SOME KINDA LOVE
As a teenager, I used to walk past one of Birmingham’s last remaining saunas every day on my paper round. Spartan has occupied a repurposed terraced house on the cusp of inner-city Birmingham for over 30 years, nestled between neighbouring structures serving their intended domesticity. Without signage, one of the only ways you could know of its existence is through word of mouth, or in my case, through a risky Google search on the family computer.
Each urban area has cruising spots - sanctioned venues like saunas and sex clubs, or discursive forms such as public parks and toilets. The Silver Slipper, for example, was a large Victorian public toilet on Hill Street in Birmingham City Centre that remained a popular haunt for rent boys and cottagers until it closed in 1987. The toilet is said to have gotten its name in the 1950s when police stormed the facilities and caught two men cottaging. One of the men managed to escape, so fast his shoe fell off, while the other was arrested and charged. It is said that a police officer picked up the discarded shoe from the ground and uttered the words ‘and whoever the slipper may fit, shall be the one’.
As a community, we rely on fragmented recollections like this to retrace the past. I know The Silver Slipper was adjacent to a ballet shop and likely got its nickname from its signage that featured a silver ballet slipper, but still I prefer the rumour.