BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘brutal’

#365daysofbiking Brutality

Friday, October 16th 2020 – I’ve long been an advocate of Brownhills, my hometown, and the fact that it has some beautiful parts. Way more than many outsiders would ever expect.

But it’s also a fact that some bits are a bit grim, like with any town, particularly post-industrial ones in desperate need of regeneration.

Silver Court is not terribly unpleasant. It’s nothing like say, Windmill Lane in Smethwick West used to be, or some of the forlorn, decaying 1960s parades of shops in big city suburbs like Longbridge or Castle Vale. But it’s very much 60s, brutalist and in its final stages.

Ingeniously built clinging to a pronounced slope with a very split level design, it’s an odd, partially prefabricated row of shops with maisonette houses above, each with a small yard above the back of the shop premises accessed by a rear thoroughfare on top of the lowest level, the garages.

The shops are now about 50% occupied. The homes have problems with leaks and poor construction. There are issues with flytipping, and the parade frontage is grubby and dark.

But I’ve always love the view along it at night, deserted, with just the light of the ATM halfway up.

One day this edifice will go, and I’ll be glad I recorded this otherworldly place by night.

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#365daysofbiking Here, there and everywhere


February 27th – The Peter Saville thing. It’s everywhere of late.

Later the same day. The rain didn’t stop, it doubled down and rained harder and more fiercely.

Stood, dripping, waiting for a late train at Telford, the rain shimmering on the glass of the new bridge, catching the lights. The angles and patterns of metalwork.

It felt brutal, if not actually truly Brutalist.

Find out more about why I’m in love with Peter Saville’s work here.

This journal is moving home. Find out more by clicking here

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August 20th – A much better, brighter day for me, but not the weather, which got worse as the day went on.

Out for a meal and a ride with someone I’d been missing while they were on holiday, a ride out to a local pub for a huge steak blowout and then a ride to work it off.

There was no wind, and I started in sun; but it soon became overcast and the rain started. But for once it didn’t matter. Returning home 50 miles later in darkness and soaking wet was actually a joy after a wonderful trip out.

Travelling up the A515 through Abbots Bromley, I noticed the modernist, brutal concrete Jubilee Memorial bench, which must be one of the first examples of a very particular municipal style; and then the Best Kept Village trophy sign, which lists all the winners since the competition in Staffordshire began, which is actually fascinating.

I do wonder why that’s in Abbots Bromley, though, and not somewhere else. It seems very… specific.

March 13th – This is about a death, or being present at the demise. 

I was in Birmingham for the afternoon, and had an important execution to record.

Fletchers Walk, the dingy, misconceived subway-mall near the Town Hall in Birmingham, leading under Paradise Circus and emerging at the foot of Alpha Tower, will soon be lost to the wrecking ball.

It is ugly. Badly designed. It represents some of the worst – very worst -aspects of modernism, utilitarian urbanism and brutalism. It is unattractive, badly lit, intimidating and dystopian.

I’ve always loved it.

In the 80s and 90s, there was a great record shop down there, one of Brum’s earliest computer shops, too. Some great restaurants. When it was alive, it was a curious, odd netherworld. I’d bet many Brummies never knew it existed. It often stank of sewage, or stale urine. 

Attempts to polish this architectural turd only succeeded in compounding the issue – that being it was impossible to build something like this properly in the space available.

Soon, it will be swept away, along with John Madin’s remarkable library on top, and replaced by a bland, steel and glass corporate space, which we will facelessly and safely drift through, like the insipid figures on developer’s pictures. 

We will be unchallenged as we do so – the architecture will not engage, neither will it be evident. There will be none of the apprehension. It’ll just be another glossy, transitory and irrelevant link between retail spaces.

That will never by my Birmingham. Fletchers Walk – with it’s memories of great nights out, obscure music finds and hurried dashes from grim menace – is my Birmingham. 

When it dies, a bit of my memory will die with it.