Danny Smith: Non-essential

Something something largest unsafe reopening of a Primark in Europe. We sent Danny Smith to die for capitalism. 

Her voice is mournful, an acapella lament closer to a wail than a dirge. I don’t speak the language but it vibrates with loss and a pleading sorrow. The lady has lines on her face chiseled in by the pain in her voice. She’s wearing a hijab and blue nitrile gloves. Another glove is stretched over the McDonald’s cup she is collecting money in. The cup sits in front of the empty crate she is sitting on, head back to allow the long notes of fragile misery to escape her body.

Opposite the queue for Poundland trails down the street in impossible perspective like an Escher print.

During the last three months I think we’ve all had the fantasy of when lockdown ends, a shared utopian vision of happiness in the streets, greeting our neighbours and strangers with warm hugs and handshakes. Sunlit pub gardens full of smiles, and cider with ice in.
Continue reading “Danny Smith: Non-essential”

Do they know it’s bin day? We release charity single in support of bin strikers

Last bin day, we went out to see if the bags had been collected outside PC towers and instead found a package addressed to us. It contained the master tape for a song with more hooks than we have different types of bins to sort our recycling into. No other details were provided, it’s like the bin made a record. So we’re putting it out, and leaving it out.

(I’ve Lost All My Respect For You) Since the Bin-Men Went On Strike is the first release on Paradise Circus Records.

The way the strike has been covered in the media has created a bit of a bad smell with a lot of rubbish spoken, recycled with dumb opinions all over social media. No-one goes on strike lightly, it’s always a last resort for workers to give up pay to protest, and we felt that they needed to hear that a lot of Brummies appreciate how hard they work to keep our city clean and the collections safe.

Without our refuse workers things have wheely bin bad, and that shows how much we need them. We hope the single is picked up, and makes a clean sweep in the charts.

The single is on sale on iTunes, everywhere else you can buy digital music, and you can stream it on Spotify.

All proceeds will be donated to the union strike fund.

Support the Brum Bin Strikers on Facebook.

Up the charts, up the workers!

Too shy Tory, hush hush

Apologies to Conservative (yes, who knew?) mayoral candidate Andy ‘Mr John Lewises’ Street for this image macro. In a previous version we originally suggested the Tories had cut £.13bn from councils in the West Midlands Combined authority. The actual figure is at least ten times that at £1.3bn.

£1.3bn which — ironically for a campaign that is ‘shy Tory’ — is a conservative estimate as it includes some councils only up to 2104 and excludes police, fire and health service cuts in the area.

You can see the figures here.

Please share this image and not the previous one, many thanks.

We’re the biggest outside London, inside London it’s too dark to read

A letter we sent to the Birmingham Post the other day, do they still have ‘letters to the editor’ in papers these days?

Dear Sir,

I think we all agree that there are times when Birmingham should blow it’s own trumpet, excepting of course those times when we need our hands free to bang our own drum, but articles such as Birmingham ‘most entrepreneurial city outside London(16 Jan) do us no good at all.

The article – based on data from Startup Britain – informs us that our city has more new businesses were registered last year “than any other city outside the capital.” Great news, for the second city: but it would only really be newsworthy if we weren’t — as we have by a long way the largest population of any UK city ‘outside London (over a quarter of a million more people more by any calculation).

Birmingham (population approx one million people) had 17,473 new businesses, Manchester (population approx 430,000 – less than half a Brum) registered 9,416. It doesn’t take an entrepreneurial maths wizard to see that England’s third city is doing a little better than its second by this arbitrary measure.

Startup Britain’s own data, (which is freely available to all) suggests that Birmingham was in fact the 16th highest area in Great Britain for new businesses registered per 1000 people.

Continue reading “We’re the biggest outside London, inside London it’s too dark to read”

What time and when is our new SEO strategy going to pay dividends with pageviews? Everything you need to know

Friend of the show Dave Harte used to do a bit about how the most popular posts on his hyperlocal website was called “When are the supermarkets open over Christmas?”. This is the sort of ‘content’ which successfully remediates the local newspaper onto the web. Forget live-blogging, periscoping, and making things ‘interactive’ — what people really want is useful information delivered in a timely manner.

This is an example of what academics call a ‘news gap’—something people want, which isn’t being provided by the mainstream, commercial media companies. Hyperlocal websites tend to go around sticking their finger in these news gaps in a metaphor which becomes quite difficult to complete because, having evoked the idea of a little Dutch boy plugging a big dam, I need to flip it to a little Belgian boy pissing into a tiny font which then feeds his endless stream of piss.

I digress.

It turns out that this noticeboard stuff SEOs really fucking well, so inevitably the “proper” newspapers have piled in. This is a common feature of the relationship between hyperlocal and mainstream media: once the news gap can be shown to turn a buck or two, the big guys put a six lane motorway over it on a viaduct, destroying anything that remains of our figurative landscape.

And so, the other weekend we were searching for the start times of the England V Germany friendly and we found SEO laden copy from national newspapers, including our local’s big brother the Mirror. But they can’t just tell you the info, they’ve got to make it into a bit of a story: because they are newspapers, but also because if it’s too short the nugget of fact you need will appear in the Google preview — and then there’s no ad revenue. Here in Birmingham, the Evening Mail keep a category of these SEO landing pages, so you can see for yourself the sort of thing they are optimising for here:

MailSEO

We’re expecting “What time and when are Birmingham’s St Georges celebrations? And are they racist? Does it offend the moslems, Stew?” to land today.

But a big UB40 concert, a sponsored ‘zombie walk’ resembling the Tory party conference, or a new series of — Liverpool filmed — Peaky Blinders, doesn’t come round every week, it just feels like it. We have to have things that people want to know all the time, things that are hard to find information out online… only problem is we don’t know the answers either.

When will we find the Capita Contract in Birmingham?

Capita plc, commonly known as Capita, is an international business process outsourcing and professional services company headquartered in London. If you want to know what that means it means that they’re a bit like Sodexo but with more computers and less cake, a bit like G4S but with more questionnaires and less security guards and … Read More »

When's the new series of BBC One sitcom set in Birmingham Citizen Khan on TV and is it Islamophobic? Everything you need to know

Soon there will be a new series of the BBC One sitcom set in Sparkhill, Birmingham, Citizen Khan that stars comedian Adil Ray on television, on the BBC One channel and iPlayer. Wikipedia says that Citizen Khan “is a family-based British sitcom produced by the BBC and created by Adil Ray now in its fourth … Read More »

Which No. 1 to Acock's Green does that chap who stinks of piss catch, so I can avoid him?

If you’ve ever commuted to Acock’s Green in Birmingham, England, in the morning on the Number One (No. 1) bus, operated by Travel West Midlands, then it’s possible that you’ve at times caught a whiff of piss. Unlike farts, it isn’t ‘he who smelt it dealt it’ it’s a man who gets on the number … Read More »

When do they put near dated cheese in the Whoops fridge at the Asda?

Asda Stores Limited is an American-owned, British-founded supermarket retailer, headquartered in Leeds, West Yorkshire. Asda run a number of stores in Birmingham. The company started in Leeds but was bought by American giant Walmart in 1999. It is one of the “Big Four” supermarkets in the UK with Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons and indeed it … Read More »

What time does Select and Save on the Stratford Road close?

Select and Save is a supermarket on the Stratford Road in Birmingham. It’s at 870 Stratford Road in Sparkhill. It’s not the only Select and Save (or Select & Save), there’s also one in Moseley, but we don’t know what time that one closes. The Select and Save website says that it “was formed in … Read More »

When and on what day do The Yenton clean their pipes?

The Yenton is a pub on Sutton Road, Erdington, Birmingham.  Their website says “At Sizzling we believe the people of Erdington deserve more from their local pub. And it’s our job to give you just that.” “We’re a friendly bunch and we pride ourselves on giving the warmest of welcomes. We’re committed to seeking out the very … Read More »

And is this going to prove to be our revenue strategy for a successful future? We’re not sure.

Insert Google Ad here

Meet the new Bore, same as the old Bore

I have an obsessive nature – not addictive, thank god – but definitely obsessive. Whenever I am reminded of 1976 classic Carrie the voices echo about my brain for days. I have spent hours researching Michigan J. Frog (the frog in the cartoon that only dances for one man until it drives him mad) Did you you know he had a name? I did, because I have thought about him about three times a day for the last ten or so years. That’s more than some people think about their god.

This obsessive nature means that I stay away from certain things, things that tickle my pleasure centres in that special way that be it in a dangerous life destroying way like gambling or hard drugs that could have me out doing unspeakable things and burning bridges, or smaller things, hobbies or small chunks of pop culture that could have me memorising league tables and waiting for Saturday match day.

I’ve never been bothered by football, but politics does it for me. The Venn diagram where ideals, manipulation, and power overlap, that flicks my switch. Like a 4D chess game crossed with a soap opera with a cast of the worst people in the world. Which is why I stay away, I dabble, much like the casual football fan I’ll follow the big matches but at a local level not so much. I’m just not prepared to put in the work of crushing banality that local politics is made up of.

So when I was asked to cover the hustings for the leader of Birmingham City Council I was hesitant. Normally I only get sent to things that either of the Jons don’t mind getting banned from. But I went. And it was as boring as I thought it would be. One of the things that’s clear is that despite being the being the biggest local authority in England, being its head affords you very little power. In fact it seems the whole machinery of the local council is powerless, with its committees, sub-committees, panels, boards and commissions, all layered on top of each other and threaded together like a cake made by a boring drunk spider.

So on a rainy Thursday evening I found myself at the CBSO. Looking around the room, I felt a bit out of place, my hair is a weird pink colour, but it wasn’t just that my hair was pink, it was that my hair had any colour at all. The crowd were made up of mostly middle aged white people. The people of colour I did spot were Labour councillors themselves so don’t count.

Oh Gawd, what will Danny do next?

In Labour

With the announcement of a West Midlands mayor just a day or so before, this hustings started to feel a little bit like bald men fighting over a comb. But that’s not true; one of the candidates is a woman. We sent Jonathan Todd to see what went on at the Birmingham Labour leadership hustings.

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Worst. Kraftwerk. Gig. Ever. Pic by Afzal Hussain

79 Labour councillors will on Monday vote to decide the next leader of Birmingham City Council. Some of these councillors were in the CBSO last night, including the four standing for this office. They were joined by about 100 of the great Brummie public, who questioned the candidates after they’d presented their pitches.

Female, young, and non-white demographics were underrepresented in the audience (and, in the non-white case, on the stage). Perhaps we can’t blame the four leadership candidates for this (or for being white). It reflects a broader malaise of political disengagement.

The candidates commendably made themselves available for a grilling from those who, for the most part, do not have a vote on Monday. The candidates had, therefore, little to gain and much to lose. Poor performance would be punished by the watching media (BBC West Midlands filmed from the floor as the event was ongoing), while strong performance would largely not be witnessed by those who hold their fate in their hands.

Continue reading “In Labour”

Labour councillors: Stop gagging Brum

Despite calls in the media, old and new, and noises from some quarters (not as many as we’ve got, like but…) it’s being reported that the Labour group on Birmingham City Council is actively against having an open debate and a hustings event for the election of a new leader of the largest local authority in Europe.

With five candidates now declared that leaves 73 people voting on who leads a city of over a million. And they won’t even be open about the process.

They’re gagging the people of Birmingham and that’s not good enough.

Sign our petition for an open process. Add a gag to your social media profiles in protest. Read more.

Chamberlain Square features still a statue of Birmingham’s great campaigner for electoral reform, Thomas Attwood. One wonders what he would make of it.

Tom

So you’d like a say in who leads Birmingham City Council?

Want to feel enfranchised? Like you have some influence in the direction of your city? Then you need to have a say in who leads your local council.

How to get that? Well you need our guide.

 

paradisecircus_2015-Oct-19

 

Of course, only 0.01% of Birmingham residents actually get a vote.  Find out more and sign the petition for a more open process.

Birmingham and leadership: A challenge to democracy

Birmingham is to have a new leader. And we don’t get to vote. No-one does, apart from the outgoing leader and 77 other Labour councillors.

The leader of Birmingham City Council is potentially the third most important figurehead in the county: after the PM and London Mayor. There is control over millions and millions in council budget.

But: the majority of the one million people in Birmingham haven’t a clue who they are.

And that’s not least because they have no direct say in how they get there.

Sir Albert Bore, who is to step down, may have deserved all the plaudits he’s got for his work — but the truth is that who ends up leading Birmingham is decided behind closed doors. It’s luck, and friendships when it should be democracy and accountability.

We have a democratic deficit in the city: power is devolved to unelected groups of ‘business leaders’, council services are tied up in monolithic commercial contracts, there’s talk of wider bodies to which the public have no access. To have the leader of the council also ‘unelected’ is too much.

We believe that true power should only come with accountability and openness. So we ask those who have the power currently to work to change the system, but also to do what they can now.

We ask Labour Councillors, pledge to:

  • Be open about your positions on the leadership.
  • Take soundings from your constituents.
  • Listen to the people of Birmingham before you vote.

Leadership contenders, we ask you to pledge to :

  • Produce and publish a plain English manifesto with your vision for Birmingham and how you’d get there.
  • Commit to open hustings.
  • Talk to the public directly, your national party’s leadership understands the power of social media — use it.

Other public figures, both inside and outside the Labour party, also have a duty to encourage openness and change in this process. MPs, you have a platform, please use it for democracy.

Let’s make Birmingham democratic. Please ask your elected representatives to commit to these pledges, sign this petition.