Issue 263
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FROM A MAN TO HIS SON ON MISSING HIS HOME TOWN

Paradise Circus is an ongoing love letter to a battered city. A team of creatives, they write, make and record things about Birmingham. And call us nostalgic (if you're not going to use our real names), but these words — penned by Jon Bounds — made us more than a little reflective. Now based in Oxfordshire, Jon wrote the piece to his infant son, about a city that continues to fascinate and confound him. And it's sort of about how when you miss a place, it isn't really there anymore. And how ultimately, that shouldn't matter. No you've got something stuck in your eye.
You’ll never see the back streets in the same way I do. They change, things change fast round here, but even if they don’t your connection will not be the same. I won’t be able to show you the old pubs, the thick green leather stapled to the heavy wood, the splinters and the tears. But when it’s time, I’ll share a pint with you anywhere.

The streets have a new brick, clad with a special kind of fresh decay. There’s a new corner around every corner. The roads have moved themselves, move traffic differently. I won’t be able to show you the back ways. I haven’t kept up and that’s soon to be your problem — if you chose to care.

Will you care? I think so. Sometimes I feel such a deep connection to the roots of my caste I can’t believe you won’t. It’s often music that does it. Not in the simple proustian way, not always. I can feel the connection not only through chance hearings, yes, I catch 'Working In a Coalmine' and am transported to the back room at Snobs as you’d expect, but there is something about musical culture that connects much more deeply. Music made by people I was, or am, or could have been – could have been because they were where we were. The rubble filled spaces that donkey jacket Dexy’s stood in were still the places I played football with a tennis ball, played cricket with a tennis ball, never played tennis with a tennis ball as we didn’t have bats or nets or flat ground. They took the train to Euston from the platforms I did, unsure of how to take the bigger city we reached. The platforms are the same now, but god only knows how to get to them. You’ll find them better than me.

The world is changing more quickly now than it seems it ever did. Even in the ‘80s I remember bomb sites, long-gone factories behind rough fences, compacted dust on which to park cars or cut through. The desire paths of our urban life, the secret passages and hollow ways through unwanted and overgrown spaces. Take the gulley, leave by the side gate to avoid the ticket collector, there’s a hole in the fence along here. The short cuts are the hardest to learn. We probably won’t share them, but there will be some.

We can go back, of course, we will. But my disconnect has become a fence without a hole, a song with a half-remembered melody. Maybe when I stumble across it it will connect us rather than divide us. Maybe we can discover new routes together, maybe there’s another version of 'Kiss Me' that has the vibe of the country rather than just the rhythm of the factory. We can walk both, sing both. Maybe.

I’ll teach you what I can. Much of it will be wrong, or at least useless, configured for a town that isn’t mine really. Never was, I just lived in it and made my own maps. The winter darkness smeared with festive lights just highlights that as it obscures the way. But winter is a good time to sing together.

We can sing 'Mr Blue Sky' at the end of the night, or the start of the game, or just in the street for no reason.

I’ll sing with you anywhere. It’s your heritage, your town now, if you want it.

GAME ON!


Just when you thought you’d be eating turkey for the rest of time, Chung Ying Central is doing 50% off the dish no one really wants to share, in that inbetweeny bit, after Christmas, but before New Year. Perfect for filling your boots before you fall fowl (sorry) of all those resolutions. Shall we do specifics? Let's. Get yourself a quarter of perfectly crisp aromatic duck with hoisin sauce, cucumber, spring onions and pancakes, which would usually set you back £13, but from December 27, *bashes calculator buttons,* it's all yours for the poultry sum (sorry again) of £6.50. Half a bird is £9.50, and a fraction of the guilt, presumably. There's even a vegan version for bean curd's sake. Until 10.30pm on Dec 31. Not valid for takeaway. More

NEW *BEERS* EVE


Now that you've witnessed our worst headline in months, we owe you a decent story. Aaaand... we've sorted New Year's Eve — you don't even have to book tickets. Purecraft Bar & Kitchen are launching six beers that aren't available anywhere else in the Midlands (they assure us). They have just one barrel of each, launching hourly, with taps and pumps turning on at 4pm, 5pm, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm and 9pm at the ringing of a bell. First to pop is Andrews Brewing Co's Coal Porter (5.6%), with Prancing Pony's Hopwork Orange (4.8%) coming all the way from Oz later on. Then, at 9pm, Dry Hopped World (7.3%) — the IPA Purecraft tag-teamed with Purity Brewery to make. Their standard, ace menu will fill your tum too. Stress-free NYE done did.

SONIC ESCAPES (TO BIRMINGHAM)


David Bowie once described Music for 18 Musicians as "Balinese gamelan music cross-dressing as minimalism", and included the work, by American percussionist and composer, Steve Reich, in his top 25 albums. If it's good enough for DB, it's definitely good enough for us. And you can hear the iconic piece, together with a more of Reich's minimalist sonic escapes, performed by London Sinfionetta, who are at Symphony Hall for the first time in six years. On Feb 13, tickets are from £12.50. And if you're pretty confident about your timing, you may want to have a go at the brilliantly maddening (and free) rhythm improving app Reich's developed. If you make it past the "easy" setting, we salute you.

FILM PICK: MARY POPPINS RETURNS


In 2018, are people crying out for a sequel to Mary Poppins, of all things? Who cares – at this time of year you want something you can pop to with younger and older family members, and Mandy probably isn’t the right call. Emily Blunt has a ball in the lead role, and her enjoyment is infectious. The liberal world order may be collapsing around us, but it’s legitimately refreshing to be able to enjoy a light-footed film that’s just a bit of a laugh. Man of the moment Lin-Manuel Miranda steps into the Dick van Dyke role, and is just as much of a delight as Blunt. This could have been a half-arsed retread, but the talented cast makes it work through sheer perspiration. Times & trailers
Venue: Burger Theory at Kongs, 1 Victoria Square, B1 1BD; website
Choice: The KFC (£9.25) Chooser: Owner, manager, and everyone we asked
 
In the new world of pubs, the activity is king, and Kongs — taking over the huge site where Chameleon used to live — has got kings in abundance: ping-pong, table football and gaming, like Street Fighter II and four-player PAC-MAN. But in this new world, food tends to be the saddest of afterthoughts. Not so at Kongs, where the Bristol-based boys have brought patty obsessives, Burger Theory, up the M5 with them, and the recipes they’ve been refining since 2012. The pick was a Korean-fried chicken thigh, smothered in a dark, sticky glaze, with fresh chillis, spring onions and peanutty goodness, nestled between a brioche bun that doubles up as the ideal sauce-soaker. The recommended dish from the owner, manager and chef, "The KFC" also got a unanimous yes from our panel of three — reigning supreme over the chicken breast burger (Prairie Girl, £9) for its meaty, juicy goodness and balanced flavours. If you’re in a classic place, though, the crispy bacon and cheese on beef of the Down 'n' Dirty (£9) will do exactly what you want it to. Give the slightly dry halloumi fries a miss, and the poutine — which is returning to the menu after Crimbo — a big, hard order. Veggies and vegans, Burger Theory's also got your back, with nearly a quarter customers ordering meat-free and increasing numbers of dishes avoiding dairy. And we don't even have space to tell you about the excellent, rotating beers. Oh, we just did. Kongs — all gorilla, no filler.

SWAN LAKE: THE BOURNE LEGACY


You shouldn’t cover John Lennon’s Imagine. You shouldn’t remake Casablanca, and you shouldn’t reinterpret Swan Lake, unless you're going to do it entirely spectacularly, that is. Borrowing from German and Russian folk tales, the production usually sees a princess caught in a spell by an evil sorcerer where she’s turned into, yep, you guessed it. However, modernised for the 21st century, and flipping the female corps de ballet for a male ensemble, Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake subverts the gender roles of Tchaikovsky’s original for a new take on an iconic ballet. Racking up accolades left, right and centre since its beginnings in 1995, Bourne’s retelling features the award-winning Lez Brotherson’s imposing set and swish costume design. And as the show runs from February 5 to 16, we're absolutely sure we just nailed a last minute gift for someone you know — you can make the recipient a handmade voucher and everything Aren't you nice. Tickets are from £21.
 
I Choose Birmingham tote bags are now totally purchasable. In yellow, purple, red and green, they're ethically produced, 100% cotton and available here for £6.50. Use it as a stocking or, better still, post one to a mate in Manchester.
You can totally see A Muppet Christmas Carol at the MAC tomorrow at 5pm. If you're free at 5pm and in the area that is. Tickets are £9.
Snowselele is that night of the year when everyone stands on the tables at the Prince of Wales and belts out carols to the sounds of a ukelele. That night is tonight. Best of luck to everyone.
For an entirely more serene carol singing experience, the Bournville Green Christmas Eve sing-song is at 6pm. 


"For last year's words belong to last year's language And next year's words await another voice."


T.S.Eliot, Four Quartets



 
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Tom CullenAndrew Lowry, Robb Sheppard
PICTURES: Tom Bird (Central library), The Walt Disney Studios (Mary Poppins Returns)

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