Nellie the Elephant went there, we think – although that may have been Manadalay – and that’s about as much we know. But town-twinning is fantastic, just think about all the perks we get being twined with Frankfurt. Chicago, not so much.

According to the Beeb, Cultural mission chief Ali Ould Sidi said potential twin towns can draw parallels with Timbuktu by having a history of being a trade hub and centre of learning, an affinity with the written word, unique architecture and a cosmopolitan background. Doesn’t that just sound like us?


  • The city became very wealthy in the Middle Ages as an important trading centre
  • Muslim scholars from Sankore University helped spread Islam across west Africa
  • Djingareyber mosque, built from mud in 1325 AD, still stands
  • The Ahmed Baba Centre has a collection of manuscripts containing more than 1,000 years of Islamic knowledge
  • It has been a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage site since 1988
  • Scot Gordon Laing was the first European explorer to arrive, in 1826

Timbuktu is already twinned with a Chemnitz in Germany, Saintes in France, Marrakech in Morocco, Kairouan in Tunisia, and Tempe in the US. Marrakech, I’ve heard of, and I can think of the odd reason we should be twinned with there too.

According to the BBC “A survey of 150 young people undertaken ahead of the exhibition found 34% did not think Timbuktu existed, and the remaining 66% considered it to be “a mythical place”.”, now without suggesting that mythical and non-existance are the same thing, that’s about how the London-centric media see us.

We’ve filled in the form on the website, and you can too – nominate Brum and help us join hands across the ocean, and all that.

Here’s how we’ve answered their questions:

The parallels between Timbuktu and Birmingham.


  • The city became very wealthy in the Middle Ages as an important trading centre
  • Scholars spread all sorts of religions, and other stuff.
  • The Central mosque, built in 1969 AD, was then officially opened in 1975 as the largest mosque in Western Europe.
  • BM&AG has a very large collection of Pre Raphaelites
  • Birmingham has been ‘Europe’s Shopping Capital’ since the Bull Ring re-opened in 2004
  • Benny out of Crossroads comes from here.

A. History of being an important trade hub.

At the centre of the UK’s canal system, Birmingham was the manufacturing heartland of the country during the industrial revolution, back when the country manufactured things.

B. History of being an important centre of learning.

Birmingham University was founded in 1900 as a successor to Mason Science College, and is thus the earliest of the so-called “red brick” universities. A major research-led institution, it currently has nearly 17,000 undergraduate and 7,000 postgraduate students. We’ve got three, count-em, Universities in total now.

C. Love of the written word.

Brum has had many famous authors, and has a huge Central Library. We think the scripts for Crossroads were written here too.

D. Unique Archetecture

The 160,000 square foot Selfridges store, designed by architects Future Systems, is covered in 15,000 spun aluminium discs. There is also the Rotunda, the Venician-style Council House and the National Trust’s Victorian Back to Backs.

C. Cosmopolitan Mindset

Birmingham is the first city in the UK to have 50% of its population not of white British background. There are huge West Indian, South Asian and North African communites, as well as increasing numbers from other European countries.

Well – what do you think? Help us twin with Timbuktu – and talk about it on the forums…

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.


Biz Bizley

Caravan StanA singer-songwriter of notoriety and repute. Listen to the man’s heartrending tales of arguments with seafood-sellers in the Hare and Hounds in Kingstanding, gasp at his portrayal of a man who was born in Dudley Road hospital..

Download a selection of his classic hits:

Hootiche-Cootchie Man from Kingstanding

Dudley Road

My Guy


Caravan Stan

Lost Without Trace

Kevin Kershaw

all songs © biz bizley, if you would like to use them for anything please ask nicely

Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham

Recently a historic document came into our hands here at BiNS. It features top bald US maverick cop Telly ‘Kojak’ Savalas taking a look at Brum. It’s fantastic – and half an hour long – he takes in the Botanical Gardens, Sarehole Mill, amongst other places, and the city centre. “I dallied in Dale End” as the great man himself says.

We’re able to show you a few mins of fun -and legally thanks to the copyright holders. Although we’ve sadly lost some of TS’s magical visit to the West Midlands Police traffic control centre (what fun Kojak has on his holidays!).
There’s also the Jewellery Quarter, Bournville – and it’s suitable for children of all ages!

Further information on this film at (further footage here)Images and film are © Harold Baim Film Productions 1981 All Rights Reserved

“do you believe they hand raise their pies here?” quips TS.

Kojak ‘chances’ upon an over-forties disco dancing competition in Cannon Hill Park. Do you know this fervent competitor? We must know.

The hip and happening beautiful people in ‘Thursday’s’ niteclub – unfazed by having a top US celeb in their midst. Where was this club, were you there when Kojak came to town?

Eh? What’s this? Telly isn’t just a Brum fan, oh blast! Actually, this film is a stormer too – “I’ve never seen so many roads named after famous people as there are in Portsmouth”.

The Great Bull


You may have encountered Simon Patterson’s top artwork ‘The Great Bear‘, you might not know you have, most people call it ‘the one with celebrities names instead of stations on the london underground map’. Now, this is a fantastic artwork apart from one thing:

  • The celebrities aren’t all Brummies, and
  • The map isn’t of Birmingham bus routes.

That’s two things.

In ‘The Great Bear’, Patterson traces a particular topic, be it philosophers, footballers, scientists or actors; and at each station a ‘star’ (i.e. like the brightness of the Great Bear constellation) of that particular field is heralded. All well and good, but we’ve got a famous Bull – Brasso – not a bear.

That’s three things.

All these things are rectified by our fantastic artwork – which is here as a PDF*. And here to buy your own.

It’s top – and the amusing juxtapositions created still amuse us, even though we made it. Toyah gets to be Broad St, while Roland Gift out of the Fine Young Cannibals is Acock’s Green. That’s right, in so many ways.

We’re kinda sorry for Stan Collymore, who ended up on the link between Footballers (the 104) and Tramps (the 67), but we did remember hearing that he was sleeping rough in his car at some point we’re sure. At least we recognised his fine work on Radio Five Live as he’s also on DJs/Radio Presenters (the number 8).

The criterion were that, basically, we considered the featured ‘stars’ as having contributed in some way to Brum. They could have been born, died, lived, or worked here – but they’re associated in our minds – so that’s that.


The map is based on the one found on the Travel WM site here. We recommend you use that one to plan any bus journeys you may be thinking of taking, you don’t want to travel to the outer reaches of Robert Kilroy-Silk.

* It’s a PDF to allow easy scrolling and zooming in your browser (and also because it’s really good to print it out as big as you can on your flashy colour printers at work & PDFs are easy to do this with.) If you haven’t got Adobe Reader you can download it here.

Kings Heath to Kings Heath in Five Minutes

Remember “London to Brighton in two minutes“? Well here you can jump on the eleven and go from Kings Heath High St to Kings Heath High St in five minutes flat – via….

VICARAGE RD. Kings Heath All Saints Church
YARDLEY WOOD RD. Brook Lane Fire StationCOLE BANK RD. Sarehole MillSCHOOL ROAD.South Birmingham College/Hall Green

WESTLEY RD. Acocks Green

CHURCH RD. Coventry Rd/Swan Island

STECHFORD LANE. Stechford Road

BROMFORD LANE. Fox & Goose/Ward End

BROMFORD LANE. The Bromford/Drews

BROMFORD LANE. The Navigation/Tyburn Rd

WOOD END RD. Six Ways Erdington

MARSH HILL. Gipsy Lane

ASTON LANE. Witton Square

WELLINGTON RD. Perry Barr/Crown & Cushion

Rd/Church Lane

BOULTON RD. Soho Rd/The Red Lion/Handsworth

DUDLEY RD. Summerfield Park

CITY RD. Fountain Road

SANDON RD. Drayton Road

LORDSWOOD RD. Hagley Rd/Bearwood

LORDSWOOD RD. Knightlow Rd

LORDSWOOD ROAD.Olde House at Home/Gillhurst

LORDSWOOD RD. Harborne Baths/War Lane


LINDEN RD. Bournville Lane

WATFORD RD. Cotteridge

VICARAGE RD. Kings Heath All Saints Church

and also experience the joys of the outer ridge of Brum on a wet friday in october. it was pissing down through yardley – we could barely see anything!

slightly higher quality
on google video