My family home is in the B37 area of Fordbridge and my Mom grew up in neighboring B36 Smith’s Wood. Ward boundary changes assigned Solihull our foster parent but we still feel very much a part of Birmingham.
I can see CTC Kingshurst Academy from my bedroom window, the secondary school of pop star and Loose Woman Jamelia, and my local shopping destination Kingshurst Parade is the focus of Internationally acclaimed Grime MC Lady Leshurr’s 0121 pride.
Our estate sits on the old grounds of North Solihull Sports Centre. I can hear the distant cheer and stampeding footsteps of my Aunt’s & Uncles sports days if I strain close enough.
The 94, 55 & 71 buses pass by regularly with their rumbling, smokey hum. I spent my teenage years chasing them down as early as 6:45am to get to school on time. Every year the bus fare cheekily creeping up by 20p.
When Mom finally learned to drive, many a journey saw us traverse the long collector road. She used to run the entire length for training during her world championship winning Kung Fu days with Newtown Community Centre’s Black Dragons.
My eyes would tinge with nostalgia at the Castle Vale Wacky Warehouse my brother and I would play at as children and admire the metallic beauty of the Spitfire Island sculpture at the centre of congestion.
The Fort shopping centre was a frequent destination, with its tower visible from the tall blocks of flats guarding Bromford, but I always preferred town as a shopping haven.
I climbed the ramp of the Pavilions countess times and watched Rackham’s morph into House of Fraser. I choked on tears at the closure of Toys R Us on Dale End not knowing years later it would be the site of my first kiss.
Destiny’s Child had performed as innocent baby faced teenagers on the same street before my birth and I would grow to witness Beyonce’s magic just yards from my house at the NEC.
I shimmied my hips just like her at Perry Barr’s defunct Crown & Cushion Pub, as the Birmingham Carnival procession paraded in costume through the streets to the home sounds of Caribbean steel pans and Calypso beats so intense you could feel them vibrating through your chest.
Reggae music is the core of my Birmingham. My mother spent years soaking in the sound system culture of Handsworth’s Wassifa Sound, rubbing the wallpaper of their Jamaican migrant mothers’ homes to The 12 inch vinyl grooves of Gregory Isaac’s & Barrington Levy whilst I danced nights away in impractical heels to Mr Vegas, Beres Hammond & Bunny Wailer at Gatecrasher and 02 Academy.
A lot of changes are happening in Birmingham, so much so that the city is becoming unrecognisable. But I guess it’s time for the young to develop their own memories of a new Brum. Everyone has their own Birmingham and mine is one I will never forget.
By Olivia Brown
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