Another piece of Birmingham's recent history is about to vanish. The 70s site of the former Hummingbird, more recently known as the Birmingham Academy (or Carling Academy, like the Worthingtons Cup's poor brother) is now being cleared out and awaiting demolition.
Nostalgics may remember the dozens of gigs they watched there, and -as a live music venue- it was actually alright. It provided the city with a mid-sized venue for those bands that could not fill up places like the NEC and the NIA. Until it re-opened in 2000, our only option was the Wolverhampton Civic and Wulfrun.
At the Academy, I watched Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros (an amazing gig, in a half-empty venue, a year before he died, god bless him), an out-of-steam Pulp on their final We Love Life tour, Morrissey on his 2002 comeback thingy (when he introduced Hand In Glove he said "this song is older than you, and you", pointing at the crowd), Suede just before they split at the end of 2003 (with Razorlight as support!) and the unbelievable Bauhaus reunion in 2006.
As a club, however, the Academy sucked, plain and simple, especially the main room which -unlike other legendary hangouts like Snobs, XLs and Edwards no.8 (the latter two now defunct) -was too big and impersonal. The bouncers were spectacularly hostile too. Still, god knows how many times I went and the amount of money I spent!
In any case, Birmingham's not losing out, because a better and more effective Academy (now re-branded 'o2 Academy') is now opening at the site of the former Dome at the top of the Bristol Road. It will house three venues: the Academy 1, with a capacity of over 3,000 people, the Academy 2 (600) and the smaller Bar Academy for local bands and after-gig parties. Each of them has been fitted with dressing rooms and showers for the bands, which should make local acts feel particularly chuffed.
After a weekend of christening events, the 'opening ceremony' will climax on Sunday with a gig by Birmingham's own Ocean Colour Scene.
One thing will be missed however. The old Oasis market, part of the complex that housed the Hummingbird along with Argos and other shops, is yet to find a new home.
In the meantime, if you have any memories of the old Academy/Hummingbird, feel free to share in the comments section.