(Issue 144)
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In the event of disaster, what would you save? It's photos for a lot of people. But would you run back into a building of dubious structure to capture an image? Brum-based urban photographer Andrew Coogan would. In fact he's made it through windows, past security guards, and all the way to the centre of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone to record history. Here is but a fraction of what he's seen.
The Pripyat Amusement Park was scheduled to open on May 1, 1986 but when Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station's fourth reactor suffered a catastrophic power surge five days earlier, the fairground's static future was decided. Captured by Andrew as part of his four days in the Exclusion Zone, he explains "the idea that the Ferris wheel was all ready to go but never even had the chance to get started is haunting — no one had any idea what was about to happen when the park was being finished".
Another aspect of the unrestricted access Andrew was granted that has stuck with him is the harrowing number of gas masks left behind at a local school he visited. "Distributed for use in the event of war between East and West, I wonder about the children's memories of this place. Are they alive today? Are they okay?" Armed with a Geiger counter, hard hat and steel-capped boots, the biggest immediate danger Andrew felt was the collapse of floors or ceilings which have received no maintenance for thirty years and cannot be demolished due to the radioactive material which has settled in the structures.
In a different corner of Europe (which Andrew is not for revealing), the picture gatherer found his way into the control room of an old power plant (above), which ceased operations more than five years previously. Lights on, phones plugged in and document wallets open on desks, photographing the scene, Andrew felt "like everyone had simply gone to lunch and was about to walk straight back in".
At an abandoned care home — after a night camping out to be ready for best light — Andrew came across the room pictured, which fascinates him because he will never know why the televisions were discarded. No stranger to taking extraordinary steps for a shot, he's had run-ins with the French, British and German police, as well as the Belgian Military variety, including at an abandoned police station. Fortunately the Police Nationale saw the irony and let Andrew go on his way without too much delay.
Captured on his second visit to this decaying chateaux (which Andrew eventually confirmed as being within Belgium's borders), the derelict property is said to have been used by the Germans during WWII. Synonymous with urban exploring, the property is set for demolition this year, but is now immortalised by Andrew's lens.
The Atomic Dream, which includes Andrew's Chernobyl images, is being exhibited at 6/8 Cafe until August 12. Enquire about prints here.


Yes, Batman V Superman underwhelmed, but hopes were high for this next film in DC’s cinematic universe. Good news then: it’s better than the Bruce Wayne versus Clark Kent smackdown. Slightly less good news: it doesn’t match the best of Marvel. But most of the squad (not all — sorry Katana) make a strong impression, especially Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, as they’re forced into a suicide mission. It’s only in the finale, as the villain unleashes her apocalyptic CGI lightshow, that the film loses its way. But before then it kicks superhero butt. Times & trailer


Until the end of the month, Harvey Nics is offering a compelling reason to stop by. Three courses of compelling plus a cocktail in fact. To play nice with your Bacardi Crush, choose from seasonal starters including tomato jelly with an apple and frisée salad, or smoked eel with horseradish. In terms of the main event, there's a tandoori chicken masala, as well as a supremely summery gnocchi (pictured). Finish proceedings with a choice of crowd-pleasing puds — and at £22 all in — a crowd-pleasing price tag. More


For a stand-up comic, Greg Davies has been doing rather a lot of sitting down of late. But alas, alack, alarmas, in 431 days, you'll find Mr Gilbert and his new show You Magnificent Beast at Symphony Hall. And if you think that sounds too much like planning ahead, we make no apology — tickets for his two-date Brum stop off went on sale less than a week ago, and you'll need to take decisive action if you do want to secure a spot. October 9 & 10, 2017 at 8pm — because that'll be the clincher diary-wise — tickets are £32.50.
Venue: The Plough, 21 High Street, Harborne, B17 9NT; website
Choice: Warm crispy sea bass salad (£13.50) Chooser: Manager

Ever heard of the concept of Table Pizza
? A friend introduced us to it recently and, without wanting to put too fine a point on it, it's going to change the way you look at casual dining forever. It works thusly: If you go to a restaurant that serves really good pizza, but they don't specialise in pizza, don't order any side dishes. Instead order a full-on pizza for everyone to share so you can still test out their pride and joy mains. It works best at The Plough, where the nduja pizza is too ace to miss, but the summer menu demands you try something new. The sea bass salad comes with snap peas, chilli, pistachio, sesame seeds and soya giving it a light, zingy kiss of the Orient, while the charred, meaty fish provides a belly-sating main event. Not sold on salad? The slow-cooked chorizo and chicken burger is also new and the poor fool who ordered that could only watch on as the rest of us diced it up and doled it out between us. Haven't heard from him since. Oh and you'll see we've trademarked Table Pizza so don't even think about it. Menu


Rather appropriately immortalised in concrete, those brutal boys from Space_Play have been scurrilously surveying, modelling, cutting and casting a sculpture of John Madin's late lamented Central Library. Starting life as a study of architectural plans and images, there's a seven-stage process, taking weeks and culminating in the hand-stamping of each sculpture. Surely a shoo-in for a spot at BMAG when we're all a bit older, greyer and more rotund, a limited run of the piece, which measures 250 x 118 x 35mm and weighs 960g, is on sale from today. And with timing as cunning as the wiliest of foxes, Team Space_Play is giving away three. Maybe win one here. Definitely buy one here (£45).
  • Fish, (orange) chips and Champagne. It's an ever so civilised combination which is now available at Fishylicious, which you can't fail to notice, as it's entirely blue
  • Get your rhododendron on at Digbeth Community Garden tomorrow from 6.30pm. Food and beers are on a pay as you feel basis, with words and poetry as part of Digbeth First Friday
  • Seasonal Markets is heading for countryside. Resting The Bond for this year's summer festival, it's all about the Blyth Farm Feast this Sunday from 11am until 7pm (in Coleshill). More
  • Catch Big Trouble in Little China at the Mockingbird tonight at 8pm. We were born ready too. Tickety-type things
  • Or head to the Prince of Wales for very alcoholic salmon, posh nosh jelly shots, flair skillz and vodka tiki cocktails, as part of Crushed & Cube's vodka takeover. Entry be free
"No you cannot catch kidney failure." - Greg Davies as Mr Gilbert in the Inbetweeners
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Leo Brammer, Tom Cullen
IMAGES: Andrew Coogan - all rights reserved; images may not be reproduced without permission

I Choose Birmingham, Unit 317, Zellig, Gibb Street, Birmingham, B9 4AA
Copyright © 2016 I Choose Publishing Limited, All rights reserved.

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