Issue 441
View this email in your browser


I'm not sure Flatpack Festival gets the flowers it deserves given how much it's done for film in our fair city. As Steven Knight prepares to whop out the cheque book on the biggest leap forward in Birmingham movie history, it's worth remembering Flatpack have been putting the city under the filmic spotlight for two decades, and they've had to fight for every penny. The festival is, and always has been, run by a charmingly friendly, if slightly unhinged small group who succeed year-on-year at putting on an event far, far bigger than the sum of its parts. They should all take a bow, but not until the credits roll on this year's iteration. Here's just a handful of the movie-related madcappery that arrives in May...
In Spring + Live Score at Moseley Road Baths
May 16, 7.30pm to 10pm, £14/11 

It's the age old saying, isn't it? If you've not seen a 1929 Soviet-Ukrainian documentary in a drained out Edwardian swimming pool in Balsall Heath, you haven't lived! Flatpack will kick off their ever-eclectic, always fascinating festival with this experimental documentary, described as a city symphony devoted to Kyiv. The silent movie observes life in the Ukrainian capital, imagery that takes on greater poignance given the nation's ongoing invasion. But the echoey walls of one of our city's most beloved buildings will ring with the live playing of pianist and composer Roksana Smirnova, taking to the stage with long-term collaborator and countryman Misha Kalinin. Having opened the festival with this event, Misha and Roksana will work with Birmingham-based mixed media artist and musician, Sarah Farmer, on a brand new live score for Dziga Vertov’s silent film (the ninth best movie ever made, no less) Man with a Movie Camera, which will bring the festival to a close on Sunday, May 21, at CBSO Centre. Book
Last Things + A Foot, A Mouth, A Hundred Billion Stars, at Lapworth Museum of Geology — May 17, 7pm to 9.30pm, £7/£5
Get inside the University of Birmingham's Lapworth Museum of Geology for this screening of Last Things. The film traces history from the beginning of time to the present day as seen by rocks. Yep. As in big stones. The film will dive into the molecular make-up of stones, if they had molecules (which they don't) while also tracking the process of evolution and extinction from the point of view of a rock. Once the 50-minute movie is up, Brummie artist Stuart Whipps steps in to ask what would it mean for a stone to be diseased? Is a stone alive? If it can be diseased or infected, can it be cured and fixed? Whipps will tell stories and he'll perform, exploring past, present and future using slide projectors, digital projection and objects from the Museum's collection. Book
Lair of the White Worm at Mockingbird
May 18, 8.15pm to 10.30pm, £10/8

In 1988 Variety called it "a rollicking, terrifying, post-psychedelic headtrip" which means it was almost guaranteed to make a Flatpack appearance sooner or later. Lair of the White Worm is a Ken Russell written and directed horror-comedy starring Hugh Grant as a giant white worm (nah, just kidding, he plays an English gent), Peter Capaldi and Amanda Donohoe as the vampiric Lady Sylvia Marsh. Presenting the screening is the team behind the UK's biggest horror and film history podcast, The Evolution of Horror. Host Mike Muncer will be alongside podcaster and writer Becky Darke to introduce the cult classic after which the pair will invite the audience to take part in a live podcast recording. Book
7 Inch Cinema at Hare & Hounds
May 18, 7pm to midnight, £7/5

In June 2003 Flatpack's forefathers launched a monthly film night at a pub in Digbeth. The idea was to mix together local filmmaking, archive oddities and crazy stuff they found on the internet (which back then was basically cats), along with live guests and musical interludes. The festival and everything they've done since grew out of those lovely, eclectic, just about break-even gigs. To celebrate the double decade there’ll be a similar event at 7 Inch's second home, Hare & Hounds – but possibly a little more polished. Book
Little Shop of Horrors at Botanical Gardens
May 19, 7.30pm to 10.30pm, £16/12

It took a team of sixty to operate the giant Audrey II puppet (pictured) in 1986's Little Shop of Horrors, an art form increasingly lost to green screen tech these days. In one of the more delicious film-meets-venue mash-ups in Flatpack history the Frank Oz musical-horror-comedy (we need a punchier name for that micro genre) will screen at the Botanical Gardens along with drinks, nibbles and live music. The Gardens, by the way, have a pretty impressive collection of fly-trapping, insect-eating, carnivorous plants, which'll be on display on the night. No feeding. Book
Vampires vs Zombies at Mockingbird
May 19 and 20, £10/8

If your only experience of Nicolas Cage in Vampire's Kiss is the meme-gif above that makes daily appearances on Twitter, then it's time to put some flesh on the bones as the entire 1988 black comedy gets screened. Then, the following night, it's time to get the flesh back off the bones as the same venue will show Pegg/Frost zombie vehicle, Shaun of the Dead. There are also rumoured to be a few immersive surprises along the way.  
Scarred For Life: Cold War Special (part of Atomic City) at Mockingbird
May 21, 4pm to 6.30pm, £10/8

Still losing sleep over When the Wind Blows? Same. Throughout the 1980s, British kids found their formative years ruined by the all-consuming Debbie-downer that was the threat of nuclear armageddon. As part of a series of events which all revolve around the moment in 1940 when two European physicists at the University of Birmingham wrote a confidential memo outlining how a nuclear weapon could be built, and why it should never be used, Flatpack has invited Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence, writers of the acclaimed Scarred For Life books to discuss the lingering legacy of a childhood spent in the shadow of the mushroom cloud. Nothing a few years of therapy won't fix, I reckon. Book
Imaginary Friends at CBSO
May 21, 3pm to 4pm, £14/11

This one's a live performance that lays bare the mechanics of filmmaking. On stage, a director and three foley artists create movie sound effects in real time, while beautiful film images feature in the background. Though normally the idea is to add more realism to the scenes, Portuguese filmmaker and visual artist, Rita Barbosa, intentionally aims to shatter this illusion, exposing cinema’s impressive mechanisms of deception and playing with its endless possibilities. Book 
The full programme for Flatpack is here


As 2023 marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio, and Birmingham's People's Folio goes on a tour of the city, now is the ideal time to get reacquainted with the big fella. The Royal Shakespeare Company in the Greater Birmingham suburb of Stratford-Upon-Avon (okay, okay, maybe not) is staging Cymbeline, the last play in the entire Folio, April 22 to May 27.

"Without the Folio, we would not have half of Shakespeare’s plays today," says Gregory Doran, RSC Artistic Director Emeritus, who'll be overseeing his 50th and last production in the role. "Including many of his most famous and loved works.

"I have often wondered why Cymbeline is the last play in the Folio. It is listed under the tragedies, but it could just as easily have been placed in the comedies or even the histories as it is set in Ancient Britain at the time of the Romans. Though its thrilling story threatens to end in tragedy, its astonishing denouement is full of joy. I think the compilers of the Folio put Cymbeline at the end of the book because it defies categories and won’t be pinned down — that is what makes it so exciting."

Peter de Jersey (Holby City, Line of Duty, Doctor Who) plays the eponymous role while Alexandra Gilbreath, widely known for her role as depressed author Lucy Moss in Not Going Out, plays The Queen. Book


God’s Creatures opens with the viewer submerged underwater and struggling for breath, as the waves lap around and the darkness suffocates us. We know from the opening frame that it’s not going to be plain sailing.

The directorial debut of Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer focuses on a weather-beaten fishing village in Ireland, where oyster farming means risking your life as you take on the tide. At a resulting funeral, the return of a resident sparks joy, but an accusation of sexual assault follows soon after and, in turn, a series of events which reverberate violently throughout the village.

Normal People’s Paul Mescal stars as the prodigal son, with a mesmerising Emily Watson as the doting mother who instinctively provides an air-tight alibi, only to realise that her friend and colleague (an unforgettable Aisling Franciosi) made the claims. Mescal, sans-Connell chain, sheds the sensitive image that built his career, whilst we study Watson’s face for the tiniest twitch to see how she’s processing what her darling boy has been accused of. Little wonder that the trio were all nominated for British Independent Film Awards, with Best Lead for Watson and Best Support for Mescal and Franciosi. Performances aside, it's the long takes, ominous landscapes and stabbing orchestral strings that lends God’s Creatures a hue of horror that makes it stands apart from similar dramas.

If The Banshees of Inisherin was about men trying to find their place in the universe whilst wrestling with their sense of mortality (which we think it was), then this is about the women who are affected by those men who are all too sure of their place. An uncomfortable watch, absolutely, but vital viewing.

As an aside, what a brilliant thing to have on in Brum. The Mockingbird’s a cinephile’s dream anyway (and it looks lush since the refurb) but what a pleasure to go to a press preview screening without trekking "down there". Out tomorrow


One of my favourite things about Brumbox, the 100% unofficial fashion line for the city of Birmingham, is the detail. It's all well and good sticking the Bullring bull on a sweater and shifting a few to tourists, but Brumbox go the extra yard. Brumbox makes clothes for Brummies. This tee (there's a hoody too) doffs cap (they should do a cap!) to an easily missed Digbeth ghost sign that sits above a few shops. Only the real Brummies will know about it and that's what makes these items of clothing so spectacularly cool. The nicheness. "We’ve loved this tiled signage at the top of Digbeth High Street for as long as we can remember," say Brumbox. "It's something of a local landmark. The premises has stood tall since 1913 and was owned for many years by G. A. Makepeace, a retailer of second hand clothing. While that business is long gone, the name lives on. With this launch, we pay homage to Birmingham clothiers past and also acknowledge the power of the alternative meaning that can be taken from the sign. We live in turbulent times but this longstanding, seemingly untouchable sign feels like an instruction and an encouragement for those of us who believe in creating a more positive future." From £30


Anyone who was present for Ivo Graham's last Birmingham stand-up visit, at the Glee in December 2019, witnessed a masterclass of comedy. Ivo arrived late, exhausted from sprinting to the venue after the trains screwed him. It was astonishing to see someone clearly flustered and breathless immediately start getting hard laughs out of the scenario. Not for Ivo slipping into his routine, no way. He managed to squeeze about ten minutes of lol-age out of his catastrophic start, before getting underway in earnest, proving the man has funny bones, down to the marrow. That time the audience were involved, of course they were, but for his latest tour, Organised Fun, which lands at the Old Rep on September 29, the crowd is absolutely pivotal being roped into chaotic against-the-clock quizzes, tangents and fluster. After dismantling a barge, doxxing himself in the Doubletree, and blanking on the 1992 Ipswich Town crest, Ivo is lining up a show with more risk than ever before (NB: previous shows have broadly been quite low risk). The reason, perhaps, why Ivo resonates so strongly with a Brummie audience is his mastery of self-deprecation. He comes highly recommended and at £17.50 still a total steal. Book 


Following a horror ankle injury last year Birmingham-based mixologists have rallied round to keep drinks legend Amanjot Singh Johal's iconic JQ gin bar, 40 St Paul's, open while he recovers. After bar takeovers from The Gintleman and The Anchor's Julian Rose-Gibbs, former Crazy Pedros drinksmith John Warner will takeover this Thurs to Sat, reviving some classic cocktails from the venue's past, including the Champion Cobbler: Slingsby gin, bergamot, fino sherry, vetiver, grapefruit and bubbly, served up in a trophy. Next week (April 6 to 8) a mystery guest will takeover the speakeasy-style bar followed by former The Edgbaston and Grand Hotel barman Toby Heap (April 13 to 15), who has pledged to serve drinks inexplicably dressed in hot pants and high heels. Toby's drinks (and legs) are out of this world. A modern tiki bar will land April 20 to 22, then a representative from the ace Passing Fancies will draw the takeovers to a close, April 27 to 29. "Having barely survived the pandemic," says Aman "My ankle never healed properly and I’m about to have another operation, meaning 8 weeks in a wheelchair. As a small bar I would never have come back from it, so I reached out to the hospitality community who are giving up their time to keep me open and pay the bills. It’s especially touching given it's an industry that has been battered by so many of the challenges recently." Follow 40 St Pauls for more.    


Celebrated British Jamaican photographer and Brummie artist, Vanley Burke, launches his first outdoor sound installation, Reactivating sounds of Blackness, in Handsworth Park on Sunday (April 2). Working with artist Gary Stewart and community interest company, Museum X, Reactivating sounds of Blackness takes people on a journey through a fusion of layered sounds and conversations exploring Black culture and intangible heritage in Britain. The free outdoor experience also explores the changing culture within Black communities, particularly in Brum. Witnessed as a sonic trail through the park, it includes recordings of interviews by Burke, as well as everyday sounds of Blackness and intangible heritage designed to activate memories and emotions from the listener. Gary Stewart is known for his innovative site-specific works creating art that can be encountered in public spaces drawn from popular culture, everyday ephemera, archives, history, and mythology. Vanley said: “I’m known for my photographic work, but exploring and collecting sounds is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m interested in the unique sounds we make; be that washing clothes, cooking, or going to church. So I started to document it.” A mixture of physical and recorded sound pieces will be installed at the bandstand, The Sunken Garden, and in the trees within Handsworth Park and will run until summer.


"Tequila," sang 90s rock poets Terrorvision, "it makes me happy." Yep, where gin makes you blue, tequila makes you cheery. It's science. And thinking there might be something in that, Digbeth's beautiful new look Rainbow pub is putting on a festival dedicated to Mexico's favourite mountain dew. If you're a fan of tequila and agave products already then shuffle over for heavily discounted earlybird tickets and, if you're only experience of tequila is immediately regrettable shots of the bad stuff, then consider opening your mind to it as a spicy sipping drink and hero cocktail ingredient. Book now to save £11.30
Went to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Alexandra, this week, and I think it's made my jaw permanently drop. It goes from nought to brilliant at breakneck speed and there are still, inexplicably, tickets available for tonight, tomorrow night and Saturday's earlier showing! Details 

Speaking of The Alex, that's the venue for The Full Monty that lands in January and tickets for the guaranteed sell out are now available here

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group's Cherry Blossom Concert is back to bring a moment of calm to your Sunday lunchtime, April 2. Join them and Ikon Gallery for an hour-long, free, and sensory event for all ages, with live music amongst the Brindleyplace cherry blossom trees. More

Tickets for Noel Gallagher, Chemical Brothers and Ricky Gervais, all at Utilita Arena (not at the same time), go on sale tomorrow (March 31) at 9am, 9.30am and 10am respectively. 

At the time of writing details were ludicrously scarce but Little Larry's, a mini (maybe by the slice?) off-shoot of the short lived but wonderful Larry's Pizza (Stirchley), looks like it'll be making an appearance of some sort at Caneat tomorrow (March 31). Maybe check their Facebook here.
Due to a late allocation there are still bags of seats available in the Rear Circle for Dara O'Briain, tonight (March 30), at Hippodrome. £26
Burger Fest takes place on June 3 at The Bond in Digbeth. Big hitters like Original Patty Men, Patty Freaks, Stripclub Streetfood, Nanny Bill's, The Flying Cows, Yardbirds, Meat Meets Bun and BA-HA are all there. £7.50
South Birmingham Curry Club are at Attic Brewery, Stirchley, this weekend dishing out top street food tomorrow (March 31) 5pm til late and Saturday (April 1) midday til late. More
Ever feel that too much politics is bad for your health? Rafael Behr has the antidote. Guardian columnist, former Moscow correspondent, host of the Politics on the Couch podcast and author of Politics: a Survivor’s Guide offers a recovering politics addict’s tips for a democratic detox. Live at 1000 Trades, May 23. £15 includes a drink

"I've got an Eton-themed advent calendar, where all the doors are opened for me by my dad's contacts."

Ivo Graham

Subscribe free
WORDS: Tom Cullen, Robb Sheppard
PICTURES: Abbe Elliston (Moseley Road Baths)

We will never share your email address. We sometimes run paid for Partnership Emails with selected affiliates. These will be marked as Partnership Emails at the top of the email.

I Choose Birmingham, 4 Park Avenue, Birmingham B30 2ER
Copyright © 2023 Birmingham Publishing Group Ltd, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences