Issue 306
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Choose, choose, choose. We know we say it a lot, but we do mean it. And in terms of industries in Brum making the decisions particularly tough right now, tattooing is right up there. Though paying for the pleasure of getting voluntarily and repeatedly stabbed by a stranger isn't for everyone, if you've always thought about getting a tattoo but didn't know where to start, or are just curious, we've been making nice with the studios leading the ink art charge in Brum right now. Apologies to your bank balance in advance.
When you utter the words “Birmingham” and “tattoo” in the same sentence, humans in the know think of world-renowned Modern Body Art — and they'd be right to. Now in its twentieth year, the Corporation Street cooperative is owned and managed by tattoo artists, meaning it’s crammed with passion and an unwavering dedication to bringing the best possible design work to every piece of body art the team creates. As the first custom only studio in the city, and a spot that attracts guest artists from around the globe, you're probably wasting the huge talent under this roof it it's A.N. Other oriental symbol you're looking for. Though they'd do an acesome job at that, all the experience and an astonishing range of styles is what Modern Body Art is about.
Also up there on the best-of-the-best podium is House of Thieves, which opened in 2015, nestled quietly in the Custard Factory's courtyard but buzzing with some seriously loud work. Run by a husband and wife team and made up of four distinct artists, if you want something truly intense and unreplicable, Robert Ashby’s freaky and beautiful style of black tattooing screams originality and is where we're directing you. With Robert's 30,000+ followers on the 'gram this isn't exactly breaking news, but which ever artist you opt for (we see you Holly Ashby, Ellie Williams and Elle Donlon), this handsome Digbeth den is taking blackwork, traditional and Japanese imagery to a new, experimental level.
While we're talking about studios at the vibrant, vanguard of the Brum scene, Lucky Rabbit Tattoo Cult is a proper player. You can barely turn a corner in the JQ without hearing a tattoo machine doing its thing, but if there's one place to pay particular attention to, it's this new(ish) kid on the block. Opening two years ago, the twelve artist studio is known for nurturing young talent and artists at the start of their careers. The Spencer Street spot is all for embracing the craziest of subject matters by the horns — no reference, quote or character will be obscure enough for these guys. Unlike London, Bristol and Leeds — all well-established locations for solid traditional designs — Birmingham's tattoo scene doesn’t major on one style but is always fresh and always changing. It's difficult to think of a studio that encapsulates that hungry, edgy mood more than Lucky Rabbit right now.
The kings and queens of this visual feasting are sometimes playing hide and seek in the most unexpected corners of the UK. If you’re drawn to blazing colours and memorable artwork, try Northfield’s Painted Lady Tattoo Parlour at 1 Station Road. For delectable artistry secure an appointment with the legendary Dawnii Fantana (pictured) who heads up the shop and still finds time to commit her designs to canvas, as well as creating forever art like this. Elsewhere outta the thick of the city, Sutton Coldfield’s Dark Horse Collective, King’s Heath’s Seven Foxes and Redditch’s Church Tattoo are more of the right answers.

So select your desired body part, and if you stick to our list, you know that someone top will have your back (or your arm, or your foot).


Spaces where ace beer is brewed, sold or drunk is The Brewery Bible's MO and the Midlands is the entire focus of its latest release. Covering off its pick of the region's classic public houses, alongside bang-up-to-date taproom openings, the book (£6.99) has the vital statistics of over 200 Midlandsy spots. In addition to its directory creds, the pocket-sizer includes signature brews and of the moment sort of features, like six pages dedicated to the Stirchley Beer Mile, jaunty map and all. Stretching out to the bestest beer in Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Shropshire we've got our eyes and day-trip diaries on the considerable list of breweries and pubs which we've learnt about through The Brewery Bible. There's also an app for when you breach the region's borders.


When word counts are tight, long-winded names are a writer's worst enemy. Take one helluva bow then, Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch — A Musical Parody. And you can stick that in your Christmas charades ammo box. Coming to the Hippodrome and from here on abbreviated simply to Unfortunate — the adult retooling of The Little Mermaid — tore up the stage at the Edinburgh Fringe, placing the spotlight on the eight-legged antagonist, Ursula. And where your work Christmas drinks are going to be the usual train-wreck of regret, this one is teed up perfectly for a night with your actual chums. There's a par-tay night on Dec 19, which includes your ticket, a drink, two-course meal and Drag-Queen-DJ-after-party. Tickets (£60)


Making his first foray into feature films since the acclaimed comedy Four Lions, Chris Morris, the patron saint of satire, returns to our screens with The Day Shall Come. Based on ‘a hundred true stories’, the film sees the writer-director tackling the chaos, contradictions and calamities of the FBI’s post-9/11 sting operations. A bona fide British comedy boss, Morris has courted controversy through comedy his whole career, from The Day Today to Brass Eye to Black Mirror and is renowned for dark humour which makes you laugh out loud first and stop to think second. You’ll also have the opportunity to fire some questions in his general direction as he sits down with the audience for a post-screening chinwag. Warning: Those under the influence of Cake will not be admitted to the auditorium. On Nov 27 at MAC, tickets are £16.


“Please sir, I want some more.” Not just the whining of an unappreciative Dickensian urchin, but also the sentiment shared in the ICB office when it comes to yuletide lights. And by the beard of Saint Nick, the big Edgbaston Village switch on is looking particularly palate-pleasing this year. In addition to the usual mince pies and hot dogs from The Edgbaston and Simpsons, Flying Cows will be banging out burgers, whilst Bare Bones are on pizza propagation. You and your tribe can also find more than the usual festive fumblings with Frozen sing-alongs, a helter-skelter and actual live reindeer. On November 22 from 4pm until 7pm, it's free to attend and taking place along the Highfield Road, with the novelty of no cars. The lights are going on at 6pm. More


Ever wondered what a mix of Mad Men and Top Gear would be like? Us neither, but that doesn’t mean this old-fashioned flick doesn’t deliver the goods. Christian Bale and Matt Damon are on hand as the key members of the Ford team for the titular race, who must get over their chalk-and-cheese styles to defeat the dominant Ferrari and their affront to American engineering knowhow. Sure, it follows the same template as everything from Mighty Ducks to Bend it Like Beckham, but the leads are excellent as ever, and a hefty budget means the racing scenes are phenomenal. The highlight, however, is the depiction of the Ferrari team — only a slightly less caricatured view than Sacha Baron Cohen’s French racer in Talladega Nights. See it at Cineworld at Resorts World. Times & tickets
Venue: Rico Libre at Kanteen, Custard Factory, Digbeth, B9 4AA; website  
Choice: Chicken croquettes (£5.50 for three) Chooser: Owner

One of our editor's
first reviews for I Choose Birmingham was the brilliant, chaotic, 90s poster emporium that was the original Rico Libre. None of the furniture matched, the music selection was a box of CDs passed around punters and you couldn't get out of your seat without inadvertently touching most of the other diners in the Barn Street nook. It was perfect. But like your firstborn going to junior school, life moves on. And it was with equal parts pride and apprehension that we bundled into Rico's new(ish) digs — at brunch spot, Kanteen, in the Custard Factory, with which the tapas-makers now space-share. It's neat and spacious and you'd have to try really hard to knock-knees with people you've never met. The old faves, like gambas pil pil (£6) and calamari (£6), are all there but the menu's organised and rebranded, the crowd's kempt and we can't hear any singing coming out of the kitchen. In a city struggling for tapas since the sad closure of El Borracho, the classics are (still) done well. In particular, the croquettes — a dish we are so consistently underwhelmed by — are a creamy, chickeny delight, with plenty of filler encased in a light crumb which acts as a carriage for flavour rather than moonlighting as any sort of main event. The alioli with which the little balls of joy are served, was, unsurprisingly, the ideal foil to the hot, happy croquetas. Rico Libre: no longer the free spirit we can't stop talking about but a maturing asset to Digbeth which is still worth the trip. BYO.
Sustainable Stirchley's doing a clothes swap at The British Oak this Sunday from 1pm. We're pretty sure you should bring clothes extra to the ones you're actually wearing for swapping purposes.
Not all yuletide markets are created equal. How's about MAC's clever, crafty one, with plenty of jewellery, textiles and stationery from the region. Happening four times from November 30 to Dec 8.
Carpe Aqua is back and actually has tickets available. Bob around Moseley Baths by candlelight on a dark and stormy Friday of your choosing. It's a beautiful thing. Book (£16)
Join the revolution at Revolucion de Cuba, where you'll find a salsa social on Tuesday from 7pm. It's the right price.
Screening Rights is back for its fifth outing. The Midlands' international festival of social justice film and debate runs from Nov 21 to 24. Check out the full programme right here.
CanEat's cooking fried chicken like chilli crab. You'll also find mussels in Keralan broth. For one night only — curry night — this Friday from 5.30pm 'till 8.30pm and the team's now got a license and everything. Email to book.

"Tattoos transform us from raw animals
into cooked cultural beings."

Claude Lévi-Strauss

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WORDS: Rebecca Rimmer Givens, Katy Drohan, Tom CullenRobb Sheppard

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