Issue 220
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April, 2013.
A Thai restaurant in Holborn.
I'm telling one of my colleagues — a good friend — that I'm quitting one of the biggest magazines in the country. A magazine we both work for. He's nodding.
I tell him I'm leaving London. His nodding slows.
I tell him I don't have a job to go to. His eyes widen.
I tell him I'm moving to Birmingham. His mouth flops open. It reminds me of an episode of Mighty Mouse I saw when I was a kid. An evil gerbil was so surprised by the strength of the hero rodent that his jaw dropped from a helicopter, and it didn't stop dropping until it hit solid earth.
This reaction was common, almost universal in fact, and it was one of the hardest parts of leaving London. People you trust, people you respect, saying all the right things but being unable to conceal telltale indicators of exactly how they feel about Brum. The media industry, of all the industries in the capital is, surely, the most inward looking. For the 13 years I lived in London I witnessed firsthand this belief that nothing in the media of any value exists outside London. Witness it enough and you end up believing it. It is, of course, bullshit of the highest order.

But as the major players in the potential Channel 4 relocation make their cases — C4 ("we want to stay"), The Government ("you've got to go"), 14 different cities ("move here!") — I can't help but feel that somebody's being overlooked. Or should that be some body is being overlooked? The staff at Channel 4. You can almost hear the watercooler whispers. "Have you heard it might be Birmingham? I don't want to go to Birmingham. Would you go to Birmingham?"

And with D-Day on the decision to move rumoured to be weeks away, and having left the capital myself, I decided to jot down a few thoughts for those who may soon face a fundamentally life-changing decision that they never asked to make. Stay or go.
This magazine is called I Choose Birmingham not just because I chose to move here, but because its readers choose to live here. We're not stuck in Brum. We're not in a holding pattern, waiting for our moment to high-tail it south, to suddenly start living. We are living. We're energised and active and proud participants of a city that's accelerating through change. Galvanised by decades of derision — some of it warranted, almost all of it horribly dated — we're a 1.1 million strong unit pulling and pushing our city through a cultural revolution. 

Think Birmingham is ugly? Hell yes Birmingham is ugly. But beautiful buildings do not a beautiful city make, any more than a beautiful face makes a beautiful person.

This city has heart, it has ambition. And that ambition shouldn't be confused for any sort of inadequacy. "Give it ten years," the cliché goes, "and Birmingham will be great,". No-no-no-no. It's now. It's happening. We're experiencing it. We have symphony orchestras and restaurants and ballet companies and museums that can go toe-to-toe with global competition. We have mind-blowingly moreish burger bars under arches in rundown areas and independent whisky clubs sharing a building with a jewellery museum frozen in time. Walk down Ladypool Road and the smoky smells of the Indian and Pakistani and Bangladeshi dishes billow out of the doorways in unison with the laughter and glass clinking of the clientele.

We don't know where our Gay Quarter stops and our Chinatown starts, and we don't want to know. There is no line.  

Digital start-ups, established claymation studios, creativity flowing through the very canals that lent themselves to a saying about Birmingham long since banned. Film festivals, food festivals, a font festival! This very email exists to filter the 101 things you can do in Birmingham, this week, into what we think are the very best. On our cutting room floor, every seven days, there's gold dust we somehow didn't have space for.

There are endless stats and facts that I could reel off. Office of National Statistics figures about quality of life, migration and tourism. The figures come and go every year, and though encouraging, they encapsulate exactly none of the essence of the city. The essence that we don't care what the rest of the nation thinks anymore. But if you're open-minded enough about Brum to consider living here and joining our movement, then buckle in, because we're going at a speed that would make a Londoner's jaw drop.

Tom Cullen, Editor, I Choose Birmingham         



If we've got one teeny, tiny reservation about street food, it's the eating it on the street bit. That Europe's best street food vendor is getting a physical restaurant is therefore joyous news. Baked in Brick is opening in the Custard Factory (opposite Kanteen) in early-May. Predominantly a pizzeria, the licensed 60-seater will have a woodfired oven as its focal point, serving up Neapolitan style pizzas whole and by the slice, and will also trade in brunches at the weekend. There'll be a covered area with a retractable roof to the side of the stripped back newbie. Can't wait until May? Baked in Brick's on brunch at Digbeth Dining Club's Cafe Colette on February 25. Three-courses (including steak), sides, bottomless coffee and a Mimosa are £35. Tickets


The thigh gap. It's a thing. And it's a thing that Luisa Omelan performed a sketch about, which received more than 41 million views on Facebook. And for Omelan's next trick? Dead Funny is two chortle-making hours worth of UK comedians, raising cashdollah for the charity Omelan created in memory of her Mum. The Hippodrome's got everyone from Sara Pascoe (pictured), to Mo Gilligan, to Ellie Taylor on stand-up, plus seven other professional rib-ticklers. On a single noche (Feb 28), it's a very reasonable £25 for a ticket. Also taking the Hippo's stage and worthy of your laughing consideration — Sean Lock's in town the night before Dead Funny (tickets also £25), while Dara Ó Briain's got March 1 to 3 (£23) covered. We defy you not to enjoy yourself.


For all their cross-generational appeal, it’s fair to say Marvel movies can feel a bit samey: not so here. Black Panther’s overwhelmingly black cast is one obvious point of difference, and lends it a zeitgeisty importance that’s hard to deny. That said, we’ve had black superheroes before: what’s really bracing here is how the film takes on the legacy of colonialism in Africa in a surprisingly head-on way, and with a frankness that’s never been seen in the usually conservative superhero genre. Most importantly, though, it just rules: the design is smart, the music inventive, Chadwick Boseman is commanding in the title role, and Michael B Jordan a truly memorable villain. This is going to be huge. Times


Emerging, phoenix-like, from the ashes of Izza Pizza, Rola Wala opens in Selfridges on Monday. They've got an enviable rep for Indian street food in The London and Leeds, and particularly major on sourdough naans and healthy spice bowls, with fillings like sweet potato saagwala and Nagaland lamb. But get your own opinion early on, and get it half price. Sign-up to Rola Wala's mailing list by following this link to get 50% off your meal until the end of Feb. Menu 


Setting up a comedy club's not known for being easy. Make that comedy club in a refugee camp, and make that refugee camp in Palestine, and you've got yourself a tale to tell. Mark Thomas' Showtime from the Frontline isn’t a comedy exactly, but a series of stories about dodging cultural (and actual) bullets, to run a comedy club in Jenin in the West Bank. Known to be a stronghold for the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, it's not exactly a place synonymous with laughs. But despite the obstacles, the club operated for two whole nights and Mark is joined by Fasial Abu Alhayjaa and Alaa Shehada to share the experience. From Feb 28 til March 3 at mac. Tickets (£20)
Venue: Circle Restaurant, just off the Middle Circle Foyer, Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst Street, B5 4TB; Website
Choice: Pumpkin ravioli (two-courses is £26.50) Chooser: Waitress

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: feed 90 people all going to a performance that starts at precisely the same time. We ate at Circle Restaurant ten years ago, and spent the last nine pre-theatre-dining in the Chinese Quarter. But clearly a lot of thought, and work, and training has gone into how you deliver a menu with such a definite cut-off. It was the gin-cured ocean trout, with pickled fennel and a horseradish crème fraîche that took the tiara in terms of beginnings — light, but flavour-filled, the horseradish combo was particularly to our liking, with precisely the right kick to bring the dish together. Again winning on flavour balance, the pumpkin ravioli comes with a slightly tart, crumbly goat's cheese, thyme foam, and micro herbs. It's a super satisfying bowl of food that you won't regret come interval two. On the subject of intervals, your table remains yours throughout the performance. While the fifteen minute interval we had wasn't long enough to genuinely enjoy the puds we ordered, it was a revelation not to have to queue for drinks, which you can absolutely pre-order and will be waiting come curtain down.
Loki's new Edgbaston squeeze launches tonight.
Lucky Duck soft launches tomorrow night.
New Art West Midlands also opens tomorrow at galleries across the region, full of emerging artists that have graduated locally.
Win at parking. Like literally win city centre parking, at a car park which seemingly has a fan club. The deets.
Birmingham Royal Ballet's splendiferous performance of The Sleeping Beauty continues until February 24.
Andy of the Low and the Slow is launching Taco Tuesdays on the last Tuesday of the month at El Borracho de Oro on February 27.
And Wing Wednesdays is starting at Original Patty Men on February 28 . Rejoice!

"I went to Paris. Nothing funny happened. But Sara, why are you telling us this? Because otherwise that trip is not tax-deductible."

Sara Pascoe

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WORDS: Tom CullenKaty Drohan, Andrew Lowry
IMAGES: Louis Hudson (C4 Illustration)

I Choose Birmingham, 18 Great Western Arcade, Birmingham B2 5HU
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