101 Things Birmingham Gave The World

101 Book coverBirmingham is not just the crucible of the Industrial Revolution, but the cradle of civilisation.

That’s a bold claim, but we make it all the time. To each other only of course, frightened of the loud trumpeting and drum banging that might ensue should we actually tell anyone from outside the city. So it was a claim without serious backing until when, in 2011, a man called Craig Hamilton from — you’ve guessed it — Birmingham had the brilliant pub idea of collecting together 101 things Birmingham gave the world.

You can now order the full 101 Things Birmingham Gave The World Book a wonderful tome that will sit alongside Joseph Priestley’s 1782 An History of the Corruptions of Christianity, Eddie Fewtrell’s King of Clubs or some of Alton Douglas’s books of photocopied 50s bus tickets.

Buy now.

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World. No. 99: Gynaecology

I can’t speak for other social strata or areas, but in a working class home in Birmingham if you ever start a sentence “I’m not a…” Dads in other rooms will bound over furniture and push small children out of the way to run in and say “I’m not a...Read More »

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World. No. 98: Israel, and tensions in the Middle East

Of all the things Birmingham has given the world – there’s more than 101 – nothing provides a glow of pride quite like the bloodshed in the Middle East. At the close of the 19th century, an area known as Palestine was home to Arabs, Muslims, Christians and Jews, who lived...Read More »

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World. No. 97: Going to the Pictures

It’s an incontrovertible yet nonetheless contested fact that Birmingham’s Electric Cinema is the oldest working cinema in the UK. Birmingham can, then, claim an important part in the history of cinema in Britain. The Electric, though, is a peculiar beast. Those who would dismiss its claim to be an historic...Read More »

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World. No. 96: Radio 1

The 1960s, as we’re often told, was a turbulent time. A time of sexual liberation, mind-expanding drugs and endless streams of footage of Twiggy walking down Carnaby Street, and George Best pouring sparkling wine into a pyramid of champagne glasses. When talk turns to radio, however, the cameras always inevitably turn...Read More »

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World. No. 95: Analysing the Class Struggle

Nancy Mitford was a terrible snob. In a letter to Evelyn Waugh, she mentions with glee a mutual friend who uses the expression “rather ‘milk in first’” to express condemnation of those lower down the social scale. In an essay for Encounter magazine, called The English Aristocracy, she listed a glossary...Read More »

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World No. 94: The Orwellian Nightmares of the Daily Mail

Orwell House, Sutton Courtney, Oxfordshire Eric Arthur Blair’s 1984 provides such a compelling vision of life in a totalitarian state that it has become the founding text on which fears of undemocratic control are built. Its ideas are strong and can be easily adapted to suit almost any political purpose. The left...Read More »

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World No. 93: The Safe Hand Grenade

It’s possible, but unlikely, that when the kids of today play ‘war’ they mime sitting in command centres programming drones, or pretend to work on high-level AI routines for infiltrating ISIS on Instagram. It’s more likely that they continue to use the main two traditional imaginary weapons: guns and the...Read More »

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World No. 92: Car Horns

Human beings are strange animals. One of our oddest traits is the belief that certain objects are made not of earthly or man-made materials, such as iron, carbon, cotton, or paper, but of fucking magic. Some items are thought to bring us good luck, such as horseshoes, or rabbits’ feet, or...Read More »

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World No. 91: Pointless kitchen appliances

Everyone has a guilty secret tucked away in the hardest to reach cupboard of their kitchen. Is yours a donut maker, a Breville or a pasta machine? The answer will depend very much on your age, your class, and when you reached key milestones in your life course but most...Read More »

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World No. 90: Saving the world from Climate Change

Don’t worry, we’ll be OK. On the last day of October 2014, as trick or treaters took to the streets of the city suburbs for Halloween-themed fun, something genuinely terrifying was in the air. It wasn’t the fact that Halloween has become, over the last few years, a poster child for the...Read More »

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World No. 89: School

Ada Road School, Small heath, 1955 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 of 1969 being better. What ‘they’ will neglect to tell you is that those days wouldn’t...Read More »

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World No. 88: Brexit

Yes, this hot take has taken two years. There’s been a lot to work out, and we’ve had our top team on it. In no way has this document been cobbled together from publicly available sources and Wikipedia the day before it was due. You see, from the moment the vote...Read More »

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World No. 87: One-way Streets

Jonathan Meades :: Birmingham, Heart Bypass from MeadesShrine on Vimeo. Jonathan Meades likes Birmingham. Even for a public intellectual he’s a contrary bugger. He spends the first chapter of his recent autobiography bemoaning the fact he wasn’t a good looking enough child to attract the attentions of any paedophiles. In his 1998...Read More »

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World No. 86: Prog Rock

The history of popular music is the story of youth, sex, drugs and revolution. It’s also the story of the ruthless exploitation of naïve young dreamers by savage and unscrupulous media professionals, a long process of vertical integration by global entertainment conglomerates, and the development, packaging, and marketing of products to...Read More »

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World No. 85: Airside Shopping

Plane chocolate at BHX The amount of time that we spend airside seems to go up year by year, increasing at a faster rate than the processor power increases on new computer chips. It really needs a ‘law’ — and, considering it seems like you are stuck in a place that pretends...Read More »

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World No.84: Wankers

You’ve seen him on the motorway: coming in off the junction, he could drop in safely behind you and still keep the needle at 70 but instead he drops a gear and punches it past you to win a racing line on the last yard of the slip road. Firmly...Read More »

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World No. 83: The Great British Worker

At Cofton Park nr Longbridge Stalwart vessels of early British satire, Ronald Barker and Ronald Corbett had a fine line in jokes about the perceived work ethic of the country’s factory fodder. “An aerial photograph of the track at British Leyland,” they announced, “was spoilt when somebody moved.” You see, it had...Read More »

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

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...Read More »

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

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...Read More »

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

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...Read More »

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...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 78: The sound of silence

I’ve got something I need to tell you about Birmingham. It’ll be legend… – wait for it – …dary. I need to tell you about Birmingham and how it invented the dramatic pause. Well, the one they have on the telly anyway. Rhetoricians have always known that the pause is a powerful thing: it’s the...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 77: The kitchen-sink modernist novel

Two o’clock, 1929, Tyseley, Birmingham, Henry Green walked Warwick Road, near current DFS, Foam Cut to Size, Hollywood Monster. Standing in Tyseley, son of Mr Yorke, thought in mind and it seemed to him that these factories were beautiful and he reached out feeling to them and he touched them; he...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 76: The hollow promises, lies, and shattered dreams of fame and stardom

Yesterday I was happy to play For a penny or two a song Till a fellah in a black sedan Took a shine to my one-man-band He said, “We got plans for you, you’d never dream” You’re a Star, Carl Wayne’s theme song for Birmingham-based television talent show New Faces, tells the story of art...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 75: Batman

I’m the goddamn Batman Jim Lee: All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder no.1 Jim Lee: All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder no.1 Why claim Batman? Birmingham isn’t short of its own, real, superheroes after all. The Statesman is a Bromsgrove bank clerk by day and at night prowls the city...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 74: Eugenics

I’m not a psychoanalyst, but in the case of Francis Galton I’ll have a look. Grandson of Erasmus Darwin (erstwhile Lunar Society member, poet, naturalist, and inventor of the PA system), and hence cousin of Charles who was 13 years his senior, he devoted most of his life to promoting...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 73: Running a marathon

In 2015 running is a spectacle and it’s a big business. The Great North Run and the London Marathon are sporting mega-events: televised and commodified, they’re about much more than running. They’re about cities, landmarks, tourism, charity, personal achievements, narratives and mythology. Ultimately they are about ways of constructing those...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 72: British Satire

As Philip Larkin said about sex, British satire began in the 1960s and it has never looked back. That Was The Week That Was, Beyond The Fringe, Harold Macmillan impressions and that time when the varying heights of John Cleese and the Two Ronnies taught us all about class. Life...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 71: Top Gear

Amid the hoo-ha around the fracas, it’s easy to overlook that the current brooha-ha is the result of Birmingham’s influence. Yes, Birmingham invented the mechanisms of modern TV, yes, Birmingham was responsible for the growth of the motor car, and yes Birmingham has made Jeremy Clarkson more upset about concrete...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 70: Feminist journals

Hmmm – what to read…? Celebrity cellulite hell; top-ten handbags-to-die-for; how to bake the perfect chocolate cheesecake; how to lose 15 stone in three days; how to perform the perfect blow-job; how to maintain the will to live…. Amidst today’s flim-flam of celebrity, lifestyle, fashion and beauty publications consumed by much...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World No. 69: Conference centres

Anyone who regularly travels by train between Birmingham and Coventry will know that the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) is a little like Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree. As the train pulls into Birmingham International station, every train regular is wondering, which land is at the NEC this week? If the...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World No. 68: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Trap one in the gents at my work is always locked. No one ever goes in; no one ever comes out. I call it Willy Wonka’s shithouse. To myself that is – it doesn’t really come up much in conversation. That, rather than the two films, the West End musical, or...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World No. 67: Roxy Music

The world of Roxy Music is distant and fantastic: dream homes, smoky nightclubs, crunching gravel drives. Only occasionally is it specific (Acapulco, Havana, Quaglino’s of Mayfair) but it’s always exclusive territory. By being unspecific, Roxy could be anywhere and everywhere… the point was that they were somewhere you weren’t. A...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 66: Pissing

This is one for the guys, ladies you might want to sit down. Remember when you were learning how to ‘do a standing up wee’? The hardest thing was getting your little soldier to hit the target. Now then: what did you aim for? That’s right! There was some writing...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 65: Little Tescos in Petrol Stations

‘Does it have a mini-mart? A small supermarket, fits inside a garage, sells antifreeze and pasties, that type of thing?’. The words of Alan Partridge back in 1997. One of the most loved traits of Partridge is his ability to highlight the absurdity of the banal. Partridge is in thrall...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 64: The Second (and Third, and so on) Iraq Wars

I was watching Sportsnight, or maybe Midweek Sports Special, when the first Iraq war really kicked off, it was the 17 January 1991 and the star attraction on the late night TV show was the Football League Cup fifth round tie between Chelsea and Spurs. Dennis Wise was scuttling around...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 63: TV Box Sets

The TV box set is a thing. It’s so much a thing that it has now detached itself from its own material: a box set is no longer a TV series collected as a set and presented in a box, it is now simply the thing, collected, and placed in...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 62: Nerds

Pretty much anyone who ever invented or discovered anything of note was a nerd. Just look around you: electronic devices; carpet; the shoes on your feet. All of those things, just like everything else man has created, from the world-changing discoveries to the mundane, everyday items, only exist in the first...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 61: Indie Coffee Shops and their Fucking Lovely Cupcakes

Bone-idle Brummies have been loitering in coffee shops since way before the likes of Starbucks came over here with their 87,000 different drink combinations; getting our names wrong and shirking their corporation tax. There were several coffee shops in Brum as far back as the ‘50s, with exotic-sounding names such as...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 60: Words

We are dismayed quarterly, when the Oxford English Dictionary appears to show no restraint in adding the latest fad neologisms, such as “selfie” (not to be confused with any photo of a person), “hashtag” (not to be confused with the hash symbol), and “flexitarian” (not to be confused with a...Read More »

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...Read More »

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...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 57: Exchange Students

When we were at school a mate of mine would occasionally turn up at things during the summer with a weird sidekick: a French kid called Xavier. Xavier was an exchange student, sent over for weeks at a time to learn English how it is really spoken. Unfortunately for M....Read More »

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...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 55: Environmental catastrophe

Technically, you could argue that, as the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, Birmingham and the Midlands will eventually gift to all humankind a catastrophic environmental collapse that will ultimately destroy the human race. Some might say it’ll be our just desserts for pillaging the planet’s resources. But knowing what form...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 54: Suburbia

Suburbia eh? Leafy streets, Terry and June, mock tudor, bay windows – surely that all started in Surrey or Middlesex, and spread to the rest of the country? Well no, it all started in Birmingham, of course. When George Cadbury moved his factory from central Birmingham to what was then...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 53: The Ironing

Back in the days before anything was open on a Sunday, the gentleman of the house would repair to the local hostelry and return home pie-eyed at about half past two. He’d then sleep off the roast dinner in an armchair, before it was time for That’s Life and then...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 52: The United States of America

Oh, America. Hamburgers, Hot Rods, hanging out at the mall, Rock & Roll, Fox News, an out-of-control culture of gun violence. You’ve come a long way since you were a just another undiscovered continent of perfectly happy indigenous tribes. Your star may now be on the wane, but you won’t find...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 51: The Beatles

The Beatles, when they started, were not much more than a bunch of pretty boys with guitars. And guitars were going out of fashion. They got popular, but may well have slunk out of cultural history in the same way as, for example, The Applejacks – if it wasn’t for...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 50: Panhandling

If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Despite the protests of anyone who’s ever wanted to make it from one end of New Street to the other, asking people for money is profitable and it will continue. Birmingham has some world class panhandling: the girl with the odd voice and...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 49: England’s 1966 World Cup Triumph

48 years of hurst and counting. On that glorious summer afternoon, 30th July 1966, the sun shone on the British Empire for perhaps the last time. Kenneth Wolstenholme, Alf Garnett, future Birmingham City Manager Alf Ramsey and Jimmy Greaves were all at the apex of their happiness and together they...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 48: Startup Culture

When Matthew Boulton, James Watt, and William Murdoch stood at the bottom of Broad Street and stuck some post-its on the wall to plan their first sprint, little did they know they would set in motion a revolution that would see the word “silicon” put in front of every inanimate object...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 47: Infographics

When we were a city of a thousand trades, we had men to produce thousands of words to tell the story. One such was Joseph Priestley who essentially didn’t ever shut up, producing hundreds of pamphlets and books on philosophy, science, religion and even grammar. But that age of voluminous reason...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 46: Thomas the Tank Engine

Railway enthusiasts get a bad press. If it’s not the anoraks, glasses, and spots it’s the destruction of the Tory countryside in order to build train lines. Or it’s—in the words of Daniel Kitson—that they “aren’t paedophiles [they] just like the look”. The clergy  get a bit of that too. For all...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 45: Shit shoes

  If you’ve seen any coverage of the Oscar ceremony, or any Oscar ceremony, you’ll know it’s all about the clothes. The women’s clothes. The women’s bodies, the ladies’ bras. Male attendees get to dig out evening dress and pass without comment. It’s an everyday sexist world, but let’s turn the...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 44: Musical differences

All bands eventually get back together, except for the only two that you might actually want to see again: Slade and The Smiths. They all get back together because they all split up and then find they need the money, and the reason they split up is called ‘musical differences’....Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 43: Class conflict in popular culture

In 1908 26 men lost their lives just on the edge of Birmingham, but also on the edge of our understanding of the earth itself. Opened in 1876 Hamstead Colliery was at that point the deepest mine in the World—2000 feet down beneath the surface. Not too far from where...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 42: Teletext

Before Birmingham gave the World the Internet, information traveled at a much slower and more unreliable pace. Say you were on the terraces of the Spion kop on a Saturday afternoon, depressed, waiting and hoping for some light relief from Billy McNeill’s Aston Villa who were probably losing away at...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 41: Daily Mail Britain

Do you have a Facebook account? If you do, I’ll bet that at some point in the last month or so you’ll have read a mind-bendingly stupid, or downright offensive comment made by a vague acquaintance – someone you went to school with, perhaps, or a former colleague from that...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 40: Photocopying your arse

  1779: James Watt patents a copying press or ‘letter copying machine’ to deal with the mass of paper work at his business; he also invents an ink to work with it. This is the first widely used copy machine for offices and is a commercial success, being used for over...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 39: Doctor Who

Way back in 1963, a children’s educational TV programme aired and not that many people noticed—they were too upset that Aldous Huxley had died (especially Sheryl Crow). It starred an old chap who pottered around the universe in four dimensions. But without a nemesis the story was going nowhere, he...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 38: Health and Safety

Used as a catch all excuse for not letting people get on with things—in the same way as “data protection” means people won’t tell you things and political correctness means you simply aren’t allowed to be a racist, cisexist, ableist, islamophobe—like you could in the good old days, Health and...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 37: Easy Listening

The commonly held view of 1960s popular music is that it was the decade during which the rulebook was torn up. Out of the dull austerity of the black-and-white 1950s the youth of the following decade exploded as one in a Technicolor riot of mind-bending drugs, free love and revolutionary...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 36: Looking Dapper

Hair is a problem. It sprouts from places you don’t want it to, shies away from the top of your head (for us older men), and generally needs to be kept in its place. Regular barbering, or hairdressing for the ladies, is vital—as is plucking, shaving, combing over and other...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 35: That smell of eggs

  Philosophically one can’t really understand a concept until you can give it a name. You might get a headachey feeling when walking down Oxford Road in Moseley in the autumn but until you’re old enough to describe it as ‘smelling like poppers’ you won’t really know why. Or you might...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 34: The Vacuum Cleaner

Freddie Mercury liked using one while in drag, and it makes an awful mess when you empty the bag. Apocryphally they end up in casualty departments all around the country attached to blokes’ private areas and make a lovely rattling sound when they suck up a coin. Yes, the vacuum, it...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 33: The Internet

We are under attack. Our very way of life is threatened. All because of the fucking Internet. Make no mistake, we are at war with the machines now, today. It’s already started. And there’s one sure fire way to stop a war: KILL HITLER. The Internet is the biggest problem we’ve...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 32: The Weather

“Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way…well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t!” Oh, Michael Fish you were a weatherman. And so was John Kettley, and so was Bill Giles, and so was Ian McCaskill. And with...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 31: Whistleblowing

If there’s one thing you learn at school, and if the current Education secretary gets his way it many be soon the only thing, it’s this: no one likes a tell tale tit. Watching The Sweeney, you may have picked up this: nobody likes a grass. In fact the only positive cultural...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 30: An Inferiority Complex

Sometimes we all feel like we’re just not worthy of attention: even though we are perfectly fine women, men, and cities. We share the experience of being unable to reach a subconscious, fictional final goal of subjective security and success to compensate for the inferiority feelings. If we’re not careful we may...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 29: Slapstick Comedy

A number of years ago, during the stag party celebrations for a good friend of mine, I went along to play paintballing. Upon arrival at the centre we discovered that our opponents for the day were a group of men who had evidently been paintballing on several occasions before; they...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 28: Calls being monitored for training purposes

The last time you had a right row with someone at your bank—like you’d changed address with them but they hadn’t updated the one on your credit card—or you had to sit on hold to an ISP (because they hadn’t properly cancelled the account you had before you moved, and they...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 27: Not Admitting Your Mistakes

Inventor of fizzy pop Joseph Priestley made other contributions to our society too. On April 15, 1770—not ten years before he would move to Brum—he recorded his discovery of Indian gum’s ability to erase lead pencil marks. He wrote, “I have seen a substance excellently adapted to the purpose of...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 26: Local Radio

It comes into it’s own in a crisis, you know. It’s how people know that roads are slippery or schools closed because it snowed, other than that the ground is covered in snow. And despite attempts by both ‘market forces’ and ‘stupid government pandering BBC Director Generals obsessed with nothing more than...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 25: A nice cup of tea and a sit down

Image CC Ant McNeil There is a very simple principle to the making of tea and it’s this – to get the proper flavour of tea, the water has to be boiling (not boiled) when it hits the tea leaves. If it’s merely hot then the tea will be insipid. A watched pot...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 24: Vile Products of the Welfare System

Every tragedy has a beginning, and sadly one of the greatest tragedies of our time begins here, in fair Birmingham. For it was here, in the workshop of the world, that social housing was really born and with it was wrought death and ruin upon the land. For decades sick-lefitsts have praised...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 23: The Post

Imagine a time before always-on instant communication with everybody. Imagine a world where you had to add your seal to a document in hot wax and have a messenger run it to its recipient. By the time they got there, no-one would care just how lovely the fucking cupcake you...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 22: Text Speak

The SMS is twenty years old this year—and still no one has managed to come up with a past participle that sounds right when spoken. In a kind of way, the ‘shortness’ in the ‘short message service’ helped get us all ready for the brevity of Twitter, it’s great for...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 21: The Worldwide Economic Crisis

Are you troubled by debts, mortgage repayments, or other loans? Do you struggle to make ends meet? Are you tempted by those adverts on television offering short-term loans at rates of interest that would make a Serbian gangster blush? If you are, then you are far from alone. People everywhere are...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 20: Dieting

Essentially it’s eating less food, so how is dieting a huge industry around the world? Heinz (the HP-stealing bastards, see No 8) produce special ‘Weight Watchers’ foods, supposedly healthy versions of their TV dinners. Here’s the rub: the main way they contain less calories is by having less food. And...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 19: Manchester

Ah, Manchester! Competitive little Manchester! Gutsy, plucky, Manchester! What makes you tick? What makes you worry so much about Birmingham? What makes you enter into dick measuring contests with us all the time? Well, our Psychology 101 training suggests it’s something oedipal. Tell us, people of the North, tell us...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 18: Christmas

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Santa Claus on his sleigh, people moaning about how it all starts too early and has got all commercialised and stuff, I know it’s been said many, times many ways, but Christmas to you. Most of our notions of modern Christmas come from the Victorian...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No: 17 Cluedo

As Anthony Pratt and his family huddled in their Kings Heath fall-out shelter while the Luftwaffe flew over Birmingham, it bothered him that there was nothing to do. He was concerned that, rather like Christmas, all you could do was sit in a confined space with your nearest and dearest...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 16: Daytime TV

The essential ingredients of daytime television are: jumpers, middle aged people, chat. Whether they’re hunting for antiques, buying or selling or failing to sell things (especially houses) or even solving murders or being real in some sort of institution—it’s the middle-aged jumper chat that’s important. Once all that was on...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 15 New Coke

Americans hated New Coke. Scared by loss of market share to Pepsi, The Coca-Cola Company decided in 1985 to reformulate and relaunch their particular brand of sugary mess. As it turned out people don’t like change, and this played even more into Pepsi’s hands. One chap in New Mexico reportedly stockpiled...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 14 Star Wars

In the 1970s a young filmmaker named George Lucas began putting together an ambitious project to bring us the story of a boy, a girl and a universe. He took a pretty standard Proppian fairy tale structure, added some Flash Gordon adventure serialisation tropes, and stopped by Kurosawa for some...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No 13. 50 Shades of Grey

Every woman of a certain age wants to read about a ‘red room of pain’ it seems. Every supermarket bookshelf is filled with copies of the—originally–self-published and—apparently, I of course haven’t read it—turgidly written mommy-porn. Just who’d have thought that some women would like reading about s-e-x? I don’t know, what’s...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No 12. Karaoke

“Sing, Lofty.” said Sgt Major Tudor ‘Shut Up’ Williams, and Lofty did—tubby little everyman tho he was. And tubby little everymen and everywomen around the World have sung. Along to backing tracks, badly, when they’ve had just over the recommended amount of booze. The recommended amount of booze being just...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 11 New Zealand

For most of living memory New Zealand was simply a fictional village which was used to rehouse spent characters from Neighbours. In Neighbours – and by extension all popular culture of the 1980s and 1990s – a trip to New Zealand was equivalent to the Eastenders trope of “going up...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No 10. Breakdancing

Okay, so James Brown got down and Afrika Bambaataa saw b-boy and the freak as a way to change the World with his Zulu Nation. But that was back in the seventies and was that really likely ever to cross-over? Okay, yes, so the Rock Steady Crew were busting up the...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No 9. Handwriting

Do you do little loops at the bottom of your y’s, do you draw little hearts over the top of your i’s? Do you, when actually pressed to use a pen at all after years of typing and texting, get all flummoxed and end up using block capitals so at...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No 8. HP Sauce

It’s made in Holland and named after a London landmark, so of course HP Sauce is the Brummiest thing going. It’s “the best known brown sauce in the United Kingdom” and slavered across sausages the length of the land, despite “brown sauce” sounding more like a euphemism for, well, shit. If...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No 7. Fannying About On A Yacht

When you pick up Hello! or flick to the most exploitative pages in the tabloids what are you likely to see? One may have upskirt pics of vulnerable young actresses, one may have charming stories where you get to see just what the kitchen looks like in the house Sienna...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No 6. Dance Music

Since disco, all real pop music has been in thrall to the dancefloor and the beats are never more to the floor than when they are sampled. Synthesisers don’t cut it—unless you’re doing the Sparky’s Magic Piano bit on Mr Blue Sky—you need samples. With samples you can force the four...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No 5. Comic Sans

Font family, and hatred magnet, Comic Sans MS was created by Microsoft’s Vincent Connare to be the textual voice of a cartoon dog called Bob who would in some way help people use computers. It looks friendly and soon became the Australian Question Intonation of typefaces: that is, used when...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No 4. Hollywood

No, not Hollywood up by the Maypole. The real one of blockbusters and stars rather than Blockbuster, Poundland and burnt-out cars. Because without a certain city not very far away you’d not be watching George Clooney gurn with his chest out, nor would you be able to grin through gritted...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No 3. The Football League

Football has had a long and evolutionary history taking in local rivalries, struggle with authority, class warfare and co-optation, and paganism; but enough of St Andrews. Everything we know about football today originated on the other side of the city: from fixture congestion, to dead rubbers, from runaway leaders to...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No 2. Nuclear War

Schoolchildren in the 1950s and ‘60s spent as much time learning how to Duck and Cover in the event of a nuclear missile attack as they ever did about algebra and home economics. They grew up in a perpetual and very real fear that the Cold War would one day...Read More »

101 Things Brum Gave The World. No1. Tennis

Ever climbed Murray mount, “come on Tim”, or knocked a sponge ball against a wall while grunting? Then you have Birmingham to thank for the gift of the only sport that doubles the price of a certain fruit for two weeks every year. Yes, Cliff Richards’s favourite game was invented...Read More »