Issue 299
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BEING THIS AWESOME TOOK 40 YEARS PRACTICE

Precisely none of our editorial team was alive when Smithsonia opened its doors back in 1979. And yet, the Piccadilly Arcade stalwart has got us out of all sorts of birthday, wedding and christening-related, relationship-ending, pickles, when no other shop in town could come up with the goods. And in an age where you can buy just about anything at the click of a button, the gift shop extraordinaire has somehow managed to trade continuously for 40 years, while supporting local designers and makers throughout. We've been chatting with owner, Mike Ferguson, to pick out just seven of them.
A E Williams, Pewter and Enamel Mantel Clock (£68.95)
"We've been working with A E Williams for 25 years but the pewter masters have been going since 1779, which actually makes Smithsonia sound quite young! Based on Archibald Knox designs originally commissioned for Liberty's, the clocks are cast on Mill Street in Digbeth. They're one of our bigger suppliers, and have done all sorts of TV tie-ins with shows like Game of Thrones."
Michael Simpson, Bronze Daschund (£108)
"I love Michael's work — he's got such an eye for capturing the expressions of animals, having studied fine art in Staffordshire. And his clay models — on which the series of bronze casts we stock are moulded — offer a playfulness and sensitivity that makes it seem like his subject is actually moving. We only use solid bronze at Smithsonia — no resin imitations here."
Jennie Davies, Candle (£10.95)
"We've been buying from Bearwood-based Jennie since she graduated from the School of Jewellery, making jewellery, funnily enough. She also created cards which we stocked, before moving on to scented candles. Jennie's a real example of how you have to change with the times to keep going in retail. You can be stocking something for years and suddenly trends change and no one is buying. We've worked hard to stay up-to-date."
Nick Hubbard, Handmade Silver Pendant (£153)
"Lots of our suppliers are individuals, who we've supported over the years. Nick started making in the Jewellery Quarter before developing his own business and ranges, with intricate designs and even moving parts, like doors that open to reveal hidden secrets. When he sadly died, his wife and daughters continued the brand using the inspiration he'd left behind."
Jonathan Plant, Earthenware Mug (£15.95)
"We're on first name terms with all our mug suppliers, who provide one of our most popular gift options come Christmas. They're all made in Stoke-on-Trent but this design meets the local brief because it's championing good old Brum. The city's gone through massive changes in 40 years — before it was pedestrianised, New Street had four lanes of traffic, can you believe that?"
Vintage Silver Bangles
"Pre-loved silver and jewellery are getting popular again. We've got all sorts of brooches, napkin rings and bangles, hallmarked in Birmingham. These bangles were made from 1880 to 1954 and are between £95 and £115 to  buy. I think it's the mix of products and price points that keep people coming to us — from ceramics, to illustrations to our most frequently purchased item..."
Sue Bibby, Cards (£4.80)
"We're one of the only places you can get Sue's embroidered cards, which she creates in Moseley. We rely on the footfall which affordable items like cards bring but with all the changes to pedestrian routes around the city, it's a challenge at the moment! Not as challenging as the 80s were, mind. We're one of only two businesses in the Arcade that hasn't changed hands since then, so I reckon we must be doing something right. "
To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Smithsonia is giving ten £40 vouchers to spend in store. For your chance to win head here.

BREAKFAST, ONLY KUULA


Step away from the cereal box, as of 7am today, Kuula Poké started to serve breakfast bowls in addition to the fresh, raw goodness of their build-your-own poké, and they're giving away 50 of them. Like at lunchtime, you pick a base: you can keep it simple with fresh fruit, or supercharge your superfood intake with a smoothie or açaí base. For the uninitiated, açaí (or "ah-sigh-EE") is a berry from Amazon rainforest that whipped up just right has the texture of ice cream, the health benefits of a small tribe of vitamin supplements and tastes right proper nice. Start with the team's classic açaí base or get all adventurous with the hot pink Dragon Fruit or Blue Majik serves. Whatever you opt for, next up, add three toppings, like granola, almond butter and cacao nibs. Finally, toppings — flaked almonds, chia seeds and coconut shavings are all for the sprinkling. Breakfast bowls are £3.55 to takeaway but the first 50 of you to show this email get one for free. The team's Big Island Brunch Bowl, which is served warm, is also included in the giveaway if smoked haddock, egg, edamame and spring onions is more your thing. Breakfast is served from 7am until 11am daily. And you can give Kuula Poké a follow on Insta right here.

WALKIES AND A TOUR, PLEASE


Do a walking tour, climb up something tall involving cocktails and eat at an incredible restaurant. That’s the simple yet effective pattern long weekends away follow for us, so how have we so completely ignored one of this most holy of trinities in our home city? Positively Birmingham offers four, year-round walking tours. We tried Discovering Birmingham (£12.50), a circular wander which gets you to and from Centenary Square in just under two hours, via the city's Georgian era, Victorian era, the JQ and a bit of secret canal, which — before you ask — wouldn't be a secret if we told you where it was now, would it? To give the tour plenty of personality expect proper good guides, artefacts, pictures, a guidebook which you get to keep and big, pub-quiz winning sort of learnings.

TAKING BACK BEDLAM


Thankfully, the response to mental health issues has evolved beyond anachronistic advice about socks being pulled up over the last decade. Now in its fourth year, Bedlam Festival shifts the focus towards how the arts can positively impact upon mental well-being through a whole host of events. Beats, lyrics and rhymes find Brum’s own Lady Sanity and Call Me Unique (pictured) along with Trademark Blud, exploring the often-undocumented experiences of our youth. The Hip-Hop and Rn’B artists tackle the stigma of mental health issues head-on, with a particular focus on marginalised communities. On October 11 at MAC, tickets are £8.50. The festival, which also includes theatre, dance, art, film and discussion runs October 1 to 12 across the city. Full programme

CARRION. NOUN. THE DECAYING FLESH OF DEAD ANIMALS


Disruptive international performance is what six-day festival, Fierce, majors on, with agenda-setting curation absolutely de rigeur. Most arresting looking from this year's programme are the velvety visuals of Sydney-based Justin Shoulder, who lets his 'Carrion’ character loose onstage. The masked spectre (pictured) inhabits queer and bicultural ancestral mythologies to address our position on this old planet of ours. The only problem is, the show’s actually in Warwick. Good job that clever lot at Fierce has gone and put on a free bus service from Digbeth, which also gets you to Davy Pieters' masterfully constructed murder mystery sort of performance, How Did I Die. On October 15, double bill tickets (along with that return journey) are £25. Closer to home, Yann Marussich brings Bain Brisé to MAC, as part of a free day of activities (October 20). This performance art promises violence but delivers something prepossessing, as, spoiler alert, the completely naked artist eventually emerges from a bathtub brimming over with glass shards. Yeeesh. See the full Fierce programme, taking place across Brum and Warwick Oct 15 to 20, right here.
Venue: Tattu, 18 Barwick Street, B3 2NT; website
Choice: Tuna yuzu ceviche (£11) Chooser: Waitress, Hannah

When new menus get launched, they can be difficult to distinguish from previous versions — with a single-ingredient change or a tweak in presentation being held out as a new dish. We don't waste your valuable reading time with these non-events. But to tell you about Tattu's
Autumn menu just makes good plain sense. Of our four visits to the subterranean spot, this was our most ooh and aah worthy, with fun snacks like lotus chip mess (£7), a kimchi, edamame, bacon and sriracha topped take on nachos, making us beam, and a plethora of new tastes for the trying. Wok Fired Angry Bird (£16) was another smiler, with crispy fried chicken made all fine and classy by roasted bell peppers, cashews and just the right amount of herby roughage, presented in that pretty Tattu way. But the dish we learnt the most from was the tuna ceviche. We're confident chop-stickers who refuse cutlery whenever asked. But to try the constituent elements of this dish on their own did it no justice — it was only when we quietly asked for a spoon and got a hit of tuna, avo moosh, tomatoes, chives and citrusy yuzu goodness in one go that this dish elevated itself to the top spot. Continuing with this newfangled spoon-technique we realised how damn good Tattu is at sauces — the XO, green chilli and spring onion goo on which the soft shell crab sat being example number two, with the ginger and miso yum you'll find on the black cod (£31) requiring plate-scrapes. It was a photo finish between style and substance, so good looking is this restaurant but for the first time, substance took gold. Just.
 
Chance & Counters is a board game café coming to a Custard Factory near you. Brunch, burgers, beers and, presumably, anything beginning with "b" will also be occurring.
After residencies in Manhattan and Luxembourg, the Vitra Design Exhibition has opened in Brum. Get eyes on pieces like the Eames Lounge Chair. Until October 27 at the Mailbox and free to you (and y'know, everyone).
It's EcoFest at MAC this Sunday (Sept 29). Expect performances, workshops and screenings, as well as local eco-friendly organisations with ideas about how we can work together to make a positive impact on this old blue marble called Earth.
A Hong Kong pop-up by Blow Water is what's happening at The Juke on October 25 and it smacks of a sell out. It's £19 for three courses.
If you can't wait that long for some popping and upping, Artisan Epicurean is doing a four-course, slow food, delicious-looking evening of local, seasonal scran at 1000 Trades. On October 2, it's £28, with veggie options and Wine Freedom pairings available. Book
And if you can't even wait that long, Leverton & Halls have got Persian plates from Moorish Bar this Saturday. It's £25 for A LOT of food. The deets


When you wake up in the morning," said Piglet, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"
"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?"
said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said.


A.A. Milne



 
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Tom Cullen, Robb Sheppard, Cilene Tanaka Kuczkowski

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