Issue 452
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I didn't think it was medically possible to get Brum as excited about anything as it got about the Commonwealth Games, but Birmingham Festival 23 is making a jolly good fist of it. Landing in Centenary Square for ten days and nine nights, from July 28, it promises (like, hand-on-heart style) to be a joy-filled homage to the city’s big summer of sport and culture, and another bold showcase of Brummie talent. Here's just a whistle-stop tour of some of what to expect with the full and fast-paced schedule found right here.  
SANITY and MORE — Friday, July 28
Events will go from nought to 60 in about four and half seconds, throwing a host of huge stars, athletes and homegrown heroes into the spotlight for day one, 6pm onwards. One City, A Thousand Memories is the name given to the festival's bow, hosted by the BBC's Ayo Akinwolere and Radio 1Xtra presenter Kaylee Golding. A collaboration with Team England and the Commonwealth Games there'll be a host of medal-winning athletes from last year as well as an emotional performance from Birmingham Conservatoire-trained Mezzo-Soprano, Samantha Oxborough (who performed the national anthem at the Opening Ceremony), with The Choir with No Name. 

Drawing from Birmingham Music Archive’s On Record album — the specially-commissioned ‘Sonic Love Letter’ to Birmingham for the B2022 Festival — the final part of the opener will feature singer, dancer and multi-instrumentalist Bambi Bains followed by Erdington's own Urban Music Award winner SANITY (above), before headliners, Friendly Fire Band, take to the stage. You remember the track It's A Brum Ting that played throughout the BBC idents during that spellbinding fortnight-long celebration of sport? That was Friendly Fire! Full Schedule
Soweto Kinch and MORE — Saturday, July 29
When multi-award-winning saxophonist and all-round smoothy, Soweto Kinch, throws a party, you show up. Mercury Prize nominated, with two UMA Awards, and multiple MOBOs, Brummie-born Kinch created and curated the now legendary Flyover Shows, in Hockley from 2008 to 2012 (remember when we used to have an annual party under an A-Road?) and he'll be back in Brum, minus the overpass, for the second day's shindiggery. Prior to his Centenary Square set (4pm), all-female Dhol drummers and dancers, Eternal Taal, will be thundering their way on stage at midday (see them tearing up New Street Station in September here) while Apache Indian (yeah, you heard) will wind ya bod-eh from 8pm before winding up the day's session. Full Schedule 
Giant Wheel and MORE — Sunday, July 30
Day three is going big on dance, big on Disco and big on wheels. Programme partners FABRIC bring a day of body-shakin' including Parade - The Giant Wheel: an outdoor performance featuring Autin Dance Theatre’s blend of contemporary storytelling, striking physicality and innovative large design to transport audiences along a carefully choreographed procession. It features a 12ft wheel powered by street performers and celebrates the tension between their individual identities and their shared humanity. Then, later on, there's the Big Gay Disco Bike: Join cabaret superstar and overwhelmingly modest drag icon, Fatt Butcher, as the D-I-S-C-O lands in the 0-1-2-1. 
Full Schedule
Zeddie Lawal and MORE — Monday, July 31
The pedigree of talent working on the Birmingham Festival 23 shows how 'all-in' Brum is going on this one. Elizabeth ‘Zeddie’ Lawal (above) and Mukhtar Dar — both of whom were part of Birmingham 2022 — are Artistic Associates working closely with Creative Director, Raidene Carter, to bring their broad experience and knowledge of the city’s cultural communities onboard. Their impact will be felt throughout but maybe earmark the Monday (and Tuesday) at 3pm for Zeddie's The Commons: a sanctuary for safe, playful yet challenging discussions about our connected past, present and future, dedicated to forging a more beautiful, just and equitable future. Full Schedule
Birmingham Rock & Metal Showcase and MORE — Tuesday, Aug 1
Digbeth-based BIMM will curate a raft of acts at 4pm including Insurgent (above) who will bring barnstorming vocals and crushing instrumentation to the home of Metal. They'll be followed by Alt Rockers SANTÚ whose controlled chaos ('controlled' being the key word, here) is known as a live act set to behold. If that sounds a little too heavy for you (coward!) then A Hologram Maze is a small ensemble performing the original music of UK-based pianist, David Austin Grey, at 2pm. Expect four of Brum's finest improvisers and Jazz that'll be smoother than a George Clooney close shave. Full Schedule
Girl Grind UK and MORE — Wednesday, Aug 2
This female-forward day includes She Swims, a dance film premiere with a 50-strong all-female cast of professional and volunteer dancers (including ‘Bull Chain Women’ from B2022 Opening Ceremony), re-convened for an inspirational film project. Next up, What Is It To Be A Girl? is an Amplify Sounds production that explores the female experience in all of its beautiful, messy and vulnerable forms — their words, not mine — through poetry, song, dance and live electronic percussion, while Shine Girl Shine is a celebration of Black female talent in the underground music scene. It all concludes with a must-attend Twilight Takeover from Girl Grind UK led by truly visionary individuals. Made up of international recording artist, songwriter, and founder of Girl Grind UK, Namywa Hutchinson, dancer and founder of Eloquent Dance Company Romanah Zhane, and Bianca Passelle-Reid, vocalist and founder of Vocal Nova Academy, What If is an untold street musical with bags and bags of Brum references. Full Schedule 
Yaram Arts and MORE — Thursday, Aug 3
Two chances here (2pm and 4pm) to catch Mughal Miniatures: a vibrant outdoor performance event which takes inspiration from the exquisite traditional art of Indian and Persian miniature painting during which the worlds of dance, music and puppetry combine. Next, African arts specialists Yaram Arts (pictured) will create a thrilling and drum-powered audio-visual lion masquerade dance while Cog In The Wheel is a street dance storybook about tech and hustle culture from Billy Read and Def Motion that'll include both deaf and hearing dancers. Simultaneously celebrating and dismissing the individual, are these characters with stories and personalities or gears in a machine? Also today, and throughout the day, Soul City Arts will have a giant tent-like structure inside the University of Birmingham's The Exchange building, right by the festival site. They'll be inviting all faiths and those of no faith inside to answer questions about spirituality, the answers to which will be shown on a giant screen in the square. Full Schedule 
Corey Baker Dance and MORE — Friday, Aug 4
You'll get not one but two chances to witness ZeroG — a spectacular performance by dancers from Corey Baker Dance (Corey was Movement Director for last year's opening ceremony) which centres around a clever zero-gravity effect inspired by the sense of the beauty and fragility of our planet when viewed from space. At 3.30pm Second Cities, a five-piece emo band with a message of strength in diversity, will be on stage with "Pop Metal Punk for sad teens with happy faces". After that, BBC Asian Network will be in charge for three hours of the best of Brum including Bollywood, Bhangra and Asian Beats before 2093 by 93:00 Collective which takes us to a post-apocalyptic Birmingham that's fallen into disarray after a catastrophic event. In an effort to reclaim their voices, the city’s resilient communities use music, fashion, and dance to promote unity and express their aspirations for a better world. Full Schedule 
ACE and MORE — Saturday, Aug 5
In a high, high energy penultimate day expect multi-genre music that'll get you up and on your feet throughout. Soca Ram-Jam by ACE Dance & Music (4pm) promises all the buzz and all the feels as they bring with them the Caribbean in a colourful collage of the rhythms of Trinidad. A community mass choir led by Black Voices and Dutch marching band, Eternity Percussion, the extravaganza of Soca music (‘Soul of Calypso’) promises to be a Festival must. If you've still got the energy — and even if you haven't because they'll be supplying your second wind — Boxout follows ACE with "easily followable dance routines" for your cock-uppery. Last up is an awe-inspiring international mashup from Festival Artistic Associate, Mukhtar Dar, with music by Simon Duggal which celebrates solidarity and resilience in a uniquely blended “Glokal” experience. From soul-stirring Sufi music, to pulsating bass and infectious dancehall vibes all via Afrobeat rhythms and English Folk, it will be an unforgettable curtain fall. Full Schedule
Closing Event — Sunday, Aug 6
Rainbow Voices — the West Midlands community choir for LGBTQIA+ people and their friends  — take the final Made In Brum slot (a daily set that showcases homegrown talent) and they're followed by a School's Out disco party (compulsory attendance for kids, surely?). From 3pm to 5pm and the act I'm personally most excited to see, it's Brum's new Poet Laureate, Jasmine Gardosi, with Dancing To Music You Hate, her festival version of the set she had twice shortlisted for Best Spoken Word at the Saboteur Awards. Expect explosive dubstep baselines, brilliant beatboxing and soaring folk violin blowing apart the boundaries of gender and music genre alike. Next, and from new to old (although he's hardly old!) former Brum Poet Laureate Casey Bailey, with the help of B:Music will curate the closing show: Next Track. Working alongside Music Director, Ashley Allen, expect a wide reaching range of music, poetry and spoken word that celebrates Birmingham past, present and future.
Full Schedule
The full programme for Birmingham Festival 2023 is here. Birmingham Festival 23 is commissioned by Birmingham City Council and with additional support from Principal Partners Arts Council England & University of Birmingham 


The Wine Events Company's summer slam of flicks meets drinks continues with four fantastic movies and associated slurps for your imbibition.

First up, on July 1, is Mamma Mia with Prosecco at Millennium Point: join Tony and team at a jumbo screen showing of Ol Parker’s most Rom of Coms, including five different glasses of bubbles for £35.95 per person.

A fortnight later (July 15) they swap the pool party for the varsity cardi as Grease shows at the Electric, alongside four fantastic themed cocktails. I've been bound by lengthy Non-Disclosure Agreements on three of them but lawyers have allowed me to reveal one: a Frenchie 78, a twist on the French 75 will be served. This one is £32 per person, all-in.

Into August and focussing on wine for a brace of screenings, the team will show La La Land at The Crescent Theatre (Aug 12) then Elvis, back at The Electric, August 26, both costing just £27 and coming with five glasses of vin all tied to the mise-en-scène in some way. Book


Whatever your political persuasion this will be a seriously fascinating evening. Telegraph columnist, Brummie, and former No.10 Joint Chief of Staff, Nick Timothy, joins ex FT Whitehall editor, Seb Payne, for a live (and lively) discussion at 1000 Trades in the JQ — part of the venue's ongoing series to unstuffify political talks.

"We all need some political therapy at the moment," said venue co-owner John Stapleton. "So that's why we're inviting some of the most illuminating figures around to reflect on the idea that there is often too much heat and not enough light these days. Hyper partisanship is banned and open-mindedness encouraged. Our speakers have been selected because they have something more than a soundbite to say."

That's definitely true of the, at times, controversial Timothy who Joint Chief-ed for Theresa May's premiership, finding himself at the centre of a storm that lead to his resignation in 2017.

"Seb Payne and I will discuss, with our audience, the future of politics and in particular the future of Conservative thinking," he told us. "We are not only going through a difficult time, with inflation still high and interest rates rising fast, we face huge geopolitical upheaval, economic challenge, social division, and the unknown consequences of the AI revolution. Britain has amazing strengths, and some deep-rooted challenges – the political decisions we take in the next decade or so will determine whether we emerge stronger from this time of radical change."

Tickets are priced at £15 and, I'll bet a pound to a penny, Boris will come up on questions. The series of talks continues in October with Jess Phillips.


Say what you will about Brum's city planners of yesteryear and their Miley Cyrus approach to construction, but some smart cookie hooked us up to Welsh water and we shall forever be in their debt. Ambrosia spills from our taps and anyone who's made the mistake of putting their lips to a faucet south of the M42 will have been met with true poison.

Turns out, though, that even that major feat of engineering (plugging us into the waterways of the Elan Valley) is not without its unpleasantness. Why can't we just have nice things??

Midlands Art Centre with the help of artists Zillah Bowes, Daniel Crawshaw, Kate Green, Rowena Harris, Antony Lyons, Isa Suarez, and Eustace Tickell present Watershed, an exhibition exploring the relationship between Birmingham and Elan Valley; two communities linked by council pop.

The group show includes work by all six who have reflected upon an area in mid-Wales on the edge of the Cambrian mountains, which has been the middleman for our sky-juice for nearly 120 years. In the late 19th century, unsafe water led to widespread disease until an Act of Parliament was passed, enabling the compulsory purchase of the Elan Valley by the Birmingham Corporation Water Department.

A series of man-made lakes were created on the land by damming the Elan and Claerwen rivers, the resultant reservoirs have supplied Birmingham with heaven-like water since 1904 but — and here's the rub — 100 occupants of the Elan Valley were forced to move. Watershed presents artistic responses to this controversial change to Welsh land, the connections between these two distinctive landscapes, and the part that people play in nature’s balance.

The exhibition spans across photography (like Zillah Bowes' Pont ar Elan — landscape in moonlight — above), sound, film and painting. It gathers material from the Elan Links archive, including a book of etchings from the lead engineer of the dam construction Eustace Tickell, who was moved to capture the valley before it was flooded.

The exhibition is presented in both English and Welsh, and runs from today (June 29) to November 5.


Cotteridge Wines' awesome but underused taproom is getting a rare three weekends on the bounce run out, starting tomorrow (June 30) with a two-day tap takeover.

The craft beer specialists — who, despite their name, barely feature any wine whatsoever — found their hidden taproom and beer garden became too popular when pub crawl stag dos appeared on the regular, running counter to what they had intended for the quiet areas. Thanks to a bookings only system though (book via Twitter direct message) they will be able to to monitor numbers so things don't get too chaotic for the arrival of Cheltenham's brilliant DEYA Brewery, June 30 and July 1.

Then, on July 7, 8, 14 and 15 the owners will celebrate their 28 years at the helm by welcoming 28 beers from 28 breweries (14 each weekend). Again, book via Twitter direct message. There will be two daily sessions: 12pm to 4pm and 5pm to 9pm on the respective Fridays, then 11am to 3pm and 5pm to 9pm on the Saturdays.


One of the finest kid-friendly dates in the city's calendar lands this Saturday (July 1) as Cocomad rolls into Cotteridge Park once more.

Free, and run by a great team of volunteers who will dance in any weather (last year the heaven's opened, as you can see), the 27th celebration of music, art, dance, science and circus starts at midday. And the forecast is good. 

Once again you can expect an array of champions from Birmingham’s independent scene with market stalls featuring everything from clothing and jewellery to homewares and handmade foods. Street food will fill tums and two stars of the local brewery scene will be on drinks duties.

Entertainment and activities run through to 7pm, with all ages catered for. The main stage kicks off at 12pm and over the day, seven local bands and artists will perform, alongside DJ Gez and compere Barbara Nice. The festival costs £25k to stage with £20k contributed by local businesses and organisations, and the rest raised on the day. More
Ministry of Sound's 31-piece classical orchestra is heading for Lichfield's Beacon Park this August Bank Holiday. Featuring Judge Jules and big hits like Hey Boy Hey Girl (The Chemical Brothers), Insomnia (Faithless) and Right Here Right Now (Fatboy Slim), it'll cost you £44.24, ta very much. 

Hop Garden, Harborne, is hosting a free record fair, July 8.

Fancy being scared sh*tless in a medieval castle? Course you do. Flatpack is screening Jaws and The Wicker Man (the good one, not the terrible one) on August 4 and 5 respectively. Adult tickets are £12.50 and there'll be a bar and food and whatnot. It really looks rather good.
Kings Heath's Early Bird Bakery is in the final days of its much-needed Crowdfunder that would reduce wait times for the wildly popular High Street spot by knocking through to an empty unit next door. Support
Tickets are on sale for Birmingham BBQ Fest (Aug 5) and the line-up is excellent. More
Brilliant vegan pop-up chefs BA-HA will be taking over Moseley's Le Petit Bois July 18 to 23. Details
Moseley Road Baths, Balsall Heath, is hosting a free space in which people can ‘chill out alone or with friends, and engage with installations and activities’. Taking the name Balsall Heath’s Living Room, it includes an exhibition space with work inspired by the local area, and a TV room screening swimming-themed family films. July 1 to Sept 30. More 
The Electric Cinema is screening Christopher Nolan’s highly-anticipated Oppenheimer on 35mm film. To be honest I haven't a clue what that means, but it sounds cool. July 21 onwards  
If you've been umming and arring about Secret Cinema's fully immersive Grease event, at the NEC, now really is the time to act. To mark the 45th anniversary of the film they're offering tickets for just £45 today (June 29) and tomorrow (June 30) only. Book 
Birmingham burger pioneers, Original Patty Men, are turning their hands to deep dish pizza when their pop-up 'Corner Shop' lands at Deadbeat (Stirchley) today (June 29) and tomorrow (June 30). If you're into hash browns (so, everyone then) this will be of particular interest. Info

"Council Pop: (Noun) Tap water that is provided by the local city government (or corporation), likened humorously to a soft drink (pop) that is free. Primarily heard in Birmingham, UK."

The Online Free Dictionary

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WORDS: Tom Cullen

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