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Film Review: Northern Soul

15 (102 min)
Director: Elaine Constantine
Cast: Elliot James Langridge, Josh Whitehouse, Antonia Thomas, Jack Gordon, Steve Coogan
English | 2014

Northern Soul is a cracking British film. It achieves its aim superbly of invoking the spirit of the generation. The dissolution and anger of the Northern youth was depicted effectively as they found an escape route in American Soul music on northern dance floors under the influence of narcotics. This was the backdrop for a charming and funny, if a little predictable coming of age film. The performances are great, it’s a gripping ride and there’s even space for Steve Coogan. Nice one.

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Cannon Hill Collective Week Four: Mindfulness

Plant your feet. No really, plant them – feet placed in line with your hips and anchor yourself there. Empty your lungs before we begin, breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.

1, 2, 3, 4… and then hold it right there, for another 4 seconds.

1, 2, 3, 4… and then exhale for 8 seconds.

Might not sound like much but this incredibly chilled out and grounding meditation session might be the reason that mine and Louisa’s minds are so fuzzy over the individual details from the beginning of our Cannon Hill Art Collective Meeting. We are now getting into the Collective swing of things, this time focusing on mindfulness. Mindfulness can be described as a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment; using meditation as an agent to find inner clarity, insight and understanding.


Upon entering the Foyle Studio at our home away from home mac Birmingham, we were presented with a table of random small objects e.g a tiny shovel, a napkin ring, a feather. All of which were adorable interesting things. Preya, our meditation leader introduced herself and her “random item” then invited us to follow suit.

Individually we picked an item off the table, anything that called out to us, we were then asked to introduce ourselves, our items and why we chose that said item. I picked a cylinder of glitter; representative of my excitability and potential, over the top was a big thick cap, reflective of how I felt trapped within myself.


I’m going to be honest here guys, I went for the pebble. I nearly faltered and chose a sea shell instead but I just couldn’t choose between them and to be truthful, nothing seemed like a nicer solution than just holding onto a cool, smooth pebble whilst learning how to chill out.

 The shapes and what they represented were really just physical permissions for us to share how we’d been feeling. Since joining the Collective we have been asked to share again and again our creative processes and inspirations. Coming together to talk about our final resolved ideas has been exciting but has also made us closer. After voicing our needs to not find a meditation process that allows us to continue doing this, but instead relax and ground ourselves was a decision that we all supported for each other.


Yes! Well aren’t you just a jar of greatness?


You make me blush!


Thus, on that mutual basis we were introduced to the next exercise; Conscious embodiment. A technique used to access to our bodies, as our bodies and even energies have an effect on the way we view our surrounding world and in turn how that world views us.


Which brings us back to planting… I always think of meditation as a lone process, so this experience of being guided through gentle breathing and mental exercises wasn’t the only reality that was evidently different from my expectations. It was sharing our meditation process with another person. We practiced breathing and grounding exercises whilst being gently pushed by another member of the Collective. This quiet element of communication, checking if it was okay to lean against someone else’s’ arm, when to begin pushing and when to stop were all subtle roles of communication that we felt easily able to establish with each other.

It’ll be interesting to see how these practiced roles of support and testing will reappear as we embark on our collaborative project.

Again, the specifics and breathing techniques may appear here as kind of vague. But whilst I do find myself still repeating my 1, 2, 3, 4 breathing exercises and urging others to give meditation a go – please do not find my vagueness any kind of indication that you shouldn’t try it out. If anything, I think you should all go and find out for yourselves the benefits of meditation. No really, you should. Or pick up a pebble, that was a rather relaxing option as well.


Through the lengthening of our spines and the roots we planted through our limbs and into the ground, individually we unveiled a great sense of more-ness. More strength, more control, more focus and more peace. It was beautifully settling. The session left me with the means to love, evolve, create.


They will just have to trust us on this. We were left with all of the good vibes.

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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Little Angel Theatre

I felt like a little kid again, all excited to see one of my childhood favourites ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’. The show is the current puppet adaptation of author Michael Rosin and illustrator Helen Oxenby’s 1989 classic. It is just as popular today as the kids where quoting the lines before it had even started!

The show is absolutely beautiful, and is quite easy to get absorbed in their world. For those of you who don’t know the story; it follows a family on an adventure to find a bear and how they get around the various obstacles that come before them. The text is translated to the theatre through long musical numbers performed by the puppeteers. The performance was powerful enough to enchant an initially wriggly audience.

I couldn’t help but stare in awe at how beautiful and simple Little Angel’s puppets where. They moved so gracefully and realistic, it was hard not to fall for their enchantment. I have been a fan of their work for a long time and it really didn’t disappoint. The set was also rather simple, adorably transforming to meet the need of the next obstacle. There was a beautiful scene where Bertie the youngest child decided to go swimming with the fishes.

I think what made the performance was the multi-talented performers. Not only did they puppeteer, but sang, played instruments and changed scenery very well. They handled the puppets amazingly and I was quite awe-struck at how gifted they were.

The climax of the show for the audience was undoubtedly when the bear appears. I personally found him quite cute and felt sorry for him when they locked him out of their house. Overall the performance is well worth a visit, by the UK’s leading puppet company. There is something for everyone whether you’re a tiny tot or an old Biddy. Do be warned, the songs are so catchy they will be stuck in your head for a long time to come!

We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going to catch a big one, what a beautiful day! where not scared!

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The Paper Birds: BLIND

A few of us from the Canon Hill Collective had the privilege to attend the most recent performance by The Paper Birds (see trailer above). As we all shared this experience we decided to amalgamate our blogs into 3 short reviews of the night … enjoy!!!

Review 1:

Blind invited us into the mind and world of the incredibly, bafflingly talented Grace Savage. She can beatbox (UK champ), she can sing, she can act and she can definitely make powerful theatre. We were guided through the influential and decisive moments and relationships that have come to form and define the 25 year old woman that Savage has become. This was done through some times hilarious, some times dark and some times moving story telling, beatboxing, shadow puppetry and music produced live that utilised her vast range of sounds. We were even treated to a quick beatboxing lesson. I was captivated for the jam packed hour. Things explored included Savage’s obsession with imitation, unconventional motherly advice, the influence of the media on young people and the sexism that Savage has had to contend with in her line of work. A wildly entertaining and honest show. Savage and members of the company that devised and produced the show, The Paper Birds graduated from my course at the University of Leeds before I arrived. There’s hope for me yet.

Review 2:

Blind by The Paper Birds theatre company is one of those productions that reminds me why I am interested in theatre in the first place. Performed by Grace Savage, Blind explores the influences throughout her life that have led her to be the person she is today: an actress, singer and two-time UK Champion beat boxer. A gripping, moving and brutally honest piece, we were taken through important influences in her life such as her mother’s unconventional advice, what she hears on the news growing up, as well as more emotionally gripping stories of violence. There was also an educational element to the performance, as Grace explained a brief history of beat-boxing and even gave us our own beat-boxing lesson which was both entertaining and amusing. A range of different performance techniques were used effortlessly to keep the audience gripped throughout, from multimedia to physical theatre. Having gone into the performance knowing next to nothing about beat boxing and unsure as to whether I was even interested in the form, I found myself completely transfixed by Grace’s talent for beat boxing, particularly her use of a loop machine to create entire multi-layered songs using just her voice. However, what struck me most was her self-assurance as both a performer and as a person. Seeing some of the sexist and degrading comments she receives on her beat boxing videos and hearing about her response to this had me leaving the performance feeling an immense sense of empowerment. Seeing such a likeable, talented and inspirational performer do exactly what she wants rather than what she feels she should do is a lesson that everyone who sees Blind will surely take away with them.

Review 3:

I had never been to a Paper Bird production before but after going to see Blind – a theatrical piece comprising of mix media, acting, beat boxing, puppetry (to name a few) – I can tell you they have certainly caught my attention. This piece, which was performed by the UK’s top female beat boxer and all round talent Grace Savage, brought more than just music and stories to the table. Grace used all the art forms that were at her disposal to bring us into some of the most vulnerable parts of her life and herself. Through the performance she relived her childhood and her up bringing, her first beat boxing battle and an emotional experience on a train, and we relived it with her. The more she unraveled about her journey made me grasp how hard she has worked to become who she is today and how comfortable she is being herself. As a musician/singer/music maker, for a long time I have not left a performance so inspired with music as an art form. The way Grace Savage used her vocally created sounds to paint pictures, tell stories and disprove stereotypes re-invigorated my passion to do the same, and the fact she is still growing artistically reassures me that as long as I moving forward, I am moving in the right direction.

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A Cheeky Chunk of Afrovibes

An amalgamation of dance, music and theatre, all of which holding the narrative of South Africa 20 years after apartheid. If that’s not mind blowing enough, Afrovibes Festival also featured pop up performances from local talent, post-show discussions and a taste of South African food. All could be found at the Township Café, a wonderful enhancement to the already wonderful festival! Now in efforts to expand my knowledge of South African culture and eat as much Bunny Chow as I could, I had planned to attend all the shows featured in the programme. However due to a severe case of the sniffles I only managed to view three; sad I know. Here are some reviews!

Skierlik – Written and performed by Phillip M Dikotia

An intense and heart wrenching story of one man’s home and livelihood, stolen from his grasp by racism’s greedy finger tips. The weight of the heartache experienced from travelling was drilled into us from the moment protagonist Thomas (our main man Phillip M Dikotia) took off on his journey. Through repetition he drags us on his laborious journey to Skielik, his home. He returns, only to be flooded with painful memories of the wife and child lost in a violent mass shooting. Thomas explains how the loss of his loved ones was shrouded in bright lights and film crews, how the incident put Skierlik on the map as a place of poverty and the bodies of those mourned were over looked. Skierlik was heart breaking, powerful and unassumingly suspenseful to say the least.

Rainbow Scars – Written by Mike van Graan, Directed by Lara Bye

We follow Lindiwe, a young black South African girl adopted by Ellen, her white middle class mother, affirming the belief that South Africa 20 years on from apartheid is a “Rainbow nation”. Unintentionally she is reintroduced to her blood cousin Sickello (I apologise if this has been misspelt). He enters baring the news that his mother is dying and Lindiwe is presented with her last request, to help Sickello in any way she can. Now stripped of her sheltered home, Lindiwe is forced to question her identity. An interesting piece of realism which delves into themes such as “the white saviour” in the form of Lindwe’s adopted mother. When relaying her views on her adoption in a heated conversation, Lindiwe refers to herself as her mother’s “pet, project and trophy”. This, alongside elements of internalised racism within Lindiwe, frequently delivered from Sickello in the term ‘coconut’, formed the thought provoking piece which is Rainbow Scars.

Uncles and Angels – Choreographed and performed by Nelisiwe Xaba. Video Artist Mocke J van Veuren

An alluring piece centred on the Reed Dance, a traditional dance which promotes chastity in young women, resurrected in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 80’s. Uncles and Angels explores the preciousness of virginity and chastity amongst young girls. Ironically, the Reed Dance is performed in traditional clothing which exposes most of the body and has been said to trigger the rape of these young girls. Featuring effective video projections, we were taken on a mind blowing visual exhibition involving multiplication of live images, repetition and manipulation of time; thus creating a mesmerising and somewhat trippy performance.

Dark Cell – Created and performed by Themba Mbuli

A potent piece of contemporary dance, layered in the shadowy themes of mental imprisonment. As an audience member, it’s safe to say we were all transfixed within the concept of Dark Cell, which happens to be based on the harsh surroundings of Robben Island Prison. Music was drawn from chains and buckets which held symbolism of the living conditions at the prison. The buckets were representative of the toilet system which is still held in some communities today. Themba Mbuli then began to strip and perform nude, reflective of the indecent treatment of the prisoners by the wardens. An extremely powerful piece I could watch again and again.

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Film Review: The Riot Club at mac birmingham

15 (107 min)
Director: Lone Scherfig
Cast: Max Irons, Douglas Booth, Holliday Grainger, Jessica Brown Findlay
English | 2014

I went into this film having read the play on which it is based, Posh, only a few days ago. It was therefore an interesting experience to see how the film made the leap from stage to screen. It’s certainly been Hollywoodified in order to appeal to a broader audience and a new love interest has been woven in who accentuates the class divisions explored in the film. This new take means the portrayal of class division is more blunt and subtlety is certainly not one of its strengths, but the very strong cast featuring some of the leading lights of the new generation of British acting talent charm, dazzle and repulse. As a young fresh faced actor it feels like I’m receiving a constant Chinese burn when watching a 28 year old play an 18 year old but personal gripes aside, Max Irons and Sam Claflin in particular offer superb performances.

Written by Laura Wade and directed by Lone Scherfig, the film offers a hypothetical example of what the high-class youngsters of the Riot Club (based on Oxford University’s Bullingdon Club) could be capable of and what their ideology might be and it is an entertaining ride. It is easy to be seduced by the allure and mystique of the club and its members in the first half before it all turns sour as their behaviour descends into repugnance.

The film also suggests that the club holds enormous influence in who holds high political and financial positions. It is hard to know what to believe about the real elite dining clubs of Oxford but there is something about the concept of out of control over-privileged toffs running amok that is richly intriguing.