The Foel Tower Agreement: A manifesto for creating a healthier public sphere for a diverse city.

Birmingham has a young, diverse, integrated population. The city council declared it a city of sanctuary, it has a history of attempting to welcome people of all creeds and faiths. However it also has a history of tension and politics that has attempted to sow division for its own ends. In many ways we are at a point where there is a fork in the road about which sort of city we want to become.

During the 19th century clean water was in short supply in Birmingham and there were major epidemics of water-borne diseases including typhoid, cholera and diarrhoea. Birmingham City Council under Joseph Chamberlain, set about finding a clean water supply for the City. James Mansergh identified the Elan and Claerwen Valleys as a place that could supply the water, and the Foel Tower is the starting point of the 73 mile journey of the water from the Elan Valley to Birmingham.

With the creation of online distributed discourse there are a number of publications and organisations acting as hosts for the civic debate — and they have a responsibility to make that debate clean and safe. Elan Valley water rather than Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’.

Birmingham has an opportunity to lead in this space, as it did in public health all those years ago. So we urge people to press those with the power to influence the debate to sign up to this manifesto:

The Foel Tower Agreement

A manifesto for creating a healthier public sphere for a diverse city.

We call all organisations, individuals, publishers and publications that host online debate about and in the city to work to create a healthier public sphere for a diverse city.

These hosts should commit to the following principles in hosting online debate.

Read more ›

Posted in identity

We’re half empty, but still the second biggest in Europe

"we leave the Midlands Engine running and then..."

Half of Birmingham voted to leave.
Half of Birmingham wanted to stay.

We wanted to stay.

To the victors, no spoils.
You’ve set off an earthquake.

Just today, just right now, you’ve voted yourself poorer. And the man who got you here is already pulling things out from under you.

We said Brexit would be bad for Birmingham.
We hope we were wrong, we fear we were not.

We don’t know what’s next, but we’re ready.
Get ready too.

Let’s be ready to build our Birmingham for ourselves. Let’s be ready to call bullshit on the things that will come our way. Let’s stop hate wherever we find it and stand up to the commercial interests that let it grow. Let’s be ready, there are some battles ahead.

Together. Forward.
And join a union, you’ll need one.

Posted in comment Tagged with: ,

Paradise Circus says: Vote Brumain

Local satirical miscellanies, so the mainstream media says, are not doing enough to get out their core constituency for the Remain vote.

We want to, we really want to. But a harder question than the one on the ballot is: is it possible to be funny about it? Sure it’s possible to do tiresome Python-referencing knock offs listing the shiny buildings we’ve built and placed plaques with european stars on them. But the rhetoric is dire, self-satirising, and so far removed from a rational debate that it’s hard to get purchase on.

The EU isn’t perfect, but it does provide some safeguards against the worst excesses of neoliberal capitalism – especially regards workers and individual rights – and of course the Brexit line-up is full of the worst of all people.

Read more ›

Posted in comment Tagged with:

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 80: The Inevitable Downfall of the BBC

The Plarchers, a Twitter parody

The Plarchers, a Twitter parody

It’s amazing that, with the modern attention span the way it is, the BBC has managed to keep any programme going for over 60 years. That’s a testament to a wonderful variety of writers, producers, and editors, it’s a tribute to the management that held faith and more than anything it’s a case study in how taking a punt on an innovative idea can produce something astounding.

The Archers, recorded in the Borsestshire village of Ambridge — but produced and broadcast from the nearby big city of Birmingham — is not only wonderful entertainment, but was the world’s first ‘scripted reality’ show. The genre, with The Only Way Is Essex, Geordie Shore and Midlands Today all riding high in the ratings, feels like the very definition of NOW: but did you know it started in May of 1950 for those of us in the Midlands, and on 1 January 1951 for the rest of the country? We’ve all been listening for 64 years and counting, or maybe it just feels like that.

But innovative and important though it is, The Archers’ tales of everyday country folk are a pernicious cancer at the heart of our Public Service Broadcasting.

Read more ›

Posted in 101 Things Brum Gave The World Tagged with:

Rivers of shit: Let us challenge hate, everywhere

It’s been a terrible decade or so. Flecks of blood splatter the hands of everyone who panders to racism, distrust and hate: Trump, Farage, Cameron, the Sun and the Daily Mail. But it’s also on the hands of the supposedly neutral, good, people who are afraid of offending racists because they want their money, or votes.

Casual racism, small pieces of hate, or general othering that goes unchecked or is pandered to creates a climate where division is the norm and the mould of active dangerous hate can fester in the cracks.

Paradise Circus quite regularly takes the piss of the comments on the Birmingham Mail’s Facebook page: “get in and read the nice story before the racists get there,” we’ll say. There are worse places too, the mention of travellers on the Bearwood Page on Facebook is the starting gun for vile behaviour.

Once in a while it might happen on one of our channels, we find attack the best form of defence. But right now tolerance across the board is needed. Nothing seems to be getting better, it’s getting worse.

Read more ›

Posted in comment

Goodbye Pavilions*

Really, nobody gives a fuck. Today it’s a empty space, a ghost town, but has it really been anything more? Does anybody have any fond memories of the place? Devoid of shops you can see the artless early nineties post-modern design, which looks a lot like the pastel flourishes of late eighties blandness. Even the Evening Mail’s frothing gang of wow merchants can’t summon the energy to care in this hilariously empty “news” article.

Six years ago I’m at a public exhibition speaking to an Argent representative about the redevelopment of the Central Library, they’re pretty vague but they’re talking about turning the whole area into their other achievement Brindleyplace and the Gas St Basin. I swear for a little bit, and leave.

Recently it’s been used as a shortcut to the bus stops opposite Moor St and a place for the bus drivers to eat their lunch. My fondest memory was an art installation that used some of the empty units a few years ago. Culture in the gaps.

past times

My good friend wrote “Capitalism disappoints” and stripped of the shops the Pavilions echos with emptiness and exposes this disappointment. Places like this aren’t built for anyone to like they’re built so not to offend, mixed use developments and the such are tin crowns waiting for the cubic zirconia of retail ”experiences”. And they’re spreading. Costume jewellery for a beauty contest where we aspire for second place.

Read more ›

Posted in future nostalgia, misc Tagged with: ,

Evening Mail Facebook posts as inspirational posters

dot tumblr dot com.

mailasinspirationalquotes2

mailasinspirationalquotes5

Read more ›

Posted in clickbait

Number 11: satire and the skewing of the spectacle

Number 11 by Jonathan Coe is now out in paperback, like many of his works there’s Birmingham in the prose.

If you’ve watched a football match recently, you’ll have noticed that it looked not like football should: but something more pristine. Perfect grass, shining at you at the right colour,  the crowd static, the players all so universally healthy: so universally quick that the speed of the game is uniform and appears slow. Every game has the lustre of a meaningless pre-season friendly. Don’t all new bands look like bands created for a film, walking like a duck, but not quite being Chuck Berry.

Is the spectacle broken? It might be possible that the angle of incidence no longer equals the angle of reflection. It might be possible that recuperation no longer quite works in the end game of capitalism. Maybe Debord was wrong.

I tried to pin this down, find the point where the spectacle stopped working, and it might be the brief career of Jet  – a band that looked so much like Kasabian (already an indie band created for a Russell Brand romp-com)  – who had a big hit with a song that sounded exactly like Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life. Exactly like it. Lust for Life had only been a revival hit a few years previously, but Jet’s song hit the charts and no-one said anything: especially not the music press that had sped up retreading of trends as if the kids were screaming because they wanted to go faster. Rather than because they were alienated.

Like the continual racist apophasis about how we can’t talk about immigration, the bastardly now hide in plain view. Tom Lehrer said that when Kissinger won the Nobel prize ‘satire died’, but maybe it not dead but turning in on itself.

Jonathan Coe’s Number 11 presents as satire, but the majority of the content isn’t exaggerated or taken out of context: TV does lie, tax avoidance and mega-wealth are inseparable and unapologetic, £160M new libraries do reduce service due to lack of money for staff and new books.

Read more ›

Posted in culture Tagged with: ,

What time and when is our new SEO strategy going to pay dividends with pageviews? Everything you need to know

Friend of the show Dave Harte used to do a bit about how the most popular posts on his hyperlocal website was called “When are the supermarkets open over Christmas?”. This is the sort of ‘content’ which successfully remediates the local newspaper onto the web. Forget live-blogging, periscoping, and making things ‘interactive’ — what people really want is useful information delivered in a timely manner.

This is an example of what academics call a ‘news gap’—something people want, which isn’t being provided by the mainstream, commercial media companies. Hyperlocal websites tend to go around sticking their finger in these news gaps in a metaphor which becomes quite difficult to complete because, having evoked the idea of a little Dutch boy plugging a big dam, I need to flip it to a little Belgian boy pissing into a tiny font which then feeds his endless stream of piss.

I digress.

It turns out that this noticeboard stuff SEOs really fucking well, so inevitably the “proper” newspapers have piled in. This is a common feature of the relationship between hyperlocal and mainstream media: once the news gap can be shown to turn a buck or two, the big guys put a six lane motorway over it on a viaduct, destroying anything that remains of our figurative landscape.

And so, the other weekend we were searching for the start times of the England V Germany friendly and we found SEO laden copy from national newspapers, including our local’s big brother the Mirror. But they can’t just tell you the info, they’ve got to make it into a bit of a story: because they are newspapers, but also because if it’s too short the nugget of fact you need will appear in the Google preview — and then there’s no ad revenue. Here in Birmingham, the Evening Mail keep a category of these SEO landing pages, so you can see for yourself the sort of thing they are optimising for here:

MailSEO

We’re expecting “What time and when are Birmingham’s St Georges celebrations? And are they racist? Does it offend the moslems, Stew?” to land today.

But a big UB40 concert, a sponsored ‘zombie walk’ resembling the Tory party conference, or a new series of — Liverpool filmed — Peaky Blinders, doesn’t come round every week, it just feels like it. We have to have things that people want to know all the time, things that are hard to find information out online… only problem is we don’t know the answers either.

When will we find the Capita Contract in Birmingham?

Capita plc, commonly known as Capita, is an international business process outsourcing and professional services company headquartered in London. If you want to know what that means it means that they’re a bit like Sodexo but with more computers andRead More »

When's the new series of BBC One sitcom set in Birmingham Citizen Khan on TV and is it Islamophobic? Everything you need to know

Soon there will be a new series of the BBC One sitcom set in Sparkhill, Birmingham, Citizen Khan that stars comedian Adil Ray on television, on the BBC One channel and iPlayer. Wikipedia says that Citizen Khan “is a family-basedRead More »

Which No. 1 to Acock's Green does that chap who stinks of piss catch, so I can avoid him?

If you’ve ever commuted to Acock’s Green in Birmingham, England, in the morning on the Number One (No. 1) bus, operated by Travel West Midlands, then it’s possible that you’ve at times caught a whiff of piss. Unlike farts, itRead More »

When do they put near dated cheese in the Whoops fridge at the Asda?

Asda Stores Limited is an American-owned, British-founded supermarket retailer, headquartered in Leeds, West Yorkshire. Asda run a number of stores in Birmingham. The company started in Leeds but was bought by American giant Walmart in 1999. It is one ofRead More »

What time does Select and Save on the Stratford Road close?

Select and Save is a supermarket on the Stratford Road in Birmingham. It’s at 870 Stratford Road in Sparkhill. It’s not the only Select and Save (or Select & Save), there’s also one in Moseley, but we don’t know whatRead More »

When and on what day do The Yenton clean their pipes?

The Yenton is a pub on Sutton Road, Erdington, Birmingham.  Their website says “At Sizzling we believe the people of Erdington deserve more from their local pub. And it’s our job to give you just that.” “We’re a friendly bunch and weRead More »

And is this going to prove to be our revenue strategy for a successful future? We’re not sure.

Insert Google Ad here

Posted in In the news Tagged with: ,

Signing off

Danny Smith has been writing for us, in all our forms, for as long as we can remember.  He’s a blue-haired gonzo with a habit of going misty-eyed over cute kids, and having a red mist descend when seeing how privilege fucks those same kids over. In prose he can find the mould in the corners of even the most ‘laughing with canal-side salad’ press event. So much so that we as editors have a stock response to anything we don’t want to go to: “Send Danny.” But now he’s sending himself…

CC: vexsmila

Dead to us – Image CC: vexsmila

My life seems to be a series of leaving parties, that is to say I seem to leave a lot but never really arrive anywhere. But soon I leave Birmingham, perhaps never to live here again. It’s a good ol’ city, mismanaged on the whole but full of good people, funny people, mad creative, eccentric people, people of a sharp wit but kind tongue.

I have to admit this very nearly was a wry ‘Things I WON’T Miss About Birmingham.’ But I’ve mellowed as I’ve got older. I could write that article and light my way to Brighton with the bridges I’ve burnt behind me but we all know the city’s faults and it’s not that “we don’t shout about ourselves more”. In fact some honest reviews and critique would be a cool breeze in an atmosphere of twee stifling press releases rewritten for CoolBrum™ listicles and breathless praise .

As I said I’m not here to shake any trees, just to point out some peaches.

Read more ›

Posted in future nostalgia

Sign up for Paradise City

The weekly freemium email that is always first with the big cultural news!

See past issues

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.

  • Interior of the Council House, which you can tell because of the sign that says ‘Council House’.

    There is a newspaper — why? no-one knows — on a desk, the headline reads “More Council Budget Cut — they can’t even afford the museum”.

    A man is on the phone, it is Leader of the Council John Clancy. He has a name plate.

    “Yes you can light up the Library in the colours of the Belgian flag. No, I know we said we couldn’t afford the electric for Paris, but this time  it’s 1/3 extra free.”

     

    Drawn by

Follow PC on Twitter for our pick of the Brum-web

Older

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.