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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Birmingham Part 5

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas OCTOBER. 06, 2021

The final post in my Birmingham photo walk are shots taken in and around New Street Station and the Bullring.

I was surprised to see rainbow flags everywhere when I got to the station as Pride month is normally July. But it turns out that Pride hadn't happened yet, I presume because of Covid restrictions earlier in the summer.

There are two sorts of pride it seems to me, the sort that is positive and gives you the inner strength to tackle adversity, and the sort that does the opposite, that makes you arrogant and a bully. One is about finding your voice while the other is about silencing the voices of others, the sort that is one of the seven deadly sins. This was my conclusion from what I witness, and I was surprised to find this confirmed in an official description of pride......

Out of the seven, it is the most angelical, or demonic......

In ..... more destructive cases, it is irrationally believing that one is essentially and necessarily better, superior, or more important than others, failing to acknowledge the accomplishments of others, and excessive admiration of the personal image or self.

This description of pride, the deadly sin, pretty much describes a lot of what we are seeing in the public realm today.

It also seems to me that Pride, the event, used to be about the first type of pride and is fast becoming about the second type. Pride, the event is fast becoming anti-gay as it is hijacked by extremists for political purposes.

At what point did a faceless bus company make the decision to commandeer Pride, the event, and tell us what it was about and who it is for.

There is a simple truth and I don't mean "my truth" or "my lived experience" or "her truth" I mean The Truth. Pride, the event, was created by gay people for gay people, because at that time "everyone" did not support equal rights for "everyone" least of all transport companies, banks, insurance companies, councils, and the police, many of whom in the UK had to be taken to the European Court of Human Rights, and I mean all the way to the final appeal and the highest court and the grandest judge before these same companies or organisations grudgingly accepted that their employees should be treated the same.

Pride, the event, was dangerous, you risked injury just by being there. The Police were not going to come to your rescue, they were not your friends. Frankly it makes my blood boil when I now see global corporations and the same organisations, waving rainbow flags in my face, virtue signalling, like I am stupid and don't remember what they were doing yesterday, before they jumped on what is now just another empty cynical marketing exercise. Just clean the buses and run them on time, that is what you are there for.

I don't need you to take my pride and sell it back to me with a nice rainbow covered brochure with your logo on it.

I will leave that there.

Above is the Link Bridge joining Bullring to Grand Central.

The only pride Birmingham City Council should be concerned with is the pride they are lacking in their own city's heritage. This building below is also about to be demolished. It will also be replaced by another blue glass bland soulless "Development".

Mary Keating, from campaign group Brutiful Birmingham, says it is important to fight for the preservation of the city's old architecture in Smallbrook Queensway. A grand sweep of 1960s brilliance, and the moulded concrete panels and the uplighters provide a delicacy and pattern to rival the Victorians in their decoration.

The planners made their decision earlier this year despite much opposition.

An "awful" and "horrendous" Birmingham link bridge which has blighted the city centre for decades can be torn down, following a unanimous vote by planners.

The decision means the sweeping concrete-clad Ringway Centre, in Smallbrook Queensway, can be part-demolished, part-reclad and a 26-storey tower block added in a major £70 million redevelopment.

Ringway Centre is located on Smallbrook Queensway in the city centre of Birmingham, England. The six-storey, 230 metres (750 ft) long building was designed by architect, James Roberts as part of the Inner Ring Road scheme in the 1950s and is notable for its gentle sweeping curved elevation along Smallbrook Queensway. Completed in 1962 the building originally named the Ringway Centre was the first part of the Inner Ring Road scheme to be completed and the only part with street level shops and footways.

You can see what gem is replacing it here.

More contrasting architectural styles.

Even the iconic Selfridges store, below, which made it to Microsoft Windows 7 desk top screen image with it's silver discs on a blue background, is now covered up while the Selfridges Company looks for a buyer for it's 25 stores.

The famous department store in the Bullring shopping centre will have all of its 15,000 iconic silver-coloured disks removed and then be re-painted in its original Yves Klein blue, before the disks are then reattached. Osman Yousefzada has created a CGI concept design consisting of striking pink and black dogtooth cladding in partnership with the city’s Ikon Gallery. Dubbed ‘The Dogtooth Flower’, the giant hoarding will be secured around the building while work to make it more eco-friendly is undertaken.

Weathering and city centre pollution requires the building to be regularly cleaned, including its 15,000 discs, some of which have been known to displace and fall off from time to time. The planned revamp will be the first time the entire exterior has had major renovation overhaul.

So just to be clear, unless you were not paying attention, this building only opened in 2003 so it is 19 years old. It cost £60 million. Apparently it is not insulated to modern standards. This makeover will cost £20 million. The Ringway Centre is 60 years old and has never had a makeover so we need to knock it down because it's a bit dirty and the planners don't like concrete.

International Klein Blue (IKB) - was developed by Yves Klein in collaboration with Edouard Adam, a Parisian art paint supplier whose shop is still in business on the Boulevard Edgar-Quinet in Montparnasse. In May 1960, Klein deposited a Soleau envelope, registering the paint formula under the name International Klein Blue (IKB) at the Institut national de la propriété industrielle (INPI), but he never patented IKB. Only valid under French law, a Soleau envelope registers the date of invention, according to the depositor, prior to any legal patent application. The copy held by the INPI was destroyed in 1965. Klein's own copy, which the INPI returned to him duly stamped, still exists.

Below is the church of St. Martins in the Bullring. This area is called the Bullring.

The Bull Ring is a major shopping centre in central Birmingham. When combined with Grand Central (to which it is connected via a link bridge) it is the United Kingdom's largest city centre based shopping centre and has been an important feature of Birmingham since the Middle Ages, when its market was first held. Two shopping centres have been built in the area; in the 1960s, and then in 2003; the latter is styled as one word, Bullring.

The site is located on the edge of the Sandstone city ridge which results in the steep gradient towards Digbeth. The slope drops approximately 15 metres (49 ft) from New Street to St Martin's Church which is very visible near the church.

As you can see below.

The present Victorian church was built on the site of a 13th-century predecessor, which was documented in 1263. The church was enlarged in medieval times. Although no record indicates when the first clock appeared in Birmingham, in 1547 the King's Commissioners reported that the Guild of the Holy Cross were responsible "ffor keeping the Clocke and the Chyme" at a cost of four shillings and four pence a year at St Martin's Church. The next recorded mention of a clock is in 1613. The earliest known clock makers in the town arrived in 1667 from London.


Below is the cylindrical iconic sixties tower called The Rotunda.

The Rotunda is a cylindrical highrise building in Birmingham, England. The Grade II listed building is 81 metres (266 ft) tall and was completed in 1965. Originally designed to be an office block, by architect James A. Roberts A.R.I.B.A., it was refurbished between 2004 and 2008 by Urban Splash with Glenn Howells who turned it into a residential building, with serviced apartments on 19th and 20th floors. The building was officially reopened on 13 May 2008.

The Rotunda originally housed the Mulberry Bush pub on its lower two floors.

At 20:17 on 21 November 1974 six minutes after the first telephone warning had been delivered to the Birmingham Post newspaper, a bomb—which had been concealed inside either a duffel bag or briefcase located close to the rear entrance to the premises—exploded, devastating the pub. The explosion blew a 40-inch (100 cm) crater in the concrete floor, collapsing part of the roof and trapping many casualties beneath girders and concrete blocks. Many buildings near the Rotunda were also damaged, and passers-by in the street were struck by flying glass from shattered windows. Several of the fatalities were killed outright, including two youths who had been walking past the premises at the moment of the explosion. Ten people were killed in this explosion and dozens were injured, including many who lost limbs.

This was one of the three bombs set off that day, known as The Birmingham Pub Bombings, another was at the nearby Tavern in the Town.

Patrons there had heard the explosion at the Mulberry Bush, but did not believe that the sound (described by one survivor as a "muffled thump") was an explosion.

Police had begun attempting to clear the Tavern in the Town when, at 20:27, only ten minutes after the first explosion, a second bomb exploded there. The blast was so powerful that several victims were blown through a brick wall. Rescue efforts at the Tavern in the Town were initially hampered as the bomb had been placed at the base of a set of stairs descending from the street which had been destroyed in the explosion, and the premises had been accessible solely via this entrance. A passing West Midlands bus was also destroyed in the blast.

This bomb killed nine people outright, and injured everyone in the pub—many severely; two later died of their injuries: 28-year-old barman Thomas Chaytor on 28 November, and 34-year-old James Craig on 10 December. After the second explosion, police evacuated all pubs and businesses in Birmingham city centre and commandeered all available rooms in the nearby City Centre Hotel as an impromptu first-aid post. All bus services into the city centre were halted, and taxi drivers were encouraged to transport those lightly injured in the explosions to hospital. Prior to the arrival of ambulances, rescue workers removed critically injured casualties from each scene upon makeshift stretchers constructed from devices such as tabletops and wooden planks. These severely injured casualties would be placed on the pavement and given first aid prior to the arrival of ambulance services.

The late firefighter Alan Hill - one of the first at the scene - recalled the vital role taxis played as the city was gripped by gridlock in the aftermath of the attacks.

About 12 minutes into the incident someone behind me was clearly shouting ‘Alan’. I turned around. It was George Kyte. “George was a taxi owner driver. I knew George well. I had worked for him in the past as his night driver. “I told George ‘Get on your radio. Make an emergency call. I need every available cab in the city here at this address now URGENT.’ Within seconds the message was sent via the TOA radio system.

Within a matter of moments the glow of an orange taxi sign became clearly visible in the darkness at the end of the street. It looked like a stretch limo. It turned out to be 25 black cabs nose to tail moving slowly towards us. “It was the start of the ‘scoop and run’ method. As many casualties and carers as possible were packed into each cab and taken immediately to the Accident and General hospitals. Almost 100 casualties were removed from the scene outside the Tavern on the first taxi run. Mr Hill said: “More than 200 casualties were admitted to two of the finest hospitals in the country within an hour of the first explosion. Without any shadow of a doubt, there would have been far more fatalities that night from trauma and blood loss had the taxi drivers not responded in such a magnificent and selfless manner. (Birmingham Mail)

At 21:15, a third bomb, concealed inside two plastic bags, was found in the doorway of a Barclays Bank on Hagley Road, approximately two miles from the site of the first two explosions. The detonator to this device activated when a policeman prodded the bags with his truncheon, but the bomb did not explode.

Altogether, 21 people were killed and 182 injured in the Birmingham pub bombings, making them the deadliest terrorist attack in mainland Britain during the Troubles.

Two days after the bombings, the Provisional IRA issued a statement in which they denied any responsibility. The Provisional Irish Republican Army never officially admitted responsibility for the Birmingham pub bombings, although a former senior officer of the organisation confessed to their involvement in 2014. In 2017, one of the alleged perpetrators, Michael Hayes, also claimed that the intention of the bombings had not been to harm civilians, and that their deaths had been caused by an unintentional delay in delivering an advance telephone warning to security services.

Below is the memorial commemorating those killed and wounded in the Birmingham pub bombings which was unveiled on 21 November 2018. Commissioned by the Birmingham Irish Association and designed by a local artist named Anuradha Patel, this memorial consists of three steel trees, and is located outside the city's New Street Station. The sculpture's "leaves" bear the names of each of the 21 victims.

Below is the new exterior of New Street Station and the retail centre called Grand Central. This is linked to Bullring by a Link Bridge forming the largest inner city shopping centre in Britain. The railway is below ground level and you can just about make out the reflections of the tracks below.

The iconic roof of the Grand Central below.

...and in the station concourse is a gym recruiting new members with some aerobics exercise routines.

... which is nice happy note to end on for my five part photo walk as I board my return train to Redditch.


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