(Issue 142)
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Behind an arch, in a former custard factory and in just about every crevice in between, this city of 1,000 trades is still making and creating and valuing real craftsmanship. This week, we've been sharing a sofa with the brushes and the brains behind Seven 9 Signs. And if that's a name that doesn't mean anything to you, we're betting every reader a miniature Shetland pony that a part of the portfolio will.
Appearing on the other side of what looks like a lock-up, Jim Kerr (not that one) is deep in thought. He's working on the main sign for new Moseley bar Cheval Blanc, which launches on Saturday, and can't decide whether the lettering needs gold shadowing. We're zero help, but looking around Jim's huge, light, letter trove of a studio, we're sure the former graffiti artist, street artist, urban artist "or whatever they're calling it these days" will make the right shout.
Pondering why he got into words — a subject which the artist formerly known as Zoot has been fascinated by since childhood — Jim explains "I'm very artistic and very dyslexic, so letters are probably something of an enigma to me". An enigma which Jim's been covering Birmingham in, 100% legally, ever since discovering he was to be a dad. Concord House (yep - the one with the flat that sold for £1.8m — pictured) is a project Jim particularly enjoyed. Taking a week of planning and a day and a half on a scissor lift to finally execute, the text can be seen all the way from Brum's urban dining room of a greenhouse, MPW. Jim also worked on the interior.
A project Jim is always keen to accept is the freedom offered by hand-painting ice cream vans. Coming in pre-summer waves, Jim's put his retro Americana mark on four givers of sub-zero joy this year alone. And some pretty important consultants input into the van-mounted mouse, pictured. Herbie and Maggie — Jim's children — get to see the van they helped to design regularly, as it finishes its route via their road, albeit somewhat painfully/perfectly past their bedtime.
Painting signs for plenty of local businesses including new openers The Pig & Tail, Browns Parlour (see top) and The Dark Horse, whilst finalising the lettering for Provide's "on-tour" store, Jim got spontaneous with wooden offcuts and leftover paint. The result was a range of wallet-friendly, nostalgia ladened signs, which are available to buy through Provide, who have shacked up with a big bunch of art talent at 212 Space. Visit them. You'll feel infinitely more creative by association.
Taking on plenty of private commissions, Jim completed this 23.5 carat gold water gild with matt centres "for a friend's Dad's second wife's birthday, or something". Despite giving up a life which saw Jim exhibit his art in Munich, London and New York, he doesn't regret the move. "Artists have a predisposition to manic depression - having choice taken out of the equation allows me to enjoy what I do. Having parameters and knowing when to walk away. It's liberating" Jim says, gazing back at the sign for Cheval Blanc. It's got gold round three of the letters by the time we leave.


A new Steven Spielberg is always going to be major, and while this child-oriented offering can’t quite match the heights of ET, nobody had a go at Michaelangelo when his later frescoes didn’t quite match the Sistine Chapel. Everybody knows the book, so let’s not bother with synopsis – all you need to know is that a motion-captured Mark Rylance is perfect as the eponymous giant, and Spielberg palpably delights in creating his world. A slightly meandering middle might try the patience of young 'uns, and the interactions between the live action Sophie, and the various computer-born giants are at times awkward in their realisation, but a master on an off day is still a master. Times


The 1920s is to Gatsby's America, what 2016 is to the JQ — its sparkling, coming of age. So in case you need an excuse to check out its new tacqueria (opening tonight), or the plethora of other spots vying for you affections, the JQ Festival is your food, entertainment and craft crammed opportunity. They've even got a helter skelter for Pete's sake. From July 22 to 24, catch comic Barbara Nice, CircusMash, or get behind the doors of the workshops of more than 50 artists, craftspersons and creatives, with the help of this ever so nifty open studios map. Taking place from the Golden Square (pictured) to Fleet Street, there's folk music and a bar to entice you as far as Newman's Coffin Works. Full programme
Venue: The Button Factory, 25 Frederick Street, B1 3HH; website
Choice: Cumin lamb leg (£13.50) Chooser: Waitress

The consummate weekender, The Button Factory has taken over the Jewellery Quarter's terrace of potential, which was Vertu. With an open kitchen as the focal point of the dining room, and a cheffing team that moved across the country for launch, the Middle Eastern-y menu is refreshingly interesting without veering too close to pretension. The chargrilled squid was spiced and finished adeptly, whilst the n'duja croquettes had just the right amount of kick to warrant some dispute as to who should get last bite rights. In terms of mains, the menu is small but perfectly formed, and that we wanted to try every dish says a lot about the thought that went into it. Stepping up for coronation though, the generous slices of what must have been one helluva lamb's leg, served with a cumin-based herb combo of Ottoman pleasing proportions, a yohgurty dip and a light, doughy flatbread. A simple sounding plate of food, but an exemplary one. Menu


If cucumber triangles are no longer doing it for you, it's probably time to take a look at Praza's take on afternoon tea, in leafy ol' Edgbaston Village. Including peppercorn and bay leaf infused black masala chai by way of the hot stuff, expect bhajis, samosas and a beetroot, chickpea and goat’s cheese cup. Throw in sweet treats like cumin and orange scones, plus motichoor ladoo — one of India's top sweet treats. From £15.95 on the last Sunday of each month. More


In a fight between Hollywood colossus, John Malkovich, and the Symphony Hall's humdinger of an organ, who would you back? It's probably not a question you've put a lot of thought into but with Call Me God! premiering in Brum on March 21, the scenario has become a dramatic reality. Catch a rare personal appearance from Malkovich — and his crazed battle between words, music, genius and delusion — while organist, Martin Haselböck, responds with Bach and Messiaen. Tickets start at £12.50 rising to £58. 
  • Climb inside the mouth of a whale this weekend at Summer in Southside. Taking place on Saturday and Sunday, there'll be music, food, drink, and a beach. Of course
  • The Great Wall of China and Niagara Falls are coming to the Midlands tomorrow. In Lego form. Bricks Wonders includes more than 70 models, at Herbert Gallery until January
  • Book now to join Celebrity MasterChef’s Hardeep Singh Kohli and Itihaas at the Botanical Gardens for comedy, curry and whisky pairings. On September 19, tickets are £65
  • Arty performance exchange festival, Brum Spirit is coming to Moseley Baths this weekend
  • The Bride of Frankenstein marks Dudley Castle's first ever night of open air cinema on August 6. In conjunction with the delectable Flatpack crew, tickets are £10
"Scary monsters are like Hula Hoops. They come in and out of fashion." - John Malkovich
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Andrew Lowry

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