music Festival.

Birmingham, land of hope and glory.

Image CC By: Steve Bowbrick

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12 reasons why Birmingham should banish Tolkien

welcome to birmingham

JRR Tolkien was, by all accounts, a lovely bloke. His books might be badly-written overlong prose in need of an editor which gave birth to an era of badly written, overlong “high-fantasy” sagas, but as a human being he was, from what I can tell, beyond much reproach.

Tolkien, as anyone who’s read a ‘Birmingham’s dead interesting and that’ article can tell you, came from Birmingham and, because he’s dead famous, people in Birmingham will, on occasion, embrace this figure from our history and celebrate his roots.

I’m here to explain why people who love Birmingham should not celebrate JRR Tolkien’s residency in our land. In fact we should do the opposite: ignore the hell out of him and his deluded fans.
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A Literary Map of Birmingham

Flushed with the success of our 101 Things Birmingham Gave the World Kickstarter, for which we thank you all, we’re thinking of expanding into other types of merchandise.

Literary_London_Map_-_Black___Anna_BurlesImpressed by Anna Burles’s Literary London Map, we’ve taken stock of all of our city’s artistic heritage and produced our own.


“A fine art print map of the borders of Birmingham featuring characters from art based in Birmingham. The famous and infamous. And also the less well known. Those with an amazing moniker or brilliantly conceived nickname who are a credit to their creator. Each character has been plotted in the corners of the city they most liked to roam or chose to call home (sometimes on Her Majesty’s Pleasure). Combining hand-drawn typography and illustration, the posters are available now, framed for £29, unframed for £13 (both + P&P).”

See it in all it’s glory:

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101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 57: School


They were the best days of your life, ‘they’ will tell you. ‘They’, being everyone except Bryan Adams who is definite on the point of June, July and August 1969 being better. What ‘they’ will neglect to tell you is that those days wouldn’t be how they are without the city of Birmingham. Bryan however, never stops going on about Brum’s own postal reformer, and world cup winner, Sir Rowland Hill.

You see at the age of twelve, before inventing the post and the stamp to go with it, Hill became a student-teacher in his father’s school. In 1819 he took over the school Hill Top and moved it from town to establish the Hazelwood School in Edgbaston. He called it an “educational refraction of [our man] Priestley’s ideas”, and it became a model for public education for the emerging middle classes. It aimed to give sufficient knowledge, skills and understanding to allow a student to continue self-education through a life “most useful to society and most happy to himself”. The school building, which Hill designed, included innovations including a science laboratory, a swimming pool, and forced air heating.

In the book Plans for the Government and Liberal Instruction of Boys in Large Numbers Drawn from Experience (1822) he argued for kindness instead of caning, and moral influence rather than fear, for maintaining in school discipline. And some would say that’s where it all went wrong, but it’s certainly where the schools we know today come from.

And as Bryan Adams will no-doubt tell you, everything Sir Rowland Hill would do, he’d do it for you. And Birmingham, of course.

And there are only a few hours left on our Kickstarter for 101 Things Birmingham Gave the World: The Book. Back now:

Photo CC BY: Robert S Donovan

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101 Songs Birmingham Gave the World


As part of our making our 101 Things Birmingham Gave the World book, we promised to make an ‘album’ – an album of 101 songs that Birmingham gave the World. And we did, for backers of our book kickstarter only. Go on, back now: you’ll get the book in time for Christmas — which we invented by the way — and more cheaply that people will be able to buy after it’s in the shops. So it was secret, but the playlist leaked out online so you may as well all hear it.

Our rules were simple — the songs couldn’t have existed in this form without the city of Birmingham. That means Brummie songwriters, musicians, instruments, recording studios or subjects. Where the connections are a little more tangential, well we’ll let you work those out, and you can hassle us and each other in the comments. The other rule: it had to be on Spotify, so no Funky Moped, or Brummie moptops The Beatles.

We’re not saying that it’s the best 101 songs that Birmingham has produced*, but it’s a fantastic 6 hour listen — and of course it will finish with Mr Blue Sky.

101 Songs Birmingham Gave The World: Now that’s what I call Paradise Circus.

See the full 101 rundown here:

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The Wilko Report: Copy, right?

This article was commissioned by backers on the ‘crowdfunding’ journalism site Contributoria, but was not published. However as it is CC licensed we are able to publish here. Contributoria members are able to see the article’s production history.

Local newspapers are fighting a war against the web for digital attention — their advertising revenue and their lives depend on it. But are some fighting more dirty than others: reading smalle websites and ripping off their content?

If this were a case of copy and paste it would be solved easily. If it were a case of news stories it would be just what newspapers have been doing to each other since the first coffee house pamphlets — reporting what’s out there, borrowing each other’s exclusives. But this is more insidious: newspaper websites now trade in non-news pieces and ideas and content for these can be taken from anywhere. Possibly you.

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101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 56: The ‘ice bucket’ challenge

Why did Sir Edmund Hillary drag a lot of people up Everest before taking all the glory himself? Supposedly ‘because it was there’. Why do celebrities stand outside (or in other places that it doesn’t matter if they get wet) in old, but presentable clothes (that won’t be ruined if they get wet) and have some cold water poured on them? Because someone told them too. And because they are just scared of missing out.

Would Stan Collymore jump in the fire just because Benedict Cumberbatch told him to? He’d tell his mum ‘no’, but if it was a jug of chilled Evan, on camera, with a promise of being seen as a fun stand-up guy… All hail ‘the ice bucket challenge': the challenge being to make sure your audience thinks about you fondly for a few seconds.
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Disappearing Brum

Marti De Bergi first saw the legendarily punctual Spinal Tap in a little club called the Electric Banana but advised us “don’t look for it—it’s not there anymore”. And the director of Kramer Vs Kramer Vs Godzilla is right, nostalgia is a fool’s game.

The gateway drug is TKTVP, street name ‘Talking about old Kids’ Television Programmes’. No matter how it makes those lonely first-year undergraduate conversations in the Union bar seem easier it’s just building up an empty existence propped up only by Shine compilations in your work cubicle. By my age, you’re drawn and haggard and fit only to frequent the back rooms of the seedier pubs in Moseley talking about bloody Tolkien.

But like a pusher, I’m going to attempt to give you false nostalgia for a past you needn’t have bothered to remember. Let’s see if you can develop a simulacra of a misty eye over these gone, or soon to be gone, Birmingham fixtures:

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Lolitics: The power of civic satire


Local councillors often communicate in a torturous combination of management speak and political spin. They share the oratory and obfuscatory ambition of government ministers but lack the support of hundreds of SPADs or the rhetorical benefits of a classical education. But for a time the ruling officials of Birmingham — the largest local authority in Europe — spoke to the city in the simple, grammatically incorrect, language of the internet cat.

A site called Lolitics from 2008 to 2012 took the publicity images — hard hats, awkward grins, pop-up banners and all — of the politicians and added lolcat-style captions, poking a very new type of satirical fun at a group of people who hadn’t quite grasped how communications were working in the world of social media. Council Leader Mike Whitby, a blustering older David Brent in a multicoloured tie, was lampooned as a man who spoke in one noun sentences, while Councillor Deirdre Alden, the most thrusting of a husband/wife/son team on the Conservative benches, became a paranoid princess obsessed with building her ‘shiney (sic) army’ (a group of supporters, most often in hi-vis jackets performing some community good).

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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.

The PC Satirical Cartoon

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

  • A group of people in suits, scabs on their faces, dishevelled, walk stiffly across Centenary Square with the new library in the background. They all look blank faced and stumble in the same direction towards the ICC.

    Sitting on the walls around the hall of memory are some young people, in tracksuits and with skateboards. On the floor near them are two newspapers (as the council have stopped clearing rubbish recently or something) – one paper has the headline ‘Tory Conference in Brum’, the other ‘Zombie Walk Today’.

    One of the young skateboarders in saying, “Which one’s Boris?”.

    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.