That Digbeth has its own flag and no other area of the city does, is probably the most Digbeth thing to ever happen. The rest of us, though, share that Birmingham flag they had designed seven years ago and was met with trademark Brummie enthusiasm. This doesn't seem right to Andy Slater who, having designed flags for all of the Black Country (I'd gladly go to war under the Ettingshall one), next set his sights on God's own Brum. "Some of them I spent a substantial amount of time on," he says, "while some of them were just ‘phoned in’." You've got to love the man's honesty. "I didn’t quite appreciate how many areas of Birmingham there actually are. I tried to cover as many places as possible, trying to focus on those areas which had a long history or a strong sense of identity. I considered loads of things like the place name, important historical people, local landmarks and buildings, natural features and even sports teams. If they make other communities in Birmingham consider officially adopting a flag, or if it prompts other people to attempt their own alternative designs, that would be brill." What a lovely chap. Here's just a handful of the forty or so he's done for Brum, with a bit of blurb from Andy on each. You'll find the rest here.
"Acocks Green was once part of the ancient parish of Yardley in the Pershore hundred of Worcestershire. Acocks Green became part of Birmingham in 1911. It's named after the Acock family, who had bought an estate — then called Noting’s Land — and built a large house there. The flag design uses the image of a spread eagle, which was the name of one of the earliest pubs in the area, The Spread Eagle and The Dolphins were two coaching inns that stood near to Acocks Green House in 1626. The original Spread Eagle Inn was demolished in 1929 to make way for the widening of the Warwick Road, though the existing JD Wetherspoon pub now bears the same name. The circle is to represent the fact that Acocks Green is the terminus of the No.11 bus route, which is often cited as Europe’s longest. The two diagonal lines represent the tram lines which also terminated here, and is now the location of the ‘green’ – represented by the green colour."
"Balsall Heath was once part of the Moseley yield of the ancient parish of Kings Norton, in the Halfshire hundred of Worcestershire," says Andy, in the most real life Lord of the Rings sentence I've ever heard. "The central flag image is taken from a design above the men’s entrance of Moseley Road Baths. The Lion is taken from the coat of arms of the Grevis family who used to own Moseley Hall (you can see this coat of arms on the Old Moseley pub's signage). The archway is to represent both the railway bridges and the arched roof of the swimming baths. The yellow and orange represent the many large impressive, red brick and terracotta buildings."
"Bournville was once part of the ancient parish of Northfield in the Halfshire hundred of Worcestershire. It became part of Birmingham in 1911. The flag design is based on the colours of the wrapper of the Bournville chocolate bar, manufactured by Cadbury’s, and the bottom stripe represents segments of chocolate."
"Kings Heath became part of Birmingham in 1911. The pear tree represents the pear tree which grew up the wall of the first pub in the suburb. The three pears also represent the area’s historical links with Worcestershire and also echo the badge of Kings Heath Cricket Club. The crown represents the fact that the area was once owned by the Crown. The purple represents both royalty and heather, while the gold represents gorse."
"Longbridge became part of Birmingham in 1911. The river valley here is wide and marshy and the area is named after the long bridge that was built to cross the river at this point. The flag shows a bridge and river, while the wheel symbols are of the wheels of the first Austin car, produced in 1906. The colours and small mast flags are taken from the Rover badge."
"Moseley became part of Birmingham in 1911. The griffon image and red colour are taken from the coat of arms of the aforementioned Grevis family, who used to own Moseley Hall. Moseley Rugby Club also uses this emblem. The circle is to represent the area’s supposed role in influencing J.R.R.Tolkien (particularly Moseley Bog and the Ice House in Moseley Park – thought to be an inspiration for the Hobbit houses). The green stripe is to represent the village ‘green’."
"Perry Barr was a township in the ancient parish of Handsworth in the Offlow hundred of Staffordshire. Handsworth became part of Birmingham in 1911. The flag shows a pear tree on a hill (barr) which is thought to be the origin of the place name. The flag also features a podium to represent the area’s link to athletic prowess, being the home of Birchfield Harriers."
RUBERY & REDNAL
"Rubery and Rednal became part of Birmingham in 1911. The red hill represents Rednal Hill, which is part of the Lickey Hills. The rose and crown represents a coaching inn which stood at Rednal near the foot of the dangerous ascent of the Lickeys. A house replaced the inn, and the house eventually became The Old Rose and Crown Hotel. A New Rose and Crown pub is also located in Rubery. The blue line is to represent the River Rea, which flows through the area."
"Sparkbrook became part of Birmingham in 1838. The flag features a triangle containing a balti bowl to represent the Balti Triangle. The wavy blue line with stars represents the Spark Brook, which gives the area its name."
"Weoley Castle was once a manor (called Weoley) in the ancient parish in the Halfshire hundred of Worcestershire. It became part of Birmingham in 1911. The flag features an image based on an artist’s representation of the gatehouse of Weoley ‘Castle’ (which, rather than being a castle was actually a fortified manor house). The red oval represents the castle square and this is overlaid on a Mercian cross to represent the area’s Anglo Saxon links. The yellow diagonals also represent the four roads leading to the square. On the castle is a raven which is the name of a local pub."
See all of Andy's work — he's up to all sorts, not just flags — here. Follow on Twitter
THE £300 QAVALI GIVEAWAY
Brindleyplace newbie Qavali is unlike any other Brum restaurant. The interior is see-it-to-believe stuff, as immaculate as it is sizeable. And the menu is unlike anything else the city offers either, taking inspiration from the mountains of Turkey and Iran, the plains of Afghanistan and the dewy fields of India and Pakistan. The food travels the same path as “Qawwali” (Sufi devotional music); and the experience is designed to entice all the senses. We've teamed up with the restaurant to spread the word about their all new bottomless taste of Indo-Persian event, Abundance, which launches this weekend and runs every Saturday. The event kicks off with a cocktail reception in the bar area from 1pm, where guests can enjoy a range of specially crafted cocktails including Flowers of Hafez, Princess Orange and King of Fruits. Birmingham’s very own Jaki Graham will be performing an exclusive set to celebrate three decades of her hits before diners can tuck in. Expect Samsun Pide, Sikandari Falafel, Sultani Chaat, Charsi Chicken Tikka, Daal Bukhara and Adana Kebab – all while soaking up live performances. Tickets to Abundance cost £50 and include cocktails, entertainment (dancers and DJs) and food, plus other goodies. We're giving away £200 (four places) worth of Abundance enjoyment on our Instagram, and a further £100 (two places) over on Twitter. Booking details can be found here.
NEW: B RUM
Like my diet, B Rum has been in development since 2020. With a global pandemic, glass shortages, multiple failed bottle prints, months of delays, manufacturing shut downs and ingredient shortages; it hasn’t dampened their Black Country spirit. A signature white rum born in the Caribbean, produced and distilled in wooden stills in Guyana, the base spirit is then transported to Rowley Regis (the usual switch) where it’s re-distilled using copper stills. Light and smooth at 40% abv., it's a sipping rum with tropical notes of mango, pineapple and passion fruit, all added during distillation. It pairs with clear mixers as well as pineapple or grapefruit sodas. £34.95
GET CRAFTY, BRUMMIES
Hands up who found a creative outlet in lockdown that wasn’t drinking? Well played. One such hero is proud Aussie, Kate, of The Crafty Brum, who creates the lovely watercolour botanical prints you see before you— something she first began in lockdown with her free time. Kate started illustrating various Brum landmarks and sharing them on the socials, where interest and requests to buy her work grew. And so she launched The Crafty Brum. Now selling them via Etsy, and available in Red Brick Market, she’s respecting the nature she celebrates, with everything in eco-friendly packaging. The Venn diagram of design lovers and plant lovers is a circle, so Kate is right up many a Brummie’s street, using fine line drawing with contrasting, bright backgrounds, usually watercolour, to focus you in on the illustration. And how has Kate found herself in Brum? Her strong connection to the city is thanks to her Dad, who was born and grew up here— and she relocated herself five years ago: “People would often ask me ‘Why Birmingham?’ so I decided to use my art as a way to convey all there is to love about it. The landmarks that feature in my work are places where I have created fond memories and this clearly resonates with many others, who are also proud of our city, too. Birmingham may be the second city but I, like many others, have chosen it as my first.” Quite. Kate is also up for commissions, and excited to feature your personal home jungle in unique pieces. More
BRUM'S FIRST DARK BEER FEST
Digbeth's Dig Brew Co brewery is to celebrate the launch of a new taproom by holding the Midlands’ first-ever dark and sour beer festival, at their home on River Street, tomorrow til Sunday. The taps will be turned over to 20 imperial stouts, barley wines, dark lagers, IPAs and sours. The full festival range will vary in strength from piddling 4.5% to a gibberish-inducing 12% abv. To soak up a little of that, Dig Brew will also be rattling out a new range of artisan pizzas, freshly baked in its pizza kitchen. One such serve, ominously named 'Welcome to Camp Horror' is made with marinara, fior di latte, parmesan, basil, roasted aubergine, herb breadcrumbs and balsamic rocket. 'Beware the Pear in the Woods', meanwhile, is a white-based number, with fior di latte, roasted pear (let that argument commence), walnut, ricotta and honey. Tickets are £20 per head and guests receive 15 bones (tokens), which can be exchanged in set quantities for one-third pints — a commemorative glass is also included. The festival will conclude with a brunch party with breakfast burritos and coffee from Southside-based Quarter Horse. Which sounds ace.
WHAT TO DRINK AND WHEN: VOL 7
Brum's bartender-in-chief, Robert Wood, with this week's top tipple...
"Pool, darts, even pinball are standard pub fare and I suppose the bowling alley is no stranger to booze, but with a wave of activity bars sweeping the city, you can now drink whilst trying your hand at a number of past times previously actively discouraged. Ping pong, cricket, curling, crazy golf, even shooting VR zombies are all now entirely possible. The arcade bar, however, has a special place in my heart and I confess my deep and unrequited love for NQ64. Childhood memories of rainy days by the seaside are immediately rekindled, less childhoody but equally fun — the Mad Max cocktail. A flaming serve reminiscent of a Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai, it delivers an almighty punch of booze from their house rum mix, combined with absinthe and falernum (a rum based Caribbean liqueur of citrus and spices) brightened by a melange of lime and grapefruit. Mad Max is served after being set ablaze in a pyrotechnic display. Slurp down alongside Flaming Hot Cheetos."
Venue: Chilli Kitchen, 148 Bromsgrove St, B5 6RG Choice: BaSu special hot and spicy charcoal grilled fish (£23.90) Chooser: One of the two clowns I went with
It's comforting to know that having eaten in roughly two Birmingham restaurants per week, every week for the last nine years (what's that then, 936 restaurants?), I can still be floored with amazement by somewhere new to me. Szechuan love letter, Chilli Kitchen — and the clue was probably in the name — was introduced to me by two of Birmingham's foremost food fanatics, giggling like school girls as the menu (the length of which rivalled your average runway) left me as clueless as it did speechless. There's the 'possibly a typo, but maybe not a typo' English translations that help a little and, when the service wasn't surlier than a jilted Broad Street bouncer, the staff did chip in some much needed assistance. Eventually, the order went in: BaSu special hot and spicy charcoal grilled fish, pepper chicken, fried cumin lamb with allium tuberosum, smashed (smacked) cucumber and shredded potato with chilli. And then there was a wait. Oh god was there a wait. "A wait so long," in the words of the Pixies, "you'll never wait so long." But it came, bubbling and spitting and sizzling and steaming, fish and lamb and chicken piled high with chillies and chillies and chillies and chillies. Chillies as far as the eye can see. "You don't have to eat the chillies," someone said, but I was already eating the chillies. The pick of the dishes split the table but, for me, the giant fish, that arrived whole and sat, sort of, upright and grumpy (pictured) was the show-stealer. More than that, actually, it was unlike anything I've ever had. Soft and fleshy to the middle, but crispy and crunchy in the periphery, this was well worth the wait. Szechuan imparts heat, of course it does, but it has a fragrant, even citrus quality that sank deep into the white meat, huge hunks of which were pulled from the bones and sunk into hungry mouths. The lamb was almost as outstanding. Little bites of charred meat, still on the bone, nibbly and moreish, the cumin marrying with the heat and hitting warm, nutty notes. Hot, but not hurty — unlike the pepper chicken (menu item 84, we think) which, though on appearance the mildest dish, packed volatile, untamed heat. On a second try I thought I was having an outer body experience. Not for me such thermonucleonics; even the quite magnificent cucumber couldn't calm this raging bowl of almighty Prometheus. Avoid, unless you're a seasoned Szechuan-head. No matter, everything else was delicious on stilts — a meal completely out of the ordinary and a must on any Brum gastronomic hit-list. When I posted some shots on Instagram, Paul, the owner of nearby Meat Shack messaged asking if I tried the 'Husband & Wife Slices', a tripe and offal dish he boldly called "the best thing to eat there." Paul knows his stuff, so follow his advice. But get that fish too, for pure, unfiltered flavour what-the-f*ckery. Absolutely immense.
Live music at Hockley Social Club, tonight? Beef on the Bock are the newest food residency. More —
Meanwhile Hockley Social Club's sister venue, Herbert's Yard (Longbridge) kick-starts a burger festival today, until Sunday. Details —
Provide's new clothing tributes to the 11a and 11c bus routes are about as Brummie as Brum gets. —
This new Bournville print from Brumhaus is a triumph. —
The UK’s first permanent immersive digital art gallery is opening in Coventry, and it looks nuts. —
Tickets are on sale for Grace + James's International Women's Day Wine Tasting, March 8, £35. —
Pick of the Pancake Day options appear to be Cherry Reds' annual 'all you can eat' US-style huzzah and this one at Cork N Cage for the crepe connoisseurs. —
The Independent Whisky Market, from the people behind Whisky Brum, will take place in the JQ, July 2. Details
WORDS: Tom Cullen
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