Have a Brutal 2015

Brutal 2015

We’ve already signed off for the holidays but we know that some of you are still in the office today — after all, there’s no work to do and the boss will let you go home at 12 in any case so it’s basically a free day off and only a mug would take it as holiday.

Well anyway, as you’re the sort of person who is in the office on Christmas Eve we figured you’re also the sort of person who has left shopping a bit late — after all, you’re getting out of work at lunchtime so you can just grab stuff on the way home; what’s all the fuss about, right?

If you are still shopping, and if you’re at the office with nothing to do, why not print off a few copies of our FREE 2015 calendar? Elliott Brown tirelessly snaps photos of all things Brum, and he uploads them to Flickr under a Creative Commons license so we’ve nabbed 12 photos of Brummie Brutalism for this calendar.

We hope you like it, but if you need more gift ideas here’s our handy last minute shopping guide.

Download the calendar (PDF – 28mb)


Brum’s best TV-theme pubs

An enterprising young chap has just re-opened Dale End dog-hole Saramoons as a theme bar: The Peaky Blinder. Despite now being much less likely to have any real gangsters in, it seems to have been a popular move — but did you know it was joining a proper crawl of pubs already themed around Birmingham-based TV shows?  Come with us and get smashed responsibly, in Brum’s best fictional boozers.

The Fox & Grapes, Birmingham City Centre

Coming soon: The Citizen Khan. Pic cc Roger Marks

The Boon (series 1-3 only) – Formerly Bassett’s Pole Harvester, staff at The Boon (series 1-3 only) are all dressed as has been bikers with ruddy cheeks and even more ruddy noses. There’s plenty of parking for your own motorbike outside and the country vistas offer nice sunsets to ride off into. Hi ho silver!

The Pebble Mill at One – With staff in friendly jumpers, and music on the easy side, The Pebble Mill at One is a pub from a gentler time, which will forever have afternoon closing. Open at one, and shut up again at two — just in time for your nap.

The Crossroads – actually a chain, The Crossroads is a new concept for the pubs you find inside a Travelodge or other budget hotel. “These spaces feel like you’re actually in the wobbly set of a pub and not a real pub” brand expert André De Jong, whose agency Zaphiks developed the concept, told us. “Drinking in our The Crossroads bar is more like drinking in a metaphor” he said, before explaining something complicated about the social graph. “Also they’re actually inside motels?” we asked. Andre just looked confused.

The Rosie & Jim – Genial landlord John steers this canalside boozer with a steady hand on the tiller but that’s not his real job. Ladies, try the salad. Stop laughing. Sister bar The Brum opens in 2015.

The Tiswas – The various bars at the Custard Factory have struggled for identity and solvency for many years but now one licensee is betting on TV nostalgia to keep him afloat. You can sing the famous Bucket of Water Song as you use the downstairs bogs.

The Gangsters – Themed around the ‘70s with a hint of crimplene, Benson and Hedges and danger, there has been little change since it was The Yenton.

The The One Show – Recently closed and moved to London.

The Central News – have the slops left by the other programmes a day later, round the back of Broad St.

The Hustle – a slick bar like they have in that London, but see if you can spot the tell tale Brummie signs — yep that’s a Brew XI tap over there, behind the Veuve Clicquot ice buckets. In a suspiciously empty street around Colmore Row.

How to keep Birmingham’s Brutalist Architecture. No.6: over many years establish a tradition that it is “a naturally-evolved environment, a found space used in response to accidents of architecture”

Like they did at the Southbank undercroft. Well played.


Pic CC Hatters

It’s 2am and there’s only Baileys left

You can be fashionably late to a party – arriving after the nominal start, when everyone is warmed up and in the swing of things, lubricated by the richest pickings from the drinks table, kitchen counter, or bath full of ice. But you can also arrive unfashionably late, when people are tiring, feeling jaded, and all that’s left to drink is a two year old bottle of Bailey’s.

I’m unfashionably late to the Library of Birmingham. Like a pub worker who had to clean down then jump in a taxi to catch the last hurrah of the night, I come to the LoB three weeks later, making a metaphorical 2am appearance at its launch party. The bunting and the zany have all gone. The spectacles that caught the lenses of the media and the instagrammers have slunk off, leaving the library naked with only its truth to present to me.

The foyer has the feel of an airport terminal, with desks for the checking-in (and out), escalators that promise to pull you up into the business end of things and a bespoke unbranded eatery that offers generic options at air-side prices. The only way is up, and I’m pulled into the feature rotunda that I’ve heard so much about. It reminds me of Waterstones in the Pavilions centre, the area which was sort of modelled to make it feel like a library. I feel these two design conceits clash – the bookshop like a library, the library like a bookshop – and I’m lost for a moment to make sense of where I am, what this is for. I’m jostled by a group taking photographs. I move on to find a place where I can work.

I found that Central Library was a wonderful place to read, study and write; Central’s work area, with its bashed up desks, was unambiguous and surprisingly user friendly. You had a chair, a light, a plug and you were insulated from the outside world – buried in the centre of walls of books, hidden from the light and the view. The LoB works the other way, throwing you out from its centre to sit in brightly lit study areas in gallery windows that throw attention not onto the job in hand but onto Birmingham. I’m Goldilocks now, trying to find a seat: this area is too hot, this private study room has no clear booking rules, but this area, at the back, is just right. I look out onto tower blocks and concrete car parks and I get a glimpse of Paradise Circus. The LoB is a reaction to those things, a rejection of that vision of a city and yet in truth she is hemmed in by them. For now.

Another thing, there’s an edge here that I’m not used to. Phones go off, bodies stiffen. There are sighs, people obviously relocating to remove themselves from disruptions. I see an argument developing about a booked computer even though others are available. There’s clearly an old library crowd (am I amongst them?) and a new one, and they are still finding ways to accommodate one another. All of them are learning the building, and the building is learning all of them. Soon the building will have to react to them. Somewhere a laminator is waiting to make some signs (set in Comic Sans) to stick up around the place, to clarify functions and to formalise the new codes of the new building, the ones an architect and a designer can’t plan for. The LoB will be all the better for that. It needs a few scratches, knocks and dents, it needs to become less popular, less of a destination, before it can do its job.