Issue 356
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Now 15 years strong, 2021’s Flatpack Festival (Brum's annual celebration of all things filmy) is entirely available online, on your own screens and accessible from wherever you can get a signal. As we’ve come to expect, it’s innovative, inspirational and in some places, beautifully Birmingham-centric; all of which makes it the second-best reason to stay at home that we’ve had in the last year. So, give your mate their Netflix password back and cancel your Amazon Prime free trial, because Flatpack has got you for ten days straight. Here are our picks of the flicks. 
Paradise Lost + Q&A Live – 24 May (£4)
Filmmaker and flâneur Andy Howlett explores (both physically and metaphorically) the ruins of John Madin’s Central Library complex, considered the last bastion of Brutalism in Brum. The collective thought process behind demolishing the well-loved, and in some circles, loathed landmark is steeped in controversy, serving to dismiss the past’s vision of B-town’s future through concrete cleansing. Howlett does a deep dive into the reasons behind the culling and rewriting of history. It’s like big Phil C once sang; “Whoa! Think twice…”. World premiere, no less. Tickets  
Shorts & Hops with DigBrew Live May 29 (£14)
Beer and films make fine bedfellows. DigBrew and Flatpack know this all too well, so are sending a carefully-curated selection of beers to your door and a flurry of short films straight to your screen. From the full film line up, Bruce Bickford’s twisted, trippy claymation work is set to feature and is the stuff of Tony Hart and Morph’s nightmares. Add to that the Buffet Island Milkshake IPA and it’s enough to bring us all to the yard. Tickets
Deepfake Theory – From May 21 (Short Film Pass and Flatpass only)
Deepfake tech does online facelifts better than most Hollywood blockbusters. But aside from the Face Swap vids there are more potentially spiritual applications to Deepfake and this mid-length film by Roshan Nejal explores its use in dealing with grief and loss. Although it sounds a tad too close to a Black Mirror ep, the UK premiere of Deepfake Theory has the potential to leave real tears running down your actual face. Tickets
3am Headf**k – From May 21 (Short Film Pass and Flatpass only)
As the ever-so subtle title suggests, this psychedelic selection of short films is especially curated for the night owls among us. Whether that means those who are coming back home after a big night “out out” or those who are simply unable to get some shut eye, 3am Headf**k guarantees to sooth your senses with tumbling kaleidoscopic abstract imagery, swirling soundtracks and hallucinogenic visuals, all of which should ease you into a restful, if not slightly trippy, slumber. Late-night shopping channel, this is not. Tickets
Trash Film Club and Greg Sestero vs. Verotika — May 22 (£4)
Great films are, like, so 2020. Bad films are where it’s at in ’21. So step up, Glenn Danzig’s Verotika with its low-budget blend of violence and erotica (oh, now the title makes sense). As they do, Trash Film Club takes the film to task, layering their live commentary takedown over the top of the B-Movie belter. This time, they’ve recruited the help of none other than The Disaster Artist author and The Room star Greg Sestero and together, these guys know their trash. Tickets
Let Us Play — May 27 (Free)
This had me at the mention of ‘ghost playgrounds’. It’s nothing to do with Patrick Swayze and a potter’s wheel, and everything to do with play areas built out of unwanted wood, surplus building materials and any other junk that would do the job. Inner-city wastelands became home to these play areas, with the community and it’s kids building them from the ground up. Featuring archive footage and first-person interviews, it examines the effect these most adventurous of yards had on the city’s youth. Tickets
Gunda – From May 29 (£4)
Mesmeric, immersive and soothing, Victor Kossakowsky’s feature-length documentary slows life down a fraction to a farmyard pace and follows a mommy pig, her little piglets and a hopping, one-legged chicken. No, you’re going soft. This is escapist entertainment at its purest and surely the cure for whatever ails you. With its crisp monochrome and intimate ambient sound, Gunda is pitched as piggy ASMR. Like Babe, the hog softly oinking sweet nothings into your ear. That’ll do, pig. That’ll do. Tickets
Life Drawing at the Starkers Academy – May 27 (Free)
If, like me, COVID calories have ruled out any chance of you being on the brave end of a life drawing sesh, all is not lost. Starkers Academy sets out to show the ins and outs of sketching someone in the nude, empowering both model and artist. This video is well worth a watch. To get you warmed up the award-winning Nude Triumphant will be screened beforehand as inspiration, too. Bring a pencil, some paper, and they'll do the rest. Tickets
Colour Box, May 22 – 31 (Free to £5)
An event for everyone rather than just for the little ‘uns. The animation styles range from the Ghibli-esque to mixed media and subjects include our obsession with screen time, the sweet moves of an insect dance troupe, and an incredibly aggy Octopus. One event — Touchscreen — includes some of the best Colour Box shorts from over the years and a box will be delivered to your door with different objects that allow you to experience the films through touch, taste and smell. More
7 Sounds – From May 22 (Free, donations welcome)
Sound, mate. The cool kids are into ASMR artists like Billie Eilish, while The Sound of Metal, Riz Ahmed’s hearing-impairment drama, is many folk’s film of the year. With even loftier ambitions, 7 Sounds blends audio recordings that attempt to alter how we audibly perceive time, physical borders and our world in general. Oscar-winning documentarian Sam Green also sets out to uncover why some sounds reduce you to tears whilst some give you goosebumps. May or may not feature Fix You by Coldplay*. (*Spoken to the Flatpack team. Confirmed: No Coldplay) Tickets
The full programme for Flatpack is here. Words: RS


It's called Towering in Fur Foe, it's by artist Vivien Hew and if I had £625 it would be on my living room wall. But I have £0 so instead I'm going to go to the Ikon Gallery and look at it alongside work by over 250 Brum artists, where entry is free. All works are available to buy and are under £1000. There was no curatorial selection process making for a frankly wonderfully eclectic mix of the brilliant and the batsh*t. A full 100% of the proceeds from sales go directly to the artists. On until May 31. More 


It's hard not to get all civiotic (civic-patriotic, I've just made it up) when your city gets one over London, so I won't bother trying. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra are putting the largest orchestra on stage anywhere in the UK at the moment and the capital can put that in its pipe and 'Big Smoke' it. Last night saw curtain-up on the first CBSO shows in about 6 months and there was a lorra lorra love in the auditorium and online for the return of live classical muzak. Looking ahead to May 26, you're cordially invited to a concert showcasing one of the twentieth century’s biggest masterpieces (so probably quite good, then), Shostakovich’s Symphony No.5. Next up is Heaven And Hell (June 2) when fabulous French conductor Chloé van Soeterstède will take her Brum bow, making mincemeat out of Mozart’s best-loved bad guy — Don Giovanni. CBSO Music Director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (call her Mirga) is, thank all the gods, still in Brum and conducting a programme of Weinberg and Mahler with acclaimed Scottish singer mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill (23 June) and there's also a special Friday Night programme of Summer Classics which is a fab toe-dipping exercise into classical music. Expect a whistle-stop tour of top tunes that you didn’t even know you knew including Vivaldi, Rossini, Tchaikovsky and Elgar. All the above take place in the jaw-dropping Symphony Hall, packing some of the best acoustics of any hall in the world. So that’s another one over that there London. Full price tickets start at £25.
Venue: BrasilPortu, 430 Bearwood Rd, B66 4EY; Facebook
Choice: Rump steaks with tropeiro  Chooser: The guy at the pub beforehand

A couple of Sundays ago the weirdest thing happened — the sun came out for, like, three whole hours, and as the saying goes, “if the sun comes out... go to Bearwood,” and who am I to mess with tradition? I kicked things off at
The Craft Inn which opened a couple of months before the panny-D decided to ruin things for everyone, but now they’re back and I had a couple of delicious, good value, IPAs. Lots of Midlands beers on offer, too. Maybe it was the sun being out, and/or the 7% beer, but I got talking to a stranger who told me about a Brazilian restaurant up the road. I thanked him for the information, finished up and high-tailed it to BrasilPortu. Opened by a couple of friends from Salvador who were craving food that tasted like home, I was immediately met with a load of people talking Portuguese which was reassuring, especially as I know how to say “thank you,” in that particular language. With their own in-house butcher shop, it seemed like a sensible idea to go along with the recommendation of the rump steak, and it was sensible. Two hefty slabs of tender, well-cooked beef served with three sides of your choice for £15.99 — a steal. Being the bold and adventurous type I chose chips, salad and tropeiro. Now, you’re probably wondering what the hell one of those is, well, you get potatoes, chop them up and fry them. Only joking, tropeiro is a mixture of spring greens, mixed beans, egg and smoked sausage. I loved it, and told anyone within earshot. The server told me the dish has a long history with the Brazilian community, “a powerful food that helps natives to travel long journeys into the forest,” I thanked them for the information ("obrigado"), nailed my tropeiro and legged it up Warley Woods. (Words: RN)
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery's new online shop is, in the words of Simple Minds, alive and kicking. If Brum colour palette mugs, Birmz tote bagz or Augustus Leopold Egg facemasks sound like your cuppa, head here.  
Aston Hall will be hosting an outdoor theatre production of Robin Hood, complete with stealing from the rich, giving to the poor and picnics. May 30 it's £15 for adults and £10 for kids. More if you want BBQ food provided. This will go ahead whatever the weather, because THIS IS BRITAIN. Book 

Speaking of Aston Hall, there's a burger festival taking place there (July 3) and it really is a who's who of Brum burger buffs. £6.50

The Pineapple Club's new paella offer looks ace. It's £28 for a big ol' sharing seafood or veg paella and two of their excellent cocktails. Tuesday to Thursday only. More

"To lead an orchestra, you must turn your back on the crowd."


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WORDS: Robb Sheppard, Rob Newsome, Tom Cullen

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