Issue 262
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It's raining so hard, words are disappearing before we can finish writing them, and we're losing the feeling in at least three fingers. It's a grim ol' afternoon in Selly Oak but you wouldn't know it by the smile on photographer, writer and academic librarian, Tom Hicks's face. He's taking us on what he's calling a photo-led type walk, broadly in search of typography. Warm pubs have typography, right? 
Armed only with an iPhone, it all started with Black Country Type — a photographic project recording the changing region where Tom is from. "I'm fascinated by the written word and realised many of the photos I was taking included signs, letters or numbers — you can tell a lot about the history of an area from the state of its signs." Tom's very first image for the project was of a shop that's now been demolished, the sign for which you'll find in Tom's back garden, much to his neighbours' confusion.

Unsurprisingly given the region, Tom finds himself in a lot of industrial areas. The Shelby gates (pictured) are the entrance to a scrapyard off a side street in Cradley Heath. "I’m not sure what made me turn up that particular street but I’m glad I did. I love the handmade typography and the scale of it." Whilst getting the shot Tom was warned by some local kids that the owners of the yard weren’t to be messed with. Tom hadn't planned on it! "The kids also asked me for a cigarette and a go on my bike. I had to decline both requests" he says, smiling to himself.

Black Country Pressings caught Tom's eye not only as an example of a handmade sign but because it was printed on a board that had a previous use — "there's even history behind this sign". Drawn to colour in often grey, industrial areas, the Freak Out sign was as much a surprise to Tom as to his followers. "It's so bright — people can't believe that one was taken in the Black Country, at a traveling fair in Wordsley."
Tom launched a new Instagram account to document his Birmingham explorations: Brum Type. "I'd never blend the two accounts — growing up in the Black Country, it's important to respect the distinction, and there's no end to the content in Brum".

Of his Birmingham shots, Tom likes In Fashion on the edge of the JQ (above) for the former glory he imagines it had — "It looks like it’s been empty for years given the 021 code on the sign. And the pigeons. But the whole building is beautiful to look at". In Selly Oak, we find plenty or handpainted signs Tom likes to guess the origin of, plus nods to the civic influence of the Council in the 80s and 90s.

Tom uses only his iPhone 6s for both accounts and is considering buying another so his work doesn't change with the next generation of iPhone cameras. He never uses filters and uses only the cropping software built into his phone when editing. And you won't find a Facebook account to support his work, "It's negative place — like being trapped in a shopping centre. There's little artistic engagement on Facebook." Instagram, comparatively, Tom has found to be a kind, calm and supportive place, and a place where Tom's met artists, poets and other interested sorts.
In addition to "type" in the literal sense, Tom's interested in types of things — shutters, doorways, garages, factories — the more industrial the better. He's particularly drawn to factories that produce their own logos and signs in-house, rather than employing professional designers or signwriters. "It's almost a subculture of graphics in its own right. Industrial graphics I call it."

Tom's collection includes the "W" of West Midlands Metals in Walsall, BiP (Chemicals) in Oldbury, Globe factory in Cradley Heath and the I is on the front of Ibistock Bricks in Pensnett. "That final one's closed now — disappearing like a lot of the work I capture."

From some likes on Insta, to exhibitions, fully booked walks, a zine by Provide and his own book, it's been an unexpectedly big year. "It's all snow-balled. You chat to someone, show your work, and a few months later you're published!" Published and drenched, with no let up in the weather, we head back to Selly Oak station. But not before Tom snaps a note on the floor in a puddle, some tagging on a bin and a lit up "Open" sign in the window of a takeaway that's clearly been closed for months — an eerie sight we've walked past without spotting on countless occasions. Throughout our wander, Tom is fascinated by what he sees and what he doesn't — and by all the things he can't know behind the images he takes. He's interested in life, and that may just be the thread that links his work more than anything to do with type.
To see more of Tom's work and hear about future walks, head to his website.


The Florence. Heard of it? The demure little sister venue to The Button Factory and The Distillery launched last night on Edmund Street, moments from Colmore Row, yo. Think small plates like burrata, tomato, basil and olive oil (£8), cocktails like the rose, rhubarb and Prosecco spritz (£8) and a warm hug of a game in the two days of rest. Brunch is a big deal, happening across the weekend, but with an unlimited Prosecco option Saturday PMs. It's £35 for three courses, including a section of the menu dedicated entirely to eggs, but also dishes like Korean chicken with a fennel and cabbage kimchi slaw. For the pub traditionalists amongst your number, worry not. There's also burgers, fish and chips and Purity on tap. Of course there is. 


Making an Aquaman film feels a bit like the superhero boom arriving in its decadent, late-imperial stage – what’s next, Fireman Sam? There’s still fun to be had here, though: can there be a human alive who doesn’t want to see Dolph Lundgren ride a seahorse? Enjoyable lunacy is the catch of the day, with a fairly rote origin story that takes elements of Lord of the Rings and Arthurian legend and sends them to Davy Jones’s Locker. Jason Momoa is charismatic and fun, even if Nicole Kidman looks a bit embarrassed as his mum, but the real star is the quasi-Avatar undersea world that comes on like a watery update of Flash Gordon. It’s so ridiculous it’s hard not to admire it, making this an unusually charming comic book movie. Times & trailer


"Look at this sign / They're bringing wine to you / And maybe nice food too / Yeah it is all yellow". Wine Freedom, the city's natural wine know-it-alls are taking up residency under the Custard Factory arches for an 11-day celebration of non-tinkered-with plonk which will include a mulled orange wine devised by Nocturnal Animals booze-wizard, James Bowker. There's also rumours that Kilder will be bringing grub. Rumours of grilled-cheese sandwich sort of sustenance, like a Tamworth ham, Kilder cheese blend and mustard combo (£7),  plus a white tin ended toastie with garlic mayo and pink pickled onion extras (£5.50). Confirmed rumours. This splendid looking pop-uppery runs (as if you can't read) from December 13 to 23, featuring 140 different wines including a funky sounding cloudy Prosecco. From 5pm until late tonight and then at the following times.


Whatever your airline and class of travel, BHX's got your back with its super luxey, brand new Clubrooms. You get three hours use of the space before your flight time including table service, à la carte dining, classic cocktails and runway views. It’s only a giant Toblerone’s length or two from most departure gates, and you can book in, for £35, or £50 if you're planning on drinking bubbles. For your chance to win two of ten spots, including that Champagne upgrade, enter our competition over on The Facebook as it was known before Justin Timberlake renamed it. T&C


It's a funny old thing, comedy. Of course it's funny, that's the point, but when you're packing out 18,000-seater arenas, surely comedy loses its, I don't know, comedy somewhat? Lloyd Griffiths is on the trajectory of stand-up greatness and had us doubled over with one look to camera during the FA Cup third round draw. The Soccer AM host will play one of those intimate Glee Club gigs you'll be pleased you went to when he's fronting the Oscars in eight years. Lloyd recently supported Jack Whitehall on his UK tour and he'll be in Brum February 10. Only £10
Venue: Pig & Apple, Grand Central; Facebook 
Choice: Pork Yorkshire pudding wrap (£7) Chooser: Lucy, owner

Sandwiches are yesterday’s man. The wrap is king, and we're not talking any old tortilla — we’re talking Yorkshire pudding wraps by former street fooders, Pig & Apple. Having done the festival circuit, owner Lucy Darby noticed that with whatever food fads came and went, the queues for hog roasts always persisted. The wrap, here with pork, crackling, chunky apple sauce, stuffing and gravy make it easy to see why, the Yorkshire acting as the perfect vessel for all the best bits of a Sunday roast (sorry vegetables). As good was the turkey version, moist and full of flavour and infinitely better than whatever bird-based horror may be coming to you toward the end of this month. Almost talking of the dreaded ‘C’ word, this is an ideal place to reward yourself for being dragged through the shops — sink a few pints of something local with the three types of pork scratchings on offer and wait for the whole thing to blow over. Oh, and if you're passing on Monday (December 17), as part of the team's official launch, until 11am it's 99p for any breakfast bap or wrap. Stick that up your Pret and your Manger.
If you've majorly messed up 2018 and are somehow yet to make it to Grace + James, wine, cheese and candle making are all happening there in the next week. More

Film critic, Mark Kemode talks about his attempts to become a pop star without ever actually learning to read music in How Does it Feel? On Jan 21, tickets are from £20.
Birmingham Whisky Club's having a festive market, and it's tonight from 5pm. Gifts and food for that period of time before New Year will abound.
Also making a big deal about the whole Crimbo thing, the city's ever so handsome Edwardian Tea Rooms. Pick from a three-course lunch or seasonal afternoon tea: stollen, mince pie plus scones with cranberry jam and clotted included.
To ensure Christmas cheer goes into every present, Elf must always be on the telly whilst we wrap. See it in various forms at The Electric, the Genting Arena or round ours this weekend. No, we're not providing a link...
SIFA Fireside is a Digbeth charity that works all year round to improve the lives of homeless people in Birmingham. Here's what they need to do that even better, with items like gloves from as little as 77p.
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Tom CullenRobb Sheppard, Rob NewsomeAndrew Lowry
PICTURES: Matt Stronge (Lloyd Griffith), Warner Bros. Pictures (Aquaman)

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