The Still Walking festival, now in its fifth year, has made its return to Birmingham this week, and will run until the 26th. This post will talk about the writing I’ve done for the festival, and eventually spotlight on one of the co-directors Darryl Georgiou, who is presenting a walk entitled “Looking for Kline” this evening, where he will take walkers on a tour around the set locations for the 70s BBC TV drama “Gangsters.”
I have written for and about the Still Walking festival since its inception in 2012. 2012 was the year where The Wind was currently taking shape, being the focus for my MA Final Project.I was overjoyed that there was going to be a walking festival within Birmingham. I met with festival director Ben Waddington and offered to write blogs about the walks. I think he expected light blogs of 500 words, with tight reviews of what was on offer, but instead he got big long drafts of psychedelic and sprawling prose, fuelled by double espressos from the marvellous and much missed Cafe Blend, Irn Bru and Tracker bars and of course wide-eyed and green enthusiasm .
Posts would be vastly meticulous in their detail, describing as many hidden corners and meanings I could scribble down in my notepad. The festival was sandwiched between FIERCE and the Flatpack Festival, and ideas of space, time and place freely intermingled with each other, taking participants on a journey into the hidden corners of their city, celebrating its art, architecture and bringing out the previously unnoticed, ignored or forgotten to the forefront.
I would continue to attend the festival and write about it in 2013 and 2014, however, this year, I am neither writing nor attending the festival as I am otherwise on my jollies in either Corfu or Ilkley or at work. Directors Ben Waddington, Darryl Georgiou and Iris Bertz (who I wrote about on her superb hidden and accidental art and walking tour Lost and Found in 2013) have devised a sell-out programme this year, so think of this as an imaginative companion piece for those who are or, like me, aren’t going.
In my last post, I commented on the use of Birmingham’s dereliction and its potential use in Hollywood cinema what has been left there. Interestingly, in my blog entitled ‘Shaping Cinema’, then hosted by Martin Parretti, our walk started off in the industrial hinterland of Digbeth, right where Steven Spielberg has recently filmed scenes for his forthcoming adaptation of Ernest Cline’s superb Ready Player One (indeed, since my last post I have now read the book and do expect it to be featuring in quite a few blog posts in the month or so to come.)
For somebody who gets excited when he recently saw the backstreets of Colmore Row and the surrounding underpasses and ringroads in series 1 of Line of Duty , and the Municipal Bank being used as the entrance to the police HQ, seeing my gorgeous Digbeth in all it’s already post-apocalyptic glory on Warner Bros. Hollywood big screen (which l will indeed be watching in 2018 at the Electric Cinema, itself steeping in Birmingham Time and History gets me all very excited) will be incredibly life-affirming and make me Proud To Be A Brummie (insert daft noise there). Of course, for a fantastic archive detailing Birmingham and it’s use in film and TV, do go to Mark Wilson’s Birmingham Film and TV Locations Tour website, produced in tandem with Flatpack and the Still Walking festival.
In 2013 I met Darryl Georgiou when he presented a walk on “How Buildings Feel”in September 2013. The walk would discuss buildings and peoples perceptions of their lost past and memories that float around in their ether. With Darryl’s alchemy, he would bring the past very much into the present.
Intriguingly, we started off with a tour of the Silver Blades ice rink, which was scheduled for demolition – writing now, it has now vanished from Birmingham’s make up. To start off the walk, we suitably and seemingly entered a physical time-warp,walking in single file up a blacked out tunnel, concrete underfoot l to get to the rink. Once inside, we were transported back to Darryl’s 1980s childhood, with memories of Duran Duran’s concert there, the pops drank and the crisps bought and, with the decor seemingly unchanged since the 1980s, we were living and imagining his history launched into the present.
Emerging via the rag market, again, something that hasn’t changed in appearance since the 80s or as long as I can remember it despite the transformation of the Bull Ring, Selfridges (and of course Spiceal Street) I was intrigued by this living with one foot and one half of the brain in the past and the other in the present.Around the back of Cafe Soya, we were taken to what appeared to be a guillotine, many the backdrop of teenage lovemaking and fighing on a Saturday night.
At the Rag Markt I got accosted by an irate vendor when I started taking photos of her Bobby Crush vinyl she was selling for 10p each. She ran over and demanded to see my phone – she was non-plussed when I explained that the reason I had taken a picture of her stall was because I walk on a walk that was discussing timeslips within Birmingham, in particularly the rag market, and this LP was a talisman of a particular past that was integral to what Darryl’s walk/talk was conveying, and it helped my own research into the land suburban psychedelia. Something like that. She was confused then, and suitably less angry. I have seen lost the photo, but I do remember it to this day.
Darryl’s presence and descriptions of the areas that he showed us proved him to be quite the magician. Around the back of the Electric Cinema, he was able to show us settings of the BBC TV drama ‘Gangsters‘ where he will be presenting a walk on Wednesday 21 September at Birmingham Open Media (BOM). He first encountered ‘Gangsters’ when cast and crew members used to visit his Dad’s fish and chip shop, and since then has been presenting art and walks (and walks and art) about the TV show. Darryl succeeds on overlaying the past onto the present, making a masterful presentation where hauntology and psychogeography meet.
He will be presenting a walk entitled ‘Looking For Kline’ this evening, where he will be taking walkers around Birmingham, introducing them to the set locations and stories of ‘Gangsters’. For more on ‘Gangsters’ during the Birmingham on Film season, they will be showing episodes with a Q+A by creator Philip Martin on Saturday 8 October. And in 2018, they will be showing Ready Player One at the Electric. It’s all very exciting.