Colors: Red Color

Even with no physical Carnivals set for 2021, Caribbean entertainer Champeon is paying tribute to the annual festival tradition of J’ouvert with his latest musical release appropriately titled “J’ouvert Powers”.

The T&T-born, South Carolina-based Champeon, real name Ronnel Ramirez, describes his new track as the musical vehicle for transporting J’ouvert lovers back to that fun, energetic state of spiritual euphoria which is usually experienced when partaking in the early morning pre-Carnival ritual.

J’ouvert Powers which features pulsating bass lines and percussions alongside eerie synthesizer melodies and electronic effects was written by Champeon and produced by Jelani Harris of Studio 23 Music Group Studio.

To deliver the J’ouvert effect Champeon channelled his Caribbean roots to deliver the song’s infectious lyrics with influence from Trinbagonian Rapso artistes and Grenadian Jab Jab performers.

He shared, “I created a song that reminds people that no matter where in the world we are, J’ouvert as well as fetes and mas help us to celebrate life. To me the history of this tradition should always be a significant part of the Carnival culture. As a Trini, the spirit of J’ouvert runs in my blood and to me it is the best part of the season. It was always a huge part of me growing up, so now as an adult and as an artiste I can express my love for it musically.”

For Champeon, the goal is to have this ‘dutty mas ditty’ in rotation for years to come for fans of the festival to enjoy whether in their homes, cars, on the radio, at virtual fetes or eventually during in-person events in the post-Covid era.

Regardless, Champeon plans to continuously release and perform various genres of music and aspires to try his hand at professional event hosting in the near future.

He remains thankful to the public for supporting him and his music and encourages music fans to check out his website and to follow him and subscribe to all his social media platforms.

Once again, Birmingham Hippodrome is proud to be collaborating with Curve to bring audiences an unmissable musical theatre event. Following the success of its recent five-star production of Sunset Boulevard – at Home, Curve will stream The Color Purple online between tomorrow (Tuesday February 16) and Sunday March 7 in association with Birmingham Hippodrome. 

Whilst a planned run of live performances at Curve in March has now sadly been cancelled due to the uncertainty around national restrictions, The Color Purple – at Home will see Curve film the production in its transformed auditorium for audiences to watch online. This reimagining will be fully costumed, filmed in HD and will feature original cast members of the 2019 production, co-produced by Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome.

The 2019 production of The Color Purple, the first-ever co-production between Birmingham Hippodrome and Curve, played to sold-out audiences in Birmingham and Leicester with standing-ovations and a wealth of critical acclaim.

The Color Purple – at Home will be led by T’Shan Williams as Celie, alongside company members KM Drew Boateng, Owen Chaponda, Perola Congo, Danielle Fiamanya, Danielle Kassarate, Anelisa Lamola, Karen Mavundukure, Ako Mitchell, Rosemary Annabella Nkrumah, Landi Oshinowo, Simon Anthony Rhoden and Jo Servi. Also returning to Curve is Carly Mercedes Dyer, who played Anita in the acclaimed Made at Curve production of West Side Story. Carly will join the cast as Shug Avery.

Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, the musical will once again be directed by Tinuke Craig, alongside Musical Director Alex Parker, Designer Alex Lowde, Choreographer Mark Smith, Sound Designer Tom Marshall and Casting Director Kay Magson CDG. The production will be lit by Curve Associate Ben Cracknell.

Birmingham Hippodrome’s Artistic Director and Chief Executive Fiona Allan said: “We are delighted to be able to again partner with Curve, this time to film and stream a concert version of The Color Purple.

“The award-winning company is just incredible, and our audiences loved seeing the production live back in 2019. Whilst we wait until we are able to reopen our theatres to the public, I’m thrilled we can share this new imagining of The Color Purple with you at home.”

Curve’s Chief Executive Chris Stafford and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster said: “After the phenomenal response to Sunset Boulevard, we are thrilled to present a special streamed version of The Color Purple for audiences across the UK and Ireland to enjoy at home. Reuniting our incredible 2019 company, Tinuke Craig’s production filled with hope and resilience, is sure to lift the spirits of all of us in these challenging times.”

“Connecting with our communities has never felt more important and alongside this production, there will be a series of talks, educational events and interactive projects. We are also proud to make free tickets available to thank our astonishing NHS workers and their families.

“Theatre is all about collaboration and we have a wonderful group of partners who have made all this possible, in particular Theatrical Rights Worldwide and our associate producers Birmingham Hippodrome. The unwavering support of our sponsors PPL PRS and De Montfort University has been invaluable during this period. The combined efforts of these remarkable organisations have helped make all of this possible.

“We also extend sincere thanks to Arts Council England, Leicester City Council and the Culture Recovery Fund for continuing to support Curve during this time.”

The Color Purple – at Home is supported by Leicester-based music licensing company PPL PRS and De Montfort University whose sponsorship will enable Curve to offer free tickets to specific local community groups and young people.

As part of the run of streamed performances, Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome will offer 2,000 free tickets for NHS workers to enjoy the production at home, with tickets distributed through an NHS provider

Birmingham Hippodrome shared a series of films to welcome in Chinese New Year and celebrate The Year of The Ox. It commissioned filmmaker Craig Bush and Artist Frances Yeung to create a series of short films reflecting the cultural celebrations and traditions that take place during Chinese New Year.

Made in collaboration with the Chinese Community Centre Birmingham, the films is shared over a seven-day period and explores how the local community in Southside have adapted their celebrations in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. Chinese New Year, commonly referred to as the Spring Festival, celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar and in many Chinese communities, a full week’s holiday is taken to enjoy the festivities, visit friends and family to exchange gifts and red envelopes. 

Graham Callister, Director of Festivals at Birmingham Hippodrome said: “Ordinarily we would be preparing for our annual celebrations across the city with tens of thousands of people in attendance. We are delighted to be working with the Birmingham Chinese Festival Committee and Chinese Community Centre Birmingham again to offer a special digital programme to celebrate Chinese New Year and share a deeper insight into the traditions behind this wonderful festival.”

He added: “We would like to thank our partners and supporters for ensuring we can still work in partnership with the groups, artists and communities who live, work and enjoy Birmingham to celebrate Chinese New Year. We hope people will enjoy finding out more about the celebrations including the much loved lion dances, tree wrapping and traditional food.” The Chinese Festival Committee also streamed an online celebration from their Facebook page, including sharing the series of specially commissioned films.

James Wong, Chair of the Chinese Festival Committee said: "Although we couldn’t bring the festival to the streets of Birmingham, we celebrated Chinese New Year in the comfort of people’s home to welcome the year of the Ox!.”

Frances Yeung, an emerging artist working with Chinese Community Centre Birmingham on the films added: “Although this year the Chinese community is not able to have any physical Chinese New Year celebrations, we used this opportunity to delve deeper by sharing the many significant aspects of the Spring Festival celebration digitally. We might be socially distancing, but we’re still very much connected at heart.”

The films - produced in partnership with Chinese Community Centre Birmingham, Chinese New Year Committee Birmingham, Southside BID, The Arcadian and funded by Arts Council England - will be shared on Birmingham Hippodrome’s social media channels and website.

Aby Coulibaly followed her visionary debut ‘Taurus’ with her second track ‘Maybe’, and in the process boosted her buzzworthy reputation with praise from Complex, Gal-dem and Wonderland. Her playlist support continues to gain traction, with highlights to date including R&B UK, dazed and Boho + Chill at Spotify plus Chilled R&B at Apple Music.
That burgeoning reputation will continue to flourish as Aby now shares her latest release ‘Long Nights’. Her sublime tone is again the beguiling focal point of the package and she adds another dimension to her multifaceted vocal with a coolly enunciated rap that provides a touch of her Irish accent to a flow that has international appeal.
The song’s production, by Moyo who is also a member of Chamomile Records, provides the foundation for Aby to excel with snappy beats, resonant rolling bass and soft waves of keys adding to its modernist take on R&B and soul. ‘Long Nights’ also reiterates Aby’s ability to scrutinise the nuances of sensitive situations. Issues of blame and deflection surface as a relationship breaks down but Aby confidently affirms that it’s a conflict that she can rise above.
She says: “Long nights is about women who tear each other down instead of lifting each other up. I wrote it the day after I had a weird encounter with a girl who treated me badly for no reason and it was so crazy because she actually didn’t know me. The song was inspired by this encounter and it made me think about women competing with each other instead of empowering each other.” That quest for independence also led Aby to form her own label, Chamomile Records, late last year. Working to the philosophy that it’s all about the music, the label is home to another rising Irish R&B talent in the shape of Monjola.
Still just 21-year-olds, the Dublin-based Aby Coulibaly’s alternative R&B is flavoured by a wider range of influences. Think how Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill find empowerment in expressing vulnerability but with some of the unorthodox sonics of James Blake and Empire of the Sun. Music has been her passion since childhood, with songwriting offering her a creative outlet that can unload her anxieties and frustrations. 

Valentine’s Day is set to be different this year with Covid-19 lockdown restrictions still in place, but with love still undeniably in the air this year is no exception. Today will provide loving couples to celebrate in style at home.

Whether it’s an elaborate meal, a bottle of something special or an evening cuddling up on the sofa watching a romantic film, today’s lockdown Valentine’s Day can still be one to remember. From sharing home spas to making the perfect romantic meal together – or having a virtual date – ideas and creative gifts can be limitless.

With current government guidance stating that people must stay at home except when absolutely necessary, it means people cannot visit their partner unless they are part of a support bubble. However, people are allowed to exercise in outdoor spaces with one other person, which is limited to once a day and only in the local area - whilst always socially distancing.

If visiting isn't an option, you can probably arrange a dinner date together via Facetime or Zoom, followed by a movie night or box set-binge using an appropriate app.

There might even be the option of doing some kind of activity like sending each other letterbox cocktail-making kits or drinks from a cocktail delivery service. Or, of course, you can keep it simple with a good takeaway delivered to you and your partner at the same time.

The opportunities for the best of a stay-at-home date night idea for celebrating the Feast of Saint Valentine can be the most creative…ever as the son of the love goddess Venus,

Cupid - the god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection - aims his arrow at participants who will be looking at ways of resting and sharing each other’s true, unrequited love. 

First Lady Michelle Obama has confirmed that she is launching a new cooking show for children on Netflix called ‘Waffles + Mochi’. The 10-episode series will debut in March 2021.

The 57-year old wrote her Instagram page: “It’s all about good food, discovering it, cooking it, and of course, eating it. These two will take us on adventures all around the world to explore new ingredients and try out new recipes.” In 2018, both Michelle and her husband former President Barack Obama entered into a multi-year agreement to produce films and series with Netflix, the world’s leading internet entertainment service.

A synopsis released by Netflix states that the show will focus on two best puppet friends, Waffles and Mochi, who after being hired as “employees of a whimsical supermarket”, travel to kitchens around the world with the help of a “magical flying shopping cart”. The puppets will be joined in the 20-minute episodes by “renowned chefs, home cooks, kids and celebrities”, while Mrs Obama will feature as a series regular in appearances as the supermarket manager.

Mochi is a small pink round puppet, resembling the Japanese rice cake, while Waffles is a bigger furry creature with waffles as ears. Writing about the show, the former First Lady said: “Kids will love it, but I know that adults will also get plenty of laughs – and some tips for the kitchen.

“In many ways, this show is an extension of my work to support children’s health as first lady – and to be quite honest, I wish a programme like this had been around when my girls were young.”

Both Mrs and Ms Obama production company, Higher Ground Productions, which she owns with her husband, will produce a diverse mix of content, including the potential for scripted series, unscripted series, docu-series, documentaries, and features. All of their projects will be accessible to more than 125 million households in 190 countries.

‘Within Me’ unites two very different Italian artists whose combined talents have created something even greater than the sum of their parts. Dardust collides the worlds of minimalist piano composition and ambient electronica, a mix that simultaneously echoes Max Richter, Philip Glass and Aphex Twin. Meanwhile, no introduction is needed for Grammy award-winner Benny Benassi, the electro house pioneer who regularly packs festivals and amasses millions of streams all over the world.

The result is something refreshingly different yet entirely in tune with their backgrounds. ‘Within Me’ opens with Dardust’s captivating piano, which captures a melody as immediately infectious as anything from the world of pop while expressing an atmosphere both beautiful and evocative. Set alone, it’s serene, but Benny Benassi’s dynamic drops and restless beats fire it into the dancefloor. What follows is two artists challenging each other to reach new heights, both weaving between and complementing each other’s creativity.

Dardust says: “‘Within Me’ is the opposite side of ‘Without You’, the most intimate and romantic track of the latest album ‘Storm and Drugs’. When I met Benny, we decided to contaminate it with his own world, looking out for something that would create an even stronger contrast with the original version. The song that came out of that could be considered as ‘Melodic Techno’, a romantic and magical club track that exasperates the simplicity and outrightness of the original version.”

Benny added: “I’ve always appreciated Dardust’s magical touch as a pianist and as a producer, so when the idea of making a progressive track together with a melodic piano part came about I was really excited to do it. It was amazing we were able to film it in the empty Verona Arena during the lockdown, too. That was a crazy experience!”

Dardust always wanted to push boundaries in music. Classically trained from a young age, his passion for music was equally inspired by everything from Kraftwerk to Underworld. He became a sought-after producer, scoring countless Platinum records and 500 million streams for his work with internationally successful Italian artists such as Mahmood, Sfera Ebbasta, Jovanotti and Ghali.

Throughout this era, one idea remained constant: could he reinvent classical music with an intergalactic vibe in a similar way to how David Bowie reimagined pop? It’s something he’s strived to achieve, from his debut album 7 in 2015 to last year’s ambitious S.A.D. Storm And Drugs (Artist First/Sony Music Masterworks), which set 18th-century classical piano within the 90s Manchester club scene.

In a career spanning thirty years, the iconic Benny Benassi has risen from an underground club DJ to a multi-million-selling producer. He shot to international success in 2003 with ‘Satisfaction’, a global hit that peaked at #2 in the UK with the help of an unforgettable video. That star status was confirmed with the release of his debut album, ‘Hypnotica’. Since then, Benassi has accomplished countless major achievements.

His tracks, such as the Chris Brown collab ‘Beautiful People’ and ‘Cinema’ (with Gary Go) reached huge audiences as he became a major attraction at Coachella, EDC, Ultra, Tomorrowland and countless others. He earned a Grammy for his remix of Public Enemy’s ‘Bring The Noise’ and another when Skrillex remixed ‘Cinema’. He remains an in-demand collaborator and remixer for a new wave of major artists, including Lil Yachty, Yxng Bane and Jeremih.


The nominees for annual Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards are out, and several African stars – both renowned and rising – are in the running for honours at the 34th ceremony that will be held virtually on March 13.

The awards celebrate fan favourite stars in film, television, music, sports and more, and this year’s edition is hosted by actor and comedian Kenan Thompson, himself a past winner of an award.

“Jerusalema” hit-maker Master KG of South Africa is up for the Favourite Global Music Star Award. He will have to shrug off competition from BTS, Sebastian Yatra, Savannah Clarke, David Guetta and Taylor Swift.

In the Favourite African Star category, Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi (South Africa) will vie for honours against Thuso Mbedu (acting, South Africa), Siya Kolisi (rugby, South Africa), Sheebah (music, Uganda), Sadio Mane (football, Senegal) and Mo Salah (football, Egypt).

In the Favourite African Social Star category, South African celeb Bonang Matheba is up against comedienne Emannuella (Nigeria), Ugandan dance group Ghetto Kids, social media comedy group Ikorodu Bois, magician Wian Van De Burg, and Kenyan social media rib-cracker Elisa Majimbo. 

To bring colour to this year’s virtual ceremony, the show will feature live and interactive fan walls that bring celebrities and families at home to the “main stage”, while a lucky family will be chosen to present an award.

The eSkootr Championship (eSC), the world’s first racing series for electric scooters, has appointed leading Formula 1 advisor Andy Mellor as chair of its new Safety Commission – the body that will develop and maintain safety systems across the championship.

Mellor has been at the forefront of F1 and motorsport safety for the past 20 years as a consultant to the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), world motorsport’s governing body. During this time, he has been Vice President of the FIA Safety Commission, as well as Advisor to the Formula 1 Technical Working Group and World Rally Championship Technical Working Group.

Mellor has been involved in the development of almost every element of modern F1 safety – from anti-penetration chassis designs and anti-launch nosecones to advanced racing helmets. He was also the project lead for the Halo frontal protection device, which is now fitted to all F1 cars and has been hailed as a life-saving development by drivers across the sport.

Prior to this, Mellor worked on passenger car and motorcycle safety for the UK Government and its research angency, the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), where he delivered a number of research and development projects, including active-adaptive secondary safety systems for road cars, motorcycle accident analysis and state-of-the-art motorcycle helmet designs. He then headed up the Motorsport Safety Department at TRL, where he was responsible for the R&D of motorsport safety systems and standards for sanctioning bodies, race teams and equipment suppliers.

Mellor will bring his unique experience to the new role with eSC. Working alongside former grand prix driver Alex Wurz, who is helping to create and build the championship’s racetracks, Mellor will mastermind the safety-focused development of the world’s newest form of motorsport.

This will range from developing safety infrastructure around the track to incorporating protective technology into the scooters and the riders’ clothing and equipment.
A further core element of Mellor’s role will be to identify potential areas of safety innovation which may be relevant to the real-world application of micromobility, and the shared use and ownership of electric scooters on the roads.

Andy Mellor said: “I’m excited to be joining eSC, and I’m really looking forward to be working again with Alex (Wurz). He already has extensive experience in designing safety-relevant racetracks, so it will be fascinating to collaborate with him as we further define and develop the eSC racing experience.

“This series is uniquely positioned within the motorsport ecosystem and offers some exciting opportunities for the development of new safety solutions for the track and, ultimately, the road. And, for me, that’s where it gets really exciting – and, in many ways, brings my career back to where I started with the UK Department for Transport; but this time helping to map the benefits of motorsport innovation back to road users.”
Co-founder, eSkootr Championship Safety Ambassador Alex Wurz, said: “Anyone who has worked in top-level international motorsport over the past 20 years will know and respect Andy’s work and his reputation. He is one of the most important names in the field of motorsport safety – and stands alongside legends like Professor Sid Watkins and Charlie Whiting, racers and safety visionaries, committed to the very highest safety standards at all levels of our sport.

“Andy’s work covers a broad range of themes – looking not just at driver, rider and vehicle protection, but raising circuit safety standards, and building a greater understanding of the interplay between vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-circuit impacts. His efforts to build the world accident database – an incredibly deep study that has provided the foundations for all modern safety work – stand as further testament to his vision. He will be a totally invaluable member of the eSC team and we’re extremely pleased that he’s decided to join us.”

Mellor will take up his Safety Commission post in April this year.


International recording artist Ameera, releases her highly anticipated debut album New World, available across download and streaming services. The alter-ego of British born, vocalist and composer, Gemma Ameera, is known for her unique music, genuine nature and for residing among dense Rainforests in the Shires of Australia. ‘Ameera’ which means princess in Arabic, was a nickname given to Gemma whilst working as a songwriter in Dubai and after learning Arabic and falling in love with Middle Eastern culture, she kept it.

For the last 10 years, she has been living and working as a songwriter in Australia, earning herself a ‘Best Folk Song’ award at the Australian Independent Music Awards 2013. She uses her experience of toplining for artists and composing music for games, TV and short films to create her own sound. Whilst Ameera was composing ‘New World’ she decided to go back to finish her Bachelor of Music to pursue her dream of having a PhD in music composition.

She says: “Starting University again to challenge myself in theory, music history and cultures; has been the best idea I’ve had. My level of work continued to supersede song after the song you can never stop learning, no matter how much experience you gain.”

Take a minute to imagine if Hans Zimmer and Enya had a love child who lives somewhere between Middle Earth, and a Galaxy far far away, ‘New World’ would be their soundtrack.

The singer’s first single ‘Raindance’ from the album, just released, has already reached over 5,000 views on YouTube and over 7000 across all streaming services. Growing up across the world inspired her to create unique, uplifting and healing music that inspires a deeper connection and primal instinct in today’s modern world. 

Exploring multiple styles, sounds and textures from around the world the music Ameera makes can be commercially described as tribal, world, electronic, Celtic, cinematic, new age and soundscape and for that reason, Ameera created the genre 'New World' to capture her sound. The genre ‘New World’ is a natural evolution and progression of World Music.

‘New World’ was co-produced with Grammy-award-winning producer and friend Brandon Friesen (The Kooks, R3HAB, The Hu) and although originally set for release in 2020 ‘New World’ was pushed back after signing a publishing contract with Urband & Lazar/Kobalt. This would have seemed to be unfortunate timing to many artists in the industry, however, Ameera embraced the harsh restrictions of her hometown in Victoria and used the time to focus on finessing each track.

“I live in the rainforests in Northern Victoria and it’s so cold in winter, it snows here. My studio was freezing and since we were in lockdown I decided to move my entire studio into the living room. I focused on working between my University degree and the album. It saved me from losing it at times!”

As construction concludes on Birmingham Symphony Hall’s £13.2 million transformation, five talented Birmingham-based musicians became the first to rehearse in the new state-of-the-art performance facilities ahead of opening to the public later this year. Current government guidelines allow for the group of musicians to rehearse and perform for broadcast or recording purposes. Upon re-opening the new performance space, redeveloped with funds raised prior to the global pandemic, will offer local artists even more opportunities to perform as part of a daily programme of free and affordable events and activities.

The musicians rehearsing are part of a brand-new, free to access, all-female jazz ensemble created by the music charity responsible for Town Hall and Symphony Hall to improve the gender divide in the jazz sector. Later this month, Sarah Lopez (vocals), Jasmine Belle (alto saxophone), Scarlett Churchill (drums), Eliza Dunhill (trumpet) and Amy Coates (bass) will be filming a showcase of their musical and compositional talent in the main auditorium.

Nick Reed, Chief Executive for the music charity responsible for Town Hall and Symphony Hall said: “I am thrilled to share this first glimpse inside Symphony Hall following the completion of the Making an Entrance project. Over the past 18 months we have transformed the public spaces of our iconic concert hall to create new spaces for performance and learning, giving new opportunities for local musicians, and supporting our local community in musical discoveries. A new City Café greets visitors from Centenary Square, and expanded bars and relaxed seating ensure a warm welcome throughout the day.

“Despite the challenges of the last year we have maintained a vibrant digital programme throughout the pandemic, supporting local musicians and connecting over a quarter of a million people through our regular watch parties. It is fitting therefore that the very first activity in our new space was a rehearsal from our Women in Jazz ensemble who will feature as part of that ongoing programme.

“Music will play a powerful role in reuniting communities after the isolation and hardship of the past year. We hope that Symphony Hall will be a beacon for that reconnection and we are excited to welcome audiences back to our new spaces just as soon as we can. We are immensely grateful to all the funding partners who have supported the project, and the thousands of individual donors who have put their faith in the power of music.”

Anita Bhalla OBE, Chair of the Board for the music charity responsible for Town Hall and Symphony Hall said: “It’s important to recognise and thank all of the incredible donors, big and small, that have seen the value and importance of this project, which will make the music charity responsible for Symphony Hall more sustainable. This transformation will truly reflect our diverse, open and creative city and will be a proud contributor to the economic growth of the region as soon as it is able to do so. I’ll be so thrilled to see audiences come together and enjoy live music in these brand-new spaces later this year – after this last year of frequent isolation, it will make the perfect place to reunite and reconnect.”

The Mayor of the West Midlands and former vice-chair of the music charity responsible for both Symphony Hall and the Town Hall, Andy Street, said: “Symphony Hall is one of the West Midlands’ best landmarks and a real jewel in Birmingham’s crown, and so it is brilliant to see the venue swing open its doors to musicians again after undergoing a stunning transformation. As a born-and-bred Brummie and former vice-chair of Performances Birmingham, I know first-hand just how truly special Symphony Hall is. I am pleased that the West Midlands Combined Authority continues to play its part in helping the £13.2 million transformation happen, and I cannot wait until the public can start taking their seats again.”

The transformation of Symphony Hall’s foyers has been supported by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP).

Ed Watson, Interim Chief Executive of GBSLEP said: “I am delighted to hear musicians will be returning to the newly transformed Symphony Hall. GBSLEP’s investment of £6million from the Local Growth Fund is an example of how we are committed to growing the creative industries, improving experiences for people living here and visitors who come to the region. Access to the arts works as a leveller in society and by creating new public performance spaces, opportunities will grow for performers as well as those who come to visit the prestigious, world-renowned Symphony Hall.

“Creative industries, culture, tourism are all crucial catalysts of inclusive economic growth and account for £19.5 billion of GVA and 15% of jobs across the region which is why the creative and cultural sector is a key part of our growth plans at GBSLEP and the West Midlands Industrial Strategy. We will continue to work with our partners in the public, private and academic sectors to identify opportunities to create jobs and better places for all of us to enjoy.” Arts Council England invested £4.5million of National Lottery money in support of the great artistic and cultural opportunities for artists that the redevelopment will enable.

Pete Knott, Area Director for Arts Council England, said: “It’s fantastic to hear that the Symphony Hall will open as a rehearsal space following its redevelopment – as a key part of Birmingham’s cultural scene, we’re really proud to have invested in the building work through our National Lottery funded Capital programme.

“In what has been a challenging time for our sector, it’s great to see that Birmingham’s Symphony Hall is planning to offer local artists opportunities to rehearse, and we look forward to the new performance space fully reopening soon.”

For the first time, Birmingham’s world-renowned concert hall now boasts a dedicated entrance from Centenary Square – which in itself is undergoing major redevelopment to provide a high-quality public realm within the second city.


Birmingham Hippodrome and Curve have released a first look behind-the-scenes of The Color Purple – At Home which is streaming for three weeks only from Tuesday 16 February -Sunday 7 March 2021 as part of Curve at Home. Tickets are on sale now. Building on the success of Curve’s first major stream, (Sunset Boulevard – at Home), Birmingham Hippodrome and Curve’s WhatOnStage Award-winning 2019 production of The Color Purple has now been especially reimagined for audiences to enjoy at home.

Marsha Norman’s poetic and powerful script along with the magnificent songs by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray celebrate life, love and the strength to stand up for who you are and what you believe in. This unforgettable story set in racially divided Southern America is staged by the team behind the 2019 production – Director Tinuke Craig, Musical Director Alex Parker and Choreographer Mark Smith. The 2019 production of The Color Purple, the first-ever co-production between Birmingham Hippodrome and Curve, played to sold-out audiences in Birmingham and Leicester with standing-ovations and a wealth of critical acclaim.

T’Shan Williams returns to lead the magnificent original company as the courageous heroine Celie, with Danielle Fiamanya (Winner – The Stage Debut Awards 2019) reprising her role as Celie’s Sister, Nettie. Carly Mercedes Dyer joins the cast as the vivacious Shug Avery, following her acclaimed performance as Anita in the 2019 Made at Curve production of West Side Story. Drawing inspiration from jazz, ragtime, gospel and blues, a band of incredible musicians will combine with the company’s soulful vocals in bringing the score to life, including Push Da Button, Too Beautiful for Words and I’m Here.

Recorded in Curve’s transformed auditorium and fully lit using the theatre’s state-of-the-art lighting rig, The Color Purple – at Home will offer audiences the chance to see Alice Walker’s seminal novel as they’ve never seen it before. The Color Purple – at Home is supported by Leicester-based music licensing company PPL PRS and De Montfort University whose sponsorship will enable Curve to offer free tickets to specific local community groups and young people. Birmingham Hippodrome is able to offer tickets to similar groups in Birmingham through the support they received through the Culture Recovery Fund.

A Made at Curve production created in association with Birmingham Hippodrome, tickets for The Color Purple – at Home are available to book now and are priced at £20 per household. The streamed production will be available to audiences in the UK and Ireland only and Curve will offer a range of accessible performances throughout the run, including captioned and audio described.

As part of the run of streamed performances, Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome will offer 2,000 free tickets for NHS workers to enjoy the production at home, with tickets distributed through local NHS providers.

Senior Business Support worker, Craig Mann, 34, from Birmingham has made it to the final of a national singing competition fronted by reality TV star, Jess Wright. The virtual talent contest, which will be streamed live to the nation, is hosted by PlayOJO, the fair online casino, in celebration of its recent partnership with Bandicoot TV, producers of The Masked Singer UK, to find the UKs best amateur singer.

Former TOWIE star, Jess Wright, will be joined by five vocalists who earned their place on the virtual singalong by privately proving their singing talents to Jess, by submitting videos hitting high notes via the PlayOJO website.

Craig, a Senior Business Support worker for an energy company, secured his place in the final with a heart-warming rendition of ‘Make You Feel My Love’ by Adele, which he will be performing during Thursday’s live finale. He was inspired to perform this track as it reminds him that there is always someone there to make you feel loved whether that’s family or friends, if you’re feeling alone.

Each finalist will have a chance to showcase their unique singing capabilities in front of Jess and the nation, culminating in Jess performing a live duet with the winner. The champion of the virtual singalong contest will also earn themselves a professional karaoke kit, to hone their vocal skills (and be the envy of their neighbors). Taking inspiration from The Masked Singer, contestants will be encouraged to dress in their craziest costumes, adding some theatrics to the evening’s entertainment, which will be beamed into homes around the country via the PlayOJO YouTube page.

Speaking about the virtual PlayOJO singing contest, Jess Wright said: “The talent from the submissions alone has been outstanding, so it’s been a real challenge to choose my final five, but I’m really happy with my decision. I can’t wait to hear their vocals live and even more excited to see their costume choices! Hopefully the pressure of judging it all live won’t go to my head... It’s all getting very real… Bring it on!”

Peter Bennett, Head of Brand Marketing at PlayOJO said: “We’re so excited to be celebrating our partnership with The Masked Singer by hosting the Virtual Singalong Contest with Jess – talk about taking the Zoom quiz to the next level and beating the winter blues? I think we’ve surpassed all expectations with the talent entering the competition.

It’s going to be a great night of light-hearted entertainment and prizes and we can’t wait to hear everyone’s singing abilities and see everyone’s extravagant fancy-dress live on the night!”

The PlayOJO Virtual Singalong Contest, hosted by Jess Wright, will be livestreamed on the PlayOJO YouTube channel today.

Universal Music Group has said it will join a livestreaming platform set up by K-pop's major record labels. As the world's biggest music label - represents superstars such as Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Lady Gag, it said it would invest in the platform launched last year by Big Hit Entertainment, the company behind K-pop superstars BTS. YG, the record label representing Blackpink, is also investing in the platform - called VenewLive.

Big Hit set up VenewLive as part of a joint venture called KBYK Live. Following the investment, a statement by the record labels said VenewLive now has with ambitions on a global scale.

South Korean - K-pop - music has grown massively in popularity on a global scale. Last year BTS became the first K-pop band to have a number one on the US Billboard charts. And all-girl group Blackpink, whose lavish videos regularly attract millions of viewers, set a new record last year for the biggest music video premiere on YouTube.

A total of 1.65 million fans tuned in for the unveiling of their new song How You Like That, breaking a record set by BTS in February. Big Hit said a BTS concert it streamed on VenewLive last year was viewed by 993,000 people worldwide.

Universal Music Group executive vice president Boyd Muir said: "This past year has shown that the need for reliable and innovative live-streaming has never been greater." Big Hit Entertainment was founded in 2005 by South Korea music producer Bang Si-Hyuk. In October, the company listed its shares on the Korean stock exchange.

It left the company with a market value of more than $8bn (£6bn).

Ahead of a special event at the Wolverhampton Literature Festival that will see writer Will Self talk about the intricacies of remembering fiction read in the past, University of Wolverhampton academics have identified the top five most popular novels for research into the ways we remember fiction.

The Novel Memories research was inspired by the BBC engagement project Novels That Shaped Our World that is run by BBC Arts and celebrates 300 years of the English language novel and aims to stimulate reading. The most popular novels participants selected are: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee; ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ by George Orwell; ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ by C.S. Lewis; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, and the most popular was Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’.

Professor Sebastian Groes and Dr Tom Mercer found this top five when analysing the responses to their Novel Memories survey in which people are asked about how they remember fiction in relation to the 40 most popular novels included on the Novels That Shaped Our World list. Professor Groes said: “We first asked about factual memories of the fiction itself; if participants remembered scenes, characters, quotations and speeches, and if they had sympathy for the protagonist. We also asked if they had a clear memory of the ending, and interestingly, while over half of participants could remember how the story ended, 43 per cent could not.

“We then posed questions regarding contextual circumstances; what emotions the books trigger, and what mood they were in when they read the novel.”

For the top five novels, the researchers can tell which locations (home, school, university, commute, or holiday) are associated with them and they have some textual examples of people describing these locations and their memories. They can also identify the best remembered scenes and quotations. The researchers are also interested to learn how people’s perspective changed when they revisit a novel they have read in the past.

Dr Mercer added: “It seems that memories of fiction overlap, to a large extent, with the ‘reminiscence bump’; a period of time between the ages of ten and 30 years when we have more personal memories as these formative years help us to develop a strong sense of self and it may also be the period where we encounter our favourite novels.

“A key conclusion is that we remember fiction by the feeling it leaves in us, not by detailed and rationally-remembered memories of specific passages, dialogue and even the ending. But, interestingly, this feeling is shaped by the emotions we experience in our lives at the time of the reading experience. Nearly half of the time we do not any remember specific scenes, though in two thirds of cases people have sympathy for the protagonist and over 40 per cent stated that they were in a happy mood when they read the novel in question.

“This confirms ‘emotional bias’. People attach strong positive emotions to these well-remembered novels, partly because of their emotional state at the time of the formation of the memories.”

They note that adaptations to screen seem to have an interesting effect. Pride and Prejudice was used as a case study and almost all participants had seen an adaptation, with half of them having no problem separating the novel from the adaptation. However, a third of respondents either were unsure about their ability to separate the novel from the adaptation or felt the two had become ‘blurred’. The researchers could then look into which adaptations specifically are mentioned and cross-check this with the age of the participants.

Groes and Mercer have invited writer Will Self to discuss these findings.


The music world - and beyond - is still mourning the passing of Mary Wilson, the co-founded The Supremes who remained a member of the group until they split up. The singer's death was announced by her publicist Jay Schwartz but the cause of death was not confirmed, according to news outlets.

The Supremes were known for hits such as Baby Love and You Can't Hurry Love.

The group was founded in Detroit as The Primettes in 1959, when Wilson was 15 years old.

Wilson was an original member of the group alongside Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Barbara Martin - who left the group before they became successful, and The Supremes continued as a trio.

The group disbanded following Wilson's 1977 departure. The founder of Motown Records, Berry Gordy, said in a statement: "I was extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family, Mary Wilson of the Supremes.

"The Supremes opened doors for themselves, the other Motown acts, and many, many others... I was always proud of Mary. She was quite a star in her own right and over the years continued to work hard to boost the legacy of the Supremes. Mary Wilson was extremely special to me. She was a trailblazer, a diva and will be deeply missed."

A funeral for Wilson will be held privately due to Covid-19 restrictions, her family said.

Wilson became a New York Times bestselling author in 1986 with the release of her autobiography, Dreamgirl: My Life As a Supreme.

The Supremes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. In 2019, Wilson took part in Dancing With The Stars, the US version of Strictly Come Dancing.

Just two days before her death, Wilson uploaded a video on YouTube announcing that she was working on releasing new solo material.

She was 76.