Political column – August 13

The Commonwealth Games was a showcase and a showpiece, a triumph which put Birmingham firmly on the map.

If you still have an old map in which Birmingham isn't shown, it's a large city, roughly between Tipton and Coventry.

Glad to have been a part of it. I went to see the rugby sevens at Coventry. Much of the time I had no idea of the score or who was playing because there was no big scoreboard, which would really have helped folk like me whose eyes are not what they were. At the far end was the big TV screen, but even with my best spectacles I couldn't read it.

But with no home nations in the finals, who cared anyway?

And that closing ceremony! A fitting end to the celebrations. That's what they're all saying. I wasn't quite so enthusiastic myself at the new orthodoxy at such events, in which everything seems to boil down to a pop concert and a bit of dancing, as if the popular music genre is the only language available to speak to, and for, all the people.

What has happened to the days in which older folk would rage: "I will not allow that rubbish to be played in my house!"

I'm not sure if the reason is that pop has now become universally respectable, or whether it's because it has become so universal and pervasive that it's like muzak, meaning that it is everywhere, and has been elevated to being the societal symbol of inclusivity and diversity, even if you've never heard of the acts and other genres like opera are not part of the inclusivity because they are excluded from the party.

Not that I'm a fan of opera, but that's not the point. It's quite popular in Italy, for example.

The oldies in the audience are catered for by the much-heralded star performance of an ageing legend, presented on stage like a holy relic to be venerated. Ozzy at least got to sing his own song, but at the platinum jubilee event Sir Rod was forced by the BBC to sing Sweet Caroline, to his evident distaste.

For me, there was something missing from the closing ceremony. For all the spectacular music, dancing, light shows and fireworks, it was thematically impoverished. It was far too much pop concert and not enough carnival.

At carnivals you get floats with tableaux, or tableaus if you prefer (both forms are correct). There is a lot more to the history and culture of Birmingham than who sang what and when, and young dancers twitching in time to the music.

On my last visit to the Shrewsbury Steam Rally I wandered around the vast campus and came to a place where there were a lot of people sitting in foldable chairs by their exhibits, which were little engines endlessly going phutt-phutt-phutt-phutt.

They were mesmerising and hypnotic. I leant forward to read the plaque on one of them – "Tangye, Birmingham."

Now there's something for the city to celebrate, and they make their own phutt-phutt-phutt-phutt music into the bargain. And yet so far as I'm aware Tangye engines of Birmingham did not feature in the Commonwealth Games closing extravaganza.

Obviously they could only have merited a modest slot, but a display of Tangye engines going phutt-phutt-phutt-phutt could have replaced one of those acts nobody had heard of, and in so doing given a nod to Birmingham's rich industrial and commercial history, while also pleasing no end of older folk who had started to get tired of listening to the endless pop.

If you are unconvinced, this year's Shrewsbury Steam Rally is on August 28 and 29 where I'm sure there will be lots of Tangyes (other steam engines are available) strutting their stuff and you will be able to check out their appeal.

Wolverhampton got in on the act in the closing show, but again it was done in the cliched manner of representation through popular music, when the city has given us all so much more than that.

Step forward, the Mander brothers. They changed the world, or at least gave it more appealing colour schemes.

A display of the application of Mander paints would have made an interesting and novel addition to the ceremony.

I do admit it might not make for good television. But who can be sure? After all, people watched Big Brother.

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