Since moving to Birmingham in January to start my exciting new position as Head of Partnerships for Free Radical, I've had the opportunity to see a selection of the fantastic art Birmingham has to offer. It’s been really inspiring to learn how varied the work coming out of this city is.
As part of my introduction to Birmingham’s art scene I bought a Culture Feast ticket, getting me into 7 events, over 5 months, for just £30 - with venues including Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham Hippodrome and Town Hall Birmingham. Those that buy a ticket ('The Culture Feast Group') meet before each event to collect tickets, and afterwards discuss what they have seen. The idea is to make this experience a bit like a book club, and it’s been really interesting to have an opportunity to talk to people I don’t know about their views and experiences. 2018 marks the second incarnation of Culture Feast, and it’s looking very likely that it will run again in the latter half of this year, so do keep your eyes open for that, its well worth it.
If you’re also new to Birmingham or would like a bit of an intro into some of the cities cultural venues, I thought I'd put together a guide from some of my first impressions from the past 5 months, of 5 venues that I've attended.
Spanning across 2 impressive venues (Town Hall & Symphony Hall), there is an extensive programme at THSH. I've recently learnt that Symphony Hall has plans to expand and redevelop its foyer and box office space, to allow for a more communal foyer space that anyone can have access to, which I think will make a huge differėnce.
Backing right onto the gorgeous Cannon Hill park, with lots of natural light and a very open and welcoming foyer area - it’s a lovely space to pop into, and is always full of atmosphere. I've used the café to hang out, and seen work in both the cinema and the studio spaces - it presents a real variety of art forms: from films, to exhibitions, to theatre, to dance.
I have seen 5 theatre shows so far at The REP and have been so impressed by the quality of work I’ve seen. The main space tends to hold high production value pieces of theatre, most of which are co-produced or produced by The REP themselves. Additionally there are productions of new work in the studio space. It's an exciting place to hone your craft as well, as the venue offers a number of development opportunities for artists too. The show I have enjoyed most so far has got to be Brief Encounter by Kneehigh Theatre Company. The piece was beautifully choreographed and the energy was amazing.
The Hippodrome feels like a West End theatre, with velvety carpets and multiple bars, the pre-show atmosphere is bustle-y and exciting. I had the pleasure of watching Evita on tour at the Hippodrome, and as this has been a musical I have wanted to see for many years, I had an unforgettable evening.
A lovely, small but beautifully curated gallery right by the canal, IKON has been an arts venue I have visited on a number of occasions since moving to Birmingham. It's light and bright, with a great café run by Yorks. With a range of temporary exhibitions by contemporary artists, Ikon could run the risk of feeling alienating, but the organisation makes a real effort to feel inviting and inclusive with regular tours of the exhibitions that are hugely insightful, as well as workshops and opportunities for the community to get involved with.
Getting to know the city, its venues, the fantastic artists and the organisations that Birmingham has to offer has been really exciting. It does not surprise me how proud Brummies are of their city, there is so much here to be proud of and I can’t wait to discover more!