Colors: Red Color

It has been announced that ‘Bang Bang!,’ a brand new comedy by John Cleese, and starring Tessa Peake-Jones, Tony Gardner and Wendi Peters, will be at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre.

Cleese makes his stage writing debut with a hilarious new adaptation of this classic comedy – a delicious blend of French Farce and Fawlty Towers - based on Monsier Chasse by Georges Feydeau.

When Leontine, a respectable society lady, discovers that she’s been hoodwinked by her husband, Duchotel, who’s always pretending to go hunting but really chasing after other ‘prey’, she vows to take revenge on the philanderer! But while Duchotel’s away, his lifelong friend comes calling – and he’s on the hunt too.

Will Leontine get caught in his sights, or instead set a trap of her own?

Secrets unravel as the devilish Duchotel finds himself snared in a door-slamming, trouser-dropping, balcony-climbing night of chaos set amidst the stylish apartments of Paris.

Peake-Jones became a household name with her role as Raquel in the iconic comedy ‘Only Fools and Horses’. Her extensive stage work encompasses the National Theatre and RSC, recent credits include ‘The Winslow Boy’ and ‘Shirley Valentine’.

Gardner first made his name in comedy as part of the award-winning comedy duo ‘Struck off and Die’. Since then he has appeared on TV in roles ranging from the ‘My Parents are Aliens’ to ‘Last Tango in Halifax’ and on stage in Alan Ayckbourn’s classic ‘Bedroom Farce’.

Peters is most widely known for her role as Cilla Battersby in Coronation Street and has just finished appearing in the West End smash-hit musical ‘BIG’ at the Dominion Theatre.

‘Bang Bang!’ will run from Tuesday 12 – Saturday 16 May.

It was the small record label that transformed music in the UK, and provided a platform for some of the biggest stars of the 1970s. Now, 50 years on, the legacy of Trojan Records is being celebrated by the Jazz Jamaica All Stars – whose Trojan Story project heads to Birmingham’s Town Hall on Friday 25 October 2019.

"Trojan was so important to all sorts of people, from all sorts of class backgrounds," says Jazz Jamaica's Gary Crosby. "We wanted to celebrate that particular contribution to English culture with this project."

The story of Trojan Records begins in 1968 as the London-based distribution company began licensing Jamaican ska singles for UK release. Although their early buyers may have been from the resident Jamaican communities, scattered across London, Birmingham and other major urban conurbations, the appeal of the music quickly spread to white mod and rock audiences. Within a couple of years, tracks by Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker, Harry J’s All Stars and The Maytals had all cracked the UK singles charts.

Also releasing records by Bob Marley, Lee 'Scratch' Perry and others, the label’s popularity and influence increased further with a run of well sequenced compilation albums, including the Tighten Up and Reggae Chartbusters series. Suddenly, the music was no longer the preserve of pirate stations and roaming sound systems.

Although the label's fortunes briefly floundered, the ska revival of the late 70s and early 80s quickly renewed interest in the original Jamaican artists who had inspired The Specials, The Selecter and Madness, and a new generation were soon clambering for Trojan releases. And the brand is still with us today, regularly digging into the archives to re-present tracks by Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis, John Holt, Bob and Marcia, and other pioneers.

Growing up in London, Gary was very aware of the Trojan roster as friends and family had connections to the operation, and their seven-inch singles sound-tracked his life. Though he made his name as a founder member of the Jazz Warriors during the 1980s, Gary went on to form the jazz/reggae-influenced Jazz Jamaica the following decade, and it was the Jazz Jamaica All Stars’ 2012 tribute to Bob Marley and The Wailers' Catch A Fire album which sowed the seeds for his grand Trojan tribute.

"It was really on that Catch A Fire tour that myself and Brinsley began to talk about a Trojan celebration," recalls Gary of his discussions with Aswad vocalist Brinsley Forde. "He was up for it then. Noel McKoy was another person I’d thought about – he’s from a Jamaican background and understands that music, even though a lot of people think of him as a soul person. His brothers were DJs on sound systems."

The resulting live extravaganza features not just vocalist contributions from Brinsley and Noel, but also an orchestra of 20-plus musicians including saxophonists Denys Baptiste and Camilla George, string quartet Tomorrow’s Warriors’ StringTing, vocal trio Dem 3, and (in Birmingham-only) the THSH Reggae Choir. Together they dip into Trojan's monumental back catalogue of ska, rocksteady, reggae, roots, lover's rock, dub, and more.

Choosing the actual set-list would always present a challenge, but Gary – whose far-reaching contributions to music and music education have resulted in both an OBE and the Queen’s Medal For Music – was keen to start with some familiar tunes.

"I could have chosen stuff like Burning Spear, which would only be known by a select group of people. But we decided to go for the stuff that people would know, that had either charted or was well-known amongst the people who enjoyed that music – specifically like the Jimmy Cliff's Wonderful World Beautiful People, and [Millie Small's] My Boy Lollipop, which is known the world over."

Red Red Wine by Tony Tribe, Dawn Penn's You Don’t Love Me (No No No), The Skatalites' Ball Of Fire, The Harry J All Stars’ infectious Liquidator, and Israelites by the sharply dressed Desmond Dekker, are among those that also make the live set.

"It was very difficult choosing the tracks because there are so many!" Gary continues, adding that he hopes this will just be the start of a bigger project. "We are hoping that this will be a success, and that will give us the opportunity to do Volume Two – where we could do some of the other tracks. We had an idea of calling it a People’s Choice, so that the people we’ve played for on this tour would get the opportunity to suggest to us what we should play next time around."

The forerunner of reggae, ska music, with its distinctive shuffle, was born in Jamaica in the 1960s, with many of the early architects rooted in jazz music. Among them were The Skatalites' Don Drummond and Crosby's uncle, Ernest Ranglin, who played with Prince Buster and Lee 'Scratch' Perry.

"Jazz was the popular music of the 1940s-1950s to a lot of these guys," Gary explains. "My first band had Rico Rodriguez and Eddie Thornton in, and I learnt a lot from them, about when they were in Alpha Boys School [in Kingston, Jamaica], and what they were listening to at the time – the hip music, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Coltrane, and Stan Getz.

"A lot of people don’t give the older Jamaican musicians credit for the breadth of music they were listening to. It could go from Ace Cannon to John Coltrane in five minutes, to [country singer] Charley Pride and [pianist] Bill Doggett, blues to modern jazz. It was listened to on the radio, from New Orleans – it wasn't until the late 1950s that people like [producer] Coxsone Dodd would buy songs and bring them back to Jamaica. They’d listen to whatever was on the radio, and if it was on the radio it was good … or at least entertaining. They were very practical."

It was the combination of North American jazz, and rhythm and blues, coupled with Jamaican mento music that shaped the early bluebeat and ska popularised by Trojan.

Says Gary: "If you listen to that music of the 1950s, along with Jamaican R&B and soul, you can hear that’s where ska comes from."

And the influence of those Trojan releases can still be felt today, with the membership of the Jazz Jamaica All Stars perfect proof of its generational appeal.

“It goes from us old geezers to these young teenagers,” laughs Gary. “That does show you the breadth of influence of that music.”

Jazz Jamaica All Stars: The Trojan Story is at Town Hall Birmingham on Friday, 25 October 2019.

A Birmingham City University academic is encouraging West Midlands residents to open up about their experiences of mental health for a specially commissioned piece of music.

The ideas shared will be combined to create a unique piece of music for The People’s Orchestra and Show Choirs which will premiere in a concert next year.

The initiative, known as ‘Page to Stage’, invites anyone with an interest in mental health to get involved, and no musical training is necessary.

An initial workshop will take place on Saturday 16 November at West Bromwich Town Hall, culminating in an informal performance to family and friends.

This comes as people across the globe got together to raise awareness of mental health on ‘World Mental Health Day’ yesterday.

Kim Moore, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing at Birmingham City University, is supporting the event. She said: “It is always good to get people talking about their experiences of mental health and this is a novel and fun way to do so.

“The more we open up about our own experiences, the more we can reduce the stigma around mental health.

“I’m really looking forward to being a part of this initiative and would encourage anyone who wants to share their experiences to come along.”

People can register for the workshop on 16 November by calling 0121 569 2616 or visiting The People’s Box Office website

Following their hugely successful homecoming show at Leeds United’s Elland Road stadium, Kaiser Chiefs have announced date for their 2020 tour, with very special guests Razorlight, which includes a Birmingham date.

US alternative rock/pop band Life have also been announced as support for the Arena Birmingham gig.

Kaiser Chiefs will kick off their arena tour in Hull on January 21 next year, with a series of dates following before a concluding show at London’s The O2 on February 1.

When speaking about the new album, the indi band’s frontman, Ricky Wilson, said that it was sounding “undeniably Kaiser Chiefs”.

“I went and listened to the first few [Kaiser Chiefs albums] again,” Wilson said. “I listened to a lot of the stuff we were listening to when we made those albums, like some old Motown and stuff.

The truth of the matter is that it’s just five of us in a room and we make the music that we make.”

Kaiser Chiefs will kick off their 2020 arena tour in Hull on January 21, with a series of dates following including Arena Birmingham on Saturday 25 - before a concluding show at The O2 in London on February 1.

As a continuing drive to raise awareness of mental health issues, today marks World Mental Health Day (WMHD), the annual campaign designed for people to open up a dialogue for sufferers.

Set up in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health, WMHD marks each year with a different theme and this year's is suicide prevention.

For this year’s (October 10) WMHD, organisers are asking people for just "40 seconds of action to raise awareness of the scale of suicide around the world and the role that each of us can play to help prevent it" with the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry and world renowned, and respected, musical superstar, Ed Sheeran joining forces to produce a very special mental health video for the annual campaign designed to raise awareness of mental health issues.

According to the World Health Organisation, the day "provides an opportunity for stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide".

According to the WHO, more than 800,000 people die by suicide each year, and our "actions must be geared towards prevention".

Set up in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health, each year is marked with a different theme - this year's is suicide prevention.

President of the WFMH, Dr Alberto Trimboli, says that suicide prevention was chosen this year because it is the leading cause of death among people aged fifteen to 29.

He said: "It has increased gradually in all parts of the world and, in the past few decades, has reached alarming statistical levels.

"It is often believed that it is only adults who exhibit suicidal behaviours, but it should be made known that many children and young people engage in this kind of behaviour as a result of violence, sexual abuse, bullying and cyberbullying.

"Suicide is a global public health problem that deserves the attention of all the actors in the field of mental health."

The aim this year is to call on governments around the world to make tackling suicide a priority.

First year students on the UK’s first Birmingham-focused music industries degree course have been given an introduction to the city’s vibrant music landscape to mark the beginning of the three-year programme.

Birmingham City University’s BA Music Industries course leader Matt Grimes and Dr Iain Taylor, along with lecturer Dr Asya Draganova, delivered a three-hour walking tour of the city centre – famed for its metal, pop, bhangra and grime heritage – helping the new cohort to familiarise themselves with venues, studios, retailers, history and people across the Digbeth, Southside and Westside areas.

Along the route, students were introduced to music industry professionals from Tiger Bam Communications, The MJR Group, Brum Radio and Birmingham Music Coalition, who shared advice and insights on the city’s music industry ecosystem.

The walking tour began at UB40 and Ed Sheeran hotspot The Eagle & Tun, taking in Minerva Works; Digbrew; The Ruin, Digbeth; Blotto Studio; The Custard Factory; Mama Roux’s; Quantum; The Mill, Digbeth; The Wagon and Horses, The Old Crown; The Crossing, Digbeth; O2 Institute, The Electric Cinema, The Crown, John Bright Street, Town Hall Birmingham, Symphony Hall Birmingham and ending at the former site of famed New Romantic venue The Rum Runner.

Matt Grimes, Degree leader in Music Industries at Birmingham City, said, “We’re delighted to be delivering a bespoke degree course built around the strengths of the vibrant music industries in Birmingham, which support up to 6,000 jobs and help generate up to £230million worth of income to the area.”

“We wanted to kick it off with a practical exploration of the city’s live music landscape covering everything from famed backstreet punk and metal haunts to one of the world’s best concert halls. At Birmingham School of Media we have decades of experience in delivering Music Industries-based education and research. We’ve drawn upon this to develop a contemporary and focused course that both draws on and contributes to the city’s rich and uniquely varied music industries.

“Birmingham’s oft-overlooked music scene is currently seeing a boost through the influx of new promoters, venues, festivals, investment and interest, supported by organisations like Birmingham Music Coalition helping to connect and empower those working in the sector. We have ambitions to grow the course alongside the rapidly expanding talent in the city-region. We want our graduates to remain in the city and continue contributing to Birmingham’s music scenes. Developing meaningful and productive relationships with music industries in this city will continue to support that.”

Up to 20 young people from across the country have enrolled on the hyper focussed BA Music Industries course which promises to put students at the heart of music in the UK, with coursework designed to equip them with the skills, knowledge, and experience, not just to work in, but to shape the music industries.

Over the next three years, these students will be getting to grips with the industry locally, working with a host of local organisations such as those mentioned above, while also keeping an eye firmly on the national music industries, working closely in partnership with UK Music, who represent the interests of the UK’s music industries nationally. Birmingham City University is a member of the UK Music Music Academic Partnership network, and has appointed Mulika Sannie, Vice President of Business Affairs at Kobalt Music, to the programme’s industry advisory board.

Graduates from the music industries offering at Birmingham City University have gone on to take up roles at Kobalt MusicPRS for MusicResorts World Arena, Sony Music and Universal Music, as well as creating new programmes, curating new events and producing new music journalism and PR within and from the city itself.

Birmingham City University’s music output also includes composition, performance and research at the globally-acclaimed Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, music education teaching and research in the School of Education and Social Work, music technology and sound production at the School of Computing and Digital Technology, and the Popular Music Research Cluster at Birmingham School of Media.

After releasing his 17th album ‘I Wanna Thank Me’ earlier this year, rap superstar, Snoop Dogg, has announced details of his 2020 UK arena tour and his shows will see him joined by West Coast hip hop stars D12, Warren G, Tha Dogg Pound and Obie Trice – with Irish rap duo Versatile set to playing the opening sets at each of the concerts.

Snoop Dogg is one of the most successful rappers to emerge from the famed West Coast rap scene, which burst into life in the 90s and became one of the world’s most powerful cultural forces.

He released his Dr Dre-produced debut album Doggystyle in 1993, which shot straight to number one in the US charts and spawned some of his biggest hits to date, including Gin and Juice, as well as Who Am I? (What’s My Name?).

He recently  covered of Nick Cave’s ‘Red Right Hand’ in conjunction with the new season of BBC’s ‘Peaky Blinders’, which the song is the long-running theme tune of - which will go down well with an expected sell-out date at Birmingham Arena on April 16.

His other arena venues include: 3Arena in Dublin, the SSE Arena, Belfast,

Manchester Arena, Leeds’ First Direct Arena and the O2 in London.


Drawing on over 200 years of romantic pop history, the innovative theatre company Blood of the Young take on Jane Austen’s unrivalled literary classic. The highly acclaimed Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) visits Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

Six young women have a story to tell. You might have seen them, emptying the chamber pots and sweeping ash from the grate; the overlooked and the undervalued making sure those above stairs find their happy ending. Of course, they’ve always been running the show after all ‘you can’t have a whirlwind romance without clean bedding’ - but tonight, the servants are also playing every part.

Men, money and microphones will be fought over in this loving all-female adaptation. Let the ruthless match-making begin.

Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) is adapted by writer-performer Isobel McArthur (Cyrano de Bergerac, National Theatre of Scotland). Talking about the show, she says: “It’s simply for anyone who enjoys a great night out full of colour, music and laughter. I’d encourage anybody put off by the associated stuffiness or frilly corsetry of the Austen legacy to give this a go - and I’d tell those who love Austen not to worry because we do, too. This is a deeply affectionate re-telling of her brilliant, enduring story.”

The Lyceum’s Artistic Director, David Greig, said: “Blood of the Young are a brilliant young voice of Scottish Theatre, and their below-stairs take on Pride and Prejudice is a pitch-perfect blend of reverent homage and mischievous send up. I could not be more delighted to be working with them to bring this show to out to our partner theatres across the UK.”

This irreverent production is brought to life by director Paul Brotherston, designer Ana Inés Jabares-Pita (The Lovely Bones, Birmingham Repertory Theatre) and movement director EJ Boyle (The Crown, Netflix).

Playing multiple characters in this rip-roaring all-female adaptation, Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) brings together an exceptional cast of six, including: Tori Burgess, Christina Gordon, Hannah Jarrett-Scott, Isobel McArthur and Meghan Tyler. They are joined by newcomer Felixe Forde making her professional debut.

Having first opened at Tron Theatre to an overwhelming audience response in Summer 2018, the production tours to UK venues over Autumn 2019 and Spring 2020.

Written by Isobel McArthur after Jane Austen and directed by Paul Brotherston, Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) - a co-production with Bristol Old Vic, Leeds Playhouse, Northern Stage, Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Oxford Playhouse - is at Birmingham Repertory Theatre from 15 October – 2 November.

The Chineke! Chamber Ensemble, Europe’s first majority Black & Ethnic Minority orchestra, will be performing a programme of quintets by Coleridge-Taylor and Schubert, as they display the astonishing maturity and virtuosity of the young composers.

Having performed in Birmingham before their founder and double bass player Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE spoke about their forthcoming visit.

She said: "Birmingham was among the first places outside London to embrace what Chineke! is trying to achieve and to invite us to play in the city. With our mission of ‘championing change and celebrating diversity in classical music’ we feel particularly drawn to Birmingham, the population of which is on the verge of becoming majority non-white, and we are thrilled to be performing in this prestigious series of concerts at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire."

One of the pieces they’re playing is by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a late 19th/early 20th century mixed-race composer who lived in London and achieved considerable success.

Premiered in 1893, Coleridge-Taylor's charismatic four-movement quintet was written at the age of eighteen. The influence of his favourite composer, Dvorak, as well as Schubert, is evident in the inventive, melodic lines and rich tone colour of this Post-Romantic piece, demonstrating a remarkable self-assurance for one so young.

This is complimented by Schubert's innovative Trout Quintet composed in 1819 when he was just 22 years' old. The fourth movement features variations on his earlier Lied, Die Forelle and is scored for piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass rather than the more usual piano and string quartet configuration.

Founded in 2015, Chineke!'s mission is to champion change and celebrate diversity in classical music.

Chi-chi says: “My aim is to create a space where BME musicians can walk on stage and know that they belong, in every sense of the word. If even one BME child feels that their colour is getting in the way of their musical ambitions, then I hope to inspire them, give them a platform, and show them that music, of whatever kind, is for all people”.

The ensemble made its debut in 2017 in Manchester followed by concerts at Wigmore Hall, Cheltenham and Ryedale festivals in 2018. It has since performed at the Tonbridge Music Club, Wimbledon International Festival, Cambridge Music Festival, St George's Bristol, The Africa Center in New York, The Stables in Wavendon and Petworth Festival.

They are giving an hour-long lunchtime concert at The Bradshaw Hall (Royal Birmingham Conservatoire) on Tuesday, October 8.

Musical virtuoso Jools Holland and his distinguished Rhythm & Blues Orchestra return to Symphony Hall Birmingham this November, with additional special guests including Pauline Black and Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson from the legendary ska band The Selecter - with support from Adam Double.

Being on the road with a band he’s known for a long time, he said: “One of the things for us is, there are a lot of us, so you're never alone.

There used to be that advert for a cigarette called Strand, and the advert was 'You're never alone with a Strand.' And it was such a disaster because everybody thought 'Well, I don't want to be alone.' So they went out of business.

But it's a bit like 'You're never alone with a big band because wherever you are, there's always...if you arrive in a town, I see Bammi, because like me he studies the horses, going into a bookmaker's on the high street. There'll be somebody else coming out, you'll see.

“It's like we're alien spores that have been dropped in whatever town it is, and I recognize us as I'm coming into the town”.

For people who go to see him often, there is always a new element in his special guests, for which he says: “This year, we're having somebody who's worked with us before, but they bring out this great element of us, which is Selecter. Specifically, it's Pauline Black, the singer, and 'Gaps' Hendrickson, who works with Pauline, and they're perfect for us because they represent the British take on ska music, the 2 Tone thing”.

On adapting the guests' big hits for a big band, he said: “I wouldn't want to force things into a big band style for things that weren't going to work, so sometimes you have to play things in a different way.

“Most things you can take back to the piano, because I suppose 70 per cent of songs — I'm making up figures, there, everybody does it these days — anyway, a lot of songs were written on the piano, or keyboard”.

‘Tinkling the ivories’ is the musical virtuoso’s greatest thrill – thanks to his Nan’s piano. “Yes, my nan's piano was really an essential thing because it was in her front room, as people had in the 1930s”, he recalled. “It was a gift to her by her mother Britannia in 1937 and I would hear them at Christmas, when I was very small, all singing songs.

“Everybody had their own song that they'd sing at the piano, and it was also a pianola, so you would pedal away and the piano roll would go round, with Fats Waller playing 'Red Sails In The Sunset' coming out of it.  It was great and I got to learn songs early on. I say jazz music, like Bessie Smith or Jelly Roll Morton, things like that.

“Furthermore, my uncle, who was a young teenager when I was small, would play boogie-woogie piano on it, and from that, that really got me going and fired up and made me learn by ear what he was doing, and I learn the blues from day one.

My dad got me an Alba record player, and we could have a good listen to whatever records were out at the time. I think I had a Glenn Miller one, which got worn out, but the first proper LP I had was 'For Once In My Life' by Stevie Wonder, I liked that, and I think I had 'Lady Madonna,' the single, by The Beatles, because I tried to learn the piano part on it”. 

“Since, I played with B.B. King and Van Morrison - discovering since that what he showed me, the left hand that he showed me, was the same left hand, because I met and talked to people about this that Ray Charles was shown by an old man in his village, that Ringo Starr, strangely, learned, that I think Mark Knopfler knows it as well. All these people, the first bit of piano they learned, and Dr. John, very strange, they were all drawn to this one little riff.

I've been very lucky, both either on record where we recorded with George Harrison, or written with Dr John, or Dionne Warwick covered a song that San Brown and I wrote. I can't believe it sometimes, all this stuff that's happened”.

As part of his UK Tour, Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra will be at Symphony Hall, in Birmingham, on 29th and 30th Nov 2019.

Ahead of their show tonight at Birmingham Hippodrome, the Phoenix spoke with the founder of Ballet Black Cassa Pancho MBE and Ebony Thomas Junior Artist with Ballet Black who trained at Elmhurst.

How important is Ballet Black in promoting ballet to a completely different audience?

CP: Ballet Black has been important to the ecology of ballet in the UK as we have helped to develop a more inclusive and diverse audience. Placing dancers of black and Asian descent on stage encourages a very different audience to the “typical” ballet audience – in most of our performances, you will see a multiracial crowd of all ages. As well as diversity, our use of choreographers and music from a wide range of disciplines and genres means that as well as ballet lovers, we draw an audience that are attracted to many different art forms.


Have you got an inspirational story to share of someone who you have met during your time with Ballet Black?

ET: I think the company is full of truly inspirational stories and to be honest mine is probably the least inspirational! Each person in Ballet Black has had to fight in their own way to get where they are today and I think that creates a hard working, determined and willing culture within the company. However with all due respect, I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling someone else’s story as it wouldn’t be mine to tell. What I will say though is I think the company itself is an inspirational story. Cassa started this company from scratch and it has now been going for 18 years. From the very beginnings of the company to where we are now, in what is a relatively short period of time, I think is an incredible achievement.


How does it feel to be a role model for young aspiring black and Asian dancers?

ET: Honestly, a bit strange! A couple years ago as a student I wouldn’t have even dreamt about answering a question like that ever, let alone 2 years into my career! I think the role myself and the whole company play is very important and a big responsibility, especially with what the company's goals are. If you look at the percentage of white to non-white dancers in ballet there’s a big imbalance. You could bring up many reasons for this, however where better place to start than the beginning. The percentage imbalance is there in local dance schools and also fee paying schools. So to try and even that out we need to engage those who may not have been inspired previously because they haven’t seen many people like themselves on stage. When you can’t relate to those you see, as a young person, you become less interested in whatever you’re watching. So when children of ethnicity come and watch our shows they will see there is a route for them and hopefully we can slowly inspire more and more to start dancing.


How did you originally get into dance and ballet?

ET: The story of how I got into ballet is quite ironic actually. When I was younger I was very sporty. I played rugby, football and little bit of cricket too. When I was 5 my mum suggested I should do ballet as it would help with my coordination, balance and agility for the sports I play. My answer? “No, ballet is for girls!". She wasn’t very impressed with that answer at all. A few months later I had to stay at a friends house after school as both my parents were working late and my grandparents, who would normally collect me after school, were also busy. It just so happens that on that day, my friend had a ballet class that I would have to go along to. This was a surprise as I didn’t know he danced! I went along however and quite enjoyed it, so I joined the local dance school run by a wonderful woman called Lousie Jefferson who I still keep in touch with. Eventually my friend gave up and I carried on. Your parents are always right because it did help me with my sports, which eventually gave way as I pursued a career in ballet.


What can people expect from The Suit?

CP: The Suit was choreographed for BB by Cathy Marston in 2018, and is inspired by the 1963 novel by South African author, Can Themba. It focuses on a seemingly happy relationship between a husband and wife in Sophiatown in Johannesburg, and the terrible devastation caused when an affair is discovered. It has moments of beauty and fun, but is also very moving and tragic – it’s definitely one to bring tissues to!

For more information and to book tickets check out

On Tuesday 8 October at 6.45pm, Mozart’s exciting opera Don Giovanni will enchant audiences in a live broadcast to 600 cinemas all over the UK, from Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands all the way down to Jersey. This wonderful fast-moving tragi-comedy about a master seducer features enchantingly complex characters, gripping drama and glorious melodies, from Don Giovanni’s exuberant ‘Champagne Aria’ to Don Ottavio’s tender expression of love ‘Dalla sua pace’. For a Sunday afternoon treat, there will also be an encore performance on 13 October at 2pm.

The anti-hero Don Giovanni is sung by Royal Opera favourite Erwin Schrott. The cast also features Roberto Tagliavini as Leporello, Malin Byström as Donna Anna, Daniel Behle as Don Ottavio, Christine Rice as Donna Elvira, Louise Alder as Zerlina, Leon Košavić as Masetto and Peter Magoulas as the Commendatore. Hartmut Haenchen conducts.

The Royal Opera House cinema broadcasts offer audiences the best seat in the house, and exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and interviews. Audience members are never far from a performance at the Royal Opera House, with most people in the UK based within 30 miles of a cinema screening. As well as being shown in the UK, Don Giovanni will be broadcast to over 1,000 international cinemas in 53 countries around the world.

Don Giovanni will be broadcast live on Tuesday 8 October at 6.45pm with an encore performance on Sunday 13 October at 2pm. The opera lasts three hours and 30 minutes, including one interval and will be sung in Italian with English surtitles.

The next live cinema relay will be The Royal Opera’s Don Pasquale on Thursday 24 October.

Following two sell-out runs in London, and a world tour, the acclaimed ‘Barber Shop Chronicles’ will be at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

Written by Nigerian-born poet and playwright Inua Ellams, ‘Barber Shop Chronicles’ is a heart-warming, hilarious and insightful play that journeys from a barber shop in Peckham to Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos and Accra over the course of a single day.

The barber shops are places where the banter can be barbed and the truth is always telling.

For generations, African men have gathered in barber shops to discuss the world – they are the local newsroom, political platform, hot-spot, confession box, preacher-pulpit, and football stadium.

Writer, Inua Ellams, said: “Years ago I learnt of a charity that was trying to train barbers in the very basics of counselling, and I never realised how intimate the conversations could get between barbers and clients.

“Initially I wanted to create poems but after six weeks research visiting barber shops across South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana and London the ideas of poems turned to conversations to scenes, to settings, to drama, to politics, to history. It struck me that on some level people believed there were sacred elements to barber shops.”

The resulting play gives a sharp insight and celebration of a cultural space rarely explored. The characters in the play are sages, role models and father figures; they are the glue that keeps men together.

With an ensemble of 12, ‘Barber Shop Chronicles’ is an exploration of Black masculinity set in six cities across two continents. Exhilarating and joyous, this ringside view of conversations both personal and political bursts with song, wit and soul searching.

“We are hugely proud of this joyful and soulful production of Inua’s important and life-affirming play,” said Kate McGrath, Director of Fuel who are the producers of the show. “We are particularly excited, given Fuel’s deep and longstanding dedication to national touring, to be working in partnership with Birmingham Repertory Theatre to bring the show to audiences in the West Midlands.”

The REP and Fuel recently co-produced the premiere of Inua Ellams’ latest play, ‘The Half God of Rainfall’.

‘Barber Shop Chronicles’, a Fuel, National Theatre and Leeds Playhouse co-production plays Birmingham Repertory Theatre from 26 – 28 September.

Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight, Birmingham-born actor Adil Ray and Coventry’s Debbie Isitt, who created the Nativity film franchise, will be part of a new taskforce to supercharge the West Midlands’ screen industry, it was confirmed today.

The trio will join other talented and well-known individuals from the region’s TV, film and games industries on the taskforce.

The members will now be tasked with getting the new screen industry body up and running ahead of its official launch in October.

This includes creating a name and branding that will attract people from across the globe to come and create content in the West Midlands.

The body’s members will also be working on developing a strategy to revolutionise the current screen industry, helping to drive investment, growth and thousands of new jobs.

It will be chaired by international industry heavyweight Ed Shedd and serve as a single point of contact for national and international film, TV and game makers.

Ed said: “I am absolutely thrilled with the response we have had for inaugural members, with nearly 50 screen professionals applying.

“It was a challenge to select the initial group from such a wealth of talent. However, I am pleased that the group we are announcing presents a really interesting mix of sectors, backgrounds and experience. I am hugely looking forward to working with them all in the months and years ahead.”

Cllr Ian Brookfield, who is also leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, added: “As part of our Local Industrial Strategy we plan to see 29,000 new, high skilled jobs in the digital and creative industries by 2030.

“By having the screen industry itself leading the way through this new body, we believe we can achieve this and capitalise on the rapidly expanding creative sector to boost our wider economy and future prosperity.”

There are four key aims of the new body, including:

• Develop a single delivery plan and help turn strategy into action • Secure and deliver both public and private funds • Commission a variety programmes of activity • Both lobby and promote the West Midlands screen industry

Rebel Music, the latest play from Birmingham born award-winning playwright and screenwriter Robin French, receives its world première at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in September. Inspired by the Rock Against Racism movement of the 70s and a celebration of the diverse musical legacy of the Midlands, the production will run from Thursday 19 September to Saturday 5 October and will also tour to 15 local venues.

Rebel Music is set in the sweltering hot summer of 1976, when the country is in economic turmoil and the far right is on the march. Rock Against Racism puts white punk bands and black reggae bands on the same bill – determined to win the culture war and defeat the National Front.

Three teenage music fans, Denise, Trudi and Andrew, join the fight for the soul of working class Britain. The trio navigate racial politics and social upheaval in Birmingham alongside their own turbulent teenage years, but can their friendship survive? Commissioned by Birmingham Repertory Theatre and presented in association with award-winning gig theatre specialists, Middle Child, this raucous story of people power features a soundrack of Punk, Reggae and 2Tone.

Playing the roles of Denise, Trudi and Andrew are Lauren Foster, Hannah Millward and Nathan Queeley-Dennisrespectively.

Award-winning playwright and screenwriter, Robin French, said: “As well as a playwright, I’ve always been a musician. I was born just up the road at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, to a Barbadian mother and an English father, during the Winter of Discontent. This play is about music and race in Birmingham, set just as I was taking my first breath.

As a teenager, I was obsessed with bands - the North-West was celebrated for its music, producing The Smiths, Joy Division and The Stone Roses. But what about the Midlands? I wanted to write something celebrating the wealth of music we produced in the late-Seventies - The Specials, Steel Pulse, The Beat, Dexys, The Selecter, UB40. I already loved how multi-cultural that musical legacy was.

Researching the play, alongside my friend Alex who directs the show, things became even more interesting. Britain in the late-Seventies was riven with racial tension. Eric Clapton’s infamous racist rant - which started the whole Rock Against Racism movement, happened right here at the Birmingham Odeon.

Writing this play, I’ve had the opportunity to interview many fascinating Brummies who lived through the period. I’ve been able to rewrite lyrics to some of my favourite songs, and even play some bass and piano in rehearsals. Most of all, I’ve been reminded not to be too cynical - in some places, sometimes, music actually does have the potential to change the world.”

Rebel Music is directed and co-created by JMK Award-winner Alex Brown, who adds: “Rebel Music is about teenagers in 1979 who wanted to break down barriers and unite people through music and culture, and who weren't afraid to fight back against intolerance, hatred and racism. Today in 2019, racism is on the rise once more in the UK and around the world. We live in complex and divided times, but one thing that hasn't changed is the positive power of music and how it can bring people together. Rebel Music will celebrate the cultural pioneers who used punk, reggae and 2tone to try and get everybody dancing to the same beat.”

Robin French’s first play, Bear Hug, won the Royal Court Young Writer's Festival and was produced at the Royal Court, where it earned an extended run. Subsequent productions include Gilbert is Dead, The Red Helicopter, Heather Gardner, The Get Out, Musical Differences, and Crooked Dances.

Robin’s short film Crocodile won awards at Cannes, Encounters, and Guanajuato festival in Mexico, and was BIFA nominated for Best British short. Alongside his friend Kieron Quirke, Robin also co-created and wrote five series of the hit BBC sitcom Cuckoo, starring Greg Davies, Andy Samberg, Taylor Lautner and Andi MacDowell. Cuckoo was BBC3's biggest rating comedy launch and garnered nominations both at BAFTA and the British Comedy Awards.

Robin is currently developing new drama projects for television. When not writing, he enjoys songwriting and singing with his indie/samba band Sugarcane.

Alex Brown, a winner of the JMK Award, has previously directed The Island; The Chronicles of Kalki; The Captains of the Sands and Through Paths of Thunder; The Red Helicopter and Stoopid Fucken Animals. Assistant / Associate Director credits include The River by Jez Butterworth directed by Ian Rickson and Great Britain by Richard Bean directed by Nick Hynter.

He is currently commissioning an anthology of short plays about the climate emergency, which he will direct with the Almeida Young Company in 2020.

Rebel Music has musical direction and sound design by James Frewer; movement by Lucy Wild; lighting by Alex Boucher and dramaturgy by Paul Smith. Musical arrangements are by Robin French, James Frewer and Alex Brown. Assistant Director is Beth Kapila.

The tour of Rebel Music has been supported by the Sir Barry Jackson Trust.

More than 50 fans from across the globe turned up at a West Bromwich hospital to watch the unveiling of a tribute to rock star Phil Lynott in the form of an emerald green plaque.

The Thin Lizzy singer was honoured at Sandwell Hospital, formerly known as Hallam Hospital, with H, lead singer of cover band Dizzy Lizzy doing the honours.

The plaque inscribed with the words ‘The boy is back in town. Phil Lynott 1949-1986. Musician, Poet, Songwriter. Born here Hallam Hospital’ will be fitted at the entrance to the Antenatal Clinic.

Sadly his mother Philomena, who was delighted to learn that the hospital intended to honour him, died in June this year. Money for the plaque has been raised by the local community and singer H, along with writer Sean Meaney who spearheaded the campaign.

Phil’s daughters, Sarah and Cathleen said ahead of the ceremony: “It is particularly poignant timing that his place of birth is being honoured in what would have been his 70th birthday year. “There was obviously something in the water at that time as Robert Plant was born on the same day in the same town a year earlier. We are really proud of all our dad achieved and are so grateful for this recognition and to everyone who keeps his memory alive.”

Fans from Japan, Sweden, Scotland and Spain came to see the unveiling along with Trust staff and others who cheered when the tribute was unveiled.

Helen Hurst, Director of Midwifery from Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust which runs Sandwell Hospital, said: “It is very fitting that a plaque to honour Phil Lynott is here at his birth place.

He was extremely talented and we are proud to be associated with Phil, who made a huge difference to the lives of so many through his music. It is fantastic to know that Sandwell Hospital was the place of birth to one of the most iconic singers from the 70s and 80s.”

Phil, who died aged 36, lived in Smethwick for a short time with his mother Philomena before she moved to Manchester. She finally returned with him to her native Ireland, where he spent the rest of his upbringing before he went on to form Thin LizzySean, who was also at the event, added: “We lost Phil far too soon and it is sad that his mother wasn’t able to see this day.

“Despite her failing health, the devoted 88-year-old had told friends it was her dream to travel back to West Bromwich one final time to see her late rock star son honoured in the place of his birth. She was very emotional and felt that life had now come full circle.

“She sadly passed away just 10 weeks before the ceremony was due to take place. It has left us all shocked and tinged with sadness.”