Another Midlands landmark is lost to fire

A sight you won’t see again… Over 130 years of history was obliterated yesterday due to an horrendous fire which swept through the former  premises of Langley Maltings Brewery in Oldbury.

The Express & Star reports that “More than 60 firefighters from stations across the Black Country and Birmingham battled through the night” after security guards first spotted the blaze catching hold inside the building at around 22:30 on the evening of the 8th. From there, it was more containment than prevention for the WMFS as the flames quickly spread to the entirety of the structure, causing massive damage and also causing its three characteristic towers to collapse into the structure.


Fortunately, the hobby of Urbexing (aka Urban Exploration; exploring buildings and the urban landscape, taking photos as you go for documentary purposes) is alive and well in the Midlands, and some good photosets have already been taken – in one case, less than a week before it was destroyed in the blaze. The photoset from adders0121 on flickr shows you what the Brewery was like inside prior to the blaze.


All this provides further evidence as to why Urbexing should become an officially-endorsed practice, supported by the local Government and associations like English Heritage! As a form of documenting the region’s past and its plethora of historical landmarks and buildings, it is almost unique in that just about everyone who Urbexes shares a similar attitude – do no damage, always be careful and be very thorough. Some people’s dedication verges on the obsessive, and I’ve seen people travel for hours just to visit a derelict building!

The saddest thing is that, aside from people who actively go exploring, the region’s industrial past is all around us yet much of it is simply being left to ruin, destruction or redeveloped into boring luxury apartments or offices… and most of us never even realise until it’s all gone. You may be surprised as to just how much you can see by simply opening your eyes and studying your surroundings a little more, so give it a try next time you’re out and about around the Midlands. 🙂

Reminder: Moseley Folk Festival this weekend

Just a quickie to remind you: the Moseley Folk Festival begins on Friday the 4th of September and runs over the course over the weekend. With a lineup including Beth Orton, Jethro Tull, Saint Etienne and El Perro del Mar (amongst many others), why aren’t you there already queueing up to get in? 😉

Handel’s Messiah at the Town Hall’s 175th birthday in October

I was recently reminded about this – on October the 3rd, the Town Hall is hosting a performance of Handel’s Messiah, which is also its official Birthday Concert. The piece will be performed by the Sixteen Choir and Orchestra along with what are billed as ‘world-class soloists’ (maybe we have to guess who they are? 😉 – Classic FM’s still running their competition to win tickets for the performance (competition closes 7th of September).

Along with other events surrounding the date, the Town Hall’s actual 175th birthday – the 4th of October – is marked with what the Stirrer describes as “a free, fun packed day of music and dance for all the family and a truly carnival atmosphere.” And if it’s free, where’s the harm in popping along? I’ll most certainly be going to the Handel concert regardless – I love the Messiah. I was also lucky enough to be able to sing Handel’s Messiah in a choir (at the Royal Albert Hall no less!) a few years ago, and it was truly exhilarating. It’s almost as fun to just sit and watch! The concert’s scheduled to begin at 7pm, and tickets are available (either online or via 0121 780 3333) from the Town Hall Box Office priced between £5 and £40. But act fast, they’re almost completely sold out!

Vote for your favourite charity for 2009’s Brum Twestival

With the next Brum Twestival fast approaching in September this year, the organisers have decided to hold a vote to find out which local charity is the favourite of the twestival-goers – and which will be supported at this year’s event. All the candidates are excellent charities in their own right, and I strongly urge everyone to vote for the local charity of their choice.

This year’s candidates are:

There’s more info on each of these charities on the Brum Twestival site.

Having had a good friend who died from advanced stage lung cancer spend his last weeks at the BSMH, I’m especially grateful to them for the wonderful care, attention and compassion they give to their residents and their families on a daily basis. They’re entirely funded by donations and the odd benefactor; to lose St. Mary’s Hospice – or indeed, any other Hospice – would be a tragic thing to happen and would drastically decrease the availability of quality palliative care in the West Midlands. Besides that, it would put an even greater strain on the NHS to provide the same level of extraordinary care.

So, please support your local Hospice – and indeed, support all of your local charities. If you can’t afford to donate to all of them at once, set up a rota system or donate to a number in turn, changing every couple of months. What’s £10 or £20 a month? It’s not much to you, but to them it means the world. Thank you 🙂

See you at the Twestival in September!

Ow yam doing moite?

Yes yes yes people, once again it’s the most Bostin of days – Talk Like A Brummie Day! 2009 marks the third successful year in which TLABD has been held. It’s dead simple to take part in… Either do your best stereotypical Brummie impression, or just thicken the accent you already have 😉

For some background info, including more on the culprits who set up the inaugural TLABD, head on over to There’s a section on the accent and even a quick ‘n dirty dictionary to help you get started. If you’re struggling to get started, whoohoo‘s had an English <-> Brummie translation service up on the web for a good few years now. There are other translators and dictionaries up on the web too, but if I gave you all the links that’d take half the fun out of finding them now, wouldn’t it?

If you fancy giving it a go, don’t forget to RSVP to the Facebook group too so we can see the trend spreading!

About Brum Podcast: Episode 1 now out

Roll up, roll up – it’s the shiny new About Brum podcast, replete with delicious podcasty goodness and compatible with all half-decent media players and devices.

The inaugural episode features Nick Booth of Podnosh and Birmingham Social Media Surgery fame! Also, Birmingham- or West Midlands-based band? Get your music featured on the next instalment… Contact me for more details.


Links to articles mentioned in podcast:
Nick Booth:
Nick Booth: BeVocal – Acock’s Green SMS

Intro music for this episode: Advantage – Never Say Never

If you think you deserve to be featured in a future podcast, get in touch – I look forward to hearing from you!

BP Efficiency car coming to Brum – look (out) for yours truly

BP Efficiency Car 1BP, bizarrely on a quest to help us save money on petrol (whodathunkit), are tooling round the UK with a specially modified Ford as part of their Fuel Efficiency Challenge. They’re giving people the chance to do a circuit around town and have their driving style analysed – they’ll be stopping by Millennium Point today, and hopefully (if it’s not too busy) I’ll get to have a go in the car.

Marketing and promotion aside, they do raise some very valid points. In all my driving around the city, I’ve noticed that there is some truly hideous driving going on (from myself included) – lots of leaden right feet and late braking abounds in the City centre. Hopefully I’ll learn something useful from this to take away and help improve my driving skills.

I wonder how we can make all road users in Brum adopt slightly more sensible driving styles? It might help a bit with the awful congestion too…

This is the final day the BP guys are in Brum, moving on to reading at the end of this month. AutoCar’s already blogged about what they’re doing, and hopefully I’ll see some familiar faces when I head down to meet them.

Second Flyover Show today

I got word recently from Clare Edwards of the second Flyover Show, taking place today underneath the Hockley Flyover. If you went to last year’s event and liked what you saw, you’re in for another treat this year…

Flyover Show 2009 - flyer

Amongst others, the lineup includes:

  • Soweto Kinch, Birmingham saxophonist and rapper
  • Linton Kwesi Johnson
  • Bashy
  • Andy Hamilton
  • Cleveland Watkiss

Click on the flyer to the left to see the full lineup. Not a bad list of artists for a concert taking place under one of Brum’s flyovers! LIke last year, it’s free to go, and it’s a lovely day outside today… So why not? Just head over to Hockley Circus, B18. The concert starts at 12:30 and ends at 21:00.

New Birmingham Library Public Consultation almost complete

New Birmingham Library Concept Art 01 (from BCC)

For those who were unaware, the Public Consultation for the planned £193m Birmingham Library  is halfway complete (it’s been running from the 20th of April and will end on the 22nd of May).

This is the last opportunity the general public will have to voice their opinions – you can contribute yours, so get going – there’s more info on the BCC web site. Likewise, they’re also running focus groups which you can participate in.

As local residents, it’s your Council Tax money they’re spending, so why not have your say?

Some blurb from the BCC web site;

Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, has unveiled the design concepts for the new Library of Birmingham by the acclaimed Dutch architects Mecanoo.

The Library of Birmingham will be situated on Centenary Square between the Birmingham Repertory Theatre (The REP) and Baskerville House. The project will make a huge contribution to the regeneration of the city, creating 250 new jobs including 25 apprenticeships.

The library building will be joined to The REP at ground and mezzanine levels and will share the foyer, bars, restaurants and a new 300 seat theatre.

What bothers me the most (aside from the astounding cost, and the fact that this redevelopment isn’t really necessary) is that they’re going to be using the entire plot of land currently used as a car park – granted the multi-storey behind Baskerville House will still be there, but it’s always full in the daytime with commuters’ vehicles. When this Library is built, parking your car in the centre of Birmingham will become just that little bit more difficult.

Worst of all, as part of the redevelopment of the surrounding area, all but a few circles of grass will be removed and paved over wholesale – what happens to the water table, and why are the few remaining patches of green space in the middle of our city to be so neglected? There’s a lot to be said for being able to relax during your lunch breaks while sitting on a nice patch of grass in the warmer months.

The one good thing about this redevelopment taking place is that archaeologists from the UoB have unearthed some interesting finds just below the car park tarmac, including a “canal arm and factory remains.” From the site;

A previous desk-based assessment showed that the site was formerly within the vicinity of John Baskerville’s house in the 18th century, a canal, and was the later location of the Union Brassworks in the early-19th century, and Winfields Brass Works, one of the largest brassworks in Birmingham during the mid to late-19th century.

There’s a more detailed writeup (old link, obsolete) (with more photos and a video of an animated above- and below-ground virtual tour) on the University’s Archeology and Anthropology web site.

Related reading:

Library of Birmingham promotional web site
UoB: Cambridge Street, Birmingham
BCC: Concept designs for Brum Library
Birmingham Mail: first look at new Birmingham Library
BCC: BigCityPlan – The Core

[updated] ANPR camera rollout across Birmingham city centre commences

ANPR on Broad Street - citybound direction

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have already noticed unmarked black gantries appearing in several areas of Birmingham over the past week or so. Some have already gone up in Digbeth, and from informal discussion with contractors installing the gantries today it appears that there are at least 10 more to go. Today (Monday), two gantries were erected at the top of Broad Street (the Five Ways end), one overlooking each direction of traffic. These gantries will shortly be outfitted with ANPR cameras – so for all you Vehicle Excise Duty, car insurance evaders and generally Naughty People, Broad Street and Digbeth high street (amongst other areas) are soon to officially become No Go Zones.

Update, August 2009: these gantries are now fitted with ANPR cameras – the reason you might not see them is because they are really small! If you look at the gantries closely, there’s one or two ‘lumps’ on each one – those are the cameras. Your travel in and out of the city, including dates, times and durations of journeys, are now being logged by Central Government. Enjoy.

According to sources at Birmingham City Council, the cameras themselves are not under their management or jurisdiction as West Midlands Police undertake day-to-day operational responsibility (with much of the central gantries set to be operated from of their Steelhouse Lane station). However, Birmingham City Council’s CCTV department can supervise and control the CCTV cameras being fitted alongside some of the gantries. 

Personally, I am in two minds to the introduction of ANPR to the city centre (as I am sure many others are)… Continue reading “[updated] ANPR camera rollout across Birmingham city centre commences”

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