Birmingham & Black Country

Cold War Steve: Twitter satirist celebrates Birmingham in latest work

Benny's Babbies - Cold War Steve Image copyright Cold War Steve
Image caption Crossroads star Benny Hawkins - played by Paul Henry - features largely in Cold War Steve's new piece

An artist known for satirical collages depicting Phil Mitchell and Cilla Black in chaotic, dystopian scenarios has unveiled the "pinnacle" of his creations.

Cold War Steve's latest work - an homage to his hometown of Birmingham - features a glittering cast of local luminaries set against a 19th Century cityscape.

The piece, Benny's Babbies, takes it name from the handyman in much-mourned motel soap opera Crossroads.

His oversized visage can be seen looming over the crowd below.

Steve, real name Christopher Spencer, said the assembled cast, which includes Malala Yousafzai, veteran light entertainer Bob Carolgees and comedian Joe Lycett, was a "massive celebration of the diversity of the city".

He had been due to unveil "a massive gilt-framed" version at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG), after being approached by curators.

But while it remains closed amid the coronavirus lockdown, Benny's Babbies will, like the works which propelled Cold War Steve to worldwide renown, be available to view online.

Mr Egg close up Image copyright Cold War Steve
Image caption Mr Spencer made use of a painting by Thomas Hollins, View of St Martin's Church Birmingham from the Bullring, 1815-1835 as his backdrop. Comedians Joe Lycett and John Oliver, TV presenter Emma Willis, and actor Adil Ray are among those pictured outside famed Brummie grease-spot Mr Egg
Collage close up Image copyright Cold War Steve
Image caption "Birmingham is unparalleled in the sheer diversity of its contributions to British culture," said Mr Spencer. In one section, former Big Brother star Alison Hammond stands alongside Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Also pictured is former Birmingham city mayor Yvonne Mosquito, who officially opened Joe Lycett's new kitchen as one of her final acts in the post
Black Sabbath close up Image copyright Cold War Steve
Image caption The centuries-old vista was updated with familiar city landmarks past and present. Heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath can be seen performing atop the Rotunda. Other musical appearances include reggae duo Steel Pulse, two-tone legend Ranking Roger and Trish Keenan of 90s electronic band Broadcast
King Kong statue close up Image copyright Cold War Steve
Image caption The museum hopes the piece will encourage artists to make use of thousands of public domain images in its collections documenting Birmingham's history. An 18ft (5.4m) King Kong statue, famously displayed for six months in the 1970s, and the former HP Sauce factory are no longer in the city
Forward close up Image copyright Cold War Steve
Image caption Mr Spencer, whose work has appeared on the cover of Time magazine, said the collage was "certainly the most time-consuming piece of work I've ever done". Here, Raymond Mason's divisive Forward statue, which was destroyed in a fire in 2003, is flanked by The Streets rapper Mike Skinner and F1 driver Nigel Mansell. Saffiyah Khan - the subject of a viral photo taken amid an English Defence League protest in the city, can be seen standing on top of the sculpture
Noele Gordon and Paul Henry in 1978 Image copyright NOELE GORDON ESTATE
Image caption Benny Hawkins, played by Paul Henry (pictured alongside Crossroads co-star Noele Gordon in 1978) was one of Crossroads' best-known characters. The series was filmed in the Midlands between 1964 and 1988
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