Okay, okay, before Pieter Brueghel the Younger's legal team get involved, this isn't a Where's Wally. I did consider badly photoshopping our bespectacled protagonist into the Netherlandish Proverbs, but apparently that's frowned upon in serious art circles.
What you're actually looking at is a detailed masterpiece that visually represents almost 100 Flemish proverbs. It's part of the Barber Institute's latest exhibition which — and you don't need to take my word for it because it's had rave reviews from The Grauniad and The Times — is a real smile-maker. Brueghel the Younger (who was kicking about between 1564 and1638), was an artist who was hugely successful in his lifetime but whose later reputation has been overshadowed by that of his famous father. A bit like my dad being a Professor.
The show, called Peasants and Proverbs, is inspired by the Barber’s comical yet enigmatic little painting, Two Peasants binding Firewood, but it was the colossal pic above that really gripped me. Born in Brussels, Brueghel the Younger was clearly very talented and by the time he was around 20 was already registered as a master in Antwerp’s Painters Guild of Saint Luke.
He took on nine apprentices, demonstrating that he had established a successful studio. His workshop produced some 1400 paintings — a veritable pre-Xerox sh*tload — ranging from copies of famous compositions by his old man (like the one above), to pastiches and more inventive compositions that further promoted the distinctive Bruegelian ‘family style’, usually focused on scenes of peasant life. Essentially he was an entrepreneur first and an artist second — this should definitely be of interest to Brum's many graphic designers.
The dizzyingly detailed Netherlandish Proverbs with nigh on 100 proverbs — some of which we know oh so well — depicted in one chaotically glorious piece. Below are just 10 of them but I implore you to check out the Barber's brilliant annotated webpage devoted to this picture and get on over to their gallery for what is one of the funniest things (I'm guessing) to come out of 17th Century Belgium. More
ONE SHEARS SHEEP, THE OTHER SHEARS PIGS (SOME PEOPLE HAVE EVERYTHING, SOME HAVE NOTHING)
TO BE P*SSING AGAINST THE MOON (TO BE P*SSING INTO THE WIND)
TO BANG ONE'S HEAD AGAINST A WALL (DITTO)
HE CRAPS ON THE WORLD (DISDAIN FOR EVERYBODY)
HE SPINS THE WORLD ON HIS THUMB (HE HAS THE WORLD IN THE PALM OF HIS HAND)
SHE COULD TIE EVEN THE DEVIL TO A PILLOW (SHE'S EXTREMELY DETERMINED)
HE CAN'T REACH FROM ONE LOAF OF BREAD TO THE NEXT (HE'S POOR / HUNGRY)
TO CONFESS TO THE DEVIL (SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY)
THE PIGS ARE IN THE WHEAT (NOT EVERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE)
HE HAS A SLIPPERY EEL BY THE TAIL (AN ENDEAVOUR DOOMED TO FAIL)
Featuring a performance – and content – that could be confused with the farcical political proceedings this week, Tyranny of Fun is just one of the compositions in Illusions, the latest offering from Birmingham Contemporary Music Group on November 6, which includes Darth Vader-esque heavy breathing, 80s music and some serious social and political themes lurking beneath, (or looming above, like murky Brum nightlife, pictured).
Illusions features the world premiere of Edmund Hunt’s The Waking of Angantry, using live electronics alongside a 15-strong ensemble, plus other new works. Accompanying these new pieces are the culturally significant bits from British composer, Richard Baker, including the aforementioned, stand-out, The Tyranny of Fun. Unusually for contemporary music, this piece has no live percussion, instead using electronics and samples with motion sensor technology. Even more uniquely, the sounds seem to be of the New York scene, not just musically reminiscent. Inspired by theatre director, Richard Eyre’s description of his party-laden childhood as a ‘tyranny of fun’, this is Baker’s own reflection on hedonism with a looming menace.
Using late 70s and early 80s disco music, it’s the sound of the super-clubs of New York in their heyday, just before the first wave of the Aids epidemic hit. Structurally imitating George Balanchine’s ballet, La Valse – the music for which also took inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, Masque of the Red Death – Tyranny of Fun grabs that allusion by the throat, reflecting a more literal and terrifying ‘red death’ that swept through the gay community. The music consists of Baker’s own breathing: conjuring the erotic, sensual, drug-infused sounds of the dancefloor, and tinged with the hint of sickness and death – the menacing ‘red death’ looming like a spectre on the clubbers. With melancholy and loss woven through Baker's other work, including 'Hwyl fawr Ffrindiau', (‘goodbye, friends’ in Welsh), this is set to be a compelling afternoon of music, which includes a pre-concert talk about both composers. Tickets £15
WIN COCKTAILS AT SKY BY THE WATER
PLUS A £50 GIFT CARD AT RESORTS WORLD
Into my mouth you go, Mr Cocktail. Luxey Brum getaway bar and restaurant, Sky By The Water — over at Resorts World — have launched their new cocktail menu and, from first hand experience, it is excellent. The key to this incarnation of their drinksy carte is style and substance. So often these days a cocktail will arrive with all the Instagrammable bells and whistles your grid could possibly want, but it'll stumble and fall on the small matter of the taste of the bloody thing. Sky By The Water have found that balance with surety.
Highlights include the Thin Lizzy (pictured), a distorted Guinness in appearance it's a heady mix of Tanqueray, lemon, pineapple, rose syrup, peach and jasmine soda. The fruitiness jarring with the deep black colour in a wonderfully disorientating combo. A sensory brain-tinker of the highest order with a rising foam showstopper of a presentation.
Other big-hitters include an extraordinary blueberry-filled bubble wobbling about on the top of their Blue Moon Sangria (watch that pop here) and and a seriously punchy play on an Old Fashioned: The ‘New Fashion’ replaces standard bourbon with Glenkinchie 12-year-old single malt, sweetening the whisky with macadamia nut syrup and vanilla. Bloody hell.
To celebrate the launch of the new menu Sky By The Water are giving away two cocktails each to one winner and their guest, over on our Instagram page, and Resorts World are throwing in a £50 gift card too. And if you just fancy a break from the bananas-ness of German Market Brum — and trust me, you will — I strongly recommend the 12-minute train trip out to see them. Win
T&C can be found in the link in our Instagram bio.
WHIZZBANGS AND TOP JAMS
Now that I Choose Birmingham has moved its offices to the Jewellery Quarter it can officially be unveiled as easily the best area of Birmingham, nay, the entire country. Presumably to mark this e-mag's arrival, the JQBID is putting on their biggest ever Christmas Lights Switch On event, November 17. As is now customary in the JQ, the big flip of the switch will be accompanied by live music, special guest appearances (I'm still awaiting that invite but I gather Masterchef's Dan Lee has accepted his), food, drinks and an absolute slobberknocker of a fireworks display from 5pm to 8pm.
On the pots and pans will be two of Brum street food royalty Canoodle's vendors with menus including fried chicken, Korean ribs and Christmas waffles. Local venues, Rose Villa Tav, Lunchi and Urban will be plying you with the tipples; all suitably seasonal enough to order another ‘because it’s Christmas’. There will also be not one, but two 30 foot trees to marvel at, all wrapped up with the big Christmas switch-on and what’s assured to be the biggest bling in town: a huge, illuminated diamond ring.
The following day (November 18) will mark the return of the BID’s fourth annual Christmas Window Trail, which will showcase over 70 local businesses across the Quarter until December 25. Having tripled the number of participating businesses since first launching in 2019, the trail will be mapped out for residents and visitors alike to explore with the likes of 1000 Trades, Newey’s Jewellers and Harris Gibbs Hair signed up and set to take part. Visitors will be able to vote for their favourite window via the BID’s website and social media. The trail is in support of Change Into Action and includes a stop at the Banksy (above) to remind us why it's so important to help homeless people at this time of year. More
DAVE ORAM: 1970-2022
Such was the popularity of Brumpic's Dave Oram this will doubtless be the 754th tribute you've read of a wonderful man. And so it should be. Forgive me, please, while I write a few bits about my buddy — a caring and f*cking funny soul who we lost, this week, at just 52.
I don't remember the first time I met Dave, it will have been at a media call of some kind, us both finding ourselves in the same circle of citywide press events. Such is the digital age we live in, though, I can track back to exactly our first messages — November 2014. That week Dave had sent me a Brumpic mug and I'd taken to Twitter to pull his leg about how faded the logo had already become in the dishwasher. "FFS" he messages, "I paid £2 for each of those, stop washing it for the love of God!" The next week a replacement mug arrives with a handwritten note. Three words: "Hand wash only"
It's odd what eight years of hand-washing a mug can do to a man. Suffice to say showing that extra level of care means it rapidly becomes your favourite item of kitchenware. I'm the only one that's ever drank from it and I always will be.
The provider of my favourite mug was also my favourite person to see at a press briefing. As big as Birmingham is it's always the same faces at these things and Dave and I always gravitated towards one another. When you saw Dave Oram for the first time in a while he always did the same thing. You know how we're all told to ask our friends how they are twice, once to get the stock answer out of the way and another to find out how they really are? Dave could have invented that trick.
"How are you?" he'd say looking you dead in the eye.
"No," he'd insist, holding your gaze. "How the f*ck are you?"
He would ask because he cared and not because he read about the technique in a Sunday supplement. He had a refreshing knack of cutting through the crap at breakneck speed which was, in hindsight, perhaps the only thing Dave ever did fast.
I would, of course, ask him how he was too. That conversation never lasted as long because, honestly, Dave was absolutely fine. He was better than fine, with his wonderful wife Lou and his boy Tom, he had the world. And although he didn't often let his hangdog face know it, he was happy.
Never one for hyperbole I would often track down Dave at the interval of plays or shows to find out what he thought of the first half. "It's alright yeah" would often come the reply with a shrug. Believe me when I tell you that's a rave review in Dave's world. I remember once telling him they should put that on the poster and it won me the best giggle I ever got out of the big man. Getting a booming belly laugh from Dave Oram — Birmingham's own Jack Dee — always felt like one of life's victories.
I don't mean to portray a cynical man, because he wasn't. In the insanely successful Brumpic he showcased some of the most fascinating images of our city in years gone by. And although responses to his photos often led with "It was better back then" Dave never bought into that bullsh*t. In Dave's opinion to bemoan the loss of some of our most beautiful buildings was, to coin a phrase, as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. Instead Dave would use his colossal platform to put the spotlight on the Birmingham of today, from independent bars to ballets to start-up e-magazines. Thank you for your help, mate. Thank you so much.
Never have I known or will I know a person who more upholds the values of what it is to be a Brummie. Dave Oram was the Brummie's Brummie. Funny, but understated. Kind, but sarcastic. Warm but "don't hug me, Tom".
When Dave started to get really ill I asked him how Lou was bearing up. "She's being so bloody strong for me and it's breaking my heart" he said. That was the measure of the man. Worried about the most important person in his life as his life drew to a close. When I asked if I could stop by and see him he said: "I'd love you to come mate, but because of COVID I'm only allowed one visitor a day and that one visitor will always be Lou. I'll let you know when that changes. x"
It was the last thing he said to me.
As a write this I have a cup of tea on the go, of course in my favourite mug. It hasn't faded much since the day it arrived, just as I promised him it wouldn't. And as it reminds me of him every morning when I drink from it, my memories of Dave won't fade either.
RICE RICE BABY
Birmingham-based theatre company and holders of the Midas touch, Stan’s Cafe, have landed at MAC Birmingham with a trademark thoughtful and imaginative contribution to what is the venue's 60th anniversary. 🎉 HB MAC 🎉
The free exhibition uses grains of rice to bring to life abstract statistics. Each grain of rice = one person, and audiences are invited to compare the one grain that represents them, to the millions that don't. Of All The People In All The World features an interactive element; over a period of days, a team of performers carefully weigh out quantities of rice to represent a host of human statistics. These statistics are arranged in labelled piles, creating an ever-changing landscape.
Their juxtapositions can be moving, shocking, celebratory, witty and thought-provoking. So a pile representing the number of employees at Specsavers can sit alongside a pile representing the population of Barnard Castle, next to one grain of sand representing Dominic Cummings.
On the more colossal side of things, huge piles illustrate the population of Birmingham, or the number of people who watched Boris Johnson's COVID-19 "Now is the time to stay home" speech, or the number of children eligible for free school meals (alongside the number of Marcus Rashfords).
Stan's Cafe ethically dispose of and/or reuse the rice in the show. On now until October 30 and then November 2 to 6, 11am to 5pm. More
BOOK: SARA PASCOE
Writer and star of BBC sitcom Out Of Her Mind, host of The Great British Sewing Bee, Last Woman On Earth and Comedy Central’s Guessable, Sara Pascoe will perform The Alexandra on March 19. Sara decided she wanted to be famous at 14. Since then, she has auditioned for Barrymore, scared Pete Burns and ruined Hugh Grant’s birthday. Sara’s last tour, LadsLadsLads sold every single Edinburgh Fringe ticket before the festival had started and went on to critical acclaim. This tour, Success Story, is likely to be equally sought after. From £19.40
HALLOWEEN CINEMA HIT OF 2022: BARBARIAN
Out in cinemas across the country tomorrow, and the reason I managed about four hours of sleep last night, Barbarian is, mark my trembling words, the Halloween chiller hit of the year. A real, no foolin' dream haunter of a flick, the less I tell the better it will be, but let's just say the take home message is to buy powerful torches next time you're at Halfords and check they're working regularly. Your home might not be all yours, if you catch my meaning.
The premise is almost too relatable to bear. We're in present day Detroit where Tess (Georgina Campbell — Broadchurch, Black Mirror) arrives at an AirBNB house (above) the night before a job interview, only to find it's been double-booked with Keith (Bill Skarsgård, IT) already settled in. Short on choices and in a bad neighbourhood, Tess reluctantly accepts Keith offer of cover from the rain.
The movie is almost a two-parter, perhaps even three, with exceptional performances from Campbell, Skarsgård and Dodgeball's Justin Long. Helmed by comedian Zach Cregger it's punctuated by moments of humour which you'll gobble down greedily to ease the excruciating tension that builds to quite the repulsive conclusion. Sure things get a little daft, but go with it if you can. Even the most seasoned horror buff will be wrong-footed and caught completely off guard throughout.
Barbarian is showing at Odeon Luxe Broadway Plaza, Cineworld Broad Street and Empire Great Park to name just a few
Get yourself some ace prints like the old Bullring Bull or Kong and support the new kid on the block, Stirchley Printworks, in their Kickstarter campaign, to help them settle and grow in the neighbourhood. Closes November 9. — Masterchef semi finalist and former head chef at Simpsons, Leo Kattou, has taken over the reins at Laghi's. Early indicators from those that have been and know their onions suggest the food at the Five Way-based Italian is perhaps, now, on par with some of London's best. Think Luca or Trullo. Former The High Field front of houser Charlotte Carter is running things outside the kitchen n'all. Dream team. Menu —
At the time of writing 20 spaces remain for a screening of Bram Stoker's Dracula at the MAC complete with Wring My Neck pizza (shredded neck of lamb, harissa roasted red peppers and black olives), batwings (chicken wings or cauliflower wings tossed in bbq sauce), rustic fries, garlic focaccia and a Bloodbath Cocktail. Oct 29, £37.50 —
Also on October 29 is a £5.50 tour of Moseley Road Swimming Baths. Details —
Get covered in beer on Dec 4 all in the name of charity. Birmingham Brewing Co, in Stirchley, invite guests for tours of the brew house to see the kit and hear all about the beer-making process. Then, one by one, you'll be absolutely drenched in beer. The brewery ask that you raise a minimum of £50 for Midlands Air Ambulance. More —
Former Carters chef, Ash Valenzuela-Heeger, will be popping-up to cook at new bar Atelier tonight, tomorrow and Saturday. The menu is OH HELLO! More —
The latest print by Brumhaus is predictably brilliant, if you've a spot on your wall that needs filling.
WORDS: Tom Cullen, Claire Hawkins
PICS: Rachel Sherlock (Sara Pascoe), Ian Davies (Dave Oram), Walt Disney Studios (Barbarian)
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