SHOUT, Brum's annual festival of queer art and culture, kept going throughout the pandemic, with a fully digital programme for SHOUTatHOME in 2020 and a successful hybrid festival for SHOUT21. This time round the team have taken the learning from those years, keeping an element online, but doubling down on the physical, going louder on sensory delights, all programmed to appeal to the broad intersections of our wonderfully diverse city.
Shout (shout) Shout (shout) let it all out, here's six events you can't do without...
November 5 (6pm to 8pm) £15
Birmingham Museum's Edwardian Tearooms
This is a seriously jam-packed few hours of joy, taking the traditional afternoon tea experience and adding a wildly unique and queer twist in a beauty of a venue. Host, trained dancer and elegant drag star par excellence, Dominus Von Vexo, will liven up the finger foods with a 30-minute Cha-Cha workshop that'll come in handy later on, while all refreshments will be served by Vamos' Cheapskate waiters — the masked nightmare fuel pictured. Vintage class singers (your modern take on that 50s swing crooners) will be providing the aural entertainment alongside queer operatic warbler, Dr Daniel Somerville. There will also be no shortage of prosecco. At just £15 this is an absolute steal. More
November 11 (8pm) £10 Royal
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Again in an absolutely stunning venue — it's almost like someone's thought about it — join wannabe scream queen, Baby Lame, for a night of perfect horror-related madness. Baby, who is a consultant producer on Drag Race UK and co-hosted the official Drag Race UK podcast with Scarlett Moffatt, will be your host — a chainsaw-wielding final girl who is set to star in her very own slasher movie and tonight’s the night she’s going to make it happen! There’s just one problem… Baby hasn’t found anyone to kill her. The debut solo show by this award-winning cult cabaret star is described as "a genre-bending thrill ride of bombastic bad taste, featuring kinky roleplays, trash-tastic original songs, deliriously camp film clips and riotous balls-out performances." Sign. Me. Up. More
QUEER METALS: LGBTQ+ BLACKSMITHING
November 12 (12pm to 1pm) free
Its a necklace called Pagoda II and this video here showcases how properly mesmerising it is. The necklace itself is one of an exhibition of artworks by eight UK artists, video interviews with eight international artists and an Instagram campaign, that explores the multiplicity of queerness through metalwork and metalsmithing. Viewed together, the artworks can be seen as an act of resistance. They are a means to empower, affirm and express solidarity between LGBTQIA+ creatives, making visible the ways they are shaping, disrupting and contributing to contemporary culture. One of the artists exhibiting and guiding the one-hour tour is Birmingham-based jeweller, Dauvit Alexander, whose Cabinet of Curiosities is well worth a look-see. Dauvit created, for example, this watch, inspired by Alice In Wonderland and made from the petrol-cap from a 1950s tow-truck. Probably quite talented then. More
REFLECTIONS OF AN INDIAN DANCER
November 9 (7pm) £10
Wrap your senses around some world class spoken word, song, music and dance focussing on identity, with this significant piece of storytelling from the south of India. Reflections of an Indian Dancer is anchored in three styles of classical Indian dance, different techniques guiding us through another chapter of performer Sooraj Subramaniam’s life. "It's a bold and, at times, very vulnerable monologue," says the promo material. "Through this startling spoken word soundtrack, the audience is taken into the interior world of the performer and invited to explore their own sense of identity." This teaser trailer shows how graceful a piece this could prove to be. More
INDECENT ACTS: TRIPLE BILL
November 8 (7.30pm) £5
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
A triple bill of live stage performances, for just a fiver, kicks off with Choose Your Fighter (pictured) by Votive Theatre. This absolute cracker of an idea uses technology and headphones to present separate journeys, giving audience members an exclusive perspective of one character's story — but which will you pick: Dee, Craig, Amber or Freya? Next up and fresh from Edinburgh Fringe is The Gay Train by Brum-based Yellow Mug Theatre. Fifty thousand genders, vegan sausage rolls, what should you be angry about next? When non-binary student Lin is attacked in a pub toilet, a viral video propels them to fame for all the wrong reasons. When they descend into the horrifying world of daytime TV, will the trans agenda succeed? Or is this all just woke nonsense? And last up is Queer Enough Now by Andrew Lake. A One Tran Musical, since labelling themselves as non-binary, Andrew might finally be queer enough to tell this "sordid tale" of dressing-up, disposable razors, and debauchery, through four original songs. More
November 5 to 12 (2pm to 6pm) free
Birmingham LGBT Centre
Fetishes. We all have them — mine involves an 80s waterbed, but that's not important right now. Ryan Astbury's EROS project aims to shine light on modern mainstream fetishes and highlight the importance of the objects used for them, in a way which creates a sex positive atmosphere. It's a commentary of and extension to Hal Fischer’s work, Gay Semiotics, which was originally published in 1977 and detailed types of semiotic modes commonly used at the time in everyday and kink communities. Inspired by Fischer’s clinical approach in his photography, EROS deconstructs the binary of the Sub / Dom relationship and describes alternative mainstream kinks. More
City treasure, Birmingham Rep, have released details of their new season and it's a wall-to-wall masterpiece. Big-hitters include Spitting Image: Live, a brand-new production of the stage adaptation of John Steinbeck belter, Of Mice and Men, and the joyous return of Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of).
The New Year begins with Spitting Image, the pleather-faced puppets taking to the stage amidst absolute countrywide chaos. Written by comedians Al Murray and Matt Forde, with the help of The Rep's own Artistic Director and double Olivier Award winner, Sean Foley. One can only imagine the twists and turns their script has had to take as the show has toured throughout political bedlam, but rest assured it will be up to date and going full throttle when it lands February 1 to March 11. Maybe there'll even be a jungle-based former MP?
Of Mice and Men, which comes through the door March 18 and stays until April 8, will be directed by Rep Associate Director, Iqbal Khan, the man who masterminded that Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony and whose production of Tartuffe is currently playing to critical acclaim.
Co-produced by The Rep in 2019 as part of its first UK tour, Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) returns for five days in April after a triumphant run in the West End where it won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy. Men, money and microphones will be fought over in this affectionate adaptation where the stakes couldn’t be higher when it comes to romance. Expect a bangin' soundtrack to boot.
Also heading back to Brum's welcoming bosom — bit of an odd sentence — and after a sold-out run in 2022, is RUSH: A Joyous Jamaican Journey from April 26 to 29. This immensely popular production tells the story of Reggae music and the Windrush Generation, following how Reggae took the world by storm.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo, meanwhile, is an intimate look at the lives of one couple, Afra, an artist blinded by an explosion, and her beekeeper husband Nuri as the couple escape Syria for, eventually, the UK. It is, of course, an adaptation of Christy Lefteri’s best-selling novel, winner of the Aspen Words Award and one of The Times’ top three bestselling books of 2020. No pressure, then.
The good eggs that they are, in response to cost of living challenges, The Rep has also introduced additional discounted ticket initiatives. More
MAMA MIA MAMA ROUX!
"I'm going to be a great film star," says Sally Bowles in 1971's Cabaret. "That is, if booze and sex don't get me first." Same, Sally. Same. And I can pin all my Hollywood hiccups on Mama Roux's brilliant new (and free) Cabaret nights every Wednesday and Thursday.
On Wednesdays the Digbeth disco den is all about Icons After Dark. Expect yourself to be dancing (a lot) to vocalists and choreographed backing dancers performing only the biggest bangers of the last 40 odd years. They describe it as "the Brit Awards meets Studio 54" but I've been to the Brit Awards and other than peeing next to a member of Maximo Park found it pretty heckin' lowkey compared to this.
Things somehow go up a gear on Thursdays, though, when a weird and wonderful showcase of all walks of cabaret arrives courtesy of Mama Tasty and her beautiful misfits. This female curated show has everything from fire breathers, angle grinders, vocalists and strip-teases — it's a fully immersive spectacular in a purpose built room with female empowerment at its core. "We highly recommend NOT bringing your nan to this one," says the promo material. Too late.
Both nights include a cost of a living friendly £5 double house spirit with mixer offer, all night, while Thursday also offers any burger, fries and pint for a tenner. Both nights start at 9pm, book your free table here.
IT'S A TRADITION FOR A GOOD REASON
This month sees the unveiling of a major rebuild of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s iconic The Nutcracker, which is booking up as we speak. Costing a cool £1mill (made possible thanks to the support of hundreds of individuals, numerous Trusts and Foundations and BRB investment) the refurbished production has retained all its essential elements but, says designer John Macfarlane, it will be brighter and bolder.
Choreographed by Sir Peter Wright, former artistic director of BRB, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker was a gift for Birmingham to say thank you for welcoming the company when it moved from our nation's second city, London, in 1990. For 30 years, it has been a festive favourite, but the sets and costumes were apparently beginning to show their age, says John, who designed the original and has managed the rebuild.
“I can see it’s worn out although a lot of members of the audience wouldn’t,” he says. “That's a testament to how this production has been looked after but it does age. It’s also gone twice to Japan, to the Coliseum in London, the Lowry, as well as being used in Birmingham for 20-something performances each year. All these things take a huge toll."
“So it’s a complete rebuild of everything but I’ve kept the production as close to its original as possible. I felt my brief was absolutely that when the curtain goes up the audience know it’s their Nutcracker, that's been the most important thing in my thinking.” The rebuild has involved all sets, backdrops, props and costumes from the show’s famous Christmas tree scenery to glittery landscapes of snow.
Speaking from experience it really is the perfect festive family treat, with music played live by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia and over 60 dancers, it's a helluva spectacle. And it's ours! At Birmingham Hippodrome from Nov 19 to Dec 10. Book
PIZZA, PASTA AND PRESENTS
Prior to their exceptionally exciting launch on Greenfield Crescent, new independent pizza purveyors, Smoke + Ash, will be doing their deliciously doughy thang at Edgbaston Village's Christmas lights switch on, Saturday, November 12.
They'll be rubbing shoulders with Brum food royalty as Five Way's Island faves, Laghi's, will be on the pasta-ry pots and pans. From a little further afield Warwick Butchers, of Barnt Green, will be landing (well, arriving — they're not flying there) with a hog roast.
The Edgbaston Village Christmas lights are always one of, if not the most gorgeous of the city's seasonal switch flips and it's super family friendly. Their idyllic market (pictured) will open from 10am to aid your gift buying conundrums and stage acts will commence at 3.30pm. Santa, Mrs Claus and their elf helper will be kicking about while there's also a a Frozen-inspired singalong, an Elmhurst Ballet School performance, choirs and carols with the grand finale of the lights at 5.30pm. More
A MASTERCHEF MEAL FOR £10
Cards on the table time, you're not just going to spend a tenner, are you? But, technically, technically, you really could. Masterchef: The Professionals Champ, 2021, Dan Lee, is doing a three night/day residency at the Jewellery Quarter's 1000 Trades pub and the menu, bearing in mind this guy one the bloody thing, is wildly affordable. Starters start at £4 and rise to £8 and include Mantou (Chinese steamed buns) with chilli jam butter, pork and prawn dumplings (pictured) vermicelli noodle salad and crispy chicken wings.
On mains there's Thai basil (£12), pork char siu (pictured, £10) or miso aubergine (£10), all with jasmine rice. Banana bread with miso milk caramel (£6) finishes things off. Dan's heritage is a mix of English, Irish and Cantonese and he's worked in Singapore, Thailand, France, New Zealand, Greece and more, learning, and fusing, as he goes.
Dan will be at 1000 Trades on Thursday November 17 (7pm to 10pm), Friday November 18 (12.30pm to 3pm then 5.30pm to 10pm) and Saturday November 19 (12.30pm to 3pm then 5.30pm to 10pm). I have it on excellent authority (because they told me) that as of yesterday about 80% of the tables were gone. Best availability is to look at Saturday afternoon / early evening if booking. They are also doing limited walk-ins during the daytime too. Maybe go early to avoid horror tears. Book
The Pup Up Cafe travels the UK bringing breed specific dog communities together and they’ve just launched their latest meet; the ‘Dashing Dachshund Christmas Tour’. With an estimated 300 dachshunds at the Brum event it’ll be a wall-to-wall sausage fest. With a present on entry, unlimited treats for every sausage, puppuccinos, treat stations, tunnels and ball pits, it's happening at Lost & Found, December 18. Prices depend on if you're bringing a dachsund or just boringly bringing a human. More
BOOK NOW: HEATHERS
Picture the scene: It's Christmas Day morning, you've done stockings, done worrying pre-10am bucks fizz and then you hand you beloved tickets to see Heathers The Musical at the Alexandra in May 2023. Damn you're good. Following two record-breaking seasons at London’s The Other Palace and West End, a transfer to the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2018 and having won the What’s On Stage 2019 award for Best New Musical, Heathers will arrive in Brum, May 16 to 23. Produced by big hitters Bill Kenwright and Paul Taylor-Mills, this black comedy based on one of the greatest cult teen films of all-time looks a winner.
THE MOST HEART-BREAKING BOOK IN THE HISTORY OF SPORT
Maybe that header is getting a little carried away, but here's a stocking filler idea that'll go down great/gut-wrenchingly with anyone who has felt the chidhood pain of pinging your football into an irretrievable place.
The Twitter-born baby of Brummie pals Matthew Lutz and Adam Barnfield, it all began back in 2013 when Lutz — who regularly lost footballs in Moseley Park as a kid — began tweeting pics of lost footballs he spotted. It took off, submissions coming from all corners of the world, so Matt's mate Adam (the pair sat next to each other at Birmingham City matches and would often discuss the Twitter account to detract from pitch-based hell) started helping out, the pair adding sombre song lyrics to each picture posted.
"From there we managed to try and get ourselves a bucket list of stuff to do with Lost Footballs," says Matt. "We’ve trended worldwide, featured on the most read section of the BBC News website as well as having had articles written about us in The Guardian, The Telegraph and L’Equipe. Plusour calendar, which was called the most boring of the year, appeared in The Sun.
"Our bucket list will only be complete when we can get a mention in I Choose Birmingham," he didn't even come close to adding.
Alongside wistful pics contained in their new 100 page book, there are also contributions from Luther Blissett, Terry Butcher and Times Chief Football Writer Henry Winter, as they recollect their memories of misplaced footballs of their past.
All proceeds from the book will support Sporting Memories who tackle dementia, depression and loneliness through the power of sport. Even if you can't stretch to the book (just £10) do give the guys a follow and submit your sightings of lost footballs. “Also, and just to reiterate a very important point," finished Matt. "No rugby balls.”
Personally I'd rather sneeze out my eyeballs and hurl bleach down the holes than sit stationary in my Skoda at the NEC for 3 hours, but I am aware this one is super popular. The Luna Drive-In Cinema is bringing Home Alone, The Santa Clause, Arthur Christmas, Elf and How the Grinch Stole Christmas to the NEC, December 1 to 22, for £38.50 per car. —
Speaking of the NEC, MCM Comic Con is there Nov 11 to 13 and, unless there's another bloody train strike, you can leave your car at home for this one. —
Chapter, in Edgbaston, are launching their 'Wine Wednesdays' offer, and it's a real cracker. Every Wednesday in November enjoy 25% off their 55-bottle wine list, when you're buying the entire bottle. The discount does not apply to Champagne, sparkling or to Chapter Special Picks wines. I'm sure they're not that special anyway. More —
The Kong badge, the Mega Bull badge and the combo of the two, a pin project we did with the lovely Birmingham Design Festival crew, are back on sale. They will sell out again, guaranteed, so do buy now to avoid disappointment. Stocking fillers do not get better. —
Indus, in Park Regis, are offering 50% off food today and tomorrow. Click and scroll down — Shado, a lived experience-led community of activists, artists and journalists working towards social justice are opening a new exhibition at Centrala, in Digbeth, tomorrow (Nov 4), in collaboration with a raft of local artists. It's on until Nov 18 but the launch night has spoken word and live music. Book
WORDS: Tom Cullen
PICS: Annabel Mueller (Nutcracker)
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