Category: place

Brummie directions, as you know, can only be given with reference to pubs and islands. This works for us. This is a good system, or rather it is until the thing which we need to find is the actual pub itself. It is difficult to find a pub in the same way that it is difficult to find my glasses: I need the glasses to find my glasses, and I need the pub to find the pub. Such is the chicken and egg riddle of finding one’s way around Birmingham. I’m looking for the pub now. It’s a city centre pub, and this makes finding its whereabouts doubly hard. Firstly because there are no traffic islands, so I can’t orient myself to those and secondly because it’s not really in a bit of town that has any pubs. I’m lost, and nobody can help me. The pub …

Full Tilt Read More »

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There are spaces in the city which are designed to be a terminus. Shops are a terminus. Pubs are a terminus. We run to them. We pop to them. We are at them, we are in them or perhaps we are down them. We never travel through them. Run with me now, run with me through the pubs. One of my regular city centre running routes pushes me through—never to—the Arcadian. Launched as a confusing architectural proposition of East-meets-West in the city’s China Town, time and use have added to the Arcadian’s cocktail of ideas. Originally its anchor tenant was a cinema which enjoyed a symbiosis with chic bars, chain pubs, High Street restaurant names, and hole-in-the-wall Chinese cafés. The cinema is now an apartment block stuffed into a multiplex outline whilst those chic drinking holes, still wearing their first fit out, stand as a tired testament to spent …

Bladerunner 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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When Fox News rented a quote on ‘creeping sharia’-like issues from terrorism ‘expert’ Steven Emerson he duly provided by saying, amongst other things, that there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in Brummies, Brits and other onlookers, following the script of the Twitter-storm, kicked out against the inaccuracies in Emerson’s argument with the most visible content coalescing into the Twitter hashtag #FoxNewsFacts. Whilst I didn’t join in it was nice to see my Twitter streams alive like this as it’s felt like a long time since my particular network had come together in play. You see I’ve felt for a long time that Twitter is different these days (that is: it’s a bit boring these days) but for a few hours last night it could have been 2009 again: Twitter could be fun again. Nobody was selling me …

Outfoxed Read More »

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It’s a cliché, but one of the best things about Birmingham is this sign: And we salute the indefatigability of the young scamps that keep it going. Some don’t put the effort in, but scrape a pass: Some try but fail: Hey, we’re all in the gutter but some of us are looking at a road sign that can be made to look a bit rude. But, in general, kids today just can’t be bothered. They’re probably too brainwashed with that aggressive Islamist agenda they have in school these days. Where’s the next Banksy going to come from?

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 »

The Subterraneans guided tour was developed for the 2013 Flatpack Film Festival. Exploring the Metropolis was a sub-theme of the festival that month and David Bowie had just released his album The Next Day after a decade of silence. From him I borrowed a song title to set the scene for my journey beneath the city. It was to be my personal ‘Bowie’ moment, with tickets for the event selling out the same day. The festival office reported that every other phone call was a request to go onto the returns list for the event. The landlord of one of the tunnels we visited decreed that only 17 people, plus cameraman, volunteer and myself would be able to have access, once photo ID had been provided. ‘Inaccessible’ had translated into ‘exclusive’. Why such demand to visit dark, dripping, uninviting places? This is one attraction the city provides …

Subterraneans Read More »

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First there was Benefits Street…but if you’re a Channel 5 commissioner looking to make a knock-off of Channel 4’s hateful controversial popular documentary then we’d like to offer the following pitches to you, complete with Birmingham roads you can film them on:

The Bearwood Question is an idea I coined a while back when writing about local media policy – but bear with me it’s much more interesting than that! Bearwood is a lovely area of the West Midlands that I’ve lived in a number of times. It sits across a local authority border and manages to not quite be in Sandwell and not quite be in Birmingham. When I lived there I looked to Sandwell for local government (well, if I’m honest mostly for bin collections and street lights), and to Birmingham for my cultural and social life. To all intents and purposes I was living in Brum, but I was paying a much more favourable rate of council tax for those street lights than I would have been just down the road. It was like living under some sort sort of flag of convenience or being a …

Go West! The Bearwood Question Read More »

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We feel rather sorry for Solihull. It’s much maligned as a bastion of the middle class, of “small ‘c’” conservatism, and of big ‘C’ (and big ‘U’, ‘N’ etc, am I right, kids?) Conservatism too. But more than that we feel sorry that it’s got an airport, but it has to call it “Birmingham” because essentially we’re bigger and bullied them into it. It’s not as bad as RyanAir calling it London Birmingham Airport, but we still feel bad. So here’s a solution—it should be named after a person. A person who’s from Solihull, but who people probably assume comes from Birmingham anyway: it’s the best of both worlds. But we couldn’t think of anybody really famous from Solihull, so: SLX? RHX? If you feel you would like some discussion, then here’s a video:

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