Free roaming in spaces with indeterminate futures and pasts

It’s never been the most celebrated of thoroughfares, this arcade that joins High Street to Union Street. Apart from memories of the busker who used to bash a tambourine with no jingles around the early 90s, and the time where a group of Hare Krishnas led a procession in and out of the passage, nothing really has stuck in the mind about it.

A hangover of 70s/80s design. Looking like something from a European film I watched at school. Out of date.Like so much of this area in Town. The Central Arcade does boast the pinball and craft ale bar Tilt, but otherwise this area has so far avoided the rip it up and start again spruce-up that is dominating the city at the moment.

Not the Colmore Row business classes, neither the up-to-the-minute designs of John Lewis and Grand Central. Faeces in the ice machine at KFC in Martineau Place, stabbings outside the Sainsbury’s.

Of course , this is Birmingham for the Brummies. The ones left out of the artists impressions of Utopia. They’re quite happy being left to the 80s time-warp of Dale End and Union Street. And if they make good they can always stay in the Britannia Hotel.The shops at this side of Town faithful old-fashioned household names. Greggs, Sainsbury’s, WHSmiths, Marks and Spencer, BHS…And that’s pretty much it for this arcade here. A passageway for two entrances and exits for BHS.

There’s a small gym, but otherwise, all this seems to be is a thoroughfare, and once BHS closes, there will be nothing else.If there’s a Big Plan for this, what for the thoroughfare? I must look it up. Sealed up at both ends and the concrete poured in? If that’s the case, we (!) should think about utilising it for posterity before it goes forever.

Or maybe not. On the High Street, the Pavillons is read its final rites, ready to be regenerated into the Ultimate Primark Experience. What decade this will drag the High Street/Union Street/Dale End quarter of Town to is undecided. Particulary as when it was born in the 1980s, the Pavillions was a more luxurious equivalent to the Pallasades, with a glass lift (glass lift!) and top floor boasting works cuisine (Pizza! Mexican! Burgers!)

The glass lift and HMV had gone a while ago. Soon, this testament to 80s consumerism would be physically gone. And unlike the thoroughfare I’d taken to get to it, the passageways were sealed off ready for the forthcoming regeneration.

Somewhere, amongst the shouts and clamour of shoppers Thursday in Town, a low groan and sudden shriek pierced my mind. It was the cry of Bullring Birmingham, waking up from its nightmare of the transient nature of retail. The boards were up. The windows whited. The shops empty. Lights on but no one home.


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