Issue 378
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ART-ITECTURE

Grizzled, gnarly, historic, beautiful. Brum is a city that divides opinion, even of the people who live here. But Brummie Marc Turley, a.k.a The Urban Giant finds beauty in the most bizarre places. Take New Street Signal Box, for example. One of my favourite of our buildings, but even I could never call it beautiful. Marc, somehow, draws it in such simple honesty and detail that its impact shines.      
"Art is not what you see," says Marc, quoting French impressionist Edgar Degas "but what you make others see." He's lived by this quote since he was a boy and in his art, as it is now, what we see is our cherished Victorian buildings. Birmingham as it was, and still is. "We need to appreciate what's here," he says. "I hope my art gets that across. We need to appreciate the skill of the trade that, way back when, went into creating some of Birmingham's most beautiful buildings. They had no machinery onsite, just craft. For me it's picking the details out and highlighting how important they are. That's the art I'm making others see. I hope." All his work is hand drawn, coloured and airbrushed in his studio in Sutton Coldfield. It won't surprise you to learn he was originally an architect, studying at Birmingham School of Architecture, but switched to illustration full time about eight years ago when he set up The Urban Giant.
"I gave up my career as an architect because I suffered from anxiety and depression," he says with the sort of honesty his work deserves and the sort of strength in honesty we're all getting more acquainted with. "I kept it hidden and quiet for a long time until I eventually broke as a person. The only thing that was going through my head was that I was a failure. I was stuck and I was asking myself over and over again: This can't be it? This can't be it? I was working 80, maybe 90 hour weeks for clients that wanted something tomorrow. My life was vanishing before my eyes. One of my old lecturers gave me the best piece of advice I've ever heard. He said: "If you're 60 to 70 percent sure of a decision, do it. Because you'll spend your whole life waiting to be 100 percent sure". I knew, or at least was confident, that drawing and art was a huge release for me and made me happy. I quit. I surrounded myself with people who I love and people who make me laugh. I retrained as an illustrator and I've never looked back. It was a massive financial hit but I had to do something and I did it." 
It's worked, in more ways than one. "I have been privileged to work with some big clients, developers and brands," he says "along with my work being published nationally and internationally. I also sell originals and prints worldwide and have established myself, I hope, as a respected creative." Marc's work is born of meticulous research and sketchbook studies compounded by the sorts of detailed line drawing that could only come from an architect's hand.
He's drawn to all types of buildings from Victorian to modern. You'll find him often in Digbeth or the Jewellery Quarter. "Most of my work is commission-based but I also illustrate buildings for my own personal collection. For me, there is nothing more enjoyable than going to Birmingham early on a Saturday morning and just... drawing. You know? Part of it is the process, and part of it is the just... being there, I guess" he says with a therapeutic serendipity. A man who found a living in his hobby, and a hobby in his living.   
"I mainly focus on architectural illustrations but have in recent months drawn high-end watches, vintage engraved shotguns and even caricatures. People tend to say I have meticulous detail and systematic process. I like that. Every brick I see with a crack in it, appears with that crack. Every fault, if you can call them faults, appears on page." That explains the painstaking three week process his commissions often undergo. "I'm keen to start teaching and giving talks on my work" he adds. "I really enjoy giving back and providing advice to creative students." Marc is also working on a book compendium of his art, hopefully out in 2022.
It's the varied vision of Marc's work that most appeals, I think. He will offer Birmingham's lesser known structures the same minutia of detail and value as those more 'known' buildings. Above, the coffin works and below, Digbeth's hardware store, Gregory Pank, a place as historic on the inside as it is out. A must visit for everyone, just buy a hammer or something, it's worth it just to be inside. Below, again, you'll find just a small section of the Rose Villa Tavern in the Jewellery Quarter — the stunning building's stained glass windows. He's keen to hear from business owners across Brum who'd like to immortalise their venues with his style.
"I sketch a lot," he says, "In the street. And 90 percent of people who walk past are looking down at their phones. It's so important to start looking back up, at the world around you, these buildings are our heritage. Our story," he says as we go our separate ways. This reminds me of something I read once about New Yorkers. That they never looked up at the buildings around them until the wanton destruction of 9/11. After that day you'd find locals just gazing up and taking in where they live, where they worked. Photographing it in their minds. Maybe we could all do a little more of that, as if what we're used to seeing might not be here tomorrow. This city should be wise to that more than most.
Urban Giant prints start from £80. You can follow Marc and place orders on Facebook and Instagram. Alternatively you can contact him from the bottom of his work-in-progress website.

A PRINCELY 400 MEAL GIVEAWAY


One of Birmingham's best pubs, The Prince of Wales (Moseley) has had a very pretty refurb and, hand-in-hand, is taking its food offering in a totally different direction. Cantina is the name of their all new, vegan-friendly kitchen and menu which launches as of right now. The owners are keen to get feedback from food-loving Brummies during this launch period phase, and as such they are offering free dinner to 400 people, in the month of November only. On a first come first served basis (well, technically on a first emailed first 'booked in' basis) you need to email the Prince on bookingsprinceofwalesmoseley@gmail.com and simply tell them how many people you'd like to book in, with the maximum being four. That's all they need to do for now. You don't need to suggest your day or your time as the Prince will contact all those who have been successful to tie up the specifics of your booking. Food is available Wednesday to Friday from 5.30pm to 10.30pm and Sundays 12.30pm to 7.30pm. The menu can be seen here. You will be provided with tasters of a good proportion of the entire offering, so ordering won't really be necessary. You can, of course, suggest dishes you really do hope to try, when you arrive, and please do inform them of dishes you should not be served for allergy reasons (unfortunately all dishes may contain traces of nuts) or because you just know they won't be your cup of tea. Drinks will not be included. Cantina will share the Prince of Wales' Instagram and Facebook accounts, so keep up to speed with their progress here and here respectively.

CHRISTMAS VERSUS BRUM'S BEST BURGER


Ummm... how can I put this? Christmas is important but, for my money, Birmingham's best burger is more important. Maybe not, but combine the two and you have the perfect storm. Edgbaston Village will be doing the Christmas lights switch on alongside their increasingly popular Artisan Market next week, on Friday November 12, from midday to 6.30pm and "HULLO!" Flying Cows will be present! Flying Cows, for those that missed the memo, are Brum's eternally award-winning, unbelievably beautiful, kinda hard-to-find, beef in bun specialists and I've never had a better burger in this country. And I've done my due diligence. Light switch on event is 3.30pm to 5.30pm on the new look Greenfield Crescent, with Santa, Mrs Claus and real-life reindeer. Digbeth Dining Club are also bringing Disco Fries and Only Jerkin among others. There will also be a recital of the Nutcracker by Elmhurst Ballet School, a Frozen-inspired musical performance and carols. More

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: THE CARD COUNTER


I thought card counting was essentially a form of witchcraft before I watched this compellingly peculiar Oscar Isaac vehicle. As it turns out, it's really rather simple. What's less simple is the goings-on in main character William Tillich's at times unhinged mind. Redemption is the long game in this cinematically intense revenge thriller that tells the story of an ex-military interrogator turned gambler (Isaac, impeccable) haunted by the ghosts of his past and counting cards for profit. This is an unflinching, at times brutal piece of filmmaking and a biting takedown of the US military's behaviour at Abu Ghraib. Bankrolled by gambling agent La Linda all the way to the World Series final, and with youngster Cirk in tow, Tillich's slick, suave exterior belies a deeply troubling, PTSD-addled internal monologue that rises to the surface in chilling staccato. The Card Counter would be best watched at The Electric. WHICH IS COMING BACK FROM THE DEAD SOON! 
★★★★
Venue: LAND, 30 Great Western Arcade, Colmore Row, B2 5HU; website 
Choice: Six Course Taster (£39) Chooser: Jay Rayner. Yeah you heard. 

As world leaders gather in Glasgow for a massive chinwag about how to stop destroying the planet, it felt right to not book a restaurant predominantly based on meaty, methaney morsels, and instead stick with plants. Plants can’t fart – that’s just a fact. In October 2020 Land received a knockout
review from Jay Rayner, about four days later we went into Lockdown 2.0, which must have been pretty gut-wrenching, but it did give chef / owners Anthony and Adrian, a chance to relocate and create Land 2.0. Still within Great Western Arcade, they are knocking out plant-based food that’ll have you wondering why you spend so much time chowing down on things with hooves and beaks. If this Wednesday evening was anything to go by, Rayner's words are still ringing in the ears of the good people of Birmingham, it was packed. We went for the six-course tasting menu, which at £39 a head will leave you saying, “yes, I will have another glass of that funky, biodynamic, orange wine, please.” Now, when I say “ooh” you say “mami”.  “OOH!” “MAMI!” That’s right, if you’re the sort of person who enjoys showing off foodie credentials to your dining partner, then the first course of mushrooms cooked in dashi, with a herb oil and bean curd crisps, will have you excitedly screaming “umami,” at the person opposite until they’re demanding a bottle of funky wine to drown you out. It’s big, bold and absolutely beautiful. All your other favourite veg pop-up on the menu, artichoke, celeriac and of course, the big daddy – beetroot. This was the standout course, beetroot with a red wine sauce, wasabi mousse and linseed crackers. The beet happily drenched and swimming in the robust, rich sauce. The only course we weren’t wild about was a squash sponge with a squash puree and seeds, a slightly too savoury way to end. That’s nit-picking though, five out of six bangers will have you Googling ‘allotments near me’ on your way home. If COP26 has got you thinking about reducing your meat consumption and getting passionate about plants, get yourself booked in here to find out how to do it properly. Menu 
(Words: Rob Newsome)  

BLOOMING HECK, PLANTABLE CARDS


Ahhh this is a nice one, right here. Brum-based Blooming Heck is an eco-friendly and zero waste concept that bloomed out of the 2020 lockdown period. Made from seed paper, it's 100% handmade with recycled material and the cards are embedded with botanical seeds so they can be planted. Then, you can watch your message turn into flowers to help bees, pollinators and the surrounding nature. "I wanted to send my parents something to let them know I missed them," says founder Emma Stokes. "Normal online greeting cards just weren't cutting it and seemed, in a sense, a bit lifeless. Blooming Heck allows people to plant a message and watch it bloom, even throughout hard times. The idea has really taken off and I'm very grateful to all of the customers who have taken the time to leave feedback, and praise for what is still a relatively new and unique idea." Blooming Heck uses recycled envelopes and compostable vegetable starch bags to protect the products in transit. They're big into clean gift-giving without added waste. "I'm still working on more processes to make it even more eco-friendly and sustainable," adds Emma. "The past few months have been dedicated to creating wedding cards, confetti and thank you cards. Christmas cards are now available too". More
Greek street fooders Street Kitchen Brothers will be bringing their Kouzina pop-up to the Village, Moseley, November 17. Details

Ludicrous Guns N Roses *and* Stone Roses *and* Rolling Stones cover band Stones N Roses are playing Nortons in Digbeth, November 10. Then, on November 18, Nortons will host Carl Chinn for the book launch of Peaky Blinders: The Real Story

LOAF in Stirchley has announced the dates and prices for its cookery classes starting in January and running until March. They sell out, so get in quick. Christmas pressie goldmine...

I have absolutely no idea if they're any good but Burger & Sauce, who have spots at Bullring, Alum Rock and Castle Vale are offering 50% off burgers at their new Kings Heath venue (near Loco Lounge) on November 12 only

A free lunchtime concert series is being launched on Monday, giving audiences a chance to see some of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s musicians perform in Symphony Hall’s brand new Jennifer Blackwell Performance Space. More

A bar and restaurant with cricketing nets is coming to the Mailbox. Welcome to the new normal.

Happy Diwali.
WORDS: Tom Cullen, Rob Newsome

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"If you're 60 to 70 percent sure of a decision, do it. Because you'll spend your whole life waiting to be 100 percent sure"




Marc's lecturer


 
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