That was the year that was 2006

Before we forget, here’s what we’re trying remember about this year

Apart from us (that’s right US!!!) winning the Pantomine Horse Grand National, what else went on in Brum in 2006? Young Jonnie Bounds goes all misty eye’d (must be the beer).

Two thousand and six was the year that Birmingham lost the tang of molasses from its air and Eddies and the Dubliner from its late night drinking landscape. We gained a second beach, albeit temporarily, and a mini Glastonbury where you could sneak out and get a pint in The Woodman. In fact so much went on it’s given me a headache just making facetious comments about it in our news feed, but I’ve struggled through – and here’s our BiNS review of the year.

Fire in the disco

Eastsiiiide, yes it needs the iii’s, is about to get a new park and in May hosted the SoundStation Festival. It was bloody freezing, and apart from Graham Coxon the line-up was underwhelming, still, we hope it’ll be back next year as the idea is fantastic. Warmer was the first Moseley Folk Festival, which attracted hillbilly AC/DC cover band Hayseed Dixie, folk legends like the Incredible String Band and almost pushed Mo’ over the hippy event horizon.

The Big Bang, who played SoundStation with aplomb slightly too early for me to be out of the Square Peg, were amongst the bands from round our way to feature in the NME’s ‘Best Midlands’ feature showing that there’s life in the city beyond nu-metal covers of UB40 (believe me i was in a band that practiced for years at Robannas, that band were next door, on both sides). Also featured were Sunset Cinema Club, who despite being from Redditch are named after what ‘Adult World’ used to be called, being named after a mucky pictures is a good thing. Trust me.

Metal also took a hammering in November when Edwards No 8 caught fire, which coming hard on the heels of The Dubliner going up in smoke looked a bit suspicious to some eyes. A cleansing forest fire allowing the new ‘multi-use developments’ to grow, or a sad bit of history passing? I fully expect a blue plaque on the site of my slightly homo-erotic wrestle with the bassist out of Napalm Death. No more disco infernos please, can’t someone invent flame-retardant beer? Alfred Bird where are you when we need you?

Build ’em up, knock ’em down

The Rotunda by SlimShady2007 on flickr
The Rotunda by SlimShady2007 on flickr

The Rotunda is slowly taking shape again, and the town hall is back in 2007. Seeing the columns without scaffolding all round them, or a big picture of Wayne Rooney swathing their beautiful dimples, was heartwarming to say the least. Can you believe it’s almost been ten years? Nearer twenty since I saw Playschool’s Fred Harris live on stage there. Can they live up to the place’s history – it’s a big question.

Where you won’t be going for a night out is a super-casino, with the council backing the NEC’s bid over Birmingham City’s (who’d of bet on that?) – which was then blown away by central government anyway. Makes you wonder what some of us got so het up about really. At the time I said “how can the council come to the decision that the NEC site (in Solihull lest we forget – the Birmingham NEC thing is more like the way cheap airlines say things like London Luton airport) is their “preferred option”? Isn’t that a bit like the USA saying Canada is their preferred option to situate Las Vegas in?” . I was upset, Blues were on a downward slope to say the least at that point.

In fact, a graph of our footy performance would look like a very happy smile – unless you’re the Albion. With Blues, Walsall and West Brom relegated and Villa sinking further into the world of David O’Leary. Things are now on the up, for the time being at least. What else happened sport-wise? Well there was the usual round of lesser sport world championships at the NIA and NEC and an unseen local sports personality topping the BiNS poll for Brummie of the Year. Jason Furnell, or ‘Village’ as he’s know to his team-mates somehow polled over five thousand votes, there are even talk of t-shirts!

Danny Reddington came second in the voting for Brummie of the Year, despite shutting up shop and going online only – one nil to the interweb.

Tomorrow’s fish wrapper

Despite Midlands Today ‘demonstrating’ it live on air, the council’s plan for city-centre-wide wi-fi (not free wi-fi, not like Manchester or San Francisco) is “coming some time in 2007” – when it finally arrives, if you can afford it, you can surf BiNS out in the freezing cold. But what else is worth going to on the Brumterweb? This year we fell in love with Pete Ashton and the Grassroots Channel. Pete as he’s the oracle as far as Brum 2.0 is concerned, we’ve subscribed to his blog and can sleep soundly without worrying about missing anything going on creatively in the city. The Grassroots Channel is a podcast which, if slightly worthy, gives real stories about what it can be like to live round here – give it a go. We also loved Adrian Goldberg’s The Stirrer “news that matters, campaigns that count for Birmingham, the Black Country and beyond”. All that and BiNS and Wedding Present references, what more could you ask for? They even dropped the Comic Sans – go The Stirrer!

Trinity Mirror shut the Sports Argus, ending the fine Saturday evening tradition of too-hard quizes and bizarre letters pages with our pork scratchings around the city. We now hear they’re trying to sell the whole Post and Mail shebang, worrying really. Open to parody as it is (and Russell Brand spent at least an hour at the Alex just reading out the Mail, by jingo), we need a local press that can be interested, or we’ll get sucked into thinking that the world really does revolve around that London. Just look at the national coverage their tornado got as opposed to ours, and if the local elections rigging last year had of happened in the smoke we’d have never heard the last of it. Maybe we need our own elected Mayor to balance out Ken Livingstone – there was talk back in Februrary – Chinny for President we say.

Art versus commerce

Last year the FIERCE festival woke brummies to the very real threat of being crapped on by a Belgian from 100ft. Some Walloon lived in a nest on the side of the Rotunda for a week, did we appreciate it? Not sure, but this year they installed a tranny in a barbers. Like Artsfest, it’s never going to all be to your taste but I’m glad it goes on. Great things are planned, we hear, for 2007. Seven Inch Cinema continued to push the boundaries of what a night at the flicks might be, some of their Slomo Challenge is on the Big Screen by the library over the festive season – check it out. Richard Hughes the Brummie sculpturist was up for this year’s Beck’s Futures award – he didn’t win. Stanley Victor Collymore made it to Hollywood (USA), ‘starring’ in Basic Instinct 2, not seen it but we’re sure he got an ice pick, that made his ears burn.

Adrian Chiles in a shed by the canal may sound like the mucky dream of a certain – more deranged – section of our womenfolk, but six weeks of live television it doesn’t sound like – it was though. The ONE Show ran five nights a week from up by the Mailbox, and while it was a great advert for Brum on TV it didn’t do much for the reputation of our window cleaners. When they’d got the Mr Sheen out, it was clear to see that Chiles was a Brummie to treasure and that the back of Gas Street should host more television, Royal Variety Performance on water next year anyone? Locked on.

Lemurs (a sort of a stripy monkey) arrived at the Nature Centre, which led to the beaver living with the ducks (and not in a crap rodent mafia way either). Brum got the thumbs up from two other visitors from out of town this year. less controversially a Guardian journalist took our advice on where to go in Brum and liked it (although we never mentioned the Custard factory as it can get a teeny bit pretentious for our tastes). Wilbur the ‘American tourist’ loved our parks and pre-raphaellites, but his – admittedly fake – “y’all” southern ways kicked up a right stink in certain circles. At least that’s what we read in the Mail, I’m not sure if it made the New York Times.

Times were indeed changing, as that busker in a hat up by Primark says, the Fighting Cocks got a makeover, Nike made Brum only the second city to get custom Air Max (check out Brasso on the back!), and the Mercat – home of the 6am booze – became a ‘bar and grill’. Is this for the better? Join us for 2007 and we might find out.

But I doubt it.


Author: Jon Bounds

Jon was voted the ‘14th Most Influential Person in the West Midlands’ in 2008. Subsequently he has not been placed. He’s been a football referee, venetian blind maker, cellar man, and a losing Labour council candidate: “No, no chance. A complete no-hoper” said a spoilt ballot. Jon wrote and directed the first ever piece of drama performed on Twitter when he persuaded a cast including MPs and journalists to give over their timelines to perform Twitpanto. But all that is behind him.