Issue 251
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People are zip-lining from a Chinook. There's a crashed plane balanced precariously in a tree and we're hearing reports of tarantulas. We're just 15 minutes outside of Birmingham and we're about to plunge, cage-free, into a tank full of sharks. Welcome to The Bear Grylls Adventure.
So WTF? Well, Edward Michael Grylls — or "Bear" to you and me — has essentially created an adventure park between the NEC and Resorts World full of activities designed to test you, physically and mentally, and presumably make a stack of cash. Zip, leap, fly, dive, climb, get a little bit shouted at, then go down a really aggressive slide (where we sustained our only lasting injury of the trip), before eating a pizza with scorpions on it  — you zany nutter, you. Whatever big ticket activities you ultimately select (like the high ropes, pictured — the highest in Europe!), the experience starts at basecamp (£20), which includes the hardest escape room we've ever been in, an ace archery session with happily cheesy photo opp (see top), a faintly terrifying maze complete with creepies, crawlies and a healthy dose of claustrophobia just in case you're starting to get too comfortable.
But the out-and-out winner for us was the (apparently) Marines-grade assault course, which we only needed to be pushed, pulled, or rolled over a few times by our obliging instructor: it was challenging without being impossible, the feel-good spot. If you don't like participation, or the idea of Bear telling you to "NEVER, GIVE, UP" in a growling voice by the medium of motivational videos, basecamp might start to grate on you. And without giving too much away, there's definitely room for improvement around the snake room, the basically impossible escape rooms and the flow of the experience generally. But at £20, this bizarre, unique and, at times brilliant, experience being just down the road means probably only a fairly miserable person wouldn't give it a whirl.
Having graduated basecamp, it was time for what all the staff gleefully refer to as our "hero" activity, for which we somehow ended up in a tank, in full scuba gear splashing around with 14 sharks, pufferfish, a gang of rays and all sorts of aquaticness. LOOK! That's us (above) casually strolling through a tank like it's summer in Cannon Hill. If you haven't dived before, the experience is pretty incredible, with proper PADI-grade instruction before you get friendly with Jaws, Nemo & Co. Under the sea, shark-nerves quickly turned to wonderment and an unexpected sense of calm. The rays were super friendly and the sharks, quite frankly, couldn't have given less of a sh*t. The rest of the fish were just beautiful and, taken from aquariums, more interested than phased by us. Though not cheap (it's £100 to dive, including basecamp), if you've ever had any sort of aspiration to take up diving, this little taster — with excellent, patient (sorry, Brian!) tuition — is a neat way to start. Diving with sharks in one of the most landlocked cities in the UK? Nice move, Bear. Real nice. More (from the MAN, HIM, SELF)


A lot like Kenan and Kel but with sake rather than orange soda, JQ players Salt + Earth and The Vanguard are getting it together for two flavour-filled nights. Try a Japanesey six-course tasting menu, including dishes like langoustines with onion, olive oil and ponzu, as well as beetroot with fermented wheat and cockscomb mint, which has a sweet, lemony, basil-vibe if you're a details sort. The menu is matched with Vanguard-grade genius libations, like Akashi-Tai Daigino Genshu sake (YUM!) with rain moss perfume to go with the beetroot dish. It's £70 a spot, with sittings of no more than 18 in The Vanguard (above 1000 Trades) at 6pm and 8.30pm on 22 and 23 October. Bookings taken for tables of two or four. Tickets


There’s a Brum institution that’s survived war, recession and eighties fashion. The CBSO's 2018/19 season includes everything from Broadway biggies, to the brooding sounds of Shostakovich, all via Nat King Cole’s caressing croon; so it ain't just for the orchestrally initiated. The must-hear highlight, however, is the UK premiere of Roxanna Panufnik's Faithful Journey. Panufnik's recent Last Night of the Proms showing received big love, and her performance, on November 21, marks the return of virtuosic Music Director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla from mat leave. If the price tag is holding you back, how's about a mystery seat? Pay £13 to guarantee a seat worth £19.50, with a shot at a top seat. Sorted.
Venue: Purnell's, 55 Cornwall Street, B3 2DH; website
Choice: Roast halibut (£90 for 11-courses; lunch is from £39) Chooser: Us

With all these impressive younger kidz on the B'ham kitchen block — we see you Harborne Kitchen, Hampton Manor, Folium and The Wilderness — it's been years rather than months since we had the full Purnell's experience. And from whizz bang new plates, to twists on Glynn's classics, may we never leave it so long again. Cheese and pineapple sticks have become a creamy, velvety start that will make you grin hard. We have no idea who first thought beef carpaccio should get to know octopus, bresola, beef hash and a chivey crème fraîche, but by golly-gosh-gandy we're overjoyed that they did. And the shining light in this happy collect? The roasted Scottish halibut with Jerusalem artichokes, vanilla and an in-CRED-ible chicken and red wine sauce (extra jug provided as standard!) beat Glynn's famous monkfish masala without the requirement for a photo finish — the balance of flavours was outrageously good, letting the perfectly cooked piece of fish play lead. And before you wonder if Glynn's got something on us, there were a couple of less than 10/10s — Roquefort matched with lamb was a little bit lost on us, and the beetroot tartlet — though completely beautiful — lacked the vim of the other dishes. But so much more important than loving every single bite, was rediscovering a kitchen that still shows huge ambition, and a restaurant, that under the hands of manager Sonal Clare, is undoubtedly leading the way in service in Brum. Look forward to seeing you again soon guys.


The seasons are on the turn and the films down the pictures are starting to have awards on their minds: Glenn Close is out of the gate with this classy dark comedy, which is almost a cert to have her on a few podiums come spring time. She plays the wife of a world-famous novelist who’s growing fed up with living in his shadow; and she’s absolutely fantastic in a part that’s not as obviously showy as other Oscar plays. Close's growing frustration with her hilariously pompous husband is elegantly done, and there’s an extended sequence with a quasi-stalker – played by, of all people Christian Slater – that’s hilarious. Yes, this is one of those films where all anyone does is talk about books at cocktail parties, but there’s an interesting take on how folks — as liberal as they come — can be gormlessly unaware that they are also as sexist as they come.
Times & trailer


Life is a Rollercoaster, crooned Ronan Keating. As always, he was along the right lines. In a brand new production, The Capital, Life is a Treadmill and you got to ride it (all night long!). Internationally high-fived theatre company, Stan’s Cafe, takes this premise and plasters it all over the practices of modern life, as the show sees the cast navigate moving travellators (pictured) — seven metres in length and weighing a tonne — evoking interconnecting careers, relationships and friendships like some sort of multi-award winning music video from 2006. In case you've somehow missed them, Stan’s Cafe’s previous out-there productions include 24 Hour Scalextric — which does exactly what it says on the tin — and I See With My Eyes Closedwhich you need to see for yourself, eyes open. The Capital starts Oct 24 at The Rep and tickets are from £15. Ready to get yours? Ok, Go! 


One Friday in 1981, the owners of the Smith and Pepper factory closed its doors, never to return. Formerly one of the biggest manufacturers of gold in the UK, the JQ family setup seriously avoided modernisation, making the site they abandoned much like a factory operating in the fifties would have looked, and a dreamland centrepiece for the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter. The order books are still out and the tooling functional. Other than cleaning items, the changes Birmingham Museums Trust has made since taking over the big gaff are tiny, allowing you to step into this time capsule of a factory via an actually interesting tour: there's a bit with fire and everything. It's £7 to look around. And for the first time, there's a triplet of wintry screenings, all at £12 a spot. Catch Gremlins on Nov 29, The Nightmare Before Christmas on Dec 6 or It's a Wonderful Life on Dec 13. Watch out for gold dust.
Grandfather of black British photography, Vanley Burke, is in conversation at Opus on October 10. It's free to attend but you need to register here. Stay for dinns after and it's three courses for £30.
Mad Hatter is taking over the taps at The Juke today from 6pm. Tzatziki sour anyone?
The history of boxing in Brum's got its own ruddy-bloody exhibition. Check out Fighting for Our Heritage until December 2 at BMAG. More

Oxjam Brum is in Digbeth on October 13. Expect live music, entertainment and fun(d)-raising at The Mockingbird, Suki10c, The Engine Room and Dig Brew Co. Tickets are £12.50.

We don't want to cook dinner tomorrow night either. Bun Shop is at Caneat from 5pm with a proper good cheesebuger, kimchi gravy poutine and two plant-based burgers — aloo tiki and an aubergine "bacon" option on vegan potato brioche. Oh momma.

"Didn't see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. Thirteen-footer. You know how you know that when you're in the water, Chief? You tell by lookin' from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn't know was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent."

Quint, Jaws (1975)

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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Robb Sheppard, Andrew Lowry
PICTURES: Graeme Braidwood (Stan's Cafe)

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