Issue 416
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Hot off the back of Key To The City, probably the most inventive, explorative, creative and effective cultural project in my nine years of writing about Birmingham, Fierce are following up with their flagship biennial festival, and it's a belter. This will be the 25th iteration of the celebration of all things global art, given the inimitable swipe of the Fierce brush from October 11 to 16. It’s tricky to describe what Fierce’s “thing” is, but it’s fair to say they have form when it comes to embracing the outlandish, presenting, this time round, over 20 fresh and feisty productions to a city that would be a far, far duller place without it. Here’s just seven from the programme that jumped out at me. Not literally. Although probably literally, knowing them.

(Prices are if tickets are bought individually. Buy tickets for six shows for 10% off, nine shows for 15% off and 12 shows for 20% off)
Tuesday 11 October, £18 / £16

In this Warwick-based show (free shuttle buses are provided so it's a road trip too) world-renowned French director Philippe Quesne creates an “absurdly charming universe” with his post-apocalyptic Farm Fatale where five scarecrows who, having lost their original jobs due to climate change, come together in a commune. What the presser doesn’t tell you is that their 42-second promo video is likely to put the chills right up you. Looks like if Leatherface ran a farm and had a penchant for Ben E King. Wait, did Leatherface run a farm…? More
Wednesday 12 October and Thursday 13 October, £15 / £13

Coming direct from it’s huge success at London International Festival of Theatre, art meets life in a forest of real and fake wood as artists and lovers Rosana Cade and Ivor Macaskill’s autobiographical experience of gender transition meets the story of a little porky-pie-ing puppet who wants to be a ‘real boy'. You may well remember Cade & MacAskill — and it's sentences like this that make me adore Fierce — from their performance as Double P*ssy Cl*t F*ck at the 2017 festival. I'm going heavy on the asterisks because this email wouldn't have got to your inbox without them. More
Wednesday 12 October and Friday 14 October, £13 / £11

The UK premiere, no less, about hardcore techno subgenre 'Gabber' by the Belgian artist Lisa Vereertbrugghen. At 200 beats per minute Gabber has been described as techno on speed and rave gone crazy. Vereertbrugghen has conducted an extensive examination into this form of club music over several years and explores the term hardcore with regard to the transformation, vulnerability, possibility and unpredictability that is concealed behind its stubborn convulsions and twitches. Maybe take some paracetamol? More
Thursday 13 October and Friday 14 October, £15 / £13

There were queues out of the door to catch The Gloop Show last time Oozing Gloop was at Fierce (in 2019) and this time round the transgressive drag frog (you read that right) and her many fairy-like, gender-non-conforming, neurodivergent drag artist friends bring Tentacular Spectacular to Brum. Audiences are invited to slide into a multi-sensory, psychosexual swamp to be amazed, appalled and enthralled at this installation of performances for a new anthropomorphic age… Expect goblins, frog-memes and trippy dreams. More
Saturday 15 October and Sunday 16 October, £15 / £13

From the favelas of Brazil, choreographers Alice Ripoll and Cia REC use buckets, water and soap on stage in the UK premiere of Lavagem exploring the action of cleaning as a performative and political gesture. The performers - whose mothers and grandmothers worked as cleaners - produce images with bubbles, suggesting a dreamlike world, yet by its very nature the soap is also a source of frustration which stops them from staying upright. Like a slip and slide only less injuries, you'd hope. More
Saturday 15 October, £13 / £11

Working with teenagers from Reykjavik, the Teenage Choir of Love and Sex sing songs they have written themselves based on their own romantic and sexual experiences. They sing for themselves and each other. They sing for love, curiosity and heartbreak. They sing for every virgin, every slut and every thirsty bitch – their words, dear god, not mine — so they never need to feel alone again. More
Saturday 15 October, £10 / £8

Fierce drop the mic on their quarter century festival with Club Fierce: The Ho Down, a peculiar barn dance country fete featuring iconic Japanese artist Saeborg who presents a pig pen where a truck-sized inflatable latex pig — stay with me here — births humanoid piglets. Not wild enough for you? Soya The Cow - a sex-positive, feminist and vegan drag creature who breaks the binaries of gender and species - will also be on-hand to bring the party vibes until 4am, alongside a hot line up of Birmingham’s finest selectors. Best of luck everyone. More


An arresting new exhibition from Aston University's history programme and southeast Asian cultural magazine, DESIblitz, has opened on the concourse of New Street Station, marking 75 years since the partition of India.

Children of the Railway tells the story of partition from the perspective of the people. It traces the pain caused over multiple generations and it shows how people have found ways to live with and overcome the divisions among them. "In many ways the story of partition is one that belongs to the people of the West Midlands," says Dr Céline Benoit, the uni's Associate Dean for Public Engagement in Social Sciences. "The partition of India contributed — in a traumatic way — to the diversity and vibrancy of our city. And it's a story that's often neglected."

To understand where the idea of partition came from and why it caused so much violence, half of the exhibition is devoted to the global context behind it. It shows how partition was an idea that peaked in the mid-twentieth century and connects the Indian case to partition in Ireland and Palestine. The second, more personal half, is dedicated to the voices of the people affected by it. Many who actually experienced it live in our region. "It's so important to document those people now," continues Céline, "because they won't be here forever and it's our duty to listen to them while they are with us." QR codes on the exhibition boards will take you to some extraordinary interviews with accompanying animations.

"We chose New Street Station, not just because we wanted to take this story to the heart of the city," says Céline, "but also because transport terminals like this played and still play a huge role in the movement of people — they are the epicentre for tales of trauma and hope, hellos and goodbyes of both small and enormous scale — so it has so much more impact than it would on the walls of a university room or a gallery." More


Opening this weekend The Heath Bookshop, in Kings Heath, is a new indie located in Kings Court. The brain-child of book-lovers and friends Catherine Gale and Claire Dawes, they're throwing an Opening Weekend series of talks and whatnots, September 9 to 11. The author meet and greets includes Ruth Gilligan, Osman Yousefzada, Jess Phillips (pictured), R.M Francis and Niall Griffiths. Whilst all the events are free, booking is required right here. You can follow The Heath Bookshop on Facebook and Instagram.


As the city braces for hospitality closures its heartening that one of the most anticipated cocktail bar launches in many a moon has got over the line, launching tomorrow. Passing Fancies, in the Custard Factory, is headed up by award-winning bartenders Tommy Matthews — who may have served you something outstanding in Stirchley's Couch — Matt Arnold and Eve Green. With 54 covers, the venue was inspired by the idea of ‘creativity out of love’, stemming from the story of local chemist and founder of the Custard Factory, Alfred Bird, who created the first eggless custard due to his wife’s allergy. Gawwww. The venue’s layout is described as reminiscent of ‘the kitchen at a house party’. Speaking of kitchens, the food offer will be provided by Dan Sweet, Simpsons alum and the man behind Harborne's excellent Qbox — a business offering takeaway boxes of fine dining dishes. The food menu includes smoked deep fried potatoes with crispy chilli mayo and coriander, and beignets with deep fried cheese and onion bites. On the cocktail menu is the likes of Adonis (sherry, vermouth and aromatics), Champagne Crumble (lacto fig, rhubarb and champagne) and Man Goes Next Door (mango, masala rum and greek yoghurt). Book


High Vis Festival is back for a sixth year with its usual array of sensational street art and glorious graffiti created by some of Birmingham’s best. Taking place in the Tea Works (Eastside, on New Canal Street) on Saturday, September 24, a raft of some of our city's most talented street artists will be painting live on the day including Annatomix (best known for her geometric foxes that decorate Brum, top to toe) Void One (the man behind this beautiful tribute to young Arthur Labinjo-Hughes), Title, Aseone and many more. The super-colourful, free to attend festival will, this year, also include the launch of High Vis' first book which champions the artist who have supported the festival over the years. The limited edition publication will be available to buy on the day, which kicks off at 12pm and runs through until 11pm. Alongside the art will be live music and the Red Bull skate ramp with skaters and BMXers performing heart-in-mouth tricks, as well as breakdancing courtesy of local break crew, Hold Your Ground. Street food vendors include Brownie Oven, Toasted, Smoking Bagels and Black Sheep Grill. The family-friendly festival will also host free workshops for the budding artists.


If there's one thing the clickthrough rates on this email shows it's that you're all obsessed with death. What the hell's wrong with you? Might as well do some good with that macabre mentality by selling out a special Day of the Dead event with food cooked by a Mexican chef, a tour of the Coffin Works, a film and a discussion over cake and drinks.

Created by Coffin Works, Itzatna Arts and community interest company BrumYODO (You Only Die Once), the event takes place November 3 beginning with a guided tour of the museum’s Stamp Room and the chance to learn more about the history of Newman Brothers, a JQ firm which produced some of the world’s finest coffin furniture including the fittings for the funerals of Joe Chamberlain, Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother.

Guests will then be invited to dinner, discovering how the Mexicans honour their ancestors and tasting traditional festival foods created by Birmingham-based Chef and Visual Artist Alfredo Hau. Born and brought up in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico but based in Brum for more than 20 years, Alfredo will be blending Catholic and Mayan traditions and recipes including the traditional ‘Mucbipollo’ (a rich, earth-baked, Yucatecan chicken pie), corncake dessert and Mexican mocktails.

After dinner, there'll give a presentation about the regional traditions of ‘Hanal Pixan’ which translates as ‘food for the souls’, featuring short films and videos from Itzatna’s immersive dining experience in 2021. This will be followed by an informal conversation around death and dying. Lovely stuff! £25


Best known for his limericks and poems, Edward Lear was also handy with a pencil too, described by David Attenborough as “the finest bird artist there ever was”. This month Ikon launches Edward Lear: Moment to Moment, the first exhibition dedicated solely to Lear’s landscape sketches, running from tomorrow (September 9) to November 13.

It comprises nearly 60 works — many exhibited for the first time — borrowed from various private and public collections. Tracing journeys made by this prolific artist, author and nonsense poet through Europe, the Middle East and India across many decades, the exhibition reveals Lear’s compulsive drive to depict and evoke the present through his in-situ drawings.

His art ranged from medical, botanical and ornithological illustrations to finished landscape paintings destined for the Royal Academy. A nomadic figure, he led an isolated life to conceal his epilepsy – a condition which carried great social stigma at the time – spending more than 50 years travelling and making over 9,000 pictures as he went. Moment to Moment comprises extracts from a visual diary, curated chronologically with works falling naturally into geographical areas.

Lear’s drawings sometimes blended realist detail with the fantastical, a bit like his poetry: both conjure up a world that feels familiar and strange, marked by elements of nonsense and the unexpected. For example, Ikon exhibits work depicting the Egyptian Temple of Maharraka (above), which Lear illustrates with close attention to architectural detail; cracks can be seen piercing the walls and fluting in the columns. Yet one of these works features a distinctly abstract, stick-like figure jollily bounding about in the foreground. Much like the moving figure itself, Lear creates a composition that dances between fantasy and reality, injecting the landscape with an energy that brings the ruins to life. Free
The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra has launched their new guide to performances from Sept to Jan, with a focus on where you might have heard the tunes before and which occasions they might be suited to. It's an ace little cheat sheet that'll make you feel at ease if you've not been before. 

Cinematic icon Pam Grier will visit MAC for two special screenings and a live onstage Q&A on September 11. More

Hockley Social Club will host their first record fair on September 18. Details 

Built in 1797, Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings was the world’s first iron-framed building and to many is seen as forebear to the modern-day skyscraper. As of Saturday (September 10), the 225-year-old mill will reopen to the public after 35 years of closure.

Tickets for Home Alone in Concert, at Symphony Hall on Dec 12, go on sale tomorrow (Sept 9) at 10am. KEVIN!!  
PICS: Main feature — Club Fierce - (c) Saeborg, Farm Fatale (c) Martin Argyroglo, LAVAGEM - CIA REC 2020 © Renato Mangolinn, Cade & MacAskill, The Making of Pinocchio. Photo by Tiu Makkonen, Lisa Vereertbrugghen - Softcore, Teenage Songbook — Laimonas Puysis, Tentacular Spectacular (C) Oozing Gloop + Esben Holk.

WORDS: Tom Cullen

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