Category: identity

Size is everything. The most important part of faster, higher stronger is: bigger. When you’ve the second largest in Europe you’ve got to shout about it. Birmingham’s a grower and a show-er. But a shower of shit when it comes to having a sense of identity. Not a statement announcement or boosterist pronouncement comes without a comparison, but not a comparison comes without qualification: “biggest outside London”, “largest in Europe outside Germany”, “vastest within those areas not traditionally regarded as having a large one of this type of thing”.

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The demolition of Madin’s Library is victory for cliché and gormless ‘opinion’. A triumph of pluralistic ignorance, with the blood on the hands of an unimaginative fourth estate who sleepwalked with what passes for a second round these parts into an act of pointless vandalism. Karl Marx developed a theory of what’s now called creative destruction: he postulated that capitalism needs continual cycles of devaluation or destruction in order to clear the ground for the creation of new wealth. As Stereolab explain, this is often by recession or war — but in our local context neglect and bogus ‘civic renewal’ serve the purpose. Capitalism has won over beauty, and the cheers of the braying classes as the thin exterior is punctured celebrate the powerlessness of all under money’s rule. It is a war, a war for history and the public realm. The casualty of this war is …

Brutal, beautiful, battered: we’re losing the war for our soul Read More »

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I’m here in a new bar, but it’s an old bar. The bar that was here before is old and gone, the new old bar is a lot like a bar that used to be in its place years and years ago. It’s dark and humid but the walls are yet to condense into sweat. I’m here as a homecoming, or at least to test a theory about home. Maybe home isn’t a specific place, maybe home is wherever you hang up who you think you are and stretch into the person that your skin hangs on. So I’m here with the freaks, long hair, short skirts, denim, one-eyed, leather, awkward, coloured hair crowd. The music is loud and the drums rattle through the new sound system like fireworks in a metal bin. I’m ill and achey, but I have a writing problem, the drinks are cheap …

Outsiders: back with a vengeance Read More »

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  A hundred (or more) tables but I’m not hungry. How hungry can one town be? How much lunch can one town eat? But here they are and here they eat. Here where the echo of a phone shop rings. Here, where the escalators drew you up into the Aladdin’s Cave of Sports Direct. Now: above us only sky; domes and light — but in the light the spectre. Pallasades. This space is still anchored in its past. I can see it as through Google Glass: ghosts of shops — shops we never loved, not really. Enough remains (the ramp, Tesco, the Bullring link) to place me in space/time. For now though there is lunch. I am not hungry. Why am I not hungry? Because the shops are not the ghosts. I am the ghost. I am the past. This map is only mine. At Foot Locker, turn …

A hundred thousand tables Read More »

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It’s going to be fun to stay in the WMCA. The West Midlands Combined Authority that is. It would be called Greater Birmingham if those from the Black Country could see beyond their mounds of faggots, scratchings and closed heavy industry. Sorry to piss on their chips (we know they’d rather have mushy peas) but we’re going to call it Greater Birmingham anyway. But a bigger problem is where it covers. At the moment it’s just a portmanteau of councils who are taken in by Tory devolution rhetoric, but there is a real Greater Birmingham and we can find it. Language and culture are more effective indicators of statehood than anything as gauche as economics, or the whims of business leaders.  Defining the boundary of Greater Birmingham is too important to leave to our ‘betters’, who are useless (and will farm it out to Capita, who will …

The scallop line: the true boundary of Greater Birmingham Read More »

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We’ve been out drinking for about six hours, we’ve lost a lot of people and one of us is bleeding. In a few minutes one of us is going to try to pick a row with a train driver. I am cool hunting in the suburbs of Birmingham, and it’s going poorly. Here are two things that are hot right now: craft beer, and Birmingham. So hot are these two things that when The Guardian ran yet another piece a piece on how Birmingham is cool now, craft beer formed a central part of its thesis: “Two years ago, you struggled to get a pint of real ale, let alone craft beer, in most of Birmingham. Now, from Colmore Row, down John Bright Street, to Digbeth, the city centre is awash in the stuff. It’s as if a phalanx of hipsters, fleeing London’s housing market, have swept …

The Craft City Line Read More »

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An unchained psychogeographic adventure from the authors of Pier Review. Can you drink in all of Birmingham city centre’s independent hostelries in one day in 2011? Yes of course, although it might not be sensible. This is the first appearance on the web of this adventure, although it has been available as an eBook for some time. As a part-time journalist and aspiring avatar for the gods of debauchery you are asked to do some unsavoury things. Be it covering some average indie band’s third ‘my dad drives the van’ gig. Or having to find an interesting angle on Valentine’s Day, despite having all romance crushed out of your soul by a government intent on turning the country you live in into a feudal system where big business robber barons set up their own personal fiefdoms using jazzy branding and clown make-up. But sometimes you get given a …

Concrete and Cocktails: a journey to Birmingham’s glitter-stained independent heart Read More »

Shops used to be different back then, from now and from each other. Each one had its own smell and atmosphere. Visits to Witton Road were infrequent, as the concrete shopping centre at Perry Barr was the preferred destination, but when we did go it was usually for something exciting and interesting. Turning right rather than left at the bottom of our street was quite a treat. Each block on the Witton Road started with a larger shop, and the sides of the buildings were painted with signs. ‘Leslie Smith for Television’ read one. I never went in as we had a TV and no need for another, but it was a special shop as I’d been told Leslie Smith used to play for Aston Villa whose ground was on the next main road over. On the next corner was Dick Taylor’s sports shop. Everyone called him …

Local shops Read More »

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You open an envelope that is slightly bulkier than the average Christmas card to discover that it doesn’t contain money, only a folded couple of A4 sheets in twelve point Times New Roman. It’s the scourge of the festive season: the round robin, typed pages of sickening boasting and cloying chuckles from people you don’t really care for. A yearly reminder of just why you don’t see them from one card to the next. That’s what happens to us every year in Great Barr, in Yardley Wood and in Witton: seasonal joy tempered with bile at the sheer entitlement of it. Or at least that’s how you’d think it would be if you read the Guardian, the Sunday Times Magazine or listen to the more magaziney programmes on Radio Four: for they are the only places that ever seem to mention them. It’s as if round robins …

Thinking of you at Christmastime Read More »

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