Colors: Red Color

Wolverhampton Grand announced that the Grammy award winning SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR will make their Grand Theatre debut on Sunday 25 October 2020.

Winner of the 2019 Grammy Award for Best World Music Album for “Freedom”, a collection of songs which celebrate and commemorate South Africa’s democratic movement’s struggle for freedom, SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR now bring their Freedom concert to the UK. 

Hailing from Soweto (South West Township), a town outside Johannesburg and home of Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s democratic movement, the SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR continues to inspire audiences around the world with their powerful blend of African gospel, freedom songs, and international classics.

Comprising a line-up of South Africa’s best vocalists, these amazing performers have been spreading sheer joy to audiences across the globe for nearly two decades.  The Choir has shared the stage with some of the biggest names in music including U2, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Robert Plant, Celine Dion, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Josh Groban.

In this uplifting and joyous repertoire, the Choir will perform a rousing program of freedom songs celebrating the life of the father of their Rainbow Nation, Nelson Mandela, as well as international gospel classics, including a spine-tingling take on Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and an extraordinary rendition of Amazing Grace which has had over 15 million views on YouTube.

“The SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR members are thrilled to return to the UK for the Freedom Tour,” producer Andrew Kay said. “The group continues to inspire fans worldwide, but the reaction we get from audiences in the UK is unforgettable. We hope that our uplifting message of hope, faith, and joy reaches audiences new and old on this special return visit as we celebrate the legacy of the great Nelson Mandela.”

 

After serious consideration, it is with much regret that THE WHO have postponed their U.K. tour, due to start next Monday March 16th in Manchester at the Manchester Arena and finishing at Wembley SSE Arena on April 8th. The dates will be rescheduled for later in the year. All tickets will be honoured.

The fans' safety is paramount and given the developing Coronavirus concerns, the band felt that they had no option but to postpone the shows as a precaution.
 
Singer Roger Daltrey assures fans that the shows will “Definitely happen and it may be the last time we do a tour of this type, so keep those tickets, as the shows will be fantastic”.
 
Pete Townshend said the band, ”Haven't reached this decision easily, but given the concerns about public gatherings, we couldn’t go ahead."
 
Sadly, THE WHO will also be unable to appear at the Royal Albert Hall on March 28th as part of the annual Teenage Cancer Trust shows but intend to reschedule that show also, with more news to follow.
 
Affected shows are below
 
March 16 – Manchester Arena
March 18 – Dublin 3 Arena
March 21 – Newcastle Metro Radio Arena
March 23 – Glasgow SSE Hydro Arena
March 25 – Leeds First Direct Arena
March 28 – London Royal Albert Hall (Teenage Cancer Trust)
March 30 – Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
April 1 – Birmingham Resorts World Arena
April 3 – Nottingham Motorpoint Arena
April 6 – Liverpool M&S Bank Arena
April 8 – London SSE Wembley Arena

This has been quite a year for Sea Girls, one of the UK’s most exciting new bands, named after a misheard lyric from a Nick Cave song. They signed a major record deal with Polydor, are touring the globe, triumphed at Reading and played their biggest UK show to date when they sold out London’s Forum.

Sea Girls are a band aiming first and foremost at being the sing-a-long torch bearers for a whole new generation. Much of their success is driven by their energetic live performances and uncanny ability to write songs like ‘Violet’ and ‘Damage Done’ that enjoy heavy Radio 1 support.

Charismatic lead Henry Camamile explains their mission statement: ”We’ve worked so hard to get here. We’re so clear-headed about where we want to go, where we want to be and what we want to say. I don’t want to let anything knock us off track. 2020 is going to be massive for us. Bring it on.”

An incredible one-off celebration of the early music of Fleetwood Mac will be screened in cinemas across the country on Tuesday 2nd June and Sunday 7th June, as Mick Fleetwood and a stellar cast of guest stars pay tribute to the music of founding member, Peter Green.

The once-in-a-lifetime celebration was captured at The London Palladium on February 25th 2020, and features a spectacular line-up of musical greats curated by Mick Fleetwood, including Neil Finn (Crowded House), Noel Gallagher (Oasis), Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Kirk Hammett (Metallica), Jonny Lang, John Mayall, Christine McVie (Fleetwood Mac), Zak Starkey, Jeremy Spencer (Fleetwood Mac), Pete Townshend (The Who), Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), Rick Vito (Fleetwood Mac), and Bill Wyman (The Rolling Stones).

The house band featured Mick Fleetwood himself along with Andy Fairweather Low, Dave Bronze, and Ricky Peterson.

Tracks performed at the event include seminal Fleetwood Mac classics, such as ‘Albatross’, ‘Green Manalashi’, ‘Need Your Love’, and more.  

The Times gave the Palladium concert 5*’s, calling it ‘a unique treat’, whilst The Guardian called it a ‘rousing all-star celebration in their 4* review, and The Daily Telegraph hailed the show as the ‘rock ‘n’ roll equivalent of Avengers Assemble'.

Directed by award-winning concert director Martyn Atkins (Joni 75, Crossroads Guitar Festival, Cream at the Royal Albert Hall), the cinema event will feature an introduction by Mick Fleetwood, plus exclusive rehearsal footage, and interviews with guest artists. Legendary sound producer Glynn Johns, who produced albums for The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles and Led Zeppelin, will take charge of the audio production.

Peter Green was a founding member of Fleetwood Mac and had a huge impact on the band, as well as being recognised as one of the greatest musicians in the world. Peter was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame together with Fleetwood Mac in 1998. Rolling Stone magazine rated Peter as one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time.

On the show coming to cinemas, Mick Fleetwood said:

‘This one of a kind show was no mean feat to put together and the ability to share and relive the event all over again in cinemas is incredible, for us, as artists, as well as our fans.

I’m very happy this performance can now be experienced in a big screen format by audiences far and wide all over the globe.’

‘Mick Fleetwood and Friends Celebrate The Music of Peter Green’ will also be available in a super deluxe box-set, released on 16th October 2020 and available to pre-order now. The super deluxe box-set will include a 4LP deluxe book pack with 2CDs and BluRay.

Fleetwood Mac’s third studio album ‘Then Play On’, will also be released in a special Celebration Edition on 5th June 2020.

 

Staff at the 400-year-old Oak House Museum, in West Bromwich, in the West Midlands, are planning a 'spooktabulous' Friday 13th evening for visitors with giggles, scares and creepy tales. The 'after dark' event on Friday 13 March comes as staff continue preparations for the Oak Road museum to open fully to the public for a new season in April.

Jane Hanney-Martin, museum services manager, said: "Prepare for a few giggles, scares and a creepy evening as you explore the house and meet characters who lived at Oak House 400 years ago, experience terrible tales and learn about ghostly goings on in the dim candlelight.


"Visitors can explore our dark corners and staff will be on hand to tell some of the ghostly tales attached to the house," added Rebecca Butler, visitor services officer.

The evening is suitable for ages 14+ and starts at 6.30pm. Visitors can drop in any time throughout the event. Gates close at 8pm and the event finishes at 8.30pm.


Councillor Wasim Ali, Cabinet with Member with Responsibility for Museums, said: "Friday 13th promises to be a fantastic, fun event to show people the stories behind Oak House and get everyone in the mood for our museums opening to the public for a new season in just a few weeks' time."

 

The City of Wolverhampton Council's Music School is joining forces with the 13 other music services in the West Midlands for the largest celebration of young people's music making ever to be held across the region.

In all, the ambitious, month-long celebration - taking place throughout March - will involve more than 140,000 children and young people.

It is the first major project of West Midlands Music, the UK’s largest collective of Music Services, and includes over 130 concerts, gigs, workshops and taster sessions.

Ciaran O'Donnell, Head of Wolverhampton Music Service, said: "The Big Month of Music will not only showcase the musical achievements of children across the entire region but also inspire and encourage them to continue their musical discoveries by signposting them to further opportunities.

"It also provides a snapshot of the work of Wolverhampton Music Service, and other music services across the region, including in school and out of school activity, workshops and taster sessions."

The City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, Councillor Dr Michael Hardacre, said: “Music is an important part of a young person's education, and Wolverhampton Music Service provides quality teaching for children and young people across the city, including the chance to perform with Wolverhampton Youth Orchestra and Wolverhampton Youth Wind Orchestra.

"It's great to see so many pupils in Wolverhampton engaging in music week in, week out, and this Big Month of Music is a chance to celebrate their hard work."

Chris Jones, Chair of West Midlands Music, added: "Many thousands of people have learned an instrument, sung in a choir or played in an ensemble thanks to music services over the years. By working together as West Midlands Music, the region’s 14 music services are able to maximise our collective impact, reaching more children and delivering a consistently high quality music education for everyone.

"Big Month of Music is a fantastic first major celebration of that collective impact and of our commitment for the future of the region’s music education.”

Together, the 14 music services in the West Midlands worked with 140,000 children, supported music making in 1,963 schools, loaned 79,789 musical instruments and created 776 events and performances across the region last year.

Leicester’s annual dance festival celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2020 with a thrilling programme of dance and performance from the UK, USA, Norway, Cuba, Martinique, Tanzania, Italy and more.

Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF20) is produced by Serendipity, the diversity-led arts producing organisation based in Leicester and run by its award-winning CEO and Artistic Director Pawlet Brookes.

This year the organisation celebrates 10 years of curating and producing LDIF.

Pawlet says: “The tenth anniversary of Let's Dance International Frontiers 2020 (LDIF20) is going to be very special. I’m thrilled that we’re celebrating ten years of bringing dance from around the world to audiences in the city and beyond, and that we have, over those ten years, supported and developed work by a huge number of talented young artists.

“The legacy of the festival means we have also scored a number of firsts: ballet company PHILADANCO made their UK debut in 2017 at LDIF; the Deaf Dance pioneer Antoine Hunter made his debut at LDIF and many award-winning artists who will be with us this year including Kyle Abraham, Reggie Wilson, Alice Sheppard, Thomas Prestø, showcase world class, culturally diverse dance.“During LDIF20, we will revisit some of the highlights from past festivals. We are delighted to be welcoming back Kyle Abraham with a new solo work Cocoon, in his only UK performance, and PHILADANCO with an exciting mixed-bill of work. I’m particularly proud this year of the new work we’ll be presenting in our two development programmes”.

Annabel Guérédrat and Henri Tauliaut are presenting a site specific work inspired by Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending the Staircase at New Walk Museum's spiral staircase. And the conference will be a vital ticket for anyone interested in how performance art is presented globally.

“At Serendipity we are enormously proud of what we’ve achieved with LDIF in bringing global dance to audiences in Leicester and showing that dance really is a universal language where everyone is welcome.”

This year’s theme is: 10 Years, 10 Countries, 10 Voices: Black Classics.

The keynote speakers at the annual conference are Eduardo Vilaro, choreographer, educator, and artistic director and CEO of Ballet Hispánico in New York City and the award-winning dancer/choreographer and Professor and Graduate Director Cynthia Oliver at the University of Illinois.

Featured speakers include Thomas Prestø, Artistic Director of Tabanka Dance Ensemble in Norway whose masterclass was a huge hit at last year’s LDIF, the US-based, British-born disabled dancer/choreographer Alice Sheppard and the dancer/choreographer/writer/curator Makeda Thomas who splits her time between Trinidad and New York.

Black Coffee will bring his incredible catalogue of music to the brand-new space in London at The Drumsheds venue on May 2nd, 2020. From the creators of Printworks, The Drumsheds is a brand-new space that combines four giant, interlinked, warehouses with capacities of up to 10,000 inside along with 10 acres of outdoor space. Located in Meridian Water, next to Tottenham Marshes.

DJ and producer Black Coffee defies convention. Born in Durban in KwaZulu Natal and growing up in the Eastern Cape in Mthatha, before his first big break, when his song “Happiness” was featured on the DJs At Work album. This was then followed by his debut album released in 2005. To many Black Coffee has led ‘house music’ genre throughout the past few years, establishing a global pre-eminence in vocal house music. Black Coffee has worked alongside some of the worlds biggest artists including Drake, with who he collaborated with for “Get It Together” with vocals from Jorja Smith on Drake’s album, More Life. Over the last 18 months, Black Coffee’s signature sound has landed him in the studio alongside some of the world’s greatest including Diddy, Usher, Akon, Pharrell Williams and David Guetta.

Black Coffee has continued to grow his rollercoaster of career milestones, accolades and achievements and international profile over the past few years, gracing the decks at any event, which has elevated Black Coffee into the realm of a global superstar.

In just a matter of years, Black Coffee has become one of the top touring performers in the world holding down residencies at some of the world’s most famous venues and festivals such as Coachella, Tomorrowland, and a residency at Wynn in Las Vegas, all which have cemented Black Coffee as a go-to producer, remixer, and performer.

Tickets went on sale yesterday for a special additional preview performance of The Book of Mormon at Birmingham Hippodrome on Tuesday 3 March 2020 at 7.30pm. The performance will be the first chance for fans to see the much-anticipated Broadway smash hit in Birmingham.

Hundreds of fans queued outside of the theatre, with some braving the rain for over three hours, to get their hands on tickets when the box office opened at 10am this morning.

Over 1,500 tickets for the first Birmingham preview are priced at just £15 each and available to purchase in person only via the Birmingham Hippodrome Box Office.

The Tony®, Olivier® and Grammy® award-winning show plays at Birmingham Hippodrome through to Saturday 28 March 2020 with tickets available via www.thebookofmormonmusical.com and www.birminghamhippodrome.com.

The cast of The Book of Mormon in Birmingham will be led by Robert Colvin as Elder Price and Conner Peirson as Elder Cunningham. They are joined by Nicole-Lily Baisden as Nabulungi, Will Hawksworth as Elder McKinley, Ewen Cummins as Mafala Hatimbi, Johnathan Tweedie as Joseph Smith and Thomas Vernal as the General.

The company will include Jed Berry, David Brewis, Melissa Brown-Taylor, Chinasa, Sanchia Amber Clarke, Tre Copeland-Williams, George Crawford, Tom Dickerson, Jordan Lee Davies, Jemal Felix, Olivia Foster-Browne, Patrick George, Isaac Hesketh, Evan James, Alex James-Hatton, Nicole Louise, Fergal McGoff, Jesus Reyes Ortiz, Lawrence Rowe, Lukin Simmonds, Chomba S Taulo, Tommy Wade-Smith, Sharon Wattis and Jacob Yarlett.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone are the creators of the Emmy and Peabody award-winning television show, South Park, now in its twenty-second season, and the feature films South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut and Team America: World Police.

Robert Lopez co-created the Broadway musical Avenue Q and co-wrote the songs for Disney’s Frozen and Coco. He is one of only fifteen artists to win all four major entertainment awards – Emmy®, Grammy®, Oscar® and Tony® Awards.

The Book of Mormon follows a pair of Mormon boys sent on a mission to a place that’s a long way from their home in Salt Lake City.

Since making its world premiere in March 2011 at New York’s Eugene O’Neill Theatre, where it won nine Tony® Awards, including Best Musical, The Book of Mormon has been performed on three continents and won over thirty international awards. The musical has smashed long-standing box office records in New York, London, Melbourne, Sydney and cities across the U.S.

The London production opened in February 2013, winning four Olivier Awards® including Best New Musical, and breaking the record for the highest single day of sales in West End history. It has sold out every one of its 2918 performances to date at the Prince of Wales Theatre.

Book, Music and Lyrics are by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone.  Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, The Book of Mormon has choreography by Casey Nicholaw, set design by Scott Pask, costume design by Ann Roth, lighting design by Brian MacDevitt, sound design by Brian Ronan, orchestrations by Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus and music supervision and vocal arrangements by Stephen Oremus.

The Book of Mormon is produced by Anne Garefino, Scott Rudin, Important Musicals and Sonia Friedman Productions.

After Joaquin Phoenix used the platform during his ‘Best Actor’ award acceptance speech for the film Joker to criticize the British Academy and then the Duke of Cambridge also hit out at a lack of diversity this year’s BAFTAs all eyes will be on the upcoming Oscars as they again seem to have mostly ignored films about women and people of a BAME culture.

Phoenix’s comments followed an outcry about the all-white acting nominations line-up at the 73rd Awards event at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

He said: "I think that we send a very clear message to people of colour that you're not welcome here. “I think that’s the message that we’re sending to people who have contributed so much to our medium and our industry in ways that we’ve benefited from,” Phoenix said.

“I don’t think anyone wants a hand-out or preferential treatment, although that’s what we give ourselves every year. I think people just want to be acknowledged, appreciated and respected for their work.”

In his address Prince William said: “The Academy's voters must stop overlooking Black and Ethnic Minority talent”.

The Price, who is president of the Bafta, added: “It simply cannot be right in this day and age” that film awards have all-white shortlists.

“Both here in the UK and in many other countries around the world, we are lucky to have incredible film-makers, actors, producers and technicians, men and women of all backgrounds and ethnicities enriching our lives through film.

“Yet in 2020, and not for the first time in the last few years, we find ourselves talking again about the need to do more about diversity in the sector and in the awards process. That simply cannot be right in this day and age”.

In concluding his peach, Joaquin Phoenix added: “I have not done everything in my power to ensure that the sets I work on are inclusive, but I think it’s more than just having sets that are multicultural.

“We have to do the hard work to truly understand systemic racism. I think it is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuate and benefit from a system of oppression to be the ones that dismantle it. So that’s on us”.

This year, all 20 of the acting nominees at the BAFTAs were white.

All eyes, now, will be on next week’s Oscar ceremony.

Valentine’s Day is sorted for budding fashionistas this year with the launch of the new Specially Selected Shades of Love Bouquet, created exclusively for supermarket Aldi.

Taking inspiration from the red and pink colour trend seen across red carpets and catwalks this season, Aldi is bringing the A-list trend to the flower aisle with the stunning Specially Selected Shades of Love Bouquet featuring 100 individual roses carefully arranged to create a stunning ombre effect.

Combining ten different varieties of premium roses, including Madam Red, Tacazzi, Candy Party, Ensemble, Opus and Royal Jewel, the softer white and pink buds blend seamlessly into the bolder hues of the red roses, ensuring a natural and eye-pleasing flow of colour.

Julie Ashfield, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi UK commented: “Our Shades of Love bouquet is the ultimate showstopper for those looking to make a big statement this Valentine’s Day. We’re proud to offer the very latest in flower trends, and having taken inspiration directly from the red carpet , this is the go-to option for fashionistas and trend-followers alike’.

Effortlessly trailblazing, fragrant and fresh, the Specially Selected Shades of Love bouquet will not only make for a stunning centrepiece, but will also have fashionable couples reaching for their phones to capture the perfect Instagram opportunity… if they’re lucky enough to receive the bouquet that is!

The ultimate musical duo, Michael Ball and Alfie Boe, are ‘Back Together’ and set to delight cinema audiences up and down the country with the final show of their UK tour from London’s O2 Arena.

Presented by CinemaLive, leading producers and distributors of event cinema, Michael Ball & Alfie Boe: Back Together, will be shown in over 1,000 screens in cinemas across the UK and Ireland, including major multiplexes and many independent cinemas and arts centres for one weekend only on 28th & 29th March 2020.

The show will see the superstar duo take on their favourite musical theatre, pop and rock tracks, including songs from The Lion King, The Greatest Showman and The Phantom of the Opera, as well as a beautifully arranged Queen Medley. Showcasing their phenomenal voices and undeniable on-stage chemistry, Ball and Boe’s irresistible charm will undoubtedly light up the big screen.

As a cinema exclusive, audiences will be treated to candid behind the scenes footage and interviews with the duo.

Michael Ball commented, “So excited we are going to be able to share our final show from the iconic O2 Arena in London on the big screen.  The Les Mis concert live screenings showed me that you can experience and relive the magic of a unique live performance all over again and the quality and intimacy are somehow heightened. If you couldn’t make it to one of our shows this is your chance....and if you did let’s do it all over again on March 28/29th!!!! See you there xxx”

Alfie Boe added, “What better way to end our 'Back Together' live tour than performing at the O2 Arena in London and filming it to go out in cinemas – over 1000 screens across the country. No pressure for us then! So whether you saw us live, or not, we promise to entertain you and have a lot of fun doing so! Spread the word, treat the family to some popcorn and come and join us. It's just after Mother’s Day too… so there’s your gift sorted! Hope to see you all there! Alfie xx "

Ball and Boe’s debut album Together became the UK’s best-selling album of 2016 and beat the likes of Little Mix and Rolling Stones to the Christmas No.1 spot. The follow up Together Again brought the pair a second No.1 album in 2017, and in 2019 they released their third record Back Together to great critical acclaim, scoring them yet another top 5 chart position.

Meeting over a decade ago in a production of Kismet at the London Coliseum, the pair struck up an instantaneous friendship, going on to become chart superstars. As a duo, Ball and Boe have now sold over 1 million albums in the UK, received 2 Classic Brit Awards, and sold out two headline arena tours.

Birmingham Royal Ballet and its internationally acclaimed orchestra, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Paul Murphy, Principal Conductor of Birmingham Royal Ballet, present an exquisite evening of romance with A Valentine’s Celebration of Music and Dance this February. Birmingham Royal Ballet Director Carlos Acosta will introduce the company from the stage of Birmingham’s magnificent Symphony Hall on Friday 14 February 2020, and on Saturday 15 February 2020 the company and Royal Ballet Sinfonia will perform for the first time at Warwick Arts Centre.

 

Birmingham Royal Ballet offers an elegant pairing of music and dance over this year’s Valentine’s weekend; a perfect matchmaking of its world-class dancers performing sumptuous pas de deux from the romantic classical canon, including Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Don Quixote and a world premiere of choreography by First Soloist Kit Holder, along with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, Britain’s most prolific ballet orchestra, performing stunning orchestral highlights from Puccini, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky.

 

Valentine’s Day will mark Carlos Acosta’s first public appearance as Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Director, as he takes to the stage at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall in conversation with the night’s compere, BBC One’s Midlands Today Presenter, Nick Owen (Good Morning with Anne and Nick).

 

Birmingham Royal Ballet will visit Coventry’s Warwick Arts Centre for the first time, with A Valentine’s Celebration of Music and Dance on Saturday 15 February. This second night of performances will be compered by Dr Ranj Singh, This Morning Doctor in Residence (and former Strictly Come Dancing contestant), who previously presented a live broadcast from Birmingham Royal Ballet as part of BBC Arts and One Dance UK’s #DancePassion festival in April last year.

The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour is back for 2020, bringing a brand-new selection of gripping action and adventure films to more venues than ever before in the UK and Ireland.

The tour features two different collections of extraordinary films from the world’s best adventure film-makers, with super-human challenges, soulful journeys and spectacular cinematography from the wildest corners of the planet. Plus the film Up to Speed puts a spotlight on the extraordinary discipline of speed climbing, featuring in the in Olympic Games for the first time ever at Tokyo 2020.

“We can’t wait to share the latest inspirational films from the world’s most prestigious mountain film festival on our biggest tour yet!” says UK and Ireland tour director Nell Teasdale.

“And as well as exhilarating stories starring intrepid characters and pioneering journeys, an evening at Banff is a celebration of the great outdoors, with a vibrant atmosphere and a real sense of community. And we guarantee audiences will leave inspired to have an adventure of their own!”

The tour’s films are chosen from hundreds of entries into the Banff Mountain Film Festival, which is held every November in the Canadian Rockies.

The UK and Ireland tour starts in Pitlochry, Scotland, on Saturday 18 January, visits Town Hall Birmingham on Saturday, 21 March, and finishes in Norwich on Tuesday 26 May, visiting 60 locations with 114 screenings along the way.

As well as thrilling films, each event features a free prize draw for exciting outdoorsy goodies from the tour partners.

Formerly known as ‘Forest Arts Centre’, the venue in Walsall has enjoyed growing success since the launch of its Arena with names such as Chris Ramsey, Jenny Eclair and Fairport Convention gracing their stage. The team behind what is now Walsall Arena and Arts Centre felt the time was right for a reanalysis of their identity.

 

With a variety of performance spaces ranging from a capacity of 40 to a capacity of 650, it was felt that ‘Forest Arts Centre’ was not an accurate insight into the offer and ability that the venue boasts. From comedy, music and pantomime and local rehearsal spaces and dance shows, the building successfully brings together the best of arts and entertainment, all under one roof.

 

Whilst the Arts Centre aspect of the venue continues to thrive, the Arena is proving to be a powerful force in its own right, which the new name rightfully pays respect to. As well as live music, it is becoming a hub for comedy in the West Midlands. Upcoming shows include Milton Jones, Ed Byrne and Henning Wehn, and audiences are beginning to look to the arena for bookings of this nature. In addition to a variety of music tribute shows including The UK Monsters of Rock Show and Arrival – The Hits of Abba, the venue’s annual pantomime has also been moved into the arena meaning more seats and more shows for more people to enjoy, a transition which proved to be very successful last year.

 

Programming Manager Simon Pugh explains: “We’re really excited about the name change, we feel that ‘Walsall Arena and Arts Centre’ provides a more accurate picture of everything we do here. There really is so much going on under one roof, the arts centre events are still a vital part of our offer, but we’re pleased to be able to acknowledge the arena in this way”.

 

This is not a new beginning but a continuation of growing success, as exciting shows continue to make their way to Walsall, the Walsall Arena and Arts Centre strengthens its role as a key venue in the area. The name is clear both in terms of ability and geography and marks a significant moment in the history both the venue itself and Walsall arts and entertainment.

Award-winning author Alex Wheatle was in the West Midlands visiting pupils at Yardleys secondary school in Birmingham.

He spoke to nearly 200 pupils, aged 12-13, about growing up in challenging circumstances and how he coped by writing poetry and song lyrics and even turned his hand to DJing in his teenager years in Brixton, South London.

Alex found that by writing about characters in similar situations, he was able to deal with his emotions and express his frustrations.

He grew up in a children’s home, which he says was violent and traumatic. In his adult life he spent time in prison for his part in the Brixton riots in 1981. While serving his sentence, a cellmate gave him a book to read, which Alex told pupils helped to save his life.

Alex also held interactive workshops with students, giving them a chance to write their own stories and come up with plot themes and characters based on their own experiences.

Thanks to BookTrust, each pupil also got their very own free copy of his ‘Liccle Bit’ book, a YA novel and the first book in his Crongton series, about a teenage boy who gets caught up in gang culture on an inner-city estate.

In discussing why books and reading are so important Alex said: “Children and young adults can find it hard to express their emotions and sometimes struggle to show vulnerability because it may not be considered cool but books, poetry and written word make it easier to do that. I was delighted at the students response to my life story presentation and creative writing workshops and my dearest wish is that they believe that reading books can change lives.

Pupils Imaan Mazar and Amina Younis said: “We really loved hearing about Alex’s story and learning about different cultures. He talked to us and told us that no matter your background, culture or the hard things you’ve been through in your life that anything is possible and inspiration can come from anywhere.”

Eddie Halliday, Asst Head, Yardleys secondary school, said: “The morning was fantastic with an entire year group sat in rapt awe and the workshops took this to a different level with our pupils loving hearing the stories behind the books. They left deep in discussion about how wonderful it was cluthing their signed copies. As an inner-city school, we strive to get our pupils to love reading and this was a massive step towards that.”

Director of Children’s Books, BookTrust, Jill Coleman, said: “Alex is a hugely talented writer and the students were energized and motivated by his visit.”

Alex Wheatle concluded: “For me it's crucial for young people to have their own books, something they can treasure and read. Reading leads to empathy and an understanding of so many other things. This is especially important for young vulnerable people who might not necessarily have a bookshelf in their home”.