Area Culture Guide

The Pocket Culture Guide for the West Midlands Area

READ the latest edition of AREA GUIDE here….

Pick up a copy of Area Guide from the area’s best coffee shops, bars, galleries and independent stores.

We’ve packed this edition with over 90 summer festival competitions. Read inside to find out how to enter. ALL of the festivals listed are up for grabs.

Read it online here.

REVIEW > The Manor House of Whittington

When you just want to eat some comforting, tasty food then finding decent venues that will make all guests happy can be difficult. Trying to cater for different food tastes, a venue with atmosphere that looks good, and offers decent value too – well you may be hard pushed, until now.

The recently refurbished Manor House of Whittington on the A449, just outside of Stourbridge, is a worthy edition to the list of several such venues to pop up in the area over the past six months.

A fond watering hole for Black Country families looking for a drive out in the country, or for a pleasant amble on a sunny day from nearby picturesque Kinver, The Whittington (as it was) served up bland Sunday lunches and uninspired sandwich snacks. A recent major refurbishment has certainly changed that. Now a buzzing restaurant offering Josper charcoal oven made steaks, wood fired pizzas, and a comprehensive range of gastro foods as well as an extensive cocktail and wine list, the transformation is worthy of its £1.8m refurbishment by the Revere Pub Company (Owned by Marston’s). Continue reading “REVIEW > The Manor House of Whittington”

March Culture Listings >things to do, see and make


1 March, 6:30 – 9:00pm (and 3 May, 6:30 – 9:00pm)
Cherry Reds, John Bright Street, Birmingham
Stitches and Hos are a motley crew of enthusiasts for all things knitted, crocheted and stitched. For nearly 10 years they have been creating stitched chaos at festivals, galleries and shindigs. Anywhere they can get out their needles. This class is designed for those who are new to knitting or those who would like to reacquaint themselves with the basics. You will learn how to cast on (using the knit stitch method), knit stitch, purl stitch and casting off.
£30 includes all materials along with a hot drink and a slice of cake.


4-18 March
Gavin Bryars, Errollyn Wallen, Project Instrumental, Decibel, Anna Palmer, Hans Koller with BCMG, and works by some of the emerging talent from Birmingham Conservatoire’s composition students: these are just some of the experimental, creative and boundary-pushing artists headlining Birmingham’s Frontiers festival of new music (4-18 March).  The two-week Festival, presented by Birmingham Conservatoire, brings together some of contemporary music’s most forward-thinking artists and exciting new projects in venues across the city.


11 March, 7.30pm – 10.30pm & 12 March 10.00am – 4.00pm
Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry
Brush off the snow from your boots and step into spring with our spectacular arts and craft fair. Join us to meet a host of fantastic local artists and makers to help brighten your home ready for the start of a new season.

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11 March – 19 June
Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry
A unique opportunity to see one of the masterpieces of The Courtauld Gallery’s collection in Coventry. The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry will be showing Edgar Degas’ famous painting, Two dancers on a stage, alongside three other works by the artist. A founding member of the Impressionist group of artists, Degas was fascinated with the ballet, painting dancers at rest, practicing and performing.


Until 12 March
Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre
Renowned for his film installations which re-enact conversations from specific historic moments, Irish artist Gerard Byrne works with photography, video and live art to explore the way we understand the present, through revisiting the past.


12 – 13 March
mac birmingham
Women & Theatre in association with mac birmingham have worked with residents across the city to develop Theatres of Conscience, an engaging new production depicting the tribunal experiences of Conscientious Objectors in the First World War.
With 6 interactive performances to choose from over the weekend  Theatres of Conscience offers audiences the chance to experience a WWI community tribunal and observe men of conscription age come to request exemption from “joining the colours”.  Audience members will act as the panel of tribunal members as men come to share their personal situations and reasons for applying for exemption.


13 March – 2 May
The Lighthouse, Wolverhampton
Tiny, tiny, tiny art is on display from Wigan who is famous for the art he produces in the eye of a needle.


17 & 18 March
mac birmingham
The year is 1966. Sheila is 17, unmarried and pregnant. She is given no choice but to give up her child for a ‘better life.’ Based on true experiences, The Best Thing is a poignant, humorous and gritty story of mistaken morals and the power of unconditional love from Vamous Theatre, the UK’s leading full mask theatre company.
Tickets £14 (£12)

Trainspotting-Landscape (1)

23 March – 2 April
mac birmingham
This punchy, immersive production recaptures the passion and controversy of Irvine Welsh’s cult generation-defining novel. For this 21st anniversary production, the Scottish cast have created a snappy, vibrant retelling capturing the power and humour of the piece.
Tickets £15

Until 27 March 2016
Artists’ Studio, New Art Gallery Walsall
Kimyoncu’s residency is informed by his perspective as a disabled person and background as the son of a professional soldier. Previous works have focused on the subject of conscientious objection and ‘being different’ in conflict zones. During his residency, Caglar will extend his research into the issue of the militarisation of youth, and seek to provide a space for those voices he identifies to be excluded or marginalised in society.

FESTIVALS in Birmingham you should visit in 2016

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Whether it’s dance, music or art that floats your boat there’s certainly more festivals to choose from than our poor wallets can cope with. If spending a day travelling and then sleeping in a muddy field isn’t your idea of heaven – then check out these gems taking place right on your doorstep this year.

5-6 March
University of Wolverhampton, Walsall Campus, CBSO Centre, Birmingham
Weekend ticket: £15 full price / £10 concession
Fancy something a little more participative? Well this is the festival for you. A celebration of COMA’s innovative open-score project – this festival features contemporary music with a participative approach. Join musicians from Birmingham’s Contemporary Music Group, the CoMA East Midlands and CoMA West Midlands ensembles, and contemporary choir Via Nova to rehearse, workshop and perform pieces by composers with strong CoMA associations.
Anyone aged 18+ is invited to play or sing – all participants must be able to confidently read music; experience in a choir or band/orchestra is desirable but certainly not essential to join in the fun.

12 March, 12-5pm
The Bond, Digbeth
Tickets: £35 general admission & £75 VIP admission
Now in its fourth year – expect hundreds of whiskeys to choose from for your sampling pleasure – please pace yourself (responsible drinking of course). The organisers promise the most ‘creative masterclasses at any festival’, street food and lots of entertainment to shake your whiskey filled glass in the air along to.
Birmingham Whisky Club members can also score VIP tickets for £31.50 (plus booking), so if you’re partial to a dram or two it might be worth investing in a year long membership.

25-28 March
NEC, Birmingham
Tickets: Day visitor £27, Weekend Visitor: £57, Bring Your Own Console (BYOC): £99
Obsessed with Call of Duty, giddy about Battlefront or spend your work breaks searching Youtube for gaming hints and tips to bust out out when you get home? Well you better pencil this date in your diary. As the UK’s biggest gaming festival it features a hitlist of special guests plus LAN gaming areas, Q&A sessions, esports tournaments and an exhibition hall to spend all your hard earned cash.
With a BYOC ticket you’ll be granted access to the event for the whole weekend, 24 hours a day; with a guaranteed seat in the LAN halls to plug your gaming device into, plus access to all other areas of the event.

19-24 April
Various venues, Birmingham
Pictured top> A real highlight in the festival calendar (pictured) and this year marks its tenth anniversary. Having carved itself a respected place in the UK’s film scene over the last decade you’ll see an eclectic lineup of new features and shorts, with a sprinkling of special guests. There’s also an array of installations, walking tours and pop-up screenings o’plenty taking place throughout the city.

23 April
Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham
Tickets: £10 standard entry ticket
A brand new event with over 100 exhibitors showcasing a range of publications, books, original art and of course – convention exclusives. There’ll be panels, cosplay and rare appearances from creators of DC, Marvel, 200AD and Beano.. A great excuse to order a costume from amazon, dust off your workwear and take on the persona of your favourite superhero for the day.

1-22 May
Tickets: various £££ depending on venue, also free performances
Produced by DanceXchange and Birmingham Hippodrome IFDB is a major biennial festival that will provide a rare opportunity to watch world-class performances: from ballet to neoclassical, contemporary to physical theatre, hip hop to flamenco and circus all taking place in theatres and public spaces across Birmingham and the West Midlands.
A festival of UK and World exclusives, one being the world premiere of The Machine Show (Centenary Square, 11-14 May) a brand new dance and circus spectacular, with dancer and choreographer Melanie Lomoff (France) and hip-hop dance icon Salah (France), headlined with live music by the French band Rinôçérôse.

29 May
NEC, Birmingham
Tickets: General admission £46.20, including afterparty £51.70
Another festival celebrating its tenth birthday in 2016 and this year promises to be its biggest yet. With over 50 artists across 7 stages including: Panic at the Disco, New Found Glory and Four Year Strong, the organisers have this year incorporated the Genting Arena, Forum Live, Pavilions 1 & 2, plus outdoor stages.
Guest DJ’s, exclusive singings from your favourite acts, and what will promise to be a memorable afterparty.

21-23 July
Bond Co. Digbeth, Birmingham
If like us you enjoy a craft beer or two then you’ll raise your glass in appreciation of this festival. This year sees the introduction of the first Birmingham Beer Week with the Beer Bash as the pinnacle of the event. Interestingly the focus has shifted to keg beers and there’ll be a smaller number of breweries showcased at it’s 2016 event – pushing for quality over quantity. Don’t fret there’ll definitely be a beer there to tickle your tastebuds – with five sessions over three days even the biggest hopheads amongst you will rejoice.
Masterclasses, fringe events and entertainment are all part of the bash, not forgetting a range of street food to ensure you line your stomach!

Words: Kimberley Owen



Fazeley St, Birmingham, B5 5RT
Until 30 March

Czech Documentary photographer and ex-primary school teacher Jindrich Streit has been photographing the people of his home village Sovinec, in the north of the Czech Republic, for over 40 years.

Imprisoned in the early 80s by the authorities for taking unsettling images of the brutal living conditions, including photographing a party meeting where people were asleep, he lost his teaching job and had to join his friends who worked on the local collective farm.

His photographs reveal the intimate relationship with the villagers and, despite the treatment towards him, he persevered with his photographic work and opened his house to the local community with a  gallery for contemporary art on the first floor. Today it is a remarkable cultural centre that attracts work from around the world.

15 February Culture events to keep you busy

Newtown Kid
Until 22 February

Reuben Colley Fine Art
During the 1950s & ‘60s University of Birmingham Geography tutor Phyllis Nicklin captured Birmingham at a time of massive change. Not only was the urban environment being significantly  transformed but new communities were changing the city’s demographic profile too.
In collaboration with Brumpic Reuben Colley Fine Art have invited a number of artists to produce work inspired by Nicklin’s photographs. The exhibition will feature paintings & drawings by Reuben Colley, Mark Godwin, Danny Howes (pictured above), Rick Garland, Horace Panter, Mark Lippett, Stephen Earl Rogers, Annette Pugh and Kevin Line.

21. Rosamund Macfarlane, Snow hare
5 February – 10 April

Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry
This world-renowned exhibition showcases 100 awe-inspiring images, featuring fascinating animal behaviour and breath-taking wild landscapes. Dive deep into the oceans, fly amongst the tree tops and journey across sand dunes discovering the variety of life this world has to offer.

Sarah Whapples - 4932
7 February, 6 March, 11am – 5pm (and first Sunday of the month onwards)
mac birmingham
An exclusive selection of products from local designer makers offering ceramics, jewellery, paintings and much more – it’s a great place to pick up original home and gift items.

9 & 10 February
mac birmingham
Broken erupts onto the stage in an adrenaline-filled spectacle. Athletic contact work, spectacular acrobatics and a gripping narrative combine with a revolutionary set design and digital imagery that melds with the performers as they move. Tickets £22.

12 February, 11 March, 15 April, 7.30pm – 10.30pm
Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry
One night a month the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry opens their doors for an exciting evening of art, music, drinks, talks, performance and history inspired fun.

13 February, 12 March, 9 April, Saturdays 10.30am – 3.30pm
Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry
Join local urban sketchers in the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry Café for a day of sketching around Coventry city centre at this informal and supportive event.

14 February
The Lighthouse
Tickets £6.70 / £6.20 concessions £4.50 under 25s/students

15-20 February
Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre
In response to Gerard Byrne’s new exhibition, Coventry artist Jo Gane will curate the activities area in the Mead Gallery.

16 & 17 February

mac birmingham
20 Stories High and Theatre-Rites join forces to create a unique mash up of hip-hop, theatre and puppetry bringing together 4 amazing artists: beat-boxer Hobbit, b-boy  LoGisTics, puppeteer Mohsen and, from the Midlands, singer/rapper Elektric, to form The Broke ‘N’ Beat Collective. Tickets £12.

Bham Camera Obscura
16 February, 12–5pm

Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre
FREE drop in event
Birmingham Obscura will be installed at Warwick Arts Centre, allowing participants a chance to explore a mechanical camera obscura with artists Pete Ashton and Jenny Duffin.

17 February, 1-3.30pm
Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre
Use recycled materials to construct a working pinhole camera in this workshop led by Jo Gane. £3, book in advance.

19 February
mac birmingham
Movies always have a soundtrack… so why can’t a stand up show? Join ‘one of the UK’s best observationalists’ (The Guardian) for a brand new stand-up show accompanied by its own original soundtrack. Tickets £10.

25 February
The Lighthouse & mac birmingham

25 February
mac birmingham
A gender-bending evening of seductive and provocative dance. Three short narrative works form this kitschy and filmic bill of contemporary dance with a very Spanish flavour – a true feast of meaty dance soaked in a salsa of passion.
Tickets £11 (£9).

Austentatious Publicity Image

26 February
mac birmingham
Undoubtedly one of the most talked-about shows on the UK comedy scene, Austentatious: is a comedy play spun in the inimitable style of Jane Austen – and based entirely on audience suggestions.
Tickets £15 (£13).


For the third year in a row we have teamed up with New Art West Midlands to present a special culture edition of Area Guide.

Featuring a wealth of new graduate talent New Art WM chooses the best of the graduate shows to present 4 unique curated exhibitions of work that focuses on cross-art forms. This year the exhibitions, which start this month, will take place at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, mac birmingham, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and Herbert Museum & Art Gallery, Coventry.

This edition also features upcoming exhibitions, festivals and cultural events taking place from now until May.

Read the edition online here or pick up an issue at the venues mentioned above.

REVIEW > Dave Gorman at Symphony Hall

DaveGorman.jpg“If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands” intoned Dave Gorman at Birmingham Symphony Hall on Thursday night. In normal circumstances this may have seemed presumptuous as this was the opening gambit of his two hour set. However, and as many of the Gorman devotees in attendance may have suspected, this was merely a preamble to an in-depth statistical analysis of the popular song in graph form via the Stafford funnyman’s weapon of choice, the Powerpoint presentation.

It is a gross understatement to say that this is a man with an inquisitive nature. Previous undertakings have included an expedition to track down 54 namesakes and a globetrotting Googlewhack Adventure. Viewers of “Modern Life is Goodish”, who no-doubt swelled Thursday’s crowd will have been pleased to see many of the elements that make that show so successful in full effect as over the course of a consistently engaging two-hour set Gorman repeatedly challenged the accepted norms and the mundane. In doing so he turned a spotlight on subjects as diverse as Paul Hollywood, selfies and Mrs. Gorman’s knees with a seasoned confidence that enabled him to hold the audience’s interest without the need for scattergun one-liners and the self-assuredness to occasionally let Powerpoint deliver his punchlines.

Gorman demonstrated his love of the lower reaches of the internet in what for many were the highlights of the show, two “Found Poems” lovingly compiled from the comments sections of website news stories. Lacking the usual string quartet, Dave was accompanied firstly by a somewhat reluctant CD and for the conclusion of the show by support act for the evening, Nick Doody. The Yorkshireman had earlier performed an excellent half-hour set of incisive, topical satire and proved himself to be an equally accomplished pianist as the show was bought to a hilarious denouement.

It’s fair to say that when the Symphony Hall crowd spilled out into the cold Birmingham night they certainly were happy, and boy did they know it.

Words: Ian Thomas

Top 5 Festive Days Out in the West Midlands

XmasPicCopywriteAREAGUIDE.jpgFor those who crave an alternative to the hectic markets and fairs circuit, Gemma Corden investigates the best the West Midlands has to offer in our round up of festive days out. Continue reading “Top 5 Festive Days Out in the West Midlands”

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