Let's move to a soulless Midlands new town so f**ked up it has a 2023 calendar of Jack Grealish's legs! This week: Redditch

What’s it about? 

Sprawling lazily across the Worcestershire countryside like a stain on Britain’s trousers, Redditch is where to put down roots if you don’t mind living with the low-life overspill even Birmingham couldn’t tolerate.

It’s girded by a ring road of such monotonous uniformity it’s misery to navigate, stretching a ten-minute journey into hours of wrong turns, missed exits and signs you swear you passed already. The hard shoulder is littered with cars containing the skeletons of motorists who decided it would be easier to die.

And the locals celebrate this. For years the town’s best-selling calendar was dedicated entirely to its traffic roundabouts. Now it’s nothing but shots of Manchester City and England footballer Jack Grealish’s calves. He’s not even fucking from here.

Any good points?

For a characterless shithole, Redditch boasts a surprising, if modest, musical history. Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham was born here, and Mercian Square in the town centre is home to a statue of the legendary tub-thumper in full flow. Though there’s no footage of him thrashing out Immigrant Song with a traffic cone on his head.

It was also the birthplace of stoner indie Britpoppers Dodgy, whose departure after they had a hit caused weed sales to fall so dramatically a generation of dealers had to get jobs in McDonald’s. And Harry Styles was born here but soon fucked off to Cheshire. It’s hard to blame him.

Wonderful landscape? 

In a word, no. Though on a sunny day Arrow Valley Country Park doesn’t look too bad. It’s where dads dodge dogshit while playing with their kids, locals hazily watch the world go by while smoking skunk and drinking Red Stripe, and anglers pit their wits against the leviathans lurking in the lake. Last year’s record catch was a 42lb Asda trolley.

Hang out at… 

None of the pubs, unless you fancy a kicking for accidentally looking at someone the wrong way. The Rising Sun was put up for sale this year, making Redditch a town even Wetherspoons gave up on. Look on that sentence and despair.

The town’s premier tourist attraction, the Forge Mill Needle Museum, is a better bet. Here you’ll find exhibits from when Redditch was world-renowned for its needle industry. The sewing variety, as opposed to the discarded hypodermic syringes which carpet the bandstand in Church Green East.

For those of a macabre persuasion, the Kingfisher Shopping Centre’s Car Park 4 is reputedly haunted which, given it was built on an ancient unconsecrated burial ground, is certainly plausible.

In 1990 the local paper sent a reporter and photographer to spend a night in there with a medium. They saw fuck all, obviously, but one of the pictures appeared printed upside down, prompting readers to swear they could see an eerie figure which turned out to be nothing more supernatural than a ceiling light fitting.

Where to buy? 

If you’ve got cash, out of town. The nearby hamlet of Henley is famous for its quintessentially beautiful olde English architecture and locally-made ice cream. Actor Michael Elphick, aka TV’s Boon, once bought the The White Swan pub and immediately banned bikers. Irony hasn’t really caught on round here.

Or there’s Alcester, a peculiar middle class settling which has no idea if it’s in Worcestershire, Warwickshire or the fucking Cotswolds. Broke? The estates of Woodrow, Church Hill and Batchley are cheap and rough.

From the streets: 

Wayne Hayes, aged 32: “It’s shit here, but what can you do? Any direction you go it’s still the fucking Midlands.”

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My private islands ranked, by Sir Richard Branson

YOU’RE nobody on the billionaire scene if you’ve not got your own island. We all laugh at Elon Musk for not investing in an archipelago. Here are mine, from worst to best: 

Sixth: Gibraltar

Picked this up for next-to-nothing in 2008, after the financial crash. Worst decision I’ve ever made. It’s not even a proper island. What a rip off. I thought becasue it was full of British shops like M&S and Morrisons I could relaunch Virgin Megastores, but the red tape is unbelievable. I’ve only been once. It’s steep as f**k, windy as hell and covered in monkeys smoking fags. Avoid.

Fifth: Island Roy

In 1987 I became the first person to cross the Atlantic by balloon, which I don’t regret at all because it wasn’t a colossal waste of time. And when I was landing in Ireland I spotted a little place that, as a reward for myself, I decided to buy. Lesson learned: don’t impulse buy from 10,000ft. It’s tiny, flat, marshy and the locals hate me.

Fourth: Ship-Trap Island

The name might not sound familiar, but this is the island from The Most Dangerous Game where billionaires hunt humans for sport. And you know what? That is very much over-hyped. Mostly you find them shivering in the roots of a tree half-a-mile from where they were released and kill them with one shot. I’ve not used it since my millennium party.

Third: The Isle of Sodor

A hostile takeover netted me Sodor and its entire rail franchise in the mid-90s. The whole operation had fallen into ruin, with trains unable to make a simple journey without getting into endless scrapes and disasters while learning moral lessons. Virgin Trains rebuilt, modernised, and now an anytime return from Tidmouth to Vicarstown costs £122.80 off-peak. The original trains? Scrapped for parts.

Second: Necker Island

The original and, until recently, the best. Idyllic, sunkissed and set in the warm, clear waters of the Caribbean, it’s a perfect haven away from taxes for all my financial affairs. It hardly ever sets on fire and even when it did I used it as an opportunity to set my son up with Kate Winslet.

First: Heaton Park Boating Lake Island

But you know what? There’s no place like home, by which I mean Britain, and more specifically Manchester, and even more specifically the island on Heaton Park boating lake. I live here in a pit I dug myself, covered with a tarpaulin. At night I swim ashore, pick up a takeaway and a few cans and swim back. Heaven. And when they hold gigs here I hear the whole thing for free.