Hooliganism returns to the Black Country
Plus: The Full Monty comes to town
Dear readers — welcome to your Monday briefing.
I hope you all had a great weekend. I spent much of mine in London where I visited possibly the busiest Irish pub I’ve ever been to, played (with variable success) several games of pool, and danced to live Spanish guitar. Back in Birmingham, I discovered my boy cat Wolf had had yet another encounter with his mortal enemy — a ginger puss belonging to one of our neighbours. He now has a scar above his left eye which makes him look either like the bad guy in The Lion King or, as my boyfriend suggested, like he’s had his eyebrow shaved as per that style teenage boys had in the late 1990s.
But while my Saturday was spent dabbing a reluctant Wolf with vet-approved disinfectant, yours was hopefully spent enjoying our engrossing long read by the brilliant Sophie Atkinson. Sophie took us on a trip to the uncanny village of Dorridge, birthplace of legendary sci-fi writer John Wyndham. Do check it out if you haven’t already, it’s a belter.
Moving on to today’s edition: Today’s Big Story looks at last night’s eventful (to say the least) West Brom vs Wolves FA Cup tie. If you were in the stands, I hope you made it out safe and unscathed. We’ve also found a drop dead gorgeous home of the week for you in Frankley, and our things to do schedule is packed with excellent events including the opening of a new play and a talk with Birmingham’s favourite social historian, Carl Chinn.
Before that, thanks to the surge of new members who have helped us soar beyond our goal of 300 subscribers by the end of January. We now have 317 wonderful, committed readers and I’m thrilled to welcome you to our pages. All your sharing and recommending is doing wonders. If you’re yet to sign up, you can join us by hitting the green button below.
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🌦️ Tuesday: Cloudy with light rain. A bright afternoon. Max 9°C.
☔ Wednesday: Expect wind and showers. Max 9°C.
🌥️ Thursday: Often cloudy with bright patches. Max 10°C.
🍃 Friday: Mild and breezy with a bit of drizzle. Max 12°C.
🍃 Weekend: Cloudy and breezy with moments of sunshine. Max 13°C.
We get our weather from the Met Office.
Big story: Hooliganism returns to the Black Country
Top line: Violent scenes overshadowed the first Black Country derby in 12 years, as an FA Cup match between West Brom and Wolves descended into chaos. Six people were arrested and one man was taken to hospital with head injuries.
A sinister second half: The disorder began 78 minutes into the match after Wolves’ scored. Fighting broke out in the home stands and soon escalated: missiles were launched, a fan was knocked unconscious and a police officer was pushed down a flight of stairs. Play was paused for 30 minutes as 400 West Midlands Police, including riot police, tried to quell the ruckus.
The day’s first arrest was actually made before the game even began when a 16-year-old was stopped by officers in a pub on suspicion of holding an offensive weapon.
The other arrests were made for public order offences, including assaulting officers.
Pitch invader: On a somewhat lighter note, a woman was seen wandering onto the pitch during the game’s suspension where she kicked a ball at a steward’s ankles before he dragged her off to boos from the crowd. Sport Bible shared the mobile phone footage on TikTok.
Response: The FA released a statement, saying they would be investigating the incidents and taking “appropriate action”. The Independent reported that West Brom could face sanctions for the actions of their fans.
Disturbing scenes: Social media flooded with photos, videos, and commentary. One image doing the rounds showed an injured man being led away by police officers with blood pouring down his head (looking a bit like Marvel’s Red Skull) as Wolves fans serenaded him with a cheerful chorus of “Let him die.” One account described the commotion as: “Scenes English football hasn’t seen for many, many years.”
Football factory: Disorder has been a feature of British football matches since the game’s 13th Century origins (back when the game was played with a pig’s bladder — meaning violence at football literally pre-dates the ball), but it was from the 1960s that fan trouble became a national talking point. By the 1980s, “hooliganism” was in full swing, with rival ‘firms’ — like Birmingham City’s Zulu Warriors — wreaking havoc to such a degree that Margaret Thatcher set up a ‘war cabinet’ to deal with the problem.
The kids are alright: Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Craig Dawson and Matheus Cunha were praised for checking to see if a young fan was hurt in the fray. Liam Dunn posted a photo of him and his little boy on Twitter/X and thanked the players for their concern when the two of them had to move onto the pitch after being trampled amid the chaos.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak “firmly expects anyone involved to face criminal charges and to be banned from future games,” his spokesperson said today. “Those scenes are extremely concerning. There's no place for that kind of behaviour in football.”
Bottom line: One bad incident after decades of relatively peaceful football matches doesn’t mean “hooliganism” is on the rise, but last night’s violence was alarming nonetheless. And it isn’t a good look for the Black Country that this rare derby was the cause of national headlines about terrible fan behaviour. We’ll wait to see what the police and the FA make of it.
Photo of the week
This pastel-coloured, abandoned council estate in Spon End, Coventry is earmarked for demolition, but photographer Alexa Jones, (who runs the dirty.brum Instagram account), managed to get this haunting farewell shot in 2023. The 1960s blocks, Trafalgar, Milestone and Kerry House, started life as a positive step to provide decent homes for the working class community. But as with many mid-century buildings, their later decline sounded the death knell and the estate is now being regenerated as part of £120 million plans.
Brum in brief
⚠️ Jack Deakin is the third in a string of Labour suspensions at Birmingham City Council. The member for Allens Cross ward faces a complaint, which is under investigation by his party, that he allegedly harassed a Labour Party employee. A source told The Dispatch the saga is “a very long story” and the situation is “very depressing”. Do you have any further info on this? Get in touch if so.
📖 Award-winning West Midlands writer and investigative reporter Beth Ashley’s debut book will be published in May. Sluts: The Truth About Slutshaming & What We Can Do To Fight It traces the history of the persecution of sexual promiscuity — “from the Roman Empire and religious communities through to the Jonas Brothers” and analyses its impact today.
🌊 The internet pranksters behind the Bearwood Parish Council parody account have created a map depicting the new geographical boundaries of Birmingham and the Black Country if sea levels were to rise by 150m. “Bearwood Parish Council is already investing in setting up a ferry company” they said in a post on the r/Brum Reddit thread, prompting a lively discussion in which at least some posters weren’t fully aware the account is a spoof.
🛡️ Edgbaston Labour MP Preet Gill is one of a group of cross-party members who will meet with Security Minister Tom Tugendhat tomorrow about concerns for the safety of Sikh activists living in Britain. An “intelligence hit list” has appeared on several Indian media channels that named six British Sikhs as “enemies of the state” Gill said. The fears follow deaths of high profile Sikh activists in the US, Canada; and here in Birmingham where the friends and family of the late Avtar Singh Khanda have said his death was suspicious.
Home of the week
This beautifully renovated barn in Frankley has two bedrooms, high beamed ceilings, and plenty of character throughout. It’s available for £295,000.
📺 A new series of Channel 4’s 999 On The Front Line following West Midlands Ambulance Service paramedics will begin tomorrow at 8pm. Eight crews from Stoke, Stafford and Willenhall will feature across five weeks of episodes, providing an insight into the day-to-day trials and tribulations of the emergency health workers. “It’s not all about big crashes and trauma; they also have to look at complex medical cases, mental health and social care issues” said Director of Performance and Improvement, Nathan Hudson.
📰 Wolverhampton’s Sathnam Sanghera has published a follow up to his 2021 book Empireland that has been reviewed by Oxford University professor of history Nandini Das. Where that book looked at the impact of the British empire on our country today, Empireworld traces its legacies around the globe. “Sathnam Sanghera’s Empireworld tells the story of [18th Century seed purveyor John] Bartram and Kew [Gardens] as part of a nuanced, complicated account of the British empire’s impact on the world as we know it”.
🎧 The people’s princess of Birmingham, Jamelia, joins Ed Gamble and James Acaster for the first night of their tour of their hit podcast Off Menu at the Hippodrome. She sets out her dream three-course meal including a shout out to the Birmingham branch of Korean BBQ restaurant Haidelao where the food is delivered to your table by robots. Her insinuation that London’s branch does not feature the AI waiters because they are more likely to be nicked causes Acaster to hit back. He reminds the audience that Tom Cruise’s BMW was stolen within the time it took him to sit down for two portions of curry at Asha’s, on the Hollywood star’s last visit to the Second City™. “Probably a Londoner on holiday” Acaster jokes.
Things to do
🎭 Tomorrow is the opening night of The Full Monty at the Alexandria Theatre. I’ll be heading along with Erdington Local editor Ed King to watch as various stars from Eastenders and Coronation Street gradually undress on stage. Not remotely awkward. Tickets from £26.
🩰 The groundbreaking company for dancers with learning disabilities, Freefall by Birmingham Royal Ballet, is continuing its 21st anniversary celebrations with an exhibition at the Hippodrome. Photos, film, and testimony feature in the free show which is open until 2 March.
🧑🎨 Unleash your inner artist with this life drawing class at the Custard Factory and learn from a professional. Materials and refreshments are included. Tickets from £11.25.
🎷 Saxophonist Jess Gillam takes to the stage with the CBSO, for a fairytale inspired and fun-filled performance at 7.30pm. Tickets between £5 and £59.
🗣️ Birmingham’s favourite social historian Carl Chinn is the focus of Digbeth Dining Club’s next ‘An Evening With’ event from 5pm. Fill up on street food then listen to Chinn’s lecture on ‘The Making of the Modern World’ and ask him any burning questions you might have.
🎭 The Old Rep kicks off a brand new monthly event for writers looking to develop their work. Submit your work to the theatre to read and see it performed at the free scratch night, then watch others and be ready to give your own feedback. Up to Scratch starts at 7pm.