True or false: If picked up and plonked a mile west of its home The Rotunda would fit perfectly, almost to the very centimetre, inside the enclosed walls of the Birmingham Roundhouse courtyard? The answer is... I have no idea! I've spent almost two hours trying to find out and that's too much time to invest in the research of an intro and not use it. So here we are!
What I do know is the Roundhouse was built in 1874 and as it approaches its 150th year it's never been a more integral venue for discovering our city's past and its present. Coming out of its wintry hibernation, the curvy doors fling open once more on April 6 and with it a whole host of activities to get stuck into. Get to know your city better and do it through the conduit of one of our most beautiful historical spots.
Every piece of national Birmingham coverage in the whole world, ever, references the length of our canals, but to what extent do us indigenous types make use of them? Well, good news: you can now explore the sights of the Brum Riviera, on a Midlands gondola. That’s right, kayak the waters for £40 on a guided canal tour. We've had firsthand experience of the five mile Green Escape around the Soho Loop, paddling out past Port Loop, as far as Winson Green and the old canal access to the prison. The slightly shorter, three mile Bustling Birmingham tour is the recommended ‘beginner’ option and will take you through the heart of the city and Gas Street. Fear not if you’re a kayaking newbie. You get a full instructional before you get into the water and support throughout from two experienced guides. Roundhouse also run Paddle, Pizza And A Pint plus the guaranteed to sellout Sunrise Paddle tours. More
TOURS OF THE ROUNDHOUSE
New for 2023, the team are offering twice daily, free tours for anyone dropping by to have a look at this unique building. These 40-minuters focus on the people, and horses, who made the Roundhouse a 24/7 hub for Victorian Birmingham and will also touch upon the competition that ended up with its unique shape. In short you'll get a gratifying understanding of one of Birmingham's most beautiful buildings, for free. Now that is a deal. More
I like to think I know a thing or two about Brum. But, when competing in the Roundhouse's new Bingo walking tour, I was astounded at how much I learnt. Our wander took us from the Roundhouse itself, along canals, through Brindleyplace, across Centenary Square, into Vic Square and back across Broad Street and, I reckon, I only knew about 10% of what we were taught. Do you know why there's a roundabout in the canal junction by the NIA, for example? That's no roundabout. Not originally, anyway. Highly recommended. More
Drop into the Roundhouse for some free, family friendly heritage themed craft activities during the Easter holidays. Join local artists to cut out, paint, and decorate your own model canal boat or make wire sculptures of horses, blackbirds and more. Also on offer are sessions making colourful mini-models of the Roundhouse, layer by layer. More
BIRMINGHAM'S CANAL JOURNEY
A new display for the Summer is Ladywood Stories. Discover the history of the local area through artworks, info and footage from the archives including a film entitled Birmingham’s Canal Journey. It's a selection of footage from the MACE archive which charts the journey of our local canals from “industrial grime” in the 1960s to the start of their transformations into a world-famous visitor destination in the 1990s. There's also three collage artworks (one of which is pictured) by Birmingham artist Claire Cotterill. More
HERITAGE WORKING BOAT TRIP
If you're looking for the easylife, and in this day and age who can blame you, you can let a canal barge do the work. Step into the cargo hold of a 1930’s heritage working boat and take a gentle chug-chug around Birmingham’s canal loops. The narrowboats are maintained by the Canal & River Trust’s Heritage Working Boat Group, a team of volunteers who will guide you through some of the more hidden stretches of the local canals. Bliss. From £6.50. More
DIGBETH DINING CLUB ON TOUR
Going to your first Digbeth Dining Club event is like seeing snow for the first time, so it's not without a little jealousy I bring news that several suburbs of Brum and the surrounding area will indeed welcome the street food masters for their inaugural knees up.
Sandwell's first ever DDC will kick off proceedings on April 22 when a carefully crafted selection of the country's best street food traders will christen Sandwell Paddock, before Victoria Park in Stafford (April 23). The Open Arms in Warwick (April 28) is next up followed by another newbie, The Rugby Club at Sutton Park, on April 29. Bearwood and the beautiful Compton Verney will also make their DDC bows on May 21 and June 10 respectively.
Anywhere that's anywhere is also a stop-off point. If you live in or near Shirley, Bromsgrove, Kings Heath, Dudley, Solihull, Tamworth, Wolves, Redditch, Lichfield (pictured) or Codsall then street food royalty will be on your doorstep this summer. Head over to their Facebook page to see the list of stops (which doesn't even include September because, and I'm quoting them here, "it was just too daunting to include every single date on the poster") and diarise your pick.
RALLY YOUR TRIBE
Never, ever, ones to sit still, the creatives at luxy Chinese spot Tattu have launched a new Sunday event called a Tribe of Tattu Brunch, and it looks a riot of colour and music and pure fun. Inspired by the Techno jungles of Tulum in Mexico, (nope, me neither) you’ll lose yourself in the rhythms of tribal-house provided by resident DJs while enjoying free flowing Tattu Signature cocktails including the wild Skull Candy (above). These style *and* substance slurps are a sweet blend of vodka, strawberry bubblegum and fresh lychee. Moreish.
If you’re not a cocktails kind of a cat, Champagne is also on offer alongside a three wave set menu that features the restaurant's hero dishes. The Tuna Sashimi Flower (below) features Nori, sesame, and wasabi mayo, while Tattu’s aromatic Red Snapper Tom Yum, infused with lemongrass and kaffir lime, will hug you tight on each mouthful. Big hitters like Wok-Fired Angry Bird and wagyu dumplings also feature. Reservations are now open with the Tribe of Tattu Brunch starting bank holiday, April 9, and every bank holiday Sunday in May (12pm to 4pm).
If brunch and beats isn’t your bag, Tattu’s new seasonal menu offers a slower-paced start to spring. Just one of the eye-catching introductions is the Phoenix Nest — a playful dessert with peanut butter fudge, honeycomb, fluffy marshmallow, and delicate edible flowers that pay homage to the cherry blossom that surrounds their bee-yoo-ti-ful Barwick Street basement. Book
345 YEARS IN THE MAKING
If, like me, you've been waiting to hear Alessandro Stradella’s 1678 opera The Power of Paternal Love, then it might feel a little like waiting for a Birmingham bus, currently, given it hasn't been performed since the 17th Century.
Step forward Barber Opera who like a challenge. They've only gone and translated the original Italian into English and worked out how to make it sound as it did when first performed which, suffice to say, is no mean feat.
Stradello was an eminent composer of the Italian Baroque period, who produced over three hundred works. Although his fame has been eclipsed by later Italian composers (your boi Vivaldi, for example) Stradella’s life was, erm, colourful? Born into a Tuscan aristocratic family, he made a name for himself as a composer early in his life, winning musical commissions from the tender age of 24. Yet his numerous affairs, frequently with the wives and mistresses of his patrons, made him many enemies. A time spent living in Venice ended after a failed assassination attempt, then in 1682 Stradella was stabbed to death in Genoa, apparently as recompense for seducing the sister of his alleged murderers. A complex fella.
The Power of Paternal Love (or La Forza dell’amor paterno) is performed April 12 to 15 in The Crescent Theatre's beautiful main room (pictured). Full price adult tickets are £31. Book
BLOODY HELL, CATS
If further proof were ever needed that cats literally don't give a sh*t, it can be found on Birmingham's First Folio on which muddy moggy pawprints from yesteryear run across the penultimate page of King Henry VI, Part 1. Bloody hell, cats.
The First Folio is a collection of plays by William Shakespeare published in 1623, about seven years after the big man's death. It is considered one of the most influential books ever published. Out of perhaps 750 copies printed, 235 are known to remain, most of which are kept in either public archives or private collections. The one we have, here in Birmingham, has its permanent residence in the Library of Birmingham but, like a dusty Justin Bieber, it's going on tour as part of the Everything to Everybody project.
Brum's First Folio is also known as the People's Folio. It's unique because it's the only one purchased as part of a dedicated programme for improving people’s lives through culture and education. It was bought in 1881 for all the people of Birmingham, no matter what their background, wealth or occupation. Which is all rather lovely and another indicator that it's the greatest city on Earth.
If you want to see it, it's free to attend and will be appearing at Aston Hall, South Yardley Library, the Dorothy Parkes Centre in Smethwick, The Core Library in Solihull, St Barnabas Church in Erdington and Bullring & Grand Central (just as Shakespeare would have wanted!) in the coming months. The tour dates are here.
I ❤️ BAGELS
Pause, not only a great opening gambit in Wordle but also one of our city's best coffee shops. And, this weekend, March 24 to 26, it's the venue for a new New York-style bagel pop-up from Pause team member and Moseleyite Tilly Solomon-Brady. Tilly's love of bagels, like all the best bagel romances, began in the Big Apple and became a business plan when she struggled to find bagelage in Brum that lived up to NYC. Tilly has foodie pedigree, having worked with Cherry Reds and Rourke's Pies, before Pause offered her a spot with them and now a chance to go solo with Stoop Bagels. Salt beef is on the menu, as are plenty of veg options. Find her in Kings Heath's Kings Court. More
THE BEE'S SEEDS
Brum-based garden company, Lupin, has launched Brumblebee: a bee-friendly seed mix, selected to support local bee populations. The paper packeted seeds grow into succession of pretty, pollinator-friendly flowers. A bespoke mix of hardy annuals, Brumblebee’s seeds have been chosen for their beauty, longevity of flowering and attractiveness to our buzzy buddies. What’s more, the seeds don’t require indoor heat or space consuming individual modules – they can be sown in prepared ground in any sized plot or pot. Recent research has shown that private gardens in cities and towns are the biggest source of food for pollinating insects, providing around 85% of the nectar produced in urban areas — what’s more, nectar supplies in these areas are more diverse than those of farmland and nature reserves.£3
"Things we generally don’t draw," says Lauren of colourful art collective, Pickle Illustration. "Cars, scenes, roads, spaghetti, famous Birmingham junctions. So when the unsettling task began of pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones in order to create a more diverse illustration portfolio, it was obvious what must be drawn. And so arrives our take on the Gravelly Hill Interchange. Two years into living in Brum, the dread is still there when picking which spaghetti strand is the right one. But there's no question, it's a true Birmingham icon that lends itself to some interesting visuals and, although the end illustration didn’t come the easiest to us, we have learnt it’s good to get out of our comfort zone. Next we want to do a Birmingham restaurant so please do get in touch if you'd like us to draw your eatery." Spaghetti Junction print is from£15 upwards.
We've managed to secure a seriously good deal on tickets for our readers to see The Rocky Horror Picture show at The Alexandra on Tuesday or Wednesday (March 28 and 29). These £25 starred promo seats represent a maximum saving of £27.50 per person! All you need to do is follow this link and select starred promo seats. You'll see what your saving is because the full price option will be below your exclusive discounted fee. —
Birmingham Podcast Festival is taking place on Saturday April 22, at BCU. Full price tickets are a tenner. More — Shrewsbury Flower Show isn't necessarily something I would have been suggesting we all attend when I launched ICB, a decade ago, but if I'm getting older you have to get older with me. —
Hot on the heels of a sensational pop-up with Riverine Rabbit, southsiders Kilder will host Italian outfit Papa John's Pasta, the brainchild of Original Patty Men chef (Original Patty Man?) Jon Hunt. This hand pressed tortellini filled with nduja and ricotta looks sensational. March 31 to April 2 —
Cazoo Premier League Darts heads to Utilita Arena Birmingham for Night 10 of what is turning out to be one of the hottest contested seasons ever. April 6, £30.80
WORDS: Tom Cullen
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