Dave Woodhall wonders what’s happening with the Walk of Stars, and how it could be rejuvenated.
Congratulations to Jewellery Quarter-based Red Temple Fine Art Castings, who have won the contract to make the stars on the Broad Street Walk of Stars. Now that the job of actually making them has gone to a local firm, could we please have a bit more imagination in deciding who actually gets one of these thing? In short, stop being so short-sighted, parochial and, if you’ll excuse the pun, star-struck.
I’ve said before, both on here and on our predecessor the Stirrer, that one of the problems Birmingham, faces is that when it comes to dealing with fame and celebrity, we acts so short-sightedly. The city and its media acts like a star-struck teenager when confronted by anyone with a bit of big city glamour attached to them. We clung to Karren Brady when she was at the Blues, fawning over her even when she and her employers were engaged in open warfare with their supporters prior to heading back to London as fast as their legs could carry them. We’re pathetically grateful when London-based chains such as Harvey Nichols and Selfridge open satellite stores here, no matter how small they are compared to the ones they have elsewhere.
Most of all, we flutter our eyelashes and make the most enormous fuss whenever anyone local gets just the slightest bit famous. Again, I’ll repeat what I said years ago. The population of Birmingham has hovered at around a million for decades, with even more in the rest of the West Midlands conurbation. We shouldn’t be surprised that over all this time a few of them have been talented, famous or both. We certainly shouldn’t fawn over them, desperate for them to say something nice about us on their fleeting visits, like an elderly and ignored parent fussing over an ungrateful child.
The first local celebrity to gain the honour summed the whole charade up. Ozzy Osbourne, who left the city longer ago than the last time he made a decent record and since then has been known for making a fool of himself on reality TV, complete with put-on accent, revelling in the thick Brummie stereotype. But at least he’s from Birmingham, unlike Noddy Holder, who has even managed to attract criticism from Slade fans for his refusal to do anything more contemporary in the past twenty years than an annual plug for Merry Christmas Everybody.
There have been some worthwhile Stars, such as UB40, the Archers and (my own bias notwithstanding) Villa’s 1982 European Cup-winning team. People known around the world and with genuine links to the city. But even with this last addition, balance had to be added by putting in entrants from Blues, Albion, plus for some reason Wolves and Walsall. Then there’s the collection of second-rate has-beens and better-known faces who worked or were born here then couldn’t leave quick enough. If that’s the best we can do we shouldn’t bother. Or maybe we don’t anymore – www.walkofstars.net appears to have vanished, the Broad Street website gives the Walk a cursory mention and its Wikipedia page doesn’t seem to have been updated for some time. There’s been no mention of who might be next for the honour and no nominations for some time as far as I can see.
If the Walk of Stars is going to be done, then it should be properly looked after and rather than chasing after transitory and ungrateful celebrity, it should honour genuine local talent. How about Steve Gibbons, the archetypal Brummie rock’n’roller who has been performing in the city since the early days of Brumbeat and is still respected around the world? Former boxer Peter Buckley, whose commitment throughout a 300 fight career epitomised the spirit of Birmingham? Or if we go further back, civic dignitaries such as the Cadburys, Joseph Chamberlain and the Lunar Society, all of whom helped shape and create the most forward-thinking and best-governed city in the world. Then promote it as showing all that’s great and modern, not as a second-rate tribute to a handful of people who nobody outside Birmingham thinks of as having any connection with the city.
Do it properly, or not at all.