It wasn’t easy, but we did it… limping home in a car that needed pushing every time it slowed down. Now for the hard parts, the therapy and the making of the book. Sign up to one of our accounts, or the email list to be the first to know what’s going on. We’ve finished writing and are now on the “editing and casting about wildly for a publisher” stage.
Jon & Danny.
Birmingham is not a coastal city. An Englishman's blood tastes of lager and salt, but those that live in the shadow of the Bull Ring are landlocked; non-swimmers in a nation of mermaids. Even the city’s proudest claim is an open joke amongst its residents: “more canals than Venice,” we say with a grim smile, knowing the difference between the breathtaking tragic romance of Venice and our banal doom but leaving it unsaid like a shopping trolley sinking beneath the water’s surface.
The still brown water of the canals is metaphorically a million miles from the sea, but Birmingham is only 100 miles away from the nearest beach. The irony from our disconnect to the sea is that in anywhere else in the world Birmingham would be considered ’coastal’. Australians talk about driving four hours to get to the beach like it was popping to the outdoor for ten fags, and Americans that live in the mountains own jet skis.
Those from Birmingham are perfectly placed to write about an ephemeral British seaside because that's what the seaside is to them: a ghost, a Vaseline-smeared Shangri-La cobbled together from Carry On films, hazy childhood memories and nostalgia for a bygone era. We've written about Birmingham though, have a free e-book to download about it.
Piers are the phallic symbols of our desire to own the motherly sea; our Victorian forefathers covered them with the lace dressings of amusement to prevent the working class getting too excited. Since then they’ve rotted slowly, like Britain's empire and its self respect.
These cultural outcrops are still fresh in our race memory, however: not a month goes by without a fire, a change of ownership or a ‘battle to save’. They’re going, but not without a fight.
Two of Birmingham’s most committed journaleers and artists of human experience—a bi-polar working class warrior with a romantic streak you could drown a fascist in, and a cheerful nihilist in love with his own legend—are willing to take on the challenge. The challenge of visiting every one of England and Wales’s 56 surviving pleasure piers in two weeks, because two weeks is as long as it’s possible to get off work.
Writing alongside each other, but separately, they may agree but more likely the accounts will differ as much as Orwell and Hemingway's versions of the Spanish Civil War. They’re on the same side, and may see the same things, but not always for the same reasons.
They, corralled by their wiry old-punk tour manager, will camp, B+B, interview, record, philosophise and drink their way round Britain's coastline looking for the postcard seaside that probably only exists in the collective nostalgia of a country in the shadow of a recession.
What do you need the money for?
Oooh all sorts, petrol for one — public transport is so iffy in Britain that we only way to do this (and it& 39;s still only just about possible) is to drive like the wind (in a ten-year-old Renault Clio). We& 39;ll also need campsite fees, basic foodstuffs, and kiss me qwik hats. We& 39;re pitching for £500 here, although we& 39;ll need quite a bit more than that so keep giving as much as you can…
When are you going?
At the season& 39's end. We're planning to cast off in September.
When's the book out?
As soon as possible, it'll no doubt take a fair edit (our stuff usually does). We& 39;re pitching to publishers at the moment, and if one bites the schedule will be up to them.
Check more out at PierReview.co.uk