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We don't tend to have strong feelings about riding in lifts, but on a recent journey to the top of the Rotunda, arresting floor-to-ceiling imagery prompted us to make as many stops as lift-etiquette and social niceties permit, plus a significant number more. Indeed, our first encounter with the work of photographer, Nic Gaunt, which you can find on every floor of the tower, made such an impression that we tracked him down in his current home in Hong Kong using the I CHOOSE private jet. And if you'll believe that, let's get a poker date in the diary.
From early morning shoots out of car parks, to convincing well-positioned office workers to attach cameras to their windowsills, Gaunt's eighteen-month study of the redevelopment of the Rotunda captured the building from every conceivable angle, by both day and night. He cites "a history of conflicting emotions towards the building" as the inspiration behind the study, which was meticulously managed by his wife, Rebecca, as the project grew and grew. The shot pictured above (A New Start) was, as you may already have discerned, taken mid-way through the redevelopment.
When completing a study of a building site which is 81 metres in height, vertigo probably isn't the ideal condition to be stuck with. Add to that a cylindrical facade covered only by fabric and a few poles and you start to get an idea of the lengths Gaunt was prepared to go to to in order to document the Rotunda's reincarnation. He found the image pictured above, The Centre, particularly eerie to shoot. Taken on a vividly torrid day, wind hurtled through what was then only the skeleton of the building, while material precariously billowed out over its edges. Gaunt continues to admire the window fitters he observed on the project, who he describes as "absolutely fearless".
A fascination with the Rotunda stemming from childhood visits to Brum with his mother had Gaunt as interested in learning about the people behind the tower as its architectural history. This passion took the photographer to Plymouth to meet the original architect, to gigs of local punk band, Rotunda, and to a meeting with Patrick Joseph Hill (pictured above). Paddy spent sixteen years in prison before successfully appealing multiple convictions in respect of Birmingham's pub bombings, which shook the city on November 21, 1974. The Mulberry Bush, then located at the base of the Rotunda, was the site of ten of the twenty-one deaths that resulted on that tragic Thursday.
Capturing an epoch of Brum's eclectic skyline, In Place (pictured above), was taken close to the completion of the redevelopment and features in the book Gaunt compiled to record and share his project with Birmingham. As its name suggests, Twenty One Stories contains a tale for each of the twenty-one floors of the Rotunda and even more awe-inspiring imagery. The sizeable hardback, available direct from Gaunt for £25 (plus P&P), also comes with a DVD including footage of every person interviewed for the book. Gaunt and his wife hope one day to return to what he describes as the "distinct energy" of Birmingham, which he considers to be "more dynamic than ever". Consider this space watched. More incredible images here.


Remember how, a while back, we broke news of these guys and a certain salted caramel chicken wing? Well, the pair's pop-up, the Butchers Social, has now become a semi-permanent fixture on Harborne High Street and for that, we're simply thanking everyone. Though we doubt the menu will stand still for long - if you can get it - try the black treacle and malt braised brisket waffle (£8). A bit like pouring maple syrup over your breakfast, this dish may divide. But for our part, we saw stalwart meat-haters quietly re-examining their relationship with beef after a solitary bite. And there is always a veggie option, such as the herb pancakes with smoked salmon and blue cheese (£4, pictured) if brisket just isn't your bag. Either way, you've got until the end of August to check out this pallet-clad gem. Though the sooner you make the trip, the more complete your life will feel. So there's that.


If you are yet to make it to the Coffin Works, the JQ's newest museum and exhibition space, we've got a suitably ghoulish excuse to draw you in. Game Over opens on Tuesday (April 28) and features paintings, sculptures, films and installations created by local artists as a response to attending a tour of the Newman Brothers' factory, which made fittings for the coffins of Winston Churchill, Joseph Chamberlain and the Queen Mother. The exhibition will see a rotaing scrum of five different artists displaying their wares over each of the forthcoming three months, including mixed media specialist Rose Hale - whose work, Triumph Angel (Twin) is pictured. Entry to Game Over is free, though having completed one ourselves, we recommend you bid a quick and unemotional 'tara' to five of your English pounds and tag on to a guided tour while you're there. Opening times here.
Venue: Gas Street Social, The Mailbox, B1 1RL; gasstreetsocial.co.uk
Choice: Chicken Vol au Vents  Chooser: The Owner

In what might be the biggest comeback since Quentin Tarantino handed John Travolta a black suit and white shirt, chicken vol au vents - the retro regular of 70s snacks - are making a triumphant return at Gas Street Basin's newest restaurant and bar. On the menu at the insistence of owner, Adam Freeth, they're a glorious throwback to a rightly forgotten bite, bought kicking and screaming into the 21st Century thanks to the skilled Austrian chef who is working wonders, particularly on Gas Street Social's 'Sharers' menu. We ordered eight of the nine sharing plates because, well, go big or go home, and the standouts included the heavenly light scallops, the sumptuous slow-cooked ox cheek and the truffle-laden crispy arancini balls. But it was the vol au vents that stole the show thanks to the refreshingly chickeny chicken and a mushroom sauce that'll make you want to drop to one knee and propose, right there and then. Oh, and beer drinkers should delight in the immaculate Cork-made Chieftain IPA. Full menu here.      


Given the level of quality control we’ve seen from Marvel in recent years, it’s no surprise that The Avengers 2 is great. But why is it great? Well, like its predecessor its jamboree, getting-the-band-together feel means it transcends Marvel’s occasional generic, cookie-cutter feel, and nobody is better at handling super-ensembles than Buffy scribe Joss Whedon. James Spader’s baddie (an artificially intelligent mega-robot, of course) relishes the many zingers Whedon throws him, the action is coherent and varied, series forgotten man Jeremy Renner gets his moment to shine, and there’s an intensity and darkness that deepen things without getting into ponderous Man of Steel territory. The overall vibe is oddly reminiscent of Sinatra, Martin et al’s Rat Pack heyday – it’s a film supremely confident in its ability to entertain you, and for once the palpable fun those on screen are having spills out into the theatre.


From inauspicious beginnings at a now demolished nightclub on Broad Street, Duran Duran have taken the long road to the walls of Malmasion's right nice lobby, care of rock photographer, Denis O'Regan. Having accompanied the band on its Sing Blue Silver tour through Japan, North America and a number of European spots, O'Regan has captured a little of the hysteria that followed the eighties sensations in Careless Memories, a coffee table book teeming with pictorial insights into the life of the band on the road. For three weeks from today (April 23), you can check out a selection of the photographic prints which feature in the book as well as all sorts of special editions of the text, some including memorabilia from the tour. You can also get your chops round one of four cocktails those nice people at the revamped Chez Mal Bar have created in honour of the event. They may even let you try a second.
  • Tickets (at £16.50) are now on sale for Josh Widdicombe's forthcoming tour What do I do now. Catch Josh at the Town Hall on November 1 - or - seemingly on any major TV channel.
  • This Saturday (April 25), Pop Up Dosa is taking over Balsall Heath's Ort Cafe for a traditional Keralan lunch from 12pm until 3pm. Contact Ort to secure your spot.
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is one of the best films ever. Now that's settled, you can catch the musical version at the New Alex Theatre from May 5 to 16. Tickets (from £21.90 to £53.40) here.
  • Tomorrow (April 24), the Birmingham Whisky Club is bringing the inimitable Speyside flavours of The Balvenie to Hotel du Vin, care of a tasting bar (from 5.30pm) and cheese and whisky pairing (at 7.30pm).
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"And when she shines she really shows you all she can"
- Duran Duran, Rio
WORDS: Katy Drohan, Andrew LowryTom Cullen
ADDRESS: I CHOOSE Birmingham, Office 211, 43 Temple Row, Birmingham, B2 5LS

Copyright © 2015 Birmingham Publishing Group Ltd, All rights reserved.

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