Issue 274
View this email in your browser


On a dull day in August 1979, Derek Bishton, Brian Homer and John Reardon setup a pop-up photography studio on the street in Handsworth. They had no idea if anyone would show up. Forty years later, Bishton's struggling to pick between the more than 500 self-portraits that came out of the project, for an exhibition that opens at mac on Saturday. Introducing: The original selfie.
What they did
Giving people the shutter release so they could choose the precise moment when their image was captured was critical to Bishton and his team, "we wanted people to actively participate — this wasn't about us capturing what we saw in Handsworth but what the people of Handsworth wanted to say." The makeshift studio was set up at 81 Grove Lane, just outside the team's office. Bishton got a sign explaining what was going on translated into Punjabi and Urdu, and after the first of five days of shooting over that summer, Bishton knew the project was going to work. "First the local kids turned up — unafraid of anything or anyone — and then we got couples, bands, entire families and everything in between." Though self-portraiture was used in feminist art, Bishton doesn't know of anyone using it at the scale he did and in the everyday context in which we take selfies today. "Forty years ago the concept was quite revolutionary and the results feel genuine, perhaps in contrast to the practiced look we adopt today when someone whips out a mobile".
Why they did it
The late seventies was a time of huge demographic change in Birmingham, and in Handsworth the shift in Afro-Caribbean and Asian culture was particularly obvious. "At a really basic level" says Bishton, "the streets looked different, and we wanted to capture that". First generation immigrants were having children, unemployment was high so people weren't at work, the Rasta movement was emerging in the African community and immigrants were getting more confident in their dress, explains Bishton. "Take Sikh men — many were discriminated against when they first arrived in the UK but in Handsworth at that time younger Sikhs were becoming more confident and wearing their turbans again." For Bishton, this was an important moment in the development of the city that needed to be documented. And looking back at the collection all these years later, something tells us he was right.
The legacy
It was also a lot of fun. Having selected 44 images to be printed from the original project, Bishton hadn’t looked at the more than 450 other negatives for years: "I was astonished by the good feeling — there was a terrific sense of people being friendly, open and presenting themselves with dignity and presence." Bishton hopes that the exhibition itself will evoke reflection on where we've come from as a city, where we’ve got to and how such negative associations with immigration have come from what was visibly such a positive place.

Happily, scores of the original subjects and their families have already got in touch — with many remembering the project directly, recognising family members in shot, or whole pictures that still hang on walls around the city. One of Bishton's favourite interactions was a comment on the collection's Instagram account that simply said 'OMG! It's my Daddy!'. Even the children from the images are now mostly in their fifties says Bishton — "this is a collection for a new generation as much as an old one and I can't wait to see what comes of it."
Opens Mach 23 at mac's Arena Gallery. Until June 2. Entry is free. More


The most ambitious and bestest afternoon tea around these here parts is to be found at Hampton Manor, which possibly isn't the biggest surprise given that the experience comes out of its Michelin-starred kitchen. The menu may include familiar-sounding dishes like "salmon" under savoury, but we're talking here about the cured variety, with diced citrus, pickled red cabbage, crème fraîche and sorrel — not a sad triangular sanger in sight. Starting off the whole shebang? An Earl Grey granita creation that may or may not involve liquid nitrogen and a chef demo (it does). Add in an abundance of single batch teas from Lalani & Co, proper good scones, plus a gorgey parlour to take in the whole experience and we're sort of guessing you're sold. But there's more. Usually £40, book in from Tuesday to Friday until the end of June and get afternoon tea for £30, plus a bonus cocktail or glass of fizz to begin — just be sure to mention us when you book. Starting at 3pm, we thought you might be able to swing a "work from home" afternoon for this one too. Limited availability. Email to nab a table.


Want to change the world? Global Service Jam does. Happening March 29 to 30, the initiative sees interested sorts in more than 100 cities — from Brum to Brisbane to Buenos Aires —collaborate to develop and prototype completely new services, products or initiatives inspired by a secret shared theme. In just under 48 hours each city creates and tests a concept to present back to the other teams — a bit like a musical jam except insights and ideas are the currency. Beats saying you had a pint when people ask on Monday morning, eh? Though you can also do that. Tickets are £10.


If you've got anywhere near Instagram in the last month, you don't need us to tell you about Morridge. For the seven of you that haven't, you'll find the proudly oaty breakfast trike in the Great Western Arcade, weekday mornings. And on Monday (March 25), get your vegan-friendly organic porridge topped with dark choccie, salted date caramel and peanut butter, or, rhubarb, blood orange curd and toasted coconut for a much better than half price £1.50 when you mention us. From 7.30am til 10am (or sell out if earlier). We've diarised.


Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out doesn’t quite match its conceptual daring, but it does out-do it in actually, you know, being scary. Lupita Nyong’o and Black Panther’s Winston Duke are the parents in a normal family who find their exact doubles in the driveway of their holiday home – and these doppelgangers mean business. Could they be connected to a traumatic event in Nyong’o’s childhood? What do you think? The setup works far better than the payoff (much like Get Out), and the gore is on the fairly tame side for today’s horror marketplace, but there are plenty of both uncanny images and genuine belly laughs to make for a high-end trip to the pictures. Fans of creepy masks in particular are in for a treat, too. Times & trailer


You'd be forgiven for betting a lot on the great Cuban sandwich coming from a four-lettered, Latin American island in the Caribbean. There are cafes in Tampa that would however challenge that — having served early Cuban immigrant workers a sandwich full of Floridian influence. Whoever is right, we know a cafe where you can get a pork belly, glazed ham, Hafod Cheddar and sriracha mayo Cubano, and it's rather closer to home. From 6pm on March 29, Bun Shop's at Caneat, recreating a variety of the Cubano they found at ledgey Wrights Food Emporium, who's wine arm is also bringing six pours to pick from. And did we mention this is happening the same night beer peeps Cork & Cage open a few doors down? No bookings
Venue: Wing Wah, 8 Wrottesley St, B5 4RT; website 
Choice: Xiao long bao (£4.50) Chooser: Front of House team

these? These are not mushrooms. These are magic mushrooms, but they won't give you cold-blooded Bananaman hallucinations. They're bouncy, soft sweet buns, the whiteness toasted to offer the earthy look. Deep within hides warm egg yoke that lollops out to the bite, down your chin — a wonderful sweet-meets-savoury crowdpleaser. Great fun, but not the best dish on a thoroughly engaging dim sum selection from Wing Wah, who have moved from their 21 year Nechells homeland into an enormous and luxey China Town venue. Hero of the hour was the Three Colours Shanghai Dumplings (pictured) and they have embedded themselves into our 100% unofficial list of Birmingham's best dishes. Eat in one or risk yet more chin-based trouble, the delicate skins encase a porky filling with gelatinised meat broth. During steaming the broth liquefies, poaching the pork in a rich soup. As the dumplings cool, the broth solidifies and the skin hardens, which is why xiao long bao need to be eaten lickety-split. Add a little Chinese black vinegar to cut through the intensity and enter the embrace of a seat-sinking savoury Shangri-La. Bonus points for the beautiful open kitchen that allows guests to eavesdrop on the intricate craft of dim sum. A very welcome addition to the city centre. Menu
The ever so subtley titled German sausage shop, Herman ze German, opens on April 1 in Grand Central. Schnitzel, currywurst and bratwurst will abound.
Memory of Touch, an exhibition featuring new work by contemporary British photographer Colin Wilson, opens at Argentea Gallery tonight. Until May 4, still life through black and white film is this collection's thing.

You've missed Mardi Gras for another year. Boooo. But Urban's hosting a New Orleans make-up meal with Bourbon glazes, gumbo and cajun buttermilked things. Yaaaaaay! On March 29, it's £25 for three courses. Book
The Ramblers Ball is a spoken word open-mic night with community activist, Midnight Shelley, headlining. On April 2 at Evolve's Digbeth cafe. Entry is free but do register.
Want to be in with a chance of winning two fully paired spots at one of Opus's incredible upcoming Source dinners? Thought you might.

Lennie: We're just re-enacting a big moment from Sunday’s football, sir. The bit where Peter Shilton dived at Charlie George’s feet.
Mackay: I don’t recall Charlie George smashing a dustbin lid over Peter Shilton’s skull. Not even in the action replay."

Porridge, BBC1, 1974-77

Subscribe free
WORDS: Katy Drohan, Tom CullenAndrew Lowry
PICTURES: Handsworth Self-Portrait — (1979) © Bishton, Homer & Reardon, Morridge — Natalie Macchiato

We will never share your email address. Ads and commercial offers are clearly marked. 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, 18 Great Western Arcade, Birmingham B2 5HU
Copyright © 2019 Birmingham Publishing Group Ltd, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences