THE MEASURE OF INTELLIGENCE IS THE ABILITY TO CHANGE
...Albert Einstein said that. And though he probably wasn't talking about wrecking ball civil engineer, Herbert 'The Butcher of Birmingham' Manzoni, we can perhaps take some comfort in the fact that a changing city will never be a boring city. "It's amazing how different it is, what a transformation it's gone through," says Maciej Snajder, a Sutton Coldfield resident who grew up in Krakow, Poland, and arrived in the West Mids in 2015. Maciej is the man behind Instagram project, Brum Then And Now, a beautiful visual and, admittedly, occasionally painful contrast of Birmingham from way back when, compared to now.
"It started at the height of the pandemic," said Maciej. "When we were all walking for our daily exercise. I think it was Holy Trinity Church in Sutton Coldfield that I first recreated, taking a photo from the 1890s and trying to capture the same scene from the same exact spot. It can take a long time, but I love the process."
Maciej scours Facebook and online archives for photos from yesteryear that most resonate with him, before venturing out and capturing today's equivalent on his iPhone. The results are spectacular, particularly when he lays one image almost perfectly over the other and allows the snaps to merge back and forth...
"I really enjoy Birmingham. Perhaps if you grew up here, though, you don't quite have a grasp of how difficult a city it is to navigate," he says with a chuckle. "I'm used to typical European cities, you know? German cities, for example, with grandiose central squares around which the city expands out, or with huge rivers at their heart. I studied Geography and even I struggled to get to grips with the layout and shape, the streets and the space, of Birmingham. But I think perhaps that's some of the charm." Hear, hear. Who wants to be a typical European city? But maybe we could ease off on the wrecking ball going forward.
Dan Brodier describes himself as a "full-time dad and part-time small start-up sort of guy," and that's something that needs putting on his business cards ASAP. Dan and his wife moved to the Northfield-Bournville border from Nottingham, six years ago, despite having never set foot in the city and having heard more negatives than positives about it. "When the opportunity to move to Brum came, I stuck my hand up immediately," says the civil engineer, "and both my wife and I fell in love with the city. It's awesome. Then, I wouldn't say I had a mid-life crisis," he says unconvincingly, "but I've never been entirely sure that engineering is for me. I've forever been asking myself what I want to be when I'm grown and, now I'm definitely grown up, I think I know." The thing that most charmed Dan about Birmingham was the independent scene, into which he threw himself full throttle. After umming and ahing about the future towards the tail end of last summer, post-Christmas he started to do something about it, setting up From Brum With Love, a hamper delivery service which, featuring an array of the best products produced by Birmingham indies, make for gorgeous gifts for Brum lovers or, hell, even Brum sceptics (boo-hiss-boo). There are four hamper themes to choose, from £32 to £47, and they include 'Let's Treat Her', 'Send Thanks In A Box', 'The Curry Lover' and 'The Food Lover' with many, many more in the pipeline. Traders featured inside include the forever brilliant Birmingham Balti Bowl Company, The Birmingham Stationery Company, Let It Bee, Epicuriosity and Kneals Chocolate, Dan's guest room very much being a makeshift warehouse. "If my daughters ever get in here," he says, "they'll be gorging on gourmet chocolate until they get rumbled." Dan's other passion is helping people where possible; a quality you can tell he possesses by the firkin full, even from just a 15 minute phone call. When (not if) From Brum With Love grows to a point where Dan needs help, he insists the company will look first and foremost to helping people with barriers to employment. Those with lower skillsets will be getting the nod to take the company onwards and upwards; something that, based on early sales, is very much in the post. Having launched just ten days ago, Dan's had a raft of orders come in and, in his words "encouragingly not all orders made are from my mum and dad." You can buy hampers here and if you're an independent trader who'd like to be involved you can get in touch with Dan on firstname.lastname@example.org or over on their boootiful looking Instagram.
A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN
Japan's got the right idea — any country where sleeping at work is actively advocated is alright by me. Coming in hard and fast on Saturday (March 26, 10am to 4pm) is the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival in Digbeth's Red Brick Market. The free festival promises live performances, craft workshops and food from some top Brum independents, all inspired by probably the best country on Earth. Japanese singer-songwriter MION is onboard, as are IVIX Dance, Tengu Taiko Drummers and martial arts demonstrations. Festival goers can also try their hand at origami, sashiko embroidery and Kokedama plant displays. There's Japanese calligraphy and traditional silk embroidery, vintage kimonos from Retro Kimono and vintage matchbox label prints from Grumpy Daruma, like the one pictured (£8.99). Japan was the first country in Asia to produce large quantities of matches. They began producing and exporting them in large quantities in the 1820s, and matches soon became one of the country’s main exports; the Japanese putting the sort of passion into the box designs as that they put into everything. "After visiting Japan and falling in love with their wonderful matchbox designs," says Grumpy, "I started collecting vintage labels. I have thousands of them — luckily they don't take up much space. I decided to share my collection by making prints of the labels. I scan in the labels, then enlarge and clean them up digitally before having them printed on quality recycled board. I recently started framing up original labels as well, as these make lovely miniature works of art. The print of Mount Fuji is taken from an early 20th Century matchbox label and I love the simplicity of the design and colours, as well as the English writing. There is a crease on my label that I didn't correct, as it adds character to the print. I think this one works particularly well as a larger print, as you can see the texture of the matchbox label." Also at the Far East fest will be: J-POP CDs from KPOPPINUK, original kawaii prints from Toslisy, anime apparel from Broccoli Toys and jewellery and papercrafts from Yumi Arts and Crafts. Tokyo Izakaya is on sushi and Ba-Ha will be sorting out the vegan nibbles. The subject of last week's hero feature, Shibuya Underground, are bringing the sake and pop up bar. Head here for more or follow the festival on Instagram.
Brummies. We're not born sailors, so it's with adequate volumes of apprehension that I bring you news of eco-friendly, electric boat company GoBoat, who are opening a new Birmingham location; their first site outside of the capital. The new, tiny Brindleyplace harbour will open on April 8, with bookings open now. Groups of up to eight of you can charter an electric boat and explore the canal networks from £95. Based in Brindleyplace, you can pack up a picnic, grab a bottle of prosecco and take to the open water for one, two, or three-hour trips, travelling at breakneck speeds of up to 4mph. Dogs and kids are allowed onboard, with life jackets and buoyancy aids provided and no prior boating knowledge necessary, as staff give a full tutorial on land. Watch out for Canada Geese and pesky Peaky pirates. More
There’s nothing like rumours of a shortage to up demand. Step aside, loo roll, it’s cheese’s moment. Supply rumours abound, so it’s advised you top up those cheddar levels sharpish. In celebration of the good stuff, and helping to decimate those supplies, Cheese Fest is back on May 28. Your trusted fixer, Seasonal Markets, are laying on a right spread, this time at Aston Hall and across two sittings; bigger, better, and of course more cheese. Traders will be slinging the stilton in all its forms: oozing atop hotdogs from Fat Snags, whipped into your Urban Cheesecake (pictured), plus vegan options to rival the dairy. With Wine Freedom and local breweries offering the perfect sipping accompaniment, plus markets to wander and a stunning venue to explore, this will sell fast. Choose your sitting at just £6.50 a ticket.
Venue: The Wilderness, 27 Warstone Ln, JQ, B18 6JQ, B17 9NJ, website Choice: 12 course taster menu (£125) Chooser: Chef
With the cost of living creeping unnervingly into ugly-cry territory, I imagine Alanis Morrisette would have a thing or two to say about my choosing this week of all weeks to take on The Wilderness's wonderful £125, 12-courser. The ship is steered by chef director, Alex Claridge, and his head chef, Marius Gedminas. I've not had the pleasure of meeting Marius but civic treasure and borderline enfant terrible, Alex, is without doubt not just one of our finest chefs but one of Brum's most creative people. The result is a dastardly and daring menu; the sort that makes you pray to all the gods that these chefs forever refuse to fall into the safety net that so many more established cooks have. Putting out crowdpleasers for years on end, for fear of rustling the regulars' feathers, is not for this troop of 'Young Turks'. If the rock soundtrack shifts your evening from nought to 60 the moment you're through the door, then the hat-trick of snacks in turn squeeze the accelerator further still. A mini prawn donut is done best by sinking it all in one a slurp of white sending it on its journey south— while a truffle and wagyu mouthful is an immaculate earth bomb as deep as it is, in the words of Christina Aguilera, 'durrrty'. Mackerel with Ajo Blanco and finger lime is a creamy, smoky and salty hit; the first dish of many that have you reaching for a bread basket that cruelly isn't there. What comes out next, I can only assume, is exactly what's in the Pulp Fiction suitcase. A perfectly poached medallion of cod (pictured) sits atop a golden lake of XO. Fried seaweed adds texture and Iberico is buried deep beneath the crispy nest, but this dish is all about that umami-yet-sweet sauce, so sublime that stendhal syndrome kicked in. Both bowls were slurped dry, backs of hands used to wipe the lips. Gorgeous. 'The Carrot' comes out next; another visual work of art, but so much more than that. A cooling goats curd granita provides silkiness, while the eponymous root veg comes roasted slowly in butter, as a puree, as carrot gastrique and as a pickle. The lamentable carnivore that I am, on paper I had this down as a forgettable course, but what I was handed was a masterclass in flavour maximisation, versatility and culinary balance. It was spiriting to try The Wilderness's high-end take on the most Black Country of foodstuffs, the faggot, which came with a venison that was maybe not needed, so upstaged was it by the sweet meat of its plate mate — a phone call that could have been a text. There's a lamb number that includes a sliver of lamb belly bacon that acts as a tray for delicately patterned blobs of salsa verde and caesar emulsion; the fatty lamb cut clean through by the tart and tangy verde. "It's easy with ingredients this good," says Alex. Liar. Puds were top to bottom absolute heart warmers with their playfulness and punch. A Warholian banana arrives packed with peanut butter and caramel, while a choccy and vanilla knockout has the clout and confidence to carry a 25-year-old balsamic. Assured, progressive, ballsy cookery. Never change, guys.
The Rainbow in Digbeth will, on Saturday, be the most Dad place on Earth, as they welcome Buzzcocks. £20 —
If waking up far too early is your thing, you’ll be up in time for Roundhouse’s sunrise paddle (£45). Kayak from 4.30am to watch the sun rise, listening to a curated soundtrack. Bliss, apart from the early alarm. —
Been Wim Hof-ing it in the shower to save pennies? If you’re not yet converted to the cold water high, try it at Moseley Road Baths while their extractor fan’s packed in. Swim in water at 14 degrees without any of the outside faff, chafing and creepy crawlies. —
Family rave, you say? Let the kids run rampant this Mother's Day at Big Fish Little Fish v Camp Bestival’s Mother’s Day Rave. Rave and Old Skool Garage aplenty at the Tunnel Club, it’s a tenner for the parents, £7 for the ankle biters. —
Selly Manor are running a Women's History Bournville Walking Tour, tomorrow at 2.30pm. Majoring on trade unionist and suffragette Julia Varley, it's £10. —
The UK’s largest Gin & Rum Festival is heading to Edgbaston stadium, April 1 and 2. Plus, new for 2022: Tequila! You can't make this stuff up. £16.56
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