I’m sitting in Saqib’s on Lozells Road
With two brothers I’ve known since
Playgrounds, Pogs and Pokemon cards.
When the bus rumbles past I think
About the routes of this city
I think about my roots in this city
I choose Birmingham because
The shadow of Thames Tower in
Bloomsbury Park held me
When no person would, wrapped
Me like a gift and let me open
Myself when I was ready for it
I choose Birmingham like the kid
Who never throws the wrapping paper
Away, I could never even think it
When the canals hold star dust
Whilst Highbury park holds peace
And Handsworth Park plays steel pans
I choose Birmingham for as long as
Burbury Park holds my brother’s spirit
They will never blank him out
Not while spit, sits in this mouth
Not while blood ricochets through
These vessels. He lives in me.
I choose Birmingham and if she
She would choose me too then
This might just be something, you know
I might even ignore the man dem
In the group chat for a minute, not
Forever, but long enough for her to know.
Casey Bailey is Birmingham's new Poet Laureate, and he's on a mission. Maybe you can help.
"For me the role is to bring poetry to the parts of the city it doesn't yet reach. Poetry already lives well in Birmingham, but does it live well in all sections? I'd argue not. It doesn't reach people equally geographically, and it doesn't reach them equally across the class structure. I want to take poetry to communities of lower socio-economic backgrounds. I want to be in schools and in community groups, reading poetry, introducing brilliant Brum poets — like Roy McFarlane and Adrian Earle — to our city, and inspiring the next McFarlane. The next Earle.
"A lot of people feel poetry is a luxury. A luxury that you need to have time to be able to indulge in. That's wild, it needs to be more prevalent than that. Poetry is an excellent release, an escape from the day-to-day, and a way of documenting life.
"I've seen poetry that tells the story of the working class, told by people who tend not to be from that background, and told to people who aren't from there either. This needs changing up. Poetry needs to be accessible to, and by, those that have been forgotten.
"Poetry needs to be accessible to more black people. Black people have felt marginalised by poetry — there's a feeling that it's not for us. That's not true of all black people but I think it's true of black people more than any other racial demographic.
"And finally poetry needs to be accessible to those who are differently abled. An example? Poetry nights are often held, say, on the third floor of a cafe, with no lift, because it's the only space the event organisers can get for free. They'll either put the event on knowing someone in a wheelchair, or using a frame can't get there, or they'll choose not to put it on at all. I want to make sure those events go ahead. And I want to be asking the question, can it go online, too? I want to be asking, can it go online and can it do so with sign language for the deaf?
"There are more white middle class people in Birmingham that know about me and what I do, than those that grew up where I grew up, in Nechells. That's what I want to change. That right there."
You can contact Casey Bailey here. Completed forms go direct to him. Watch the video version of 'I Choose Birmingham' on YouTube here.
YOU FORGOT KEVIN
There's a particularly dark Home Alone theory that suggests Kevin McCallister is a child-ghost trapped in purgatory. Remember how he refuses to visit his house's attic and basement? Heaven and hell, right there. Remember how he's a lovely lad, but his whole family hates him? That''s because he won't stop haunting them. And perhaps most chilling of all is when John Candy says he once left his son in a funeral parlour. That's Kevin. Anyway, it's a pretty watertight theory I'm sure you'll agree, and one you can explore in full when horror movie Home Alone is shown by Luna Drive In Cinema, which arrives at the NEC this Christmas, December 4 to 20. Elf, Die Hard (not a Christmas movie), Muppet Christmas Carol and Love Actually are among the 13 movies to be screened, all of which can have macabre theories applied if you try hard enough. It's £35 per car. More
Anyone who's opening a bar right now deserves the key to the city so, if you understand the current rules, try and get over to Ikigai, above 1000 Trades in the JQ. Former Opheem and Nocturnal Animals mixer Luke Bensley is on grog, with a menu of Japanese inspired alco and non-alco numbers. Inspired by Izakaya culture (post-work informal drinkypoos), Ikigai is pronounced 'ee-key-guy' a combination of the Japanese words “iki”, meaning “life,” and “gai”, which sort of means "value". Drinks include a load of sake and shiso based creations starting at £7. I'm all over the Yuzu Smash which marries Roku gin and shiso but the top seller is the Black Honey (pictured), with rum, honey, molasses and banana. On first Sundays of the month they'll be doing Japanese soul food, like curries and ramens and whatnot. Check out the menu here and get yo'sel' booked.
Disclaimer: Because sake is completely delicious I drank a lot of it during this meal, so all bets are off as to how the old memory stands up. Here goes...
If for a split sake-fulled second a friend of yours forgets that soft shell crab isn't a type of crab, but rather it's a common stage in the lives of all crabs — when they shed their kevlar to grow a new shell — go easy on them, eh? We've all been there. Indeed, soft shell crab isn't the worst hand our Creator ever dealt, but it is the best dish at Birmingham's best sushi house. At Gaijin it comes two ways — deep fried then wrapped in sushi with all the good stuff, or deep fried and left whole, for you and your guest to brawl over. Order both. The warm, crispy crustacean offering texture, with the fresh flesh giving a lobster-beating hit of sea life. Freshness feels like the order of the day at Gaijin, with every dish singing like it's just been prepared, that second. Which, of course, it has. Be sure to ask, as soon as you arrive, if they have belly salmon (or was it belly tuna? Belly something) because it's the standout fish dish and, costing a premium, they only buy a certain amount in daily. It, as one guest suggested, might be the best single mouthful of food in Brum. As long as those dishes are ordered, and you avoid the sea urchin, the rest, as Coach Finstock in Teen Wolf once said, "is cream cheese". Also how on the Earth our bill only came to £120 (for three — back when that was allowed) is beyond me. I thought we'd spent that amount on sake alone. Menu
ANTONA LAUNCHES 'AT HOME' OFFERING
Antona At Home, the DIY kit from the godfather of Brum's Michelin-starred success stories, Andreas Antona, has gone live. The founder of Simpsons and The Cross, Kenilworth, has teamed up with Masterchef: The Professionals winner Stu Deeley to produce the menu which combines classics from both venues plus sprinklings of the Far East Asian-influence that helped carry Brummie Deeley to TV glory. What’s more, Andreas is offering all readers 10% off their first order, if you subscribe to the Antona At Home newsletter, and spend over £50. Plus, fancy winning a three course meal for two and a bottle of wine? Simply head to our Instagram account and follow the instructions for your chance at just that. Starters, which include mushroom gyoza, are from £7.50, while mains (Thai chicken ballotine anyone?) kick off at £20. Desserts start at £8.50. Subscribe and Instagram for all the good stuff and check out the menu.
New Brum-based tea company Wildbos has launched their hand-blended, naturally caffeine-free brews. Use code 'ichoose10' to get 10% off all items in your basket. Website —
Bare Bones Pizza and Escape Hunt have teamed up for Halloween and you can now enjoy DIY slices while having the bejesus scared out of you from the comfort of / being trapped in your own home. From £20.99 —
In 2021 Blondie are playing whatever people are calling the NIA these days. Tickets (from £63.50) go on sale at 10am here.
Tickets are now on sale for the Social Burger Fest at The Bond, Digbeth, Nov 14 and 15. Libertine Burger, ICB faves Flying Cow and Yardbirds will be slingin' beef. Urban cheesecake are slingin', umm, cheesecake. Two person tables are £6. More
Coventry City of Culture have announced the first events of their 365-day programme, which kicks off in May of next year. Cov will host the Turner prize, a south Asian film festival and a music festival curated by the Specials’ Terry Hall. Fair play, it looks ace.
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