Despite nobody wanting to come and manage the football team recently, Wolverhampton can still attract some big names – world renowned, in fact – elsewhere in the city. Step up, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, which is currently hosting the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London and on loan in Wolves until December 24.
The collection features images that capture fascinating animal behaviour, and the species and diversity of the natural world. Over 80 images will be on display; from the winning pics, including the prestigious Grand Title Award winners, plus a stunning array of entrants, showing just how hard each category must have been to judge.
Just 20 minutes on the train and a mere seven-minute saunter past the Chubb Buildings (home to much-loved Medicine Bakery), up past the Grand Theatre and on to the Gallery, you’ll be able to see some of the most stunning wildlife shots since the latest Attenborough programme and appreciate the importance of conserving these treasures. Here's a peek at some of the category winners, and the stories behind them.
The big buzz by Karine Aigner, USA
Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Winner, Behaviour: Invertebrates
Karine Aigner gets close to the action as a group of bees compete to mate. Using a macro lens, Karine captured the flurry of activity as a buzzing ball of cactus bees spun over the hot sand. After a few minutes, the pair at its centre – a male clinging to the only female in the scrum – flew away to mate. The world’s bees are under threat from habitat loss, pesticides and climate change. With 70% of bee species nesting underground, it is increasingly important that areas of natural soil are left undisturbed.
Ndakasi’s passing by Brent Stirton, South Africa
Brent Stirton shares the closing chapter of the story of a much-loved mountain gorilla. Brent photographed Ndakasi’s rescue as a two-month-old after her troop was brutally killed by a powerful charcoal mafia. Here he memorialised her passing as she lay in the arms of her rescuer and caregiver of 13 years, ranger Andre Bauma. As a result of unrelenting conservation efforts focusing on the daily protection of individual gorillas, mountain gorilla numbers have quadrupled to over 1,000 in the last 40 years.
The dying lake by Daniel Núñez, Guatemala
Winner, Wetlands - The Bigger Picture
Daniel Núñez uses a drone to capture the contrast between the forest and the algal growth on Lake Amatitlán. Daniel took this photograph to raise awareness of the impact of contamination on Lake Amatitlán, which takes in around 75,000 tonnes of waste from Guatemala City every year. ‘It was a sunny day with perfect conditions,’ he says, ‘but it is a sad and shocking moment.’ Cyanobacteria flourishes in the presence of pollutants such as sewage and agricultural fertilisers forming algal blooms. Efforts to restore the Amatitlán wetland are underway but have been hampered by a lack of funding and allegations of political corruption.
Heavenly flamingos by Junji Takasago, Japan
Winner, Natural Artistry
Junji Takasago powers through altitude sickness to produce a dream-like scene. Junji crept towards the preening group of Chilean flamingos. Framing their choreography within the reflected clouds, he fought back his altitude sickness to capture this dream-like scene. High in the Andes, Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt pan. It is also one of Bolivia’s largest lithium mines, which threatens the future of these flamingos. Lithium is used in batteries for phones and laptops. Together we can help decrease demand by recycling old electronics.
The magical morels by Agorastos Papatsanis, Greece
Winner, Plants and Fungi
Agorastos Papatsanis composes a fairy tale scene in the forests of Mount Olympus. Enjoying the interplay between fungi and fairy tales, Agorastos wanted to create a magical scene. He waited for the sun to filter through the trees and light the water in the background, then used a wide-angle lens and flashes to highlight the morels’ labyrinthine forms. Morels are regarded as gastronomic treasures in many parts of the world because they are difficult to cultivate, yet in some forests they flourish naturally.
Shooting star by Tony Wu, USA/Japan
Tony Wu watches the electrifying reproductive dance of a giant sea star. As the surrounding water filled with sperm and eggs from spawning sea stars, Tony faced several challenges. Stuck in a small, enclosed bay with only a macro lens for photographing small subjects, he backed up to squeeze the undulating sea star into his field of view, in this galaxy-like scene. The ‘dancing’ posture of spawning sea stars rising and swaying may help release eggs and sperm, or may help sweep the eggs and sperm into the currents where they fertilise together in the water.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is on until December 24. Tickets are £5.50 (kids £3.50), or a Family Ticket (up to five people, with one child a must) is £14.50. Book
WHAT THE FOLK?
With the most joyful sounding intonation in his name (listen!), Finnish and fun violinist, Pekka Kuusisto is quite the diverse offering from CBSO this November. See him and his unique performances in two very different, equally entertaining, concerts across consecutive nights, spreading the CBSO world-class talent far and wide across Birmingham venues. First up, Pekka’s bringing Nordic folk to Hockley Social Club (HSC) for the next instalment of Symphonic Sessions: What the folk? on Tuesday 22 November (6.00pm), then the following evening he’ll lead the dawn chorus in Birds of Paradise: The Lark Ascending, at Symphony Hall on Wednesday 23 November (7.30pm).
The Symphonic Sessions serves up a Classical Folk fusion to the chilled out Hockley locale, with the usual top-notch street-food vendors offering pre-performance fueling. String quartet music, jigs and the Wellerman Sea Shanty – yes, that one – will all feature. Next night, Pekka hot-foots it back to Symphony Hall for a bird-themed curation of well known and contemporary pieces, including music from Isobel Waller-Bridge (sister of Fleabag, Phoebe). He picks his tunes well, and by the looks of his previous charismatic and funny performances, Pekka will be right at home in dry-witted Birmingham, among the classical surroundings of the Symphony Hall or the candle-lit vibes of HSC.
With Pekka’s obvious youth appeal, Club 18-30, CBSO-style, gives you Birds of Paradise tickets for just a tenner (students get it even better at just £5) or from £26 for over 30s, while Hockley is a standard £10.
NOUGHTS VERSUS CROSSES
‘A classic of the genre’ is bandied about a bit too much over on Musk’s Twitter, but in the case of Malorie Blackman's Noughts & Crosses, it’s bang on. Voted as one of the UK's best-loved books, it’s a seminal Young Adult novel that became a series, and has been so popular it’s already been adapted into a radio play, two theatre plays, and a BBC drama. The second of those plays, produced by Pilot Theatre and last performed in 2019, is back touring, this time at The Alexandra from November 15 to 19.
Told from the perspectives of two teenagers, Noughts & Crosses is a love story between– you’ve guessed it – star-crossed lovers, set in a volatile, racially segregated, dystopian society. The source novel explores the themes of love, revolution and what it means to grow up in a divided world; an on the nose production given the state of the world, and brought back touring as soon as possible after the pandemic years. Written by Sabrina Mahfouz, a British Egyptian poet, playwright, performer and writer, this adaptation brings a new direction and lyricism to the original novel, whilst maintaining its essence. Romeo and Juliet vibes, contemporary issues and themes – what’s not to like?
Actors from TV, film and stage will unite for the hit production– the first time Pilot Theatre performs at The Alexandra. Based on its success last time, it’ll fly once again: 30,000 people– 40% of whom were under the age of 20– saw Noughts and Crosses on tour in 2019. With theatre the standard-bearer for compassion, education and social justice, and this play offering it in spades, this one’s for the young adults and adults alike.
Noughts & Crosses tickets from £13, with matinee showings on Wednesday and Saturday. Tickets
"AURORA BOREALIS!? AT THIS TIME OF YEAR, AT THIS TIME OF DAY, IN THIS PART OF THE COUNTRY, LOCALISED ENTIRELY WITHIN YOUR PLANETARIUM!?"
I estimate that somewhere in the region of 60% of the readership won't get that header but mark my words, for those that do it is not just I Choose Birmingham's longest ever headline, but its best.
Thinktank's Planetarium, their otherworldly 69-person, dome-shaped cinema will host Moseley-based photographer and hiker, Martin Kulhavý, along with some of the Czech-native's most jaw-dropping photographs of the Northern Lights on Thursday, November 17. At just £10 a throw and with Aurora Borealis guaranteed (travelling in person is always a gamble) you'll be saving somewhere in the region of £1220 per person by not jetting off to Scandinavia — plus more than a few carbon-shaped footprints/footprint-shaped carbons.
This is the first in a series of evening events, called Planetarium Lates, where the target audience is entirely adult, with a mix of music, art and science at their core. Planned follow-ups — although they're not set in stone — include an evening in December dedicated to the Apollo landings (with a suitably dramatic Classical soundtrack) and an Opera night in the New Year.
First up, though, is the Aurora Borealis spectacle at which Kulhavý — who has made over a dozen visits to the Northern Lights — will present his 360° gigapixel photos, as well as answer questions that the audience will inevitably have. Martin tries to visit the Lights twice a year, such is his passion for the dancing waves of energised particles, regularly returning without shots of the spectacle but, of course, with sweeping vistas to soften the blow. On one six-week stay, for example, Martin only managed three nights of Northern Lights. Why gamble when the Lights can come to you?
Planetarium Lates: Experiencing the Northern Lights is available to book now and the Thinktank Facebook page is the best place to keep tabs on the series going forward, so hit 'like' over there.
THE CHRISTMAS QUARTER
In one of the OG quarters of Brum, the Jewellery Quarter sits atop the pile as King of getting Christmas done in a day. For all those last-minuters or ‘let’s make it a day’-ers, the JQ has some key diary dates to shop and stock up; pleasantly, independently, and with plenty of food and drink options to fuel the gift-buying slog.
Supporting independents is Brummies’ modus operandi, so looking for unique, alternative and independent gifts in the JQ is a doddle; from RBSA Gallery offering independent designer-makers, to shops such as Artfull Expression offering multiple makers under one roof. For a one-stop-shop, The Coffin Works holds its Christmas gift market on Sunday December 4 (11am to 4pm) and The JQ Makers Market will be at St Paul’s Church on December 8 (4.30pm to 7pm) – both offering locally made jewellery, stationery and homewares.
Purveyors of our fine pin badges, the Birmingham Design Shop (pictured above) is a colourful treasure-trove of books, stationery, homeware, and Brum-branded gifts. Likewise, The Borrow Shop – a social enterprise in which 50% of profits are donated to local charities and organisations – plays host to some of the online-only sellers like Birmingham Stationery Company, and is a great coffee pit-stop to boot.
Upping the gift stakes? Make it all yourself. The Crafts Collective offers card lino-cutting, soy candle workshops and wreath-making (£30-40), plus they’ve also got vouchers to gift their impressive-looking classes and workshops. Wreaths are always a seasonal sell-out, but there’s an abundance to choose from across The Crafts Collective and Independent florist, In Bloom (£68.99). Upping the stakes further, you can even have a go at your own ring: The Quarter Workshop, offers dedicated jewellery workshops (from £60) – done in an evening– during November and December.
With a huge array of food and drink options available, there are Christmas menus galore to really milk the Christmas spirit. From new darling, Trentina, to the full-circle return of The Church (by the Trentina chaps), or the ever-changing kitchen at 1000 Trades, most venues offer their spin on the festive set menu, ranging from all-out sprouts to a mere sniff of Christmas spice, ranging from £22 (1000 Trades, although don’t pass up the posh hot sandwiches during lunchtimes, above) to £45 (Trentina). And fear not, turkey cynics, many options waive Christmas entirely and offer seasonal plates of food for a chilly(ish) winter, or something completely different; from The Wilderness to the alternate universe that is Ana Rocha.
The lights switch on next Thursday November 17, the annual Christmas Window trail begins the following day, so a JQ trip is a picture-perfect scene at the most wonderful time of the year. See what’s on
“COME OUT TO THE CRESCENT, WE'LL GET TOGETHER, HAVE A FEW LAUGHS…”
Can't believe the planet's most boring debate — is Die Hard a Christmas movie? — continues to rumble on despite John McClane, in one of the film's most famous scenes, visibly wearing a Santa hat and cradling half a glass of warming red wine, while wedged in an air conditioning vent.
The city's second worst photoshoppers, The Wine Events Company, have released the next tranche of cinema-meets-drinks screenings and the besieging of the Nakatomi Plaza is at the centre of proceedings, showing at The Crescent Theatre on December 21, £26.
The events, which sell out regularly and are becoming a core component of Brum's monthly out-and-aboutery, also include a second showing of Elf on December 11 after tickets for the first booking went at record speed. That one will screen at The Electric and, unlike the wine-based events, is a cocktails-y one. Drinks for all the events are distributed at key moments in the movie, your tipples having some connection to the film's narrative.
Love Actually (at the Crescent) and It's A Wonderful Life (Millennium Point), both of which are wine events, are also screening and if your host, Tony, isn't wearing a grubby white vest for the Die Hard night then I'll eat my red, bobbled Phrygian cap.
HK BAR PLATES ARE BACK
September 2020. Wet Ass P*ssy was at number one in the charts and Eat Out To Help Out was all the rage. It was a weird time alright, the highlight 100% being the introduction of Harborne Kitchen's bar menu that sent half of Brum off their collective heads with joy. Well, having been shelved for almost two years, HK is bringing the bar menu back and spank me cross-eyed, it looks bloody brilliant.
The current menu, which has been smuggled out of the premises as if they were the Death Star plans (actually, that's not true - they just gave me it) currently includes crispy salt and pepper squid with pork crunch (£10), HK fried chicken with kimchi (£11), venison sausage with crème fraîche mash and *that* Roscoff sauce (£12), butter roast cauliflower with curry oil, brown shrimp and puffed rice (£12 or £10 as a veggie option) plus a £10 fish pie that promises to be the winter warmer you didn't know you were waiting for. Menu and prices are subject to change but as a starter for ten how hecking well does that read?
The menu is available Wednesday and Thursday evenings only, starting November 16, with vegan options also on offer when booking in advance. Reservations are strongly recommended whatever you're eating, though, with just a few spots available for walk-ins. Should the menu be a hit the plan is to expand the offering to Tuesday and Friday. Let's make it a hit. Book
Hayley Mills (Pollyanna, The Parent Trap, Whistle Down the Wind) will star as Evelyn in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which opens at The Alexandra, February 21. Don't pretend this isn't a Christmas present idea par excellence. Tickets —
If the promo imagery is anything to go by then The Orphanage, showing at The Blue Orange Theatre from tomorrow until Nov 27, is going to be chilling in the extreme. Book — Beauty and the Beast is showing at The Old Rep from November 18 to December 16. Tickets —
Tickets for Peter Kay at both the Utilita Arena (December 17) and Resorts World Arena (March 23) go on sale this Saturday, November 12, at 10am. More —
A festive market is heading for The Flapper at the end of this month, as part of a campaign to encourage people to ‘shop small’ over the festive period. Details —
New comedy festival, Belly Laughs, launches in January. Tickets start from £10 with £5 from each sale going to homeless charity SIFA Fireside. —
Beery bar Kilder, from the people behind Original Patty Men, are doing French Dip sandwiches tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday. That's Dunwood Farm roast beef, horseradish, Swiss cheese, fried shallots and greens with a pot of jus for dipping. 👀
WORDS: Claire Hawkins, Tom Cullen
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