Open meeting 

West Midlands New Economics Group

FOE Warehouse, 54 Allison St, B5 5TH


Thursday 29 June, 5-7 pm 

29 June – The ‘Mission Possible’ project based at the Uplands Leisure Gardens in Handsworth Wood – presented by Malcolm Currie, who is collaborating with experienced campaigner David Middleton CEO of the Environmental Business Club.

All welcome.

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire


Brief WMNEG article about Uplands here






Proposals for Brummie Bonds were first put forward by former Greenpeace economist Colin Hines at the end of 2004 (Birmingham Post – Comment: 5.2.04), at the end of 2004 by then Conservative council leader Mike Whitby mentioned here, advocated in the Stirrer (2008) and frequently by John Clancy (right), before he became Labour council leader (most eloquently in 2011).

Clancy acts, 2017

Professor David Bailey (Aston Business School, Birmingham) welcomed the news that the City has found a new way to finance house-building – John Clancy’s first issue of Brummie Bonds (more detail here):

“The City Council is already building more new council houses than any other local authority in the country – with the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust building 30% of all new homes in the city last year. But that’s still not enough and using Brummie Bonds to raise £45m to help finance more house building is welcome news. Clancy has talked of Brummie Bonds opening up new funding streams to deliver a “step change” in building homes”.

The Council has stated that the interest rate it will pay on the Brummie Bonds is actually lower than that charged by the Public Works Loan Board (or PWLB – a government body that provides loans to local authorities mainly for capital projects).

Pensions and life assurance specialists Phoenix Life, which employs around 600 people in Wythall, has agreed to invest in a ‘Brummie Bond’ and there is the prospect of other investors coming in. The West Midlands Local Government Pension Fund and other union and business pension funds could take up future issues.

Hines goes further, seeing municipal bonds as a safe haven for ‘People’s Pensions’ – just as when, following the Housing Act of 1919, the London County Council and other local borough councils began to sell housing bonds to the public to raise money for public housing. schemes. He also advocates that, in due course, such bonds would also fund the retrofitting of houses and clean modes of transport.

As Professor Bailey ends: “Hats off to Birmingham City Council for pulling this off. A “confident act of local economic self-determination”? Yes”.





MARGARET FAIRHEAD RBSA: Exhibition in Reception Foyer

Canal views – Farmer’s Bridge Flight, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal

Until Friday 7 July

Margaret’s remarkable exhibition of works featuring manipulated machine stitching incorporating a variety of fabrics, threads and techniques, is inspired by a walk along the Farmer’s Bridge Flight section of the canal towpath. This journey took Margaret through both old and new Birmingham, passing thirteen locks in all.

At ​the BIRMINGHAM & MIDLAND INSTITUTE ​9 Margaret Street, Birmingham. B3 3BS




The Powergen building, in Shirley Solihull, was vacated in 1995, when the council refused planning permission for the CEGB to extend this striking Madin building. It employed 1000 people and many shops closed due to this loss of trade.

Explore the remarkable interior of this building, immortalised unofficially by a group of young explorers who made a fascinating video, recorded on site. Here are three of the most striking photographs taken from that film: 




And last Thursday accomplished amateur photographers, Shirley’s Ann & Malcolm Turner, sent this photograph of the demolition process.

After years of neglect, demolition started, due to a decision taken by Solihull council, commercial partners of Asda.





Peter Walker, chair of Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum, forwards a notice from Theresa Summerfield, Chair, Friends of Stirchley Library.

There will be a book sale at Stirchley Library on Saturday 17th June, 10am – 12 noon.

Stock from Selly Oak library is being sold to raise funds for Stirchley Library.

We have enough volunteers to run the stall but please come along to support the book sale and tell your friends and family!





Book now for our cooperative showcase and networking event, 15 June 2017, 4.30pm-7.30pm

What connections will you make at our cooperative showcase and networking event?

There will be facilitated and informal networking, a light buffet, short talks on cooperative housing, credit unions, community shares, plus stalls, and more networking.  Speakers to be confirmed.

There is a small charge of £5 to cover catering and to deter no-shows.  Bursary places are available for members of start-up cooperatives, or people on low incomes who are looking at setting up a cooperative.

With over 50 cooperators expected to attend, it’s not to be missed. 


Book now for our cooperative showcase and networking event, 15 June 2017, 4.30pm-7.30pm.  Go to:

When you have registered, you will be taken to our payment page, where you can either pay online (by PayPal – no account required) or offline – we will send you an invoice.





Travelling menageries were popular in the 19th Century but Dr Helen Cowie, a historian at the University of York, says they “were not too preoccupied” with security and there were “an alarming number” of escapes and accidents.

In 1899 a young black-maned Nubian lion escaped from Bostock and Wombwell’s Menagerie in Aston. A report which has just been unearthed in the Pall Mall Gazette on September 28, 1889, said: “Men, women and children scampered off in all directions as the lion dashed across the ground, hotly pursued by the men from Wombwell’s. A group of children were in its path, but it cleared them at a bound.”

The lion made for a stream, before taking refuge in a sewer. Chief lion tamer Marcus Orenz heard the lion’s roar, crawled through a manhole and began to pursue the animal. A trap was set with a cage over the drain opening and Orenzo, ‘armed with a heavy revolver and accompanied by a boarhound’ approached the lion, firing two shots.


  Illustration of men putting a cage over a manhole in an attempt to trap the lion  

The Mail (2015) ended there with its capture but a 2017 post on a BBC News website has a more dashing account. Frank C Bostock, the owner of a menagerie, and his team were preparing for a show when one of his lions jumped over its keeper, pushed through a rip in the circus tent, and prowled off towards Birmingham city centre “as free and untrammelled as when in his native wilds”.

According to Bostock’s account in his book The Training of Wild Animals, the lion came across one of the openings to the sewerage system and “down he sprang, looking up at the crowd of people and roaring at the top of his voice. As he made his way through the sewers, he stopped at every man-hole he came to, and there sent up a succession of roars, driving some people nearly wild with terror.”

As the public became very alarmed, rather than trying to quell the volatile crowd, Bostock put a second lion in a cloth-covered cage and sneaked it out on the back of a lorry. He then returned, blowing his horn to attract attention, with the lion clearly visible. People fell for the ruse and he was cheered as a hero. “A shout went up from the crowd ‘They’ve got him! They’ve got him! They’ve got the lion!'” His actions in apparently getting the lion from the sewer were reported around the world. A New Zealand newspaper ran an article called “A lion at large in Birmingham: How the King of the Forest was recaptured”.

Frank C Bostock published a volume of his memoirs and training tips

The publicity worked in Bostock’s favour. Hordes of people attended the show that evening, ignorant of the fact a man-eating lion was prowling beneath the streets. Bostock said he “was in a perfect bath of cold perspiration, for matters were extremely serious, and I knew not what to do next. Fortunately, the lion had stopped his roaring, and contented himself with perambulating up and down the sewer”.

On the afternoon of the following day, the chief of police of Birmingham visited the menagerie and congratulated Bostock on his “marvellous pluck and daring” and Bostock ‘came clean’. “I shall never forget that man’s face when he realized that the lion was still in the sewer, it was a wonderful study for any mind-reader,” he reflected. “At first he was inclined to blame me but when I showed him I had probably stopped a panic, and that my own liabilities in the matter were pretty grave possibilities to face, he sympathized with me, and added that any help he could give me, I might have.

“I at once asked for 500 men of the police force and asked that he would instruct the superintendent of sewers to send me the bravest men he could spare, with their top-boots, ladders, ropes, and revolvers with them, so that should the lion appear, any man could do his best to shoot him at sight. We arranged that we should set out at five minutes to midnight, so that we might avoid any crowd following us, and so spreading the report”.

An illustration from The Graphic newspaper: men pulling a lion from a sewer using a rope

It was more than 24 hours later that Bostock, now in the sewer, “saw two gleaming eyes of greenish-red just beyond, and knew we were face to face with the lion at last”. He and his gang of men chased the lion through the sewers by scaring it with shouts and fireworks. When face-to-face with the lion Bostock took off his boots and put them on his hands “Fearing that he would split my head open with a blow from one of his huge paws, I told one of my men to place over my head a large iron kettle which we had used to carry cartridges and other things to the sewer”. The kettle fell off and startled the lion which “turned tail like a veritable coward” and ran into a rope lasso laid out ready to snare him.

Bostock’s story in his memoirs concludes: “I got the lion out of the sewer, as the people of Birmingham supposed I did, only their praise and applause were a little previous.”

Frank C Bostock died from ‘flu aged 46 in 1912 and there is a stone lion on grave in which he and his wife Susannah were buried in Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington.






 Focus on climate change and the UN role: 12th June

To be held in Moseley in autumn, date to be announced later.



The Birmingham Socialist Discussion Group public meeting at 7 pm 12th June committee room 1, Council House

There will be two speakers:

  1. John Rees a leading figure in the Stop the War Coalition and author of a new book entitled the Levellers Revolution will speak on Putin’s foreign policy and other policies
  2. Olga Pyshkina, a Russian student based in Birmingham, will speak on Putin’s repressive policy on the press and the opposition

There has been little discussion on the socialist left on Putin despite the major impact he has made on world politics especially in Syria recently. The Trump Putin relationship will be examined in the meeting as well.

Everyone is welcome and there will be plenty of time for discussion.

Stuart 0777 156 7496 or

Secretary Birmingham Socialist Discussion Group





Paul Mason, political economist and film-maker, examines the spectacular polling revival ‘staged’ by Jeremy Corbyn in the space of six weeks. He lists and comments on the ‘plausible range of outcomes’ in next week’s general election’:

  • modest Tory gains,
  • a hung parliament,
  • a minority Labour government.

He adds that even if, as seems likely, Mr Corbyn cannot win outright, he would re-enter parliament leading a massively emboldened opposition.

Mason continues by saying that the challenge for Mr Corbyn, in the last week of the campaign, is to break the 40% barrier.

He recommends the Labour leader to signal he would form a government with cross-party support in parliament, at the very least from the Greens and the progressive nationalist parties.