ED’S PICK: March ‘18

Rews + You Dirty Blue, P.E.T @ Hare & Hounds 22.03.18Words by Ed King

**Due to the severe weather conditions, some March editorial may be delayed. It has nothing to do with 1) hangovers, 2) gigs on a Sunday that cause hangovers, 3) each episode of The Deuce being 1hr long. It’s the snow… it’s all about the snow**

The BIG NEWS this month is that Rews are coming back to Birmingham, finishing of their England tour with a special gig at the Hare & Hounds on Thursday 22nd March – joined by an awesome local line up, Tamworth’s garage rock two piece You Dirty Blue and Birmingham’s rising balloon punksters P.E.T.

Still out smashing holes in radio playlists and the right kind of ear drums across the country,  Rews are back on the road (do they ever stop!?!?) with their debut album Pyro – a rock pop stonker which we thoroughly suggest you check out. Read my Birmingham Review of the ten track beast here, or cut out the middle person and just get yourself a copy. You can bill me if you’re unhappy.

But Rews are a step up live. And don’t just take my word for it, ask any of the following: Hew Edwards, Mark Radcliffe, John Kennedy, Scott Mills, Alice Levine, Dev, Greg James, Scott Mills, Clara Amfo, Adele Roberts… (and that’s just the beeb). Or anyone who’s seen them play. Or Google. It’s not a difficult cross reference.

Of course, the best way to know for absolute certainty is to come and see Rews at the Hare & Hounds on 22nd March – for direct gig info and links to online ticket sales, click here. Or to can hop over to the Facebook event page for updates, info and links aplenty – click here.

Paloma Faith @ Genting Arena 21.03.18WARNING – CONTAINS CIVIC PRIDE: Rews have bolted Birmingham onto their England tour dates because their last gig in the city was such a stormer – Birmingham loves Rews, and it seems there’s a little mutual flutter there too. So, come down to the Hare on 22nd March, enjoy an awesome gig from Rews, You Dirty Blue and P.E.T, and stand on for your local live music scene. BRUMMIES UNITE.

And breathe…. There are other gigs this month, some pretty high profile shows too. In the land of five figure crowds, the Genting Arena hosts All Time Low (15th Mar) and the resplendent resurfacing of Paloma Faith (21st Mar). Whilst at Arena Birmingham we see some of America’s A-Lists rock with Fall Out Boy (27th Mar) and 30 Seconds to Mars (29th Mar). So, that’ll keep you busy. And a little broke.

Feeder @ O2 Academy 14.03.18N.B. Paul Weller was scheduled to play at the Genting Arena on 2nd March, but due to the school run slaying beast from the east (erm, the snow) this gig has been postponed. When we know more…

Editors play an ‘intimate’ gig at the Town Hall (4th Mar) to showcase their new album, Violence. Whilst across town Hookworms headline at the Hare & Hounds (4th Mar), and across the road Amit Dittani introduces his debut solo album, Santiago, at the Kitchen Garden Café (4th Mar).

Elsewhere in the city, Ezio return to Birmingham but this time at the Kitchen Garden Cafe (7th Mar), Astroid Boys tour their debut album, Broke, at The Asylum (1th Mar), Feeder take us on a retrospective love in at the O2 Academy (14th Mar), Joan Baez celebrates the end of a near 60 year live career as her Fare Thee Well Tour comes to the Symphony Hall (14th Mar), The Stranglers come to the O2 Academy (17th Mar),Rae Morris @ O2 Institute 21.03.18 ‘First Lady of Celtic Music’ and Clannad family member Moya Brennan plays at the Glee Club (20th Mar), whilst Rae Morris brings a sneak peak of her sophomore album, Someone Out There, to the O2 Institute (21st Mar). Phew… can anyone lend me a tenner?

And so exciting it gets it’s own paragraph, electronic music pioneers, Plaid, bring their AV tour to the Hare & Hounds on 10th March. A pivotal piece in the EDM jigsaw, Plaid come back to Birmingham after their sell out gig in the city last year – if this show doesn’t pack out then there’s something inherently wrong with the world, so we would suggest getting your Warp loving wriggle on and buying a ticket or two quick smart. For direct gig info and online ticket sales, click here or on the relevant hyper link.

Plaid @ Hare & Hounds 10.03.18A little later in the month the same promoters, Scratch Club, are putting on a breaks, beats and hip hop free bash at One Trick Pony with Dr Syntax (The Mouse Outfit, Foreign Beggars) & Pete Cannon, joined by Birmingham’s own DMC champion Mr Switch (30th Mar). For free..!?!? Now that’s a good bloomin’ Friday.

Film is stomping is size 10s across the city too, a cheeky month before Flatpack #12, with a healthy collage of celluloid (well, probably digital now) coming to screens in a variety of Birmingham venues. Ruben Östlund’s takes a well-penned stab at the pretensions of class and art with The Square – on general UK release from 16th March, before coming to The Electric (23rd Mar) and mac (30th Mar). Whilst mac programme a centennial celebration of Ingmar Burgman with The Seventh Seal (16th Mar), The Touch (17th Mar) and Persona (18th Mar).Here to be Heard: The Story of The Slits @ The Mockingbird Kitchen & Cinema 26.03.18

The Mockingbird hosts a Wes Anderson Marathon (18th Mar) featuring The Royal Tenenbaums at 12noon, Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou at 2:30pm, Fantastic Mr Fox at 5:00pm and The Grand Budapest Hotel at 6:45pm. Bit of a welcome refresher course before Anderson’s latest (and animated) feature, Isle of Dogs, is out on general release from 30th March – with two preview screenings at The Electric (25th Mar) if you wanted to jump the gun a little.

The Mockingbird are also showing the eponymous biopic about the notorious fashion designer, Westwood, throughout the month. But we recommend you wait until 26th March, so you can jump straight into Here to be Heard: The Story of The Slits – another biopic, but this time about an altogether more altogether slice of formative female punk.Comedy Short - fundraiser fro SIFA Fireside @ Artefact (Stirchley High Street) 21.03.18

On the city’s smaller silver screens this March, Neighbourhood present a series of comedy shorts at Artefact in Stirchley (21st Mar) – with a pay as you feel fundraiser for SIFA Fireside, a Birmingham based organisation who support ‘those experiencing homelessness or who are vulnerably-housed.’ A great charity that deserves our cash and consideration; look outside, now pay what you feel.

Elsewhere, The Victoria welcomes the rescheduled Birmingham Horror Group: Mini-Movie Marathon (25th Mar) which is also fundraising – this time ‘with proceeds from ticket sales going to the medical charity Diabetes UK’. Whilst the Kitchen Garden Café screen the Arnie body count craziness and all round awesome… Predator  (20th Mar) – which we are more than a little happy about. I’m off to buy a dog eared cigar, dog eared dog tags, and practice the film’s profound script such as, “if it bleeds we can kill it”. Powerful stuff Arn, Kierkegaard?

The Gilded Merkin @ Glee Club 18.03.18Treading the boards this month, Joe Black starts the UK run of his new show, Touch of Evil: A Celebration of Villainy in Song, with two nights at The Old Joint Stock (09-10th Mar). The Birmingham REP stages fingersmiths’ rewrite of John Godber’s Up’n’Under (12-14th Mar) – a play about pride and adversity (and rugby, to be fair) which has been adapted for all audiences ‘with a cast of Deaf and hearing actors using British Sign Language and spoken English’.

Overlapping a little bit, REP also present The Kite Runner (13-24th Mar) performed in venue’s main theatre, coming to Birmingham after ‘an outstanding’ run in the West End. Then back in the ‘burbs, The Wardrobe Ensemble present their tale 90’s nostalgia and the Blair honeymoon – Education, Education, Education – at mac (20th Mar).

On the more glamourous side of town, Alyssa Edwards’ The Secret Is Out Tour saunters over to the Glee Club (7th Mar), before BCU’s Burlesque society present Dare to Desire at the Bierkeller (15th Mar) and Scarlett Daggers brings The Gilded Merkin burlesque show back to the Glee Club (18th Mar).The Twisted Circus @ O2 Academy 30.03.18 Not far behind is Ben DeLaCreme, with her ‘terminally delightful’ show coming to the Glee Club (29th Mar) – a day before Klub Kids present The Twisted Circus in all its glitz and glory at the O2 Academy (30th Mar).

Comedy has a pretty decent crack of the whip in March too, kicking off with Russell Brand’s Re:Birth at Symphony Hall (8th Mar) before the Glee Club takes the reigns until April, with Phil Wang (11th Mar), John Robbins (21st Mar) and Tiff Stevenson (23rd Mar).

Outside of all that, if you’ve got any dry socks or shekles left, there’s A Notorious Odyssey at The Electric (24th Mar) – as Birmingham’s 35 piece a cappella choir, notorious, take us on ‘a musical voyage where no audience has gone before’ performing ‘tunes from sc-fi films and TV, to music inspired by space and the future.’

Across town and the space-time continuum, Rupi Kaur presents an evening of performance poetry the Town Hall (24th Mar) including work from her recently released second collection, The Sun and Her Flowers.Phil Wang @ Glee Club 11.03.18 Then just shy of a week later, Richard P Rogers rounds off the month with his Frank Cook and the Birmingham Scene exhibition at mac’s Community Gallery (30th Mar) – a study of the titular Ladywood artist, as he worked his way from the north Birmingham back to backs to art school in London in the late 1960’s.

Right then, a fair amount happening in March – I’m off to do some diary/bank statement cross referencing. And maybe drink a glass of wine, or two. What day is it again…?

For more on any of the events listed here, click on the highlighted hyperlinks. Ed King is Editor-in-Chief of Review Publishing, which issues both the Birmingham Review and Birmingham Preview.

ED’S PICK: Festivals… July – Sept ‘16

Flyover Show 2012 / By Rob Gilbert

Words by Ed King & Ceri Black / Lead pic of The Flyover Show – by Rob Gilbert  

 “…I was thinking, Michael. If you got some speakers and a little wooden stage, we could really make this a party. And if it goes well we could always do it again next year. Maybe even charge.”Birmingham Preview

With the trenches of Glastonbury baking behind us, and Bestival sprinkling glitter onto the summer’s event horizon, there are still a few festivals worth a stop, look & listen. And being Midlanders we have a better stab, logistically speaking, of getting our backpacks and Birkenstocks out across the UK – with some so temptingly close to home it would almost be rude not to.

So if you’ve been living in a hole – synthetic, figurative or literal – and haven’t had a chance to see what’s where and when on the calendar, here are a few suggestions to get your festival summer started.


Mostly Jazz @ Moseley Park 08-10.07Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul @ Moseley Park 8-10.07
Having only begun in 2010, Mostly Jazz has already been on quite the journey. Popularity and controversy of acts performing over the three day event have been on the up, with last year’s headliners, Public Enemy, being the arguable zenith of both.

But this year’s announcements will not disappoint an ever hungry Mostly Jazz crowd, as George Clinton, Average White Band, Grandmaster Flash and De la Soul all perform in the fashionably middle-class suburb – with Mostly Jazz ‘stalwart and curator’, Craig Charles, DJing on the Saturday. There’s also a healthy local contingent, including Call Me Unique and Trope, who are both well worth some attention.

Tickets are priced from £42 for a day pass, and after being recently described as ‘…a Birmingham institution,’ value for money doesn’t seem to a problem. With a vibrant line up, locally sourced food stalls, and onsite Purity Brewery fuelled bars, Mostly Jazz‘s high-spirited atmosphere kicks off our suburban summer with a bang.

For more on Mostly Jazz, visit www.mostlyjazz.co.uk


Big Family Festival @ Dunton Hall 30-31.07.16Big Family Festival @ Dunton Hall, Sutton Coldfield 30-31.07

Not often you get to see Rastamouse headline a Greenfield event.

Big Family Festival launches this year, taking over the grounds of Dunton Hall in Sutton Coldfield for the weekend of 30-31st July. And it is exactly what it says in the tin – a big site festival that’s been programmed with a firm focus for children. We kid you not about Rastamouse, who appears supported by De Easy Crew (naturally) and a host of his CBeebies cohorts, no doubt looking to broaden their portfolio should Tony Hall get another sudden rush of blood to the head.

The rest of the bill is packed with kid friendly acts, including tribute performers from Katy Perry and Beyonce to Michael Jackson and Bob Marley (OK, not that kid friendly) alongside a range of stay & play activities and games based learning. There’s also a The Gruffalo Storytelling, The Tin Man Dance Academy, a comedy tent, an outdoor cinema, the Ibiza Ghetto Blaster and a Jedi Training Academy – the last two of which, I’ll put money on attracting a somewhat older crowd.

Tickets are reasonably priced too, with day passes ranging from £29 for adults, £15 for children (10-17yrs) / £8 (5-9years) aged five to nine. Under fives are free, which considering the raison d’être is either Father Christmas generous or a little fiscally daft.

For more on Big Family Festival, visit www.bigfamilyfestival.co.uk


The Flyover Show @ Hockley Flyover 20.08.16The Flyover Show @ Hockley Flyover 20.08

The Flyover Show returns to Birmingham, once again set to ‘transform the grey space beneath the Hockley Flyover into an oasis of cultural expression’ in a one-day festival of music, arts and dance.

Headlining The Flyover Show 2016 will be legendary jazz/reggae guitarist & composer Ernest Ranglin, who ran Studio One and Island Records back in the days when you’d really, really want to. Further acts confirmed are Basil Gabbidon, Eska, Call Me Unique, Juice Aleem, Knox Brown, TrueMendous, Reuben James, DJ Winchester, YounGod, Decip4life, Amerah Salah, Jae Dot Sosa and Trope. Soweto Kinch will also be playing both with his own band and alongside headliner Ernest Ranglin – who is adding The Flyover Show to his ‘farewell tour’, following dates including Glastonbury Festival, The Barbican, Montreal Jazz Festival and Istanbul Jazz Festival.

Always inclusive, always fun, always free. And with an A road roof should the August’s skies turn, The Flyover Show is a welcome sight back on the city’s event calendar.

For more information on The Flyover Show, visit www.uprize-cic.com/theflyovershow


Shambala 2016 - NorthamptonshireShambala @ ‘a country estate in Northamptonshire’ 25-28.08

If you’ve not been to this Mac daddy greenfield affair then 1) shame on you, 2) buy a ticket for Shambala 2016, and 3) buy it quickly. Without a doubt the most fun you can have whilst dressed as a shoal of fish, circa Shambala Festival 2014, this truly homespun festival endevour is a benchmark in both style and content.

With a cracking approach to production, and a line-up that represents a vast, huge, wondrous array of all things audio (a bit like the record store loins from which it came, no pun) this is the way your three day benders should be.

Plus the brains behind the bash have kept the site capacity to 15k, or so I believe, meaning you’ll never have to worry too much about being lost in the crowd. Oh, and Sister Sledge are headlining this year. I’ll say that again… SISTER SLEDGE ARE HEADLINING. Holy sing-a-long Batman, get me Skiddle Tickets on the laptop.

For more on Shambala, visit www.shambalafestival.org


Moseley Folk Festival @ Moseley Park 04-06.09.16Moseley Folk Festival @ Moseley Park 02-04.09

The only bad thing about the Moseley Folk Festival is it means (cue Game of Thrones theme music) winter is coming. A week before Bestival and on the same weekend as End of the Road, Moseley Folk is one of the last leaves to fall on the perennial festival flower. But it’s not a bad way go.

On the upside it’s right in your backyard, figuratively for most and literally for some. Which I suppose you could see as a either good or a bad thing, depending on how seriously you take you resident’s association. But picking up the reigns left by the adventurous yet unsustained L’Esprit Manouche festival, Moseley Folk has established its beautiful suburban setting as a well-groomed event site – paving the way for a cornucopia of acts who have found their way to the Private Park. And gaw’d bless ‘em for that.

This year sees The Levellers, The Coral, The Proclaimers, The Jayhawks and Billy Bragg on top of the bill – with a healthy second row coming from Phosphorescent, Oysterband, Songhoy Blues and Benjamin Francis Leftwich. There’s a load more on the line up also worth a stop, look and listen – including Steve Tilston, Laura Gibson, Treetop Flyers and Chris Cleverley. Plus a duet show from Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) and Jessica Hoop; an offer is so tantalizing I may be making it up.

For more on the Moseley Folk Festival, visit www.moseleyfolk.co.uk

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RELEASE: “Heroes” (David Bowie) by SHATTER EFFECT

Heroes - Shatter Effect - green screen

Words by Ed King

Following the announcement of David Bowie’s death (on Monday 11th January for those of you living in a shoe box) the UK… nay world, has been gripped in a seemingly unstoppable explosion of nostalgia and celebration."Heroes" - by SHATTER EFFECT

Major radio stations have pulled out every piece of interview they can, the national tour operators are hastily pitching A-list memorials, publishing houses are sifting though photo galleries and back catalouges, with most other animals in the media circus finding some Brixton-boy-done-good stool to perch on.

And whilst I’ll admit I am not a David Bowie superfan (I have no lightning flash tattoos or rare German imprints hidden away), seeing the posthumous manifestation of his footprints has been something quite special. Plus I dare you to watch the ‘Lazarus’ video now without a visceral pain.

I heard ‘the news’ as Birmingham Review was on its way to Wales with SHATTER EFFECT, to write a feature about a new music video the Midlands based electro/rockers were filming. And I knew the band were big fans of David Bowie, with Rebecca Davies (lead vocals/keys) and Robin Davies (vocals/guitar) having referenced him as an inspiration many times in interviews before.

Turning up to meet them early in the am, with a van full of kit, a folder full of Google Maps and a heavy cloud hanging over us was a depressing as you’d imagine. You know that moment when there really is nothing to say… yeah. Now drive to North Wales.

But during the day, SHATTER EFFECT worked out how they wanted to say goodbye to the Thin White Duke – with a personal cover of “Heroes”, the title track from Bowie‘s 1977 seminal album.

And you know what, it’s also ‘something quite special’. Have a stop, look, listen below:

“Heroes” (David Bowie) by SHATTER EFFECT


The following is a full statement from SHATTER EFFECT:

‘The news of David Bowie’s death generated great sadness, but also compelled many inspirational moments – from the impromptu memorial outside the Brixton Academy to the countless individual tributes of love and respect. He was an artist who compelled many to stand up and follow their passions.

“Heroes” is an inspiring song, from a man who showed a constrained world how to live more freely. As a band we couldn’t think of a better way to say thank you, and goodbye, to David Bowie.’

David Bowie - Concert for Berlin 1987Originally recorded in Berlin, with producers Brian Eno and Tony Visconti, David Bowie released “Heroes” in September 1977. The lead single and title track from his twelfth studio album, “Heroes” was recorded within 500 yards of the Berlin Wall – with members of the Red Guard reportedly spying on the studio whilst the LP was recorded.

The central album in Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy, and the only LP to be recorded entirely in Germany, “Heroes” was cited as a reflection of the divided city and a call for freedom from oppression. The title, “Heroes”, is hat tip to the 1975 release ‘Hero’ by the krautrock band Neu! – formed after Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother left Kraftwerk in 1971.

David Bowie’s subsequent concert outside the Reichstag in 1987 sparked violent riots on the Wall’s east side, with the East Berliner’s not allowed to attend the event. Performing in both English and German, the 1987 Concert for Berlin is often cited as adding significant momentum to the worldwide call for the Berlin Wall to be brought down.

SHATTER EFFECT - type, grey on BR web coloursRebecca Davies, SHATTER EFFECT’s lead singer & keyboard player, says: “On Monday we lost one of our heroes. David Bowie’s death came as a great shock to the band. We have been influenced by his work for many years and he will continue to inspire us for many more to come. ”

To stream “Heroes” by SHATTER EFFECT direct from the band’s YouTube channel, alongside other SHATTER EFFCT videos, click here

For more on SHATTER EFFECT, visit http://www.shattereffect.com/


For the official David Bowie website, visit http://www.davidbowie.com/

ED’S PICK: Moseley Folk Festival ’15 @ Moseley Park 04-6.09.15

Moseley Folk Festival '15 / www.moseleyfolk.co.ukWords by Ed King / Pics courtesy of Moseley Folk Festival

As the Great British Summer splutters another late April shower or two, and secondary school looms for Sebastian and Miranda, the B13 Birkenstocks and picnic blankets dust themselves off for another Moseley Folk Festival (middle class + weather x outdoor music event = funny).http://birminghamreview.net/category/bpreviews/

As always held in Moseley Park, this year’s Folk Festie runs from Friday 4th to Sunday 6th Sept – with (at the time of writing) tickets still available across the weekend.

Although sell outs are not uncommon here so don’t count on being able to just bowl up and buy on the door. For direct info, including online purchase points, click here

And what a beauty this year’s shindig has turned out to be, with some of the great and good from the lower rungs of the Folk ladder supporting a couple of your more inspired headline acts. Plus there’s a bit of a band-member-going-solo speckle to this year’s listings, which is always worth a punt. Unless it’s Damon Albarn, enough with Damon Albarn. Never Damon Albarn.

In the meantime, I’ve cherry picked a few feathers of Folk plumage for you to stick in your hat – should you not want to think too much about the three day lineup. All that reading, I mean…. who has the time.


Friday 4th Sept

They’re the first night headliners, and blow me down with a yellow Vurt feather (Google it) it’s almost too good to be true – Spritiualized playing in Moseley Park. With no dog walking disapproval asking us to “show me your key please.” Amazing. Wonderful. If they don’t play ‘Electricity’ I might sacrifice a tree.

Born, if ever a word was to be used, from the ashes of Spacemen 3, Jason Peirce’s revolving door Trip-Rock ensemble have been a stalwart on the festival circuit since forming in 1990. The last time I saw Spritiualized was closing the main stage of Glastonbury in 1993 – prompting an unesccisarily twisted walk from one end of a field to the other, trying to keep hold of five people in a sea of thousands. All the time being told something about ‘…floating in space’. Youth, what a palava; Moseley Park sounds like a much safer bet. For more on Spiritualized at MFF, visit, http://www.moseleyfolk.co.uk/line-up/spiritualized/ or https://twitter.com/officialSpzd


Saturday 5th Sept

Abi BudgenAbi-Budgen-promo-2015
A couple of local(ish) luminaries for you on Saturday, starting with the exquisite eccentricity of Abi Budgen – bringing her ‘sometimes surreal and always groovy’ solo set to this year’s Moseley Folk Festival. When not hocking her snake oil ensemble, or performing with everyone’s Little Sister, Ms Budgen is a formidable force in off the wall Country Blues, and the best kazoo player this side of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. Immense fun to watch, extreme and talented; what getting drunk on cider in the afternoon is all about. For more on Abi Budgen, visit http://www.abibudgen.co.uk


As singer/songwriter as you’d expect to find on the Moseley Park bill this weekend, Stylusboy has been churning out ‘handmade Indie Folk’ on Polly Paulusma’s Wild Sound Recordings since 2013 – label mates to Nicky Schrire and Maz O’Connor. Supporting and akin to artists such as Newton Faulkner and Nizopli, Stylusboy released his debut album, Hospitality for Hope, in collaboration with Rachel Grisedale. And according to his website, ‘Stylusboy is currently writing his next collection of songs…’ No doubt some will make their way on stage this weekend. For more on Stylusboy, visit http://www.stylusboy.co.uk/


Sunday 6th Sept

Peacock-Angell-1024x724Peacock Angel Band
The musical marriage of Sid Peacock and Ruth Angell, this is the six piece evolution of ‘several years as a duo’ from the eponymous artists. Also working together as part of Peacock’s Surge Orchestra, a 20 piece ensemble in which ‘out of the chaos comes moments of tranquility and beauty, sincere tenderness and deep melancholy,’ the Peacock Angell Band also brings a blend of genres and instruments alive on stage – ending in a mellifluous, accomplished and quite beautiful result. For more on Peacock Angell Band, visit http://www.peacockangell.com/peacock-angell-band-2


Bonfire-RadicalsBonfire Radicals
Well you got to have some more traditional Folk in there somewhere… Blending strands of Klezmer, Eastern European and Scottish Folk, this six piece can get a little raucous if you let them. Or if you don’t stop yourself and they see you. Either way, bags of slightly anarchic Folk fun – not a bad way to see out your Sunday. For more on Bonfire Radicals, visit http://thebonfireradicals.com/



Moseley Folk Festival 2015 – official trailer

Moseley Folk Festival ‘15 will be held on Moseley Park, Birmingham, from 04-6th September.

For more about the Moseley Folk Festival, including full line up and programme details, online tickets & directions, visit http://www.moseleyfolk.co.uk/

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OPINION: A thorn by any other name…

Rik shouting - Young OnesWords by Ed King

I move around a lot, for work. The polite term is peripatetic.

And for the first time since 2008 I find myself in Birmingham during the Conservative Party conference, with all the fervor and false promise such a political bandwagon contains – whatever its colour scheme.

But this isn’t a party political rant. No, this is a dig at the electorate. And not all electorates; the ones that rise to their murky surface when such a pertinent opportunity to shout at city centre shoppers comes around. The mouth with the megaphone – standing in front of a table adorned with buzz words, petitions and slogans, berating one agenda or another with fumbling intelligence. Again, a polite word to use.

Last week I was standing on New Street trying to find a Western Union; my archaic (apparently) iPhone 3, G, S, C something or other churning through too much information to fit on a hand held screen, when through the bulwark of my earphones I hear something about the Scottish referendum. A well dressed man in his 50’s was chastising the “Tory government” and “Labour council”, terms he delivered with equal derision, about welfare reforms that either one had made, proposed or protested. Or one had proposed they would make which made the other protest.

At least, he was protesting – extending a voluble invitation to join said action as ‘the number of billionaires and millionaires in the city rocket at the end of September’. And for the period of time I was listening to this call, the Scottish referendum seemed to be the underpinning case in point. Although what that point was remained frustratingly unclear.

I walk up to him and wait.

Me: “…yes, hello. I was just listening to you and wanted some clarification. Are you calling the Scottish referendum undemocratic?”

The gist of our following exchange came down to the following:

Megaphone: “…so you’re in favour of cutting children’s services then?”

I have made no political stance or mandate endorsement.

Me: “I’m in favour of rational debate, ask me a rational question.”

Megaphone: “(a little louder) …so you want to cut money to children’s services?”

Me: “That’s a loaded question. Ask me a rational question.”

Megaphone: “(a little louder still) …you want to cut money from children’s services, you want to take money from vulnerable children??”

Me: “That’s a loaded question. I’m not answering that. I’m interested in rational debate, ask me a rational question.”


I have about 15 minutes in situations as circular as this before my blood sugar levels kick in; I had not wanted an argument about the funding of front line services. Plus this was going nowhere but louder. Thankfully I remembered where the Western Union was.

The politics of government, be they party line or not, are historic and complex. The fact that elections are often campaigned on issues (such as the economy) that the general electorate is not qualified to adequately address (not a seasoned economist with relevant experience and knowledge, e.g. practical applications of a national fiscal strategy) reminds us how difficult democracy can be. But it’s a better system than autocratic rule, so we trudge through – the lunacy of planned obsolescence in a representational arena withstanding.

But one thing we have control over is the delivery of ourselves, the manner and approach in which we conduct our debate. Our democracy. The world’s largest library is available to us on phones, in coffee shops and ironically libraries – spilling information across subjects from stem cell research to X Factor, and if we chose to engage there is more information available to us in the UK now than at any other time in our history. You get free wifi in MacDonalds.

And whilst I believe the diversity of opinions is a healthy foundation, even if the opinions are not, I also believe the appropriate understanding to debate them is important. Even if it’s so you can honestly say, “…I didn’t know that.”

Without fact based understanding you can start to rely on rhetoric that’s angry and divisive, as arguments without substance are usually just shouting matches. Topics become footballs and purported ideals take to the streets. The issues that should be on the table become too muddled to address, with compassionate progression slowing down to a limp or a crawl. At best.

But the most worrying outcome, to me, are the avenues of hate this kind of discourse opens up; the rivulets of camouflaged anger, once a political arena becomes a place to justify the prejudices and peccadilloes of a frustrated ‘voter’. There are political parties based on this – with one in particular (even in its increasingly, mercifully, diluted apparition) gaining more traction than is comfortable. We are not yet safe from the ghosts of Mosley and Powell.

Perhaps I’m over concerned. I do tend to watch my home city’s cultural fabric expand like I’m marking growth spurts on the kitchen wall; incremental is not a word I would use (I get this with many aspects of popular culture – who the f*ck is Pitbull?).

And perhaps my professional lifestyle makes me miss the subtle accumulations – the gradual build of concern that pushes reasonable people onto inane battlefields. After all, I’m not always here. Perhaps I don’t fully understand the problems facing the British electorate? I come in and out of the UK for work reasons.

I’m peripatetic. At least, that’s the polite term to use.

Ed King is editor of Birmingham Review. Follow him @EdKing2210