Over the years, Broad Street has become something of a byword for late-night, booze-fuelled excess. As anyone who has lived nearby will tell you, however, there’s more to Brum’s nightspot epicentre than just sambuca and spray tan.
Let us be your guide:
1. It’s not actually very broad
Broad Street is roughly 40 foot wide (give or take a kerb), so compared to a chunky 8-lane North Brum autobahn like the Birchfield Road it’s positively waifish.
2. You gave the world Duran Duran
Without Broad Street clubs there’d be no Duran Duran: they started out as the house band at the Rum Runner (the club’s owners later became the band’s managers), while the band’s name was inspired by another nearby club, Barbarella’s on Cumberland Street (in the original Barbarella movie, the villain’s name was ‘Durand Durand’).
3. You celebrate your local heroes by walking all over them
Photo: Tom Lennon
Hollywood has its Walk of Fame, but Birmingham has its very own Walk of Stars and it’s on Broad Street. Since 2007 we’ve been celebrating local luminaries with these pavement plaques – from Ozzy Osbourne to the entire 1982 Aston Villa European Cup winning squad.
4. You remember the fallen
Let’s spare a thought for some of those Broad Street nightspots that are no longer with us. Raise a shot glass of sambuca, please, to Bakers, Barbarella’s, Bobby Brown’s, Bonkers (yes, really), Brannigan’s, and Burburries – and that’s just the ‘Bs’.
Gone, but not forgotten (apart from the journey home bit).
5. You Leave it to Lee
Photo: Tom Lennon
Amidst the bars, nightclubs and eateries that take up much of Broad Street, there’s a strange, incongruous sight: the Lee Longlands furniture store. It’s a bit like finding an MFI in the middle of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip.
6. Crown Inn Glory
80s architects designing the ICC and Symphony Hall encountered a pub-shaped problem: Broad Street’s Crown Inn was a Grade II listed building, so they had to build around it. Ironically, when the new venues opened in 1991, the Crown’s owners gutted its historic interior and turned it into an 80s theme pub.
7. Deep down, you’re really quite spiritual
Broad Street was once a very pious place with chapels on every corner. These days all that’s left is the grade II listed Broad Street Presbyterian Church (or, as it’s known as these days, ‘Popworld’).
8. Seriously, I’m not just saying that
The Church of England recently launched St Luke’s Gas Street, a new church just around the corner from Broad Street. It’s aimed at a younger demographic, although given its clubland catchment area maybe it should have been called St Vitus’…
9. And cultural, too…
Opened in 2013, Broad Street’s Library of Birmingham is not only amazing, awesome, fascinating, incredible, prodigious, shocking and stunning, but it also stocks a wide variety of thesauruses (or thesauri, if you want to be pedantic, hair-splitting, or nit-picking).
10. Ken and ‘M’
In 1988, Wallander star Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company had a residency at Broad Street’s Rep Theatre, featuring a production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing directed by Judi Dench. Branagh’s Marvel film Thor was said to be heavily influenced by his nights spent “boogying” at Stoodi Bakers.
11. The Golden Boys
Across the road from The Rep there’s a gilded statue depicting three very stately looking gentlemen. They’re Boulton, Watt and Murdoch, who were very much the Crosby, Stills and Nash of Industrial Birmingham (Crosby, Stills and Nash were, of course, the Emerson, Lake and Palmer of 70s rock).
12. One of your neighbours invented a really famous font
Brummie print pioneer John Baskerville (1706-1775) lived on Broad Street, on the site where Baskerville House now stands. Of course, in those days Broad Street was just a nameless country track, which caused something of a major headache for the era’s taxi drivers.
For more about John Baskerville see our 20 Bizarre Facts every Brummie should know about Birmingham.
13. You like rolling out the red carpet
Broad Street’s Cineworld has hosted several red carpet movie premieres, attracting big name celebrities like Tom Hardy, Danny DeVito and, erm, former TOWIE star Abi Clarke.
14. Your bus stops make buses swear
Buses that travel along Broad Street often feature automated next stop announcements, so visually-impaired and smartphone-engrossed passengers know where the bus will be arriving at next. Each stop name is delivered in a crisp, ‘I’ve-been-to-elocution-lessons’ voice, except for Sheepcoat Street, which it mispronounces as $#!%coat Street.
15. The closure of Tesco really hit you hard
The harrowing demise of the Tesco at Five Ways has inspired one grief-stricken Clubcard holder to turn the boarded-up building into a makeshift book of condolences.
Well, every little helps.
16. The burger van up by Five Ways
Broad Street has nightlife, Broad Street has culture and Broad Street has cuisine… but nothing symbolises Broad Street quite so much as that burger van. You know the one.
Don’t pretend you haven’t eaten there.
17. You’ve got a random statue of a WWII Field Marshall
A lone soldier stands in silent vigil on Broad Street. This is the only known statue of Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck, a senior British officer during WWII. He wasn’t born in Birmingham, he never lived in Birmingham, he didn’t even lead any campaigns in Birmingham… yet there he stands, looking sternly at drunken people as they queue for the burger van.
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All photos: Tom Lennon