Issue 491
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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Mainly it was the worst of times. Little Faces Big Feelings is a poignant photographic collection documenting and highlighting the profound impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on children and young people worldwide.
Showing at the Library of Birmingham from now until June 29 the free project, spearheaded by documentary photographer Maria Reaney, brings together 16 artists from internationally diverse backgrounds to shed light on the social and emotional challenges faced by children during lockdowns and thereafter.
The world had predominantly been shut down and there were no opportunities to photograph in the public domain so Maria, who took the two photos above, turned her lens onto her children and home life. The long slow days meant she trawled Instagram like never before, bonding with numerous artists all over the world. This historic, and pivotal time, was hugely significant to humanity and compelled Maria to reach out to photographers in order to collate a grassroots collection. Maria's immense passion for history and psychology meant she gathered images together which both celebrated and documented the highs and lows of the era.
Through a genuine and authentic female lens, the images capture the experiences and stories of young people navigating a disrupted world. From the closure of schools and public spaces to the upheaval of daily routines, the photographs reflect a spectrum of emotions — boredom, longing, contemplation, playfulness, curiosity, and frustration. In a time marked by unprecedented mental health challenges for children, this collection becomes a powerful historical document, highlighting the emotional toll of the pandemic.
The project aims to not only foster compassion and understanding, but also to spark essential conversations and empathy around our feelings and emotions. The human race are social creatures and once that critical requirement for growth is taken away our minds and bodies crave interaction, love and support. As the legendary Birmingham poet, the late Benjamin Zephaniah stated, “People need people”.

More details here and the exhibition Instagram account is a thing of beauty


In what will be their twelfth year of existence, street food doyens Digbeth Dining Club has announced a 20-date, 14-location tour of the West Midlands.

Kicking things off on May 4 in Lichfield and finally coming to a pause on July 20 in Tamworth, foodie nationalities including Thailand, Jamaica, Spain, Vietnam, Brazil, Germany, Cambodia, Japan, Malaysia and India, will all be represented by some of the best street food traders in the UK.

Other stop off points include Telford, Sutton Coldfield, Castle Brom, Solihull, Redditch, Shirley, Himley Hall, Warwick, Wolverhampton, Bearwood and a not-to-be-missed picturesque stop-off at stately manor Compton Verney. I'm half tempted to become one of those mad groupies who just follows bands around, but instead of music it's hot dogs and whatnot.

That said, there will be music. DJs will be playing to set a chilled scene at these family-friendly bashes with activities to keep the littluns happy. There’ll also be bars, cocktail caravans and fizz for the adults and dogs are also welcomed with open arms.

Speaking of open arms, DDC's ground-breaking Warwick Castle event, The Open Arms, will pack the medieval setting on the evening of May 10, as per the image above.

DDC’s two permanent Brum venues — Hockley Social Club and Herbert's Yard — will continue to offer what they always do, if you want to stick to Brum. Some events on the tour are free to attend (Bearwood, Sandwell and Waterfront) while others carry a small, but utterly worth it, charge — kids tickets are £1.50, adults £3, while under 5s go free. Booking fees apply. Tickets


The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra has revealed its 2024-25 Season and zookers, it's a goody! The roster is a prime example of the CBSO continuing its commitment to presenting exceptional musical experiences in a way that brings connection, inspiration and joy to the people of Brum, the West Midlands and beyond.

Across more than 100 performances, the Orchestra journeys from the greatest masterpieces at Symphony Hall to fun-filled interactive concerts for all the family, and from new music by today’s most important composers to performances at Bullring and New Street Station — showcasing the incredible range and talent of the full team.

To boost the incredible line-up of events, civic treasure Kazuki Yamada takes up the new title of Music Director, reflecting his ever-deepening relationship with the orchestra. Yamada leads 22 concerts in Brum, from landmark classical works to appearances with the CBSO Youth Orchestra and at street food nirvana, Hockley Social Club.

For a week in August 2024, Kazuki will be out and about in Brum, filling the city with music. CBSO in the City (August 26 to 31) will see the orchestra present free performances in unexpected locations including the Bullring, Grand Central, The Hawthorns and New Street Station, as well as a host of libraries, community centres, museums, parks, pubs and more. Kazuki is a joy to behold and is guaranteed to wow Brummies when they are least expecting it.

The CBSO’s programming increasingly recognises the cultural make-up of Birmingham, with performances that explore collaborations with the many other non-classical musical genres which reflect the city. Soweto Kinch’s White Juju fuses electronic hip-hop, jazz and rap, and was inspired by a year of turbulent racial politics, culture wars and the pandemic (October 20).

Meanwhile singer and Kora-player Seckou Keita puts his instrument in the spotlight in a performance of African Rhapsodies on November 27. Perhaps most excitingly, though, is a CBSO Explores programme in collaboration with Punch Records which brings together a host of Birmingham-born artists working across the grime, hip-hop and rap scenes, April 12 of next year.

In March of 2025 Birmingham legends ELO are celebrated in a concert conducted by Richard Balcome and featuring the CBSO Chorus and, in the same month is an evening of Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis, given a new twist by local saxophonist Xhosa Cole.

As a response to the challenging financial times the city is facing, the CBSO's season will also feature offers and discounts for specifically Birmingham residents. This scheme will be launched before the season opens in September. Keep an eye on the CBSO’s socials for more information. Full Brochure


In a recent interview with Indiewire, Brit director Rose Glass said, “Anyone who tries to kid themselves that sex and violence aren’t some of cinema’s most important cornerstones is wrong. There is something exciting about living vicariously through these sorts of stories, which speaks to something more primal or shameful in all of us.”

Sex and violence are the cornerstones of Glass’s Love Lies Bleeding, her follow-up to the BAFTA-nominated Saint Maud. A gun-toting neo-noir set in the worlds of professional bodybuilding and crime, Love Lies Bleeding is a transgressive queer love story, in small town Americana. The always ace Kristin Stewart is reserved gym manager, Lou, who falls hard for the new girl in town — bodybuilder, Jackie (Katy O’Brien). When Jackie gets a job at Lou’s father’s gun range (a fantastic Ed Harris as the bug-loving— and chomping — Lou Sr., a criminal kingpin with a “skullet” hairdo). As Lou and Jackie's relationship intensifies, they are pulled into the murky and violent goings-on of Lou’s family, with grisly results.

Glass has always been a visual director, and Love Lies Bleeding uses its late 80s setting to with neon colours, mullets, bad teeth, shades of red, and a pulsing electronic soundtrack complimented by Clint Mansell’s thumping score. Gritty and sleazy, with elements of She-Hulk and a cautionary tale of Roid Rage, this is a darkly comic and propulsive thrill ride.

Showing at Mockingbird from tomorrow


Probably the biggest party of the Birmingham summer, Mostly Jazz Funk & Soul Festival, has revealed even more additions to this year’s line-up, July 12 to 14, with their family-friendly entertainment looking like a real gem for the small sorts.

Are you or your tiny human aspiring DJs? Gamers? Or Dancers? Or all three? This year’s entertainment line-up is packed with plenty to do including the return of Dead Pixels Gaming Caravan (there's always time for Street Fighter II), a Mostly Hip-Hop Family Bloc Party (on the Sunday), Kids DJ workshops (on both the Saturday and the Sunday), High Vis Graffiti Workshops, The National Youth Jazz Orchestra’s Tuba Workshop (this one's on the Saturday), Dance classes with Drum N Bounce, The Swing Era, Northern Soul with Ed Quigley and SoFunk, plus face and flitter painting which is always a winner.

They’ve also added a brand new Chill Out Zone in Off Piste Meadow to provide space to just lie back on the grass and soak up the vibes. 

Finally, you’ll be pleased to learn that re-entry has been relaxed to allow anyone who needs to, to head home, drop the kids there and return later for pure bliss.

One last thing, we’ve just heard word that Mostly Jazz has managed to cop a deal with the brilliant Purity Brewery to offer their new pilsner for under a fiver a pint! That is a wildly good deal.

Tickets and line-up
Venue: Orelle, 103 Colmore Row, B3 3AG; website
Choice: Chateaubriand for two (£116) Chooser: Mrs Choose 

Always with its finger on the city's culinary pulse, I Choose Birmingham left it a mere year and a half to eat at Orelle for the first time. Let's just say I've been letting the kitchen team settle in (I've been saving up).

Orelle is a special occasion venue. You can tell because you're surrounded by special occasions, with more iPhone photography taking place than at your average influencer convention. And why not? This is not just the best view in the entirety of Birmingham's dining inventory but also one of its most stylish interiors. There isn't a restaurant in the city with more wow factor.  

We were here for Mrs Choose's birthday (21 again!) and not only did I mention that in the "reason for visit" drop down box during the booking process, but I was particularly excited when Orelle called to confirm the table the day before, themselves confirming it was specifically "a birthday celebration". So it's with a wry smile I recall spending the entire meal waiting for some sort of birthday nod, that never came! 

That matters not a jot. Of course it doesn't. What's far more important is the customer experience. When were seated it took me just seconds to notice the dreadful din coming from the service hatch area, about two metres from our table. If this sounds picky, I can only assure you I'm extremely British in my complaining and can count on one hand the times I've done so at restaurants.

But as the screeching of the till, that was in a near-constant state of dot matrix-esque receipt printing, and the clattering of cuttlery fine-tuned their way into my mind, I started to worry our spot was a real meal-ruiner. You couldn't have moved a table any closer to the doors to the toilets either, and panic set in. Mrs Choose said she would "get used to it" but the sounds had buried themselves into my head like a stubborn earworm. I asked the sommelier, Rijan, who just happened to the the next person to grace our table, if we could move and it turned out I'd asked the nicest man that has ever lived. Within two minutes we were in a peaceful spot and we were rocking and rolling. Quietly so. 

At this point I'm supposed to try as much food on the menu as possible, right? So you can get a good feel for what's on offer. Naaah, up yours. We jumped straight to mains, ordering the £116 Chateaubriand for two and a rollicking bottle of red, picked by Rijan — who was the absolute star of the entire visit. 

The steak was as thick as a submarine window, but it hadn't been allowed to rest long enough and it was dribbling red. I thought it was a bit of blunder by them, but jump forward 45 minutes when you'd still hope to be eating it (and we were) and the meat was a little cold. I don't know what the answer to that is — let it rest and it'll be chilly before time or serve it before you should? Pfff, it's for cleverer folk than I, but what I do know is that seven chips between two, for £116, isn't enough. Technically there were 13 chips, but each was the size of an AA battery (look, I've taken a photo for you, this is
a portion for two) and that's about the size of half an actual chip. Hence, roughly seven chips — three and a half each. Also, if they were triple cooked, then they were triple cooked in a fridge.

There was enough beef on hand to feed two leopards, so it seems a shame to moan (I did feedback on the day, too) and the meat itself was absolutely outstanding, getting better as time went on. Mrs Choose thought it arrived medium — not medium rare — but by this point she was halfway through Rijan's unreal Torcicoda Primitivo (a cool but worth it £66 a bottle), so I'd take that with a pinch of salt. I think it was cooked perfectly, the carrots were quality (although, again, few in number) and the peppercorn sauce was tasty but, you guessed it, very tight on quantity

The dessert we shared, a chocolate and yuzu number, was absurdly good and we ate it as the clouds gathered in around us. We tucked in with that warm feeling you get when you can hear the rain on your living room windows, safe on the sofa, but more-so because the view all around was the centre of a storm. Otherworldly in its beauty. 

The espresso was the best I've had in any UK restaurant, ever, and that gem of a pud was knocked off the bill because we were forgotten about for a long old while — not that we cared, we were just happy to be dining at the sort of Cloud City table you'd normally find reserved by one Lando Calrissian.

I'm glad this place exists. More than glad, because it wipes the floor with Brum's other altitudinally blessed restaurant. But I know Brummies, and I know that they value a decent portion when they spend their hard-won pieces of the king's gold. Moreover, I know that cooking just a few more chips, a few more carrots and doubling the amount of au poivre would have bolstered this meal from a solid seven to a high nine, even at those prices. Cheap, easy changes — massive, massive impact.
Fesshole, the Twitter sensation where anonymous followers get something off their chest, is coming to Hockley Social Club for a live event in September. Tickets

As regular readers will know, we pride ourselves on finding comedians before they go stratospheric. If this clip and this clip make you laugh, well, Aussie Nick White will be at the Glee, Sept 5, £15. The eye-roll and the upward inflection are already iconic. Book 

Brum's best sushi joint, Gaijin, has launched Omakase nights, where you essentially put your trust in the chef. Details 

Like LEGO? Like never being entirely sure if this is an official LEGO event? Join Brickfest live at NEC, May 25, 26 and 27. More 

B-SIDE Hip-Hop Festival returns to Birmingham this June. Details

Mutt Motorcycles on Lifford Lane (Kings Norton) is the place to be on Saturday, May 11, where some of Europe's best Chopper motorbikes will be in town as well as live music, food from OPM, an indie market and more. You do need to book

Sunday, May 12, barbecue bossman Andy Low N Slow is bringing a roast dinner pop-up to Yardbirds, Stirchley. Details 
PICS: Main feature: ©Sosina Mengistu, ©Daisy Noyes,©Maria Reaney, ©Patricia Faustino, @livmanntremblay
WORDS: Tom Cullen, Sabina Stent

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I will tell you my story,
Not to hurt you,
Not to exact revenge,
Not for sympathy,
But to lift the weight that holds my soul a prisoner of silent pain.

Alfa Holden, Poet

"This poem sums up how I feel about mental health." — says Maria Reaney, photographer and curator of the exhibition at the top of this email.

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