Birmingham’s 10 best blogs

A list, decided by me, of the 10 best blogs by people based in Birmingham (as of now – May 2013). Sometimes they talk about Birmingham, sometimes not. In order of bestness.

1. But She’s a Girl
“In respects other than my interests, I am resolutely female […] I don’t find farting amusing”. Geek, film buff, Kate Bush fan, collector of fountain pens. This is simply the most useful blog I read as it veers from advice on which RSS reader to read in the post-Google Reader era to useful reviews of cheap speakers. But it also covers the personal and domestic in a refreshing, witty tone. In all, it’s quite rambling and unexpected, with a tendency to use footnotes of which I approve. The author moved to Birmingham in 2004 and has been blogging ever since.

2. Birmingham Central
Planning porn. Tons of detail about the endless changes to Birmingham’s landscape. It rarely editorialises which is refreshing, instead presenting plenty of pics and distilling details from submitted planning documents. It’s the work of Simon Felton who is partly doing a really good job of saving us from having to trawl the Skyscraper City forum for useful Birmingham stuff, and partly making sense of a city which changes so fast it’s difficult to keep up. Blogging since 2008. To note: the Urban Buildings blog does a great job in a similar vein whilst UrbanPivot covers a wider strategic view of the city.

3. B31 Voices
I’ve written about B31’s extraordinariness before. My point in that post was that B31 was more than a so-called ‘hyperlocal’ blog, it was a powerful, citizen-led network of knowledge that offers a genuine challenge to ‘official’ knowledge. It’s the ‘networked public sphere‘ (PDF) in action. Run by Sas and Marty Taylor it covers news and events in a big chunk of South Birmingham – the poorer bits. They write a dozen or more stories a week and have excellent links with the Birmingham Mail who increasingly rely on them as their ‘beat’ reporting duo.

4. Two Brides to Two Mummies
“Mum, I’m bisexual, I’m in love with the blonde lady in Casualty”. Regularly updated since January 2012 to chart the progress towards the civil partnership of two women (due in July 2013). It’s the detail and honesty that’s refreshing and of course what makes it unlike any other wedding planning blog is that in this instance the personal is also political. ‘Straight’ couples don’t have ‘coming out‘ stories or detail the ways in which they won’t in fact be married at all. The charming, bubbly protagonists just want to be wed – if only we lived in a country sensible enough to let that happen.

5. Mark Steadman
I’m drawn to Mark’s blog partly because he’s a former student that I taught briefly in the early noughties – I like to see former students getting on and doing okay, I’m fatherly like that. The main reason though is that Mark is my barometer for Birmingham’s tech scene. If Mark is buoyed up and working on one of his many side projects then I always presume the scene around him is in a good way too. His blog switches from the personal to the professional, sometimes discussing his journey into entrepreneurship and sometimes declaring he’s giving it all up (an April Fool it turns out…). Like a few of the blogs I enjoy I’m never sure what’s coming next.

6. SmokeandUmami
Having been lauded by The Observer’s food critic (and TV person) Jay Rayner, this blog hardly needs further endorsement. I like that it veers from restaurant reviews to cake recipes. It’s run by a ‘bioinformatician’ based at University of Birmingham with a thing for barbecued ribs. The restaurants he chooses to eat at are the places I might end up going to – kebab houses, chip shops, a decent place to get a fry-up. Also worth a read is Brummie Tummy.

7. The Hearing Aid
At one level just a whole load of gig/music reviews but given there’s been over a 1000 of them since 2006, all by one person, this is obviously a whole lot more. I’m not even a big gig-goer myself yet I find this a must-read. Birmingham seems to be a good place for seeing half-decent bands in small suburban pubs. Wish I could see that said in more glitzy City brochures and websites. Similar stuff with multiple authors and nice pics at Gig Junkies.

8. Bread and Circus
This was tweeted in my direction when I mentioned I was creating this list. It turns out it was in my RSS Reader anyway but its miscellaneousness means I sometimes mistake it for being multiple blogs rather than one. Surely everyone needs a blog in their feed reader that is generally just nice to look at? It’s curation of art, music, food, travel feels hip without being hipster. In a similar space but just focused on design is cmykern (who once attacked my allotment with an industrial-strength strimmer, for which I am forever grateful).

9. The Iron Room
“You always find surprises in the archives”. The blog of the Archive and Heritage department of Birmingham Central Library Library of Birmingham. Likes others in this list it’s the unexpected that delights. I imagine (wrongly) the authors work in a crowded, unkept office where they occasionally trip over an uncatalogued box of photos and documents of Birmingham’s history. And in that way they choose what goes on the blog this week. However they decide it’s genuinely enriching to get an ongoing glimpse into Birmingham’s past. See also ‘Mapping Birmingham’s Georgian and Regency Streets‘ for more history goodies.

10. Paradise Circus
It’s a bit self-consciously writerly at times (though by that I also mean writerly in the Barthesian sense) and seems to have only male writers at present but Paradise Circus is at least attempting to curate a view of Birmingham that is a long way from the corporate gloss the city’s image has been subject to in recent times. It’s at its best when it’s most straightforward – Craig Hamilton’s seemingly throwaway anecdote about an encounter with a Hollywood star at Birmingham New Street station being a good example.