I admit it.
When I close my eyes and picture my childhood in Birmingham in the 80s, the overriding colour is grey. Not that I wasn't happy, I absolutely was, but this city, honestly? It was gaunt in its concreticity. Was it really, or was that the outcome of an entire nation's imposing opinion? Probably a bit of both. Look, I don't mind grey, hell I pretty much spent lockdown going completely grey, but to see the results of an exhibition (which will physically be live for just 24 hours in the Custard Factory) so bold and bright, vivid and vivacious, suggests there's a new breed of Brummie. Just three words were sent to the city's designers, illustrators and typographers as a brief: 'The Creative City'. A hundred posters were returned for the one-day only physical exhibition and the lip-tremblingly beautiful umbrella message is one of kaleidoscopic positivity. The posters kickstart the city's annual Birmingham Design Festival (Aug 16 to 20) for which tickets are available now. But chances are you're not a designer. Chances are you're a Brummie. And whether born so or honorary, you presence is requested sometime between August 16 at midday to August 17, midday. Here's just five of those fabulous posters and more will be popping up across the city...
RAVNITA RAYET (website) Ravnita says: In celebration of colour, “BullCity” is a digital illustration representing the city of Birmingham. The community, the pride, the ‘city of 1000 trades’. Here’s the second city, with a futuristic twist.
POPPY SMALL (Instagram) Poppy says: Inspired by the colourful LGBTQ+ community of Birmingham, I wanted to turn the iconic Floozie into a rainbow drag icon, complete with obligatory pigeons. With some of the Midlands’ very own queens becoming more well known in recent years and with the gay village being my favourite place in town for a safe and groovy night out, it felt right to create a nod in this direction as I feel our LGBTQ+ culture is thriving so much from louder and bolder acts of support, love, and pride.
ASH O'BRIEN (Twitter) Ash says: I’ve always disliked the term ‘the second city’ as it makes us feel a bit second-rate to London. In the spirit of celebrating Birmingham and focussing on some of the massive achievements and highlights of Brum — I’ve selected four facts that will hopefully make people reconsider using the phrase and the idea that we’re 2nd, when we’re actually first for so many good things.
JIM HOWELLS (website) Jim says: For my piece “Architek” I was inspired by the ever changing, diverse architecture of Birmingham city centre. My teenage memories of shopping in the brutal concrete monoliths of the past mix with the multicultural, forward-thinking ideals that make Birmingham feel like such a modern, vibrant city.
CAIRO HAMILTON (website) Cairo says: Despite its disparities, many Brummies do have something in common: a typical conversational exchange often had with a non-native. This piece seeks to capture this interaction which also stylistically reflects my personal perception of the city’s aesthetic.
If you can't make it to the exhibition at The Factory Works in the Custard Factory, all 100 posters can be found at www.bdf.gallery from 7pm on August 17, when they'll be up for online auction.
NO HEAVY PETTING
"Verucca socks and not forgetting to just stay in your lane," as The Maccabees so gloriously sang. Not about Moseley Road Swimming Baths but absolutely accurate for the anyone who swam there in the 70s or 80s. An event that absolutely always sells out (although tickets are free) is Brum Heritage Week's behind-the-scenes guided tour of the 114-year-old venue. One of the most marvellous public swimming pools in the country the Edwardian, Grade II* listed beaut is now being run by a community trust, and in the process of restoration by a coalition which includes the National Trust, Historic England, Birmingham City Council, and the World Monuments Fund. The tour, led by members of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, will take in the 'slipper baths', laundry room, boiler room and Gala Pool on Sunday, September 12.
DANCERS AND CHANCELLORS
Remember that time Angela Merkel made an appearance on stage at the Digbeth Oktoberfest? Huge scenes. No guarantees the Chancellor will make it this year, but what is guaran-damn-teed is beer and music and food. Taking place October 8 and 9 at the Custard Factory's Factory Works, confirmed on food are Yardbirds bringing (a traditional German schnitzel) as well as The Bournville Waffle Company who, providing apple strudel waffles, could perhaps rename to the Bavarian Waffle Company for one weekend only? Just a thought. The event will be celebrating its sixth year on the Brum's annual shindiggery circuit, with all the usual German beer options but also German gin and wine, and German bingo. Tickets are £12 which gets you entry, reserved seating for groups larger than 6 people, a full lineup of DJs and bands. More details right here
A Mercury Prize nomination, two UMA Awards, and multiple MOBOs, Soweto Kinch wil appear at Birmingham Jazz Fest August 23. Run by the fine folk at Town Hall & Symphony Hall, Jazz FM’s UK Jazz Act of the Year 2020, Yazz Ahmed (pictured) is also appearing, August 25. A raft of venues will be hosting Jazz throughout the six-dayer with free and low-cost performances at The Spotted Dog in Digbeth, on stage at Symphony Hall and in Symphony Hall’s brand-new Jennifer Blackwell Performance Space. More
I won't lie, this jumper (£35) is giving me flashbacks to that time I had 500 Mr Egg badges made and only about four of you bought any. It's not me taking the gamble this time, though, it's the ace new Brum clothing company Rotunda Industries. From their 'Born and bred in the second-to-none-city' slogan to their 'Bring Back Kong' tees, designers and entrepreneurs (and drummers!), Michael Laffoley and Dave Twist have gone all-in on Birmz retro chic. Check out their full line here.
CARR & DEE
In the last hour tickets went on sale for Jimmy Carr at the Birmingham Hippodrome (from £33). To celebrate the release of his new book Before & Laughter: A Life Changing Book, the one night only-er will be October 10. Jimmy says: “I don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver, but this really delivers on the subtitle ‘A Life Changing Book’. It’s definitely the best cash-in autobiography by any popular British comedian born between 1972 and 1974 ever. That’s if you don’t count the Peter Kay one. Because that was proper good.” Tickets also still seem to be available for Jack Dee, in 2022.
THE PRINT NOW ARRIVING AT PLATFORM ONE WILL BE THE...
What did you do during lockdown? I put on a stone and watched 76 episodes of Law & Order, but Moseley-based designer and illustrator Ruth Salton spent the best part of a year on a passion project. The result is 10 prints ranging from postcard size (5 for £12) to full-on 50cm x 70cm whoppers (£40), the pick of which, in my opinion, is the Grand Central / New Street Station number above closely, followed by Birmingham's waterpark of a playground at Centenary Square (below). Bright, bold, positive they lift the spirits and, just 5 mins on the phone with Ruth, show they're a fine reflection of the artist herself, who managed to spend a dark time producing such vibrant work. They can be bought on her Etsy site and, retailers take note, Ruth (who has lived in Brum for 40 years) is about to embark on the long slog of a process that is trying to get her work sold in arty stores and museum gift shops alike. You can contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to know more. Check out the rest of Ruth's collection here.
The line-up for Pride Birmingham has been announced and I'll be front and centre for Lola Lasagne. Slightly more household names (former Girls Aloud-er Cheryl, for example) are also available. Sunday September 26, this will sell out.Prices from £62.15
This weekend is Birmingham Cocktail Weekend. £10 wristbands get you £5 cocktails across the city. More —
Speaking of cocktails, the Pineapple Club have launched a Pornstar Martini Bottomless Brunch and they've invited the guy who invented the Pornstar Martini. Aug 21, £45 per person, includes gooood food. Details —
Birmingham Museums are hosting three running challenges to raise funds for the city’s museums. The virtual fun run challenges – a 5k or 10k starting or ending at Birmingham’s 250-year-old Sarehole Mill and a 5k starting or ending at the 400-year-old Aston Hall – can be completed any time before 31 August.
Birmingham Panthers Korfball Club are looking for new players. Korfball has similarities to netball and basketball. It's played by two teams of eight players with four female players and four male players in each team. They play at Lordswood Girls school.
BBC Gardeners’ World returns to the NEC August 26 to 29 with a special late summer edition. £20 —
Part flesh, part felt and packed with heart, naughty puppet show and winner of basically all awards going, AVENUE Q, has embarked on a three week residency at The Old Joint Stock, this month. From £22 —
For £850 a night you can now sleep with red pandas at West Midlands Safari Park. Oh not like that, do grow up. More —
There will be no issue of I Choose Birmingham next week as I'm on holiday in Barbados*.
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