Sunday, 24 March 2013

Weekend of Brum Culture

Sitting in the MAC café before seeing an 'encore' (ie not quite live ;)) performance of Alan Bennett's "People" from the National Theatre in London.

Despite some snow and ice interruptions to normal service in the city, been able to enjoy some of what's on offer now in Birmingham, which can surprise those who still subscribe to the bad old image of the city (itself not quite fair even back then, whenever then was).
Stirchley doesn't have the caché of King's Heath or of course Moseley. It has the Coop, a small row of shops including one of several Baltis in the area, a couple of pubs and a number of DIY places and builders' merchants, but the lengthy Pershore Road slices through any sense of community, or can do: there's no hub other than the Coop which will soon be challenged by Tesco whom every local politician seems desperate to welcome for the bit of redevelopment they are offering in return for taking over the local economy.
The new Stirchley Stores, a small premises on the Pershore Road near the British Oak pub and Bournville train station, offers a welcome bit of community enterprise. Fresh- baked bread, baguette, croissants, as well as spices, coffee, Eco-friendly washing-up liquid, loo rolls, and all at 10% off if you volunteer at least four hours a month in the shop or behind the scenes.
Rest of the afternoon in Urban Coffee in town (coffee not cheap but high quality and no rush to move on, and great to support another independent), before a drink and a curry at the hidden gem that's the Old Moseley Arms in Balsall Heath (and remarkably warm thanks to a coal-effect gas fire opposite our seats), lovely old fittings and tasty food, no music except for the live nights on a Sunday or festivals. Friendly.
Great gig at the Ort Café opposite the old Moseley swimming baths. Ort is another community, not-for-profit venture offering a stage for artists, musicians and performers in a basic but welcoming environment; and a café and bar for people to drop in (cup of tea 50p) without having to be of an income to afford the city centre.
Three really excellent, talented and spirited singer-songwriters, one solo and two with band - Jess Morgan, Chris Tye and T.G. Elias: Ort Blog post has details and links to their websites.
Playing like seasoned professionals, which they probably are by now, all would be worth seeing on their own in full concerts. Look on iTunes or elsewhere for their downloads, and even better, get to one of their gigs.

Location:Birmingham !

Sunday, 10 March 2013

An International weekend

Celebrating Sanctuary celebrates the contribution of refugees and asylum seekers in Britain. In this case, specifically through the musical traditions of their respective countries of origin.
Chinese traditional music group Jasmine Moon play beautifully, with their Chinese lead on keyboards, an English student of Chinese music on a variety of wooden flutes, with Shanghai born Guhzheng player (a Chinese instrument sounding something like a harp).
They were prefaced by some entrancing playing of traditional Sufi music from an Iranian virtuoso now based in Wolverhampton. There's a clip of an earlier performance on YouTube.
This was held at the Ort Café in Balsall Heath, one of those hidden treasures of Birmingham that more people are getting to know.
Ort Café page

Today we enjoyed a Meetup group, the online network which gets people to meet together in person, with Germans, Austrians, British, Finnish, Spanish, Portuguese, New Zealanders and Bulgarians all represented!

None of this would be possible if Birmingham wasn't home to those working, studying or seeking refuge here. For me it's so important that the anti-EU voices, the anti-refugee hate campaigns (for that's what they amount to) and all those fearful and at worst xenophobic tirades from right-wing presses and parties are opposed. Don't try to appease UKIP and the rest. Let us be a home for those fleeing persecution. Welcome the talented and hard-working people I know from Germany and elsewhere help to build up our ailing economy (and remember that it may be thanks to German ownership that companies here are still in action).
Enjoy the positive spirit and energy these people often bring, and show how Birmingham can really be a home for everyone.


Saturday, 2 March 2013