Birmingham is hot property. Birmingham has property. Areas with potential for regeneration are being discussed to be sold national and international investors, who will hopefully look to spend billions on property whilst making their homes in the city.
In some cases there have been cries of alarm. More glass fronted sames and coffee-shops. Eyes have looked worried towards the Smithfields development. Worrying that this may evolve into a homogenized public, gathered around in peace and unity overseen by real music performances by Florence + the Machine + Coldplay with solo Bono support. The arrival of this utopia has been welcomed in some quarters, a recent petition has asked people show support for green space in the middle of the new development.
The Wholesale Markets will then turn into an oyster bar where tired shoppers merge into swinging scenesters, rubbing shoulders with the hoi polloi and enjoy the intravenous prosecco lounges. drink prosecco all night, united in their aspirations. Yet, I wonder if the existing sites had been used properly this sense of bacchanalian utopia could have been achieved anyway en masse. Thanks to the nearby Spar you can already wander around swigging from a bottle of Buckfast, wandering around the markets at night and hearing the clang-clanging and slapping of palletts, senses awoke on the smells of rotting fish, dank weed and diesel fumes.
It’s all very new and important sounding and shiny. Birmingham’s future is looking very glass-fronted with a nice bit of corporate marketing music pounding away in the background as buildings go down into the ground, are vapourised, and new ones emerge in their space/place. Obviously the psychogeographers’ element is invoked – new routes are to be opened and closed to the walker. With all this new development, you can in fact see the glitches in the first person game. Grand Theft Auto glitches near Paradise Circus – you are half in the wall and half out of it. The pixels flicker as you try and make your way through the barrier surrounding the old Central Library. You were able to get through before. Now, you’re walking on the spot, marching against the barrier of the new, and you haven’t completed that level yet.
Finally the Birmingham burgeon is becoming. We owe it awe.
However – a VERY IMPORTANT and WELL-KNOWN film director, Steven Spielberg has been noted in the area recently, sizing up locations and filming footage for his new film. And, unlike the director of a short film I was working as a (not very good with added learning difficulties and vertigo) boom operator in 2001, he has not gone for the plush new flats of the Mailbox and Gas Street Basin for his dialogue, plot points and sex scenes (where the woman reveals herself as the devil, tricking the new Messiah to her charms, leaving his one-armed friend happy that he is finally going to get some later on.) Was he going to take his chances in the new Library of Birmingham? Was he waiting agog for the new Seven Capital approved development, and franticually hammering the phonelines of Colmore Tang?
No. The VERY IMPORTANT and WELL-KNOWN film director has been seen with his trailers around Latifs on New Canal Street, taking as much delight in derelict Digbeth urban space as we all have for the last few years. My old mucker and champion film-maker Philip Pugh took these photos that I have illustrated here, taken on Floodgate Street.
Already you can see new poster art in place of the old, blending in perfectly. In fact, in front of the building now known as the Digbeth Jelly (formerly The Floodgate Tavern, the inspiration for my short story ‘Time Gentlemen, Please’) , is where me and Phil shot our short film ‘Nico’ which we put forward for a 48 hour film challenge in 2011.
Spielberg has also been seen around (but not in) The Mailbox and Smallbrook Queensway via the Pagoda Roundabout – also adorned with the posters. True, he has also been spotted in the more established and up and coming areas of Jewellery Quarter, sorry, JQ, but that’s another story, especially seeing as I don’t know the Jewellery Quarter, sorry, JQ, that well.
In this case, it will be very interesting to see and imagine how much capital will come out of this visit by the maestro. Once the film is out, there could be tours, and more incitements and CASH from overseas tourists and interested parties to wander in our delightful derelict spaces. The big question is, would have been interested had this area around the backstreets of Eastside been transformed into a shiny modernisation full of shiny looking flatpack apartments?
Of course, when the Bull Ring (or is it Bullring now?) and Selfridges Birmingham becomes derelict in 2027, there may oppotunities to film Terminator-esque running around digital dystopia of Future Systems’ vision. Maybe I should proposed to write to Core Marketing or Marketing Birmingham, and indicate that the scrubland around Bradford Street could have been used for a WW1/post-apocalyptic trenches epic. A David Tennant-era Doctor Who could have seen him running chinnily about the slag heaps of Arena Central.
The big marketing films could be inviting those in culture more and more to see Birmingham as a film set of the past present and future. An invitation for all directors to use our wares whilst they are still there. I celebrate the wave of instragrammers and bloggers that have captured the city and shared their photos. And I do consider this a plea for developers to THINK before those beautiful buildings, rotting facades and derelict dead ends are plastered over with more conveyor-belt glass sames.