101 Things Birmingham 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 eastern mysticism and warrior codes. And no one knew what the hell he was talking about. Desperate to show people his vision he assembled a rough cut of the film. The problem: he needed to show the complicated space battles he’d planned for the finale of his film.

Some 35 years earlier Birmingham’s shadow factories had been churning out Lancaster bombers, Spitfires, and all kind of airborne weaponry to win the Battle of Britain and generally show jerry a thing or two. A few years later the stories of those magnificent flying machines became WWII movies, full of daring-do and high-altitude dogfights. Lucas literally took those movies and cut the battles into his space opera as place holders showing how things would go down. The rough cut did enough to convince the money men in Hollywood that The Star Wars was going to be worth persevering with. With his project saved Lucas reproduced those dogfights shot for shot using his own plastic models and a black sheet for space where Northern Europe used to be. And so it goes, Birmingham’s factories put the bearded Jedi master on the road to building his own Galactic Empire.

No Brum, no X-Wings, simple as that, but we ain’t going to apologise for Jar Jar Binks – you only have yourselves to blame.

101 Things Birmingham 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 West”: something other and exotic, but never seen.

All this was set to change when popular Birmingham pointy sword franchise The Lord of the Rings went to those sleepy antipodean islands in 2001. So popular was the film series that it single handedly regenerated New Zealand, taking this abstract idea of a place and fixing it in the minds of a generation of gap year students: a backpacking destination was born.

Before Birmingham’s intervention, the biggest cultural event to happen to New Zealand was the arrival of community radio DJ Henry Mitchell from Erinsborough. No Birmingham, no New Zealand. Imagine what David Lodge’s Campus Trilogy could do for Samoa.