A lifestyle blog all about Birmingham, UK.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Wizard of Oz set to follow yellow brick road to The REP Birmingham

Audiences across the Midlands will be able to follow the yellow brick road to Birmingham Repertory Theatre in Christmas 2018, as the theatre has announced the exciting news that The Wizard of Oz is coming to the stage. 

In a new staging of the musical, there really will be no place like The REP later this year as Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion skip down the Yellow Brick Road, across the Poppy Field and into the Emerald City in search of the wonderful Wizard of Oz. 

The epic stage version of the legendary MGM musical will also feature everyone’s favourite songs including Somewhere Over The Rainbow, If I Only Had A Brain and Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead. 

Roxana Silbert, The REP’s Artistic Director said: “The Wizard of Oz is such a great show that’s perfect for fans of the film and musicals alike. 

"With a glorious cast of characters including a wicked witch and a tail-wagging Toto, a stunning setting, fabulous music and a sprinkling of REP magic, it’s got all the vital ingredients for a wonderful Christmas show for everyone.” 

The Wizard of Oz follows The REP’s recent critically-acclaimed festive productions and box office hits, The Hundred and One Dalmatians, Nativity! The Musical and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. 

The Wizard of Oz opens at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 24 November and runs until 13 January. 

Tickets are now on sale to members with public booking opening on Friday 26 January, 2018. For more information, head here

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Interview: Layton Williams talks all things Hairspray ahead of Wolverhampton show

I first fell in love with Hairspray when I was an early teen. I went to the cinema with my friends on my 13th birthday to watch the film adaptation of the classic musical, and became totally obsessed with it.

Those who know me well, know that not much has changed on that front in the past 11 years. From Without Love to I Know Where I've Been, from Welcome To The 60's to my personal favourite, Run And Tell That, it is safe to say that Hairspray was a huge part of me growing up and a musical I still adore.

Luckily for me, Hairspray the Musical is arriving on my doorstep next month at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre. Layton Williams is taking on the role of the super charming Seaweed J Stubbs.

Ahead of the show, Layton known for his hilarious role of Stephen Carmichael in Bad Education and a whole host of shows on London's West End, has revealed everything we want to know about the production and what he is getting up to outside of Hairspray the Musical.

For those who don’t know, what’s the story of Hairspray? 

Hairspray is a show for everyone! It is loosely based on a true story. Set in 1960s Baltimore, Hairspray is about a girl called Tracy Turnblad who dreams of being on this dance show, The Corny Collins Show. But, Tracy is not allowed on the show because they say she is too big and she doesn’t look like the people that are already on the show. Tracy meets my character, Seaweed, in detention and through dancing he gives Tracy the confidence and belief in herself that you can do what you want no matter who you are, where you are from or what you look like. 

Eventually Tracy gets on The Corny Collins Show and realises that it’s not just her that has been denied approval. She begins to fight for Seaweed and his friends to be able to dance with her on The Corny Collins Show. We all riot together for equality and to make The Corny Collins Show integrated. It’s an incredibly fun show but also spreading a really important message at the same time. It’s a really fabulous show for everybody! 

Could you tell us about Seaweed J Stubbs and what attracted you to the role? 

We first meet Seaweed J Stubbs in detention with Tracy. He is a very welcoming character and open to everyone regardless of whether it is seen as cool or not. He is very different to the way I am in life and from the last role I just did which was playing a drag queen in RENT. That’s what attracted me to the role of Seaweed. 

It’s really important for me to be able to switch up what I am doing and not play the same kind of roles all the time because as an actor you want to be versatile. I was actually quite nervous about playing Seaweed! I have been running around in heels with my lashes, my wigs and my lipstick for a whole year so I was very much in that mind set but I thought it would be nice to switch it up, pop on my trousers, get myself a girlfriend and have that different vibe. 

There are vocal challenges to the role of Seaweed as well – the songs are high and packed full of energy which I have been really enjoying this time round. Singing is something that only now am I starting to become confident with as a performer. With Seaweed, I thought I might as well throw myself in at the deep end and learn to sing these big songs…8 shows a night! I am really, really enjoying those challenges and that’s what it was that drew me in to playing Seaweed. Obviously, in the last tour I was understudy for it but didn’t really get the chance to put my stamp on it and now I feel like I have done that. 

Why do you think Hairspray has such an enduring appeal? 

Why is it still so relevant to 2017? I think no matter when the show has been out or when the movies have been aired, it has always been a relevant time whether that is today, 10 or 30 years ago. We have always been going through struggles, there is always some sort of craziness going on in the world so we need that release. People need that 2-3 hours of being able to laugh and cry and be entertained and I think Hairspray is the perfect show for that. 

Do you have a favourite moment or song in the show? Why? 

I think my favoruite moment in the show has to be Run and Tell That. As a performer you want to go out there and really do your thing and Run and Tell That is my chance to do that. I get to show the audience what I am made of during that song. It’s a hugely important part of the story too; Seaweed is telling the world about this lifestyle and bringing those other people into that world which is what we should all be doing. 

It’s also one of the the moments in the show where we really get to dance too, it’s such a good vibe for us and the audience. We always want to create that energy throughout the show for the audience, every night, but especially during Run and Tell that because that’s when they really feel it. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement or highlight of our career away from the stage? 

One of my biggest highlights probably has to be the night I had my movie premiere for Bad Education. It was one of those times where I was just looking around and pitching myself. All my best friends were there, including my best friend, Jordan Laviniere, who is playing Duane in Hairspray. I saw my best friends on the red carpet and that was the moment it hit me that I was at a movie premiere and one of the lead actors in the film. I had never expected that to come of a show I had been in since I was 14. 

Even if that doesn’t ever happen again, which hopefully it will, I’m happy to say I have ticked that box. As a performer there are certain things that I set out to do, whether it’s a film, a music video, or a musical and that was a definite highlight of mine. 

While you have been on tour with the show, you have been doing a series of dance workshops around the country, could you tell us a bit about them and what inspired you to set up DanceWithLayton?

I started DanceWithLayton when I was about 16. I had been working with my school, Italia Conti teaching and assisting at one of their associate schools in Ruislip for many years. They started giving me my own classes and students to teach which is how I got into teaching. 

After a few years I thought I needed to spread my wings and maybe teach elsewhere, they have little associate schools everywhere all over the country so I started touring and DanceWithLayton developed from there. It was as simple as me offering a workshop, whether it was a general workshop or something from or inspired by the show I was in at the time. 

Even if it was just to have a little jig and meet the students then I could come! And it just popped off. Since then, it’s been the only job I do aside from my stage and screen work. I have always wanted to do something that was fulfilling for me, kept me in the game, fit and healthy but also hopefully inspire other people. 

Through DanceWithLayton I have got to meet thousands and thousands of kids and dancers around the country, I wouldn’t be able to count how many people I have taught over the years, so it’s really fab. It’s something I want to keep on doing until I get too tired which is why I have introduced other teachers because when I get too tired they can do it for me – ha!  

2018 marks the 30th anniversary of the original film starring Ricki Lake, Debbie Harry (Blondie) and Jerry Stiller on which the musical is based, if you could adapt any film into a musical which one would it be? 

Oh! I have always said Moulin Rouge, I think they have just started make that into a musial now now for Broadway but that was my choice for ages. Imagine what a musical that would be!

Hairspray the Musical takes to the stage at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Monday 26th February - Saturday 3rd March 2018. Find tickets here

Birmingham's happiest places - as chosen by us!

January; I think it is safe to admit that we all feel a little bit glum this month, right? Christmas festivities are well and truly over, it is no longer acceptable to eat chocolate for breakfast and all the excitement of spring and summer feels like a million miles away.

Thankfully, I live in this wonderful city called Birmingham - if the blog name hadn't already given it away. Although it may be more difficult than usual to wear a big smile on your face and enjoy the little things in life during January, thanks to Brum, there's always somewhere to make us feel happy.

I've asked fellow Brum Bloggers where in the city they feel most happiest, as well as choosing a few of my own, to give you ideas of where to spend this gloomier time of year - enjoy!

My happiest spots in  Brum:

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
For me, BMAG is by far one of my happiest places in Brum. Not only do they have a whole host of incredible exhibitions all year round, it is a wonderful place full of character and fun. Visitors can discover all about Birmingham and it's history, as well as enjoying a wide range of other elements to the museum. The Edwardian Tearooms within the museum is also one of my favourite places to head for a bite to eat. I think what I love most about BMAG is that, despite being right in the middle of the city, it is a calm, tranquil place where you can get lost in your own thoughts.

Colmore Row
Colmore Row may be full to the brim with cafes, restaurants, bars and shops, but for me, I don't have a particular favourite place on the street. What makes me happiest is the feel that never goes away; from AM to PM, from winter to summer, Colmore Row has an infectious vibe that could easily be mistaken for a super cool spot in Paris. As well as it's array of places to explore, it is also home to Birmingham Cathedral and the Cathedral Square, known locally as 'Pigeon Park'!

If you've never spent a few hours strolling around Brindleyplace, you're seriously missing out because for me, it is by far one of Brum's best spots, and for me, a place that makes me happiest. I used to work close by to the area, so have spent a lot of time there in the last few years and it really is a wonderful area. As well as a huge range of restaurants and bars in the area, it is also right on the canal which is wonderful for a winter walk. Also home to the Ikon Gallery, Symphony Hall and Birmingham REP Theatre close by, you can find something for everyone to enjoy in the area. Hence why it is by far one of my happiest places!

Time for Brum Bloggers to take to the stage...

Laura Creaven - Full to the Brum; Birmingham Canals

We get told Birmingham has more canals than Venice, but have you ever taken the time to explore them? It wasn’t until I moved, nearly three years ago, and the canal was pretty much on my doorstep that I realised what a treasure they are; the canals allow me to get away from it all, without getting away from it all. Which sounds like a contradiction but really its that it’s the best of both - a city, with all it’s hive of activity, threaded together by these tranquil canals punctuated by the occasional person walking or cycling, and the odd heron.

The canals give me moments of calm without having to escape the city, reviving me and readying me to face the bustle of the city. But they also provide awe; of the city’s history, it’s creativity, of the beauty of nature, the magic of engineering. And if you walk along the Worcester & Birmingham canal to Bournville, you get to see a chocolate factory too.

Pauline Roche from RnR Organisation; Impact Hub
Where do I begin to tell you about the ace place that is Impact Hub Birmingham where I base my social enterprise RnR Organisation? It’s difficult to compare it to anything similar in the city because it is so different. It is a business, a co-working space with hireable event spaces, but it’s not about making huge profits. The co-founders also try to accommodate people who can’t afford to pay for space in a central location e.g. through the weekly free Open Project Night – that’s how I run the monthly tech for social good meetup Net Squared Midlands.

It’s an inclusive place for entrepreneurs, innovators, creatives and change-makers, including parents/guardians of small children. Members organise events such as Yellow Wednesday film nights to stimulate change and to encourage people to connect with each other around new ideas. Members know that there are boundaries in society, sometimes quite rigid ones, but in and through Hub they feel emboldened to take risks and try new things.

Members are encouraged to be social with each other and with newcomers, both in person at regular times during the month like Food for Thought, and via a members WhatsApp group which buzzes with news and views. Although this Hub is geographically based in Digbeth, because members also live, work and socialise elsewhere as well as having access to Hubs in 60 other cities globally, the Hub collaborative mindset influences other parts of Birmingham, the UK and the world for the better. Tours are available every week - try it on for yourself!

Vicky Osgood from Brumderland; Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park 

January can be a grey and depressing sort of affair in Birmingham. There are plenty of restaurants with great 50% offers on, but if you’re looking for something to do on the weekends, you might be at a bit of a loss… Well fear not! Birmingham’s most overlooked (and cutest) attraction is open from Monday to Sunday, from 10am until 4pm (last admission 3pm) to put the pep back in your step!

The Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park (formerly known as the Birmingham Nature Centre) is just £6.25 for adults, £5 for concessions and £3.30 for children (up to the age of 15), making it a budget busting afternoon out. As well as several species of monkey, creepy crawlies, meerkats and otters; it has two star attractions in the form of a family of red pandas and four lynx’s.

Attached to Cannon Hill Park (and offering its own parking area), this small but perfectly formed city zoo will take you around a couple of hours to get around with a family in tow and you can take your own packed lunch or flask of tea in with you. There is a little cafe within the venue, if you would rather grab something warm during your adventure.

As well as a menagerie of animals, there is a lovely play park for children (or the young at heart) and a regular schedule of feeding times to see the animals at their best. I would definitely recommend planning a visit around the lynx and panda feeding times, as they can be a little shy if the weather isn’t the warmest!

Chloe Gorman from Gastronomic Gorman; Sutton Park

As the biggest urban park in Europe, Sutton Park is a real gem for Birmingham. This sprawling nature reserve in Sutton Coldfield (just a 20 minute train journey from the city centre) is the perfect antidote to busy city life: a space to walk, breathe and reconnect with nature.

Go through any of the gates (there are eight in total) and the grey hubbub of the city is soon left behind, as you breathe in the sweet, damp air of the forest floor, surrounded only by the sound of birdsong, squirrels rustling in the leaf litter and friendly greetings from passing dog walkers. You can bask in the sun beside the lake when the weather is good, or shelter from the rain under a canopy of trees.

For those seeking fun and adventure, you can learn to kayak out on Blackroot Pool, play golf, go fishing or even sailing. For the young (and young at heart) there are playgrounds and copious trees to climb. Look a little closer and you’ll discover a place full of history, from the Neolithic tools found near Bracebridge Pool, to the remnants of the Roman road, to King Henry VIII’s hunting ground. The park teeming with wildlife too, from squirrels and rabbits, ducks and migratory water birds, including the crested duck (or afro-duck as it is affectionately known) to wild Exmoor ponies.
From time to time there is also a resident cattle population, and there’s even a donkey sanctuary within the grounds. To eat, Blackroot Bistro, located in a pretty little spot near Blackroot pool, does one of the best Full English breakfasts in Sutton, perfect for fuelling up before exploring the eight miles of parkland. The Boathouse at Bracebridge offers brasserie style dining at lunch or dinner, while on the edge of Powells Pool near Boldmere Gate, sits Miller & Carter steakhouse.

Though if you want my recommendation, pack a picnic and find a spot where you can lie on the grass and stare at the clouds. Those seeking solitude and quiet contemplation will be at home here as the adventure-seeking family with children and dogs in tow. It even looks beautiful in the snow.

Talitha Chauhan from She's At One With; Earlswood Lakes

Originally built in the 1820’s to provide a water supply to the nearby towns, the lakes took five years to build from the labour of prisoners-of-war from the Napoleonic Wars. I must have visited my place of peace at least ten times this year. I don’t ever see myself getting tired of visiting the views that is the Earlswood Lakes. 

I always spot new finds on each visit; the discovery of three lakes, new walking paths, admiring the long gardens that back on to the lakes, new wildlife and fishermen patiently waiting for their finest catches. I’ve visited during all seasons of the year; id never need an excuse to visit. My most favourite time to go has to be on a dry, crisp evening (dependant upon the time of year) when the sun is about to set; the way the warm colours of the sunset reflects onto the lakes waters is truly magical. 

The lakes are perfect for a good stroll, a jog with your dog and even for a spot of fishing. Get those walking boots on and pay the lakes a visit if you can and get trailing through its beautiful nature.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Charity challenges Brummies to walk the world in memory of loved ones

Birmingham St Mary’s is challenging Brummies to walk around the world this spring as a tribute to loved ones lost. 

The local hospice has launched ‘Step Together’, a new campaign which is asking people to collectively walk 16 million steps, the total number of strides it would take to do a lap of the world, whilst raising vital funds for the charity. 

Taking place between Thursday 1 February and Saturday 31 March, the initiative will see people from across the city join forces and step together to help celebrate the memories of those no longer with us. 

Participants can choose when and how they build up their step count, whether it’s walking their children to school, going for a lunchtime stroll, or taking the stairs instead of a lift, and can complete the challenge solo or as part of a group. 

Each stride will be added to a grand total, with an aim that Brummies will have collectively completed a lap of the world by the end of March. 

Lucy Watkins, events manager at Birmingham St Mary’s, said: “Whether you’re walking in memory of a loved one or just looking for a different way to get fit this New Year, Step Together is a fantastic way to get people moving whilst doing something amazing. 

"We really want to smash our 16 million step target and hope that together, the people of our city complete multiple laps of the world.”

All funds raised will go towards Birmingham St Mary’s, which provides vital care and support to local families living with terminal illness. 

Lucy added: “It costs £22,000 to run our Hospice each day, so we truly rely on the generosity of local people to help us continue to provide our crucial services. That’s why we’re asking people to step together, so that we can care for even more individuals and families, whether that’s at the Hospice, in people’s homes or in the local community.” 

To help participants measure their strides, the charity has joined forces with Give Penny, in which walkers can connect their fundraising page to their FitBit to help track steps and donations. 

Alternatively, steps can be monitored via smartwatches, mobile apps or a pedometer, with the latter available to purchase from the Hospice. Walkers that raise over £25 in sponsorship will be rewarded with their own commemorative medal. 

To find out more or to sign up, head here

Penguins to make world premier at Birmingham REP

The true story of two male penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo is set to come to life in a new show for children at Birmingham Repertory Theatre next month before embarking on a UK tour. 

Inspired by a report in the New York Times that touched hearts worldwide, Penguins tells the story of Roy and Silo, two male Chinstrap penguins who just like the other penguins at Central Park Zoo, walk, play, swim and dance together. 

When the duo decide to try and hatch a rock in place of an egg, they find themselves on an adventure that could mean raising a chick for real. 

Penguins is a captivating mix of dance, music, and storytelling for children about friendship, fun, identity and the ever-changing meaning of family. 

Director Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney drew inspiration from this story and has adapted it for the stage. He said, “I am thrilled to be working with Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Prime Theatre on this heart-warming tale. 

"We have created a truly unique and uplifting theatre piece for young audiences and their families to enjoy. Penguins is a highly visual, non-verbal performance with beautiful music, wonderful magic and a message of love and family that we hope will leave a lasting impression.” 

Choreographer Carlos Pons Guerra also said; "I am extremely delighted to be part of such an important and heart-warming production as Penguins. I truly respect and defend director Paul Mc Eneaney's belief that children's theatre can speak valuable truths and carry important messages to young audiences. 

"Penguins will be a fun, dynamic, quirky and endearing experience that will teach children about diverse families and that ultimately, what matters is that all children are loved and well looked after, regardless of the gender of who does it. 

“It's a show that also celebrates being different and accepting each other's uniqueness through companionship. As choreographer, I'm creating the movement script for the work, which has no text, and we'll have three very charismatic penguins who happily dance to their own tunes, which I also hope invites children to discover their unique melodies and voices by trying dance and theatre." 

Find tickets here

Take That's The Band is heading to Wolverhampton

Take That fans rejoice! Tim Firth's new musical The Band, featuring the music of Take That, is heading to Wolverhampton Grand Theatre in early 2019. 

The Band opened at Manchester Opera House in September 2017 to critical and public acclaim. The show is produced by David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers, as well as Take That members Gary Barlow, Howard Donald, Mark Owen and Robbie Williams.

The musical stars Rachel Lumberg as Rachel, Alison Fitzjohn as Claire, Emily Joyce as Heather, Jayne McKenna as Zoe, as well as AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Qafouri and Sario Solomon, collectively known as Five To Five, winners of BBC’s Let It Shine, as The Band.
The Band is a new musical about what it’s like to grow up with a boyband. For five 16 year-old friends in 1992, ‘the band’ is everything. 

25 years on, we are reunited with the group of friends, now 40-something women, as they try once more to fulfil their dream of meeting their heroes.

The Band is directed by Kim Gavin and Jack Ryder, designed by Jon Bausor and choreographed by Kim Gavin, with lighting design by Patrick Woodroffe, video design by Luke Halls and sound design by Terry Jardine and Nick Lidster. 

February half term fun at Birmingham Museums

Half term can be a super difficult time keeping the kids entertained. But it doesn't have to be! Birmingham Museum's are hosting a whole host of events during half term, so you can find something for each member of the family to enjoy. Here's my favourite's that you can't afford to miss...

Marvel at the latest research on our natural world at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, with Operation Earth 

Ever stopped to think about how mind-blowingly wondrous the world around us can be? You’ll bet your little ones, and adults alike, will be sufficiently mind-blown indeed by the launch of Operation Earth this February half term. 

Exploring the latest research from cutting-edge scientists who study the natural environment, this hands-on, environmental science programme will ensure you’re the first in the know about the latest discoveries of the crazy planet we live on. Open daily from 10am-5pm, 

Colour and create with a sprinkling of rainbow magic at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Celebrating the ground-breaking Arts Council Collection Coming Out exhibition which is currently on display at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, light up your little ones’ lives with some rainbow magic this half term. 

The exhibition was conceived by Walker Art Gallery National Museums Liverpool and celebrates the LGBT community. The theme has inspired these fun family friendly activities. Get arty with plenty of crafting opportunities throughout the week. From creating your own rainbows to becoming an author to your very own story, as well as rainbow animations workshops, families can enjoy colourful crafts whilst learning about the exhibition. 

Rebuild the building blocks of history by stepping back to the Great Fire of London with Blakesley Hall 

For just £1.50, on 20th and 22nd February, kids can craft their way to the London skyline by creating and decorating their very own 17th century London buildings. Immerse the whole family in history by taking part in some Great Fire of London themed trails and competing in fun, fact-filled themed quizzes. 

Pre-booking being essential on this one, and the family friendly 30 minute drama “From Pudding Lane to Pie Corner” is destined to be a firm half term favourite on 21st February. Samuel Pepys makes a special trip to Blakesley Hall and recounts his fiery memories of London burning! The event is included in the normal admission price and there are two performances throughout the day at 12pm and 2pm.
And that's not just it! Here's what else is taking place...

Aston Hall sends the little ones time travelling, with a family friendly murder mystery trail. Visit the Hall between 11am and 4pm to sleuth your way to cracking the mystery of preventing a would-be assassin from 2048 stopping Victorian England’s Aston Hall from becoming a museum. Pre-booking is advisable, however you can turn up and pay for your entrance on the day and usual admission prices apply. 

The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is hosting a guided tour on Thursday 22nd February. The tour is of the Smith & Pepper jewellery factory, followed by an exciting craft activity.

At Sarehole Mill, there’s a scrummy day planned on Pancake Day, with a drop in baking session to whip up your own tasty pancakes. Just £2 for the baking sessions, held at 12.00-1.30pm and 2.00-3.00pm. 

Soho House is celebrating those who keep us safe, with a 999 Emergency Day on Thursday 22nd February. With a day of jam-packed activities, take part in a meet and greet with Fireman Sam, talk to the Handsworth Fire Fighters and Police, and join in on plenty of 999 family craft activities and activity trails. 

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Wolverhampton Grand to bring Ladies' Day to the stage

Following on from a successful run of the in-house produced Brassed Off in 2017, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre has announced that it will stage a new production of Amanda Whittington’s Ladies' Day this Summer. 

Taking place at the theatre from Friday 13th until Saturday 28th July 2018, Ladies' Day is an exuberant comedy about four likely lasses who work at a fish factory on a day trip to the races. 

Work, love and life are just one long, hard, slog for local fish-filleting foursome Pearl, Jan, Shelley and Linda. Will their fortunes change when they head to Ladies’ Day at Wolverhampton Racecourse?

Factory hairnets make way for fascinators, secrets are spilled with the champagne and friendships are tested to the limit. Yet as the day unfolds, their six-race bet keeps coming up trumps. If their luck holds, they could hit the jackpot – and more. 

Chief Executive and Artistic Director, Adrian Jackson said, “Last year’s production of Brassed Off re-established the Grand’s place in the producing world of theatre, brought high levels of positive publicity to the City of Wolverhampton and continued positive work and involvement with the local community. 

"I am overjoyed that we can continue to produce new theatre and this production of Ladies’ Day for 2018 will be a thrilling project for all involved.” 

Ladies' Day is produced in association with Wolverhampton Racecourse. Wolverhampton Racecourse welcomes over 120,000 visitors each year and hosts around 80 race fixtures a year, including popular themed Music Live Saturday evening events, conferences, meetings and events. 

Managing Director David Roberts said, “I am absolutely delighted to work in association with The Grand Theatre on this exciting new project. Like the theatre, Wolverhampton Racecourse is a long established and historical venue for the city. 

"We share the same values in providing Wolverhampton and the surrounding areas with high quality entertainment.” 

Ladies' Day is written by Amanda Whittington, who is one of the most widely performed playwrights in the UK. Her plays include Be My Baby (Soho Theatre, 1998), Satin ’n’ Steel (Nottingham Playhouse, 2005), Ladies' Day (Hull Truck, 2005) and its sequel Ladies Down Under (Hull Truck, 2007), The Thrill of Love (New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 2013), Kiss Me Quickstep (New Vic Theatre, 2016) and Mighty Atoms (Hull Truck, 2017). 

She has also adapted Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, My Judy Garland Life and Tipping the Velvet for the stage. She writes regularly for BBC Radio 4, contributing to the Woman's Hour serial and Afternoon Play slots. 

Cast and Creative Team for Ladies' Day will be announced soon. Tickets go on sale on Monday 15th January 2018. Find out more here

BMAG offers unique Valentine's Day experience

With Valentine's Day less than a month away, many of us will be planning how to make this year's celebrations extra special. 

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is offering something a little more unique this year, with the hope that local couples can experience something a little more special. 

Lovebirds can enjoy a bespoke and delicious five-course meal at the special after-hours event in the spectacular surroundings of the Industrial Gallery, whilst being completely spoiled with a five-course Valentine’s Day menu cooked by Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery’s expert chef team. 

A choice of dishes include Mediterranean vegetable tart tatin and assiette of wild mushroom risotto cake starters, and main dishes include rump of lamb with dauphinoise potatoes, honey parsnip puree and mint jus or pan fried cod with smoked haddock and celeriac mash and watercress sauce, along with others. 

The desserts on the menu will surely tempt diners for more, including a sharing board of cheeses, biscuits and chutneys, or for the sweeter tooth, a rich chocolate fondant served with ice cream. 

To make the experience even more special, local guitarist and singer-songwriter Robert Lane will be serenading diners with live music throughout the evening. 

Alex Nicholson-Evans, Commercial Director at Birmingham Museums, said: “What better way to treat your loved one this Valentine’s Day than to take them for dinner in a unique location like Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. It’s something different they won’t be expecting and the menu will be cooked by our expert team to ensure you don’t have to worry about a thing. 

“With music and the beautiful surroundings of the Industrial Gallery, our dinner is the ideal way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.” 

The five-course meal costs £47.50 per head. Tables can be booked from 7pm – 9pm, but you’ll need to act quickly as the event sold out last year.

Find out more here

Heart-breaking love story Brief Encounter returns to Birmingham's REP theatre

One of the most captivating love stories is set to return to Birmingham's REP theatre in February, just in time for Valentine's Day celebrations. 

Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter, which has been adapted and directed by Emma Rice, will take to the stage at the theatre from Friday 2nd until Saturday 17th February 2018. 

One of the most acclaimed theatrical productions, Brief Encounter, is remembered as one of the most haunting love stories ever. 

A chance meeting in a railway station café brought together by Laura ‘getting a little piece of grit in my eye’, led to one of the most haunting and heart-breaking love stories ever told.
Bringing it to life on stage, director Emma Rice, said, "Brief Encounter combines the romance of cinema with all that live theatre can offer; magic, passion, surprise, suggestion and naughtiness. 

"I carry this show in my heart and couldn’t be more excited to return to this heart-pounding production and bring it back to Birmingham. Radical and romantic, nostalgic but oh, so relevant - let passions ignite!" 

This award-winning production of Brief Encounter premiered at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 2007, winning the hearts of audiences and critics alike. It subsequently triumphed in the West End, toured the globe and received dazzling reviews on Broadway. 

Roxana Silbert, The REP’s Artistic Director said: “It’s incredibly exciting to bring Brief Encounter back to The REP where it all started ten years ago. Emma Rice’s production of Noël Coward’s iconic romantic tale is spellbinding. 

"We hope a new generation will now have the chance to see it, as well as giving those who loved it so much the first time, the chance to fall in love with it all over again.” 

The cast will feature Jim Sturgeon as Alec, Isabel Pollen as Laura, Lucy Thackeray as Myrtle and Beverly Rudd as Beryl, 

Find tickets here
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