Heard enough about Birmingham? Upon a recent visit down south to my second home, I was tormented with a few nationwide fallacies about my darling home town.
Heard enough about Birmingham? Upon a recent visit down south to my second home, I was tormented with a few nationwide fallacies about my darling home town. Firstly, we are not in the North – based squarely within the West Midlands region, Birmingham is the second city. Secondly, we do not all speak like Lenny Henry – that, my friends, is a Black Country accent. The third thing is that despite what the Tourism department at the Council will have you believe, there is more to Birmingham than just shopping. If you believed the tourism department, you could risk believing that anything outside of the bullring is merely ‘the abyss’ and don’t worry, I’ve got enough time to tell you differently.
Get to know Kings Heath
Kings Heath—A permanent favourite of mine, this is an area culturally saved by the recession. Gone are the High Street chain stores, gone is the McDonald’s and instead is an area with enough space to let culture develop. Start your Saturday in the Kings Heath Park tea rooms, after a wander across their beautifully tended grounds and perhaps a meander into the arboretum. Finished with that? Go to York Road, browse through the delights of Top Banana Vintage Clothing store and then head across the road for the irresistible Kitchen Garden Café – a deli, café, garden shop and meeting room rolled into one heavenly combination.
To see the outdoor fairy lights, visit in the twilight. At 4pm in the Hare and Hounds you’ll find the Back Bar Blues Club, live sessions from Birmingham’s foremost jazz and blues artists. The music continues till 8, but at 6.30 there is Community Cinema showing of Wasteland at the All Saints Church Hall. Wasteland follows artist Vik Muniz as he heads from Brooklyn to the world’s largest rubbish tip (Jardim Gramacho) on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.
…or its cooler older brother Moseley.
Still not enough? Come back to the Cross in nearby Moseley tomorrow evening for the hottest jazz club this side of the city centre. JAZZ SHARK is the free jazz night hosted by the Greyish Quartet with an open kitchen and special guests every week. Is there a better way to finish Shark week? Not really.
Celebrate the soul—Festival of Chariots
The other Festival in Birmingham this weekend is the Festival of Code, seriously cool, but only if you’re under 18 and if you like code, and if you applied months ago. This festival is bigger, better, grander, spectacular and for everyone. This event is the 13th Birmingham Ratha Yathra Festival and is India over our city centre with colour, vitality and enjoyment. There will be a procession with the enormous Jagannatha Chariot at 10.30am, from Victoria Square to the Bullring and back. Following that, there is a free festival in Victoria square, with dance, music, and drama, a meditation area, market stalls and a free vegetarian feast.
Warm up for the REP
Get your theatre socks back on, after a four year hiatus the REP is returning to the forefront of Birmingham theatre for its reopening season. However, if you were one of the many who sincerely missed the REP and vowed not to return to theatre until the prime site next to the Symphony Hall was restored then, like me, you may need to ease yourself back into theatre. Be brave; get a taxi down to the New Bingley Hall in Hockley for a Sunday Evening performance of the Diary of Black Men. Tried and tested success, this play has been touring the US and the UK for nearly 25 years. Work your way back into the play scene of black theatre, and try not to scream when you realise Soweto Kinch is starring in the Legend of Mike Smith at the REP in Mid-September.
The world has not now, and nor will it ever, revolve around the social and sometimes frivolous pursuits of entertainment. Travel for a different reason. At 11.30am this Saturday, travel to Birmingham Cathedral in Cathedral Square for a very special event. If you need directions ask for Pigeon Park or expect very blank looks from locals, but come to the city centre for the Hiroshima Day Commemoration. An event filled with prose, poems, and music by the Clarion Singers. Whilst you’re there, take the opportunity to enjoy the stillness of one of the most peaceful places in Birmingham in and amongst the business of the city centre. And if you’re local, stop by in the week for tranquillity, music, talks and prayer.
That’s five things to do in Birmingham and I’ve not even come close to covering it all. Feel free to head to the Nature Centre, take the children to see the most interesting animals outside of the Safari Park, or just opposite, the BBC studios where they record The Archers. I’ve not even mentioned the huge club scene, including recently revived gay super club The Nightingale or eating out in Birmingham.
Some luxury hotels have restaurants so fabulous, they’re worth a visit by themselves. I’ve definitely gone over my word limit.