Sunday, 7 December 2008

Bah Homburg!

hancock bandw
This is a statue of the legendary British comedian Tony Hancock which surveys the traffic on the roundabout of Old Square, central Birmingham, linking the upper and lower ends of Corporation Street. I think it's quite an endearing statue with Hancock's trademark Homburg and his cup of tea. Hancock is hardly an heroic figure like a general or a pioneer of industry. But he is regarded with a lot of warmth and affection in the city of his birth, it's essentially his humbleness which is the appeal. And it makes me smile when I see the Chrtistmas tree besides him festooned in all of its lights and twinkling glory. Hancock remains unmoved and hardly bats an eyelid at the ever changing shop front displays enticing in the passers-by in their never-ending, frenzied quest to consume,consume, consume and "shop 'til they drop".
Like Hancock, I tend to let it all pass me by...
hancock statue

Wilkommen In Birmingham

Time for a post, after an extended period of illness and having lent my camera to my ex who wanted who wanted to show off photographing the markets in Prague. I say, who needs to go to Prague when you've got the Frankfurt markets in Birmingham - the biggest German markets outside of Germany itself. Apparently. Great Bratwurst and beer. Prost!

Friday, 14 November 2008

How The Other Half Lives

Just how big does a house need to be? I guess it depends on how many people live in your family but some of the houses in my neighbourhood are of mansion-like proportions, while others(including yours truly)live in shoeboxes. But I consider myself lucky to be housed at all, given that there is a homeless village just a five minute walk from where I live. I included it in my post Homes For The Homeless two days ago. I’m not having a go at the rich or trying to make a political point, just an observation.

The homeless village.

This is one of many local pubs which have now closed down.

A typical urban housing estate across the road.

View towards the city. The two white tower blocks are familiar landmarks on the Birmingham skyline for the last thirty-seven years, known as the Sentinel Towers, both originally council-house dwellings, now under the control of a housing association. They are both 32-storeys high and are home to many unemployed and low-income families. The tourqouise-tinted tower just behind it is Beetham Tower, home to the upmarket Radisson Hotel and penthouse appartments which sell for up to 1.5 million pounds.

Walking up Wellington Road, away from Bristol Road, the landscape changes, the post-war tower blocks and maisonettes give way to large, detached houses which get bigger and grander the further you walk up the hill. I could swear the air is cleaner too.

This is one of the biggest houses in the road, it certainly has the biggest driveway. Apologies to the owners for violating their privacy, but if you live in a house that big you’ve got to expect to attract attentionEven the pets round here are a cut above your normal moggies or mongrels. Initially aloof, this fancy feline's curiosity eventually got the better of her.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Monochrome Odd Shot

The title comes courtesy of Babooshka's Ramsey Daily Photo blog - hope you don't mind me borrowing the concept, even if it is on a Wednesday and not a Monday!

The following photos are of the soon to be demolished Matthew Boulton college, in central Birmingham.

Before they started demolishing it this was a very ugly concrete structure, of which they're are unfortuantely far too may in Birmingham. Now I think it has a certain majesty, a crumbling ruin, somewhat spooky, particularly at night when I must go back and photograph it again.

I studied for my English and French A levels here, back in 1984.

I think maybe they should leave it standing as it is, perhaps fasten some hanging baskets from those empty window frames. I shall miss it when it's gone...

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Homes For The Homeless

I live in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham. It is a district of striking contrasts, green and leafy with many public parks and some of the grandest houses anywhere in England. These are where the business men, judges and high-fliers live. It also has a very large Asian and West Indian population and these tend to live in concil housing, like myself. It’s a hot issue in the city at the moment.

This is a camp that has been set up on unoccupied land where council housing used to stand. The "squatters" are occupying the land illegally. Like most British cities Birmingham has a shortage of decent, affordable homes in the public sector and this land could be sold to a housing association to develop for just that purpose. However the councillor responsible for housing in the city, John Lines, is refusing, prefering to sell to a potential commercial bidder who will charge higher rents. With 30, 0000 people on the housing waiting list, this is disappointing news. The campsite has been named after the councillor, an obnoxious right winger who has a criminal record for assault and prides himself on his "hard man" image. Shame on the people who voted him into office.

The squatters are moving their base to an as yet undisclosed site somewhere else in the city. They are due to be featured on BBC's "Newsnight" program this Thursday evening, November 11. They are all currently homeless or vulnerably housed. More power to their elbow. I thank them for letting me photograph them and wish them all the best.