Issue 194
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THE DOG DAYS ARE OVER

In February a 90-year-old tree was torn down near Broad Street to almost universal uproar from the people of Birmingham. On Saturday, this Saturday just gone, Hall Green greyhound track, itself exactly 90 years old, held its last ever meet in front of just 1,500 punters. Most Brummies had no idea it was going. But it's gone.  
The only fanfare to mark its farewell was the digital trumpeting of the First Call, that signalled last bets on the final race. A trumpet call that had preceded last bets on tens of thousands of races before that. Whether the stadium is vanishing because the sport is outdated and cruel, or if it's going because money talks, isn't a debate for now. But this time next year a 48-bedroom hotel and 210 houses will be built where part of Birmingham culture once roared. For our money, that's worth documenting.
When we arrived at the stadium on Saturday, for our first visit in the best part of 12 years, a couple were struggling to gain entry because they hadn't pre-booked. They explained to the manager that he had popped the question at the dog track and that they were marking their anniversary by saying goodbye to it. Without charging them a penny, without having another word said, she waved the pair through. It might not be the most romantic place on Earth, but for those two it literally is. Literally was.    
We spoke to dozens about their attendance that night and a familiar story formed. "I came to pay my respects" they'd say, sipping on bad lager and chewing on worse chicken. They visited regularly years back, the story would go, and they'd bet trackside with bookies who would calculate the ever-changing odds in seconds before wiping down whiteboards (or blackboards) and updating their figures with frightening mental arithmetic. Only one bookie remained who did it this way. The rest, trackside, relied on digital boards and, sadder still, inside punters queued in droves to place bets on machines. No chirpy "good lucks" from old ladies sat at desks as they de-crinkled crumpled fivers. No congratulations or commiserations, just cards going in to machines that would spit back betting slips. Welcome to factory betting: one of many individual nails hammered into this particular coffin.    
Our own experience of mid-90s nights at the dogs went something like this. Actually it went exactly like this. We'd meet at Moor Green FC — another sporting institution forced out of Hall Green, this time courtesy of arson — and we'd watch our local team get beaten in the rain. We'd wander over to the dog track, via the The Bull's Head, betting money we couldn't afford, money earned in part time jobs at WHSmiths, or at Next, or at Gateway, on dogs with daft names.  
We had a choice: stand indoors and smoke a zillion fags by proxy, or stand outside and freeze with the bookies. Whoever had won the most that night would be forced to spend all his winnings and more, on four balti meats, four naans and four Kingfisher. The same night, with the same friends, replicated 20, maybe 30 times over.

God, we think we might even miss this place.

The Greyhound Trust are looking for homes for retired Greyhounds. Head here.

FILM: VALÉRIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS


There’s not much point summing up the plot of this film – something about two secret agents trying to save a deep-space city from destruction in the 26th century. This is a light show. It’s been getting cruel reviews, as if director Luc Besson (Leon, The Fifth Element) was interested in anything other than spectacle – and what spectacle. From Rihanna as a shape-shifting singer to any one of the hundreds of creatures sometimes only glimpsed, this masterpiece of design is so extravagantly eccentric and riddled with insane decisions, it has to be seen to be believed. If this all sounds like a way of saying Valérian is this year’s Jupiter Ascending, that’s because it is. See it now, before the bad movie podcasts get their hands on it. Times
 

WHEN YOU LOSE YOUR SPECTACLES. AND THEY'RE MICROSCOPIC. 


That elegantly titled Willard Wigan MBE of Wolverhampton way is back with twenty-one miniature works, which do things like perilously sit within the eye of a needle. Many of the artworks are new to Birmingham, including the world’s smallest pair of glasses (on a pin head, sculpted from gold and using real glass lenses), possibly not a category Guinness and their record book saved a great deal of space for. Also part of Wigan's collection at the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter — Hattie McDaniel, first black winner of an Oscar for her performance in Gone with the Wind, a teeny tiny boat, and Fred Hammond, the Grammy-winning Gospel singer. Opening tomorrow right through to October 28, tickets are bookable from £5.

THE HIPPODROME'S HELIPAD


In an eight show week, how many times does the helicopter's rotor blade spin in the Hippodrome's new production of Miss Saigon? The correct answer is 3,600. We saw it on Tuesday, we counted the number of rotations, then we multiplied by eight. We didn't. But what we did see was a cast of 35 — A LOT in theatrical terms — dance and sing and hustle and fight from deep down in their souls. And belting, soaring soprano vocals came from the tiny frame of wide-eyed protagonist Kim (played by Sooha Kim), who takes looking crushed to realms we hadn't known possible. Uplifting? Absolutely not. But this is a big, important, record smasher of a show that will make you sob like you've grazed both your knees and dropped your 99 Flake. And there's something hugely cathartic about that. Until Sept 23. Tickets (from £30)
Venue: Boston Tea Party, 30 Harborne Road, Birmingham, B15 3AA; website
Choice: Sweetcorn hash (£8.15) Chooser: Shaney, assistant manager

Convincing us to place an order other than the eggy bread, avo and bacon at Boston Tea Party? Hard work. So wet kisses directly on the face of the airy new Edgbaston cafe's assistant manager who recommended the sweetcorn hash with such conviction, that listen we did. The fairyland of veggie brunching, the main event comes with poached eggs, an avocado and tomato salsa and halloumi (yes, we L-O-V-E halloumi too). But back to that hash. Sweetcorn holds hands with ginger, pumpkin seeds, garlic and coriander, to make the dish that takes chef the longest to prep from the all day menu. Get a bit of everything on your fork to reach full herbivorous hedonism. With as much room for families as for delicate feeling heads, and shared tables surely designed for solo Sunday paper dissection, Edgbaston Village's BTP's got five distinct areas as well as a pebbled outdoorsy bit. Head to "The Orangery" at the back of the store if you're planning a long stint.

OUR NAME, NOW IN EDIBLE FORM


From a 3D shot glass, to a selfie or hand-drawn design, to our chuffing logo — print any of the above, in edible form, in five of your human minutes. The excellently patented Magic Candy Factory is said to house the fastest 3D printers in the world. And between jaunts to Dubai Mall, strawberry printing at Wimbledon, and Heidi Klum’s Halloween Party in NYC, the 150 portable printers have seen most of it too. Halal, kosher and even freaking vegan, you can print your face via the intermaweb for £8 right here. Or talk to the team to get a 3D printer at your next shindiggery. This is how it went down (in 21 seconds) when we took over the the factory's controls. 
 

BRUTAL BULL RING BUYING


For all those gifting occasions when only a hand cast brutalist bull will do, Space Play's got answers. Well, nine answers remaining from their limited edition run when we last checked up on their stocks. Their latest work is the 1960s inspired iconic Bull Ring bull pictured, which they've created in composite resin, as opposed to that other kind. Presented in a laser-engraved and hand-numbered black presentation box, the sculptures are available exclusively from Provide. Each piece is finished by hand using an oxidisation process which gives every bull its own rust colouring and patina. The 26 x 11cm free standing beaut is £100 over here.
 
  • Birmingham Weekender (September 22 to 24) has just released its full programme. And holy smoke it looks all kinds of greatsome
  • We've lost whole nights to Dirty Martinis of the Londinium persuasion. And now the bar is taking 7 Bennetts Hill (so the Viva Brazil gaff), ready for a late 2017 launch
  • Developing our entry to The Church's Hot Sauce-off has become a full-time matter. August 13 is the big live fight, minus any physical fighting. We'll be collabing with a guy called Strength. Join us?
  • Maybe try crocodile or springbok at Nakira Bar & Grill, which opened Tuesday on John Bright Street
  • Get a whole 40% off food at imminent waterside opener The Canal House, from 8 to 13 August. Book here
Lisa: "What's Santa's Little Helper doing to that dog?"
Bart: "It looks like he's trying to jump over her but can't quite make it. Come on, boy! You can do it!" 
- The Simpsons episode: Two Dozen and One Greyhounds
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WORDS: Tom CullenKaty Drohan, Andrew Lowry
IMAGERY: Greyhound racing — good pics: James Tate, less good pics: Tom Cullen, Miss Saigon — Cameron Mackintosh Ltd

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