We all have happy memories of dad carting us off to the nearest model village during seaside family holidays.
They’re just the best – and let’s be honest, sometimes surreal – attractions, full of village life in miniature. You’ll see the local cricket team in action, a white wedding at the parish church and a bit of drama on the high street involving the emergency services; a chance for the model village manager to fire up the new smoke machine. Thankfully, however, Birmingham’s very own take on model village life is a more sedate affair...
These colourful pictures, taken by Stacey Barnfield, show Birmingham city centre in full technicolour toytown style. Stacey, who is often out and about with the camera on behalf of his Edwin Ellis PR clients or Draw My City and Colour Palette artworks, loves getting creative with his photography and the tried and trusted ‘tilt shift’ fits the bill.
Tilt shift is an effect that manipulates the depth of field on a photograph so a life-sized scene looks like a miniature scale model. Some cameras have it as a built-in setting or it can be applied to a normal image through Photoshop filters and tutorials.
Tilt shift only works at certain angles and when the photograph is taken from high above the scene, such as the balconies of Staying Cool at Rotunda, the Library of Birmingham or 103 Colmore Row, the shooting spots for these pictures.
Time it right and you might capture a passing tram or the buzz of a public square to add to the toytown look and feel, with commuters going about their business like tiny folk in Tiny Brum.
Look at these podgy cuties. It's the chicken xiao long bao on Tattu's new winter menu (winter! Where did that come from?) and they can be all yours and much more.
To celebrate the arrival of chillier climes and Tattu's 'Great Snow' — which sees the already bee-you-tif-ful restaurant given a zap of the atmospheric cold stuff (on November 6 those stunning pink cherry blossoms go blue and you'll even catch a wall-based Aurora Borealis!) — we're giving away a slap up dinner for four at their Colmore Business District spot with an arrival cocktail each and, hold the horses, a bottle of Laurent Perrier to boot!
You'll get to pick three courses from the new menu which includes black pepper and honey ribs, red pepper lamb cutlet and the one that floored me, the Japanese black wagyu sirloin served with green beans and truffle sesame soy. Wok dishes include green pepper lobster and, a Tattu classic, Wok Fired Angry Bird — chicken served with masted chilli peppers and sesame soy honey. They're not messing about on vegetarian or plant-based dishes either with special fried sweet potato served in a black vinegar glaze with spring onion and ichimi pepper or sweet tamarind tofu balls served with watermelon, candied chilli and mint and beansprout noodles.
To be in with a chance of winning simply subscribe to Tattu's newsletter right here between now and midday, October 22. One new subscriber to their mailer will be picked at random and invited for the three course dinner, for four people, with a welcome cocktail (the Eastern Dragon comes as a strong recommend) plus that bottle of the good bubbles. Oh and their legendary black cod will be included if that's the way you want to go. And trust me, that's the way you want to go. Best of luck! Enter
NATIVITY WITH THE NATIVES
As Brum heralds in that festive market ever earlier (November 3 this year), it seems it’s now official that our city begins Christmas celebrations before Bonfire night. So kudos to The Rep, who have promised ‘Christmas come early’ at a much more respectable end of November. Shenanigans ensue with the return of the much-loved Nativity! The Musical, running from November 19 until January 7 (incidentally, inching a day past the official end of Christmas, those plucky souls).
Fans of the beloved film will be pleased to hear it stays close to its original storyline, adapted for the stage by Debbie Isitt, who created the films. With the crossover from movie to stage among some of the actors – like Jamie Chapman, who featured in the film sequel – this is clearly a beloved franchise for all involved, also featuring graduates from another cracker of a film-to-stage spin-off, School of Rock.
For those who haven’t sat through this modern classic of a Christmas movie, the premise is this: St Bernadette’s School are attempting their own musical nativity, with the added problem that their teacher, Mr Maddens, has promised that a Hollywood producer is coming to see the show to turn it into a film… cue him trying to make the children’s wish come true, amongst mayhem and music (that is undeniably catchy). And it’s our own, local talent featuring, with 54 local children chosen from across Birmingham and the West Midlands to play the students of St. Bernadette’s and their rival school, Oakmoor.
Tickets start from £19.50, with a fiver off for under-16s. Get yours.
With its first full classical season in two years, B:Music welcomes classical super-group, Sinfonia of London with John Wilson, to Symphony Hall for the first time on November 26 (tickets from £15 to £55). A hand-picked ‘super-orchestra’ of leaders and section principals from the finest orchestras across this land, they featured in the BBC Proms this year and have won scores of awards because they’re Just. So. Good. Symphony Hall is one of the privileged few to host Sinfonia on its first UK tour. Led by conductor, John Wilson, Sinfonia of London will be joined on tour by Martin James Bartlett, one of the most exciting young pianists, and performing the likes of Walton, Gershwin and Debussy’s epic La Mer. And if you need even more reason, Ravel’s Boléro (yep, that ice skating one), will also feature.
Speaking of exciting young performers, B:Music welcomes a first Birmingham appearance from charismatic Japanese pianist, Nobuyuki Tsujii on November 7 (tickets from £13 to £30). This is a show not to be missed, made even more compelling by the fact that Tsujii has been blind since birth. Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata is on the scoresheet, and you’ll instantly recognise the opening of this one, used in films as diverse as Interview with the Vampire to Sid and Nancy. The evening will also feature Tsujii’s ground-breaking story, explored in a 20-minute, audio-described film before his performance, with the young performer speaking about his life and teasing extracts of his repertoire.
Snap up tickets and check the full season of events online, with the added bonus of discounts if you buy for multiple concerts.
HOME IS WHERE THE ART IS
Not one to shy away from a terrible pun, home is where the art is this autumn at The Exchange, the University of Birmingham’s city centre home. Running a series of events centred around ‘home’ — ranging from arts and crafts workshops to speaker sessions on the refugee experience — it’s all part of the Uni’s research on different experiences of home, homelessness and displacement.
There’s plenty to prepare us for the winter onslaught, acknowledging the issue of food and fuel poverty that may be affecting people, and you can join practical events around energy, heating the home and food planning. There’s also the chance to explore others’ experience of ‘home’ through the eyes of refugees and migrants, during Black History Month celebrations. Professor Paulette Ramsay (October 21) will discuss her books Aunt Jen and Letters Home and the wider theme of Black writing, while Here to Stay (October 27) highlights the experiences of Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnic people working within the NHS, as we mark the 70th anniversary of the birth of the NHS and the arrival of HMS Empire Windrush.
With a more artful exploration of home, join Richard O’Gorman at Designing for Joy (November 17). Richard is a Birmingham-based interior stylist and mural artist, doing up a terraced house over on his Instagram in the most colourful ways — see above — and you can hear about his inspirations and have a go at designing your own murals.
Families are covered over half term, with opportunities to explore ideas of home – from making a bug hotel, to diya (lamps) for Diwali, and the Giant home draw, where kids can add their idea of home to a growing artwork.
If you’ve still not managed to drop in to The Exchange, it’s well worth the trip. Nestled in Birmingham's civic heart, it’s an absolute triumph in conservation and restoration; a proper stunner. It’s mostly free with a maximum charge of a fiver, so check out the full schedule and get booked up on the website.
FIRST ENGLISH WHISKY FESTIVAL PICKS BRUM
Incredible fact — England's oldest Whisky is only 15 years old. The English Whisky Company (from St. George's Distillery in Norfolk) opened its doors in 2006 (so technically 16 years, but the oldest whisky is just 15) and there was no whisky production in England before that until you go back to about 1905 and the closure of the Lea Valley distillery. That's mad, no?
Anyway there's a point to all this. In the year that modern English Whisky turns 15, the first physical English Whisky Festival will be taking place on November 19 in Brum, at the Custard Factory.
Featuring over 25 English distilleries and bottlers, this will be the largest gathering of English whiskies under one roof ever and a chance to sample the oldest, newest and rarest liquids from this rapidly expanding craft whisky movement.
For £40 per person — there's an ICB discount further down, of course — attendees can sample hundreds of English whiskies and spirits, as well as meet the makers to hear first-hand what goes into these small-batch, craft whiskies. Many of the brands will be sharing new products, festival exclusives and some money-can’t-buy samples from their warehouses. Event sponsors, Bevvy, will be knocking out the samples too.
To keep things super-Brummie the brilliant Dig Brew Co will be manning the beer bar while food trucks come from Ba-Ha Vegan and Bella Mia Pizza.
There will also be a cask making demonstration by Jensen's Cooperage, the first English Cooperage. Coopering is the art of making and restoring casks or barrels, and the team will be showing how you make a barrel from scratch on the day. This barrel will be taken back to the cooperage for finishing (toasting and re-charring the inside) before being sent to Spirit of Birmingham to be filled with their whisky, which — after three years of maturation in that cask — can technically be called whisky! So... you can buy Birmingham whisky from a barrel you saw being made!
Your £40 fee gets you a free tasting glass and samples of over a hundred whiskies and spirits and you can get 10% off with code CHOOSE10 at the Eventbrite purchase stage. "Enter promo code" is written in blue, if you miss it.
CRAZY HORSES AND OTHER CRAZY STORIES
In December of 1962, The Osmonds appeared for the first time on NBC’s The Andy Williams Show. The brothers performed “I’m A Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas” — they don't write the like than anymore, eh?
Since that appearance Alan, Wayne, Merrill, and Jay, who recorded their first record in 1963, and then with the addition of Donny, Marie, and Jimmy, collectively and individually have had approximately 200 albums released. Together they have sold over 100 million albums worldwide and have 59 gold and platinum records to their credit. They even had five recording acts on the charts at the same time with the Osmond Brothers, Donny & Marie, and Donny, Marie, and Jimmy as individual artists. Greedy.
The stats are absolutely mesmerising and, according to national reviews, so is The Osmonds: A New Musical, written by Jay Osmond and landing at The Alexandra on October 25 to 29. It charts their long rise to global superstardom and then, off the back of one bad decision, how they lost everything. We've all been there, lads.
Directed by Shaun Kerrison — whose Broadway credits include Les Mis and Mary Poppins — and choreographed by Olivier Award winning Bill Deamer, this banger of a show includes chart topping list of ch-ch-chooonz including Love Me For A Reason, Crazy Horses, Let Me In, Puppy Love, One Bad Apple, Long Haired Lover From Liverpool and Paper Roses. More
A NIGHY TO REMEMBER?
When I'm world king I'll make two rules. Firstly, all onion bhajis would have to go back to being the big, ball-shaped beauts of the 1990s — those squished patty abominations would be outlawed. Secondly, Bill Nighy would be offered a role in every movie made from that day forth. He doesn't have to accept it, Bill Nighy doesn't have to do anything, but he does have to be offered a role. How he never played Doctor Who is a national disgrace and... and... and...
Yikes, tiger got out of the cage there, sorry. Point being, Millennium Point are screening festive favourite Love Actually, just one of the movie-stealing performances in Nighy's filmography, on December 3 complete with a boozy brunch of pizza and bottomless prosecco. It's £35, but knock 10% off with code ICB10, here. The bubbles will flow for a solid 90 minutes during which you're encouraged to enjoy (responsibly) followed by a special screening of the seminal rom-com on a whopping-great screen.
Hats off to Millennium Point, by the way, who on the same day (December 3) will also host a shared Christmas party for the many smaller companies of Brum. On arrival, you can grab that selfie under their colossal and by now traditional 39ft Christmas tree, before enjoying a three courser, complete with all sorts of dining bells and whistles, plus dancing. Smaller companies, all mingling in one big wintery hurrah!
JOIN THE DUNDU-HEADS
Summer was great, wasn’t it? All that going on in the city. Great news: there’s loads back as the nights draw in, making the most of two of our big loves from the summer. Remember the not-too-distant PoliNations in Vic Square and those amazing lights at dusk? Combine that with our city's new found love of giant puppetry (Little Amal, The Bull) and you’ll go positively wild for the upcoming Diwali celebrations. This weekend, Sharing the Light – Welcome Diwaliwill be doing just that in Bullring & Grand Central, around St Martin’s Square.
In partnership with Hippodrome, the shopping combo will host free Diwali celebrations with a difference. From 6.30pm, see dhol drummers and dance performances, and meet our latest light puppet crush, Dundu — The Giants of Light (pictured), at St Martin’s Square.
Processing to and from Rotunda Square, through an installation of hundreds of Diwali lanterns created by local schools, the puppets will join local community groups for a mass dance event – a short dance routine created by Sonia Sabri Dance Company, inspired by South Asian Dance forms – and a fireworks finale. The dance will also be digitally distributed in advance, giving those bold enough a chance to learn it.
There’s also lantern making classes, the creation of a giant Rangoli, and dance workshops. Details
The already excellent Royal Birmingham Society of Artists made an historic decision earlier this week to admit photographers as Members for the first time in their over 200 year history. Details —
Lager-guzzling poet and Alan Partridge star Tim Key is taking his critically acclaimed new show Mulberry on tour, next year, and it'll stop by at the Old Rep, May 12. Tickets go on sale tomorrow (Oct 21). —
Aston Hall, one of Britain’s most haunted buildings, is running torchlit night-time tours on six evenings in October. Not suitable for children under 8 or, if I'm anything to go by, men over 40. It's £15 for adults. Book —
Sunday roasts are back at Le Petit Bois, Moseley. Thank **** for that. Menu —
A new and permanent Middle Eastern menu is set to land at Stir Stores, Stirchley, and to celebrate they're dishing out complimentary taster portions for all guests who visit the bar for drinks, Oct 26 to 30. No need to book.
WORDS: Tom Cullen, Claire Hawkins
PICS: Universal (Love Actually)
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