Colors: Red Color

Birmingham Repertory Theatre will offer a little taste of life at the theatre this month when it hosts a free Discovery Day. The theatre will open its doors from 11am-5pm on Saturday 22 June for a free day of activities for all ages and interests from pop-up performances to backstage tours, crafts to competitions.

The REP’s Discovery Day will give visitors a chance to see how a theatre works on a Backstage Tour. From peeping through the wings on the main stage to finding out how scenery is built visitors will have the chance to see the workings of a producing theatre.

In addition to seeing behind the scenes there’ll be a whole range of exciting activities for children and families. Voice workshops will give people the chance to speak some iconic lines from The REP’s main stage (one of the biggest in Europe), and a fun drama workshop, Act Yourself, will explore making theatre using different languages.

A display of theatrical costumes from recent productions will demonstrate the skill of the theatre’s wardrobe department while kids can enjoy dressing-up themselves, have their face-painted or get a fake, gruesome wound. Taking the theatre’s Christmas production as inspiration there will be Peter Pan themed craft activities and also Peter Pan storytelling in the children’s library of the Library of Birmingham.

Open Theatre, a company that uses nonverbal physical theatre to collaborate with Young People with Learning Disabilities will be giving pop-up performances throughout the day including knockabout comedy with Juke and Lake’s Box of Tricks and the Nosey Parkas. The REP have had a longstanding partnership with Open Theatre for many years to support a more inclusive offer for young people with learning disabilities at the theatre and have worked together to ensure that the Discovery Day is a totally accessible event.

For those interested in working in theatre staff will be on hand throughout the day to talk about apprenticeships at The REP and careers in theatre. And there will be a number of one-off ticket offers and competitions with prizes to be won.

In the afternoon actor Ian McKellen takes to the stage with his one-man show, Ian McKellen On Stage.

The show celebrates Ian’s 80th birthday starting with Gandalf and ending with an invitation to act with him on stage. In between there will be anecdotes and acting. Limited tickets are available to purchase for the matinee performance at 2.30pm with all profits benefitting The REP’s £1 million REP FIRST campaign.

The REP’s Discovery Day is on Saturday 22 June.

Best known as the lead singer of the soul supergroup Imagination, the incomparable Leee John returns to Birmingham once again (on Thursday June 6) with a very special intimate live performance at the much love Jamhouse - with special guest support from singing sensation Shiraz.

With three UK Top 10 hits in the early 1980s during a remarkable career spanning over 3 decades and with record sales in excess of over 30 million albums Leee and the group released and successfully had so many amazing classic hits singles and platinum, gold and silver albums such as, ‘Body Talk’, ‘Just An Illusion’, ‘Flashback’, ‘Music and Lights’, ‘Changes’ and many more presenting the perfect Brit Soul/Jazz/Funk songbook and establishing their position as essential 80's crossover hit-makers and an influence for future generations in the music industry.

Even today the story of Imagination’s music continues in the form of a long list of samples, remixes and adaptations by major contemporary stars such as the The Pharcyde, Dimitri from Paris, Destiny’s Child (Complete with Beyoncé) sampled ‘Just An Illusion’ on their 1998 self-titled debut album produced by Wyclef Jean, with Leee himself featured on DJ Dero’s 2005 rendition of the song which was widely played in clubs. Even America superstar Maria Carey recorded “Illusion” on her top ten single “Get Your Number”. Furthermore we see Flashback being sampled by Boards of Canada, Music & Lights by Tiger & Woods. All Night Loving by 88 Keys featuring Kanye West – “a long cry from the early days when we literally had to sleep in a little Citroën car as we toured Europe – which we had to do before ‘blowing up’ in the UK”, he recalls.

“That’s what we, and many others, had to do back then.”

“The sad fact is, though”, he mused, “is that many still have to do it today in large.”

At a time (in the early 1980s) when many in the industry, in the UK, first really started to consider the genre (especially performed by Black acts) as ‘high risks’, together they (Imagination) were at the frontrunners in what was a fast-growing, thriving Brit Funk scene during those heady days alongside the likes of Junior Giscombe, David Grant and Lynx, Loos Ends, Light of the World, Courtney Pine, Jamiroquai, Hi Tension, Central Line and many more.

Today the singer/songwriter, actor and film maker is one of the hardest working men in the industry, touring internationally both as Leee John of Imagination and as Leee John in his ever-popular solo performances showing his continuous diversity across multi genres from the pop stream as well as his more classic presentation in the jazz world, none better reflecting this than with the release of his last critically acclaimed solo album ‘Feel My Soul’.

Having produced and directed 5 documentaries taking him as far away as Zambia , Tunisia, South Africa and France and is currently producing and directing ‘Flashback’ - a film of the history of British Black music for which more than 200 interviews are already in the can, including Beverley Knight, Eddy Grant, Billy Ocean , Maxie jazz of Faithless, Ali Campbell of UB40, Mike Lindup of Level 42, Trevor Nelson, Omar, Geno Washington, Maxie Priest, Sonique, Hamish Stuart of Average White Band, Ruby Turner and many, many more.

A patron of SOS Children’s Villages, a global charity supporting children without parental care and families at risk, he makes regular visits to Zambia, Tunisia, South Africa, Angola and Côte d'Ivoire where emergency work ensures that children and their families coping with conflict and disaster receive immediate lifesaving support, while their psycho-social and reintegration programmes provide the care and skills to rebuild lives.

“As there’s too often too much bureaucracy tied up in many charities, I do that – and ‘Voyage Youth’; who work on encouraging and enlightening underprivileged children in the UK – by myself”, he says.

“I work face-to-face with the people who are suffering”.

His long awaited new album ‘Retropia’ delivers a distinctive combination of soul, funk and jazz with a classic contemporary retro sound from that ‘back in the day’ feel, which creates a very special atmospheric sensitivity with mid-tempo grooves and that unmistakable Leee John vocal sound with those famous Imagination harmonies creating that familiar blend of melody which makes you remember each individual song, taking you on a magical musical adventure into the world of ‘Retropia’.

Supporting from its release the ‘Retropia’ album scores an incredible 2 x Number # 1 songs in the UK Soul Charts with ‘Do It Right Now’ and ‘Make Your Mind Up/Fantasia’ which follows on this summer with a third single release ‘Police & Thieves’ a personnel rendition and homage to the classic and unforgettable anthem originally recorded way back in 1977 by Junior Murvin/Lee Scratch Perry with its poignant message eerily, echoing across to today’s political and social landscape over 40 years on.

Make sure you make the most of Leee at the Jamhous (Thursday June 6) as straight after, he is off to shows in Marseilles, Geneva and Lebanon before finishing off ‘Flashback’ to go out on general release.

Birmingham Hippodrome and Leicester’s Curve theatres will join forces to co-produce Broadway musical ‘The Color Purple’, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker.

The production, the first to be created outside of London in the UK, will run at Birmingham Hippodrome from 16-21 July 2019. The Color Purple will be directed by Tinuke Craig, winner of the 2014 Genesis Future Directors Award. Tinuke’s recent credits include random/generations, a double bill of plays by Debbie Tucker Green at Chichester Festival Theatre and I Call my Brothers by Jonas Hassen Khemiri at the Gate Theatre.

The announcement comes as both theatres celebrate significant milestones, with Curve turning 10 this year while the Hippodrome will mark its 120th birthday in 2019.

Speaking about the co-production, Curve’s Chief Executive Chris Stafford and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster said: “The Color Purple celebrates remarkable women, telling incredible stories. From its Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, her courageous creation in heroine Celie to Oprah Winfrey – who had the vision to make the story into a smash-hit Broadway musical. And we are thrilled to introduce our equally astonishing director Tinuke Craig and welcome her to Curve.

“As we embark on our second decade as a theatre here in Leicester and our friends at Birmingham Hippodrome celebrate their 120th year, our co-production of this beautiful, moving musical feels like a fitting way for us to mark these celebratory years. “All of us at Curve are looking forward to working with Tinuke, Fiona Allan and the Hippodrome team very much.”

Fiona Allan, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the Birmingham Hippodrome said: “This is the very first time that Birmingham Hippodrome has actively co-produced a main stage musical, and we could not have better partners than Chris Stafford and Nikolai Foster at Curve theatre, and director Tinuke Craig.

“The Color Purple is an epic and timeless story that will appeal to audiences young and old, as evidenced by the recent Tony Award-winning Broadway production. It is long overdue for a UK tour, and I’m proud that the Hippodrome play our part in bringing it to life here in Birmingham.”

This unforgettable story told over the course of 40 years follows courageous heroine Celie, as she journeys through joy, despair, anguish and hope in her own personal awakening to discover her unique voice in the world.

With a profoundly evocative score drawing inspiration from jazz, ragtime, gospel and blues, this moving family chronicle set in racially divided southern America, celebrates life, love and the strength to stand up for who you are and what you believe in.

The legendary Sir Lenny Henry PhD will embark on a brand new UK tour this autumn visiting Wolverhampton Grand Theatre in November.

Following the October publication of his memoir, Lenny will travel the length, breadth and width of the country with ‘An Evening With Lenny Henry - Who Am I, Again?’

In part one of the show, Sir Lenny will take the audience through a jam session of stories both funny and sad - triggered when writing his memoir - from growing up in the Black Country, puberty, school, friendship, family secrets and unashamed racism. With his mother's mantra of 'H'integration' echoing in his ears, Sir Lenny will recount setting out on his roller coaster ride of a career - but at every stage wondering: Am I good enough? Is this what they want?

In part two, Sir Lenny will be interviewed by friend, broadcaster and author Jon Canter, for further insights into his life and career, followed by questions from the audience. Come and enjoy these honest and tender stories, told with a glorious sense of humour and help Lenny figure out ‘Who Am I Again?'

Sir Lenny said: “I’m looking forward to travelling around and telling these stories. Writing the book was a huge feat and I’m very proud of it - I can’t wait to share more stories and fun about growing up in the Midlands, my early days in the clubs, pubs and discotheques and of course working on Tiswas, Three of a Kind and The Lenny Henry Show. The show promises to be an evening of memories, laughter and fun - I can’t wait to get started.”

He has been a comedian since the age of 16. He has risen from being a cult star on children's television to one of Britain's best-known and most celebrated comedians, as well as a writer, radio DJ, TV presenter, co-founder of Comic Relief, and an award-winning actor. He has a PhD in Media Arts, and in 2015 was awarded a knighthood for services to charity and drama.

His autobiography, also entitled ‘Who Am I, Again?’ is published by Faber & Faber on 3 October 2019.

Birmingham Hippodrome was ‘proud’ once again to be a part of the UK’s biggest two-day LGBTQ Pride festival that attracted a record number of 100,000 people lining the streets. This year the theatre brought some Latin flavour to the parade on Saturday 25 May with a themed float from Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s smash-hit musical On Your Feet!

The theatre’s colourful float blasted popular hits from the musical such as Rhythm is Gonna to Get You, Conga and Get On Your Feet, while energetic performances from dancers entertained crowds. The Broadway and West End production of On Your Feet! is the inspiring true love story of Emilio and Gloria and charts their journey from its origins in Cuba, onto the streets of Miami and finally to international superstardom. The show hits the Hippodrome stage on Tuesday 3 September and runs until Saturday 7 September.

Laura Smith, Head of Communications commented “It was amazing to once again take part in Birmingham Pride and celebrate the event’s incredible atmosphere with thousands of people across our city. Last year we brought Lola’s Angels from Kinky Boots which was a real crowd-pleaser and this year was no different with the phenomenal dance moves and hits from On Your Feet! Pride takes place on our doorstep so it is great to support our neighbours and get our staff and shows in the party!”

Grammy-winning songstress Ella Mai will be extending her wildly successful, sold-out The Debut Tour. The tour is in support of Ella’s self-titled album, which was executive produced by 10 Summers’ label head, Mustard. The album features Ella’s latest single, “Shot Clock” as well as the record-breaking hits, “Boo’d Up” and “Trip.”

Chart-topping success aside, Ella Mai has also had an amazing reception on the awards circuit. In 2018, she took home the Soul Train Awards for Best New Female and Song of the Year (Boo'd Up) and, last month, “Boo’d Up” yielded her Best R&B Song at the 61st GRAMMY Awards. Ella also took home iHeart Radio awards for R&B Song Of The Year and R&B Artist of the Year, as well as Outstanding New Artist, Outstanding Song and the prestigious Outstanding Album at the NAACP Awards. The UK native who took to the stage at Coachella will be supporting Ariana Grande on the European leg of her Sweetener tour which kicks off in London on August 17 at the O2 Arena.

Award winning singer, musician, philanthropist and reggae icon Rita Marley, OD has released a career retrospective of her most well-known material.

The Best of Rita Marley ‘Lioness of Reggae’ has been released exclusively on limited edition vinyl.

Ziggy Marley says: “I felt this was a project that needed to be done, her musical legacy, message and vibe is unique to her and an important part of reggae’s history. This is a way for us to highlight and share her beautiful art”.

Alpharita Anderson displayed a deep love of music since childhood, singing to her family while working. This passion would ultimately lead her to form The Soulettes, which led to the eventual meeting of local Trench Town musicians Robert Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston – known as the Wailers. Soon after this fateful meeting, the talented young Rita became an integral part of the Wailers musical development, as well as a constant presence and influence in her husband, Bob Marley’s, life and legacy; including as a member of the I-Threes alongside Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt.

Simultaneously, Mrs. Marley forged an extraordinary career as a solo artist, known for upholding the artistic and cultural standards of reggae. Her music reflects the versatility and diversity of reggae through the smooth blends of Gospel, Rhythm & Blues, Jazz and Soca.

Today, no matter where in the world, the name Marley is synonymous with reggae music and the culture of Jamaica.

Rita Marley’s musical career has produced incredible albums including 'Who Feels It Knows It', 'Harambe', the 1992 GRAMMY-nominated album 'We Must Carry On' and 'Spectacle For Tribuffalos', as well as the classic reggae album 'Beginning', with the I-Threes.

Her sizzling 1982 hit ‘One Draw’ created waves around the world, was a bestseller with over two million copies sold and made history as the first reggae single to top the Billboard Dance Charts. . Mrs. Rita Marley, OD continues her legacy today with the Rita Marley Foundation – eradicating poverty and hunger, while empowering communities, in Africa, Jamaica and beyond.

The Best Of Rita Marley ' Lioness Of Reggae' is out now.


1. Harambe 2. One Draw 3. A Jah Jah 4. That's The Way 5. Who Feels It Knows It 6. King Street 7. Thank You Jah 8. Good Morning Jah 9. I'm Still Waiting 10. Play Play

Tuff Gong Worldwide was founded in 2006, an off shoot of the original Tuff Gong label, which was founded in 1965 by Bob Marley with the vision of producing, distributing and promoting his music free from the constraints of corporate label politics. In a time, decades before, artist-owned record labels were commonplace, the legendary Bob Marley’s vision was characteristically well ahead of its time. Now, nearly a half-century later, his dream is being realized.

Today, Ziggy Marley is a completely independent artist – owning all of his master recordings since 2006 and all of his compositions with Isthi Music – his publishing company. Marley’s robust business goes far beyond music, into book publishing, film and television.

On UNESCO International Jazz Day (Tuesday 30 April), Royal Birmingham Conservatoire has announced that acclaimed musician and broadcaster Soweto Kinch is to join its Jazz Studies team as a Visiting Tutor.

The multi award-winning saxophonist and MC, who has strong connections with Birmingham, brings close to two decades of experience in international touring, recording, composition and radio work to the course, beginning with a public performance alongside two bands drawn from the school at the Conservatoire’s Eastside Jazz Club on Thursday 30 May.

The announcement of Soweto Kinch’s appointment is the latest in a series of academic and industry developments that are helping to establish Birmingham as a new centre of the UK’s contemporary jazz scene, as well as contributing to the genre globally. A considerable community of jazz musicians, academics and industry professionals are now embedded at the state-of-the-art facilities at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and within the leading Jazz Research Cluster at Birmingham School of Media to collaborate and innovate internationally.

Soweto said: "I’m honoured and excited to join the Jazz Studies team. Having had a loose connection with the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media for over 15 years, it's great to formalise what’s been a fruitful relationship, and to build on great musical partnership. I’m looking forward to joining some inspirational teaching staff as well as connecting the dots of arts and music across Birmingham’s communities with this vibrant faculty to help develop a music scene that occupies a vital place within the national jazz landscape.”

The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Jazz Studies course, led by Jeremy Price, has a student community of around 80 students at any one time and has produced a number of notable alumni over the years including Percy Pursglove, Mark Hanslip, Alcyona Mick, Alex Woods, Tom Syson and Tim Thornton. The core department team consists of Andrew Bain, John O’Gallagher and Percy Pursglove with many international names in jazz also on the Visiting Tutor team including Jean Toussaint, Liam Noble, John Turville, Mark Hodgson and Clark Tracey.

Head of Jazz at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Jeremy Price, said: “The opportunities and resource of talent we have here is truly exceptional. When you couple that with the international jazz venue that is Eastside Jazz Club, the whole package becomes an indisputably world class proposition. On International Jazz Day it’s well worth noting that in this academic year alone we have sent students and staff to Siena Jazz, European Jazz Lab with Hamburg Hochschule and the Elb Jazz Festival, Thai International Jazz Conference in Bangkok, the jazz composition and arranging conference in Denver Colorado, Bogata Colombia exchange, Paris Conservatoire collaboration at Cheltenham Jazz Festival and a big band project with Milan Conservatorio.".

A significant number of international projects are being delivered by jazz researchers across Birmingham City University’s Faculty of Arts Design and Media including the development of a ground-breaking app exploring the experience of jazz festivals in online environments and the use of digital technologies in the planning and management of music festivals. The technology is being researched by Professor Nicholas Gebhardt and Dr Craig Hamilton and tested in partnership with Cheltenham Jazz Festival with the latest version in use at the 2019 edition which starts this week.

The annual music festival is also a project partner for an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) research project led by Dr Sarah Raine. This project will explore the experience of women jazz musicians active in the UK as a means to support Cheltenham Jazz Festival in their Keychange (PRS Foundation) pledge for a 50/50 gender balanced programme by 2022.

"As a major international music event, Cheltenham Jazz Festival has an important role to play in developing artistic and research-led relationships with key institutions. We have a strong focus on talent development and offering unique content to our audience, and our partnership with staff and students from schools across Birmingham City University, in particular Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and Birmingham School of Media, enriches the programme and develops artists through an exchange project, jam sessions, free stage gigs, the festival app and research around career progression for women jazz artists. This can only come about due to the depth and breadth of jazz talent in the city of Birmingham," Emily Jones, Head of Programming at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, added.

The Birmingham City University Jazz Research Cluster is also home to several major international publications, has an excellent track record of being awarded external funding and provides committee members and regular participants for the Rhythm Changes conference, now the largest gathering of jazz scholars globally.

Parkside, the University’s important new arts, design and media facility is now home to an archive of written, printed and visual materials on jazz, blues and related music, from the 1920s to the present day. The substantial British Institute of Jazz Studies collection also acts as a satellite of the National Jazz Archive, together with other jazz-related materials and collections held at the Parkside Building.

The materials at the ADM (Arts, Design and Media) Archives are accessible to the public by email appointment (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and are managed by Dr Pedro Cravinho – who also leads the pilot research project in partnership with professional jazz photographer Brian Homer, ‘Everyday Jazz Life: a photographic project on contemporary jazz musician’s lives in Birmingham’.

Alongside Birmingham City University’s jazz studies, research and performance output, lies a flourishing jazz scene. Venues including Town Hall & Symphony Hall, The Spotted Dog, midlands art centre, The Lamp Tavern, 1000 Trades, Hare & Hounds, The Jam House, PizzaExpress Live and the CBSO Centre regularly host performances by local, national and international artists and bands, promoted by organisations such as Jazzlines, Birmingham Jazz, Fizzle, Leftfoot and TDE Promotions. Record labels, collectives and festivals including Stoney Lane, BRC, Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul, Surge Orchestra and Birmingham Jazz Festival continue to offer opportunities and employment for industry professionals, including in retail, production, programming, composition, touring and marketing.

Established by the General Conference of UNESCO in 2011 at the initiative of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock, and recognized by the United Nations General Assembly, International Jazz Day brings together countries and communities worldwide every 30 April to celebrate the art of jazz, highlighting its important role in encouraging dialogue, combating discrimination and promoting human dignity.

An RSPCA film which tells the tale of an abandoned Christmas puppy who is thrown out with the rubbish has been named a winner at this year’s Charity Film Awards.

Stars, the tear-jerking short video, shows Woody the Christmas pup being abandoned before he is rescued and taken in for care by the RSPCA.

The touching film was made by the charity’s small in-house team to highlight the Kindness at Christmas campaign. It was filmed at the charity’s RSPCA Newbrook Animal Centre in Birmingham.

The soundtrack features an acoustic cover of the Simply Red song Stars, written by Mick Hucknall, and was performed by up and coming singer Lucy Ellie, who works for the RSPCA.

Films were split in to categories depending on the charity’s annual turnover and the RSPCA won the top award in the Charities with a £50,000,000+ category.

Broadcast manager at the RSPCA, Alan Laxton, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have won the Charity Film Award and to have such lovely comments from the judges.

“When we made Stars we wanted to reflect the incredible work that staff and volunteers across the RSPCA do all for animals in need 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The story tells the tale of a toy dog - but what happens to him is very real. We rescue, rehabilitate and rehome dogs just like Woody every day, all year round.

“It was lovely to show all the different aspects of the work we do - from the inspector rescuing the dog, to him being treated by vets, looked after by our canine carers and volunteers before being rehomed.

“Staff gave up their own time to help us with the filming and while this story is of a toy dog - with a twist at the end - this story is played out every day across the RSPCA, but for real. We take in the most cruelly treated and neglected animals from across England and Wales and work hard to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome them.”

Director of Communications at the RSPCA, Chris Wainwright said: “To have won this award in this category against some very tough competition is fantastic. We are so pleased people were moved by the story - which is so typical of an animal that comes in to RSPCA care - and that hope everyone that watched it was touched by it’s message.”

The Charity Film Awards - the third event of its kind - took place in London on Friday night (26 April) and was hosted by actress Sally Phillips. The RSPCA’s award was presented by Apprentice contestant Daniel Elahi.

Simon Burton, founder of the Charity Film Awards. “The quality of the films in this year’s Charity Film Awards was better than ever. Inspirational, heartbreaking and heartwarming films that make a real difference to incredible causes.”

Following a family statement it was confirmed the influential filmmaker John Singleton - known for films including Boyz N The Hood and his remake of detective movie Shaft - has died after been in intensive care following a stroke.

His death came after the Oscar-nominated director's family announced they had taken the "agonising decision" to remove him from life-support.

Singleton, the first African-American filmmaker to be nominated for the best director Oscar with his debut feature Boyz N The Hood, in 1992, "passed away peacefully" shortly after being removed from life support in Los Angeles.

Born in LA, Singleton was considered a trailblazer for African-American directors in the 1990s. Fresh out of college, he also became the youngest ever director to be nominated for the accolade. He also received a second nomination for best original screenplay for the film.

In their statements, the family also took the opportunity to raise awareness around hypertension, or high blood pressure, in the African-American community.

They said the director had "silently struggled" with the condition, and urged people to familiarise themselves with symptoms.

"We are grateful to his fans, friends and colleagues for the outpour of love and prayers during this incredibly difficult time," they said.

"We want to thank all the doctors at Cedars Sinai for the impeccable care he received." Fellow ground-breaking film director, Spike Lee, posted a touching Instagram tribute to the late director, in which he recalled meeting him while he was a film student.

"With His Passion, His Heart, The Way He Talked About His Love For Cinema And Black Folks I Could See John Would Make It Happen, And He Did," the post said.

John was 51.

eSpares, the online parts seller that helps customers fix their appliances and be the heroes of their homes, is partnering with Free Radio Birmingham for Superhero Day.

The annual event, which is taking place on 10th May this year, raises money for Free Radio’s charity, Cash for Kids. Free Radio Cash for Kids is a grant giving charity, supporting disadvantaged children across the West Midlands, including those who are living in poverty, subject to neglect or abuse or living with an illness or disability.

Last year, eSpares raised over £1,600 in support of this very worthy cause. However, this year, the company has taken its support to heroic levels by sponsoring Superhero Day across the entire Midlands region.

Alongside supporting the event, eSpares will be carrying out a series of special visits to the charities that will benefit from money raised during the campaign.

Cash for Kids received applications for funding from over 60 projects across the area, and are hoping to help as many of them as they can. Applications included:

  • Urban DevotionBirmingham – a project that organises activities for local children and families in some of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the cit
  • Evesham Adventure Playground– provides food and activities to disadvantaged families during the summer holidays
  • Worcester Snoezelen– a multi-sensory leisure therapy centre for children of all ages with disabilities
  • Murray Hill Community Trust –provides therapeutic support for children who have experienced domestic violence, abuse, self-harm, loss, separation, emotional wellbeing issues or those in the care system
  • Coventry Boys & Girls Club– works with children that reside in the poorest, most disadvantaged and hardest to reach communities in Coventry

Tom Reeves, Charity Fundraising Executive at Free Radio Cash for Kids, said: "We are delighted to have eSpares supporting Superhero Day 2019! They're a successful local business who truly want to give something back to the community. We are lucky to find a company that are so supportive of what we do."

Ad Casey, Head of Brand at eSpares, added: “Our values focus very much around being the hero of your home by maintaining and repairing your household appliances, with our support, rather than throwing them away. Encouraging a #fixfirst mentality saves our customers money and ultimately saves the environment by reducing the amount of appliances sent to landfill.

“Free Radio’s Superhero Day shows that every one of us can be heroes in our own way. We’re passionate about doing our part to raise the profile of Cash for Kids and the wonderful work they do to change the lives of disadvantaged children in our area. We’re really excited to be lending this event more support than ever before and to be helping raise funds for incredibly worthy community causes.” 

The eSpares website features more than 1 million parts from over 1,700 brands, alongside a handy Advice Centre, full of how-to guides that take you through your repair step-by-step.


The largest of the Canaries is gearing up to host the fifth annual edition of the Tenerife Walking Festival which will take place from 21 - 25 May 2019. Registration is still open and hikers are being encouraged to sign up fast. Thanks to the variety of routes on offer and the diversity of Tenerife´s natural beauty, the Tenerife Walking Festival is considered to be one of the most outstanding hiking events in Europe.

The event is organised by the Tenerife Tourism Corporation in partnership with the European Hiking Association, the European Union of Mountain Associations, the Spanish Federation of Mountain Sports and the Federación Canaria of Mountaineering and covers the island´s best trails. These are divided into coastal, volcanic and forest hikes, which enable participants to discover a huge variety of terrain and protected landscapes. This includes the UNESCO-listed Teide National Park, which is famed for its remarkable volcanic scenery; the ancient laurel forest of Teno Rural Park; the charming village of Taganana, perched high above the Atlantic Ocean; and many more areas of stunning natural beauty.

All routes will begin in Puerto de la Cruz on the north side of the island, where celebrations will also take place to mark the end of the festival including musical performances and the chance to sample an array of local gastronomy. The event gains global recognition with over 10 different nationalities already set to take part this year, including members of Pakistan's women's mountain team who will be training for future expeditions during the festival. The festival acts as an important promotional activity for the island to raise awareness of its facilities for hiking holidays, which already prove popular with French, German, Swiss, Austrian and Dutch tourists. According to data prepared by the Department of Tourism Research of Tenerife, almost 10% of the 5.8 million tourists (approximately 530,000) who visited the island in 2018 practised hiking, which equated to an income for Tenerife exceeding 20 million euros. Tenerife's commitment to sustainability will also be maintained during the festival. To compensate for the carbon footprint caused by CO2 emissions related to the festival, an equivalent number of forest species will be planted on the island in agricultural areas currently in disuse.

The President of Tenerife, Carlos Alonso, explains the value of participating in this year´s event: “The Tenerife Walking Festival offers hikers the opportunity to discover Tenerife´s unique and breathtaking landscapes. Tenerife is truly the ideal destination for nature lovers, hiking addicts and avid explorers thanks to the island´s all-year round spring-like temperatures.”

The Tenerife Walking Festival is aimed at families, groups of friends, couples and individuals and is a fantastic opportunity to meet like-minded travellers and explore the island. Registration costs €30 (approximately £26) and includes a welcome pack; daily transport to each trail; guided walks with a professional expert in Spanish, English, German or French; and a wristband to enjoy discounts in shops, restaurants, hotels and museums in Puerto de la Cruz, the festival's home base. Participants must select at least three hikes prior to the event, which each have an additional cost.

Lesley Joseph will join the cast of Tim Firth and Gary Barlow’s Calendar Girls the Musical when it comes to Birmingham Hippodrome for the very first time from Tuesday 28 May –Saturday 8 June 2019.

Although perhaps best known for playing Dorien Green in the ITV sitcom Birds of a Feather, alongside Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson, Lesley has a wealth of theatrical experience to her credit. Most recently she starred as Frau Blücher in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein at the Garrick Theatre, a role which earned her an Olivier Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical.

Lesley’s other notable theatre credits include Miss Hannigan in Annie (West End and UK Tour), Chris in the play of Calendar Girls (UK Tour), The Vagina Monologues (West End and UK Tour), and Kathleen in Sir Peter Hall’s production of Home (Theatre Royal Bath).

On television, Lesley played Rachel Culgrin in ITV’s Night and Day for nearly two years. Other TV appearances include Rumble with Brian Glover, Easy Money, Spywatch, Minder, Roots, and The Knowledge to name a few. She played Green Beryl in Channel 5’s series The Secret of Eel Island, and guest starred as Erica in BBC’s The Slammer.

Lesley has also appeared in scores of light entertainment shows. She had a regular spot as glamour correspondent on GMTV, and presented ITV’s Wish You Were Here…?. In 2016, Lesley was partnered with Anton du Beke on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.

Lesley Joseph joins the previously announced cast of Sarah Jane Buckley (Blood Brothers and Hollyoaks) as Annie, Sue Devaney (Dinnerladies, Casualty, Coronation Street, Mamma Mia!) as Cora, Julia Hills (Broadchurch, The Archers) as Ruth, Judy Holt (Cold Feet, Scott & Bailey) as Marie and Lisa Maxwell (Loose Women, Hollyoaks, The Bill) as Celia and Rebecca Storm (Evita, Les Miserables, Chess) as Chris.

Calendar Girls The Musical is inspired by the true story of a group of ladies, who decide to appear nude for a Women’s Institute calendar in order to raise funds to buy a settee for their local hospital, in memory of one of their husbands, and have to date raised almost £5million for Bloodwise. This musical comedy shows life in their Yorkshire village, how it happened, the effect on husbands, sons and daughters, and how a group of ordinary ladies achieved something extraordinary.

Gary Barlow and Tim Firth grew up in the same village in the North of England and have been friends for 25 years.  With Take That, Gary has written and co-written 14 number one singles, has sold over 50 million records worldwide and is a six times Ivor Novello Award winner.  Tim has won the Olivier Award and UK Theatre Award for Best New Musical, and the British Comedy Awards Best Comedy Film for Calendar Girls.

The cast also includes Phil Corbitt as John, Ian Mercer as Rod, Sebastian Aberneri as Colin, Alan Stocks as Denis, Pauline Daniels as Lady Cravenshire, Ellie Leah as Miss Wilson, Danny Howker as Danny, Isabel Caswell as Jenny and Tyler Dobbs as Tommo.

Calendar Girls the Musical comes to Birmingham Hippodrome for the very first time from Tuesday 28 May –Saturday 8 June 2019.

James Morrison’s current album ‘You’re Stronger Than You Know’ commenced a new era in the career of one of the UK’s most popular artists. Its lead single ‘My Love Goes On’ (featuring Joss Stone) was named Record of the Week and added to the A-list at Radio 2 as it raced to 8 million streams. It was followed by his first full UK tour in three years, which included what he describes as “one of my favourite gigs ever” at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

Now James Morrison announces a new 12-date UK Tour this Autumn, kicking off on the 28th October in Ipswich, it includes a date in London at the Royal Festival Hall on 29th October and concludes in Southend on 14th October. Pre-sale tickets are available from Wednesday 24th April at 10am and go on general sale on Friday 26th April at 10am.

James recently shared a live video to the album’s second single ‘Feels Like The First Time’.  Filmed at Manchester’s ornate and historic Albert Hall, it sees Morrison and his band deliver the song in an intimate and impassioned performance. It was directed by Raja Virdi, whose previous credits include Freya Ridings and Lewis Capaldi. Arguably this is the track on the album that best captures his soulful take on the Motown and Stax traditions, ‘Feels Like The First Time’ is a shot of sonic sunshine as summer approaches.

As with the rest of the album, ‘Feels Like The First Time’ bristles with an exuberant dynamic which reflects his live shows. Morrison and producer Mark Taylor quickly recorded the core of the album within a week, before spending a second completing the finishing touches – tight backing vocals, strident horns and overdubs.

As a result,‘You’re Stronger Than You Know’ is the album that James Morrison has always wanted to make. Vocally he’s never sounded better, with his honest songwriting inspiring a voice that exudes power, tenderness and experience. His band, meanwhile, hit that life-affirming sweet spot between rambunctious energy and tight musicianship and now you can go and watch him perform it live.

Since first breaking through in 2006, James Morrison’s achievements include two #1 albums, five Top10 singles, a BRIT Award and sales.

Please go to for ticket details and further international dates.

The full list of UK live dates:

May 2nd          Cheltenham Jazz Festival June 16th         Essex, Down Hall 29th         Glastonbury July 13th/14th. London, OnBlackheath 2019 August 3rd           Kenton, Tunes In The Castle October *New UK Headline Tour Dates* 28th         Ipswich Regent Theatre 29th         London Royal Festival Hall 31st         Manchester O2 Apollo November 2nd          Sheffield, City Hall 3rd           Liverpool Philharmonic Hall 4th           Birmingham, Symphony Hall 6th           Bath, Forum 7th           Bournemouth, Pavilion Theatre 10th         Newcastle, City Hall 11th        Glasgow, Royal Concert Hall 12th        Nottingham Royal Concert Hall 14th        Southend, Cliffs Pavilion

Walsall’s Travelstar European has won National Express’ top ‘Operator of the Year’ title for the fourth-year running at the organisation’s recent award ceremony.

The company picked up the gong at the UK’s largest coach operator’s annual awards ceremony in Coventry two weeks ago.

Craig Jackson, Operations Manager at Travelstar European, said: "We are extremely proud to receive such great recognition from National Express.

“We have an incredible team of people at Travelstar - the administrators, cleaners, engineers and, in particular, the drivers, who go out there and deliver excellence every day. This award is for them.

“To win Operator of the Year for the fourth consecutive year is a huge honour, and we will continue to deliver a better and safer service for our customers.''

The Operator of the Year category is based on the company’s engineering standards, the number of miles operated and customers carried, as well as praise and complaints.

The company also walked away with ‘Operator of the Year for 6 to 10 vehicles’, a Gold Standard Achievement – meaning over three consecutive ‘Gold’ statuses for three or more consecutive years - and a Golden Spanner award for exceeding expectations in engineering.

Chris Hardy, Managing Director at National Express UK Coach said: “We wouldn’t be National Express without our operators. Travelstar European help to keep us on the roads on a daily basis and I am pleased to have this opportunity to recognise their efforts and celebrate them as a valued partner.”

Award-winning choreographer and performer Seeta Patel brings her re-imagining of the iconic ballet, ‘The Rite of Spring’ to Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio.

With a cast of six outstanding performers, the show reinterprets the classic ballet in the powerful classical Indian dance style of Bharatanatyam.

Composer Igor Stravinsky wrote The Rite of Spring, the ballet and orchestral concert – widely considered to be his masterpiece - for the 1913 season of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.  When it premiered at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, the avant-garde nature of the music and choreography caused a sensation and continues to be influential over a century later.

“The Rite of Spring has been choreographed by many different artists and companies over the years”, says Seeta Patel.  “Diaghilev, Pina Bausch, Maurice Bejart to name a few.  But this will be the first time ever it will be done with the Bharatanatyam dance form. I performed at the Patrick Studio in October 2018 with my one woman show ‘Not Today’s Yesterday’.

The venue team are incredible and I’m so happy to be bringing the larger scale work to the venue and to continue building my relationship with Birmingham audiences.”

Patel’s production is set to be an exciting flirtation between East and West as it looks beyond notions of the exotic and orientalist perceptions of Eastern classical arts. The piece will showcase some of the finest international Indian classical dance talent in an exciting bridge between two technical, powerful and evocative art forms: Western classical music and Indian classical dance.

Seeta Patel will bring a transformative re-telling of this tale through intricate rhythmic footwork, expressive prowess, geometric and dynamic movement.

Stravinsky’s epic score gains a fresh perspective in Seeta Patel’s production through the use of Bharatanatyam, the dancers’ knowledge of Indian classical music to interpret the rhythms, and production design referencing the parched earth, the need for spring rain and the birth of new life.

“We’ve played with lighting design and makeup effects and our two costume designers, who live in Bangalore, have inspired the look of the production with their beautiful textures” says Seeta.

Seeta Patel’s‘The Rite of Spring’ is at Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio on Tuesday May 14.