Issue 478
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The following article is not about quiet drinks, it doesn't take place in Moseley and you are under no obligation to meet with friends. Other than that the headline is watertight.

The annual RBSA Friends exhibition (loosely linked, then) gives artists starting their membership journey the opportunity to exhibit work in the beautiful JQ gallery. See? Not Moseley.

With the scheme having been in existence since the 1900s, the RBSA was one of the first art societies to offer subscribers the opportunity to exhibit in a dedicated venue and the number of submissions has grown year-on-year.

The work on display, which is viewable free until February 10, demonstrates the wealth of talent within the community. Here's just a handful of the ones that caught my eye including one called... 
A Quiet Drink in Moseley by Amanda Wearing
48cm x 58cm, acrylic — £180

Amanda is a proud Brummie and has lived mostly in the King's own Heath and that there Moseley. She works in a wide variety of media: acrylics, pastels, watercolours, and collage. She also does linocuts, collagraphs, and drypoint prints. Show off. Her inspiration mainly comes from photographs taken on her travels (particularly of women working), the natural environment and the local area. She is president of Hall Green Art Society. This acrylic painting, A Quiet Drink in Moseley, shows the interior of the Fighting Cocks with her husband, bribed with an early pint to sit as her model.
Suspense by Helen Owen
50cm x 50cm, textile — £350
This one is proper trippy. Actually quite hard to look at on a screen but in person it's even more bananas. Helen's work represents an abiding fascination with stress — well, it works— as both an element of the artistic process, and as an intrinsic part of our lives. The tensions in her work are established by the use of colour, pattern, and optical illusion, to create a compelling sense of force and movement. Her exploration of stress began with the loss of her husband and a determination to cope. It was the constant battle against stress, time, and the domestic environment that fuelled her style. Through various working methods Helen discovered the wrapping and stretching of striped fabric and how it could completely change a subject. She wrapped domestic objects and interiors so they became redundant beneath a dazzling deterrent of op-art pattern. Thus the domestic environment was transformed.

If you look at it for 20 seconds without blinking you start to see into the future. My words, not hers. 
Queer Glassware by Chenxi Shao 
40cm x 40cm x 20cm, lead glass — £999

Chenxi Shao is a Chinese artist and ecological researcher who currently resides in Philadelphia. Her artistic expression delves into exploring issues of dynamic identity, social equality and environment. Shao’s artistic practice revolves around marginalisation, vulnerability, and ecology, through the lens of dynamic queer/female identity and reestablishing ego. They navigate the contradiction between Chinese collectivism and individual humanism with the cross-cultural context across Western modernity and Taoist view.

Nope, I have absolutely no idea what that means, either. Very cool, though.  
Dusty Daimlers by Geoff Dowling
41cm x 33cm, watercolour — £350

The work was inspired by the artist finding an old black and white photographic negative taken at Aston Manor Tram Depot in 1963. The depot had been used for storing a small fleet of pre-war Daimler buses; these buses had been withdrawn from active service but were kept in case they were "needed in an emergency". Like how your mom keeps 150 plastic bags inside a single plastic bag, in the garage, in case of emergency.

When the depot doors were opened the scene revealed was of buses in perfect condition; they were covered in layers of thick white dust, illuminated with a soft diffused light filtering in through the glazed roof.
Flingo by Victoria Wyton-Mills
34cm x 44cm, oil— £70

Victoria came across the image used as reference for this painting on the Unsplash app. It reminded her of holidays, happily bobbing about in the sea, in much the same flamingo shaped inflatable (referred to by the kids as a ‘Flingo’).

Victoria found the perspective an interesting challenge as the water needed to be portrayed to have both surface and depth. Her initial drawing was sealed with a layer of vivid pink acrylic ink which has been allowed to show through the oil paint in both the sea and sky with the intention of unifying the overall painting.

There's something about giant inflatables that cheers me up when I'm blue — like this photo of Bukayo Saka. Proper daft, aren't they?


How are those pesky resolutions going, folks? If one of your promises was to try and get out a little more, and experience some of things you perhaps don't normally go for, well, this could be right up your street. Or should that be completely not up your street? I've confused myself... What I'm trying to say is that the always brilliant Birmingham Royal Ballet, and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, are hosting a night of Tchaikovsky, and there was a man who knew how to engage an audience. Taking place at Symphony Hall, March 28, this promises to be a perfect intro to the art form and to the work of a legend. A prime example of the sheer magnificence of music and dance, expect a night of triple-distilled beauty and pure enjoyment, with no need to tax your brain — just sit back, relax, and let Birmingham's finest do their work. Book 


Seasonal Markets' always grate Cheese Fest returns, March 23. At the moment there's stiltons of tickets but ricotta book soon to make sure we get a pizza the action. Held at The Bond, it's all set to brie a cracker of a day with tip-top street food and even feta live music. The line up of food traders includes Street Souvlaki, Good Food Cartel, That’s Mature Toasties, Melting Wheel Pasta and Urban Cheesecake. Each one will be curating some edam fine cheesy specials. What are the timings? Que-so, Cheese Fest will run in two sessions, 12pm sharp to 4pm and 4.30pm to 8.30pm, so choose Caerphilly which works best for you. Entry is £7.50 and under-12s go free. Well behaved dogs are super welcome but, please, no dogs that are completely emmental because we camembert them. You should come, it'll be a fondue. More


Feels quite a long time since kids (and adults) were splashing in the Centenary Square fountains. Probably because it has been absolutely ages. Commonwealth Games, the 2023 Festival and, I think, maintenance work (??), has seen one of the most playful parts of the city 'out of order', alongside great swathes of Brum. Still, it'll be good when it's finished. 

When these water features are working, they're a little piece of city centre magic, with many a kid making journeys home far more sodden than had ever been forecasted.

That spot is the subject for Milan Topalovic's latest piece of art. Milan's calling card is his ability to relay the sparkle of our city far beyond what's literally in front of us. Be it this illustration of Chinatown looking north towards New Street Station (one to consider with Lunar New Year just days away, and greetings cards available), or his Moulin Rouge take on The Electric Cinema, Topalovic not only sees what his fellow Brummies see (and non-Brummies refuse to) but articulates it in a way that feels just... right?

"Across the Birmingham illustrations I have made over the years," he says "the Library of Birmingham has always acted as a compass in the background, so it was time to bring it forward and make it the focal point.

"From a personal point of view, I love the challenge of pulling separated landmarks together into one image whilst maintaining its essence, and imagining standing in a whimsical version of somewhere you know well.

"Along with a little cameo from the [weirdly still standing] Copthorne Hotel, John Madin's Brutalist 1974 cult-hit, the Central Library, had to be immortalised somewhere in there too. During the initial ideas phase, I found some symmetry in the two libraries and forged a visual link thanks to the blocky nature of both. The old library sits in the reflection, through the ornate brickwork glazing of Centenary Square. With the surrounding night-out spots including The Rep and Symphony Hall, there is a romance to Centenary Square, making it the perfect muse and location for our library lovers."

Nope, I hadn't spotted the Central Library either. Lovely stuff, that. £20 in A4  


If hard-hitting Sky documentary Game of Thrones is anything to go by then dragons are gnarly sons of b*tches that should only be allowed into the general public under the strictest of supervision.

Fortunately Birmingham's answer to the Bride of Fire will, presumably, be on hand to tame the beasts when they roll into town for Birmingham’s free Lunar New Year Festival, Feb 11.

Celebrations will take place in Southside and the full programme is available here. Running from noon until 6pm, expect all the favourites from the traditional waking of the Lion to, gulp, Dragon dances representing power, strength and good luck, the latter of which we will all need if the flame-licked televised deaths of hundreds at the hands of that madwoman, Daenerys Targaryen, are anything to go by.

It will be a day of performance from Tai Chi to Chinese Opera to K-pop dance and martial arts. Join in with family activities, the craft market stalls and enjoy a fireworks finale, all welcoming in the Year of the Dragon.

The Uber Eats Festival Stage in Hippodrome Square will also be a hotbed of firecrackers (strictly supervised), drummers, face changer performances, school choirs, musicians and traditional Chinese dance performances. 

Head into Birmingham Hippodrome’s foyer for free family activities and face-painting. Decorate dragon puppets as well as trying calligraphy or colouring traditional Lunar New Year Zodiac animals and messages. Festival goers can write their own new year wish on a Dragon scale and pin it on a piece of newly commissioned Dragon artwork.

Inge Street and Hurst Street will also host funfair rides and street food — with Masterchef winner Dan Lee and Stirchleyites Eat Vietnam tag-teaming, plus look out for Pom Pom the ten-foot panda. Lions, dragons, giant pandas? What could possibly etc etc...


Hard scientific facts: Sir David Attenborough has more than ten plants and animals named after him and, when he first got a gig on TV, he didn't own a telly. The bona fide legend of on-screen animal exploration is now your guide at ethereal Virtual Reality venue, Otherworld, in town. Encounter carnivorous flytraps, majestic butterflies and towering pterosaurs, brought to life by state-of-the-art 3D cinematography and computer graphics. Details
Plans have been resubmitted for the £1.9 billion redevelopment of Smithfield, and the pics are 😍. Check them out here

In 2020, Marc Burrows penned the first ever biography of Sir Terry Pratchett. The book received critical acclaim, won a Locus Award and was embraced by fans the world over. Now, a live multimedia show, based on the book, is coming to The Glee Club. Feb 18 

An exhibition about the Titanic — the mahooosive British passenger liner that successfully sailed, hiccup-free, across the Atlantic in 1912, is coming to the NEC. The display features brand-new interactive exhibits, footage of the wreckage (what wreckage?), a diverse range of artefacts from the vessel, and a selection of props from the 1997 film. More

There's £15 off Brumbox's beautiful sweaters and hoodies (£35 instead of £50), like this Kings Heath gem or this Alright Bab! number that was, in fact, £55 before the discount. 

Southside bar and Detroit pizzeria, Kilder, will screen the Super Bowl on Feb 11. If you're into a bit of the ol' pigskin (football not literal, although there are sausage-y toppings), there is simply no better venue. Details

A new Italian restaurant and bakery is set to open in The Roundhouse, February 4. Ristorante Caffe Arena is from the team behind Pane & Vino in Erdington. One of the owners is the former private chef of your boi Luciano Pavarotti.  

I feel the need to say that the subject line for this email was intentional thus undoing any iota of 'cool' that may have come from the actual doing of it.
WORDS: Tom Cullen

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