Issue 372
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Birmingham International Dance Festival got underway on Tuesday, but if you've missed it so far fear not, it's only just warming up. This weekend and next weekend sees the bigger, outdoorsier numbers kick in, from Handsworth Park, to the MAC and Centenary Square, the "something for everyone" cliche can legit be applied. Performances on trucks, giant puppets, augmented reality and Black Victoriana, it's a citywide celebration of dilettantish dance. And all of these are completely free...
What? Hip-Hop dance theatre in fifth gear, Born to Protest challenges presumptions of black male and female figures and reveals fragility, vulnerability and the constant battle to prove oneself. Check out this video for a taster of the high-intensity action. Do make a note of the trigger warning.  

Where and when? Handsworth Park (Sept 25), MAC (Sept 26) and Centenary Square (Oct 2 and 3)
What? Nope, not me coming out of Snobs last week, but one of the leading experimental dance contests in the UK presenting its first ever solo concept battle. Guided by the event hosts, 8 guest dancers will go head-to-head to the sound of a live band and a DJ, following various creative tasks and showcasing their best movement and creative abilities. Special guest contestant: Carl Chinn. Nah, just kidding.
Where and when? Centenary Square (Oct 1)
What? Six performers collide in an uplifting dance riot set to a new art rock soundtrack. This quirky work offers playful observations of the yesteryears and explodes into a ‘punkish’ celebration of individuality and difference — something that will chime particularly well in Birmingham. Sneak peek video, right here.   

Where and when? MAC (Sept 25) and Centenary Square (Oct 2 and 3)
What? Important: This one is indeed free but there's only a limited number of on the door tickets available. Book in advance to ensure your place. Personally the one I'm most excited about for its batsh*t beauty. A sci-fi dance show phenomenon performed in a 40 foot haulage truck — yes! The sides roll up and a strange and unstoppable process is set in motion, combining large-scale spectacle with surprising intimacy. Check this trailer out! 
Where and when? Centenary Square (Sept 30 and Oct 1)
What? A mesmerising outdoor number, expect a cutting-edge exploration of the beauty and challenges of women’s relationships, looking at how they affect and shape the way we perceive ourselves and our environment. Narrated with an athletic and restless movement language, two women face a journey through conflict and harmony, tenderness and anger, misunderstanding and support, from which they emerge with a renewed understanding of themselves. 
Where and when? Handsworth Park (Sept 25) and MAC (Sept 26)
What? Crikey, try Googling that one! Experience Augmented Reality where five people connected by tablet devices explore, interact, and move around a series of imaginary digital dances. Essentially, experience extracts of original work popping up in 3D. At only 10 mins long it promises to be a cracker for kids. Check out the trailer here.
Where and when? MAC (Sept 25 and 26)
What? Inspired by the discovery of hundreds of portraits of black people in England during the Victorian era. These images were deliberately airbrushed from our society for over 100 years. Now a powerful dance performance of black men, women and children, this inspiring show highlights previously hidden figures and challenges historical and contemporary perceptions. Expect a range of dance styles from African and Jazz to street and contemporary.
Where and when? MAC (Sept 25 and 26)
What? The whirr of the wind cutting across a rocky beach, the whoosh of the waves lapping the shore… The illusion of calm is broken when EKO, a sentient Sea Giant, pads onto dry land. There he encounters a young girl called Violet. And that’s where the story begins. Through dance, movement and puppeteering, Out of the Deep Blue dives into the themes of climate and biodiversity, by using an awesome 4-metre tall Puppet. Another one for the nippers. 
Where and when? Handsworth Park (Sept 25), MAC (Sept 26) and Centenary Square (Oct 3)


In the sort of tie-up that makes you weep with Brummie pride, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Hockley Social Club are chest-bumping their way into an absolutely not-to-be-missed night of genre-bending live music and street food. In a perfect evening for the musically curious, four musicians from the world-class CBSO will twist your melon – fusing contemporary classical, indie and everything in between - from Sufjan Stevens to Sigur Rós and Shostakovich. There will be DJ sets from local legend DJ Pritt Kalsi and, of course, the city's finest street food traders. On hand to add to the experience will be Andy Low N Slow, fresh from a rip-roaring few days at the World Cup of UK barbecuing: Meatopia. Buddha Belly will be doing all things Thai while Kodawari are bringing their Japanese A-game. This is a save the date bookmarker for you as £15 tickets — which include one drink — will go on sale at 6pm this Sunday. So, make like Charles Darwin and diarise it. The event itself is Thursday October 21, 6pm to 11pm and promises to be the ideal toe-dipping exercise into one of the jewels in Brum's cultural crown. More


Last week I was introduced to a guerrilla marketing stunt by the American Booksellers Association. Taking a full shop front they plastered the words 'If you want Amazon to be the world's only retailer, keep shopping there' and 'Buy books from people who want to sell books, not colonise the moon'. It stuck with me. As did the fact that from the time you started reading this little article to now, Amazon made $1.7 million. I use Amazon too much — I know I do — and I used lockdown as an excuse. I can't use that anymore, so I popped into Back To Books in Digbeth's Redbrick Market where owner Alexia has an alternative. The beautiful bookshop was born after two years of selling online and at markets. An independent, radical and representative shop, they seek to ensure everyone feels seen in their collection. Feminist, queer, intersectional, Black, Disabled and anti-racist reads — including zines, colouring books and graphic novels (as well as books) can be found in their cosy space at the back of the market.


This is always a fabulous event from Fierce Festival. Following the huge popularity of Artists Behind Bars (not quite what it sounds) in 2017 and 2019, the Fierce folks are at it again October 1 in Digbeth. Here's how it works: the city's artists are invited together to build, install, host, and run their own bars. For a one night shift only, the bar is the work of art, the artist is the bartender, and the spectator is the punter. Examples of past bars include French Riviera’s purple rain bar (a tribute to Prince), Louisa Robbin’s Hard As Nails Bar (nail bar serving watermelon cocktails), Brian Catling put himself behind literal bars – held himself prisoner whilst serving sprits, Benedict Drew served drinks from the inside his jacket, Turner Prize winning Tai Shani served shots of sambuca, sans toga from a Greek column and Marcia Farquhar hosted a champagne speakeasy where punters could sit and hear a story or two. This event is perhaps understandably, 18+ and tickets cost £8. It takes place at 7SVN on Upper Trinity Street. More  
Venue: Lulu Wild, Unit 7 & 8 The Waters Edge, Brindleyplace, B1 2HL; Website 
Choice: Black Cod (£37.50!!)  Chooser: Front of House Team 

Not sure where to begin on this. This... thoroughly cuckoo evening of Far East Asian food, that will appeal to many but not all. Firstly, worth noting, I attended on the opening week where, thank all the Gods, there was a 50% off food offer. Suffice to say the £37.50 Black Cod dish is several gastronomic pay grades above where I'm at, and a £170 bill for two would have been something of a blow. As it was, it came in significantly lower. Probably for the best, as my table was in front of the restaurant, outdoors and the deepest table into the Brindleyplace thoroughfare where Be At One, Pitcher & Piano and Slug & Lettuce converge. The result was a sort of Balearic strip feel, with groups of (all throughly lovely) revellers in fine fettle, rambling back and forth, the sound of Robbie Williams' Angels intermittently interrupted by a bottle accidentally booted across the pathway. I felt like I was on holiday and I can't begin to explain what a great feeling that was. People watching and having to talk louder than is comfortable, the table on a full 10 degree angle — it was potty, but embraceable. Is that what they're going for? Maybe. I suspect they're looking to lasso in the Instagrammers — the younger generation, often with the slightly sweeter tooths, the cocktails (though drinkable) certainly on the more accessible side of the booze-o-meter. The, frankly nuts, photo opportunity that is a large armchair on which dozens of fake bunnies have been sewn, in neon the words "B*tch Better Have My Bunny" above it, further bolsters their 'grammable but bananas credentials. At soft launches you have to allow for hiccups and ours lay in the long wait and cooler than desired food. On flavour? I wasn't expecting great things — which is a flaw in me, not them — and I came away ultimately pleased. The delightful Russian Roulette of the unbelievably aesthetic dim sum, the scallop option of which was sublime, made for excellent entree entertainment. They did tell us what was what on the £18 for eight Wild Platter, but immediately forgetting was, if not planned, well worth doing. Just beautiful to look at, the goodies within the supple parcels were flavoured well and bought broader smiles to already chuckling faces. The crispy Kung Po prawns (£18) were meaty hits of the sea and although the roasted chicken in satay (£20) was problematically cold, the sauce was mopped with rice and pak choi until the plate was whiter than when it came out. Now, for that Black Cod. It's one of my all-time favourite dishes and I've been lucky enough to eat it three times (Hakkasan, Nobu and Zuma, two of which have Michelin-stars). I'd decided, again not sure why, that this wasn't going to be great. And though it ranks as the fourth best of the four I've had, the sweet, charred exterior housed melting cod that coaxed eyes closed, sit-back-in-the-chair joy. It was only as the waitress cleared away the plate she told me the chef had worked at Hakkasan — for how long and in what capacity she wasn't sure. The portion was the largest I've ever had but at £37.50 seems footballer-only levels of folly. Half the portion and half the price! More people deserve to try it. Then wedge some beer mats under the table legs. Job done. Photo: BabAboutTown
Birmingham Literature Festival takes place in October. Mostly online, October 9 is a dedicated day of 'in person' talks. More

There's a comedy play taking place in The Prince of Wales and the Dark Horse pubs, in Moseley, October 5, 7, 9 and 10. Inspired by the vibe of Victoria Wood and Julie Walters at The Bush Theatre circa 1978, tickets for '1902' are £10

There's a free screening of an anime movie at Cotteridge Park on Saturday, 7pm. Details 
The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Autumn Workshops are live and there's plenty of options. From experimenting with watercolour to drypoint sketching and the ace looking screen printing, all details are here.
Halloween gin tasting at Middleton Hall, on Oct 30, is the ghoulish event you didn't know you were willing to attend. It's £35 and includes 5 drinks, cakey-type things and one helluva setting. More

STUDENTS! Get up, get out of bed and enjoy 25% off at Pho. Show me
Joe Lycett and Friends will appear at the Rep, November 1. Tickets go on general sale tomorrow.

"When a man is in despair, it means that he still
believes in something."

Dmitri Shostakovich

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WORDS: Tom Cullen
PICS: Harrison Dante (main story, Born To Protest); Emma Jones (Artists Behind Bars) 

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