What do you remember about your youth? Spilling out of Snobs with your shoes ruined? Band t-shirts and dodgy piercings at Oasis Market? Assuming this bull was a badly drawn diplodocus? Relive the misery and occasional joy of your teenage years via Grown Up in Britain: 100 Years of Teenage Kicks, at Coventry’s Herbert Museum and Art Gallery, an exhibition charting how teenagers have changed – or evidently not – over the last century.
On arrival, you’re hit by an age-appropriate soundtrack – ‘90s jungle for us – and you'll see this is no straight-up photography show, more like social history come alive. Sprawling displays of publicly submitted snapshots jostle for attention alongside seasoned photographers, archival images, protest footage, and teen paraphernalia dating back to the 1920s, including rollerblades, zines and record covers.
If you’re after a chronology, you won’t find it here. The thematic presentation – with areas dedicated to ‘the classroom’, ‘love bites’ or ‘first wheels’ – is universal teen turmoil. “The reality is that while things have changed, nothing has changed. Those experiences of being young, getting your independence, feeling anxious about adulthood, have stayed the same,” says Lisa der Weduwe, Archive Projects Manager at the Museum of Youth Culture, who curated Grown Up in Britain.
The show also teases at what’s to come in Brum, as the Museum of Youth Culture is set to relocate to a new space in Digbeth (from second city, London) in 2025. “It's almost like a manifesto of saying: ‘this is what the Museum of Youth Culture is all about. These are the stories we want to champion,’” says Lisa. “But yeah, [the move] will be exciting. And it’s part of a push to collect more regional stories and make sure that when we open, we are a truly national museum that represents the whole of the UK, rather than being in a London bubble.” This is their second collaboration with The Herbert, having provided much of the imagery for last year’s 2 Tone: Lives & Legacies, celebrating the legendary ska revival scene, pioneered by The Specials and The Selector, which came out of Cov in the 1970s and ‘80s.
For Lucy McKay, one of the exhibitors, who has contributed documentary work and pictures from her own family album, growing up ‘round these parts was all about the rave. In a photograph taken by her mate Kelly (below) we see bright-eyed, 16-year-old Lucy in her bedroom, walls entirely plastered with party flyers in an interior decorating hack familiar to many. “There are two images on display I shot in this club in Coventry I went to in the mid ‘90s, called Crazy Daisy’s,” Lucy recalls. “It was in the middle of a motorway, hard to get to, but that was what I liked about it. People really, really wanted to be there. I remember waiting outside to get in, wearing sandals in the snow. I used to watch this TV show called Dance Energy presented by Normski. In the ‘90s I felt like what I was doing was the most original thing, but it's very similar to what happened in the 60s and the 70s – this kind of revolution in music.”
Lisa agrees: “When you’re a teenager, you want to set yourself apart from your parents and what they did. And that's why youth culture is always fresh and new. Young people are always pushing forward – in music, fashion and technology, but also in terms of social progress and protest movements. They're looking at the adults around them, and they're thinking: ‘what isn't right here? What would I do differently?’”
The soon-to-be-Brummie Museum of Youth Culture started out as a collection of professional photography linked to the style and culture magazine, Sleazenation, but it’s growing all the time – and now we’re all invited to help build it. “Everyone's been young so we think that everyone's got an important story to tell about that. In 2019, we launched a photographic submissions campaign, and it's evolved since then,” says Lisa.
You can submit your old photos, concert tickets, diary entries, tales of youthful defiance – see this as an unburdening – and add to the 10,000 already in there. You might just see those bittersweet memories on a museum wall. “We want people to recognise this as an important part of a social history, you know, a heritage that's at risk of being lost. But also we want people to realise that they can be part of history… this is living history and it's still ongoing.”
Whatever your decade or tribe, you’ll no doubt feel a swell of nostalgia wandering through the exhibition. Seventies hippies, aging punks and Carnival kids clash together in one crescendo of messy nights, political defiance and fashion. So, what are you waiting for? Get yourself to Cov for a trip down memory lane. Twenty minutes by train, to whisk you back decades.
'Alexander Stadium in the streets, Smithfield under the sheets' as absolutely nobody but me has been saying for weeks. Admittedly Perry Barr's theatre of athletics is the jewel in the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games crown, but the real party — and I do mean PARTY — is taking place over at the home of our outdoor basketball and volleyball courts. Just ask this sand-sweeper who went viral with moves Freddie Mercury would have applauded.
Free to attend, the Smithfield Festival site has a raft of live performances, giant screens to watch the sporting action and a different festival theme each night until Sunday (August 7). The programme features electro swing, South Asian music, jazz, funk and soul and some of the best local bands and artists. Tonight, in fact, international superstar and English singer-songwriter, Raye, will perform a live DJ set at the Beacon Stage.
The Smithfield offering also includes daily performances from acclaimed dance-circus ensemble Motionhouse (pictured above), who are wowing crowds in a metal globeymajig, every day at 6.10pm and 10pm. There's a new inflatable art installation inspired by Spaghetti Junction and screenings of new films, music videos and digital commissions throughout the day. Visitors can also enjoy a living green space created by the National Trust featuring trees, hammocks and badminton nets.
On today (August 4), from 1pm is MADE — a line-up of the region’s best musicians, DJs, street and visual artists including collaborations with the British and Irish Modern Music Institute and Girl Grind. Tomorrow (August 5), from 11am – Mostly Jazz Funk and Soul start the day with Big Fish Little Fish Family Rave followed by So Funk Dance Fitness. DJ Yoda takes to the decks in the evening with his headline History of Hip Hop set.
Saturday (August 6), from 2.35pm, Break Mission and Eric Scutaro present Queer-side — a celebration of identity and individuality from the Queer Community featuring Kimmy Beatbox, drag performances from Barbs and Beau Jangles; electric dance performances from the Welsh Ballroom Society and a headline set from Brum legend Sanity. Then, finally, on Sunday (August 7), from 1.45pm, Birmingham International Dance Festival invites everyone to bring their dancing shoes for a non-stop closing celebration through dance and movement.
Head here for the full programme. Don't let this beaut of a Brummie pop-up slip through your fingers. The buzz about Smithfield is something else.
CRESCENT: OPEN DAY
As local AmDrams will tell you, it takes a village to put on a play. Productions are a huge undertaking, encompassing a huge range of roles and now you’ve got a chance to see what’s behind the curtain of the Crescent, at their next Open Day on Sunday 14 August (11am to 4pm). With a telegram imminent from Queenie, the Crescent is a Brum institution, nestled in the quieter Sheepcote street, beyond Broad Street. It hosts a range of productions, from 30-strong casts with dozens of costume-makers, choreographers, musicians and – gulp – fight coordinators, to intimate casts of five, needing just a few technicians backstage like set, sound and lighting designers. It’s staggering how much work, people and planning create the plays you see, and The Crescent Company does this unpaid, for the sheer joy of it.
So if you’re intrigued to find out just what happens beyond the performance, they’re throwing open the curtains and bringing the backstage, front of stage. There’ll be guided tours, demonstrations, trade secrets revealed, and the chance to watch live rehearsals. If you’re particularly keen on a department – props, costume, sound – you can explore it all. You’ll also bag some reduced tickets for future shows, plus some lucky luvvies will win a few freebies. The brilliant thing is, The Crescent Theatre Company also welcomes you to be a part of it, whether you’re a budding director, actor, stage manager or audio mixer. If you’ve got a burning desire to pursue it, get on down and start telling people you’re in theatre, daaahling. All details on their website.
THE LIFE AQUATIC
A fact thrown about for free is that we know more about deep space than the deep ocean; but we certainly have better photos (no shade to the recent James Webb telescope pics). Look at these absolute corkers, from right here on planet Earth. See these ocular delights in film at the The Ocean Film Festival World Tour, coming to landlocked Brum’s aforementioned Crescent on Tuesday 18 October.
Circumnavigate, photo by Will Reddaway
Watch curated ocean-themed films exploring epic humans and stunning marine life, in a spectacular cinematic celebration of our oceans. With some films as little as five minutes long, and the longest just 39 mins, your ticket (£15.50, or £13.50 for kids) buys you an evening of the entire film selection, plus prize giveaways. The line-up of films range from zeitgeist-nodding Tiger Shark King, following the man who sees the tame(r) side of sharks by saving them from fishing hooks, and Circumnavigate, chronicling one man’s paddleboard journey around the treacherous British coastline.
Still from the film, Eyre & Sea
You can see what absolute stunners these films are, revealing footage from beneath, and right in the middle of, the waves. Not only spectacularly showing off the ocean’s creatures and mammals (Eyre & Sea, I am Ocean), these films also show captivating human endeavour, including the surfer who adapted and relearned his passion after losing his arm in an accident (Rebirth), plus the life and death moments of big – nay, huge – wave surfing in Mar; waves you and I couldn’t even bodysurf. And, apt in the current plastic-ridden world, one man’s exploration of marine debris and the sheer scale of one rubbish-strewn beach in Alaska, If You Give a Beach a Bottle is a beautiful, watercolour-fuelled ode to the seas.
Still from the film, Mar
With the UK leg of the tour working with two charity partners – the Marine Conservation Society and Surfers Against Sewage – The Ocean Film Festival first began in Australia, aiming to inspire people to explore, respect, enjoy and protect the oceans. And it most definitely will, as this mesmerising trailer proves. Plunge into a night of ocean stories at The Crescent on October 18 from 7:30pm, with another local chance in Shrewsbury on October 26.
A Taste of Handsworth is a sparkly new walking tour that kicks off at Soho House where you get to taste several Georgian delicacies including game pie, before heading out for Ethiopian coffee, Polish pastries and ending with a tasting platter at the legendary Soho Tavern. £25 —
Chocolate and whisky, the Sonny and Cher of gastronomy, meet at The Whisky Club, August 26. £26.50 —
I have crazy fond memories of going to see Colourscape in Cannon Hill Park as a little boy. I was properly taken aback by it. It returns on August 14, from £3, courtesy of the MAC. —
Birmingham's first ever Cockapoo Cafe pop-up looks every bit as good as it sounds — get surrounded by happiness on August 20. Prices vary but if you're an adult with no dog it's £11.25. Details —
Sign the Save The Bull petition. Save him from the mechanical abattoir. — Kids eat free at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse and at Sommar Brew Co.
Rachel Segal Hamilton, Claire Hawkins, Tom Cullen
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"There's nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on underwater, you realise that you've been missing the whole point of the ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring at the outside of the tent."