Tag Archives: birmingham

Stalking Spielberg

nolan_signCandice: Phil and I met in Birmingham last week for our customary writing and discussion meeting.  I’d been supposed to be filming that day on BBC drama ‘Father Brown’ but at the last minute had been replaced by a bloke.  I’ll be interested to see that episode as when the agency told me what I would be doing I misread the email and thought I’d be a woman in her nineties, not one in a nightie.  What the chap they cast instead will be doing who knows?

Anyway, that was my second rejection in the last few weeks as I’d applied to be in the next Spielberg film, ‘Ready Player One‘, as they were filming part of it in Brum.  What, Birmingham as a dystopian future American, surely not.  But yes, their location scout had found somewhere that fitted the bill. This sort of thing doesn’t happen very often in the West Midlands so when I saw the ad I jumped at the chance.

Well my lack of involvement was only confirmed at 8.30pm on the night before the fitting so I was a bit put out to say the least.  So when I was given a free day I thought I’d take the opportunity to go and see what the crew was up to.

I did some online surfing and found out where the crew was based – just outside the ‘jewellery quarter’.  There was loads of stuff on line, the one thing the locals haven’t been good at is keeping the set quiet.  I’m not sure they will come back if we can’t keep our phones to ourselves.

So Phil and I were all ready, copies of book in hand (not specifically for this but because I hadn’t had a copy with the new cover).  Phil even suggested I book Monday off to get ready for the calls from Spielberg’s agent. However, when we got there dystopia had moved on!

Yep, taking to the props guys who were clearing up, they had moved on just the night before to a set under spaghetti junction, further out of town.

So out plans were scuppered and books went home in their plastic bag, but it was still cool to see them clearing up – taking the graffiti covered walls back to bare and working out how they could make a plain street look like something completely different.

Next time…..


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Regional accents on the page. A good idea?

Leprechauns of IrelandPhil: Allroit bab?

A couple of weeks ago, I spotted an interesting story on the Birmingham Mail website. The 50 top words and phrases that say you’re from Birmingham or the Black Country. I tweeted this to Candice with the tag #poshbrummie – because she was born and brought up in the Midlands.

“oy I am not a brummie!however I did used to go to the outdoor…but not the back of rackhams” was the repost, followed by sharing the article to her friends on Facebook.

Reading through the list shows just how rich Brummie lingo is. Those in the south might need subtitles but for those living in the middle of the country, there’s a lot of fun in recognising certain words and phrases. Saying someone is going round the “Back of Rackhams” for example tells you that they are probably a “lady of the night” or at least  a customer of same. And no, you don’t get points on your store card. In fact when they say “Love being recognised?” then answer is probably, “No”.

Anyway, I am reading Meet Me in Manhattan by Claudia Carroll at the moment. Holly Johnson (no, not the Frankie goes to Hollywood one) lives in Dublin (bonus points for a non-London setting) and is Irish.

Or should I say Oirish.

The trouble is the Carroll has given her a regional accent on the page, and it’s bugging me. Every “Feck” brings to mind either Father Jack or Mrs Brown as played by Brendon O’Carroll. I’m expecting a “Top O’the mornin’ ” at some point followed by discussion of the little people.

In Kate vs The Dirtboffins (Buy it now!), it never occurred to us to give anyone much of an accent. All the main characters are accent-free because we wrote how we spoke and neither of us has an accent. Not even the one is definitely NOT a Brummie.

Should commercial fiction be like this or are regional dialects on the page a good thing? Would a soft southern shandy drinker Londoner or worsem an American, be put off if we included some Midlands colloquialisms? When was the last time you read a book with an accent?

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Future Talent?

Future Talent logoCandice: I’ve been doing my customary search of the web looking for juicy things to pass on to you, lovely audience, and I came across this really good article on BBC Future Talent.  Based around other activity happening Birmingham as part of Radio1Xtra activity there are workshops around how to write and develop, with a bias towards online webisodes.

‘Great’, thinks I, ‘Lets get down to these and see whats what.  But there I get stopped in my tracks, unfortunately they were LAST WEEK!  Balls is my response to that, as there was some juicy stuff there and it was all on our doorstep.

However, part of the point of all this activity is to promote a competition they are running, which closes in March 2015.

“Bring your ideas to life and write, produce, perform, direct and edit your very own pilot webisode.”

The prize, the potential to have your own series.

Now, Phil and I have always said we are writing a novel, but we have been told before that our ideas are very ‘filmographic’ (made up word!) ie they work well as pictures.  A lot of our inspiration comes from TV and Film, and obviously I have designs on having my only ever speaking part in the film of our books (abit like Stan Lee’s cameos in Spiderman) but we are not working towards  a script. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t, or even work up one of our other ideas into something.

I have no camera-holding filming experience, but I do know how to make one.  In fact one of the last things I did in my old job was to talk about storyboarding a pop video.  Hum, perhaps its time to rope in some friends and a digital camera and see what we can do…

Check out the BBC Future Talent Storify page here.

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An answer on Birmingham Library

Nolans Big DreamsCandice: Last week Phil wrote a post all about the joys and down sides of Birmingham Library.  Can I just add I am NOT a brummie but I am proud of the City I live near and have worked in on and off for years.

Many years ago I worked for the Marketing Department of Birmingham City Council, a hard job you might cry, but my role was to make the people of Birmingham and surrounds use the City Centre facilities.  This involved some random occurrences with Councillors or Heads of Department being put in strange positions to make the best media photos.  It also meant I met alot of B and C list pop acts on their way up the charts – I have to say McFly were probably one of the nicest and Atomic Kitten the worst.

Anyway, this taught me alot about this big city.  Which came in very useful when I moved to my next job working in one of the most iconic buildings in the City: Selfridges.  15,000 spun aluminium disks, did you know?

I think Brum has alot going for me, and I have to say I find it quite offensive that people don’t rate in the same way as Manchester or London.  I really DON’T like London and find the people there very arrogant.

The first episode of a new BBC drama was shown on Sunday, By Any Means.  Filmed in Birmingham it is set in London.  Yes, they do some fancy cross shooting with scenes in Brum intermingled with those from London.  They did the same with Hustle.

Now the bonus is for me that I can get work on this show, as the extras are supplied by the Agency I am with. However, I am confused as to why it can’t be set in Birmingham.  It made me laugh as they chased a suspect down the A435 in Wythall and then cut to them driving round London to their base. The other half and I watch picking out places we know but I really don’t understand why this crack crime squad aren’t searching the streets of Birmingham.  Ah well, as least they didn’t upset the Birmingham City Fans like they did the Arsenal fans over their depiction of them all being thugs!

Phil: I’m going to jump in on Candice’s post to agree wholeheartely about By Any Means. In many ways it was just like watching an episode of The SainThis is supposed to be Londont from the mid 60s. One minute we were watching some stock footage of an exotic foreign location, next it’s the stuff with actors shot on the back lot at Elstree studios. Here we had stock London footage dropped in to scenes made in Birmingham.

Now I can’t claim to have ties as close as my friend to Brum but even I could recognise a lot of the landmarks. My favourite moment was when the teams van pulled away from its parking spot right next to a Birmingham CCTV and singpost pole – complete with the logo very visible.  Worse, the makers seemed to be obsesed with using very recognisable landmark buildings for major scenes. It’s not like the place is lacking anonymous buildings!

The thing is, why do we have to pretend to be in London at all? Are there no criminals outside the M25 (Insert joke about there being a whole Parliament full within it)?

We’re both quite proud to not be London based. Some of our pitches to publishers make a point of this. Our book contains only two very, very short scenes in the capital. Most people don’t live there so why should they be forced to watch and read about it all the time?

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Birmingham’s new library

Phil: Candice and I don’t agree on everything.Birmingham Library Our latest area of dispute is Birmingham’s brand new library building.

Posting on Facebook that I was, “Off to Brum for giving blood and seeing if that new library is as ugly on the inside as it is on the outside.”, within minutes I get a response, “Hey – I quite like it ! Certainly raises brums profile.” from our proud posh Brummie.

Dear reader, I leave it to you to decide who is correct here by reference to the picture on the right of this blog. The building is question is the boxy yellow and white one covered with horrid ironwork. Personally, I think the old library, a brutalist concrete structure, is far better looking. The new one would be all right if they left off the nailed on metalwork – it’s cuboid and that’s fine. Stop pretending it’s square, as Huey Lewis once said, this is hip. Be proud of it!

Anyway, this didn’t stop me having a look. Whatever I think about the design, this is a landmark building and it certainly raises the profile of the city in a good way. While everyone got very excited about the Bullring shopping centre a few years ago, I rather like the idea that the most impressive building in the place is a public one devoted to learning.

I remember visit the old library out of curiosity a couple of years ago. The interior was a bit confusing something made worse by the place being a lending and reference library supporting 3 nearby universities. Eventually, I found my way to the engineering section. Something drew me there and when I arrived, it was full of students who looked like they fitted the place. If you imagine a stereotype engineering student, then I was in a room full of them. You can bet there were plenty of journeys home being made later via Games Workshop or Maplin…

Book rotunaAnyway, I recalled the huge collection of Haynes workshop manuals on the shelves so when visiting the new place I decided to see if these had made the move, or been conveniently forgotten as not being suited to a world of iPuds and fancy coffee. For those not in the know, a Haynes manual is what you buy when your car gets poorly and you fancy having a go at fixing it. Their natural habitat is the garage, covered in oil and perused whilst drinking tea from a proper mug.

Heading into the new building, the entrance features a coffee bar, reception and an odd wooden building nailed together to host some sort of learning experience. To get into the heart of the building, you jump on a long escalator with light up sides. It looks space age.

Rising up, you enter the “Book rotunda” and circular room with shelves arround the sides. On these are lots of books that I suspect won’t be refered to much. City council minutes, that sort of thing. Lots of identical bindings but like a country house library, these are really for show. They look good though.

The real business is to be found in large rooms off the side of this. Miles of shelves radiate out from the centre. Beyond these are desks and tables for readers to work at with large windows providing a view over the city.

Greasey car fixing goodnessBest of all, right at the top of the escalator, the first books you find in the building, are the Haynes manuals! The city is proud of its engineering heritage after all (I know, fixing a car isn’t hard-core engineering but it’s not far off for most of us). 30 feet of shelves full of greasy goodness for automotive tinkerers.

Carrying on upwards, one of the exciting features is a balcony overlooking Chamberlin Square. Cleverly set up with space for a bar and even a footspa, while sitting amongst the plants will be lovely on a sunny day, this is an ingenious space that can be rented out in the evenings for product launches and events that will help to fund the building. After all, if you have a prestigious structure, why not squeeze the asset by renting it to people with cash to spend? I’m sure there will be puritans getting all poo-faced about this but to my mind if you can make the library a desirable civic building then that has got to be a good thing hasn’t it?

Anyway, above the balcony is more reference space, this time for photos, catalogues and maps. On the side of this is a Secret Garden, a smaller version of the balcony and offering (to my mind) superior views over the city. Being on the side of the building, you can see the hills in the distance as well and glimpses of the canals that are so much a part of the history.

At the top of the building is the Skyline Gallery, a glass walled room pointing at the city centre. A giant iPad thing can be sued to identify different buildings and look up some useful facts on each. Not just the old buildings either. Brum is rightly proud of more modern heritage such as the 1973 Alpha Tower and even very recent developments.

Shakespere Memorial LibraryThe jewel in the crown for tourists though, is the Shakespeare Memorial Library, a wooden panelled room that is in its second home in this new building. An odd inclusion in the midst of such modernity, the contrast is rather pleasing. I suspect it’s a bit of work in progress as the glass covered shelves contain various works by the Bard, many more books about the Bard and about 150 years of the magazine Punch.

Of course, there is more, but that was enough for one visit. I haven’t plumed the depths – there are a couple fo subterranean floors to explore. The place is only starting to get into its stride – you have to be escorted to the top floors as demand is so high (100,000 visitors in the first week and 10,285 books borrowed in the same time) at the moment. Give it 6 months and things will start to settle down.

The Library of Birmingham cost £189m. Had it not been signed off before the collapse of the economy, no doubt the result would have been a good deal less impressive. Despite the cost, TV channels carrying out vox-pops have found it harder than they had expected to find people who claim it is a waste of money.

Brum viewBrummies seem proud of their new library and well they might be. I still think it’s ugly on the outside but inside, where the action is, it’s fantastic. You can tell I’m not alone, the place was home to several people just wandering around in awe and wielding cameras as though they were at a major tourist attraction.

Birmingham now has two iconic buildings, the other is Selfridges store, but that is just a shop (I suspect this is another area we’ll disagree on but then I’ve never been part of that place, unlike Candice) and does the normal shop like things. With the new library, the architects have produced something stupendous. If you need an excuse to visit Birmingham, then this is it.

Who says libraries and books are old-fashioned and boring?

Visit the Library of Birmingham Website.

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