Issue 457
View this email in your browser


"The idea was to give each area an identity," says Brummie art director and designer Ryan Killeen who has paired over 70 Birmingham locations with their own font and backing colour. "In a city with so many areas, all very different both geographically and socially, I thought it would make for an interesting side project.
"I like and dislike the idea that because you're from, live or work in a certain area, that people already have an idea of what you're about and who you are. I guess this was a small exploration of that. Does the viewer relate to their own corner of Birmingham? Does the font sit right with them? How about the colour? I'm not saying they absolutely will or they absolutely won't. I'm just interested in the outcome.
"Some of it's sort of tongue in cheek, I guess, and some of it is very literal. It's a personal reflection of what I think of the areas. Not a bible on who these people are and what their postcode represents, but a nod and a reminder that they all exist and are ever changing.
"I hope the project also shines a light on some of the lesser know postcodes, the places often overlooked. It's easy to think of the hipster hotspots and the up-and-coming but what about the in between and the forgotten: Yardley, Olton, Balsall Heath. All these places have stories and history of their own. Even just to read the place name, everyone will have a memory attached to them.
"Broad Street will always be the party place and have a certain neon quality. Digbeth is edgy, trendy. There's a rave culture attached to the area so its font type screams clubbing.
"Birchfield has a rich history of the Birchfield Harriers, it has movement and a pace about it, while with Acocks Green a big Irish community settled in the area and it has a lot of discount low price ticket shops. Hopefully the font reflects both. Bearwood has a certain grubbiness to it, and I mean that in a positive way, in a 'real' way, and it's an up-and-coming area — so there's distressed typeface with a slight nod to the Hollywood sign, to compile all of that in one spot.
Sutton appears in not quite gold... but brass. I think, maybe, it has a sense of entitled grandeur? Not quite gold. Remember though, it's tongue in cheek. Just a bit of fun. Tamworth — famous for pigs so it's pink. You get the idea...
"At the moment they're not for sale on a website, but they absolutely can be bought if you contact me direct. Best bet is to DM me on Instagram where you can find all 74 designs."


Our beloved Birmingham Rep has something for everyone this summer with a genre ticking double across early and late summer that sees comedy and crooning come to town.

First up is Michael’s Frayn’s multi award-winning farce, Noises Off, which runs for three weeks, from August 23, following a wildly popular sell-out West End season.

Liza Goddard stars as Dotty Otley and although Liza has had an illustrious career, I feel duty-bound as a Brummie to signpost WOOF!. Liza was the teacher Mrs Jessop in this Central TV shapeshifting kids show from the 80s and early 90s. Hats off to my mate Jon Chowdhury who, at the age of just 9, walked past the rolling WOOF! TV cameras asking me if I'd seen WOOF! on TV yet. Inception-levels of japery.

Screen ledge, Matthew Kelly, plays Selsdon Mowbray in what is often said to be one of the greatest British comedies ever written and a forefather to 'a play within a play' plays. Hurtling along at breakneck speed, Noises Off follows the on and off-stage antics of a theatre company as they stumble their way through a tour of the fictional farce, Nothing On.

Next up, and a real change of pace, is Sinatra The Musical, which premieres at The Rep on September 23 and will run until October 28. The show’s debut, in Birmingham, coincides with the 70th Anniversary of Sinatra’s 1953 UK tour, which saw him perform in the city.

Sinatra The Musical is brought to the stage by a world class creative team including two-time Tony Award-winning writer Joe DiPietro (What’s New Pussycat? and Memphis) and Olivier Award-winning and three-time Tony Award-winning director and choreographer, Kathleen Marshall (Anything Goes and The Pajama Game). On stage, Tony Award-winner Matt Doyle plays the man himself.

With that in mind it's a serious and at times hard-hitting drama about a tough period in the life of Ol' Blue Eyes. It's New Year’s Eve, 1942, and a skinny 27-year-old Frank is about to step onto the stage of New York’s Paramount Theatre and give a performance that will change music history.

If you're looking to swing arm-in-arm with a pal while butchering My Way, let me direct you gently to Karaoke Box. Here, at The Rep, you'll hear all the big hits (Fly Me To The Moon, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, That’s Life), performed by 20 actors and 17 musicians, but you'll also be gripped and tested by on-stage turmoil. This could be a masterpiece. Tickets


I've reached that age in my life where I injure myself sneezing, so when I send myself down this monster slide in Staffs, next week, there's almost zero chance of me not pulling some muscle or other. 

It's the UK’s longest Mega Slide at The National Forest Adventure Farm, in Tatenhill, less than an hour's drive from town. The towering 200 footer is part of a 40-acre family outdoor attraction and it took nearly 2 months to complete the enormous double lane dry-tube slide system.

There is nowhere else in the UK you can experience this style of tube ride, other versions being limited to dry ski slopes. You pop yourself in an inflated ring — optional child accompanying you — and off you pop. Sitting on top of a 30ft high hill the slide, which uses double and single tube rings, is suitable for anyone 90cm or over. Powered with super slip-inducing solution the tubes glide across the specialist hard coating to propel riders down the drop reaching speeds of over 12 miles per hour.

The National Forest Adventure Farm started life as the National Forest Maize Maze back in 2004. Each year it has grown and grown until the Adventure Farm opened as an attraction park in May 2011. Other on-site activities include an outdoor adventure play area, barrel stampede ride, meet and feed animal areas, outdoor go-karts, guinea pig petting, jumping pillows (nope, no idea), JCB big dig zone, musical maze, Jurassic sand play and fossil dig and mini quad bikes.

Tickets are available here and start from £15.99 including access across the park. The Mega Slide is charged at £1 per ride or £5 for unlimited use.


When rumours reached social meejah that Dad's Lane chippy was up for sale there was collective wailing, some consoling and, bizarrely, plenty of in-fighting.

Whatever the proposed sale means for God's own fish bar (some citizen journalists are reporting buyers will be fully trained by the Dad's Lane crew and a handover could prove seamless) one of Brum's best artists sprung into action, producing this professionally printed artwork. 

"The main technical illustration was about a week’s solid work and was drawn on an old style drawing board," says Marc Turley, better known as The Urban Giant. "I used an etched bleed proof paper and a mixture of pencil, ink, watercolour, markers, acrylic and airbrush. Having initially been an architect, I use technical hand drawing techniques in my work and include as much detail and precision to ensure accuracy and photorealism.

"Places like Dads Lane Fish Bar play an important part in a vibrant community. It’s a place that brings people together. It’s the detail and community aspect which attracts me to illustrate these urban gems." 

Prints are available from Marc's social media pages by messaging him direct on Insta, Twitter/'X' or Facebook. He has had 100 A4 prints made each coming with a certificate of authenticity and costing £55 (unframed). You can also contact Marc direct (as per above) to enquire about the A3 original for which I have made an ambitious £56 bid. He's also illustrated the Crooked House following erm, "events" this week.   


The Alexandra is welcoming the eighteenth production of ‘Stage Experience’ with the premiere of Bring It On. Eighty of the most talented rising stars of the Midlands — who hail from Shropshire to Cov, Stoke to Northampton, Birmingham to the Black Country — started rehearsals last Friday commencing 13 days of intensive preparation before the curtain rises for four performances from  August 17 to August 19. With hundreds of applicants, all of whom are granted the chance to audition, the audition day consisted of over 150 eager amateur performers and technicians. From this incredibly busy day, the final 80 cohorts were selected by industry professionals to be the next tranche of West Mids future stars. These youngsters will devote their time, energy and focus to learning the ropes, treading the boards, and ultimately to give a quality, fully staged performance. This week The Alexandra announced their new season, too. Pretty Woman The Musical, Quiz: The Coughing Major Millionaire Scandal, The Bodyguard, Calendar Girls and Twelve Angry Men are all inbound. Book


August hasn't exactly gone gangbusters with sunshine, has it? But as the giver of all life finally makes a return to our skies, Birmingham's world music promoter, Celebrating Sanctuary, has just the series of sun-powered events to chase the final clouds away, taking place at MAC. Kicking things off next weekend (Saturday, August 19 at 8pm) Son Yambu will be playing authentic Cuban son — the Afro-Cuban sound that originated in the streets of eastern Cuba and later gave rise to modern salsa. You can check out this video for a taster of the seven-piece act— if the outdoor amphitheatre in which they're performing had a roof, it'd come clean off. Following swiftly after, and indoors this time, is a feast of traditional Gypsy music and Eastern European folk from Julia Kozáková and Manuša Project, and their splendid support act, Karolina Wegrzyn, on August 24. Wrapping things up and again in the outdoor amphitheatre is an enthralling, vibrant and lively performance of traditional Gnawa (sacred Moroccan trance) from Simo Lagnawi (pictured) on September 8. Summer 2023: The Comeback is well and truly on.
Venue: Stu Deeley at Simpsons, 20 Highfield Rd, Edgbaston, B15 3DU; web 
Choice: West Country Cote Du Boeuf Chooser: Taster menu

I've been in the taxi home all of 30 seconds and my phone pings. It's my friend Mark. "How was Stu Deeley's food, mate?" he asks. "We met him once and Kelly melted. If he can do that to her ten seconds I dread to think what he can do to actual food over the course of a night." I tell you what he can do, Mark. He can slam dunk it, and I mean NBA Jam style — flaming ball and smashed backboard.

The meal in question was at Simpsons where, as part of their thirtieth birthday celebrations, they're running a series of special events. For this one-off, on a rainy Wednesday evening, 2019 Masterchef The Professionals winner and certified nice guy of fine-dining, Stu, had been tempted away from his Hampton Manor home (where he runs the phenomenally successful Smoke), to work alongside Simpsons top dog Luke Tipping. Luke taught Stu much of what he knows when Deeley was chef de partie at Simpsons for 3 years in the 2010s and now they're taking it in turns at the pass, alternating course for course.

I love Simpsons. Like a deep-rooted, tempted to get a tattoo kind of love. There's a relaxed confidence that our other Michelin starred restaurants don't quite share and it comes, one can only suppose, from winning and retaining that star since 1999. There's a homeliness to it that has cross-generational appeal but a Scandi interior and joie de vivre that keeps it sprightly.

A hand-dived scallop comes out in 'Sauce Oriental'. It's plump and bouncy and demands to be demolished in two bites. I lift the giant shell on which it arrives to my lips and slurp like Indiana Jones on the Holy Grail, the lemon-infused soy creating salty pools between my teeth and cheeks. I feel joy.

A burrata in bloody mary is predictably a hit with Mrs Choose, the cheese sourced from god knows where and streets ahead of any burrata I've ever had the pleasure of. That bloody mary sauce like a rich gazpacho into which the cheese combines, pine nuts providing hidden buttery and nutty pops. Loch Duart salmon follows with iced horseradish, pickled cucumber and oyster emulsion. It's light — almost too light for me — packing palette cleansing qualities but lacking a little in wallop. Perhaps if it weren't bucketing it down outdoors, in late July, it would have hit different. 

What follows, though, is a dish I'll remember for decades. An enormous T-bone cooked over charcoals is served with heavenly boulangere potatoes, hen of the woods mushrooms and truffled baby gem. It's the best steak I've ever eaten and I've eaten so much steak in the name of Birmingham that a parody twitter account called I Choose Steak emerged in 2014. It's cooked the way the chef wants, we're not asked and neither should we. It's smokier than gunslinger's den, the kind of mouthful you down tools to truly appreciate. For a second there I feel like Cypher in the
Ignorance Is Bliss scene of The Matrix. I know, I know, it's boring to say that the best dish was steak but drizzled in a richer-than-Zuckerberg jus I have no choice. It's a ten, all day long.

Puddings are both fantastic, the strawberries and set Yorkshire yoghurt pipping the Black Forest Gateau on taste but a close second on appearance. Fellow food writers there present, who know more than me and have several years more experience, tell me the strawberries are the most technically proficient dish, but I spent the duration of dessert boring Catherine about that T-bone. I'd follow it wherever it roams to have it again which, presumably, isn't far:
Hampton Manor.

Before we leave Luke asks me my favourite dishes and I list three. He chuckles and says "so all of Stu's, then?" I suspect he's joking, but maybe not. Maybe on this occasion, on this night, the one-time apprentice trumped one of Birmingham's culinary yokozunas. Either way, I counted myself lucky to have been there. 
The brilliant Wine Freedom is hosting a two night residency at Atelier in the JQ, bringing some of their most popular wine flights and a selection of iconic natural wines available by glass or bottle to have in or take out. Aug 25 and 26 

High Vis Street Culture Festival is this weekend in Digbeth. Slightly sporadic details are on their Facebook page, but it's always excellent.  

Stirchley Open Cinema are screening Isle Of Dogs in Cotteridge Park, Aug 18. Free 

Over 180 Brum restaurants are taking part in Deliveroo's 'buy one get one free' summer promo, including Damascena, Trentina, Burger Me Up and Tiger Bites Pig. To redeem the offer on the app search ‘SUMMER BOGOF’ from the homepage, choose your restaurant, add two of the same items and get the second item free when you check out. Order directly through the Deliveroo app, or online. Offer runs from now until Aug 31.  

The UK's oldest working cinema and the UK's first purpose-built repertory theatre — both on the same street — are joining forces for Birmingham Heritage Week for one day only. A tour of The Electric and The Old Rep will take place on Sept 14. £15 

In what is starting to look like an Avengers: Assemble of the Brum dining world, Poli, OPM, Bonehead and Riverine Rabbit will combine for an End of Summer Pizza Party, Aug 27, at Poli in Kings Heath. Details 

Some excellent street food traders will be at The Village (Moseley) on Friday Aug 18. More 

Custard Factory's 670 Grams now do Sunday roasts. Three courses are £35. Praise be! 
WORDS: Tom Cullen
PICS: Sinatra — Sid Avery Capitol Archives, Frank Sinatra Estate

We will never share your email address. We sometimes run paid for Partnership Emails with selected affiliates. These will be marked as Partnership Emails at the top of the email.

I Choose Birmingham, 37A Waterloo St, Birmingham B2 5SJ
Copyright © 2023 Birmingham Publishing Group Ltd, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences 

“The best revenge is massive success.”

Frank Sinatra

Subscribe free
Share Share
Tweet Tweet
Forward Forward