Build Back Better, they said. So the folks behind Mostly Jazz Funk & Soul and Moseley Folk & Arts did just that. Taking a good look at the offering of our day festivals in the Midlands and trialling a few different events over the past few trying years, they’re continuing to smash it out of the (Moseley) park with their two flagship humdingers, that are better than ever. So stay close to Brum this summer, and enjoy a frolicking agenda of music, family-friendly fun and food. Lots of glorious food.
MOSTLY JAZZ, FUNK & SOUL
First on Moseley park’s calendar is jazz, funk and soul – this time seasoned with a little ska and reggae. Don the eco-friendly glitter and get involved from July 8 to 10, where they’ll be delivering certified bangers, guaranteed to get you throwing shapes like that niggly shoulder ain’t an issue.
The Earth Wind and Fire Experience headlines Sunday, topping off a weekend of mom dancing to the likes of Fat Back Band, and a Friday all-out skanking performance from local-ish heroes, The Specials. Nightmares on Wax brings Ibiza cool, and – pray Gods —the weather, while festival regular Craig Charles’s much-loved ‘trunk of funk’ returns and he resides over Saturday’s shenanigans, following up with an after-party set at nearby Hare & Hounds. Sunday welcomes Cameo, and absolute scenes as the park is hopefully embroiled in the Electric Slide to fan fave, Candy.
Away from the main stages, there are also dance workshops with the likes of Birmingham Royal Ballet, Drum ‘n’ Bounce, Disco Yoga, So Funk, Northern Soul and others, ensuring you’ve got a genre-appropriate dance move up your sleeve for each set.
This year’s programme packs a punch, with slower soul beats to enjoy sprawled on the lawns, into a raucous evening transition, welcoming international artists alongside local legends like Leftfoot DJs (known for the infamous programme at the Hounds). Catch Lady Blackbird, a voice matching Nina Simone’s, and Brum-born Hemai, whose music sounds made for delightfully sunny, afternoon drinking in the park; apparently known as ‘jazz electronic’. On the food, it’s the same great offering as at the Folk fest (see below), with meals aplenty alongside all the sugary things you’ll need, several pints in and dancing hedonistically.
Exclusively for Mostly Jazz Funk & Soul you can also upgrade to Club Class, which gives you the chance to explore backstage, grab a drink on the house and take home a festival merch bundle. There's Club Class Lounge with its own bar and toilets, plus you’ll also receive a Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul t-shirt, programme and more.
Hot off the back of its quinceañera last year, Moseley Folk and Arts is now in its stride as a big name pull. Again at Moseley Park and Pool from September 2 to 4, the festival mixes music with poetry, comedy, in-conversations and makers. Charming northerner, Dr. John Cooper Clarke, and national poet laureate, Simon Armitage, share the bill; delivering the equivalent of two rockstars of the poetry community. With a specific vibe to each day, Friday’s opening night is a guaranteed smash, with Gaz Coombes bringing the full ensemble of Supergrass this time to headline, alongside the twang of Kurt Vile and silken-voiced Bess Atwell. The Saturday and Sunday slots are filled with welcome returners and emerging talent, as Seasick Steve stops by, then Jethro Tull and The Coral – with more bangers than you can recall – see off the weekend.
A big feast of Brum food traders, including local Moseley favourites, are on-hand to feed you up throughout the day. Spread a rug, untangle a camp chair and sit back enjoying some of the best Brum street scran in the picturesque park, including the likes of newly-returned Bonehead, The English Indian, and locals, Chakana.
The joy of the stages, set in the natural amphitheatre of the park, is that absolutely no traipsing is required. Just shift your gaze a little left or right to enjoy the flip-flopping acts throughout the day. It's a small jaunt back up the hill to the Arts stage, this year with some cracking poetry and commentary, and1960s singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan, who’ll be discussing her remarkable career: a slow-burner that came to fruition 40 years later. With a stunning backdrop as the sun sets on the stages, the atmosphere can leave you so laid back, you’re horizontal. All good and acceptable here, promise.
Also available at Mostly Jazz, you can pre-book a good, covered sit down in a private hire caravan, offering table service, exclusive drinks menus and, yep, shelter from the sun or– more likely – rain. Exclusively for Moseley Folk you can also upgrade and get into the Black Swan backstage pub and beer garden (£40), with freebies to sweeten the deal.
The biggest brass banding event on the planet, no less, has chosen Birmingham as its home — can't blame them — and you can take part later this month. From April 28 to May 1, the European Brass Band Festival will include a number of events, concerts and contests, featuring some of the very best performers from home and abroad. The highlight of the Festival will be a completely free outdoor stage, running for four days in Centenary Square (that's the new Library one), celebrating the best of brass. The Festival offers the chance to hear the world’s number 1 ranked brass band, Wales’ Cory Band, as well as Grimethorpe Colliery Band (of Brassed-Off! fame), trumpet icon and YouTube star Louis Dowdeswell, plus big bands, military bands, and more bands, bands and BANDS! Birmingham's best will be there too, including the well-loved City of Birmingham Brass Band, Sandwell’s Langley Band, and groups from Royal Birmingham Conservatoire that thankfully don't have the word 'band' in their name. Plus, the specially created European Youth Brass Band will see the finest young brass and percussion players from across the continent come together to form one international super-group. The outdoor stage will be open midday to 6pm on April 28 and 29, and from 10am to 6pm April 30 and May 1. Just turn up to enjoy the music. Ticketed events will also take place across the four days, inside Town Hall and Symphony Hall. Over 70 brass bands will feature, so why not try something new at the next bank holiday? Full listings
OBOES AND TACOS
Admittedly that header won't win any awards, which is a blow because the following piece is about multi-award winning teams and talented folks coming together for a not-to-be-missed night of Brum's very best. Street food venue par excellence, Hockley Social Club, has been in cahoots with pride of Brum classical music merchants, The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, since September, putting on two pop-up nights that sold out quicker than you can say Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla. Here's the deal: enjoy four of our city's very best street food traders (Kodawari, Andy Low N Slow, Buddha Belly and Confection) while some of the country's best musicians treat you to work by some of history's finest composers. Not ones to rest on their laurels, though, the CBSO are mixing things up; this time drafting in DJ Echo Juliet and Casey Bailey. Birmingham's Poet Laureate, Casey, should need no introduction, such has been his deserved national recognition since coming to post in 2020, wowing us all with poems including this cracker, called I Choose Birmingham. Echo Juliet, meanwhile, is the alias of Emily Jones, a DJ and percussionist who has spent over a decade curating live music. She'll be tasked with weaving her work into the CBSO's melodic output, bringing jazz, funk, disco and afrobeat to proceedings. Echo has played SXSW, We Out Here and Greenman Festival, and has also spoken about gender equality in the music industry on BBC Woman’s Hour and in The Guardian. May 5, £15 includes a drink.
WIN £1,000 OF THE BEST OF BRUM
I know you read every ICB email with a fine-toothed comb because I monitor the analytics like Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park (and look where that got him). But, on the off-chance last week's Revuie competition passed you by, here's a second bite of the apple pie. Revuie is the Birmingham-made rival to a certain giant restaurant reviewing website — a David about to take on a Goliath — with a commitment to genuine reviews and some clever tech to ensure it. Download the Revuie app on iPhone or Android and start reviewing — each reliable review will give you an entry into a prize draw. The draw will be made on May 23 at midday, and the chosen winner will win £1,000 worth of Birmingham independent goodies. This will include a meal at Purnell's, afternoon tea, a wine tasting at Loki, a stay at a top Birmingham hotel, and more. Plus there are 10 runner up prizes of £30 bar tabs across various Brum indies, and 50 extra prizes for those that finish in the next 50 places. Download
BLOOD & FIRE — A JOURNEY
Evocative images taken by renowned photographer, Vanley Burke, will join archival material from his personal collection in a new exhibition opening at Soho House, Handsworth, in May, taking visitors on a journey through the artist’s history and the Black British experience. Opening on May 25, Blood & Fire: Our Journey Through Vanley Burke's History, will see Burke re-examine his personal collection. In the 1990s he lost a number of archival materials to a house fire. The fire served as a turning point for his practice and this exhibition questions what it means to put these everyday objects into a curatorial and historical context, alongside some of Burke’s iconic photographic images. As an avid collector, Burke’s vast archive pieces together a story of migration shared by many people from the African Caribbean community who came to settle in the UK and live in Birmingham. Personal objects, some of which have never been on public display before, will include a Dutch pot used for home cooking family meals, a passport, and a radiogram which entertained the family and guests through libations. A love of photography was sparked when 10 year-old Vanley received a camera from his mother and, once here in the city, he began documenting the lives and experiences of Black people, from everyday events to anti-racist marches. Entry is free and the exhibition is part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival. More
The Hot Sauce Society lands in Brum this summer, bringing their inaugural Midlands festival to the Custard Factory. The event will see over 25 independent hot sauce makers from the UK and beyond gather to serve up a feast of fire. Meet the makers and try, taste, and discover a whole world of speciality hot sauce while DJs will provide a busy-ol' soundtrack. Civic treasure, Chef Brad Carter, will be hashtag collabing with Tacos el Pap, and BBQ masters, Prairie Fire, are also onboard. Taking place indoors on Saturday July 9, tickets are £7, including a cocktail on arrival. Kids under 12 go free. More
It's Sarah Jessica Parker and I'll thank you for not showing this to her legal team. Felt tip aficionado and one-day TV star, Well Douglas, is bringing his, ummm, unique gifts to Stirchley's Stir Stores on Sunday (4pm), and your presence is requested. Felt Tipsy is a felt tip drawing disaster class where you'll drink a famous character's favourite cocktail while drawing said character to the best/worst of your capabilities. So, if you're drawing Carrie Bradshaw, Stir Stores will provide a Cosmopolitan. Drawing the Big Lebowski, you get a White Russian. It's £15 and you get all 3 cocktails for that fee. Extra for a Bop Kebab. More
Venue: The Butcher's Social, 25 Station Approach, Dorridge, B93 8JA; website Choice: Roast sirloin of beef (£22) Chooser: Chef
Good restaurant roast dinners are as rare as rocking horse shit, so it's with the utter confidence of a mediocre white man on Twitter that I endorse the almost embarrassingly short 14-minute train journey from Moor Street to Dorridge, to get up close and personal with The Butcher's Social's Sunday offering. Literally a stone's throw from the station, the newly(ish) renovated pub and hotel is worth the journey for the interior alone, an elegant art deco dining area with worth a look-see 16-seat private dining room. So refined is the gorge fit-out that it almost feels like sacrilege to be ordering chicken wings to start, so messy are these moreish little twerps. If you don't know about The Butcher's Social's long history of chicken wingdom, well, I don't have the word count to go into it; but rest assured you can bypass all other starter options if you've never had the poultry pleasure. Biggest selling is the plum and hoisin, with the controversial salted caramel wings being perhaps the longest serving. Winner, though, is the Alabama white BBQ wings, a balanced blend of Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, white wine vinegar, mustard and lemon. A smoky, depthy, deep down and durrrty wing that's lifted and cut with crunchy, homemade red cabbage slaw, crispy onions and nutty sesame. Don't try and eat these with any degree of grace or decorum. Who do you think you are, HRH Cat Deeley? Play fast and loose with dining etiquette and enjoy. The Butcher's team will kill me for saying this, because they're trying to keep the wings to the less immaculate bar area, so messy can they be: but if they're not on the menu Thursday, Friday or Saturday, just ask and they will come. On Sundays, though, all bets are off with almost every table I looked at gladly subscribing to the delicious trainwreck of wing sharesies. As for the roast dinner, well it's all about the beef-bout-the-beef-no-treble. The new look Butcher's are doing upwards of 300-covers on some Sundays and, though that might mean meltdown for many a kitchen, here it just means even more freshness. Where some restaurants make — and I mean this — Yorkies and even roasties the day before Sunday service, TBS are masters of both timing and execution; the 60-day dry aged Dunwood Farm beef sitting in one of six waterbaths for up to three hours in garlic, rosemary, salt and oil, before being pan-roasted to order. Albert Bartlett red rooster roasties are cooked in a mix of goose fat and beef fat. The beef fat is used to limit waste and comes as a by-product from the gravy-making process which — and get this — starts a full two days before it's served, so committed are the kitchen crew to getting the most out of the roasted cow bones. The red wine jus is a sensation and, where the more cynical might frown at a £3 charge for an extra jug of the meaty elixir, I simply saw it as a way of avoiding the awkwardness of being declined further free gravy. Pay it! It feels almost inconsequential to give you a blow-by-blow account of the beef and trimmings because, hell, you know what a great roast dinner tastes like and this is that. What I will say is that when it comes to the best Sunday roast in the West Midlands, factoring in food, venue and service, I can't think of any better. And to be honest, that statement rings true to a much, much wider radius. So blown away was I by this meal that I immediately set about organising and booking that 16-seat PDR for a full family get-together. And my lot know good food. Menu
A pop-up supper club celebration of the Italian way of eating is taking place in the JQ, April 30. Kaye Winwood and Matt O’Callaghan are teaming up for the five courser, costing £52.69 per head. Much of the food Matt cooks is grown on his Brum allotment, demonstrating that you don’t have to live in Italy to do Med food. —
To celebrate their first birthday, Waterloo Street-based Sommar Brewing Co are launching their first ever beer and biryani night with food supplied by near-neighbours, Dishoom. May 3 at 5pm or 7pm. Food and a drink is £16. More —
In mid-May, Shirley Beer & Cider Festival will be bringing beer and cider to Shirley [insert something 'witty' here about me being serious and you not calling me Shirley] From £18 —
Improbably, there are still tickets available for Partridge at the Utilita Arena, next week (Thursday, April 28 and Friday, April 29). There are still cheap seats — that's all relative, of course — at £29.60 for the Thursday. Have a look at both dates as there are decent options. —
Bristol-based Black City Records — the South West's only dedicated Heavy Metal record shop — arrives for a series of residency pop-ups at Scruffy Murphy's bar on Dale End. The shop will find its home in the downstairs gig room, May 11 to 14 May. Details —
Kouzina, the enjoyable West Midlands-owned, family-run independent Greek restaurant that's fighting the good fight in the hellscape that is Selfridges Food Hall, are putting on a massive Easter feast, April 29. £30 — BE Festival is looking for 100 Brum residents to be part of Atlas Birmingham, a large-scale participatory project – a living map of the city. This way if you want some of that action.
WORDS: Tom Cullen
PHOTOS: Jolyon Holroyd (Festivals)
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