Colors: Red Color

After an extensive internal and external recruitment process, Birmingham Royal Ballet announces that Dominic Antonucci has been appointed as Assistant Director. Currently Ballet Master with the Company, Antonucci will be promoted to the role of Assistant Director with immediate effect. He succeeds Marion Tait CBE, who stepped down from the role at the end of 2020.

Following the decision Dominic says: “I am incredibly honoured and pleased to have been appointed Assistant Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet. I have a long, rich history with the Company and care deeply about its success and its future.

“Carlos Acosta has a tremendously inspiring and ambitious vision for Birmingham Royal Ballet and I am thrilled to be able to support his efforts as he navigates the Company through this very difficult but nonetheless exciting time. 

“I was extremely fortunate to have been mentored by the two previous Assistant Directors, Marion Tait and Desmond Kelly. I would like to express my utmost gratitude to both of them for generously passing on their wisdom, expertise and passion. The future for Birmingham Royal Ballet is very bright and I sincerely look forward to helping

“Carlos and the Company realise its enormous potential as we emerge from the pandemic and return to the stage”.

Carlos Acosta CBE (Director) and Caroline Miller OBE (CEO) say: “We are delighted to be appointing Dominic to the role of Assistant Director. He has most certainly proved himself to be an invaluable member of the Birmingham Royal Ballet team and we know that with his continued support and creative guidance, we are all in safe hands”.

Born in Athens, Ohio, and brought up in Akron, Dominic Antonucci attended the Nan Klinger School of Dance and the School of American Ballet. He performed with American Ballet Theatre from 1991 to 1994, joined Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1994 as a Soloist and was promoted to Principal in 2003. 

Dominic has danced all of the leading male repertoire and was particularly prominent in the ballets of Sir Peter Wright and Sir David Bintley. He has staged Sir David Bintley’s Take 5 on the National Ballet of Japan as well as teaching and rehearsing that company in Ashton’s Cinderella. 

He was appointed to Ballet Master in 2009. Away from the studio, Dominic is a regular contributor to The Dancing Times.

The public will be offered an amazing opportunity to obtain a piece of important space history when Dreweatts auctioneers holds an exciting sale of Space Exploration Photography and Ephemera on March 17, 2021. This landmark sale is to include more than 600 photographs chronicling the history of man’s exploration of space, from early expeditions, to some of the latter trips of the 1990s.

Many of the photographs capture historic moments, such as the first humans in space, the first spacewalk and the first moon landing. Commenting on the works in the sale, Ania Hanrahan, Dreweatts Autographs and Ephemera specialist says, “These iconic images are sure to draw interest from around the globe, from historians, space and photography aficionados, private collectors and those wanting to obtain a true piece of history”.

Amongst the highlights is the first still photograph of a human in space, which is a vintage chromogenic print of American astronaut Ed White during the first U.S. spacewalk. The image shows him taking his historic 23 minute space walk on June 3, 1965, attached to the Gemini 4 spacecraft by a 7.6 metre tether line.

As well as being the first still photograph of a human in space, the shot is also the first taken by another human (James McDivitt), as up until that moment all images released, were taken by television or monitoring cameras. This photograph, estimated to fetch £1,000-£2,000 is the first in a series of photographs taken by McDivitt of Ed White, during the first US spacewalk, several of which are included in the sale.

Another momentous image is the world’s first image of the earth rising above the moon’s horizon, captured and sent back by Lunar Orbiter 1, the first U.S. robotic spacecraft to orbit the moon (pictured above). The famous image, titled Earthrise was taken on August 23, 1966 Each of the five orbiters subsequently sent 200 photographs, which helped NASA select safe landing sites for the Apollo missions. It is estimated to fetch £800-£1,200.

NASA astronaut William Anders illuminated the world (quite literally) on Apollo Mission 8, when he took the first ever photograph by a human from beyond the earth’s orbit. The photograph (pictured above) featured on the cover of Time Magazine in January 10, 1969 and became one of the 20th century’s most iconic space images. During the Apollo 8 mission the earth appeared as a ‘disc’, which is what Anders captured on December 21, 1968 at 13:06 GMT. Commenting on this Anders said: “We came all the way to see the moon and the most important thing is that we discovered the earth”. The photograph is estimated to fetch £2,000-£4,000 at auction.

Also on the Apollo 8 mission a near-full moon was captured in all of its’ glory during the crew’s homeward journey. Just after the trans-earth injection the crew were afforded the opportunity to view different aspects of the moon never visible to terrestrial viewers. This astonishing image is estimated to fetch £1,000-£2,000.

One of the most prized and highly sought-after images in history is the Apollo 8 ‘Earthrise’ image, which shows the earth rising above the lunar horizon. Taken by William Anders on December 24, 1968, it is the most famous view of planet earth and is the first photograph of ‘earthrise’ taken by human hand. It was the view observed by the Apollo 8 crew during the fourth orbit of the moon. It has been given an estimate of £3,000-£5,000 but due to its’ popularity may well exceed this.

Elsewhere in the sale is a vintage photograph of Buzz Aldrin, taken by fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong. The photograph taken in 1972, is one of the most iconic images from the Apollo 11 mission. The reflection of Armstrong in this image makes it exceptionally rare. It was so breath-taking that it featured on the front cover of Time Magazine. It is estimated to fetch £2,000-£3,000.

 

Actor Johnny Briggs, who played Mike Baldwin in Coronation Street for 30 years, has died aged 85. His family said he died peacefully after "a long illness, with family by his side" and asked for privacy to "remember the wonderful times we had".

Briggs was made an MBE in the New Year's Honours in 2007, the year after his character left the ITV soap. Baldwin's affair with Deidre Barlow and his feud with her husband, Ken, were a long-running ratings hit for the show. Coronation Street colleagues have paid tribute to Briggs calling him a "wonderful actor" and describing Mike Baldwin as "one of the most iconic characters the Street has ever known".

William Roache, who played Baldwin's long-term rival Ken Barlow, said Briggs was a "strong character who will be greatly missed. Mike Baldwin and Ken Barlow were arch enemies for many years, but as an actor, Johnny was impeccable, always good, and I was so fortunate to have worked with him for so many years."

Sue Nicholls, who plays Audrey Roberts, said he was "a great friend" and was "always fun to be around. He played the part of Mike Baldwin so well that, despite all Mike's ducking and diving, you were always on his side."

Helen Worth, who plays Gail Platt on the cobbles, said he was "one of the Street's most memorable characters". Sally Dynevor, who plays Sally Webster, said "what a wonderful actor he was", while Samia Longchambon, who plays Maria Connor, tweeted she had "fond memories" of working with him, describing him as a "lovely man".

Antony Cotton, who plays Sean Tully, said: "We all adored him", while former soap writer Phil Ford tweeted it was "very very sad" to hear of his death. Managing director of continuing drama at ITV And John Whiston, said Briggs had been "right at the centre of the show" for years adding: "When Mike Baldwin was in a scene it was very hard to look at anyone else."

Born on 5 September 1935 in Battersea, in south-west London, Briggs was evacuated to the countryside during World War II before embarking on a career in show business back in London at the age of 12. After a break for two years of service in Germany with the Royal Tank Regiment, starting in 1953, he resumed his acting career landing roles in several Carry On films and ITV police drama No Hiding Place.

It was not until 1976 that he landed his defining role as Mike Baldwin. As the uncompromising businessman in the soap he feuded with Barlow and was caught up in a love triangle with his wife Deirdre, played by Anne Kirkbride who died in 2015.

Later, Baldwin would die in his rival's arms after suffering a heart attack, finally killing off the character after three decades. The demise of Baldwin drew 12 million viewers and followed the character's battle with Alzheimer's - leading the actor to back a fundraising appeal to help those affected by the disease.

Briggs won the British Soap Award for lifetime achievement in 2006. In 1995 Briggs had a UK chart hit, alongside Coronation Street co-star Amanda Barrie, with a version of Frank and Nancy Sinatra's Something Stupid. He also appeared on stage and in films alongside the likes of Norman Wisdom, Dirk Bogarde and Tommy Steele.

He married Caroline Sinclair in 1961 and had two children before the couple divorced in 1975. The same year he married schoolteacher Christine Allsop, a marriage which produced four children. He was 85.

 

The Royal Shakespeare Company have announced five new Trustee appointments at its Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM). The appointments have been made following a public and far-reaching recruitment campaign for RSC Board members. The focus of the recruitment was to bring new and diverse experience from theatre practitioners, people who teach and write about Shakespeare, and those with have experience of leading change and challenging thinking, to complement the skills of the existing RSC Board members.

Andrew Miller, cultural consultant and broadcaster; Amanda Parker, Founder Director of Inc Arts UK; Winsome Pinnock, playwright; Justine Themen, Theatre Director and Change Maker; and Ayanna Thompson, Regents Professor of English at Arizona State University, will all join the RSC’s Board for an initial three-year term and five-year term as RSC Governors.

RSC Chair, Nigel Hugill, said: “As we have moved through this pandemic, the Board has continued to lead the RSC commitment to be diverse, progressive, relevant and ambitious. These five new appointments are unequivocal demonstration of those commitments and they share with all our Board members terrific skills, great experience, enormous range, and unwavering enthusiasm.

“The public recruitment campaign generated enormous interest with almost 350 applicants. So many exceptional candidates showing a passion for theatre, the arts and education by putting themselves forward is an inspiration in these testing times."

The Company has also begun the search for a new Chair, with Nigel Hugill’s extended term ending in April. The new Chair is expected to be appointed by Spring. Current RSC Board members include: Nigel Hugill (Chair), Sir William Atkinson, Miranda Curtis, Gregory Doran, Catherine Mallyon, Genista McIntosh, Clare Reddington, James Shapiro, Mark Smith, Ian Squires, Mark Thompson, Liz Vernon, Lucy Williams.

 

As seen on The Pinball Show, Zen Studios has announced that Star Wars Pinball tables are finally coming to virtual reality for the first time ever. Star Wars Pinball VR will release on the original Oculus Quest, Oculus Quest 2, Steam VR, and PlayStation VR on April 29, 2021. The game’s reveal trailer is a heartfelt homage to the classic theatrical preview for the 1997 Star Wars Special Editions.

Star Wars Pinball VR will launch with eight amazing tables. The Mandalorian and Star Wars Classic Collectibles – two tables never before released – will be joined by six remastered favourites, including Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars Rebels, and Masters of the Force. Beyond the incredible realism added by VR, Star Wars Pinball VR upgrades the core Star Wars Pinball experience with new features exclusive to this release.

The “Fan Cave” is the new home for both your pinball table and the customizable array of Star Wars lightsabers, blasters, helmets and more you’ll earn while playing. Place an action figure on the pinball table and the room comes to life – not only with a new table to play, but with life-sized characters and vehicles joining you on either side.

Total Immersion mode lets you experience everything at table level, standing you side-by-side with your favourite characters. And full 360-degree mini-games surround you with iconic Star Wars set pieces like the speeder bike chase on Endor, the Bespin carbon-freezing chamber duel, and more. In addition, players will have access to classic Star Wars Pinball features like Career mode, Force powers, competitive game modes, haptic controller feedback, your own personal cantina jukebox and more.

“Zen Studios has had great success bringing Pinball FX digital tables to VR, and we couldn’t be happier to finally have Star Wars enter the mix,” says Mel Kirk, Chief Operating Officer at Zen Studios. “It really does feel like you’re playing an actual pinball machine right in front of you! Star Wars Pinball VR is built to be expanded upon, too – no announcements just yet, but we’re hoping to keep the blast doors open for new DLC in the future.”

Star Wars Pinball VR was revealed on The Pinball Show – Zen Studios’ new monthly YouTube program featuring news, interviews and more.

A video guide to making a Chinese red paper ‘palace lantern’, made by a Birmingham design student during lockdown, has been released to mark the end of the Chinese New Lunar Year celebrations in the UK.

Yujie Li, an international student from China, is pursuing an MA degree in Visual Communication at Birmingham City University. Friday 26 February marks the arrival of the Lantern Festival in Chinese culture. As a “master of paper”, Yujie produced and shared a video to raise awareness of the tradition of making paper lanterns.

The Lantern Festival is a Chinese event marking the 15th day of the first lunar month, first recorded as part of the Sui and Tang dynasties, that now sees children and families carrying ‘palace lanterns’ out in the streets, and solving riddles illustrated on the lanterns. The palace lanterns are regarded as one of the traditional handicrafts of the Han nationality, featuring strong local characteristics in the design.

Lion and dragon dances, and riddle games, are popular activities during the Lantern Festival, which is observed in China and by the Chinese diaspora across the world.

Yujie Li’s DIY Chinese paper ‘palace lantern’ video is available to watch on the Birmingham City University YouTube channel and is accompanied by a written guide:

Materials:

 

10 sheets of A4 sized red card

Scissors or graphic design cutting knife

Pencil

Eraser

Ruler

5 sheets of Tracing paper

Red string

Process

 

1.    Cut out the palace lantern templates according to the drawings given in the video, and paste them on each of the adjacent pages, so that you have a cylinder that unrolls out from the centre

2.    Following Yujie’s drawings in the video, cut out strips of 7×72cm (top) and 13×64cm (middle) respectively. Since the lantern has eight sides, each side should be 7×9cm and 13×8cm in size. Then cut your favourite Chinese pattern in the middle of each side and cover it with tracing paper of the same size. 

3.    After that, assemble the materials prepared in the first two steps, and the prototype of a lantern will appear, but we still need to add a little decoration to it. Choose any pattern you like, paste the material into the appropriate size in the form of paper-cut, and paste it on the tracing paper (remember to paste it from the inside of the lantern).

4.    Finally, the lanterns are strung with red string and tassel. Put a string of coloured lights in the middle of the lantern so that the lantern can be lit at night.

24-year-old student, Yujie Li said, “This was my first Chinese New Year in UK, and it was unlike any other. Although I was "reunited" with my family via a WeChat online call, other friends who had stayed behind in the UK and I decided to make this unusual New Year's Day more meaningful by cooking a meal together. It is also the first time I have made Chinese lanterns with limited materials in another country! I feel very honoured to have such an opportunity to demonstrate my own culture, and I hope this video will help to increase people's interest in traditional Chinese culture.” 

Birmingham is home to one of the UK’s largest Chinese communities. The city has a Chinese Quarter, an area of Chinese influence with Chinese-owned, businesses and organisations with buildings in Hurst Street and Ladywell Walk featuring Chinese architecture.

The Duke of Sussex has given further insights into life in California with Meghan and their son Archie, giving an interview to James Corden during a segment on The Late Late Show during which he interviewed the royal while travelling the streets of Los Angeles on an open-top bus. The interview setting provided plenty of fresh air and space for social distancing - and the prince apparently relished his first ride on an open-top double-decker.

Corden's relaxed and less probing approach didn't stop Harry from opening up about some elements of the family's life and their decision to swap London for LA, explaining how the UK press was "toxic" and "destroying my mental health". He also gave his views about Netflix's The Crown and revealed what the Queen gave Archie for Christmas.

One of the questions asked was ‘what his and Megan’s lives would involve after lockdown is lifted,’ which Harry replied: "I've no idea. A slightly different version but a continuation of what we were doing back in the UK.

"My life is always going to be about public service - the two of us signed up to that and the two of us enjoy doing that, trying to bring some compassion and trying to make people happy and trying to change the world in any small way that we can."

On the hit Netflix sensation, he said: "I'm way more comfortable with ‘The Crown’ than I am seeing the stories written about my family or my wife or myself... They don't pretend to be news, it's fictional," Harry added. "But it's loosely based on the truth. Of course it's not strictly accurate, but… it gives you a rough idea about what that lifestyle, what the pressures of putting duty and service above family and everything else, what can come from that."

On their open-top bus tour of L.A., Harry and James stopped off at the house that was used in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air before Harry proved he was a true fan of the 90s sitcom by rapping the theme tune while walking up the drive before James then FaceTimed Meghan on Harry's phone in an attempt to convince her - she demurred, saying "I think we've done enough moving", before asking her husband: "Haz, how's your tour of LA going?"

The Duchesses of Sussex will be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on March 7.

ITV has brought the final of this year's series of Dancing On Ice forward by a week after a string of celebrities pulled out through illness and injury.

The final will now take place on March 14, instead of March 21 as planned. The decision comes after producers scrapped last week's live programme because of the disruption.

Jason Donovan became the latest star to pull out, following Denise van Outen, Billie Shepherd, Rufus Hound and Joe-Warren Plant. The Australian singer and actor has been suffering from back pain, while actress van Outen and reality TV star Shepherd both sustained injuries during training.

Meanwhile, comedian Hound and Emmerdale actor Plant tested positive for Covid-19. On top of the celebrity withdrawals, professional skater Hamish Gaman, who partnered soap actress Faye Brookes, dropped out last week after injuring a finger while putting on a sock.

He was replaced by Matt Evers. Brookes said that training with a new partner was a "whole new world", adding: "We've had 11 hours together to get ready for Sunday." Evers said: "We are still standing, the morale here is still high.

"We know we're up against a lot this year and it's just a matter of making the best out of a weird situation that 2020 and 2021 have brought, so it's a matter of continuing to move forward, keeping that smile on our faces and hopefully entertaining people on Sunday night."

The contest is due to resume this weekend with five remaining celebrities - Brookes, Rebekah Vardy, Lady Leshurr, Colin Jackson and Sonny Jay. An ITV spokesperson said: "Our production team and cast have delivered a fantastic show during incredibly challenging times. Continuing to make the best TV for our viewers is our top priority and we look forward to the rest of the series."

Dancing On Ice is not alone in having to deal with disruption to its schedule in recent months.

Releasing with the assistance of Film Victoria, Australia, Room to Grow is a Cactus-based puzzle game on Steam for PC & Mac, launching today, 25th February 2021. Mischka Kamener has created a visually stunning indie title that will twist puzzle fans minds in unique cactus-based ways.

In Room to Grow, players must solve a succulent forest worth of prickly puzzles, learning to manoeuvre as a cactus in order to return other cacti to their pots, and with every puzzle solved, help to grow their way back home to the desert. Secrets and surprises await those who are brave enough to tackle the thorny challenges in each game world.

"I hope that the surprises I've left for players will leave a lasting impression on them, just like the games I was inspired by did to me," commented Mischka Kamener, creator and developer of Room to Grow, "I'm incredibly grateful to Film Victoria for their belief in me and my game - without that, I wouldn't have been able to turn Room to Grow into what it is today."

Room to Grow Features:


* Over 100 hand-crafted puzzles
* Discover unexpected mechanics that will twist your mind differently to any other puzzle

  game
* Play the way you want - Undo and restart as often as you like, skip puzzles if you want to
* No timer, no action elements, no move counter - This game is all about the satisfaction of  

  solving puzzles
* Featuring a delightful original soundtrack by Romain Rope

Wolverhampton will now host British Art Show 9 in January 2022 after new dates for the touring exhibition were announced by organisers after consultation with all of the partner cities.The event – which is the biggest touring exhibition of contemporary art in the UK – will take place in the city between 22 January and 10 April, 2022.

Wolverhampton was due to host the opening of the exhibition in March 2021 however, due to the continuing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions, the dates and order of the tour have been rescheduled. British Art Show 9 will now open in Aberdeen in July 2021. City of Wolverhampton Council Leader, Councillor Ian Brookfield, said: “It’s unfortunate and unavoidable that British Art Show 9 has been moved back to early next year but the safety of our residents and visitors to our city is paramount. We’re looking forward to hosting this prestigious event more than ever.

It will bring talented artists to various locations across Wolverhampton including the Art Gallery and the University’s School of Art. The exhibition will be a great way to kick off 2022, a year which will see world class events coming to the city including the Commonwealth Games, Wolverhampton Literature Festival and big-name gigs at our newly refurbished Civic Halls. It also gives everyone something exiting to look forward to as better and brighter times are ahead of us following the pandemic.”

The British Art Show is widely recognised as a significant marker of recent developments in contemporary art, unrivalled in its scope and national reach, and has a track record of attracting a high volume of visitors to its touring cities. British Art Show 8 attracted over 300,000 visitors in its tour to four cities from October 2015 to January 2017.

Maggie Ayliffe, Head of Wolverhampton School of Art, said: “We are thrilled to announce our hosting of the delayed first UK leg of British Art Show 9, when we will safely welcome visitors to our iconic Wolverhampton School of Art.

“The experiences and frustrations of the last year have made it even more important to host an event like the British Art Show that enables conversations with the artists and giving a voice to the most pressing concerns of our times. We can’t wait to begin that here in Wolverhampton.” British Art Show 9 curators Irene Aristizábal and Hammad Nasar were selected by a panel of curators from Hayward Gallery Touring and the participating cities. They bring international experience to the role and have both worked on major exhibitions in the UK, Europe, America and Asia.

The exhibition introduces visitors to over 40 artists practising in Britain over the past five years, providing an insight into the most exciting contemporary art being produced in this country in this extraordinary moment in our history. The exhibition explores three overarching themes – healing, care and reparative history; tactics for togetherness; and imagining new futures. These conceptual frameworks were devised prior to the pandemic, however, with the recent global recognition of racial injustice sparked by the Black Lives Matter protests of summer 2020, all three thematics have become even more relevant to the present moment.

Artists include: Hurvin Anderson, Michael Armitage, Simeon Barclay, Oliver Beer, Zach Blas, Kathrin Böhm, Maeve Brennan, James Bridle, Helen Cammock, Than Hussein Clark, Cooking Sections, Jamie Crewe, Oona Doherty, Sean Edwards, Mandy El-Sayegh, Mark Essen, Gaika, Beatrice Gibson, Patrick Goddard, Anne Hardy, Celia Hempton, Andy Holden, Joey Holder, Marguerite Humeau, Lawrence Lek, Ghislaine Leung, Paul Maheke, Elaine Mitchener, Oscar Murillo, Grace Ndiritu, Uriel Orlow, Hardeep Pandhal, Hetain Patel, Florence Peake, Heather Phillipson, Joanna Piotrowska, Abigail Reynolds, Margaret Salmon, Hrair Sarkissian, Katie Schwab, Tai Shani, Marianna Simnett, Victoria Sin, Hanna Tuulikki, Caroline Walker, Alberta Whittle and Rehana Zaman

British Art Show 9 has been developed at a precarious and unprecedented moment in Britain’s history that has brought politics, narratives of identity and questions of agency to the centre of public consciousness. The artists presented in the exhibition respond in critical ways to this complex context; imagining more hopeful futures and exploring new modes of resistance. 

In Wolverhampton, British Art Show 9 will take place at Wolverhampton Art Gallery and the University of Wolverhampton School of Art.  


New Tour details:

10 July - 10 October 2021, Aberdeen: Aberdeen Art Gallery

22 January - 10 April 2022, Wolverhampton: Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Wolverhampton School of Art

13 May - 4 September 2022, Manchester: Castlefield Gallery; Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA); HOME; Manchester Art Gallery; and The Whitworth, The University of Manchester

8 October - 23 December 2022, Plymouth: KARST; The Levinsky Gallery, The Arts Institute, University of Plymouth; The Box, Plymouth; and The Gallery, Plymouth College of Art

Presented by Northern Roots, the Howard Gospel Choir of Howard University, Washington, D.C., and Newcastle’s very own Voices of Virtue Choir come together for a special performance marking Black History Month – which is now taking place in the USA.

This extraordinary event is part of the annual ‘Let Freedom Sing’ concert which usually coincides with Martin Luther King Day but has been delayed this year due to coronavirus. 

The concert brings the music of the civil rights movement to people across the world and Saturday 27 February, the official UK Premiere will see the entire ‘Let Freedom Sing’ concert streamed on YouTube. It features a guest performance by Newcastle’s own gospel choir, Voices of Virtue.

Voices of Virtue who have performed with Sting not once, but twice, are looking forward to the streaming of the performance. The co-founder, Matti Imarhiagbe says it will be a “soul stirring evening that will inspire, uplift and honour through song.”

It’s not the first time the two choirs have performed together, in 2018 when the Howard Gospel Choir visited Newcastle as part of Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy event, they collaborated with Voices of Virtue to deliver an uplifting performance of Stevie Wonder's ‘Heaven Help Us All’. ‘Let Freedom Sing’ will feature that very performance.

“The relationship between Howard and Voices of Virtue Gospel Choir is one of the enduring legacies of Dr. Martin Luther King’s visit to Newcastle,” commented MP for Newcastle Central Chi Onwurah, “‘Let Freedom Sing’ promises to be an unmissable celebration of the songs of the civil rights movement. It will also showcase the talents of Newcastle’s very own gospel choir Voices of Virtue to audiences around the world.”

The concert is supported by Northern Roots and the United States Embassy in London. It marks a start of an exciting collaboration between Howard Gospel Choir and Voices of Virtue Gospel Choir which will bring the music of the civil rights movement to ever greater audiences.

Amazon Prime Video and Italian giants Juventus Football Club have announced a brand new Italian Amazon Original exclusive behind-the-scenes docu-series, All or Nothing: Juventus, following the team through the current 2020/21 season. The new Amazon Original series will launch exclusively on Prime Video this year in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide.

All or Nothing: Juventus will take viewers on a behind the scenes journey with the illustrious, iconic football club during a pivotal season and follow all of the key events, including the arrival of Andrea Pirlo as the club’s new Head Coach. The cameras will be inside the Allianz Stadium, their world-leading training facilities in Turin and, away from the pitch, the docu-series will focus on the unique aspects of the Club Bianconero [“white and black”] and of its identity; deeply-rooted in Italian culture and history, though always looking to the future.  All or Nothing: Juventus will unpack the level of perseverance, the effort and the dedication needed to compete at the very highest level, granting fans close-up access to the players, the staff and the management.

“We are extremely proud to be among the international partners of the All or Nothing franchise,” comments Giorgio Ricci, Juventus’ Chief Revenue Officer “This represents another step forward in the constant evolution of our Club. The collaboration with Amazon Prime Video is a perfect fit between two successful brands with a global reach and a continuous desire to challenge, change and create in an innovative way. We look forward to showing the world what the Serie A club’s brand really is and what really means, with the undisputed quality and unique touch of the All or Nothing series”.

“We are thrilled to start this journey with such a prestigious football club as Juventus and to offer the Italian and international audience an extraordinary, unprecedented look at one of the most exciting teams on earth,” adds Nicole Morganti, Head of Amazon Originals, Italy. “All or Nothing is now a franchise defined by its outstanding production quality and unique access, and this will follow in the footsteps of previous successful series. We can’t wait for Prime members worldwide to fully experience the daily challenges that this team of first class champions will face through this epic season.”

Amazon Original All or Nothing: Juventus will launch exclusively on Prime Video in 2021

Following the live and on demand stream of The Nutcracker at The REP, Birmingham Royal Ballet continues to find creative ways of keeping audiences entertained with the release of Carlos Acosta’s first major digital commission for the Company: Empty Stage.

‘Empty Stage’ is a poignant, hope-filled response to COVID’s impact on live performance and demonstrates the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s deep-rooted desire to keep ballet alive during difficult times. Directed by Roseanna Anderson and Joshua Ben-Tovim and named after the whimsical, heartstring-tugging song by Benjamin Scheuer, the film features a host of Birmingham Royal Ballet dancers as well as some of the Company members who all work behind the scenes to make performances possible, in a tribute to the industry.

An initial melancholic tone reflecting on what has been lost transforms into a message of hope as the lights go up and magic re-enters the theatre. The applause we hear is not just an encouragement but recognition of a shared live experience that nourishes all involved. This unique concept from Carlos Acosta, realised in collaboration with up-and-coming directors Roseanna Anderson and Joshua Ben-Tovim of award-winning company Impermanence and decorated singer songwriter Benjamin Scheuer, is another indication of his ambition to expand the creative horizons of the Company. 

Birmingham Royal Ballet looks towards the future with hope that at some point this year, the full production of Cinderella will fill the empty stages with dancers, and theatres with audiences as planned. But as uncertainty continues to build for the spring, we can only wait to see what might be possible. Watch this space!

Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet Carlos Acosta said ‘Everyone has been focused on creating digital content recently. We have been fortunate to have performed live on stage whether for audiences in the theatre or in their homes but this project is something else. I wanted to make a film that told the story of the past 9 months in a hopeful and optimistic way and to make it a work of art in its own right rather than a version of a live experience or a promotional vehicle. I find the ideal collaborators for this in Benjamin, Joshua and Roseanna.’

‘We felt it was important to start the new year on as positive a note as possible, whatever the situation regarding our plans looked like. As has been the case throughout 2020, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s focus has been on what is possible rather than what is not.’

The collaboration between Acosta, Impermanence and Scheuer came together serendipitously: In May 2020 when Carlos was featured in BBC Arts: Dance on Film, he came across a film by Impermanence. In September 2020, Scheuer wrote Empty Stage on a public piano in London, and sent the track to Nick Finney from NB Studio, (the design-firm behind Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 2020 rebrand). Finney introduced Carlos to Scheuer’s music - it was love at first listen. Thus the collaboration was born. Working with artists from different disciplines is a deep rooted desire for Acosta; whilst continuing to nurture and highlight the world class talent in his own company, there is also a strong pull to do the same though cross-art collaborations.

Says Scheuer: ‘In September 2020, I went for a walk in London, thinking about all the closed theatres. The phrase “all that’s left is an empty stage” was going round in my head. I spied a public piano, sat down, and wrote the song Empty Stage. The song has now blossomed into a joyful collaboration of song, dance, costume, film-making, and recording technology. It is a pleasure and honor to work with Carlos Acosta and Birmingham Royal Ballet; with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, their marvellous conductor Paul Murphy and the extraordinary orchestral arranger Paul Davies; with Grammy Award-winning pianist Matt Rollings; with my co-producer of the song, Grammy Award-winning Robin Baynton; and with the brilliant Joshua Ben-Tovim and Roseanna Anderson, the directors of the film. They all bring the song to life in a way I could only have dreamed.’

Roseanna Anderson and Joshua Ben-Tovim of Impermanence said: ‘Carlos Acosta has an enthusiasm and drive to create and connect. That energy became part of this film which has been an amazing thing to be involved in. BRB is about entertainment, craft, skill, beautiful costumes; it's about light and scale, and it's about audiences. We wanted the film to show all that. Benjamin has an incredible song-writing ability and his history of performing in the theatre gave the whole project a feeling of genuine sentiment, which is so important. There was a big team involved and everyone went above and beyond to make this film happen.’

Whilst things remain in flux and plans continue to be revisited, Birmingham Royal Ballet proves once again that they are an agile and creative company and under Carlos Acosta’s directorship who knows where the road will take them.

A film that cast unknown east London schoolgirls in most of its main roles has been honoured with five prizes at the British Independent Film Awards. Rocks won best British independent film, and one of its stars, Kosar Ali, 17, was named both best supporting actress and most promising newcomer.

The film got glowing reviews when it came out last year and is now on Netflix.

Its other winners included D'Angelou Osei Kissiedu, who was just seven when he played little brother Emmanuel. He was named best supporting actor, with a seven-decade age gap between him and the winner of the best actor award - Sir Anthony Hopkins, 83, who was recognised for playing a man struggling with dementia in The Father.

To find the young stars of Rocks, director Sarah Gavron and casting director Lucy Pardee auditioned about 1,300 students, most of whom had no acting experience. The chosen cast then improvised much of the film's dialogue. After the virtual awards ceremony, Ali, who plays Rocks' best friend Sumaya, said that the film had made her understand myself as a person as well as an actor.

She said: "Before this whole experience I never thought I would be who I am today, winning awards and even pursuing this acting career."

Producer Ameenah Ayub Allen said Rocks was a celebration of female film-making. "We were making this film that really had a truly independent spirit. She said: “It had a truly independent methodology".

"When we were filming, we always thought the film was imbued with the spirit of a teenage girl and it is just phenomenal that it has come here and that the spirit of a teenage girl has won best film, with a completely different way of film-making, with all these incredible women." Bukky Bakray, 18, who plays the title character, was nominated for best actress. That award went to Wunmi Mosaku for refugee horror His House, which had four wins in total.

The Father won three, while psychological horror Saint Maud won two. Actor Riz Ahmed claimed the award for debut screenwriter for Mogul Mowgli, which also won best music, while Ahmed's The Long Goodbye won best short film.

Six new dates have been added to Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s popular Lunchtime Music series.  The free Monday series has been proving a real hit with online audiences missing the live concert experience. 

Lasting just under an hour, the filmed concerts are the perfect lunchtime break and are performed by musicians from the Conservatoire (part of Birmingham City University) who are at the very highest level of study and already launching their professional careers. 

From the many comments from audience members, it is clear the series is filling a void in people’s lives right now. One said: “These performances are an absolute joy and help me face yet another week in lockdown”.  Another commented: “My heart goes out to all the superb talent at RBC during these times, including those behind the scenes. Thank you to everyone for finding a way to bring this wonderful concert to us!”

As well as being enjoyed by viewers, the concerts are giving students a high quality, professionally filmed performance opportunity and providing a connection with virtual audiences at a time when physical concerts are not possible.

The new dates in February and March continue the existing series and showcase a wealth of talent and variety of music with concerts featuring the harp and saxophone departments; operatic arias; mixed recitals of music for trumpet, bassoon, guitar, flute and piano; and a solo piano recital.

An award-winning Black Country business coach has written his first book to help people run their businesses more efficiently - and he’s offering free copies to businesses in the Black Country and Shropshire. Think Smarter, Do Less, Get More From Your Business and Your Life, by Andy Hemming, is a practical guide to having more success, fun and fulfilment in business and in life. 

Available on Amazon, Andy, who runs successful, multi-award-winning business coaching firm ActionCOACH Black Country, is giving away copies to Black Country and Shropshire business owners to celebrate its launch. Andy, who has been consistently placed in the top 10 Action Coaches in the world since 2014, says the book contains an overview of his business philosophy, developed from 14 years of business coaching. 

“I’ve had the idea for a book for a long time,” he said. “I’m passionate about helping managing directors and business owners to break through and get more success from their businesses. I’m also passionate about the Black Country - I come from the area, and I have first-hand experience of the drive and determination business owners in the area have. I want to help them succeed, which is why I’m prepared to give my knowledge away to them for free.” 

Andy has worked with hundreds of businesses over the years, with turnovers ranging from £50k to £50m - but says regardless of their size, they often need to adopt the same basic philosophies to grow and succeed. He is a firm believer in working smarter, rather than harder. He added: “Many people start their business with dreams of more freedom, more money or both. In reality, most just end up working harder, with their businesses running them instead of the other way round.  

“People are so busy being caught up in the ‘doing’ of their business, they don’t have time to think. I know it doesn’t have to be that way. I always ask people how many good ideas do they have when they’re busy - and the answer is none. But when you have time and you’re relaxed, you can have loads.  

“My new book gives people a blueprint to work to, explaining the changes they need to make to be able to achieve the success they desire.” ActionCOACH Black Country, which works with businesses across the Black Country and Shropshire, was recently awarded UK Firm of the Year, Best Client Results and UK Coach of the Year for its managing director Andy Hemming in the national ActionCOACH UK awards.