Blog May 2008 - AndyPryke.com
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Saturday 31st May 2008

Beloved

Across to Compton Verney to see Beloved. It looked like a slightly tortuous journey without a car, getting a train to Leamington Spa (40mins) then a taxi to Compton Verney itself (15 mins) but it all went very smoothly. The reason for this journey? To see another Fierce Festival piece by Nicole Blackman, called Beloved.

Beloved is a performance for an audience of one, a guided tour with a silent guide. In an interview last year for Fierce, Nicole said that there are various pronunciations, but her favourite is "Be Loved". It's about small acts of Kindness, acts of love. Although we did whisk through the galleries, most of the action took place behind closed doors - a dance with a stranger who stares into your eyes, a (silent) hand massage, videos and audio performances telling stories of kindness, all in a peaceful and comfortable environment.

Hard to describe, but at the end I wished that this could be available to anyone, anytime they needed some pampering.

For more acts of Kindness, you should really have a look at the Toronto Star's Acts of Kindness series. The "Castle Greyskull" story had me in floods! The Birmingham Post should definitely run one of these...

Leamington Spa

Leamington Spa is really nice, I can see why so many students from the University of Warwick live there. I've only visited for the Leamington Peace Festival before, which has so much going on that I didn't have time to explore further. By the way, the festival this year is on the 14th and 15th June, and is well worth checking out - it's always sunny, even last year, when there were floods the day before!

I ate at Eleven, a French restaurant, which served a very nice asparagus with parmesan ice cream and a good, though slightly salty vegetable quiche, and a nice cardamon spiced creme brulee. Not too far from Brum, very close to the train station and well worth a trip.

The last train back to Birmingham from Leamington is after midnight, so there's little chance of being left stranded.

Friday 30th May 2008

The Courtesan's Tale

Nicole Blackman's Courtesan's Tale has been performed at the Fierce Festival several times, and always sells out. This time I heard the story "The Chateau", having heard "The Dinner" back in 2005. The room at the Hippodrome was dark, peaceful and seductive, with cushions on the floor, eastern rugs and drapes over the furniture. We were greeted by Gabrielle, who offered us mint or rose tea, and bid us make ourselves comfortable. Strawberries, chocolates and other titbits were also spread out for us.

I can't tell you anything about the story, but if you ever get the chance to attend, make sure you do. It's well worth it.

BirminghamBloggers

A couple of additions to the list of BirminghamBloggers:

Peter Bacon is based in Lichfield which is close enough smile His blog, The Jazz Breakfast Blog, has currently got an interesting post on Polar Bear records in King's Heath.

Added Russ L's Blog . Russ is based in Rowley Regis, and seems to be as interested in the many arts and music events in the region as I am. His blog is currently headlining with an extensive list of "Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands in June".

The formatting of the BirminghamBloggers page should now be sorted out - I wasn't aware that it had been screwed since a software update a while back, so if you'd like to be added, drop me a line at blog (at) andypryke.com

Upcoming: Climate Change Festival

Climate Change Festival Logo

From the 1st of June, Birmingham will be hosting a very large Climate Change Festival , there's lots going on and it should be both busy and fun!

Climate Change Festival - What's on
What's on - spot the deliberate mistake with the dates

Birmingham Friends of the Earth will have an exhibition throughout the festival and stalls on Saturday the 31st May and hopefully Thurs 5th and Sat 7th of June too, so do pop down and say hello!

Thursday 29th May 2008

Events at The Edge

The Edge is a new arts space run by Friction Arts, who's previous home was in the Five Ways shopping centre. It's on Cheapside, which is the road parallel to Bradford St on the side away from the Custard Factory. Tonight, it was hosting a series of performances and video installations as part of the Fierce Festival.

First was Milee's (Feng-Ru Lee) performance as her alter-ego, Milee the Sheep. The piece was called Into The Space and reminded me of the durational series which has recently finished at Vivid. Milee the Sheep hung suspended from an umbrella in the centre of the room, presumably flying up into space, after boarding her rocket (shown in an accompanying video piece). It made me think of the moth who flew to the moon.

Milee the Sheep - Into The Space
Milee the Sheep - Into The Space

Next, I saw videos from Sima Gonsai, documenting her Cycle Dialogues. One which intrigued me showed her starting from Birmingham airport, and asking advice from strangers as to what route to cycle next. It reminded me of a journey I made to Wren's Nest, setting off by car and asking people on the way if they knew how to get there. I thought at the time this would make a good video project.

Finally, something shocking for the Fierce Festival. I'm used to the nudity, and sexual references which are relatively common in contemporary performance art, but watching someone pray is a very different, and potentially disconcerting experience. In Too Punk To Pray, Sufi Punk, a very "punky" lady, prepared herself for pray by removing her make up, piercings and jewellery; tieing up her hair; ritually washing her hands and feet and donning more appropriate garments. While she performed this transformation, a tape loop of interviews with athiests, pagans and others played in which they spoke about their prayer or relaxation rituals. A very interesting piece, though I think it was hard for many of the audience to see.

Sufi Punk - Too Punk to Pray
Sufi Punk - Too Punk to Pray

Secret Garden

Behind Closed Doors are the group of artists who brought us the excellent Haddon Tower Project, set on the 18th floor of a soon to be demolished tower block, so I was keen to see what their new project Secret Garden would be like.

Knowing that they were using a number of shipping containers to construct temporary spaces, I wandered into that yard next to the Custard Factory which features lots of nice graffiti, and seems to have acquired some shipping containers. However the friendly security guard informed us it wasn't there, though he'd had lots of people popping in to ask. Still, I did see this cute squirel:

Sad Squirel

On Floodgate St, past the beautiful factory door which I always thought led to nowhere, is the entrance to a secret space. Leon and the others have transformed this for an exhibition which will run until the 15th of June (10-6 daily, 10-4 Sundays). There's a shipping container-sized camera obscura, a garden with a host of bird song (though the original birds are, I fear, long gone) and a beautiful tumbledown shed with a host of intriguing found objects. There should also be a "light box" visible from the 50 bus route (amongst other places), though I didn't spot this during my visit, perhaps it was too light outside to see it.

Pop down and explore, you can also get a nice view of the River Rea from an angle normally unseen.

Secret Garden
Secret Garden

Saturday 17th May 2008

We Must Eat our Lollipops with their Wrappers On

This dance piece from South Africa featured some great harmony singing, mainly in languages I didn't recognize (though I'm guessing some was Xhosa because of the "clicks". They made innovative use of live video, at one point projecting the faces of audience members to replace the head of a prone dancer. My shoes also made an appearance, being collected, along with others, to form a HIV ribbon on stage, which only became visible when a web-cam was lowered from overhead and the image projected onto the back drop.

We Must Eat Our Lollipops With Their Wrappers On
We Must Eat Our Lollipops With Their Wrappers On

Friday 16th May 2008

Fierce Festival Launch Party

This year, it was at The Vaults on Newhall Hill, which is a road leading up to the Jewellery Quarter clock tower. It's quite a nice venue, with the old fashioned cellar vaults providing a series of alcoves which can be screened off for private parties. Unfortunately I arrived too late to see Barbara Nice (who stage dived) or a Princess Di burlesque act (that's what someone told me...) but in plenty of time for meeting lots of nice people and having a good boogie!

Upcoming: The Fierce Festival

So what's happening at the Fierce Festival?

The Courtesan's Tales

My top pick is Nicole Blackman's The Courtesan's Tales, a performance for one person, in which the Courtesan tells you a story in a modern version of Shahrazad's Arabian Nights. I saw (heard?) it at Fierce 2005 and it was excellent. Obviously, tickets are limited and it will sell out (it did each time it has been performed previously). You can get tickets from the Hippodrome on 0870 730 1234. Book 'em now.

First Performance

I plan to check out Jiva Parthipan's Terror of Living and Necessary Journeys at Warwick Arts Centre on Weds 21st May. I've seen his artist led arm wrestling and banana milk-shake making marathon (not as innocent as it sounds) at previous Fierce Fests, and his latest work deals with the influence of chapatti-flour bombs on the British relationship with asian food, and the problems of trying to pass US imigration when you have the "wrong" ethnic origin.

Bank Holiday Weekend

There's loads on at Fierce, including a "tradition english fair" in Brindley Place featuring people dressed up as bears; another chance to catch The Divine Edgar on Saturday(; and even Julian Cope lecturing at the Town Hall . Load and load and load more, check out the Fierce Festival Events List for times and places.

Sunday 11th May 2008

The Last Ever Gig at the Jug of Ale

Tonight, so we are reliably informed, is the last ever night that the Jug of Ale in Moseley will be open. I arrived reasonably early, but on a hot sunny day, the front of the pub was heaving, with a one-in-one-out policy in operation. Inside, the queue at the bar was pretty slow, but there was quite a lot of space, and the fire-exits were open, so you could get in and out at the back with no problems.

I missed the earlier bands, but arrived just as the 2nd to last band finished. The last band to every play at the Jug was Misty's Big Adventure, who played a good mix of their best material, including many of their older songs. We also had the audience chanting for Arthur Tap, the tireless promotor who has put on so many bands here, and appeared up on stage. A chorus of "goodbye-eee" and a chance for audience members to get up on stage and sing along as "Monkeys and Donkeys"....

Bye bye Jug, and thanks for all the wonderful times smile

Erotic Volvo from Misty's Big Adventure
Erotic Volvo from Misty's Big Adventure

Thursday 8th May 2008

Could the Clinton Campaign go Bankrupt?

News reports say that Hillary Clinton has had to lend her campaign money again - $6.4M in the last month, and the campaign already has debts of more than $10M. So anyone donating money isn't really going to move things forward, they're just going to put a small dint in a very large debt, and if Hillary does manage to pay off the money she owes everyone else, then donations will be going towards paying her back her $6.4M! According to Slate "What happens to Hillary Clinton's debt when the primaries are over? ", senator John Glen's debts after his presidential attempt lasted more than 20 years!

Still, with a joint income of $109M over the last 8 years she should be OK for money.

So what happens next with the democratic nomination? I can't see Obama giving Hillary the VP spot, for one main reason - the VP become president if the incumbent dies, and having seen how she campaigns, would anyone really trust her not to push him under a bus?

Wednesday 7th May 2008

Testing The Echo by David Edgar

A great play which looks at the new UK Citizenship test. It doesn't come to any conclusion, but does raise a lot of issues. Just what questions should be in a citizenship test? Should we have one at all? What does it aim to achieve? One issue the play only touches on is why the "testees" are here in the UK and applying for citizenship in the first place. Other play's I've seen recently (e.g. If Only The Dead Could Listen) and the testimonies I heard at the Independent UK Asylum Tribunal have dealt with some of the more horrific reasons why people come to the UK, but that wasn't the focus here.

The actors demonstrated some amazing transformations, playing different characters so well that I was hard pressed to workout how many actors there were!

Discussing the citizenship test in the Rep bar afterwards, I wondered if the right question was "Who would we want a UK Citizenship test to reject?"

Monday 5th May 2008

Walking at Edgehill

Edgehill is in Warwickshire, not too far from Stratford and very close to Compton Verney . We'd headed out to see the gallery, but as the clothing needed for the weather changed from waterproof-trousers to shorts, we decided to give the indoors a miss and get straight out in the sun.

We followed a nice circular route, first through sheep fields with lambs, the fields still ridged from medieval strip farming .

Hairy headed sheep
Hairy headed sheep

Sheep and Lambs
Sheep and Lambs

Undulating fields
Undulating fields

Next we climbed through some young woods, and did a quick steep uphill section on the road which brought us to the top of the escarpment, know as "Edgehill" as it's a kind of linear hill. We then followed a narrow path through woods thick with different native plants, including bluebells. I was on the lookout for wild garlic, but didn't spot (or smell) any, though it's easier to find when in flower.

Path through woods
Path through woods

Bluebells
Bluebells

Three quarters of the way round brought us to our pub stop, a fantasy castle shaped pub, the Castle Inn. It was built by the local landowner on part of the site of the first battle of the English Civil war. It also served a very tasty pint of Hook Norton beer!

The Castle Inn
The Castle Inn

After a drink and a sit down, with a nice view over the land below, we headed off again, back into the woods and then down to the village we'd started in. What a nice way to spend a bank holiday smile

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