Issue 381
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"You've got to come in and see this, Tom." Says Tim. Tim says this quite a lot. It's part of what I like about him. When it comes to art, though, seeing it in person is, of course, paramount, but in my life it's never been truer than last week when Tim Ison, of Colley Ison Gallery, invited me in to see their new exhibition by Rick Garland.
Memories, as Freud didn't even come close to saying, can be a bitch. Sometimes they come, sometimes they go, and sometimes they go and they stay gone, and you don't even know it. Rick Garland’s new collection, Intermission, explores the idea of the preservation of memory. Getting memories down and documented, in his case in acrylic, before they're... unget-downable. Rick, whose work if often categorised as realist, but in this collection has significantly changed the pace — adding an almost dreamlike, surreal twist — felt his memories slip. He clawed them back, however they would come to him, before they could evade his grasp for good. That's what Intermission is. A cabinet of curiosities all from one man's head. His life. Moments captured in glass before they're gone.  
Museums, I'm told, began in the homes of collectors who created their own displays of objects, with the mundane often sitting alongside the bizarre. It was the collector’s own interests which determined the nature of the objects and the way in which they were arranged.

In Garland’s new paintings — which were three years in the making — glass bell jars, complete with their polished wooden bases, encase Rick's memories, whether intimate (above) uplifting or traumatic. And they do get traumatic, some of them not my stories to tell, but all of the originals have sealed envelopes pinned to the back of the piece — the buyer's choice on whether to open it and read the story behind artwork, or to sit happy with their own interpretation. I wonder if most will spend years pondering, before finally breaking the seal. 
These paintings include, at times, wild juxtapositions: 1980s British wrestlers Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks sit beside a packet of Ice Magic, a sofa pulls away from a train station, a submarine negotiates a roundabout. Events or objects which may, in themselves, seem trivial or random, attaining huge significance in the memory of an individual when they become associated with a major event, or with an important period in that person’s life. Haunting, at times, but of course, memories can be.
"The mind," says Rick "can make legend from memories. It was a hell of an experience, you know? Trying to draw up from the recesses of my mind what I remember happening, before cross-checking with people who were there. When you realise you've forgotten something, you then go down the avenue of considering why you let it go. Was it not that important? Or have you wasted that memory because you didn't know it was important at the time? And then you start to reimagine what may have happened and ponder if it's a story you've heard so many times, or told so many times yourself, that it doesn't have a huge basis in reality anymore. I have page after page of notes on part-memories that simply couldn't be drawn back in full. And that was a sad realisation." The ten originals Rick has immortalised, though, are all memories he has at least a strong grasp on. The hazy quality of his work, however, a constant reminder that anything can slip and not everything in a memory is a guarantee. "These memories," says Rick "Are the fabric of what I believe I am." And, as random as they may appear to us, they're logical to him. Take the piece below, for example.   
And with Rick's permission, the story behind it. In 1990, he and his sixth form school pals bought a clapped out Citroen for £60. They wired it with a Matsui hifi and, inside the car, kept four clown masks that they would don whenever they drove past their school, so as not to be spotted, school ties still visible. A Carpet Right sign indicates the car park in which they left their car to attend a rave. When they returned to it, they spotted a police car staking out their own Citroen, as if its presence overnight were an indicator of major wrongdoing. The only real wrongdoing was that the group of friends would pinch pints of milk from doorways but, in Rick words "with a pathetic attempt at some sort of Robin Hood code of honour" they'd only take the pints that blue tits had already started pecking at. "I guess it's a nod to the idiocy of youth," says Rick with a laugh, this section of his life clearly a happy recollection. "On the whole the artistic journey was more joyous than it was melancholy, but the melancholy is there. Absolutely."    
There are 10 pieces in the initial collection, all acrylic on board, all many months in the making. But as more memories returned to Rick he revisited four of them, the original incarnations staying exactly as they were, but twists being added to create four new originals that he calls Madeleines, a nod to a Proustian theory on memory. Thus, the clown piece finds a new background in the shape of Nirvana's Nevermind album cover, perhaps played by tape through the car stereo they installed. Moments appearing to Rick and even evading the glass lids which figuratively and literally were in place to keep his memories rooted. Keep him focused. Trap them.      
In the final piece in Intermission a golf ball strikes the bell jar, a memory in its own right, but also something seemingly symbolic. As if Rick's use for the glass lids and the focus they made him apply to each memory, was no longer needed. His work, his documentation of the first half of his adult life, done. 
"It was incredibly liberating and cathartic to do them," he says. "Like most artists, historically I've often been caught in a cycle of producing commercial work. Work that I know will sell and, if it sells, I'll get another exhibition. I'll get to keep being an artist, you know? It's a painful trap. But the team at Colley Ison have pushed me to be true to what I want to paint, whether it's likely to sell or not. And that's the journey I'm now on, with Intermission the start of that journey."

In Rick's first post-Intermission piece [above] he's already flexing a new liberated narrative, tying up the last ten years of his work, including artists who have informed and influenced him. And the gallery's belief in Rick has been repaid — all ten Intermission originals have sold and each is available to view at Colley Ison, now.
The full collection is on display until Nov 27, entry is free. Some Madeleines and prints are available from £750. Meet Rick in the gallery, Nov 26 & 27, 12-4pm. 


Cabaret meets Christmas in the second Symphonic Sessions from the CBSO and Hockley Social Club. Anyone who missed the first gig (me) and had to witness an endless stream of superb social media shots and accompanying civic pride, will know that this is the sort of event you have to attend at least once. And it will sell out. This time round the Symphony Orchestra are tearing it up with a festive, French twist on Thursday, December 2 — think sparkling diamonds and Moulin Rouge as an ensemble of incredible musicians entertain, with a selection of sultry jazz tunes and classical fusion, against the specially dressed bohemian scenery of Hockley Social. Word on the street (on the press release) is special guest singer Gabrielle Ducomble will perform songs by Edith Piaf interspersed by musical belters by Debussy, Satie, and a few surprises from the four musicians. Resident DJ Pritt Kalsi also returns, and Hockley’s street food vendors will have a range of festive dishes, because it'll be December by then and once it's December, frankly, you're firmly in 'if you can't beat them, join them' celebratory territory. Tickets cost £15+ fees per person, which includes a drink. Group ticket (entry for four) is £48 + fees (includes four standard drinks and a Hockley Social Club black card). The trailer is worth a look-see. More


It's been a chain-heavy year of Brum launches, perhaps unsurprisingly given the two year hammering the hospitality industry has had. So it's with a warm embrace we should welcome indy champs The Rolling Mill to the Jewellery Quarter, with doors opening tomorrow (November 26). Brought to the city by Sunny and Sonu – the local restauranteur brothers behind the heavily-adored Hen and Chickens — the pair and their team are offering all I Choose Birmingham readers a free beer, wine or soft drink between now and New Year. All you need to do is subscribe to The Rolling Mill's mailing list and they'll send out confirmation code for your free drink. To claim, enter that code when booking a table, any time between December 1 and 31. The immaculate 7,857 sq. ft. space has undergone a six-figure refurb (you can see pictures here), the building dating back to the early 1900’s when it was a rolling steel factory. The kitchen team are going big on European flavours and classics with a twist. So Croque Madames or burrata with prosciutto sit alongside fish and chips or chicken, pancetta and leek pie. The Rolling Mill will serve from brekkie through to dinner and you can see the menus here. Book your table at and follow them on Facebook and Instagram. But don't forget that free drink by subscribing


That Birmingham doesn't have a physical shop dedicated to selling Brum merch, is something we should all be considering bloody revolution over. Until that day comes, the next best thing is Birmingham Museums online shop, a compendium of goodies for proud Brummies and tourists alike. Take a browse, if you make a purchase you’ll be supporting Birmingham Museums Trust — every sale helping their work in preserving Birmingham’s world-renowned collections. Traditionally crafted by Birmingham independent Provide and scented with notes of aged leather, tobacco and cologne, the candle pictured is one such gem, taking inspiration from the many jeweller’s workshops that Brum is famous for. Check out their other Birmingham inspired scented candles too: Alfie’s Custard and Thousand Trades (all £20). Speaking of the JQ, BMAG also have a natty little round up of some of the best glittering goodness to come out of our prettiest suburb. I say little, but at the time of writing there are 121 different pieces, from striking snake earrings to Celtic pendants and dragonfly necklaces. Or maybe for the art lover in your Chistmas-gifting life, a print from their range of iconic works. Be it a Pre-Raph masterpiece, a William Morris or a watercolour by ya boi David Cox, there’s hundreds of them. Browse


There are two kinds of people in this world, those who go *out* out on New Year's Eve and those who stay *in* in. If you fall into the latter category but feel like this year should be different (and it really should), how about Michelin-starred and utterly beloved Brum institution Adam's, who are putting on the non-partier's party. A divine, black tie, gastronomic celebration of the arrival of 2022, it's a nine course tasting menu with Champagne and canapés (£195 per person). The menu is currently under wraps, but will include the heavenly leek parcel with black truffle, custard and hazelnut, pictured. Dinner is expected to be over in time to allow guests to travel home for midnight, but anyone who wishes to stay until Big Ben's Bongs will be most welcome. Guests will also leave with an Adam's gift bag, the contents of which will remain secret until the end of the evening. There are three seatings and bookings can be made online — simply select December 31. And yes, you're absolutely right, that headline does deserve a Nobel Prize for Literature. 


To Dorridge now and to something a little bit lovely. To coincide with village's always elegant Christmas light switch on celebrations, local luxury interior specialists Noia are launching a pop-up shop, which could just be the answer to your gift giving concerns. The lights go on on Monday (November 29, at 6pm) by which time Noia will have some absolutely gorgey gifting options on display at their venue where, in January, they will launch a full showroom of beauties. For now, though, the pop-up will do nicely, complete with a carefully curated selection of lamps, candles, tech, books, toasters, even Buster + Punch dog bowls, all with a luxey, classy (frankly very Dorridge) feel. Brands like Tom Dixon, Fatboy, Kartell and Taschen will all be on display and you'll find them here, a stone's throw from where the lights will go on. Pictured is a cask whisky connoisseur set, with decanter and two tumblers for £120 (down from £150) and I'd like it very much please, Santa. Very much indeed. Follow Noia on Instagram and Facebook, accounts which will spring into life very shortly. Call 0121 236 6637


If you fancy getting your hands on a one-off piece of art created by local Brum artists and makers, supporting a great charity and the bird population to boot, then get to eBay this week for the Birmingham Bird Box auction. Local artists and bespoke makers have joined forces to create six unique bird boxes, released throughout this week for auction to raise funds for Mind Mental Health. From our favourite Brummy mummy, Joe Lycett’s infamous ‘TITS’ box, to a ‘Bad Bird BBQ’ (no birds harmed, promise) — each box has a unique concept aligned to the artist's style and past work. The project was first hatched in lockdown, keeping collective creative hands and minds busy as artists and makers joined forces to create six distinct bird boxes. The concept is simple: look after nature and it'll return the favour. Making this quirky idea even better, you can go bird(box) watching and support various independent cafes and venues over the coming week, with the boxes currently on show at Caneat and Artefact (Stirchley), Hive (Moseley), The Early Bird (Kings Heath) and The Loft (Southside). More


Walking, It's always been quite a popular given it's how humans, on the whole, get around, but goodness did it see a spike in popularity in the last two years. GOOD NEWS! There's more walking to be done, but now you're actually allowed to go into the places you pass. This year’s Jewellery Quarter Christmas Window Trail returns and they've tripled the number of participating businesses since first launching in 2019. The trail is set to feature 73 businesses that will be mapped out for residents and visitors alike to explore during the festive season, with many bars, restaurants and shops offering ace deals to keep you motivated and moving. Tierra Tacos are offering a free drink with every meal or takeout, Stanleys Jewellers are going all in on up to 30% off selected items and The Chocolate Quarter doing a 10% off choco offero. There's loads more. It's all about getting people to explore the JQ and vote on their favourite Christmas window display but, more so this year, it will shine a spotlight on the city’s homeless, raising much-needed funds for charities helping rough sleepers across the region. This year Change into Action, an alternative giving scheme that supports specialist charities and street teams working to change the circumstances of rough sleepers, are the worthy beneficiaries. The JQ hit the headlines in 2019 after a mural by Banksy (above) appeared on the railway bridge outside Vyse Street station. Depicting the reality of homelessness in Brum, Banksy uploaded a video to Instagram — which has now been viewed nearly 6.9 million times — of a man named Ryan bedding down for the night on a bench as a pair of reindeers lifted him into the night sky. This year the JQ has decided to include this now world famous mural as a key part of the trail. Each of the displays will have a QR code; when this code is scanned it links to a JustGiving page. You can pick up one of the trail maps throughout the JQ, at the Library of Birmingham, or download it.
Venue: Brum Mi @ The Dark Horse, 145 Alcester Rd, B13 8JP; Facebook 
Choice: Pork Belly Banh Mi (£9.50) Chooser: Bruce 

Being three sheets to the wind and dining with a man who has no sense of taste or smell, isn't the strongest of vantage points when reviewing a restaurant. In fact, we had no intention of reviewing
Brum Mi, the Vietnamese pop-up in Moseley's Dark Horse, we were merely after sustenance. What we got, although my man opposite knew nothing of it, was a meal so sink-into-seat divine that even the most inebriated taste buds snapped sharply out of it and sang. Sang from the hills like Julie Andrews. Banh Mi, I'm sure you know, is a Vietnamese baguette, mixing French stuff and Far East Asian stuff and ultimately it's one of the best foods on the planet. I worked for 7 years at a magazine that was a stone's throw from what is widely considered to be London's best Banh Mi joint. What I got from the Brum Mi boys Bruce and Sam, was every bit as good. Fresh bread, of course, but pork cooked pitch perfect so that fat is barely noticeable in anything other than naughty taste — jellied and juicy and joyous. Chillies and coriander and citrus lifting the whole thing to heavenly levels. I was in love with a sandwich and I didn't care who knew it. The chicken wings were crisp and nibblesome — a surprise hit as I feared they might be an after-thought — and the Dark Horse's enviable beer options keyed effortlessly into the whole thing. Bruce, the head chef, spent a few months in Vietnam eating up to three Banh Mi a day. Yikes. When he got back to Brum he struggled to find any, so he and Sam used lockdown, and more importantly furlough, as a platform to launch Brum Mi as a bit of a safety net. They started doing lockdown click and collect at the Juke (Kings Heath) with basically no investment, and it took off. After stints on the Digbeth Dining Club roster, they've been fully booked ever since, the Dark Horse quite rightly extending their tenure in Moseley until at least the New Year. On Sundays Bruce and Sam are putting out British roasts with Vietnamese nods — the porchetta has a lemongrass kick, for example, and there's hints of five spice in the gravy. Don't knock it until you've tried it, word is it's a sensation. You can find the chaps on Deliveroo, Wednesday to Saturday
New book Birmingham: It’s Not Shit — 50 Things That Delight About Brum is now on sale after a successful Kickstarter campaign. You can order in paperback and ebook, or head to the launch party, December 4, at Cherry Reds where it'll be on sale.

BrummieFest, a new beer festival, kicks off today and runs until Sunday. Hosted by Birmingham Brewing Company (Stirchley) you'll find taps including a plethora of local breweries, plus samosas from Milan Sweet Centre. More 

Digbeth Dining Club's newest project, Herbert's Yard (Longbridge), opens tomorrow (Nov 26) with Greidy's Wings and Strips in attendance, hot off the back of their Saturday Kitchen BBC appearance. Facebook

MAC's Christmas art market is this weekend and next weekend (Nov 27 and 28, then Dec 4 and 5), while Moseley Farmer's Market is Saturday (Nov 27)

Local photographer Jack Spicer Adams has turned his iconic (and I do mean iconic) old Snobs photos into purchasable prints. £27
WORDS: Tom Cullen, Claire Hawkins

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The fried chicken at Seoul Plaza supermarket in Selly Oak does amazing fried chicken takeaway from a bain-marie. It's the best £6 you'll spend all week.


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