I sat in a cafe looking out at Victoria Square and the Council House with its stone walls and columns and domed roof. The fountain in front of the Council House, officially named ‘The River’ but known locally as the ‘Floozie in the Jacuzzi’, was designed by Indian sculptor Dhruva Mistry. It was coated in snow that day. Water cascaded down the steps from the upper pool into the pool below. Pigeons flew overhead as people took photos of each other. The fountain was turned off in 2013 due to costly leaks and was filled with plants in 2015. It is due to be restored however as part of a £25 million regeneration of the city centre.
Pigeon Park is the name locals give to the grounds of Birmingham Cathedral. It’s a favourite place for people to eat lunch and sunbathe. I walked into the park and took a seat on a bench opposite the cathedral. The sound of ringing bells filled the air and echoed off the surrounding buildings. Male pigeons were trying to attract the females – fanning out their tail feathers, bobbing their heads up and down, twisting round – but the females didn’t seem interested. A man walked by with a big afro hairstyle and a boy rode in circles on his push scooter.
On Kings Heath high street a man dressed as Elvis pushed a buggy with a sound system in it playing Elvis songs. Another man high-fived Elvis as he walked past and a woman who was working in Wilko over the road called over to him, giving him a wave. The Elvis man is a local celebrity in Kings Heath. He is commonly known as Monkey Man as he used to push a soft toy monkey around in the buggy.
My friends and I visited the Jekyll and Hyde bar and gin parlour on Steelhouse Lane. It has a ‘Secret Garden’ where murals of Alice in Wonderland characters decorate the walls. We sat at a bench out front where a reunion was happening for a woman’s 40th birthday. Some men on a bench behind me were talking about the police station just up the road. One of them was saying how he was in the cells there once, waiting to be called up to the magistrates. There were a few other men in there with him, he said, one of whom was his cousin. He was talking about this loudly as though he wanted everyone to hear.
We got up and left soon afterwards and headed towards Colmore Row. People stood at bus stops and gulls sat on the grass in Pigeon Park. We turned down Newhall Street and walked past Purnell’s restaurant, which is owned and run by Michelin-starred chef Glynn Purnell. After crossing Great Charles Street we turned right on to Lionel Street, walking its length past the B.T. Tower and under the railway bridge by Snow Hill station. Here there are arches which are occupied by a nightclub and a restaurant as well as other businesses. Joining Great Hampton Street, we walked up the hill, passing a Lebanese and Syrian restaurant before reaching the Lord Clifden pub.
The bar in the Lord Clifden was busy. Artwork featuring the Sex Pistols, Blondie and the Stone Roses adorned the walls. The fridges behind the bar were filled with colourful cans of Tiny Rebel IPA. We walked down a corridor and into a large beer garden. A big screen was showing a women’s rugby match between France and New Zealand. People were dancing to soul records being played by a DJ. A blonde woman who looked like a young Debbie Harry in a yellow and green dress stood nearby. Another woman, from Stourbridge, spoke to us. She told us the Black Country slang for neck was ‘clack’ as she encouraged my friends to down their drinks in 10 seconds. We stayed here for an hour before leaving. I said goodnight to my friends (I had to be in work the following morning) and walked down to the bus stop where I caught the number 74 to the city centre and got the last train home from Snow Hill station.
It was a rainy and relatively cold evening in July. I got the train to Moor Street station with a friend. We were going to the Sunflower Lounge, a popular live music venue, to see some bands. Leaving Moor Street, we crossed the road and went into the Bullring shopping centre, walking from one end to the other to come out opposite New Street Station. We headed over the road towards the Sunflower Lounge. On the way a man in a grey tracksuit walked up behind us and hassled us for money while at the same time insisting he wasn’t a beggar. He had an aggressive manner and followed us into a convenience store before striding off down the road.
After leaving the store we went in the Sunflower Lounge which was already busy. People were standing outside in the smoking area and others were sitting at tables inside. About twenty minutes had passed before a crowd of us went downstairs to the basement where the bands perform. ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ by the Stone Roses was playing from the speakers. More and more people gathered in the room. The first band came on stage. They were called Hyde but that night they announced they were changing their name to Roma Cove. They were a good band comprising two guitarists, a bass player and a drummer. The second band on was The Verse, another four-piece. A lot of people in the crowd seemed to be there specifically for them and were singing along to their songs. The band had a lot of energy and got the crowd jumping.
A lot of the crowd had gone back upstairs by the time the third band, a Glaswegian outfit called Voodoos, came on. The bass player told those of us who remained to come closer to the stage and the singer told us to “turn the energy up a wee bit”. My friend and I weren’t into them though so we went back upstairs and out to the smoking area.
I sat in a cafe in Waterstones. Below, on the junction of High Street and New Street, a group of lads were taking turns to do some street dancing. Music played from a large speaker. A crowd began to form in a semi-circle around the lads, who put caps upside down for people to toss money into. Their dance moves became ever more skilful and impressive.
It was raining in the city centre. A discarded umbrella, turned inside-out, lay on the ground. High-rise office blocks loomed over us as we crossed a wind-swept plaza. Large puddles formed at the side of the road. Colourful street art adorned the walls of buildings. Starlings ran about on the pavement, looking for food.
A jazz quintet played in the lobby of the ICC (International Convention Centre). Outside it was dark. The headlights of the cars and buses reflected in the rain-soaked street.