Issue 479
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"DID YOU MISS ME?"

...To be honest, not so much you, unnerving jug-head guy, but we have certainly missed your home. This piece of Martinware is on display at Gas Hall as of Saturday (February 10), as part of an exhibition which marks the partial reopening of our beloved and sorely missed Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery... 
The Museum has been closed since March 2020 for essential maintenance works, and, in all the meetings I've had since then, the most common thing I've heard when discussing our great city has been "I can't wait for it to reopen". I think we all new it would be a blow when it shut, but it has felt like the beating heart of our cultural scene had stopped.

Well, it's starting to beat again. And now would be a really good time to visit, to show how important it is to us all, particularly with council cuts looming and BMAG far from impervious to how they might impact. 
Snobs was a mistake
The exhibition is called Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts and Crafts Movement. Essentially Birmingham’s world-famous collection of Pre-Raphaelite art will go on display in the city for the first time in more than five years in a special homecoming exhibition. All of the artworks shown, and over 150 more, will be on display. It's very beautiful in there and quite moving to see the old girl back doing what she does best. 
"My girlfriend and I noticed you from across the boat and we really dig your vibe.
Can we buy you a drink?"
Three generations of British artists, designers and makers revolutionised the visual arts in the second half of the 19th century. The Pre-Raphaelites, William Morris and his circle and the men and women of the Arts and Crafts movement transformed art and design.

Victorian Radicals gives visitors the chance to discover the story of the Pre-Raphaelites – Britain’s first modern art movement – and their influence on artists and makers well into the 20th century.
"Y'all got some big-ass pigeons" 
Selected from Birmingham’s outstanding collection, Victorian Radicals presents vibrant paintings and exquisite drawings alongside jewellery, glass, textiles and metalwork to explore a radical vision for art and society. The collection also celebrates Birmingham’s historic importance as a centre for the Arts and Crafts.

The exhibition explores three generations of progressive British artists working between 1840 and 1910: the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and their circle; the second wave of Pre- Raphaelite artists who gathered around Rossetti from the late 1850s, including William Morris and Birmingham-born Edward Burne-Jones; and a third generation of designers and makers associated with the Arts and Crafts movement, working from the turn of the century to just before the First World War.
"I see the Renegade Master is back once again with the ill behaviour." 
In Birmingham, paintings made by artists including Kate Bunce, Joseph Southall and Arthur Gaskin combined the poetry and intensity of the Pre-Raphaelites’ work with a distinctive identity all their own.

By the early 20 th century, Birmingham’s School of Art was one of the most important centres in Britain for progressive art and design. Women artists were particularly significant in the School, winning national art prizes and raising the city’s profile through national and international exhibitions. They included the painter Kate Bunce and her metalworking sister, Myra; stained-glass designer Florence Camm; enameller Fanny Bunn; and embroiderer, painter and designer Mary Newill.
"It's called 'Gladiators', Denise. 'Gladiator' was a Russell Crowe movie." 
With more than 160 works on display, by artists such as Ford Madox Brown, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Elizabeth Siddall, the exhibition’s paintings, drawings, watercolours, and decorative arts explore the relationship between art and nature and the search for beauty in an age of industry.
Victorian Radicals is on until from Feb 10 to Oct 31. Book

FOLK: LINE-UP ANNOUNCED & TICKETS TOMORROW


Moseley Folk and Arts Festival is a miraculous thing. It deserves nothing less than to be carried through the streets in a sedan chair by Carl Chinn while the rest of us toss tulips and dance merry jigs, because every year the line-up seems to be a stone cold smasher.

For 2024, though, they've gone stratospheric. Belle and Sebastian (oh hello!), Levellers (say what?), Dexys (welcome home, Kev) and Flogging Molly (far from home, Mol!) are just some of the big name headliners announced for the Aug 30 to Sept 1 shindig.

The leading UK folk music and arts festival, by a country mile, has a long history of attracting eclectic line-ups, and 2024 is no exception, with Dublin’s folk/metal quartet The Scratch, siblings The Staves, Lisa O’Neill, prolific troubadour Beans On Toast, Tuareg songwriter Mdou Moctar, and West Midlands’ Folk Album Chart-topper Katherine Priddy also set to appear.

Marking their 35th anniversary with the release of Together All The Way last year, Levellers (Friday) are one of the most respected live acts around, with their appearances never short of electrifying, while Celtic punks Flogging Molly (Friday) have built a strong loyal international fan base through endless touring, having cut their teeth as the house band at Molly Malone’s, in LA.

With hits like Jackie Wilson Says (not Jocky Wilson) and Come On Eileen (as Dexys Midnight Runners) resulting in over a billion worldwide streams — which is quite a lot — Kevin Rowland’s Dexys (Saturday) have never stood still.

Joining them on Saturday is Dublin's CMAT. Recently nominated for an International Artist Of The Year BRIT Award, her second album, Crazymad, For Me, has also been shortlisted for the RTÉ Choice Music Prize.

Pick of the bunch, though, might just be Belle And Sebastian (Sunday), fresh from guest-starring in an episode of The Simpsons, they're one of the UK’s most beloved pop portraitists, with their recent LPs, A Bit of Previous (2022) and Late Developers (2023), ranking as some of their best work. I predict a festival closing singalong to The Boy With The Arab Strap that will go down in the annals of Folk history. Can. Not. Wait.

Tickets on sale tomorrow (Friday, February 9, 10am) here.

CHAPTER: IT CAN BE DONE


I'm not sure what the state of your finances are at the moment but the other day I had to whip by banking app out to check if I could afford guacamole on my burrito. It's tough for restaurants — real tough — but it's tough for us, too. It's tough from every angle, like a Jason Statham exam.

Over in Edgbaston, though, independent neighbourhood restaurant, Chapter, might have cracked it. Quietly doing what they do best, as they been for years, their A La Carte is good value for money as it is, but they've launched a Set Price that will take some beating: One course for £16, two for £23 or three for £30. Home cooked plates of prime produce made slowly, carefully, with the love they put into every dish, whatever the price. 

"It's a tricky time for everyone," says Ben Ternant, Chef Director. "When people come through our door we understand lots of them don't have the disposable income they did a while back. We want to recognise that by being as accessible as possible. At these prices we can take on pubs, but we're doing so without compromising on sourcing, or cookery."
The Set Price menu, like all Chapter menus, still includes meat from Aubrey Allen and Brixham Market fish, both providing some of the best produce in the country. But, and this seems more than fair, usually the cheaper cuts.

"And cheaper doesn't mean worse," adds Ben. "The coq au vin [above] is thigh meat only, no breast. But thigh is where all the flavour is anyway."

And, if anything, the cheaper cuts mean the kitchen needs to work harder, not less. The cooking process on the coq au vin takes five hours, and the flavour, once it comes out, is so deep they can taste it in the Mariana Trench.

Both Ben and his Head Chef Nathan Swift are classically trained. And boy does that come through here. The thighs are sealed with plenty of herbs, garlic and onions, getting a good crisp to the skin, before being slow-braised in red wine, mushrooms and plenty more herbs. The bones are then removed and the sauce is reduced further with tomatoes, more onion and more mushroom, to get a rocking elixir of flavour going. It's an outstanding dish rigged with bursting charge of tangy richness, balanced with a velvety butter mash.

Ham hock terrine is a super generous starter option as is a winter-beating hearty soup, while the crispy haddock fish & chips comes with mushy peas and charred lemon. Smoked salmon mousse, vegan chilli, bangers & mash and orange crème brûlée also all feature.

What this all shows is that it can be done. The guest can get a quality feed for a decent fee and the restaurant can make a margin, however modest. My advice? Direct your hard-earned sheets of the King's paper here. And that coq au vin is a non-negotiable.     

Chapter's Set Price Menu is served Tuesday to Saturday all day and evening from noon. Book

PLEASE DON'T UNSUBSCRIBE


I saw this candy-coloured nightmare stew on Instagram and haven't slept since. It's the unforgivable work of Birmingham-based illustrator, James Bourne, and the worst bit is he's not even sorry.

"I'm currently finishing my MA in Illustration and am illustrating a story I've written called Wood for the Trees. It's about a group of creatures including RoboCop, Jerry (from Tom and Jerry), Jabba the Hutt and Pinocchio struggling to adapt to the changes of the forest they live in after a storm." So far, so very ordinary.

"It's a take on negative attitudes towards diversity. I'm hoping that it will inspire a bit of reflection from those who see it."
"Anyway, as the story progresses the characters become so fixated on the tree colours, gender and what each other are up to that they don't see the real threat to their lives which is robots (or AI).

"This is where the heads come in. They are created using Midjourney which is an AI image software that allows the user to blend images together. I blend photos of kitsch items and faces then ask the software to put them into a particular composition with specific lighting, camera lens and colour schemes. Most of the imagery I've been creating recently comes from eBay and photographs of my old toys.

"The heads are a fun way of exploring what Midjourney can do for the AI apocalypse that takes place in my story — which isn't yet finished. I'm having a lot of fun making them," he says looking me dead in the eye, without cracking a hint of a smile "and look, I've made a Brummie one especially for your readers."

Don't look at it, don't look at it, don't look at it...
The AJ Bell Great Birmingham Run is less than three months away. Taking place on Sunday, May 5, and featuring a 10k, half marathon and Junior and Mini run on the same day. Around 14,000 people are expected to sign up. Join them!  

Stirchley Open Cinema are holding a charity film quiz at Birmingham Brewery, Feb 29.

Verve Festival of Poetry and Spoken Word returns to The Hippodrome, Feb 21 to 25. Now in its seventh year, Verve has become synonymous with a lively and celebratory approach to programming poetry of every kind. It's well worth swinging by.
WORDS: Tom Cullen
SPECIAL GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: COVID-19


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We all know you're soft 'cause we've all seen you dancing
We all know you are hard 'cause we all saw you drinking
From noon until noon again
You're the boy with the filthy laugh. You're...




The Boy With The Arab Strap
(Belle & Sebastian, 1998)
 



 
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