Bullring tagging shedding light on a graffiti ‘pandemic’ across the city

Birmingham’s Showpiece Shopping Center has become the latest building targeted by Bullring Graffiti Taggers.

The practice of sprinkling and leaving signatures on walls, bridges and buildings has increased almost across the city in recent years, but especially since the first lockdown began in March 2020.

Birmingham City Council told BirminghamLive that all tagging was “a curse on our communities” and added that people should “show our environment the respect it deserves.”

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Stephen Hartland, a A leading campaigner for the preservation of the city’s historic environment and built heritage, called on the city council to be more proactive.

Graffiti Taggers are now targeting the West Midlands Bicycle Hire side of 2003 Bullring along Smallbrook Queensway, where Debenhams has been closed since May 2021 – Grand Central and New Street stations are across the street

Mr Hartland said: “It’s like we’re living through a parallel pandemic. All the tagging makes it seem like the city doesn’t love and doesn’t care and nobody cares.

“I don’t want Birmingham to look like it doesn’t love and doesn’t care.

“If the council was more proactive with the hit squad and pushed for a prison sentence, it would say ‘we are doing something’.

“If it removes 200 tags a day that say ‘we’re dealing with this problem’.

“There are very few people who think tagging is okay, but it’s not okay in a world where you have to get planning permission for everything else.

“What we need to care about the city – some tags in Water Street / Livery Street give years like 2018, 2019 – is how long they have been.”

Earlier this week a specially commissioned mural was unveiled on Navigation Street to promote ‘community spirit and sporting diversity’ ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

It was painted by renowned Birmingham street artist Gent 48, Josh Billingham, England’s first hijab-wearing boxing coach Hasiba Abdullah, and Salma Bee, who founded the first Asian women’s cricket team.

Upper Mill Lane is tagged in plain view of Digbeth Police Station across the street
Upper Mill Lane is tagged in plain view of Digbeth Police Station across the street

scale of issue

As well as industrial units in areas such as Digbeth and Balsall Heath, even some of the city’s finest terracotta-faced buildings have been ‘tagged’ in recent years.

These include Methodist Central Hall on Corporation Street, right across from the Victoria Law Court, and the now-reopened, clean White Swan Pub on Bradford Street in Digbeth.

Some buildings are tagged from the inside out, including the windows of the Smallbrook Queensway ‘Bridge’ on the Hearst Street side and the upper floors of Britannia House, which have been vacant for years at the corner of Great Charles Queensway and New Market Street.

The latest building, dubbed the Bullring Shopping Centre, is on the east Debenhams side, where the buff bricks are an easy target for anyone who is black.

Debenhams closed its doors for the last time in May 2021, ending an 18-year reign as the city’s largest shopping center as well as the backbone of its own 243-year history.

A West Midlands Cycle Hire Dock was recently placed on the opposite side of Smallbrook Queensway to TK MAXX and Grand Central.

The Wall is one of the first things any visitor will see if they arrive at New Street Station and then decide to catch a taxi or walk down the street to Bullring.

The dark walls have long been a target of scribblers, with the tunnel further leading to Moore Street station.

Much of the line of shops and business complexes to the east between Debenhams and Pagoda Island at Holloway Head, in the outbound direction of Smallbrook Queensway.

Here, graffiti artists have decorated most of the boards with bright, conceptual images.

They are not being deformed like many buildings have plain walls.

Red and blue bricks along Pickford Street in Digbeth ten years ago antique in 2012
Red and blue bricks along Pickford Street in Digbeth ten years ago antique in 2012

Pickford Street, in what is now Latif in Digbeth, was a perfect example of the classy blue and red bricks representing engineering solidity as well as craftsmanship.

Google Street View images show that most of the wall was pristine ten years ago in 2012.

Today, most bricks are tagged.

The same scene captured on Pickford Street in March, 2021, showing the growth of tagging on the area, spread to occupied buildings
The same scene captured on Pickford Street in March, 2021, showing the growth of tagging on the area, spread to occupied buildings

Birmingham in the limelight

On its ‘Be Bold, Be Birmingham’ page, the city council says on its website: “The eyes of the world will be on Birmingham in 2022, in fact 1.5 billion global TV viewers are expected to watch the Commonwealth Games!

“Sports are the catalyst to take Birmingham to the fore. Let’s show the world that Birmingham is a proud, young, creative, vibrant and diverse city.”

The city council continues: “In the past, Birmingham has been classified with negative connotations, stereotypes and as a ‘second city’.

Tagging next to 'bus gates' on Moore Street Queensway that forces motorists to make a U-turn.  The concrete core is for a new development called The Exchange and on the right is a billboard for HS2 that says: 'We are building for Birmingham'
Tagging next to ‘bus gates’ on Moore Street Queensway that forces motorists to make a U-turn. The concrete core is for a new development called The Exchange and on the right is a billboard for HS2 that says: ‘We are building for Birmingham’

“Now it’s time to stop. We are not another city; we are a pioneer city and we are going to tell and celebrate our city’s story to the world.”

The tagged Bullring Wall features one of the city’s least known ‘graffiti’, in which a series of bricks are carved with the message that it is the ‘City of 1,000 Trades’.

Now that the more visible side of Bullring has been dubbed with this mural, BirminghamLive asked Birmingham City Council for its response.

A spokesperson said: “Whether tagging on public or private property, when it is done without prior permission, it is a curse to our communities – property owners or council and residents have left the bill to remove it. Gave.

“This is the city we all have to live and work in, so people should show our environment the respect it deserves.”

The Smallbrook Queensway mural contains the following inscription: “They are building a building with discs not bricks. 22,000 dicks. Prada dress. 1/4 of the steel used in the Empire State Building. Birmingham. Forward. World Market” City 1000 trade. Here tools and toys for distant parts of various metals are finely fabricated by mechanic art and sold by artists whose touch turns every metal into gold. City of Birmingham. Now from this height Going soft we will explore different factories but works so it will take a few days for various demonstrations in Birmingham. Forward.”

Other parts of the outer wall also have more inscriptions to emphasize notably less on the brilliant achievements of the city’s creative minds.

In recent years, Digbeth’s industrial landscape has become a favorite spot for taggers who have moved from billboards to brick walls, including occupied buildings like the Zelig next to the Custard Factory.

Even the sidewalk on the Chapel House street side of the High Street Deterrent is tagged
Even the sidewalk on the Chapel House street side of the High Street Deterrent is tagged

Yards away, even the sidewalk has been repeatedly tagged on the other side of the High Street detriment towards Chapel House Street, the closed and ruined former Irish centre.

Moving closer to the city center, both sides of Upper Mill Lane between Mott Lane and Digbeth are tagged in plain view of Digbeth Police Station just a few yards away.

With plain brick walls on both sides of Digbeth leading to Selfridges, Bull Ring Church is also tagged Bullring and St. Martin, even though the region’s proud history dates back 856 years to the dawn of the Bull Ring Markets in 1166, Which helped to form the trading foundation for the rapid development of the city during the Industrial Revolution.

Brick walls of historic buildings being tagged with Digbeth, 100 yards from Selfridges in Bullring
Brick walls of historic buildings being tagged with Digbeth, 100 yards from Selfridges in Bullring

A Suffolk Street Queensway wall near Holiday Street’s Axis Building and Paradise’s £700 million regeneration site have recently been tagged next to another West Midlands bicycle rental dock.

The Bullring’s Tagged Wall facing New Street station has been visible for more than a week on a building that was the pride of Birmingham when it officially opened on September 4, 2003.

Brick wall tagging next to roadwork on high street derivative where millions are being spent to improve urban area and local transport links.  Beetham Tower / Radisson Blu Hotel on the left
Brick wall tagging next to roadwork on high street derivative where millions are being spent to improve urban area and local transport links.

what do you think Does tagging improve the look of a city and make it feel more youthful, vibrant and full of energy? Is this a great way to encourage more redevelopment of tired old sites?

Or does it send a message that the city is, in Mr Hartland’s words, ‘unseen and not loved’?

Should more be done by the city council and/or private businesses to try to stop or clean it up in the first place – or is it too late for both?

Should taggers be given dedicated spaces to create their art – or even encouraged to be artistically more creative with changes to telecommunications boxes, bridges, etc.?

Email: newsdesk@birminghamlive.co.uk and enter tagging in the subject field.

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