Issue 445
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With talks, screenings, workshops and even DJ sets, Birmingham Design Festival returns from June 8 to 10 with a new format, including its biggest ever event, under the banner theme Imagine. The sizeable work of Brummie designers Daniel Alcorn and Luke Tonge, the annual do is at the cornerstone of the city's design community, but as granular as it can get if you want it to, it also welcomes the design curious just as much as it attracts the design obsessed. Daniel and Luke picked out just four of the eight speakers who will be appearing at The Rep on June 9th and you can find out plenty more, right here.


Brian Collins
Brian Collins is Chief Creative Officer of COLLINS, an independent experience design company in NYC and San Fran. They were named by Forbes as one of the companies reshaping the future of brand building. Over his career, Brian and his team have won every major creative award going, working with the likes of Levi's, Amazon, MTV and Disney. In 2015 the COLLINS global redesign and identity system for Spotify was cited as one of the year's most notable designs by Fast Company, Wired and Design Week. "Basically Brian is the driving force behind one of the best design agencies in the world," says Luke. "And his enthusiasm and knowledge make him one of the best communicators, too. He's a real character, and absolutely not to be missed."
Sonal Jhuj
Sonal is an Effie award-winning strategist from India and has spent a majority of her career with global creative agency DDB. Two years ago she packed her bags and moved from Mumbai to Billund (Denmark), to become part LEGO's global mission to inspire the world to play. As Marketing Director she has a front row seat to the wildly creative world of kids and spends a disproportionate amount of her time thinking about the future of play, culture and the role of brands in shaping a world that helps kids thrive. Sonal worked closely on this Katy Perry-powered Holiday campaign.
Oliver Jeffers
Any parent who's read an Oliver Jeffers bedtime story to a child will have a colossal soft spot for the mercurial author and designer. Lost & Found, for example, is a simple tale about a boy and a penguin and their growing friendship, but it lingers long after the book is closed. Oliver is a visual artist and author working in painting, bookmaking, illustration, collage, performance, and sculpture. Curiosity and humour are underlying themes, while investigating the ways the human mind understands its world, are key Jeffers-isms as, very much, is comic relief. His twentieth book as author and illustrator, Begin Again, will be released in October 2023. "Oliver was recently described on The Great British Menu as a 'rockstar of the illustration world'," says Daniel. "We are incredibly lucky to have him with us in Birmingham across two days."
Abbie Heppe
Abbie leads live service game development at Media Molecule, a British video game developer based in Guildford. She draws on her background in community, brand and production to grow and support live operations. "For the last four years, using Media Molceule’s Dreams, players have been able sculpt their imagination to anything they see fit," says Dan. "From incredible art, to music, to fully-fledged games all available for anyone to download, play and remix inside the Dreamiverse. We couldn’t think of a better example of complete unfiltered imagination."


Seven workshops will buddy-up with the guest speakers throughout the festival with prices capped at £40 (£25 for students). Join Birmingham's own Kaye Winwood on a food workshop that'll play Wonka with your senses or check-in for mini classes on animation, mural-making or calligraphy. There will also be a screening of the aforementioned Oliver Jeffers' movie Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, plus a get-together at Hockley Social Club.


The Birmingham Design Shop will be on site selling a range of books and magazines," sayd Dan "But one thing we're very excited about is the range of exclusive custom merch designed for us by Oliver Jeffers. We'll have t-shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags and pin badges for sale at The Rep, alongside a huge range of Oliver's amazing picture books. Bring your pocket money!"


One in six people in England experiences a mental health problem — such as anxiety or depression — every week. That's wild, isn't it? How have we got here? How do we reverse the incline? What's the alternative? 

Hoping to put the spotlight on the issue and maybe discuss a few of these points, as well as supplying some much needed escapism for Brum, BEDLAM returns in its tenth year, this time with a one-off evening under the banner Bedlam Late.

Taking place at MAC on May 16, the event will include a triple bill of live performances, starting at 7pm. First up is The Head Gardener, a delightful theatre show that digs deep into the reasons why we could all do with a bit more horticulture in our lives. As we all know, there are sunny days, and there are bleak days and, during the show, two brothers will tell their real-life tales of how gardening has provided huge relief from 'the black dog'.

Next up is a fictional piece entitled SICKKK ICARUS. Icarus, a gamer, is lost in a world of grief after the passing of his Dad, Daedalus. In this retelling of the famous myth, we are reminded that sometimes you have to fall to fly.

Then the triple bill completes with Halfway Round the Bend: A cheerfully anarchic fusion of stand-up comedy and contemporary confessional writing which explores the writer/performer's own lived experience of mental illness.

All in, an absolute steal at just £11.50. Book


Robin Williams once said "spring is nature's way of saying 'let's party'." And as life bursts into technicolour once more, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group will doff its cap to Mother Nature with their own long-awaited mini party in the shape of T R E E, a concert which lands at Town Hall on May 12. Originally due to take place in spring 2021 but delayed due to Covid, it now features as the highlight of the 2023 BCMG in Bloom season. The concert is a celebration of nature, with a programme that explores the connections between nature and us. Six years in the making, the piece focuses on the ‘natural’ series of overtones, with a libretto that takes the form of a tree.
From £15  


Admit it, you've always wanted to do The Roundhouse's kayaking tours but have never been sure if you've got the sea legs (or the paddling arms) for the job. Well now you can find out without committing to an entire tour thanks to their new taster sessions, which run Wednesday evenings at 6pm and 7.30pm for a leisurely 30-minute mini-paddle across central Brum's canals, right by The Roundhouse. Instructors will get you on the water safely and teach you everything you need to know to get paddling around confidently — including the critical learnings of how to get on and off. Who knows, it might be the beginning of a whole new hobby. And what have you got to lose? I'll tell you, a maximum of £10 that's what! Book
Venue: Itaewon, 43-45 Station St, Birmingham B5 4DY; website 
Choice: Korean Fried Chicken Platter (£26) Chooser: Gordon Su, owner 

Lean in and take a nibble. It's okay, your colleagues aren't watching. Succumb to the temptation of what is, in my opinion, the best Korean fried chicken in Brum.

But let's back up a bit. Itaewon (named after perhaps the most multicultural suburb of Seoul) opened near The Electric Cinema, eight months ago, and by their own admission it's not been plain sailing. Footfall in that area isn't exactly 'The Ramp' volumes and initially all dining had to take place upstairs, so those who did peer into Itaewon would see an empty restaurant — hardly appealing.

Now though, they've pulled the restaurant downstairs and had a full interior redesign, with delightful nods to the Korean capital and the country's culture throughout. The next job will be to convert the upstairs (which is huge, by the way and will remain open) into a Korean self-barbecue spot, something deeply lacking in dear old Brum — with extraction likely to be a hefty two month job before they can open that.

But don't wait for it, the downstairs was buzzing on our visit, filled to standing with Southeast Asian diners and merry office sorts. Big recommendations include salt and pepper squid and the traditional tteokbokki, a shallow sort of Balti dish full to bursting with rice cakes and vegetables in a sweet and sour sauce of almost soupy consistency. A garlicky lick making it a worthy port of call for anything and everything that needs a good dunking.

But the standouts were obvious. Beef bulgogi bibimbap featured thin strips of meat, charred but soft over supple rice and a crispy fried egg. A fiery bowl of accompanying sauce was ripe for further dippage. It's this dish I'll be going back for but not without always (and I mean always) making space for the fried chicken. The secret lies in the double-frying, doesn't it? The chicken is fried at a lower temperature to cook the meat through, then it's fried again at a higher heat to crackle up the coating, creating that shatteringly crisp exterior while keeping the meat inside super juicy.

A plethora of sauce options almost overwhelm that particular page of the menu but stick Itaewon's secret sauce down as one of your picks while the Korean tartar is a really fun gamble. The purists will recommend going for the bone-in wings but, honestly, the faff-free strips made for the best bite on the table. If the upstairs barbecue punches at half the hit of the new look ground floor then it'll be a hell of a ride.

It's hard not to be rooting for owner, Gordon Su, who came to the UK to study but has thrown himself headlong into the city's hospitality sector, betting the farm on his love for Korean food. Gordon learned to cook each dish himself over months and months, taught in person over dozens of visits to Seoul and even via lockdown zooms by one of his best friends, a highly respected chef. Give him a try. He's on to something.

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Batty but brilliant Custard Factory restaurant, 670 Grams, is teaming up with the city’s Sake Events Company to offer Brum a fine-dining evening of top food and Japanese sake. The idea of Samuel Boulton and Dina Gestoso-Mattar, the brains behind the short-lived but much-loved Shibuya Underground, the night will consist of a one-off bespoke ten course menu created by renowned chef-owner Kray Treadwell. It’ll go off on May 14 with both a lunch and dinner sitting, the ten courses paired with ten different sakes, as well as a welcome and leaving drink. Prices start at £130pp and to book please contact the restaurant on


Brum's street art enfant terrible and subvertising commander-in-chief, Foka Wolf, will launch his latest exhibition, One Way Ticket to Hell, at Stirchley's Stir Stores on May 19. Featuring a collection of daft but provoking unseen works made from neon and lighting, the free to attend gallery of the grotesque will run until July 7 with Foka, as always, testing the darker side of human nature (see above). To celebrate the opening, if "celebrate" is the right word, Stir Stores will be serving a special "hot p*ss" cocktail a nod, you'd hope, to one of Foka's favoured phrases. An enlarged Earth To Hell train ticket piece will also get a 'glow up' alongside at least a dozen other pieces. 
Women On Tap is a four-day UK-wide festival for women who want to learn more about beer and their Birmingham stop-off will be at Attic Brew (Stirchley), May 27. £15 

The folk behind High Vis Fest are hosting an art-orientated Anti Coronation Day at The Station Pub in Kings Heath, on Saturday (May 6). Details

Food at the new look Prince of Wales (Moseley) will come from the people behind Italian hits Laghi's (Five Ways) and Mulino (Millennium Point). The menu will include arancini ad grilled chicken puccia. Instagram

Stirchley brewery Glasshouse are deep in the throws of a tap takeover at the UK's first self-service bar, AutoBrew (Custard Factory) which will last today and tomorrow (May 4 and 5). More 

Barbecue deity Andy Low N Slow will takeover the kitchen at The Button Factory (JQ) on May 18, 19 and 20, followed by May 25, 26 and 27. Here's hoping that roof terrace gets some sweet sweet sunshine. Book

A few tickets still remain for Digbeth Dining Club at Highbury Hall (Moseley) this Sunday (May 7). On the same day and following a hugely successful pop-up at Kings Heath's Pause, Stoop Bagels will appear at Couch (Stirchley) 1pm to 6pm, walk-ins only. It very much appears that one of them will have lobster in 🚨.

Eastside Projects (Digbeth) will host the Duplicate Publishing Fair, an annual celebration of printed matter which aims to explore what duplication means in a digital age. Bringing together independent publishers from across the UK, the fair will feature over 50 exhibitors selling artists’ books, comics and zines, while a programme of free artist-led workshops and talks will explore themes surrounding self-publishing. Details
WORDS: Tom Cullen

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"On our planet, there are people. One people is a person.
You are a person. You have a body. Look after it, as most bits don't grow back."

Oliver Jeffers, 'Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth'

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