It’s big, it’s round, it never had a revolving restaurant at the top

I met Clive Dutton yesterday, he reminded me a bit of Jonathan Meades, which is a fine compliment for a city planner. I also met the architect of the Rotunda a wonderful man called James Roberts (pictured below), and briefly spoke to Chris Upton about beermats. The reason for this gathering of Brummie luminaries (and the excuse for my attendance) was the première of Nic Gaunt’s film ‘Rotunda: 21 Stories’, a ‘Towering Inferno’ for the psychogeographic Midlands.

The film, also book, DVD and exhibition, found 21 stories about the Rotunda to match each of the 21 storeys of the building — you see what they did there? Clever. Some were deeply frivolous, me, Malcolm Stent doing a joke about Selfridges and hub-caps, ex-mayor Randall Brew XI claiming that “they’ll have to carry me out of Birmingham in a box” (didn’t know the lack of burial space had got that bad), and some were very serious; a number of takes on the Pub Bombings.

Some of the stories come from James Roberts designer and architect father of the building:
He reveals his thoughts on the original build — that it gained 5 floors almost a whim — and how pleased he is with its continued love from the city.

There was Joe the maintenance man, who hid in his room on the ninth floor building models of Rourke’s Drift and snaffling collectible stamps from the rubbish.

There were the daughters of the caretaker, the only people who had lived in the building until now, on how they sometimes lost their ball over the edge and dropped pebbles from the top.

There was a bit from the punk band Rotunda (playing at the Black Horse soon), a strange cameo from Gladstone Small, and any number of weird and interesting facts.

The film is a fantastic piece of work (I’m still reading the book), and any chance you get to see it you should take. I’ll let you know of any screenings I hear of, the photos are being exhibited at the Three White Walls Gallery in June so maybe the film will be there too.

(I’ve written slightly more seriously about this on the Birmingham Post blog.)