An anonymous man in Birmingham, England wanted to help feed the homeless, but quickly realized he needed to look like a hero in order to encourage others to be everyday heroes. So now, he dresses as Spiderman.
“Really enjoying the positivity I'm being able to spread with my work, will be out next on Monday to hand out food #SpreadThePositivity,” writes the unidentified hero on his Facebook wall, named Birmingham Spiderman. “To those asking I don't accept any money donations, instead I encourage that people get involved themselves and feed those who need it, [i]f people get involved themselves it helps to breakdown the de-personification of the vulnerable.”
According to published reports, this local hero with the internationally recognized costumed persona is a bartender in the area where he now also serves as an inspiration.
While this everyday hero is in Britain, the tradition of donning a costume to become a real life superhero harkens back to Mexico City's "Superbarrio", who, between 1987 and 1996, wore red tights and a red and yellow wrestler's mask in order to help the downtrodden organize labor rallies, protest, and filed petitions to prevent families from being evicted.
Today there is a US-based Real Life Superheroes website which helps those who want to be anonymous, costumed, do-gooders learn the ropes and connect with others.
“Indeed, there is a real subculture of genuine heroes, that bridge the gap between the fantastic and the practical. Anonymous and selfless, they choose every day, to make a difference in the world around them,” the website states. “Whether it be feeding the hungry, comforting the sick, or cleaning up their neighborhoods, they save real lives in very real ways.”
Today, Birmingham Spiderman, known on Twitter by the hashtag #BrumSpiderman has followers both online and in his footsteps.
“I think that it’s quite cool what he’s doing as Spiderman,” says Paul Bancroft, general manager of a theater named The Old Joint Stock, in a phone interview. Mr. Bancroft explains that The Old Joint Stock is just a short walk from where Spidey attends to the homeless over on New Street.
Asked if he himself had been moved to help the homeless after seeing the Birmingham Spiderman celebrated on social media, Mr. Bancroft said, “While I am not personally comfortable with giving cash to the homeless as many tend to do, I would, absolutely, go buy a drink and a sandwich and give it to a homeless person. He has inspired me to do that.”
“We have quite a big homeless problem here in Birmingham. It’s quite good to see what he’s doing,” Bancroft adds.
According to a report in the Guardian released in 2012, “Birmingham has the highest numbers of homeless people, with 925 households - but the highest rate in England is in Waltham Forest, north-east London, where 2.55 households per 1,000 are accepted as homeless, compared to an England figure of 0.59. Across London, homelessness is up by 27.4%.”
According to current UK Government website tables for homelessness, Birmingham still rates as one of the highest concentrations of the homeless in England. The table lists the Birmingham areas as among those areas with “2+ [homeless] per 1,000 households.
Ruth Rawson, owner of the Isaac Charles Bridal House on New Street in Birmingham, near where Spiderman has been most frequently sighted, said in a phone interview, “I just tweeted about him! It’s fantastic what he’s doing for people who haven’t got a laugh to see him there and helping.”
“It definitely does make you think about how you can be helping,” Ms. Rawson added. “He’s taken it upon himself to get this costume and do something. Now I’m thinking of what I might be able to do with customers to join in and help.”
Asked if the homeless of New Street might soon expect to see a bride of Spiderman out feeding the homeless, Rawson replied, “Oooh, we’d love to see one of our brides get involved! They’d likely think she’s an angel – vision in white – and she would be too for helping the homeless like he is.”