Issue 439
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Featuring 100 works from over 70 artists the RBSA's Photography Prize Exhibition is now live and runs until April 9. The free to attend exhibition showcases the best of contemporary photography with the inclusion of both established and emerging snappers. What will grab you is the wide range of styles, techniques and practices on display from some of the city's most talented. Here's just four from the collection with a word from each photographer about how they captured their shot.
Ben Parker
"I'm fascinated with telling stories through photos and using the medium as a way to escape the everyday. This is where my idea Wonderfully Mundane was born. Initially it was just a Masters degree project which started with the focus of documenting petrol stations and corner shops around Brum. They have always stood out to me, lighting the night-time urban landscape with harsh daylight, creating a capsule, its own little world. From this I began documenting every independent petrol station and corner shop I could find, spending many nights driving the streets with my camera and lighting kit. Having shot petrol stations and corner shops for the best part of a year I decided to progress the project. I’ve always loved using photography to bring attention to the unnoticed scenes in the mundane, and I wanted to begin working with people in the frame. Wonderfully Mundane was born from an idea of using fantastical, out of the ordinary elements and combining them with the everyday locations such as the corner shop or, in this case, the chippy down the road. This trio of pics [see them all here] uses the age old rivalry of the chicken and the fox. My aim was to draw the viewer's attention to a mundane scene, which wouldn’t usually be looked at as a creative backdrop, whilst also using open-ended narrative and humour to create a cinematic and eye-catching shot. I want the viewer to look at them and make their minds up as to what they think the story is."

You can follow Ben on Instagram and contact him via his website to buy a print
Hayley Salter
"Created as part of a portrait series for an exhibition, this image explores connection to nature and the escapism we can find. Through various poems, books, artists, or pieces of research, I was intrigued by how certain themes just kept coming up for me, like mental health, environmentalism and care. This series reflects on these themes; it explores the symbiotic relationship between care for nature and our wellbeing, as both individuals and communities. Another area that intersects for me is public space — having cities as shared, common resources. The portraits series features green spaces within Birmingham — a call to nurture these hidden gems, these havens of calm within an increasingly privatised city. My images aim to give the viewer a feeling of harmony and stillness, providing space for reflection or mindfulness. Each portrait was a co-creation with the subject, exploring their natural response to the environment. It was also important for images to show a portrait of the place as well as the person, holding the location in equal importance. In terms of the production, Soothe is printed on fabric. This adds a physicality and an immersive aspect to the work, with a tactile, sustainable feel which aids the storytelling of the piece. Featuring in the image is talented poet and multi-disciplinary artist Adjei Sun, in Highbury Park. Adjei's work explores themes of mental health, environment, identity, and love. With a documentary element to the project, those I photographed all connected to the themes, and all exuded a grounded, calming energy, which I hope can be rub off onto the viewer. "

You can find Hayley on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Explore her website, or explore highlights from her 2022 exhibition. You can find Adjei Sun on Instagram too.
Owen De Visser
"At the tail end of 2017, the UK fell quiet as Storm Caroline painted the country unmistakably white. As a photographer, I immediately regretted my recent decision to move from Moseley to Stirchley, knowing the best photos would be at Moseley Private Park. Off I trudged to B13 with my camera in hand, falling on my back more than once. The journey was worth the bruises. Moseley Private Park had been transformed into a scene from Lapland. Families with sleds had taken over (where do sleds live in between snowstorms?). There were countless snowmen (snowpeople?), and the cold air was offset with the warmth of everyone having a good time. The main action was happening on the slopes, north of the lake, so I set up my camera across the pond. You'd be forgiven for thinking my camera was set to black and white at first glance. What makes it remarkable, I hope, are the small pops of red and blue winter coats against the colourless backdrop. It is this context in colour that makes the photo really special, and it takes a couple of seconds to spot. The snow only lasted two days, but as workplaces and schools threw in the towel, a united childlike joy swept across the city. The photo has since been used for the cover of B13 Magazine, used by The Moseley Society for their Christmas cards, and is now proudly part of the RBSA Photography Prize Exhibition."

You can follow Owen on Instagram and contact him via his website to buy a print
Kathryn Sawbridge
"I am a multi-disciplinary artist with a background in photography. I started studying photography in 2008 and completed a degree in in 2013 before doing a Masters in Fine Art which I obtained with a distinction the following year, both from the University of Wolverhampton. I was brought up and remain based in Birmingham. I am a member of Birmingham Art Circle, part of Sutton Coldfield Society of Artists and a Next Wave Associate (now named Graduate Artist) of the RBSA so frequently exhibit in their exhibitions. The Photography Prize is a big deal for me as it is always selected by external professionals and only takes place biennially, open to the wider general public, so to be selected is an honour. Since late last year the RBSA has approved that photographers can now apply for associateship which is a major step for the society and will encourage a number of artists and photographers to their membership. The piece I have in the exhibition is a very personal one. It is taken at Sunnycroft, National Trust property in Shropshire near Telford and it captures my mother preparing for her first tour of the day. It's not staged, rather a candid shot making the most of the colours and light coming in through the window – a reflective moment, which I think I have captured at the right time."

You can follow Kathryn on Instagram and see more of her work here


Steel Magnolias, for those lucky millennials, was first performed off-Broadway in 1987 before becoming a hit film in 1989 starring one of the strongest cast lists in movie history: Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Julia Roberts and basically every big name ever. The stone-cold hilarious and yet heart-warming play, based on a true story, has solidly stood the test of time and will be demonstrating just that when it lands at The Alexandra, March 21 to 25.

Unsurprisingly, given that movie cast, they've had to pull out the stops with an ensemble cast for the latest stage version which feature Laura Main (Sister Bernadette in BBC One’s Call the Midwife), Diana Vickers (The X Factor, Dial M for Murder and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice) and Lucy Speed (known for her television roles on EastEnders and The Bill, and as a new cast member on BBC Radio 4’s The Archers). Lucy has the unenviable task of taking on Dolly's role.

Brought beautifully to life on stage from Robert Harding’s original script, Caroline Harker (A Touch of Frost) and Elizabeth Ayodele (Playboy of the West Indies) will complete the cast. It's the story of six women who come together in a small-town beauty salon in the American South and prove that female friendship can conquer all.

Faced with the highs and lows of love and life, and amongst the chaos of work, marriage and children, they unite to gossip, unwind and set the world to rights. One of the play’s strengths is that it finds humour at some of the darkest moments and, let's be honest, we've all had our share of gallows chuckles of late, making this one resonate even more profoundly in the present day. Scoring rave reviews in that there London, Steel Magnolias proves, if ever there was any doubt, that one hair appointment might just change your life. Book


Edgbaston Village's quite beautiful Artisan Market, on Greenfield Crescent, returns for its first 2023 appearance on April 8 and brings with it possibly its strongest roster of stallholders to date. And that's saying something.

Richard Jelfs of Vistas & Pictures fame will be displaying a raft of his wonderful, original and vintage inspired illustrations and Travel Posters like the ones above. Available both framed and unframed, Richard has ticked off Digbeth, Sarehole Mill, Spaghetti Junction, Moseley, Bournville, Moor Pool, Old Joe, Brindleyplace and the Jewellery Quarter, as well as huge swathes of the West Mids. Check out his Instagram then pop by between 10am and 3pm to see his work in person.

Richard's one of over 70 (seventy!!) independent traders, artists, crafters, food and drink masters, and pretty much any talent you deem worthy of your hard-earned coin, like Maria Simmons and her utterly charming work as Upcylced By Maria.
Maria has been making little houses and selling them worldwide for about five years. Using found and foraged wood — offcuts, remnants, fence posts, roof battens — she'll make individual houses, lighthouses, shops and venues.

"I also make street and harbour scenes" she says. "I like to include trees, washing lines, pillar boxes, street lights and benches. I use bark for doors, reclaimed leather or tin for the roofs together with nails and wire for chimneys and fences. The lights in the lighthouses come from salvaged parts of dead lawnmowers, sawing machines, and the like. Nothing goes to waste. Everything is re-purposed to turn little houses into loving homes."

If you can't make it to Greenfield Crescent on April 8 (or any of these forthcoming Edgbaston Artisan Market dates, where Maria is a regular), then she sells online too, via Facebook or Instagram.

If you can make it, though, why not make a day of it? On the very same road as the market, Chapter will be serving probably Brum's best breakfast from 9am and then their new bar menu from noon until 9pm, which includes wild mushroom arancini, pork belly bites with apple sauce and whatever market fish they've liked the look of that day. Across from them (and if you've not stopped by yet that's crazy), new pizzeria Smoke + Ash will be slinging out the discs of pure joy, while Loki will also be open for (predominantly) liquid refreshment.  


Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, The Flaming Lips, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s and David Bowie. It might read like a dream Glastonbury Sunday but, wildly, they are the artists who have contributed (mostly with original music, save for Ziggy, of course) to The Spongebob Musical soundtrack. If that's not an indicator of how serious the silliness is, then we can do no more for you.

Cast-wise we're talking the Book of Mormon's Lewis Cornay in the role of the titular clumsy sea sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea. Cornay is joined by see-it-to-believe-it Gareth Gates as Squidward, drag act par excellence and Ru Paul runner-up Divina de Campo as Sheldon J. Plankton, Irfan Damani as Patrick and Chrissie Bhima as Sandy.

This tour is the UK Premiere of the Tony Award nominated show that is sure to welcome one of the more endearing cross-sections of societal audiences when it lands at the Hippodrome for five days from April 11 to 15. Gates' theatre credits include playing Marius in the both the West End and 25th Anniversary Tour of Les Mis, Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in the West End, Warner in the UK tour of Legally Blonde and Willard in the UK tour of Footloose.

De Campo, meanwhile, is known for her high soprano and four-octave range, having featured on ITV’s The Voice and the BBC’s All Together Now. Her critically acclaimed theatre credits include Mary Sunshine in Chicago and most recently her award nominated performance as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Like we said: silly, but seriously silly. Book now


A new, free, exhibition – Belonging to Us: Nurturing women through making – opens at BCU's School of Jewellery, April 3 to 28. Curated by Craftspace, the exhibition celebrates 10 years of Shelanu, a collective that supports refugee and migrant women to make and sell jewellery. The exhibition tells the story of Shelanu which means ‘belonging to us’, whose current members come from across the globe. As well as learning crafting skills the women are supported to improve their English, learn business skills and run workshops for the community. The exhibition will also launch Nurture, a new range of jewellery made more sustainably, produced with guidance from renowned jeweller Rachael Colley. There's an online shop too.


Horace Panter, also known as Sir Horace Gentleman, the bassist for The Specials, has for years been exhibiting his Pop Art pieces at Colley Ison Gallery on Colmore Row, and his collection of cassette paintings is this year's biggest eye-catcher.

Each of the tapes serves as a reminder of a great period when bands would take these small pieces of plastic home (or to their car stereo) and listen to what they had just created in the recording studio. Horace researches the band, the recording studio where each track was created (many of which, sadly, no longer exist) and sometimes the dates of the recording. This intel is then used to create the piece. Horace calls them ‘repositories of memory’.
The humble cassette is now over 50 years old, if it's even alive at all, and although no longer a mass format for the transportation of music still has its disciples, with ‘Cassette Store Day’ now an annual event based on the success of ‘Record Store Day’.

This masterpiece in engineering appeared on the market as the whole Pop Art movement was taking off, and in the hands of Horace Panter now takes its place in that world which celebrates the art of the mundane and disposable. These could happily hang next to Warhol’s soup or Lichtenstein’s comic book panels.

Suffice to say the originals are investments (so, £5000) but prints are way more affordable coming in at £200 a pop (unframed). As always with Colley Ison, it's free to wander in and have a look. They're proper sound in there and welcome one all.


Wolverhampton-born ice cream company, Big Kid, may have one eye on London now that the business wheels are most definitely in motion but founder, Harry Webb, is by no means turning his back on the region. The West Mids and the capital are the only places he's committing to when it comes to delivering his new ice cream flavours, this Easter. "The Pagan Spring Equinox, colloquially referred to as Chocolate Egg Week, is fast approaching," says Harry "And I am thrilled to announce that I will be releasing five brand new, limited edition ice cream flavours to commemorate the occasion. If the temptation of adding these to your Easter feasting isn't quite enough, I will also be personally delivering them to your door, by hand." The flavours include Honey Roasted Peanut Butter Cup, Caramel Cornflake Cake, Birthday Cake, Cured Yolk Creme Egg (pictured) and Hot Cross Bun. It's £37.25 for a tub of the lot or £7.45 each. Order


Tickets have gone on sale for two of the more alternative comedians on the circuit, both appearing at Glee in the coming months. Cult legend and marmite-y act (I love the guy) Paul Foot touches down in October with his rather 'out-there' brand of giggles. He's pretty much exactly as he looks (above) if that makes sense? Definitely have a nose at some of his YouTube stuff before booking but it might just be exactly your cup of tea and, if it is, you're my kind of people. He should be bigger than he is, for sure. Prior to that Alasdair Beckett-King is in town next month. Chances are your first experience of Beckett-King will have been on Twitter having, as he does, the Midas touch when it comes to viral videos. Dinosaurs of comedy will suggest acts need to do eight years on the circuit before they have proven their stand-up credentials but that's all nonsense. Alasdair went from nought to sixty at breakneck speed but has the live lolz to match, just like Rosie Holt and Mo Gilligan.  
UB40's Homecoming, in Moseley Private Park, is going to be a barnstormer. The Brum legends are joined by Soul II Soul, Done Letts and loads more. Full details

Wonderful, independent and city centre-based cocktail bar, Fox & Chance, have a new menu. And the imagery they've had illustrated to bring the menu to life, which has subtle and less subtle nods to Brum, is gorgeous. Show me

There's a Moseley Road Baths Public Consultation running March 14 to 26. Head here for details and info on how you can let developers know your thoughts on planned changes. 

Pop-up stars Koba-Ko, purveyors of Brum's best ramen, are eyeing up their first bricks and mortar restaurant in Kings Heath and are Crowdfunding to make it happen. If you like nice food and nice people, do consider going in with them. More

There's a classic football shirts pop-up shop in Bullring until March 19 on the Link Street bit between Bullring proper and Grand Central. Prices are YIKES but it is worth popping in if you're into that stuff. They've TikToked a few of the collection that's on display. Oooh TikTok, look at me!  

Stirchley Community Market is back at Stirchley Baths on Saturday (March 18) from 10am-3pm, for the first of their quarterly appearances. More  

Their neighbours, Loaf, have released a swathe of cookery classes in May, including the return of Handmade Pasta (May 24) and Wholegrain Baking (May 20). 

Chicken wing chaos, Wingfest, have put tickets live for this year's Birmingham get-together at Digbeth's new-look The Bond, August 25 to 27. £21

I love going to places in Birmingham I've never been and it was a joy to visit Birmingham LGBT centre and a slightly hidden away new exhibition by the brilliant Irina Mackie, featuring photographs taken from last years Shout Festival. Details 

Five words: Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Live
WORDS: Tom Cullen

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Truvy, 'Steel Magnolias' (1989)

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