Issue 492
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ABBEY ROAD: BIRMINGHAM BRANCH 

There is an Abbey Road in Birmingham, just off Slade Road (funnily enough) in Gravelly Hill and it's better than the one in London because there are zero tourists except the occasional multi-layer raised road junction fan.

Admittedly, though, the London Abbey Road has a little more history and thinking there might be something in that, Symphony Hall will play host to a new collaboration with Abbey Road Studios and its annual Music Photography Awards. The month-long programme is centred around an exhibition from the winning and shortlisted images from Abbey Road’s 2023 gongs, alongside a series of masterclasses, live music, panel discussions and more.
Formed in 2022, the Awards champion emerging and undiscovered young snappers and celebrates the unforgettable, unique, and unsung musical moments from the previous year. Ahead of this year’s competition, which launches on May 29, B:Music, the people behind Symphony Hall, will host an exhibition of the 2023 nominees and winners, a few of which are pictured. The show will run from May 13 to June 14.
Across nine categories, including Live and ICON, Undiscovered and Hip Hop 50, the exhibition will offer a unique opportunity to view the photographs blown up to A3 size and in a beaut of a setting. A series of masterclasses and panel talks, led by local, established music photographers and Music Photography Awards alumni will also be running, in addition to special performances from emerging Brum musicians.
Throughout the residency B:Music will be presenting performances from local and emerging talent from across the West Mids, with performances from Credo Kampeta, Ezrae, Aayushi, Sarah Riches and BIMM Birmingham, all covering iconic tracks recorded at Abbey Road in their own unique ways.
The pinnacle will be on May 24 when the B:Music Talent Development Showcase takes over the regular Free Jazz Fridays slot, and the young photographers from the Abbey Road Awards programme will be in attendance to capture the performances – a real chance to show the next generation of musical and creative talent both on and off stage.
More than 40 photographs will be exhibited, it's free and open to all from 11am to 4pm, Monday to Saturday, as well as prior to evening events at Symphony Hall. Head here for more details.

Pictured are (from top to bottom) Colony House by Mary Caroline Russell; Lil Uzi Vert by Izzy Nuzzo; Idles by Aaron Parsons; Billie Eilish by Nicole Fara Silver; Fontaines D.C. by Jamie MacMillan; JPEGMafia By Carlo Cavaluzzi; Harry Styles by Anthony Pham; Margate Mod Weekender by Alex Amoros.

VAN THE MAN


Those who visited Van Gogh Alive at Hippodrome back in September 2020, during the bleary-eyed bit of COVID where we emerged from our homes unsure, really, what the heck was happening, will have loved the show. It was just a joy to see a theatre open, even if it was for an exhibition!

This one, though the same premise, is by different production companies and takes place at the NEC. Called Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience some five million art lovers have already seen the show in North America and beyond.

A multimedia kind of a deal it takes place across 40,000 sq ft — the largest Van Gogh show ever to be staged in the city — from August 1 to September 1. It combines more than 300 of the post-Impressionist’s paintings with cutting-edge tech and a specially curated musical soundtrack to tell the story of one of history’s most influential artists.

His paintings are liberated from their two-dimensional realms and rendered into three-dimensional, fully immersive scenes that swirl and flow with colour and movement.

Visitors are taken on a journey through the artist’s world from darkness to light, enhanced by his own dreams, thoughts and words set to a stirring symphonic score. Beginning in the Introduction Hall, visitors connect with Vincent van Gogh through personal letters he wrote to his brother, and greatest supporter, Theo.

You then move into the heart of the exhibition where Van Gogh’s paintings are freed from their frames to dominate the space and fully immerse the audience in the incredible details of flowers, cafés and landscapes, shifting and merging across the projection-swathed walls and floor. Even if you're not very familiar with Van Gogh’s paintings, this is an excellent access point, and a way to connect to the artist behind the art. There's also a chance to take part in special Saturday morning yoga sessions inside the exhibition.

Tickets go on general sale at 9am tomorrow (May 10) here. Trailer 

OH MA GAWD IT'S MAC AGAIN


We've spoken to Helios, Greek God of Sun (bumped into him at ASDA Small Heath's frozen aisle) and, long story short, he has guaranteed the current heatwave will 100% continue until and including MAC’s splendid outdoor amphitheatre event, Ryland Caravan, on June 8.

In its second year, off the back of a being a bona fide multi-band belter in 2023, the new(ish) music festival will be headlined by indie legends Cud (main stage) and Pete Williams, founding member of Dexys Midnight Runners on the acoustic stage.

Cud were initially lauded for their quirky Peel session cover of You Sexy Thing in 1987, but they built up a huge live following and buffed up their repertoire with a string of unstraight pop beauties. Williams, meanwhile, headlined the Lunar Stage at Moseley Folk in 2021 and performed a sold-out show at the brand new performance space at Symphony Hall in April last year.  
Also in attendance is the brilliantly named Brian Lightning, pictured top. The brainchild of a lifelong relationship with music, magic and the stage, and bearing comparisons to Foxygen and Gorillaz, Brian has made his name throughout the second city after launching his live project a year ago. He will share the main stage (not at the same time, that would be chaos) with The Bitter Lemons, above, who'll bring a blend of classic rockabilly and rock n roll our way. Expect anecdotal, original songs with scuffed up covers, all with a layer of 60's garage band grease. Yes please.

Over on the aforementioned acoustic stage — both stages will be in the stunning Outdoor Theatre and will play in turn — will be R John Webb who, complete with his band, are considered among Birmingham's most accomplished live acts, and 18-year-old star-in-the-making, Tilda Gebhardt.

There are two price bands but, whatever your walk of life, you won't be spending more than £24.75 per person for a heck of a lot of entertainment. MAC suggests you keep an eye on the skies and dress accordingly, but Helios insists it'll be bikinis and speedos weather. Your call. Book

HARRY IN THE HOUSE 


What you up to April 27, 2025? Going to see Harry Hill at The Alexandra? Me too, because you and I are smart enough to synchronise watches for tickets which go on sale this Friday (May 10, so tomorrow, then) at 11am, here.

Comedy royalty, Hill, will present Harry Hill: New Bits & Greatest Hits, celebrating his almost 30-year career in comedy in this, his 60th year on planet Earth.

That's right, The Badger Parade is back on! Marvel as he offers new insights into the hot topics of the day such as the demise of the SCART lead, The Culture Wars, the differences between crabsticks and rhubarb and the origins of tiramisu.

Harry delves into his back catalogue using his patented ‘Old Bit Randomiser’ for old favourites like ‘Interspecies Tennis’, ‘The time I went up in the Space Shuttle' and ‘When Nan got her hair caught in the knitting’.

Cough awkwardly as Gary (Harry’s son from his first marriage) attempts to take over the business again. Tap your feet as Stouffer The Cat spits a little Steflon Don and watch in wonder at the return of The Knitted Character and Abu Hamster.

Harry will also play Coventry’s Warwick Arts Centre, April 26. Tickets for both events can be found here, from 11am, May 10.

LOOK AROUND HIGHBURY HALL


In one of those frustratingly timed events where everyone should be at work (not you Dad), Highbury Hall is opening for five free tours this Monday (May 13) from 10am to 2pm.

Possibly worth having "a meeting" for, this'll be a rare glimpse about the 1879 mansion during which you'll get a corking insight into the rich heritage of the hall that was built single-handedly, would you believe, by Joseph Chamberlain; industrialist, reformer and Birmingham Mayor.

The property was given ‘for the benefit of the people of Birmingham’ (*Monday daytimes only, presumably) in 1919 and has since had many uses. In 2018 Historic England placed Highbury on its ‘Heritage at Risk Register’. The Chamberlain Highbury Trust has been set up to bring the people of Birmingham back into the heart of Highbury.

Set within a 100 acre urban park, Highbury's fine Venetian Gothic-style architecture and its interior detailing of naturalistic designs are well worth lying to your boss over. 

Just joking about the single-handed bit, btw. That would be ridiculous. Book

ALBATROSS DEATH CULT


A restaurant that presumably found its name via the age-old practice of flicking fast through a dictionary and stopping at three random words, Albatross Death Cult will open on June 14, where Atelier once lived, in the JQ. And bookings are now LIVE!

The experimental restaurant is the work of Alex Claridge, of The Wilderness, and his band of unhinged but outrageously talented kitchen and front-of-house crew.

For any bookings placed between now and May 15 guests will pay £75 per person for the Albatross menu — this is an Early Access Sale and these bookings are essentially pre-paid with a £75 deposit. 

Then, from May 16 onwards, the sale ends and any bookings made henceforth are priced at £88 per person, with a booking deposit of just £44.

The beautiful venue seats 14 guests gathered around a monolithic kitchen counter for just one sitting per service. The menu consists of 12 or so creative servings of (mostly) seafood and coastal ingredients. 
Book
Following the sad closure of Le Petit Bois, Moseley, they will open from 4pm to 6.30pm tomorrow (May 10) to sell the remainder of their excellent wine collection. More 

Greenfield Crescent's awesome Chapter restaurant is hosting two evenings of a new live music quiz, June 13 and 20 with the music played live! Enjoy your 3 course dinner plus a talented team of musicians for £65 pp. More 

Following the success of The Alexandra’s family-friendly and free Open Day in September, the theatre will once again throw open its doors and invite visitors — kids and all — to explore behind the scenes of the beautiful venue this Saturday (May 11). Details  

Shirley Beer & Cider Festival returns with more beers, ciders, and cocktails than ever before, May 16 to 18 at Camp Hill Rugby Club, which happens to be the first place I ever copped a snog. Tickets from £10. 

Starting in June MAC's new film season #BadMums interrogates the notion of what a 'bad' mum is across nine decades of cinema. They've spelt 'moms' wrong, mind. More 
WORDS: Tom Cullen

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