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Is There Anyone Out There?

Is There Anyone Out There? Documenting Birmingham’s Alternative Music Scene 1986-1996 is a new exhibition co-curated by the Centre for Media & Cultural Research at Birmingham City University and the Birmingham Music Archive.

It’s running from 4th-28th May, Monday to Saturday 9am – 7pm and its free entrance.

Here is the exhibition blurb, it’s going to be great so whether you went to the Click Club, interested in Birmingham music and heritage or fans of Primal Scream, Sea Urchins, Killing Joke, Suicide, Mighty Mighty, James, Sugarcubes (Bjork on Broad St!!!) and many many others, come and see unseen photos, original posters, tickets, contracts (what did Primal Scream ask for in their rider in 1986?) as well as incredible live footage of the bands and what Broad St looked like in 1986.

‘Is There Anyone Out There?’
Documenting Birmingham’s Alternative Music Scene 1986-1990
4-28th May 2016
Parkside Building, Birmingham City University, Curzon Street, Birmingham, B4 7BD

Established in 1986 by Dave Travis and Steve Coxon, The Click Club was the name of a concert venue and disco associated with Birmingham’s alternative music culture. Located in ‘Burberries’ – a conventional nightclub site in the pre-regeneration city centre, the club showcased a wide variety of acts reflecting the varied culture of the independent and alternative sector.

While capacity was limited to a few hundred attendees on any one night, The Click Club was important locally, nationally and internationally, for the role it played as part of a touring circuit, and for distributors and retailers of independent music. As a central feature in a music scene operating on a DIY-basis, independent of major labels, at the intersection of subcultures it also had enormous cultural value for its participants.

Travis continues to be a key cultural entrepreneur. Known initially as a professional photographer, commissioned by music publications such as NME, Sounds and the local Brumbeat amongst others, he has combined his photographic work with the promotion of live music in the city.

This exhibition draws upon Travis’ personal archive of film, posters, magazines and ephemera that detail a vibrant and dynamic space and time in late 80s Birmingham.
Central to the exhibition is a set of previously unseen images taken by Travis at The Click Club, a small proportion of those produced during a professional life as a music promoter and photographer.

The exhibition draws upon first hand accounts of those who were there and includes loaned artefacts in order to contextualize The Click Club in a historical moment that remains important to its community and to the music and cultural heritage of Birmingham.

The exhibition poses a series of questions: what is the value of this material? What does it tell us beyond confirming the memories of the individuals it concerned? Does such material have wider importance and contributions to make to our understanding of the past?

While the exhibition will appeal to those who attended The Click Club as well as those curious about popular music more generally, it is aimed at a broader audience interested in history, urban life, everyday creativity and the cultural economy.

Conceived and curated by scholars from the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research Paul Long, Jez Collins (founder of Birmingham Music Archive), and Sarah Raine, the exhibition develops themes from BCMCR research clusters in Popular Music Studies and History, Heritage and Archives.

Previous work includes: UK Film Council funded production of: the film ‘Made in Birmingham: Reggae Punk Bhangra’ (www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrVa3v9U8mU); establishment of a project to develop the archival preservation of the production culture of Pebble Mill (www.pebblemill.org); research into the archive of BBC documentarist Philip Donnellan; collaborations with Vivid Projects on the history of The Birmingham Film and Television Workshop and Catapult Club Archive (see: www.vividprojects.org.uk).

If you would like to attend the exhibition Launch Event on the evening of 3rd May please RSVP to: anna.pirvola@bcu.ac.uk
You are welcome to join us over the duration of the exhibition and we would be pleased to welcome you and discuss the project.

We spoke to Steve and Dave about the club, why and how they set it up and about Birmingham at that period. Here’s taster for the Podcast which will be available soon.

For more information and exhibition materials contact us directly.
Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research: www.bcmcr.org
Birmingham Music Archive: www.birminghammusicarchive.com

Tin Can

The Tin Can was situated above the Sunset Strip Club in Bradford St, Digbeth. It was primarily an ‘alternative’ venue which played host to band like Southern Death Cult and Death Cult, Play Dead, Alien Sex Fiend,Shakin Pyramids, Roman Holiday, X Mal Deutschland, Balaam & The Angel, Theatre of Hate Zerra One, The March Violets but also bands like China Crisis, The Meltdown Experiment, New Model Army, Billy Bragg, Ellory Bop, The Meteors and most notably R.E.M. played there.

It became notorious though when a fan of Play Dead fell through the sky lights to his death. There had been a lot of trouble with skinheads in Birmingham at that time and fights erupted with Play Dead repeatedly leaving the stage. Details are sketchy but the fan fell through the roof and was found by guards. Play Dead smuggled some of their fans out in their van to avoid the marauding skinheads and never played Birmingham again.

This footage is taken from the Tin Can Club of Alien Sex Fiend in 1983 playing:

Wish I Woz a Dog

Chris Cockel sent in this about seeing John Foxxx at was known as the Tin Can but was above the Sunset Strip Club.

One of the most memorable gigs I went to was to see John Foxx at the Sunset Strip Club in Bradford Street. It must have been in about 1985. He arrived about 2 hours late and then only played a few songs, but it was a classic.
Also, The Smiths at the Tower Ballroom, supported by James and the Red Guitars in 1984. I probably still have ticket stubs at my parents’ house in Moseley.
Rather bizarrely, my former scout master was in a band called the House Ghosts. They practiced in a flat cum studio in the Stratford Road opposite the old Sparkhill Swimming Pool. And gigged at the old Mermaid pub on the Stratford Rd, supporting the Membranes in about 1982/3. I remember it being a rather scary gig.

 

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