Issue 368
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For their first-ever autumn edition, the always thought-provoking, ever eclectic Flatpack Festival is coming back to B-Town. Taking over indie cinemas, art spaces and glorious gardens, big-screen blockbusters this ain't. Instead, we’re being treated to offbeat short films, audio-visual art experiences and “don’t-you-know” documentaries, all generously seasoned with little bits of Birmingham here and there as well as some stories you’ll want to share. We’ve got a list of our fave flicks for all you Choosers. So without further ado, let’s get unpacking.
Paradise Lost + Q&A Live – 26 September (£10)
Sat at the centre of the battle over Brutalism, the destruction of Birmingham’s Central Library in 2013 remains a sore point amongst architectural acolytes and fervent futurists. Paradise Lost unravels the story behind those who were pleased to see the building levelled and those wanting a return to paradise. A hit in Flatpack’s online spring programme, it’s now making its debut on the big screen, complete with live Q&A from documentarian Andy Howlett. An esteemed online publication once gave away badges of said Central Library complex. Handsome fools. Tickets  
Here For Life – 24 September

Reflecting the working backgrounds of directors Andrea Luka Zimmerman and Adrian Jackson, Here For Life flits between film and theatre, meaning this is oh so much more than your average documentary. The outdoor screening takes place in and amongst Martineau Gardens, a therapeutic community space and a fitting backdrop to onscreen events, which see a group of wayward Londoners find friendship and camaraderie in a community garden of their own. Audiences will also be treated to a spoken word poetry performance from "Unkle Errol" Errol Glashan (who also stars). Tickets
Dreamerfly, and Other Stories – 24 September (£5)
A great philosopher once said; “Dreams can come true, look at me babe, I’m with you.” Some 2,000 years previously, lesser thinker Zhuang Zhou deliberated whether he was a man dreaming of being a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming of being Zhuang Zhou. This inspired Dreamerfly. Co-produced and directed by China-born, Birmingham-based artist Shiyi Li and Gloria Yehilevsky and James Owston of Sounding Eye Collective, this is an immersive video installation (think Van Gogh Alive) and 45-minute live performance that blends digital animation and analogue video. Tickets
Optical Sound: Live – 23 September (£10)
High concept in execution and theme, this audio-visual event is optically invigorating, aurally arresting and it might just move you too. Comprised of three performances, Optical Sound: Live comes to Centrala and features Zach Walker’s cymatic concoctions (think of the rippling water cup in Jurassic Park) as well as Paul Prudence, who cinematically conjures both the physical and conceptual exploration of space. Finally, Tarik Barri and Lea Fabricant improvise an investigation into light and sound. The former has previously collaborated with some up-and-coming band called ‘Radiohead’. Never heard of ‘em. Tickets
On-Gaku: Our Sound – 25 September (£10)
“We should start a band.” This one sentence can make you feel like you can change the world, even if only for a second. Whereas we tend to forget about 'Top-Z Tur-V' (we coulda been huge in Japan) once the ale has worn off, On-Gaku: Our Sound follows a trio who first pick up their instruments, only to quickly find themselves headlining a festival. Focusing on identity, friendship and (small scale) fame, this stirring anime is made up of over 40,000 hand-drawn keyframes and made us a little emosh just from the trailer. “It should’ve been us!”. Tickets
Sidewalk Stories + Live Score – 25 September (£12)
Filmed without sound or colour, Charles Lane directs and stars in this remake of Charlie Chaplin classic, The Kid. Heartfelt, hilarious and with a moving father/daughter dynamic at its core, Sidewalk Stories remains rarely seen, highly underrated and New Black Cinema at its best. Making this even more of a must-see, the silence will also be accompanied by a Live score from an 8-piece combo (so not silent), put together by Xhosa Cole. Who he? The Handsworth native who was the BBC’s Young Jazz Musician of the Year in 2018 ️‍🔥️‍🔥️‍🔥. Tickets
Colour Box: Hot Dogs and Jumping Frogs – 25 September (£5)
“Albuquerque.” Just had to get that out of the way. If you ask anyone who's previously been to Flatpack what their favourite event is, Colour Box is usually right up there. The variety of the short films being shown means that the 'something for everyone' cliche can be used without fear of reprisal. As for what’s actually showing? Other than frogs and hot dogs, you’ll just have to go and see, as the surprise is half of the fun. Also, we don’t actually know. Tickets
Colour Box: Flatpack-Fizzle Reanimated – 25 September (£5)
If you've ever been to a sensory cinema performance, you’ll know that being wafted with warm air and sprayed with stale water is not the one. Luckily, live score performances is where it’s at instead. Flatpack-Fizzle Reanimated sees musical marvels - such as Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Tom Pountney - duet with short films from animators, sculptors and artists such as the late, Oscar-nominated Ryan Larkin. The pairing of these remarkable-in-their-own-right films with these vibrant young musicians means this is well worth a look and a listen. Sho’ Fizzle. Tickets
Colour Box at Home: Sound & Music – 18 & 19 September (£0-£4)
There are some good things that have come out of the pandemic. Admittedly, we’re struggling to think of many, but Colour Box at Home: Sound & Music is a dead cert. All completely do-able from the comfort of your own home, there are all sorts of activities to help you get crafty with your kids or simply the young at heart amongst you. There are a whole host of artists lined up to guide you through making your own sound effects and make-at-home instruments. During lockdown this kept a four-year-old and an eight-year-old mesmerised in equal measure. Apologies to the neighbours. Tickets
The full programme for Flatpack is here. Words: RS


If you're anything like me you toughed out Summer in the Square even in the driving rain, it was that damn good. Alas, as ancient Greek philosopher Nelly Furtado once sang, All Good Things (Come To An End). The Colmore Business District's colourful, runaway hit of an outdoor grazing pop-up will bow out, this bank holiday weekend, with its four biggest days yet. After seven weeks of events, the rainbow-esque beach huts in Victoria Square will open for the final time hosting Java Roastery and Urban Coffee, Argentinian steak restaurant Gaucho, craft ale bar and firm ICB favourite Purecraft Bar & Kitchen, and homely street food doyens Roastie Toastie. Drinkypoos of the alcoholic and non-alco are also in abundance, plus live music. The huts will be open from 11am to 6pm, today through to Bank Holiday Monday. The outdoor space was one of the first to be created to support hospitality venues when social distancing hit them for six. More 


We are steamrollering towards Birmingham Heritage Week and the brakes have gone, so now's the time to act to get tickets. From September 9 to 19 (so not a week, then) hundreds of Birmingham’s buildings and spaces, many of which are usually closed, will be opening their doors, revealing the city’s hidden stories and historical secrets. A tour of Moseley Road Baths might be fully booked but you've no doubt done that, so how about a free guided tour and swim at the oldest operational swimming pool in Birmingham, built in 1902? Pedal-powered tickets are also available for Secret Bike Rides of both Chamberlain and Tolkien persuasions. There are three dates available to visit the bell ringing chamber of St Martin's in the Bull Ring plus free tours of both Aston and Blakesley Halls. This talk at West Mids Police HQ looks incredible but if you want to know where I'll be, it's 100% at the guided tour of Brum’s ‘Little Rome’. Full schedule 


Any restaurant that's simply survived 40 years, let alone been at the centre of their community for that period officially gets "Birmingham Institution" status. And though nobody's handed James Wong (above, badass brown belt) the keys to the city, there's no doubt Brummies adore Chung Ying. To celebrate four decades since his father Siu Chung Wong and mother Yuk Ying Wong (you can see where the restaurant name came from) first opened the doors to the beloved Cantonese, they're offering all Brummies 50% off food from their 12 most popular dishes throughout the month of September (Mondays to Thursdays). The offer includes dining in only and is available only to those who subscribe to Chung Ying's newsletter. Simply head over to their website and scroll to the very bottom of their homepage where you'll find two boxes asking for your name and email address. Once you're subscribed, and between now and September 1, Chung Ying will email all subscribers (both old and new — so don't worry if you're already subscribed) with full details of the offer. This is likely to be a very popular deal so booking in advance is recommended and you'll need to show them that email when you arrive. Throughout their 40 year existence Chung Ying have achieved a huge amount, being pivotal in taking Chinese New Year celebrations out of just Chinatown and into vast swathes of the city centre, as well as donating more than 5000 meals combined to the NHS and Marcus Rashford's 'Meal a Day' campaign. They've fundraised for countless charities and are at the forefront of ongoing efforts to bring a beautiful Chinese arch to our wonderful Southside.The Wong brothers (James working closely with younger sibling Will) also helped kickstart the areas Safe Space facility, which provided young people with a place to go if they were in need on a night out. Dishes on the 50% off menu include salt and chilli chicken wings, sweet and sour chicken, crispy chilli beef, aromatic crispy duck pancakes, king prawns in panko, Peking spare ribs, salt and pepper tofu with cashew and more. The full menu will be on the aforementioned Chung Ying email. Bon apple teeth! 
Venue: Wingstop, Bullring, B5 4BE; Website
Choice: Duhrr, wings (£7.50)  Chooser: Me, because I couldn't hear them 

Walking into Wingstop, the global chicken wing chain new to Bullring, is the restaurant equivalent of going on the latest social media platform for the first time. That overwhelming feeling that you're too old for this, you'll never get to grips with it and you should stop trying immediately. TikTok, but with chicken. ChickTok, if you will. I couldn't hear a word the very smily woman behind the counter was saying because the music was, without doubt, the loudest music I've ever ordered to. There was a dizzying array of questions, none of which I knew the answer to (Flavour? Heat? Wings? Tenders? Dips? My mother's star sign? The name of my first year university housemate that I reckon regularly stole my Pilgrim's Choice?) each more anxiety-inducing than the last. But with pointing and polite shouting on both sides of the counter, I ordered two flavours of wings, fries, and a slightly worrying pre-midday Camden Pale Ale. The Coca-Cola Freestyle drinks machine, those fizzy pop fountains with over 100 flavours, was out of order, which would score as a negative in most books, but not mine. If I can't understand what a human is asking of me, and I've been speaking to humans for 41 years, there's no way I'm ready to make my bow on a machine that offers — literally — millions of different potential drink mixes. You get disposable gloves with which to eat your wings, attractive see-through numbers that gave me horror flashbacks to when I was 12 and I had to sleep with surgical gloves on to cure a hand skin condition. I don't remember what the GP called it, but my chums named it 'Tom's mango chutney', at sleepovers. Good times. Great pals. The fries were tepid but tasty while the wings were, I don't know, maybe a six out of ten? Just fine. The best wings in Birmingham are served at Original Patty Men's Wings Wednesdays. Those guys perform some sort of deep frying witchcraft to give a crazy crispy bite to the bird. But Wingstop, they don't don't do that. And though your life expectancy will probably be improved with Wingstop's version, they punch far below OPM (and, of course Bonehead's) poultry proficiency. Look, I like Five Guys. I have my guilty restaurant pleasures, and I sort of hoped Wingstop would be one of them. But the best (and most concerning) thing I ordered was that pre-midday pale ale and, honestly, I'm okay with that. I suspect Wingstop are too. This place was doing a roaring trade when I left, with three people working the doors to marshal the queues. "Like bouncers?" I said to another smily and charming young staffer on my way out, to which he burst into laughter. I wasn't kidding, though. It's so popular they need crowd control. And they don't need me. Menu


That headline isn't me threatening Caroline Walker, with a teacher's finger wag. It's me telling you, it's your 'last chance' to see her flipping incredible exhibition, Women's Work, at the MAC, which closes September 5. It examines the hidden labour of women's work; some are tailors, hairdressers, chambermaids, viewed from the sidelines in their otherwise invisible worlds. Often-unseen, but painted, occasionally, in vast portraits, some spanning, surely, three metres in width.
"During the pandemic," the exhibition detail reads, "we have all seen our working lives transformed, and this has been particularly dramatic in the shift in women's position in the workplace. Women's overrepresentation in lower paid sectors, like retail and hospitality, has made them particularly vulnerable in the labour markets... many unable to work from home. The portraits respond to real-life female experience with this everyday life rarely expressed in culture." But done so, so beautifully here. An at once provoking but oddly soothing experience. More
Big Brum names are on the team to deliver the Commonwealth Games opening and closing ceremonies. Full story  

Birmingham Weekender's festival of all things art arrives with 100 free events this bank holiday weekend. Just a few of the most wowzy can be found right here  
The JQ's St Paul's hosts its summer fete on Monday and Hockley Social are on hand with food and drinksy options. There will be live music, church tours and, randomly, classic cars. More 
Dishoom sent me one of their Home Feast kits. They cost £60 and easily serve two people, two dinners, unless you're Tom Cruise. Just the right amount of work is needed from you to make them a proper activity, but not a b*llache. Top-tip: Watch the 4 short vids that come via QR code with your box. It's way better than re-reading the instructions a dozen times.

For one year only Birmingham Royal Ballet will bring an exclusive adaptation of Sir David Bintley’s Royal Albert Hall production of The Nutcracker to Hippodrome in November, marking the first time this version has been performed outside London. From £20

If you're in town this weekend then Gratitude, the giant public art exhibition paying tribute to the courage of NHS Staff and all key workers, continues until Aug 30. More

The Birmingham International Dance Festival is less than a month away so make like Adrian Mole and diarise it. Details

We're entering the last three nights of the B:Music Jazz festival. Closing Saturday it's been a proper gem of an event, so make like Ryanair and prioritise it.

Duran Duran will play their hometown of Birmingham, at the O2 Institute, September 14 and 15 ahead of the release of their new album Future Past, on October 22. Here's hoping it's not a "Guys, we're gonna stick to the new stuff" night. Tickets go on sale tomorrow (Aug 27) at 9am here.

"I'm like a bird, I only fly away
I don't know where my soul is (Soul is)
I don't know where my home is"


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WORDS: Tom Cullen, Robb Sheppard

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