Monday, November 18, 2019

Spirit of Place: The Crown, Station Street, Birmingham

We have been very close to here on this blog before, in fact the Mystery on Hill Street I posted about is next door.  There are several pubs with the same name in the city centre, and perhaps I had better clarify that this post is not about The Old Crown in Deritend, although I mean to post about that one of these days. It's sad to see it with buddleia growing out of it, because this is genuine Birmingham history:
My dad (also called Tom Pickering) was Landlord of the crown from the late 1950’s through to about 1970. It was a tied house at the time (M&B) but revenue from the two dance halls went to the landlord if he arranged events there.
I was born in a local hospital in 1964 and my sister actually born there in 65.
There are actually two performance spaces upstairs – a main dancehall with a side “snug” bar and a smaller room (called the Boatman’s Bar – and decorated with utterly incongruous sea related paraphernalia) with higher ceilings (and much better acoustics) both were used interchangeably in the 1960’s – though the second room seems to be the host for most of the Henry’s Blues House meetings.
The list you have online starts in 1970 – but music was a huge thing much earlier than that. I remember it was called “underground” music and started around 1967 – 68.
My gran used to do the catering for the pub and fondly remembered the bands who used to play there. I remember at the height of the newspapers monstering of Ozzy Osbourne her telling me how he was a good kid and always super polite to her on the catering station – although always hungry and trying to scrounge a sandwich.
The Crown was one of only a few venues in the city centre with a license for music and dancing so it attracted the early folk scene too. My mom has stories about the Chieftains having a residency there in 1964 / 65, and there were regular appearances from local bands like “Denny Laine and the Diplomats” and the Moody Blues.
There was a pie stall on old bombed out building near the front door which was hugely popular with local biker community. They labelled themselves “Ton Up Kid” and their big aim was to do 100 mph on their old Norton and BSA motorbikes. these kids formed the nucleus of the early heavy metal fan base.
One of the things that people forget is that there were an utterly notorious set of “cottages” outside the crown (underground public toilets now filled in on the corner of Hill st and Station St) which made it a haven for the early LGBT / Trans community. Who used to mix utterly happily with the Bikers, Rockers and Folkies. It was a very special, if somewhat unpredictable place.
The period 1970 – 75 was when most the Henry’s gigs happened – we had been moved out of the Crown by the brewers. Between 74 and 77 the old place fell into a terrible rut. There was always an undercurrent of violence about the pub, with such a disparate community there frictions and jealousies would be bound to spill over, but my father used to keep a very effective door squad in place and it never really became toxic.
When he left the violence became untenable, and the pub was let out as a tenancy in late 1976 / early 1977. My dad took up rental and returned to what had, by now, become an absolute shambles of a place. He bought back his old door squad and the violence all moved back away.
This is when Billy Dupre asked my dad for his old bar job back. Billy was a lovely gentle sort of a guy – a real 1960’s hippy and kids all loved him (me included) He asked if he could run the (now closed as a fire hazard) back lounge bar as a venue for his “punk” friends – and change the music on the jukebox to allow him to do this.
So he set up and before long the Crown was swarming with Punks. We re-opened the old upstairs dance hall and used it as a venue for a “punk disco” with Billy and his friends playing records. The ATV show Revolver filmed a bunch of the filler “crowd” footage up there.
The Punks made enormous peacock there for 2 years or so until the 1979 Thatcher Govt brought the full weight of the transition to a service economy down to bear – Birmingham was one of the worst places affected and the scene moved first to a mix of Punks / Skinheads (drawn by a shared love of Reggae) and then to a preponderance of skinheads with a few punks.
The two punk bands who got their break there were GBH (famous – still touring) and Drongo’s For Europe (not famous – still touring). GBH had a long term residency there – contact them they have some great stories of the place.
The skinheads drew in the far right and (by this stage of the recession) despirate for money my dad started renting out the lounge and upstairs as a venue for some pretty unsavoury groups. Column 88, Combat 18, British Movement, Ukranian Ex-Servicemens Association (these were some bad bad men) all regularly used the place.
The local bands going through there at the time included UB40 and The Beat – who name check the Crown on the final line of their single Tears of a Clown where Ranking Roger declares that he’s “going down town, going down the crown”. For a while Pig-Bag used the downstairs as an informal “club house” – Art School kids and Skinheads – it was a weird mix.
Curiously there was never any real friction between the mixed race SKA / Skin / Two Tone kids and the Far Right. A more cynical man than I might speculate that that they used to unite in hating the Asians. It was this background that gave rise to the unique multi-racial mix of the Zulu football supporters.
There was an attempt in 1980 – 81 to bring back Heavy Metal to the place – we hired the DJ from the Beerkeller (Bogarts) and this was quite popular for a while – but no real live music. The posters you see up on the walls in the photos are all from that period.
The graphiti (Bill Has Joy… etc) all dates from 1979 and is very much the hall mark of the punks.
By 1982 music had all but stopped at the place. It became home to the Zulu’s and all the Punks moved on. We moved out in the autumn of that year. Source
Other regulars included Status Quo and Led Zeppelin, and it was the spiritual home of UB40.
Ian Campbell – father of reggae brothers Ali and Robin Campbell – recorded the country’s first live folk album there in 1962.
But Admiral Taverns has sold the pub to a Japanese company for a rumoured £1.2 million, and licensee Colleen Andrews, who has has been told to leave by June 22, believes its history could be lost forever.
“I can’t understand why Birmingham City Council is allowing this to happen to our heritage,” she says.
“This pub is the city’s equivalent of The Cavern in Liverpool, where The Beatles started out.
“It could have become a great live music venue again, and a wonderful rock museum. Everyone from The Who to Duran Duran, Thin Lizzy and The Move have played here. On the wall are the words Jim, The Doors.
“I thought that once John Lewis and New Street opened it was going to be fantastic. People were going to come down the new steps right opposite the pub.
“It was going to be the first place they would see.” Source
Another own goal by Birmingham City Council. To be frank its more recent reputation has been a bit dodgy, in fact a friend lost a shoe in there because the floor was so sticky.
The famous first ever folk club record was by Ian Campbell and I will put a couple of his recordings below as a soundtrack. You may need to turn the volume up for Ceilidh at the Crown.


Thursday, November 7, 2019

Always a Witch

<Sigh>
Why would people want to be witches? Apart from the obvious appeal that it is the best thing ever, way better than sex. Oh I've just answered my own question.
Otherwise the thing is that you are always a witch, and everywhere the universe can provide you with the next task in rectifying 'karma' and getting stuff moving along.
Stuff of course is a word we occultists use to describe the effects of actions, and that can mean a few whammies flying around.
Take the building manager of my building. He sent me an email asking me to bear with him while he deals with my perfectly simple request. One I made for the first time a year ago and which has since rolled on with great pain and embarrassment to the company. I think they may have finally learned their lesson, the hard way.
The dynamic of witchcraft messes with your life because it always attracts the things that you will deal with to you. It may be that you happen to be the only person who will do it, or you might need to because of your own 'stuff'.
Oh - I've started my new job. As a job it is fine but do I even need to say that only three weeks in the deputy manager has already revealed herself to be an arse in need of a slap? And stupid too - when I'm laughing and joking with the other staff and being icily polite and professional to her that should be a warning, surely!
Although I did have the satisfaction of seeing her suddenly flip to being dead helpful today after another member of the coven fed her to Reggie and Ronnie!
The universe's reward was that one of my (totally straight haha) colleagues suddenly started talking about rimming  I just looove hairy blond men 😍
Oh - Inexplicable likes a sound track -

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Witches' Hymn Book: Exit Song

High time we had another hymn to accompany the acts of the witch cult. Deciding whether to leave is relatively easy for the witch and the question 'Is this giving me power or taking it away?' will provide the answer. I would like to dedicate this to my last workplace, which is bearing a resemblance to this video

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The University Hospital Compassion Statue

To hospital again for a routine follow up to ensure that I will be able to annoy people for many years to come. It is usually surrounded by hospital staff smoking or children laughing at the willy, but unusually I managed to get a picture of the Compassion statue today.
It was moved to the Queen Elizabeth site after Selly Oak hospital closed:
A Source distinctive bronze sculpture based on the Good Samaritan parable has found a permanent new home at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) after more than half a century.
The Compassion statue, which depicts one man aiding another, had been a familiar feature for patients, staff and visitors to Selly Oak Hospital since it was erected outside the main outpatients department in 1963.
Following the transfer of outpatient services to the new QEHB in Edgbaston, the sculpture was carefully loaded by crane onto a truck in April before being taken away for restoration.
The statue was created by sculptor Uli Nimptsch after a commission in 1961 by The Charles Henry Foyle Trust, who donated it to Selly Oak Hospital. The Foyle Trust provided benches for the public and maintained the statue until the hospital’s clinical services moved in 2010. They subsequently made a donation for the cost of relocating the statue to its new location.
It has now been restored and given a new home alongside the pedestrian walkway between QEHB and University rail station.
Graham Hackett, Estates and Design Manager at University Hospitals Birmingham, which runs QEHB, said: “The Compassion statue holds a lot of affection for people who worked at Selly Oak, visitors and the wider community, so we have effectively moved a large slice of Selly Oak to the new hospital site.”
The sculpture was taken to a firm of conservation specialists to be restored.
Mr Hackett added: “There were quite a number of chips which needed repairing, and the statue was also set on bronze dowels set into the plinth which had cracked and needed fixing. But the main restoration work consisted of cleaning and waxing.”
As well as planning permission, UHB also needed to obtain consent from English Heritage to relocate the sculpture as the site is located within the Metchley Roman fort site, which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. 
Incidentally the Roman Fort connection makes this area of the city one of the most haunted, in the Hound's humble opinion. Incidentally I didn't think I had heard of Kirkup, the poet quoted on the plinth, but on further examination he gets my approbation for iconoclastic action:
In June 1976, Gay News published his poem The Love that Dares to Speak Its Name, in which a Roman centurion expresses the sexual fantasies the body of Christ provokes in him and imagines a history of Christ's homosexual encounters. Mary Whitehouse sued the newspaper for blasphemous libel. Gay News was defended by John Mortimer and both Bernard Levin and Margaret Drabble gave evidence on its behalf, but the jury decided in favour of Whitehouse. The newspaper and its editor, Denis Lemon (of whom Kirkup was later to write an obituary), were fined, and Lemon was given a nine-month suspended sentence. Source
True to form  while I am sitting on a bench writing this post the nearby busker has started playing one of my tunes. Just call me Godfather.

The Hanged Man

In my researches into the Golden Dawn tarot I have reached the Hanged Man and they have made some fascinating revelations. In the deck I have there is the man hanged upside down but there is also another figure, a giant with a rainbow at his feet. The rainbow represents the pact between G*d and man, and the whole card, the descent of the divine into matter. Since there are two figures, whichever way up the card is, either the divine or the human is exalted. Naturally as a witch I don't myself have a dog in this fight, but I have even read somewhere that the 'proper' position for the card is sideways.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

A Spectacular Waste of Money

I did forecast on here some time ago that the Central Library would be missed, and while not complete the it is obvious that I was right. Because obviously this

... which is blandness personified, is not an improvement on this
.. Which at least has the advantage of being individual and a landmark. Fools.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

How I am Spending my Holiday and Update on Golden Dawn Tarot

I now have a start date for my new job of the 21st, and have settled into a routine for my Payment in Lieu of Notice time, namely, get up, have some breakfast, have a wank, study some tarot cards and maybe have an outing if I feel like it, then watch some TV in the evening. I have always been able to amuse myself and frankly rather look forward to being retired so that my life could be like that every day.
My studies into the Golden Dawn tarot are both creating new problems for me and enlightening some matters. The problem is of course that I can't really claim to understand Kabbalah, and particularly not as related to tarot. For example, I am only just beginning to get why the minor arcana are placed on the sephiroth and the major arcana on the pathways between them. This fact is beginning to make more sense as I study these cards. On the other hand, when I think of the energy of The Fool, I don't think he should be on the tree at all: since he is the time before the first glimmering of an idea, I feel he should be somewhere above it. But hey ho, we press on.
One of the things this study is doing for me is enlightening the exasperating hints Waite keeps dropping that there are 'inner' secrets to the tarot keys, which he does not reveal and are not always visible in his cards (although some of them are well known and discernible by meditation). This study is beginning to reveal some of them, for example:
The Golden Dawn Fool shows a child holding a wolf, and represents worldly wisdom kept in check by perfect innocence.
The Magician represents the Fool in the act of experience, but things are not yet manifest. He has all powers at his fingertips.
The High Priestess carries us across the Abyss on the Tree of Life, and is the vessel of creation. In Golden Dawn terms she can represent the church rather than the Order.
The Empress represents things taking form, and we must be born of her womb to access the higher levels of the Tree. Here I have the slight difficulty that movement on the Tree is both upwards and downwards, although perhaps this says more about me than anything else.
The Emperor wears a fleece over his armour (why did I never notice this) and represents the force of Mars having put down the sword and taken up the wand.
The Hierophant's lesson is not intellectual, it has to be felt and experienced, which was the role of the Hierophant in the Golden Dawn. He links the Ethical Triad of the tree with the Supernal triad, Higher self with Spiritual self. The nails on the card bring together the fragments of the universe.
The Golden Dawn Lovers represents Perseus rescuing Andromeda from the Dragon of fear and the waters of stagnation. The 'inner' meaning is not sexual or the choice depicted in other decks, but is the love of the divine twins of Gemini for each other, the union of male and female within the initiate, conscious and subconscious.The Chariot is the first key to pass the Abyss to the lower Sephiroth, and represents will connecting and reconciling opposing forces.
Fortitude represents the soul controlling the passions. The woman is the same woman in the Universe card. The red line at the top of the card represents the abyss.
The Hermit represents communication with the Higher Self and help from above. I have a friend who refers to it as the wanker card, which of course does not represent the 'inner' meaning!
And so on...
I am watching some Doctor Who. I have a preference for the Second Doctor. Actually, let's be frank here, I have a raging crush on his companion Ben, who enters the series like a walking gay fantasy dressed as a sailor. Have a jelly baby.