Listen to the interview here https://soundcloud.com/user-162001833/mohammed-ali-on-birminghams-curry-pioneers
Mohammed Ali is a renowned aerosol artist but in late 2017/early 2018 he became a curator - staging an exhibition called Knights Of The Raj at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery dedicated to Birmingham's curry pioneers of the 60's and 70's. This was before the city became known for its (mostly Pakistani run)Balti restaurants. The majority of the original curry houses were run by Bangadeshi immigrants - of which Mohammed's father was one.
Listen to the interview here https://soundcloud.com/user-162001833/mohammed-ali-on-birminghams-curry-pioneers
English Heritage reckon Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter is a "national treasure" because after 250 years of history, it's still home to hundreds of businesses turning out rings, jewellery and precision engineering tools - a proper Brummie mix of metal bashing and creativity. Beer drinkers will be inclined to agree. It's now eclipsed Digbeth as the city's best drinking quarter, thanks to a growing army of youthful residents drawn by the growing number of apartment blocks, often converted from old factories. For this pub crawl, I've chosen five boozers that reflect the indie/craft side of the pub trade - all very different, all top quality - but there's at least another five pubs worth your consideration within a short walking distance.
These pubs can be readily accessed from St Paul's or the Jewellery Quarter tram stops, but I started from Snow Hill Railway station; take a right and then your first right again down Livery Street (over a footbridge) to the recently expanded Indian Brewery home to Birmingham Lager, Bombay Honey and street food from the sub continent.
For food though, I'm recommending a right turn out of the front door, then right again under the railway arches at Lionel Street, before a left turn at Constitution Hill. It should be no more than a 10 minute walk up to the Hen & Chickens - an inner city survivor, and part of the Desi pub revolution. Usually a couple of cask ales on tap and some brilliant curries. Almost directly opposite stands The Wolf, big on pies, cheese and a wonderful range of ales on tap, and in bottles and cans.
Then up the hill and a right into Mott Street Industrial Estate and the Burning Soul Brewery, which brews on the premises and finally into the Jewellery Quarter proper and "possibly the the best pub in the universe" the Rock n'Roll Brewhouse -RocknRoll Brewhouse | Facebook). To find out why, you'll have to go and find out for yourself. Cheers. (NB Always check for opening hours).
"What drives the business of football is, it sells suffering. Loving football is about pain" Typically provocative words from Rogan Taylor who I first met in 1985 when I interviewed him for the first edition of my football fanzine Off The Ball. That summer, in the wake of the Heysel Tragedy, he had founded the Football Supporters Association, a hugely influential campaigning fans' organisation. In 1997, he created the first university course for graduates who wanted a career in the game - the Football Industries MBA at Liverpool University which still attracts recruits from all over the world. Here, in typically entertaining fashion, he offers a fascinating reflection on the changing role of supporters over the past three decades.
FULL INTERVIEW HERE https://soundcloud.com/user-162001833/rogan-taylor-on-fans-and-football-1
Shell Corner is the name of a small district just outside the Black Country to of Blackheath, and takes its name from a Word War One artillery shell that stood for years at the junction of Long Lane and Nimmings Lane.
Blackheath itself can sustain a decent pub crawl, but Shell Corner offers - I reckon - some of the best boozing in the country - with ne'er a gastro pub in sight. Generally excellent beer, good craic with welcoming locals and decent prices.
To enjoy the crawl to the max, best bet is to catch a train to Rowley Regis, then turn left out of the station, and take the first right up into Nimmings Road, and THE CLOCK INN. Then it's a further walk up the road, before taking a right at the Shell Corner roundabout and heading down Long Lane to the FIXED WHEEL BREWERY (Friday and Saturday only). Turn right and head back up Long Lane to The Swan where you might see the traditional cockle man ("Have you got crabs mate?" - "No, it's just the way I walk"). Then turn back on yourself and head up the stairs next to the tyre fitters to Snooks where the cheery landlord Bob will sell you a splendid ham or beef cob for a quid; and then onto Shell Corner itself where you'll see the Shell-ter Inn. You shouldn't have to walk more than ten minutes at any point - and considerably less for most of it.
A bostin' Black Country pub crawl. (Sat Nav Ref: B62 9LB)
The music we loosely file under "Rock" has always had a problem with ageing. Unlike folk, jazz, soul and blues - where maturity is seen as an asset rather than a liability - a genre forever associated with sex and youthful rebellion sits uneasily with middle-aged spread. Pete Townshend's "Hope I Die Before I Get Old..." isn't just a line in a song - it's part of the music's manifesto, a statement of intent that still defines the kind of reckless intensity most of us demand from any guitar-driven combo.
It's not that you can't actually be an ageing rocker - rather that much of Rock's gerontocracy (most obviously the Rolling Stones) only get away with it by pretending that they are still their twenty something selves.
So full credit to Matthew "Ted" Edwards, unashamedly singing "I'm Not A Young Man Anymore" but still writing fresh and creative tunes well into middle age. I first knew him back in the early 80's when he fronted a Birmingham-based band called Dance; later, there was a major label flirtation with Somerville; and then a couple of decades in San Fransisco with the Music Lovers.
Now back home in his beloved Brum, Ted has just released "Folklore", his second album with The Unfortunates, which was launched at the city's Centrala Bar this weekend. Like it's predecessor "The Fates" the record channels richly observant melancholy with an epic wistfulness, drawing on its creator's love of paisley jangle, Jacques Brel and the more apocalyptic side of Bowie. Each song is a bespoke postcard of heartache, decay or fretful celebration - as singular and English in its vision as anything by Ray Davies.
The recorded version has contributions from such luminaries as Dagmar Krause of Slapp Happy and Henry Cow fame, and while the live experience lacks the subtleties of John A Rivers' layered production, there's a corresponding kick of energy here that more than compensates.
Along with Richard Hawley and former Dexy's songwriter Pete Williams who's now making some of the best music of his career in his 50's, Ted is part of a generation of artists who refuse to be governed by Rock's ageist rulebook. Older doesn't only mean wiser - it can sometimes be better.
Which was the best of the UK's original punk bands - The Pistols or The Clash? Steve Harrington knows. With his band Suburban Studs, he supported the Sex Pistols at London's 100 Club in August 1976; and shortly afterwards they headlined at Birmingham's Barbarella's, with The Clash lower down the bill. As well as deciding the ultimate punk poser, Steve reflects on the quirk of fate that has led to him getting fan mail, four decades on, for his next band Neon Hearts.
You can listen to the episode here...
Walk around Media City now and it's hard to imagine that less than 20 years ago the dockyards which served the Manchester Ship Canal were widely regarded as an irredeemable urban wasteland.
Created in the 19th century to link Salford with the Irish Sea, this bustling inland waterway initially allowed Manc merchants to export cotton goods to the world, bypassing their neighbours on Merseyside who were accused of exploiting their coastal advantage.
By the late 1990's, though, the area had fallen into decay. I can remember watching matches at nearby Old Trafford during Euro 96, and although the newly built Lowry Outlet shopping mall hinted at what was to come, it still seemed inconceivable that this foreboding and desolate site would become the UK's most significant regional broadcasting centre – not to mention a major tourist attraction.
Now it's not only home to a range of BBC output including 5 Live and childrens' telly, it also plays host to ITV's most prestigious soap Coronation Street and a couple of commercial radio stations. There's the Lowry Arts Centre too – and the northern outpost of the Imperial War Museum.
It is, in short, a success – in many ways the model regeneration project.
Yet amid the bustling bars and yuppie flats, there is one awkward question it's hard to avoid asking.
Where is the family housing that would make Media City feel a bit more like a real community, rather than an oasis of privilege and luxury among one of Britain's toughest neighbourhoods?
Judged purely by what it is though – rather than what it isn't – Media City is a remarkable phenomenon. Alongside two great football clubs and an impressive musical heritage, it has helped consolidate Greater Manchester's claim to be England's heaviest pop culture puncher outside of London.
The fact that Media City is located in the drabber outskirts of town is welcome antidote, too, to the centralisation of attractions and resources in many city centres.
Architects have capitalised on its waterside location to play with light and form to create a starkly modern landscape – not flawless by any means, but nevertheless a fine example of how decades of seemingly interminable decline can be sharply slammed into reverse.
The ongoing controversy about asylum seekers and migrants - and especially the plight of unaccompanied children in the Jungle at Calais - can't help but resonate for me with my father's experience in pre-war Germany.
In 1938, as a 13 year old Jewish lad he was sent by his parents from the town of Ratibor to England under the Kindertransport programme and re-settled in the UK.
Immediately, he was set to work on a farm in Derbyshire, while his 11-year old brother Werner who'd accompanied him was adopted by a family in Southampton and allowed to complete his schooling.
It's hard to imagine the mental anguish of an adolescent boy arriving in a strange country with an unfamiliar language, separated from his sibling by 200 miles and uncertain about what was happening to his family.
Yet however tough it was, my Dad's fate was certainly preferable to those he left behind. His mother, father, grandad, aunts and uncles all perished - with Auschwitz their final destination.
So I'm baffled that so many people ask, "How can parents send their kids, unaccompanied, hundreds of miles from home?" In most cases, I'm guessing it's because it gives those youngsters a way out of Hell and offers them at least a chance of survival.
A trip to Auschwitz is a grisly reminder of what can happen to those who stay behind.
I've been twice now, and the industrial scale of the extermination - the banal architecture of death - never fails to appal.
It was a destiny my Dad cheated only because of the singular generosity of the British people.
The likes of Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, or Somalia might not be directly comparable to Nazi Germany of course - and solutions that worked in the 1930's aren't automatically transferable to 2016 either.
But visiting this bleak, hideous death camp is a stomach churning, rage-inducing reminder that truly evil people sometimes do astonishingly terrible things.
What loving parent wouldn't want their kids to avoid the consequences of that.
Who'd be a cabbie in Oxford? The old university town is such a joy to walk around that earning a living plying for hire must be a thankless task.
There are so many gorgeous buildings, spanning several centuries, that going the long way around is always to be recommended - at least as a tourist.
Whether Oxford is quite such a joy to navigate on a daily basis is doubtful. The massive park and ride schemes that girdle the city hint at gridlocked rush hour mayhem, and even the simple task of buying a lunchtime sarnie is complicated by the queues of French and American tourists.
There are other problems too - most obviously housing. I spent a few days in Jericho, an inner city grid of streets ten minutes walk from the centre. This was traditionally bohemian bedsitter land - the spriritual home of Radiohead and site of the first Supergrass gig. Now the asking price for a modest terraced house is in the region of £750,000.
Oxford's wealth is reflected in a flourishing restaurant scene, though this being one of the UK's global centres of academic excellence, there's no particular premium on bling - brainpower is as useful as horsepower, and a bike has much cachet as a BMW.
With apologies to the taxi drivers, though, Shanks's Pony is the best way to navigate one of the most beautiful cities in England.
Oxford may be seen as a bastion of privilege, but it's riverside meadows and majestic colleges are free for any oik to enjoy - even me.