Issue 269
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Fancy playing Pokémon Go, but collecting poems and pints instead of Pikachu? Then the Verve Poetry Festival needs nudging onto your radar. It runs from today until Sunday and includes Overhear, a phone app-slash-walking tour that'll send you on a delightfully boozy, written word stroll through poetic parts of our city.   
Essentially you'll be introduced to a host of local, vibrant and relevant poets via some of the most unique and off-the-map bars, pubs, coffee shops and spaces in and around Brum. The poetry is, literally, all around you, and unlockable care-of the app. The verses on Overhear are inspired and informed by life in Brum: from our streets, to the tower blocks to the factories. The exclusively commissioned poems are personal accounts of each specific scene, which adds context to even the most benign detail and a little more feeling to the minutiae.
Okay, once downloaded from your app store, Overhear directs you towards an off-the-trail nearby bar (we were sent to the JQ's awesome The Wolf — pictured), and once you arrive, your phone clocks your location and you can crack on with collecting your first poem. The poem gets downloaded to your device, added to a playlist and it’s yours to keep and absorb as you sup. And that’s where the fun is: as well as finding a new fave tipple, you can discover an original (and usually local) artist. It'll then point to more poems in more nearby independent venues. 
Where isn’t it at? New poems pop up all over the place — but could disappear just as fast. The app took us to The Birmingham Whisky Club (above) where we collected a poem by Sean Colletti, a Southern Californian living in Brum. It made us re-evaluate how we order our dram, rethinking our measures entirely. After that, Matt Abbott’s The Gunmaker’s Arms (collected at, you guessed it, The Gunmaker's Arms) examined the pillars and the patrons of the 19th century pub:
“See, I ain’t from Birmingham (as you can tell)
and I ain’t from Brixton, either.
But that’s the beauty of poems and pubs:
with open arms they pull you in
and wet your lips and set you free.”

- Sean Colletti, 'The Gunmaker's Arms'
And Casey Bailey’s Dear Birmingham was more than enough to stir a sense of hometown glory. His poetic style is instantly accessible, lacking in pretence and armed with a tone that's hard-hitting on one line but humorous by the next. His spoken word raps dissect Birmingham from both a personal point of view as well as representing its collective consciousness: a love letter but also a warning shot.
“They call it the second city,
But whenever I spend a second out the city I know there’s nowhere better I could be,
Proud Birmingham son, married one of its daughters,
Met her in Kings Norton, bought the ring in Jewellery Quarter”

- Casey Bailey, 'Dear Birmingham'
The man behind the curtain is Hockley-based audio-wizard Tom Peel, who created the app as a platform to encourage the growth of Brum's creative community. In short, he’s building a scene, man. Working in partnership with Verve, Tom is creating more than just an exposure opportunity for poets; his venture sees the artists and businesses involved rewarded for their participation by using footfall to support unique talent. 
Two choices, download the app and head off on your own, or, if you don’t fancy going it alone because you're a technophobe (mom), then get booked on to one of the upcoming Overhear guided tours. Ben Waddington (surely the Stephen Fry of Brum tours) presents tailor-made walkthroughs: a one-off experience dependent on the hour, location and the weather forecast, where you can collect poems as well as pub trivia ammo for days.
Tours run alongside Verve Poetry Festival. Hit the tickets button and scroll down. You can download the app here.  


What can be said about the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that hasn’t already been said? Nothing? Okay, in which case, let’s dance! Celebrating 50 years since the release of the seminal album, Pepperland translates the music into movement at the whim of main man, Mark Morris. Who he? Only the guy The New York Times calls the 'most successful and influential choreographer alive'. Featuring musical re-arrangements of choons you may have heard once or twice (With a Little Help From My Friends, Penny Lane, etc) the crisp costuming and set design psychedelics channel the swinging 60’s and all the associated Beatle-related hysteria. If you don’t remember the Sixties — because you were there, maaan — or because you’re far too young, Pepperland's at the Hippodrome on March 26 and 27 and we've secured a helluva discount. If you're up for buying four tickets then the total fee will be £60, instead of £118. Follow this link, select four "Fab Four" tickets (coloured pink) from the Stalls or the Front Circle, and you'll be paying just £15 each for a top TOP seat. The discount is automatically applied after the "add to basket" and optional "charity donation" stages of the booking process.


Pint of Science festival comes around each May and aims to break barriers and get the chat going between scientists and the general public. This year, the event, ahem, blasts off with warm up act and NASA astronaut Tony Antonelli, who has clocked more active hours in space than we have on our iPhone screen time. This is your chance to ask what you’ve always wanted to about that vacuumous, all-enveloping void above us. Make it a good one. Hang with Tony on Feb 18. Tickets from £18.
Venue: All Greek Street Food, 33 Stephenson St, B2 4BH; Facebook 
Choice: The Classic Greek (£5.50) Chooser: Larisa (co-owner)

There are six "House Rules" emblazoned on the wall of All Greek Street Food and like the badboys of Birmingham that we are, we obeyed none of them.
1. Come With Friend and Family (went alone). 2. Put Your Phone Away (took this photo). 3. Sit Back and Enjoy (sat on a stall) 4. Talk to the Person Next to You (absolutely no chance, mate) 5. Appreciate the Small Things because they are the Big Things (no, you've lost me) 6. Come Back Tomorrow (didn't). And if we're banned for failing to tick a single box we will be absolutely devastated because this place is bone fide beaut. Why, oh why are we (pretty much all) spending £5.50 on Pret lunches when this charming, family-owned 12-seater is filling tums at the same ticket price and tastes a gazillion times fresher? It's a simple set up (there are more house rules than there are main menu items) with chicken or pork gyros, perfectly charred souvlaki, loukaniko (traditional pork sausage) or pork belly, all on warm, fluffy pittas. Veg and vegan options are also heavily in the mixer at what is a surprisingly light on the stomach and utterly return-to-able gem. Seek it out behind the Midland Metro fencing on Stephenson Street, because they really don't deserve to be hidden away behind fencing.


Collar Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings from the Royal Collection Trust, and ask him which of the dozens of Leonardo da Vinci sketches, currently on loan to BMAG, is the most breath-taking. He might make a beeline to this one — it's where he took us. The anatomical accuracy of Leonardo’s goose-quilled drawings has rarely been surpassed in any form, with many still using them to teach surgeons today. Here his dissections of the hand provide a multi-layered investigation of bones and muscles, approached with the eye of an engineer or architect. The exhibition also includes A sheet of miscellaneous studies which includes details invisible to the naked eye. Because he was that kind of frightening genius. The exhibition will never return to Birmingham. Never is a long time. Until May 6, free.


In a parallel universe, Paul McCaffrey is as big as Michael McIntyre. Think that’s a bold claim? See him live. The guy is a room-destroyer. The Winchester native is one of the modern greats when it comes to observational comedy, partly because he can spin potentially mundane topics – car boot sales, holidays abroad to visit the “old town” with your partner, celebrity fitness influencers – into pure stomach ache-inducing gold. McCaffrey also has a face for comedy. One disbelieving look with those big, round eyes evokes memories of a young Ronnie Barker, while his comic timing and ability to leave audiences gasping with nothing more than a throwaway glance has been safely tucked away as vintage Eric Morecambe. That big TV break will invariably happen. In the meantime, book your tickets (£12, March 8).
Escape from Candy Land before you Skipbo with a Munchkin. It's board game day this Sunday at Kongs and you'll find all of the above plus a whole bunch of other gloriously random boards to play. From 12pm.  
Birmingham International Horror Show is probably looking at you in the shower. The short film showcase is at The Victoria on March 10. Tickets are £3.50.
Deolali is now Coach House — a cafe, bar and cheese platter sort of joint, officially opening in Moseley at 11am this Saturday.
The latest bar takeover at Nocturnal Animals is outrageous — Laandaan's Sexy Fish *and* Artesian are in residence on March 28 from 7pm. First come, first served for bar spots.

"Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen."

Leonardo da Vinci

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WORDS: Robb Sheppard, Tom Cullen, James Gill
PICTURES: Leonardo da Vinci — Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Tom Peel by Craig Bush

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