Comedy behemoth Jack Whitehall plays the Utilita Arena tomorrow night (July 7) and Saturday night (July 8) and although most tickets are gone for Friday, the Saturday still has decent availability. Jack's Settle Down tour follows three complete sell-out arena tours and promises to be his most personal show yet. "It’s about my struggle to settle down gracefully," he says. "I’ve got a long-term partner, a ridiculous dog and am now hurtling towards middle aged without a clue. It’s about a foppish man-child’s cack handed attempt at adulting”.
Prior to his Birmingham double-header we chatted to Jack about Snobs, his claim to being a Brummie and Craig David: The Drink!
Bit of a leading first question, Jack, but is Birmingham a good city to play?
One of the best. I’ve had such great shows here, it’s honestly always such a buzz to come to the city and perform at the [Utilita] Arena — it's one of the best in the country.
It's a big bloody venue, though. What's the key to getting some intimacy when playing an arena? Do you have to take it down a different route and embrace the sheer magnitude of it all?
You have to be aware of the screens as well as playing the room, make sure you have a good camera man who captures everything. Also I love doing audience stuff in arenas as that can get the crowd engaged and always throws up a few surprises
Any funny stories of your time spent in Brum?
I discovered my ancestors are from Birmingham while filming Who Do You Think You Are? I mean, it turned out they were wrong'uns and one of them ended up in an asylum with syphilis but good to have a connection to the city none the less.
Have you been out on the town with Lycett?
Joe is always the first person I get in contact with when I play Brum. Not only to tell me where all the best spots are to hang out but also because he's very good for giving me a few local references to pepper into my set. Watch out for the Snobs jokes, that’s all I’m saying.
Is the most famous person in your mobile phone The Rock, given you starred opposite him in Jungle Cruise?
Probably, yeah. Although I also have Sir Lenny Henry’s number and he is Dudley royalty so that’s quite a flex if I’m in town. I can always name drop him and I suspect it will open a few doors.
Why's the new tour called Settle Down?
It’s about where I am in my life, with a partner and a dog and a baby on the way. Jack the lad is RIP, long live Jack the dad. Don’t worry though there are still a few stories about crazy drunken escapades as well. I haven’t gone full boring old man quite yet.
You recently said that your greatest fear is turning into your dad, (who's your Travels With My Father co-star, of course). What did you mean by that?
Wearing three piece suits and being rude to everyone, basically. Also I don't want to get gout. So maybe I need to drink less red wine than him. There are worse people you could turn into but I guess it’s inevitable really. Probably just have to give into it eventually.
You're playing the Utilita Arena but historically which smaller Birmingham venues have you enjoyed playing?
I love the Glee Club. In fact I ran my set there a couple of times before the big arenas. It’s one of the best clubs in the country. They also have a picture of me outside which is always good to feed my ego.
Is it true that in Leeds your stage caught fire mid-gig due to a pyrotechnics cock-up?
Yeah, I didn’t realise at first. The whole audience was just laughing along as they thought it was part of the show. I think I could have perished in the flames and they would have still been chuckling away thinking it was just a really committed bit I was doing.
What's the absolute worst thing about growing up?
Hair sprouting up in all the wrong places and your body slowly beginning to give up on you. Since 30 I haven’t been able to trust a fart.
What's the best thing?
Getting better perspective on life and being able to prioritise the things that really matter.
Fancy a night at Snobs after the show tomorrow or are you too old?
Never too old for Snobs. Although I probably won’t be there till the lights come on, these days. Maybe a shandy and an early evening boogie and home in time for Newsnight. My dream though is still to have a night out there with Jack Grealish one day.
Have you ever drank a Craig David? It's a shot of tequila followed by a shot of pineapple juice. We'll buy if you come to Snobs...
I have never had that. Though I am a great fan of the man himself. I once saw him four times In the same year. That’s a lot of Craig David.
Tickets for Jack Whitehall's Settle Down can be bought here
GO 'ALL-IN' ON FINALS DAY
In the past 30 years only seven teams have won the Premier League. Seven. Across just 20 years the T20 Blast has been won by thirteen teams. It really is anyone's game and that's what makes tickets for finals day at Edgbaston hotter than Hades during a sprinkler ban.
Here's how the full season works: Eighteen counties are split geographically into north and south where nine teams compete in each group. Each team plays all eight other teams twice. Then the top four places from both north and south proceed to the quarter-finals — which take place tonight, July 6. After the quarters the four remaining teams battle it out on the iconic Finals Day at Edgbaston Stadium, where two semi-finals and the final are all played on one blinding day of cricket, on July 15. And the only way to guarantee tickets right now is through hospitality. Your boss owes you some hospitality, right? Someone's boss definitely does.
With prices starting from £349 per person, which will have you fed and watered and sat in some of the best seats in the house, hospitality specialists Keith Prowse has you well covered on what is widely considered the pinnacle of domestic cricket in the UK, in one of the very best stadiums.
Executive Boxes offer belting views with a dedicated waiter and can accommodate up to 24, the perfect facility if you're looking to host friends or clients in a large party and want your own space. The Captains Club in the 1882 offers a top dining experience paired with stunning panoramic views of the pitch while the Warwickshire Suite boasts stunning Birmingham backdrops, if you've got out-of-towners to impress.
The Edgbaston Experience Club is for those looking for a livelier day's cricket while the ultra slick Skyline (pictured) is already a favourite for many. It's a rooftop bar that just happens to have unreal views of world class cricket. Sofas, a dedicated bar, multiple food stations and waiter service all day — it really is a fantastic new experience. Book
The not-for-profit, volunteer-run celebration of South Brum is perhaps best known for its flagship 40-stall street fair, which will take place on Saturday, July 15, but the festival includes plenty more.
With a focus on sustainability as well as fun, there's foraging, botanical ink making and clothes swaps events. It all kicks off on Thursday, July 13, with pirate crafting for kids — make hats and eye patches and swords in Sorrento Lounge — before an early evening family-friendly rave in Moseley Hive. If you're looking for something outdoorsy then Drum n’ Bounce's Emma (pictured) will be in Moseley Park's meadow with an up-and-at-'em dance class.
Highlights on the Saturday include a wildflower meadow walk in Moseley Bog, a Moseley Rocks Treasure Hunt, a hula hoop workshop, more live music and Italian street food in The Prince of Wales. Mexican chef, Alfredo Hau, will also be hosting a taco making lesson!
On Sunday, the final day, Kings Heath Action for Refugees has its annual KHARnival in Highbury Park, I Am Yogi welcome all levels to their stunning Moseley Park yoga venue and there's live jazz in the Fighting Cocks. It's all free, but some classes will need booking.
BUCKET LIST ✔
Hats off to my mom who, at the age of 75 (she's allowed me to tell you that) joined me for a 2-hour kayak class during which she tried to ram me off the waterway as if she was driving a dodgem. Maniac.
When I told her, in passing, that I was hitting the canals with the Roundhouse's extremely popular and mixed ability sessions she told me that kayaking in Brum was literally on her bucket list. Full respect to the canals of Birmingham but I hope the other activities on that list involve the Maldives and eating at Noma.
Neither of us had paddled anything before, save for me at the age of 11 at The Ackers Trust, but it turns out it's as easy as a beginner could possibly wish for, once you've got the hang of it. At regular intervals on the Bustling Birmingham tour you'll pause for a well-earned break while your guide will tell you tidbits about the area you're in. Parts of that were tricky to hear but short of a megaphone I doubt there's much they can do.
But the real beauty lies in seeing your city from a different angle and when your mother's not trying to capsize you with a cackle, it really is rather relaxing and the kayaks are more comfortable than they look.
Got a spot on a wall that needs filling? Spaceplay, Brum's tribute to all things Brutalism, has released a new risograph print collection that unveils an imaginary Brutalist world with Birmingham's buildings at its core.
Spaceplay are showcasing five collage images, one of which is above, that portray Birmingham as a purely Brutalist city with fictional districts built up with our distinct architectural style.
The prints, measuring 42cm by 30cm, will be sold unframed and priced at £20. To complement the print release, Spaceplay is showcasing a two metre image, capturing the entirety of their fictional cityscape collage. That image will be shown, along with all five prints, as part of an exhibition entitled "Brutalist World: B-0" which will run for a limited time at Minima, in Hockley. Hidden within the exhibition are exclusive QR codes, offering visitors a special opportunity to unlock a 50% discount on the new prints.
Spaceplay co-founder, Adam, told us: "By re-imagining Birmingham as a purely Brutalist city, we hope to ignite the imagination of art enthusiasts and transport them into an awe-inspiring world of raw concrete, striking geometries, and visionary design. We're sick of seeing city councils destroy their Brutalist heritage and so we decided to create our own version of Birmingham, to champion its beautiful concrete architecture and give Brutalist lovers something to feel make them feel proud."
Two of Birmingham's most skilled (and friendly) bartenders have launched a new JQ bar called Lucky7 and, let's be honest, you probably know about it. What you won't know is that they've hidden ten LUCKY7 stickers around Brum just like this one. To win a round of cocktails and a snack for you and a pal you must find one, take a photo of it in its surroundings and post it on your Instagram Stories tagging @Lucky7bhx. To win you must be the first to do so and you must follow @lucky7bhx. They're hidden in ten locations: JQ, Town, Chinatown, Digbeth, Moseley, Kings Heath, St.Irchley, Edgbaston, Harbs and Westside. One entry per person.
LET'S TALK ABOUT PHILIP
A lot of people can relate to the concept of families not talking about things – but Birmingham-born, Helen Wood shows us the extreme in Let’s Talk About Philip, a fast-paced, candid, darkly comic and gripping play that shows at The Crescent, July 20 and 21. After her mother’s funeral, Helen’s father suddenly said: ‘let’s talk about Philip’. Philip had barely been mentioned in the family since he died by suicide, in Birmingham, 32 years previously. Helen takes us on her detective-like quest - a battle - no doubt. Into the Wood family’s history to discover the circumstances and hidden truth behind her brother’s death. £13
BIRMINGHAM FESTIVAL 23:
Last year I described Fierce Festival's Key To The City as "probably the most inventive, explorative, creative and effective cultural project in my nine years of writing about Birmingham" and I stand by that wholeheartedly.
It's with that in mind that I'm giddy with excitement that Fierce is bringing the creator of Key To The City back to Birmingham with an entirely new arty offering as part of Birmingham Festival 23.
Paul Ramírez Jonas' latest work is called Public Trust and it asks how serious the promises we make to one another are and how serious the pledges made by our civic leaders are.
For eight days Public Trust asks participants to examine the value of their word. Participants declare a promise that is recorded in a drawing they can keep. They are asked to give their word in a way that’s consistent with their beliefs, such as swearing on a sacred text or swearing on something more significant to the city of Birmingham. They're actually asking for suggestions, right now, as to what that could be. Perhaps Brummies will find themselves swearing on the Snobs Wall of Faces or on the Lost Libraries of Paradise? You can make suggestions and vote here.
That promise is then published on a monumental marquee board (pictured), placed amongst promises made by politicians, scientists, economists, companies and weather forecasters, all chosen daily from headline news. As firm a believer as I am in the written word, this five minute video explains it rather better than I could in 5000 words.
We'd be a culturally poorer place without Fierce. Them's the real best of Brum.
The Floodgate, Digbeth's home of baseball and more is offering big discounts on their batting cages throughout July. Off peak charges will apply to on peak times making the normal £25 for 30 mins, £15 instead. More —
Bookings are now open for art historian Ruth Millington's October talk about Birmingham's surrealists at the top of the Rotunda. £15 —
Brum’s annual theatre festival, Birmingham Fest, runs July 14 to 30. Details — Edgbaston Artisan Market is this Saturday (July 8) and Kings Heath Artisan Market is this Sunday (July 9). Expect artisan at both. —
The Raging Bull (I'll never call him Ozzy) will be back in Brum at his new home in New Street Station, soon. We still have pin badges available and predict they're going to sell hard and fast when he returns. Only £8pp. Buy —
Resorts World Birmingham is looking to showcase local independent brands by offering "extremely preferential" pop up rates in its outlet shopping. You’d be joining a host of big brands like Nike, Levi’s and The North Face, as well as independent names like Vietnamese Street Kitchen and Miss Macaroon. To find out more drop them a line to: firstname.lastname@example.org —
Tierra Tacos (miss you, love you) are popping up at The Old Crown in Digbeth, this Saturday (July 8) only, 12pm to 9pm. Facts
WORDS: Tom Cullen
PICTURES: Public Trust, All images by permission of Studio Ramírez Jonas
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