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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.

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How to fail…

The first in the new series of the ‘Creative How To’ sessions starts on Tuesday 14th October and is entitled ‘How to Fail’. These free sessions for 16-24yr olds offer professional development for emerging artists and offer ideas that may support you to navigate your creative career. They are produced by mac birmingham in partnership with Amy Martin & Bearheart.

How to fail 

Steve Jobs was a loser, well he lost a company and countless opportunities before gaining big time as the boss of Apple. In this session we’ll look at the positives behind failure and how to pick yourself up after a bump in the road.

Starting Tue 14 Oct 2014 | Hexagon Theatre | Free | 6pm-8pm

Each session will feature a keynote by creative producer Amy Martin and a guest lecturer from the creative sector. Our guest for the first session is Matt Nation from PROVIDE.


Image taken from PROVIDE blog.

Matt Nation has been fighting a fear of failure for as long as he can remember, but in recent years has been trying to embrace failure as an integral part of life, and something that’s essential to success. Opening himself up to the possibility of failing has led him to create PROVIDE, an independent clothing brand and lifestyle store based in Birmingham.

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‘You were remembering buildings demolished in your mind’ – Misplaced Memoirs at Hotel du Vin

I blame Warwick Castle for the fact that every time I see a site specific piece of theatre, I expect the ghost of Henry VII to jump out from behind a corner, but Qasim Riza Shaheen’s Misplaced Memoirs was a strictly no thrill, no scares, no gimmicks piece of theatre. It was, instead, a beautiful piece of well thought through theatre that told one man’s story as the story of many.

If you went to see his exhibition at mac and were in the majority of enjoying it but not quite understanding it, then this won’t make the exhibition make any more sense – but it’s still enjoyable. It is a personal story told through a series of strangers, jumping continents from Chicago ‘where you waited from 8:33 to 8:42, but I never came’ to Pakistan where ‘you dreamed of your ex’s ex’.

A tale is told to each of audience members through various parts of the hotel, for me winter in Chicago was depicted on the balcony and the wedding night perched on the side of the bath tub in a hotel room, and included slow dancing around the bathroom floor. The whole piece ends with a photo shoot for audience and characters, which I wish they told you before hand, otherwise I would have washed my hair and made an effort.

All in all, did it make me reassess my emotions like someone told me it would? No, but it was interesting how the hand of a stranger became more intimate and familiar as the performance went on. Was it an interesting experience in story telling that made me question what is theatre and what isn’t? Yes, I’m still not sure if the waiter who asked what floor I wanted in the lift was in the performance or not.

(One final note Qasim, if you ever read this – I’m really sorry that I trod on your beads on the bathroom floor when we danced)

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Creative How To’s

Creative Career Navigation for young people aged 16-24

For those of you craving some more nuggets of creative advice after the Cannon Hill Lectures, or for fresh faces seeking career navigation within the arts, look no further than a fresh series of brand spanking new Creative How To sessions, presented by mac birmingham in partnership with Amy Martin & Bearheart.

Starting Tue 14 Oct 2014 | 6-8pm fortnightly | Hexagon Theatre | Free

The Creative How To sessions aim to demystify the creative and cultural sector helping to find a route in, whether as an employee, freelancer or as an entrepreneur.

Tue 14 Oct – How to fail
Steve Jobs was a loser, well he lost a company and countless opportunities before gaining big time as the boss of Apple. In this session we’ll look at the positives behind failure and how to pick yourself up after a bump in the road.

Tue 28 
Oct – How to make a decision
Toast or cereal toast or cereal… Do you ever find it hard to make a decision? Maybe you’re not sure if you should go to Uni or perhaps you’re flummoxed by another of life’s options. This session will help you develop the where-with-alls to make a decision and the conviction to stick to it.

Tue 11 Nov – How to lead a workshop
Being able to lead a workshop is a brilliant skill to add to your metaphorical tool box. In this session we’ll look at the art of creative facilitation and how you can develop workshops from your creative passion.

Tue 25 Nov – How to budget & manage a project
In this session we’ll look at the deadly important skills of project management and how to wrestle a budget into submission. Knowing these skills will raise you head & shoulders above the competition.

Tue 9 Dec – How to change the world
Without creativity – creative problem solving, creative thinking – we don’t have a hope of making a positive difference in the world. We need to think outside of the box to come up with real, innovative, workable solutions to the problems that face us. In this session you’ll meet artists who are making positive changes in society and explore how you can too.

Tue 20 Jan – How to find the time
Your time is being zapped up by The Internet and the zillions of other distractions in life so how do you make the time to do the important stuff? This session looks at the practical skills of time management and reveals that there IS enough hours in the day!

Tue 3 Feb – How to tell your story
We want to know the story behind why you do what you do. Whether you have artwork to sell or an audience to entertain, people are far more likely to engage and connect if you deliver a well-crafted story with an emotional core. This session will help you to craft that story so people will listen.

Tue 17 Feb – How to get set up as a freelancer/start a business
Creatives don’t have a right to make money just an opportunity. In this session we’ll explore the business of creativity and the practical knowledge of tax, insurance, self employment and getting legally set up as a new business.

Tue 3 Mar – How to get a job
Are CVs old hat? In this session Top employers from arts & cultural organisations share their experience of hiring and firing creative talent and what they’re really looking for in an employee.

Tue 17 Mar – How to get big on the internet
What’s to gain from having bags of subscribers to your YouTube channel or thousands of followers on Instagram? In this session we’ll hear from arty types who are big on The Internet, discuss the benefits of having an online following and figure out how you build an online fan base.

For more information visit: macbirmingham.co.uk/event/ng-cht/

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What’s The Agenda in pictures

What’s The Agenda went off with a big festival BOOM, bringing in creative people from all over the city to create, instigate, and talk about art for social change.

“Occupying mac’s Foyle Studio for the duration of the festival, an array of installations and performances awaited those who entered. Haiku poetry, immersive theatre, sculpture, film and visual arts exhibition Side View were just some of the vessels employed here to investigate when art becomes a political act and how creativity can incite positive social change; a mixing pot which lay testament to both the collectives’ broad range of skills and the breadth of mac’s support for the regions diverse creative future.

Drawing in a variety of changemakers throughout the weekend, the final flourish was spoken word event Bare Bones and post-show discussion debate.4.social.change (DB84SC) with Birmingham gems Vanley Burke, Zia Ahmed, Jodi Ann Bickley and Immy Kaur making up the panel. An achievement in itself, the evening not only gave brand spanking new performers a stage and an audience, but created a meaningful discussion with the public about themes raised throughout What’s The Agenda? – loneliness, heritage and gender issues – acting as the exclamation and question mark at the end of a collective statement.”

– Taken from online review by Illustrated Brum.

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What’s The Agenda?

What's The Agenda?
Cannon Hill Collective present: What’s The Agenda?

Sat 29 – Sun 30 Mar, 2pm-9pm | Foyle Studio| Free Entry

Launch Party Fri 28 Mar, 6pm-9pm | Please RSVP nextgen@macarts.co.uk

A festival of visual art, performance and debate curated by mac birmingham’s next generation of artists, Cannon Hill Collective (CHC). Working with producer Amy Martin and social provocateurs Stan’s Cafe, CHC have created a unique programme of events at mac fuelled by a united desire to incite positive social change and explore when art becomes a political act.

Archival Activism evokes responses, prompts anecdotes and defies assumptions surrounding heritage and identity, subverting society’s box-ticking mindset.The more we learn about ourselves, the better we can relate to one another. Share the story of your heritage on twitter @ArchivalAct

Bare Bones
A dynamic and thought-provoking evening of spoken word and performance poetry, hitchhiking through the themes discussed in What’s The Agenda?

A hive of activity housing and encouraging creative happenings, the structure will be redeveloped and transformed over the course of the event, inviting audience interaction and investigation by mirroring the possibility for change found within it.

DB84SC is an ongoing discussion platform running both on and offline during What’s The Agenda? culminating in a live debate for you to have your say. @DB84Movement

Estranged Voices is an immersive 15 minute spoken word performance exploring the unnatural existence of isolation within a loving relationship.

The Hikikomori
New media provides us with an eternal eye on the world that surrounds us, so why should we leave the comfort of our own walls? Step into The Hikikomori to visualise a life alone.

Side View looks past media influence to how sexual objectification affects everyday interactions and perspectives of the opposite sex. Through film and visual art the project explores responses to sexual objectification and the role gender continues to play in today’s world.

So It Goes
A film that explores whether society’s ‘big’ issues are actually the issues we need to be focusing on and whether history is simply repeating itself. See the film in full online here.


Illustration by Louise Byng.

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#NextGenBrum Cannon Hill Café

New collaborative commissions for young people and emerging artists aged 16-24yrs at mac birmingham

Deadline for submissions: 1st March 2014

Cannon Hill Café is a new programme aiming to develop emerging artists by offering young people aged between 16-24yrs the chance to engage and connect with mac birmingham: by initiating, producing and delivering their own events.

The aim of these commissions is to encourage new and meaningful creative collaborations as part of theNext Gen programme at mac birmingham and to create roles for young people as producers, curators, programmers, artists and leaders. Offering young people resources including, space, production support and funds to make creative work, collaborate and test out ideas.

What’s on offer?

• 5 x young people’s commissions for an alternative events programme – the Cannon Hill Café

• £500 on offer per event

• Use of space, technical support and production support from mac staff and associate producer Amy Martin

• Free skills workshops in; events management, marketing, production and audience engagement

This commission is open to:

• Existing youth groups, youth companies and youth charities or newly formed collaborative groups of young people

• Groups based in the West Midlands

• Aged 16-24yrs – led by young people

Location: Arena Café, mac birmingham, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham B12 9QH

Fee: Successful applicants will receive £500/per event to be spent as a programme budget

How to apply:

Application is by proposal via email to nextgen@macarts.co.uk

Your proposal should be on no more than 2 sides of A4.

Your proposal should include:

• The skills and experience of you and your group

• An outline of what you’d like to do – your ideas and how you would create a new one off event at mac for young people

• An indication of who you would like to collaborate with or programme, and how you intend to engage your audience

Please note your event must suit a public space café with limited tech resources. You will have access to a sound and light PA, projector, screen and technician. Your event must be on either 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th May or 3rd June between 5pm-8pm. Your event must be a minimum of 1 hour to a maximum of 3 hours in duration.
Successful shortlisted applicants will be asked to pitch their idea on Saturday 15th March 2014.
We understand that proposals will be subject to change and development.
We are happy to receive proposals as video, audio files, or web-based applications.

To help you to develop your application you can sign up to the following free Cannon Hill Lectures in events management and/or take part in an information surgery. Further information below.


From Set Up to Clean Up, a crash course in Events Management Pt 1 with Amy Martin

Thu 30 Jan, 6pm-8pm | Free | Hexagon Theatre

Planning an event, exhibition, party or workshop? Need help getting started? Then this crash course in Events Management is for you. You will explore the planning process, going step by step through the different elements, along the way creating a useful timeline. You will look at how to get people to attend your event and how to manage the process from set up to clean up.

From Set Up to Clean Up, a crash course in Events Management Pt 2 with Amy Martin

Thu 6 Feb, 6pm-8pm | Free | Hexagon Theatre

Building on from Pt 1 this lecture offers a practical guide to Events Management. You’ll leave with a toolkit that will help you organise future events, the confidence to get started and the skills to manage the process from set up to clean up.

Information surgeries

Tue 28 Jan, 4pm-5pm | mac birmingham café drop in

Thu 30 Jan, 4pm-5pm |  mac birmingham café drop in

Thu 6 Feb, 4pm-5pm | mac birmingham café drop in