I awoke to several missed calls and numerous messages asking if I was alright.
It transpired that during the early hours of that Sunday morning a disturbed individual had gone on a knife wielding rampage across the city centre of Birmingham, attacking eight victims and leaving one poor twenty-three-year-old lad dead.
Initial reports focused on the attacks on Hurst Street and made it sound as though the incident was a homophobic hate crime, but as more details came in it would seem that this stabbing frenzy was motivated by nothing but the individual’s unhinged state of mind and that Birmingham’s gay village was just unlucky enough to be on his route of carnage.
I immediately responded to the messages that I had received and sent out many others to people that I knew or assumed would have been out on the scene that night. Messages pinged back and forth across the city all morning as the stunned gay community checked in with each other and reassured everyone that we were lucky enough to be safe and unscathed.
One friend promptly replied to my message, confirming that he was OK, but attached a screenshot from a news site, showing Clonezone on Hurst Street swathed in ribbons of hazard tape and guarded by a barrage of police officers.
IT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE I WILL BE GOING TO WORK TODAY, he messaged.
NO, I replied, BUT ON THE PLUS SIDE, YOU WON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT SHOPLIFTERS.
Another guy I know, had been in the vicinity of the attacks only fifteen minutes prior to the incident, but, put off by the queue at Glamorous, had decided to grab a kebab and head home to Clydesdale Tower, one of twin tower blocks overlooking the gay village (locally known a Dorothy Towers or Fairy Towers, depending on your age). It was from the vantage point of his flat that he watched in shocked bemusement as the emergency services responded en masse.
“I didn’t know what was going on, but there were police coming from everywhere,” he told me. “The St Johns Ambulance practically took the Holloway Circus roundabout on two wheels and then a police helicopter appeared and began sweeping the area with search lights. I watched for ten minutes or so, until I remembered my kebab was getting cold.”
Lord_harborne of Instagram posted a poignant picture of himself and his three mates, who were all new to Birmingham, enjoying a ‘wonderful night… until it turned into a war zone.’ I hope his friend of a friend, Michael, is recovering well. X
I had been in two minds about going out on that Saturday night, particularly as the evening got going and various venues began posting tempting images on social media of happy people enjoying drinks in the sun. Fortunately, I decided to take advantage of that good weather by staying in and having a barbeque. I planned on going out on the scene on Sunday afternoon instead… a plan I intended to stick to.
When I got to Birmingham’s Southside district, it was all eerily reminiscent of Lockdown. The roads were quiet and the majority of businesses were shuttered up. Every entrance point to the gaybourhood was cordoned off, with dozens of police officers in attendance. If you had a uniform fetish, this was the afternoon to be in town. The crossroads at the heart of the sealed off gay village was busy with a forensic team, clad in their white coveralls, systematically gathering evidence.
Several news crews were stationed at either end of Hurst Street. Suited presenters paced the pavements quietly mumbling through their reports in preparation for going live.
It put me in mind of the first few evenings following the anti-LGBTQ demonstrations at Anderton Park Primary. I had wandered over to chat with the news teams in attendance and find out which TV channels they were from, under the pretext of offering hot drinks.
“We are fine for drinks,” one female reporter thanked me. “We can make our own in the OB van. We’ve even got a pizza delivery due any minute.”
I ascertained that she was from the local ITV station and, never one to miss an opportunity to flirt, even vicariously, cheekily asked, “Next time could you send Des Coleman (Central News’ funky weatherman and occasional correspondent)? He’s hot.”
“And straight,” she laughed.
“Oh well,” I shrugged, “but when you get back to the studio, tell him he has an admirer in Balsall Heath.”
Back at the police barriers on Hurst Street, I was relieved to spot one of the barmen from Missing, safe and well.
“Hey, how are you? Were you working last night?” I asked.
“Yes. It was terrible. I had just sent two lesbians out to get me something to eat from the takeaway across the street when it all happened. They burst back into the pub, barred the door and told me my food would have to wait.”
“I was in that takeaway at the time,” a voice piped up from behind us. “I heard the commotion outside the door, so I rushed out, naturally not wanting to miss out on a drama, but when I realised what was happening, I spun around and ran as fast as I could in the other direction.”
It turns out that this eyewitness was just visiting from Manchester for the weekend.
“Please, do come to Birmingham again. It’s not usually like this,” I assured him.
Apparently, the assailant tore down the length of Hurst Street and turned right at the T-juction on to Sherlock Street.
The lovely Michael, a gent of a man, always there with a welcoming smile and an abysmal ‘dad joke’, was working on the door of Eden at the time and saw him run by, pursued by two guys.
“What did he look like?” I asked, as no hint of a description had been issued at the time.
“I couldn’t tell you,” Michael replied. “I’m terrible at remembering that sort of detail.”
“The police haven’t released anything. Was he white, Asian, …?”
“Oh, he was Caucasian,” Michael interrupted me emphatically, “as in black.”
I let that go for a moment, but had to politley corrected him, “Sorry, but Caucasian means the opposite.”
“See, I told you I was terrible at descriptions.”
No shit Sherlock Street!
Despite a heavy police presence on the scene, people were understandably apprehensive about going out after the incident. The few venues that could open that Sunday evening were sparsely occupied and a sombre atmosphere prevailed.
But… fear and fun has always gone hand in hand on the gay scene… every gay scene: from those first pioneering publicans who defiantly opened their doors to societies’ undesirables and the courageous clientele that faced prejudice and prosecution to frequent them; to every new chicken and chick that nervously embarks on their first gay adventure; and those that stalk the night, uncertain of what awaits them in that enticingly dark corner or alleyway they are beckoned into. We suck it up and boldly face the fear head on, usually with a withering retort for anyone that dares oppose us.
Just this week, my partner was taunted in the street with, the quite frankly baffling insult of, “You dropped yer dick!”
To which he immediately snapped back, “It’s in your mouth!”
The abuser was at a loss as how to react and a passer-by mocked him with, “He blazed you, man.”
My partner told me that the other response that sprung to mind was, “Yeah, in your mother!” Both work for me.
So, doll yourself up, grab your wallet, your keys, your phone, your condoms, your lube, your poppers and your mask (Christ, the list just keeps getting longer! I am going to need more pockets). Hit the town and paint it every shade of rainbow. I’ll see you out there.
Love each feather and each bangle… and don’t let the bad guys win.
Oh… You are probably wondering what the title of this blog means. No, I didn’t fall on my keyboard. It is a Klingon proverb, in the original Klingon (obviously), and translates as: ‘A running man can slit four thousand throats in a single night.’ It sprung to mind as I read those disturbing headings in my newsfeed last Sunday morning and seems darkly appropriate. Fortunately, the disturbed attacker that ran rampage through the city centre was identified and apprehended within 48 hours and will not be running anywhere again anytime soon.