So you want to write a generic ‘Birmingham isn’t that bad’ feature for a broadsheet…

Spaghetti Junction at night

Spaghetti Junction: subs… to the photo library. CC by: Chris Gin

We know that a lot of local journalists look to us for, ahem, inspiration but we were wondering what we could do to help out the hacks on the nationals. Now, the national press do like to show a passing interest in our welfare, but they only really have limited frames available for their stories. We’ve parsed that through our computers to come up with the basic boilerplate you, the national newspaper hack, need to write about the second city*.

To start, lower expectations: Of Birmingham, not your article, silly. The best way to do this is point out that someone ‘right thinking’ said something bad. You could try doing a Google Books search for Birmingham to see if there are any literary quotations, or you could just use the Jane Austen quote. You know the one:

“One has no great hopes from Birmingham, I always say there is something direful in the sound”

And if you like you can forget that it’s not Jane Austen who said it, but a character in Emma. A Character — Mrs Elton — that Jane Austen wrote as a voice of the fashionably stupid.

And talking of fashionably stupid, you could maybe quote Jeremy Clarkson “There are signs directing you away from Birmingham but nothing enticing you in.”  But quote him ironically while you agree with him really (a joke like on Top Gear), which ties neatly into…

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Heard it through the…

Brian Homer and the Central Library edition of Grapevine

Grapevine was a community newspaper established in the 1970s. Launched in Handsworth, it masqueraded as a listings magazine (to encourage readership) but was conceived as a space which could address the gap in coverage of community issues in the city. Looking back at projects like this remind us that the issues that Birmingham’s burgeoning hyperlocal scene are engaging with are not new, and that their work is part of an ongoing canon of alternative media work. It’s worth folk looking back over this history to make the links.

The team who published Grapevine went on to develop a range of other community media projects including the Handsworth Self Portrait.

Pictured is Grapevine’s Brian Homer with an edition of the magazine that highlighted the controversy around library redevelopment projects some 40 years ago – another issue which resonates within contemporary Birmingham. To read their coverage of the Birmingham Central Library, see the digitised pages in the Scribd viewer below.

Grapevine 73 by Brian Homer

The Stirrer has a time-bending review of Grapevine’s final issue if you’d like to get a sense of what the magazine was about.