"I find it fascinating to see how everything connects. How it all works together. How a city entwines," says amateur photographer and self-taught drone pilot, Matthew Lenton.
Matthew, 44, has been taking photos since 2002 but, more latterly, invested in his first drone. After a few practice runs at his home in Old Hill, Sandwell, the born and bred Black Country-ite took his propeller-powered pal into town, where he works. "You get a few odd looks and occasionally someone will tell me I shouldn't be doing this here, but it's perfectly legal and safe to fly a drone that's less than 250 grams in weight — obviously not near airports but it's fine in the city centre. When I explain this courteously to people their caution, more often than not, turns to intrigue. I think people are slowly getting used to seeing drones more and more."
Matthew was keen to shoot some of the city's newly erected buildings and, in particular, PoliNations in Victoria Square. "We become so used to our daily viewpoint," he says. "But when you're suddenly shown an angle of our city that before then was totally alien to you, it can be extraordinary. You can appreciate somewhere you've known for decades in a whole new light."
In a boardroom meeting I would have loved to have been present at, Birmingham Royal Ballet have convinced all the right people in all the right places to put on a Beer & Ballet night at Symphony Hall, Thursday September 22.
The illustrious dance company will be putting on a short show alongside little 'get to know' sessions with their Costume and Make-Up departments while West Midlanders, Purity Brewing, will be rolling in with three of their, quite frankly, outstanding beers. You'll not only get to see BRB in action plus those behind-the-scenes snippets but also sample Purity's Session IPA, Mad Goose pale ale and Pure Helles lager. Purity big hitters Lawless and Longhorn will also be served behind the bar for anyone keen to push their experience past the one-hour start-to-finish evening — a particularly sociable runtime as anyone who's sat through Tchaikovsky's four hour Sleeping Beauty will tell you.
"We're collaborating on this," said Purity's Sam Rollason "to bring two worlds that are not always aligned together although, as you’ll hear, there are more than a few beer fans amongst the dancers themselves." And at Symphony Hall's super-relaxed Jennifer Blackwell space, newly renovated, filled with natural light and overlooking Centenary Square and its Raging Bull, any snootiness you may have associated with one of the absolute jewels in our civic crown will be washed long away. More
WORKING THE DOORS
It's the back entrance to Edgbaston's Sailing Club and, no, it's not your usual oil painting. This is the work of Harbornite Richard Bleasdale and it's part of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Prize Exhibition 2022, which launches at their Jewellery Quarter HQ today and runs for one month.
Richard's is a heart-warming story and I say that having only managed eight minutes on the phone with him moments before putting this issue of ICB to bed. As a youngster, back in 1980, he was accepted into art school and had all the gear and was ready to rock. But life, you know, can be a total sh*t and circumstances forced him into finding work and getting some income ASAP.
"The oils and the easel and whatnot went pretty much unused for decades," explains Richard "while I worked a number of jobs. I always loved art, kept interested in it and occasionally had a stab at it, but it pretty much took a total back seat until lockdown."
When COVID started doing what COVID did Richard, like almost all of us, stayed at home and got out his old oil set. He started again.
"I painted a medieval doorway of St Martins Church in Worcestershire [above]. I think it dates back to 1120. It was like the threshold to a secular world, an almost heavenly entrance. The way into God's house, you know? And the door in Edgbaston is, well [chuckling], I guess the complete opposite. To me it just says 'not welcome'. I mean, what on Earth have they got behind there, the Crown Jewels? Both draw me in, but with completely different messages."
The exhibition, which comprises 165 works from a wide variety of artists, also includes a door Richard painted near London Bridge (above). "This one I spotted among the glittering new towers that that part of London has in abundance and, for me, it has a certain fading glory that stands out." Richard puts some of the immense detail he adds to his realist paintings — the exactness of them — down to his long career as a cartographer. Now, basically retired, he spends up to three hours a day just painting. Making up for lost time...
If you're just not that into the theatre there's a chance you've never been to The Old Rep — bloody big shame if you consider the history of the place. Britain’s first purpose-built repertory theatre opened in 1913. Grade II listed it's been well-preserved, despite the best efforts of at least one luftwaffe bomb, and it still retains many original features including a mirror rumoured to have been requested by Sir Laurence Olivier.
What might well get you through the doors, knowing my audience as I do, is The Thinking Drinkers Pub Quiz which takes place October 7 and is, probably, the sort of thing Sir Lozza himself would have endorsed with a hearty 'cheers'. Fresh from selling-out at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August, The Thinking Drinkers are pioneers of alcohol-based comedy, the interactive imbibing experience coming with five discerning alcoholic drinks which, along with a whole load of laughter and learning, makes it ace value-for-money.
As guests compete head-to-head, with a quiz sheet and pencil in one hand – and a selection of drinks in the other, your hosts Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham lead you on a exploration of alcohol’s influence on every aspect of humanity – from geography and language to history, religion, music, film and, most crucially, the intricate mating habits of a German butterfly.
I can personally vouch for Sandham, by the way. He was on the same journalism postgraduate course as me and managed to hold back a smirk when I turned to him and asked — straight-faced and bewildered — what a byline was. And neither of us have spoken a word of it until this day. £18.50
Masterchef: The Professionals 2017 finalist and The Wilderness alum, Louisa Ellis, will return to Brum (having worked at Restaurant Sat Bains, among others) for one night, Oct 11. Six courses for £60 is the eye-openingly affordable offer at The Wilderness (JQ). More —
Japanese cocktail bar, Ikigai, crowned newcomer of the year by Top 50 Cocktail Bars are adding to their Jewellery Quarter venue with a second spot in Stirchley, opposite the Bournbrook Inn. The bar will neighbour another newcomer to the area when Buddha Belly also open their first physical venue next door. —
Chrissie blimmin' Hynde is playing the Hare & Hounds, Oct 17! —
Please forgive a small sales pitch — a testimonial from a happy commercial partner landed in my inbox recently and I'd like to share it. It's a powerful little e-magazine this.
WORDS: Tom Cullen
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