Issue 477
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Chipping Norton’s finest celebrity farmer and Sunday Times bestselling author (despite having only read one book) Kaleb Cooper, who shot to fame starring in Clarkson’s Farm, has decided to conquer his fear of the unknown and embark on his first ever theatre tour: The World According to Kaleb

Appearing alongside bootcut afficionado, Jeremy Clarkson, who has famously panned Birmingham at every possible opportunity, Kaleb doesn't mince his words, striking back for all Brummies in one episode when he called the former Top Gear host a "f***ing idiot". That alone has earned him top spot in today's email before we even get onto his opinions on sheep ("stupid") New York ("if it’s like London where there are no tractors, that’s no good") and coming to Brum.

Despite his new-ish status as a household name, Kaleb is just as adorably down to earth as he appears on the show and, when he arrives ay Symphony Hall on February 19, audiences can expect many a chuckle, as well as a few farming lessons and some wild words of wisdom...
What gave you the idea of doing a theatre tour with your show?
When I was researching my new book, Britain According To Kaleb, I thought, “I'm actually missing out on the most amazing places by not travelling. I could go on tour and do a show in these towns and put farming centre stage.” And that's how the idea of the tour came about.

Is it true that before writing your two books, you had only ever read one book, which was by Jeremy?
Yes. I read it until about page five when he said I was just a tractor driver, so I stopped reading.

What are you most looking forward to about the tour?
I'm really excited about meeting everybody, about being on the road and seeing these amazing places. I can't wait to see Birmingham. Plus, when I’m on tour, I can see all these different farms. I can't wait to look over the hedges and go, "Why would you stack the hay bales that way?"

Are you also hoping to exchange ideas with a lot of farmers?
I've always said the best way for anyone to learn about farming is to go and speak to another farmer. Everyone has their own ways of doing stuff. One farmer will plough this way, and another that way. If you combine the two, you might do it better than them. So, on the tour I can't wait to talk to all different kinds of farmers. But most importantly, on stage I’m keen to show people who are not from a farming background and who are not in the industry what farming is all about. Because let's face it, when has a farmer ever done a theatre tour?

Why do you think Clarkson’s Farm has struck such a chord?
There’s no acting involved. Everything you see is real. There's no going back and doing something again. After I have ploughed a field, I physically can't go back over and plough it again and make it look the same. So, everything you see is what happens. If you meet me in the street, you'll see the same person who is on Clarkson’s Farm. That's it.

Do you think the show has demonstrated to city folk like us how tough farming can be?
I think farmers as a whole watch the show and think, “Finally, here is a programme that shows the public what it's all about.” It's not all about trying to do everything on the cheap and cut corners. We do everything by the book. You have a lot of red tape, you've got meetings, you’ve got paperwork, you've got actual physical labour, you've got breakdowns, you've got animal husbandry, you've got the weather – the weather is the biggest thing. And I think farmers were a bit relieved when the programme came out and showed the reality of it.

Have you ever met David Cameron in Chipping Norton?
Yeah, I've bumped into him a couple times. Once I met him and he said, “How are you doing?” I thought he was just a normal person who wanted a selfie, so I gave him a selfie and walked off. I'm not very good with celebrities. I don't watch television. I don't follow the news. So, when I meet people, normally my other half will tell me who they are or what they do.

The tour also teaches people where their food comes from, doesn’t it?
Yeah. The other day I asked a young kid in the supermarket, “Do you know where that milk comes from?” He went, “The shelf.” Let’s face it, you can't know where your milk comes from until you've been into that milking parlour with a cup of tea and milked a cow straight into your mug.

How would you describe your relationship with Jeremy?
We just clicked straight away. The first time we ever met, he told me to slow down as he thought I might hurt his cat. I was driving a tractor past his house, and he was worried about his cat going underneath the wheels. He said, “Can you slow down a little bit?” I replied, “Yeah, yeah,” and then I just stayed at the same speed because I was busy.

Does it frustrate you that Jeremy often doesn't listen to what you say?
Yes. Even though he's just talking rubbish, he goes, “I can do that more quickly than you.” For example, when we were drilling for the first time, I told him, “You go up and down to get your tramlines.” But he thought he could go round and round and do it more quickly. Afterwards I said to him, “There’s a reason I told you not to do that. So, listen to me.” But unfortunately, he didn't listen. That really frustrates me. We argue over it and then we have two or three days of not talking.

Is it gratifying when people come up to you in the street and say how much they enjoy seeing you on-screen?
Absolutely. It is the most amazing feeling when a young kid comes up to you and goes, “Kaleb, I'm going to get three chickens to start my career.” That's how I started. When young kids come up to me and go, “You've inspired me to do this or do that,” that’s incredible. That makes it all worthwhile.

Could you ever see the day where you pack in farming for a TV career?
Never. I like that some of my farming is also on television, but if TV or other projects started to interfere it, it would be a problem. At heart, I am still very much a farmer.


Has fame changed you?
It hasn't actually. What's changed me is growing up. I am the same person I was before anyone knew who I was, I've just got a little bit of a beard, about four or five chest hairs and more importantly, two little kids. I think I'm better at doing stuff like this [interview] and theatre talks. I do lots of talks to young farmers. That's why I think I'm going to be OK on stage. I’ve done speeches to young farmers, and I think I can do it. Why not try and challenge yourself and do something out of your comfort zone every now and then?

What do you hope audiences will take away from your live show?
I hope they just have a really big smile on their faces and they're all laughing. I just want a fun atmosphere. I think I'm a fun person to be around. In the theatre for that one night, I want the same atmosphere that there is at an agricultural show. Everyone can switch off from their day-to-day life, and enjoy something funny, but the same time learn about where their food comes from. And, how to milk a cow. Why don't I bring a cow on stage? I might.

What are your long-term ambitions?
I’d love to be the first farmer to go on I'm A Celebrity. But I haven’t even got a passport!
'The World According to Kaleb' arrives at Symphony Hall, February 19 and tickets are here. Kaleb’s has also just released a charity 'diss' single - I Can’t Stand Sheep!


BRUM ROCKS (but then you knew that) is an opportunity for hundreds of amateur musicians, singers and rockstar wannabes to come together for a once-in-a-lifetime rock concert at Forum Birmingham this summer. Courtesy of Misfits Music Foundation BRUM ROCKS will include a raft of workshops and events across Birmingham and the Black Country as a warm up for the big concert planned for July 14. The workshops are free thanks to funding from the National Lottery Community Fund People’s Project.

There are several ways budding rock stars can get involved. Sign up for a FREE BRUM ROCKS workshop – taking place at Northfield Arts Forum (Jan 31, Feb 21, March 6 and 20, all sessions start 10am), Great Bridge Library in Tipton (Jan 24, Feb 28 all sessions start 7pm) and the world famous The Flapper in Brum (Feb 7, March 13, all sessions start at 7pm). With more dates and venues being added all the time.

No musical experience is required – you don’t need to be a music expert or even be able to read sheet music, Misfits Music will provide song sheets with chords and lyrics. Attendees just need to bring their voice or instrument – anyone is welcome: singer, guitarist, drummer, bassist or any other instrument.

Members of existing Choirs or Community Groups – knitting clubs, cycling groups, WI Groups, Social Groups and more – that fancy a one-off rock music workshop, can also contact the BRUM ROCKS team to invite a workshop leader along to their group meeting for a bespoke rock workshop, and be part of the concert in the summer. Now is the time to dust off the axe and finally bring that shower singing to life. More


The University of Birmingham has announced its programme of live music for spring 2024, including the return of the ground-breaking new musical festival CrossCurrents, plus an appearance by the new IKO loudspeaker (pictured) one of only four in the UK.

CrossCurrents returns, February 24 to March 17, with ten concerts featuring 20 world premieres, showcasing some of the UK’s most exciting emerging composers and artists, renowned guest performers and talented student musicians. New music, electronics, jazz and folk are woven together, creating new sounds and never-heard-before experiences.

Highlights include Her Ensemble, a star-laden concert of music by women. Errollyn Wallen’s Concerto Grosso places a spotlight on the extraordinary talent within the ensemble with dazzling step-out solos, and there’s also the world premieres of two new works by Sasha Scott and Joanna Borrett.

Classical Italy features in this year’s programme when emerging pianist Siwan Rhys evokes the delicate, sorrowful Venetian waves lapping at the edge of silence in Luigi Nono’s ...Sofferte onde serene... In contrast, the University’s New Music Ensemble perform Inferno on March 2, a suite of new works inspired by Dante’s Inferno, performed by live and electronic instruments.

Head to the Lapworth Museum on March 6 to hear Annie Mahtani (composer and sound artist) and Chris Mapp (bass player, composer, improvisor) perform together, taking the listener on a journey through natural and electronic sound worlds. This performance will use that new IKO loudspeaker, a ground-breaking bit of kit that creates an immersive sonic experience. Generating 3D soundfields, the IKO uses an array of twenty speakers helping the space itself to become part of the music. For its debut concert, the IKO will be supplemented by a spatial loudspeaker from internationally renowned BEAST system. The contrast of a state-of-the-art immersive sound system in a prehistoric setting promises to be mind-blowing.

Then, on March 14, Mercury Prize-nominated Fergus McCreadie is joined by Manchester Collective for a set of music that lives somewhere between the boundaries of jazz, new classical and folk.

CrossCurrents wraps up on 17 March with Ives 150 performed by the University’s Philharmonic Orchestra, marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Charles Ives, the great American modernist composer. More
Venue: Txikiteo, 53 Frederick St, B1 3HS; Instagram 
Choice: Pork chop (£16) Chooser: Max (co-owner) 

"I've only just learned how to pronounce it, myself" says Max, our host at new JQ Spanish joint Txikiteo ("chick-e-tayo"). I use the word joint without a moment of disrespect, mainly because this is the most laidback restaurant I've been to in many a year. Similar to Tropea in Harborne or A La Mexicana in Bearwood, it already feels like my local despite being 4 miles from home — that's how welcoming the team is, boosted by a brilliant buzz from the patrons. It's busy on this January evening, which is a great sign for their future, and the clatter of laughter and service is warming right down to the pit of the belly. Myself and my guest were both grinning ear-to-ear before we even sat down, and that's the hallmark of a venue that's got things right, right?

High top tables, with tall, bar style stools, might not be for everyone, but they add to the relaxed (don't say vibe, don't say vibe, don't say vibe) vibe. Stripped back interior with exposed steel beams, tins of sardines and of big ol' cans of olives dotted about. It's pretty, make no mistake, with its Wes Anderson hues, but there is no pretension here. Not a drop of it. This isn't forced friendliness, like I often find in, you know, London. This is real Brummie warmth and, I believe, you only get staff this chilled and chatty when the food is top notch, so much confidence do they have in their kitchen.

And the kitchen is putting out pure quality. There's no patatas bravas, here. Why? Because patatas bravas is everywhere, no longer limited to Spanish restaurants. You'll likely find it on the Cosy Club menu, or the Lost & Found menu, and that's the sort of thing locally-owned Txikiteo is distancing itself from. Those behind this little gem are also the chefs who've struck Brum dining gold with Tiger Bites Pig, Trentina and the rejuvenated JQ institution, The Church. So they've got form. They can cook. Lordy can they cook.

Prior to Txikiteo the venue itself was their previous creation, Tierra Tacos. Now, I adore Tierra Tacos, I'm thrilled it still exists as a mobile kitchen of sorts and I have it on good authority that it will, one-day, return to bricks and mortar somewhere. But I understand the switch they've made. I understand that tacos are a thrice a year restaurant visit, but Txkiteo, with a revolving and evolving small plates and sharers menu could, at these prices, easily be a monthly visit, particularly for the JQ-based bunch who really love to dine out.

And the prices are very reasonable. The £16 fee for their pork chop special (pictured), which is as thick as a submarine window, is daylight robbery — in favour of the diner. Being able to cook pork to total perfection is the badge of a skilled chef. There's a hair's breadth between perfect and borderline dry, and the balance here is executed with panache. The sauce is a sherry-based piece of witchcraft with both depth and zing that plays Reveille on the taste buds. A staggeringly good dish. 

There's a potato number in a green sauce, with an orangey citrus and some coriander going on. It's so good I'm struggling to think of a better potato dish in all of Brum — it wipes the floor with Dishoom's Gunpowder Potatoes and they are incredible. It was still in front of me when we were on pud, because I simply would not let them take it away unfinished.

And that pud — cheesecake. Bloody hell. Bloody actual hell. Light, yet with a depth of flavour, it is of course made in house and— I can pass a polygraph on this — is the best cheesecake I've ever eaten, anywhere. Out-f*cking-standing.

The plump mussels in an chorizo-y sauce went down a storm with the one of us that hasn't recently developed a heart-breaking shellfish allergy, while the crust on the black-pudding-esque Morcillo was salty and crispy and so damn, damn wintery. Charred leeks come in a Romano sauce that they need to bottle and sell for gazillions and they have Freedamn on tap, making Dry January that little bit easier.

Txikiteo — you might not be able to say it, but you can sure as hell taste it. Set phasers to recommend.


This is one of those 'hard to explain' sort of a set-ups, but internationally-renowned artist Haroon Mirza premieres an innovative and immersive music experience with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, January 28. Re-creation is a sound installation and performance, complete with light, scent, smoke rings and live musicians, which the audience takes in by walking through the space. The effect is a full-body sensory experience – and a world away from the usual concert-going norm. Everyday low-end technology, such as light bulbs and used turntables, have been reworked by Haroon to make his sculptures; and his new ‘Dream machine’ is produced by colourfully enhanced simple LED light-tubes. As they switch on-and-off they also create new sounds, rich in musicality and fascinating to watch. Haroon is collaborating with composer Lucy Armstrong and singer Juliet Fraser to make this one-off, singular performance. Tickets are £15 and this video may help explain more. 


Nothing really happens in Zone of Interest. But, then again, nothing really happens in American Graffiti, nothing really happens in Lost In Translation, nothing really happens in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and they're stone-cold classics. Directed by Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Birth, Under the Skin) the story follows Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz, and his wife Hedwig as they strive to build a dream life for their family in a house and garden next to the camp — an idyllic world, yards from pure hell. It's the implied horror that makes this an awesomely unsettling watch. "I wanted to capture the contrast between somebody pouring a cup of coffee in their kitchen and somebody being murdered on the other side of the wall," says Glazer.  Well, job done then, Jonathan. This is an extraordinary watch, with beautiful cinematography and hats of to the Mockingbird for getting another review screening to Brum. If you want to watch this film, try and watch it with them. ★ ★ ★ ★   



Put down that Snappy Snaps disposable because incredible images from the Natural History Museum’s 59th Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition are on show at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Cov.

Priced at just £7.50 for adults, The Herbert is the only venue in England besides the Natural History Museum to have the lightbox edition, which uses digital lighting to bring each image to life alongside an atmospheric nature soundtrack.
Launching in 1965, Wildlife Photographer of the Year is the most prestigious photography event of its kind. A million people are expected to visit the exhibition on its international tour. This year’s competition attracted almost 50,000 entries from photographers of all ages and experience levels, from 95 countries.

Richard Sabin, Curator of Marine Mammals at the Natural History Museum, was a judge for this year’s edition and urged people throughout the West Midlands (so, YOU then) to visit the exhibition. 

“This is the most fantastic wildlife photography exhibition in the world," he said. "There are images of nature that are beautiful, magical and entrancing, but also things that show you the human effects on the landscape. I think there’s something here for everyone.

“Visiting this wonderful exhibition at the Herbert will give people the opportunity and children the inspiration to become advocates and ambassadors for the natural world.
“I’m a great believer in people from around the country being able to see the things we have in our national museums, and often that means travelling to places like London to see those collections.

“I’m originally from the West Midlands myself so it’s great that we are seeing the national museums releasing these wonderful exhibitions to parts of the country like Coventry.”
The exhibition runs until April 1 and runs concurrently with Dippy, The Nation’s Favourite Dinosaur, who's there on a three-year residency. 
On September 28 two of the stars of Alan Parker movie The Commitments, will be reuniting for a special Commitments evening at The Crossing in Digbeth. There will be a Q+A with both actors followed by a screening of the film and a musical performance by Dave Finnegan's 8 piece band playing all the movie's hits. Tickets

After a sell out event last year Thinktank's Planetarium is bringing back their Valentine's Evening Under The Stars. Bubbles, an amuse-bouche, and a tour of Venus, plus the opportunity to have a personalised romantic message to the one you love appear amongst the stars on the Planetarium dome. Book

Small is Beautiful is a free, two night event (Feb 1 and 2, 7pm to 9pm) at The Core, Solihull celebrating and showcasing work created by artists living and working in Solihull. A wide variety of micro-commissions have been selected, covering art forms from visual art to aerial, poetry to photography, musical theatre to dance. More

Grown up Custard Factory arcade bar, NQ64, has launched an adults only laser quest.

Bundobust are launching monthly, hour-long yoga classes followed by lunch. Tickets are £20 and include the class, two dishes, and a soft drink or chai. Starts Saturday Feb 10.
WORDS: Tom Cullen

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"In a conclusive rebuke to the Nazi idea, these ‘subhumans’, it turns out, were the cream of humankind."

Martin Amis, The Zone of Interest: A Novel

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