Photograph courtesy of Helen Stone:  http://www.helenstone.co.uk/reportage.html
Photograph courtesy of Helen Stone: http://www.helenstone.co.uk/reportage.html

My first article in the Independent appeared in the Saturday Magazine, on Saturday 22nd March 1997.

It was the first of a series a columns collectively entitled “Going Home“, about my return to my home city, Birmingham, in early 1997.

The story is called “Back to Brummagem“, Brummagem being the local name for the city.

It’s not, as it sounds, just a nickname. The name “Brom” or “Brum” appears as a prefix for a number of places in the area: West Bromwich and Bromsgrove, to name but two. So Brummagem is probably the original name, and “Birmingham” the tarted up version.

People from Birmingham call themselves “Brummies.”

The reason I was going back there was that I was in need of a place to stay, having lost my council flat in Whitstable.

It was the Whitstable flat that was the setting for my previous collection of columns in the Guardian, Housing Benefit Hill.

After I was forced to move out of there, I lost both my home, and my source of income.

Housing Benefit Hill was a very successful and durable column, lasting from September 1993 to September 1996. That was followed by CJ Stone’s Britain, which I was still writing at this point, but it was nowhere near as popular or so enjoyable to write as Housing Benefit Hill. Quite soon it petered out, and that was the end of my relationship with the Guardian.

At the time of these columns, however, things were going very well for me. I had columns in the Big Issue, Mixmag and the Guardian, as well as in the Independent.

You can read all of my Independent columns here.

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