Colors: Red Color

Opera lovers will want to consider a sunny getaway to Egypt in March 2018, with Verdi's Aida, set in Egypt, to be performed in an outdoor amphitheatre against the mesmerising backdrop of the Giza pyramids and the Great Sphinx.

The performances, taking place from 8-10 March in Cairo, will be staged in a 1,500 seat arena with four classes of seating available. The staging will include a bridge that brings the performers closer to the audience.

Holding a special place in the operatic canon, Aida tells the story of forbidden love between the Egyptian leader Radames and the beautiful Nubian princess Aida. The plot is based on a true story found in Papyrus and re-written by French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette. 150 years ago, Ismail Pasha, Khedive of Egypt, commissioned Giuseppe Verdi to write an opera to mark the opening of the Khedivial Opera House, which stood in Cairo until 1971.

The 2018 production will be performed by the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Mr David Crescenzi. Having studied at the Conservatory of Fermo and the Conservatory of Pesaro, Crescenzi rose to prominence whilst conducting notable works such as Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia, Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore, Puccini's Tosca and Verdi's Un ballo in maschera. From 2002 to 2005, he was guest conductor at the National Theatre of Timisoara.

Lead character Ramadis will be played by Dario Di Vietri and Riccardo Massi, with Dragana Radakovic and Dr. Eman Mostafa playing the part of Aida on alternate nights.

First debuted at the Cairo Opera House, the production has since been hosted around the world, with Aida having been sung more than 1,500 times since its outset. The show has moved to several different sites across Egypt, including the Giza Pyramids in 1987 & 2010 and the Deir Al-Bahari Temple in Luxor in 1994.

Di Xiao (肖荻), a classical piano soloist from China, has been named one of Birmingham City University’s Alumni of the Year. She will receive her award on Tuesday 9 January in Symphony Hall, Birmingham, in the presence of hundreds of graduands and their families.

Despite her global success, Di came from very humble beginnings in her native city of Guangzhou. Growing up in a poor yet musical family, Di’s father sold his motorbike – the family’s only transport – in order to buy her a piano when she was just two years old. In order to find a good teacher, her dad had to pedal for an hour each way across the city with her on the back of his bicycle, to get to her piano lessons.

Honing her talent at the junior Conservatoire in Guangzhou, Di went on to study at the Odessa Conservatoire, Ukraine and the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, graduating from the latter with one of the highest marks in its history.

Di Xiao then got the chance to study at Birmingham City University’s Royal Birmingham Conservatoire for where she developed personally and professionally on an Advanced Postgraduate Diploma, and had the chance to build her experience with the opportunity to perform at such prestigious venues as Birmingham’s world-famous Symphony Hall.

Di Xiao said: “When I was doing my Master’s degree at the Central Conservatoire of Beijing, I played in a masterclass hosted by the then Vice-Principal of Birmingham Conservatoire, Mark Racz. He enjoyed my playing and, after he went back to the UK, invited me to study at Birmingham Conservatoire under scholarship so I said yes!  Looking back, that really was the turning point in my life.

“I remember that the student volunteer picked me up from the airport and everybody I met was so friendly and helpful. It did make a huge difference for someone who had just travelled half-way around the globe and spoke in a completely different language, as I had very little English then. I remember I marvelled at the facilities and the pianos I got to practise on. Until then I never knew that you could find so many different colours and textures on one instrument.”

On completing her studies at Birmingham City University, Di was selected as the UK’s European Concert Halls Organisation (ECHO) Raising Star for the 2008/09 season, which led to further recitals in prestigious venues in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Austria. She has released four albums and been featured on TV and radio in the UK and China – and the Birmingham Post have described her as “a pianist of awesome gifts”.

The Alumni of the Year award provides an opportunity to recognise Birmingham City University graduates who have made a valuable contribution to society or their professional field. It also demonstrates the extraordinary range of achievements among the University’s former students.

On finding out that she had been selected for the award, Di Xiao said: “I feel very honoured indeed to be chosen as Alumni of the Year. I also feel very lucky and grateful for everything that the University has done for me and the opportunities it has exposed me to.

“I arrived as a student over a decade ago and now, as an Honorary Member of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, I am part of this big family and I will endeavour to share its positive spirit with as many people and students as I can because I know that, apart from the amazing facilities that we now have, it's always the people that make a place special. I shall never take this responsibility lightly.”

Now based in the UK, Di continues to play for audiences across the world, performing regularly outside the UK in Europe and Asia. She aims to become an international ambassador for the piano, combining both Chinese and Western repertoire in the programming of concerts and creating a bridge between the two cultures.

Di remains involved with Birmingham City University as a Piano Tutor at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, helping to nurture the next generation of pianists.

A unique contemporary building, the new Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, which opened in September this year, incorporates five public performance spaces including its 500 seat Concert Hall for orchestral training and performance, a purpose-built organ studio and private rehearsal and practice rooms.

Furthermore, as the first purpose built conservatoire in the UK since 1987, the new £57 million institution is the only one of its kind in the country designed for the demands of the digital age.

Hot off the heels of her 20 date Autumn UK Tour, Ellie Taylor is back by popular demand with her show ‘This Guy’ for a 12 date, Spring UK tour.

Married and in her 30s, Ellie has overcome the surprise of being in a dreadfully happy marriage only for society to test her with a new question - whether or not she wants to breed. If Ellie had been given a pound every time she’s been asked ‘Are you going to have a baby?’ she could have bought a really expensive baby.

But with the maternal instinct of a pitta bread, Ellie has questions - how do you know if you're ready to be a parent? Should you just take the risk regardless? And what if Ellie does have a baby and her career stalls, or her marriage breaks down or more terrifying of all, the kid has a monobrow?

Following the huge success of her 2016 Fringe show, Infidelity, Ellie has since completed another successful 2017 Fringe run and a nationwide tour of ‘This Guy’. Ellie’s extensive credits include BBC’s Live At The Apollo, Lets Sing and Dance for Comic Relief, Mock the Week, The John Bishop show, The Now Show (BBC Radio 4) as well as a lead role in the new series of Disney’s television programme The Lodge and Comedy Central’s Brotherhood. Ellie is also back for a second series of the BBC 2 show The Mash Report, hosted by Nish Kumar and returning in early 2018.

The Eden Project is going back to the Stone Age this February half-term (February 10 to 18) with a week-long event celebrating the forthcoming Aardman film Early Man, being released by STUDIOCANAL in the UK on January 26, 2018.

Early Man is the new prehistoric comedy adventure from four-time Academy Award-winning director Nick Park and Aardman, the creators of Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep.

Shot in Aardman's own distinctive style, the film will take audiences on an extraordinary journey into an exciting new world unleashing an unforgettable tribe of unique and funny new characters voiced by an all-star British cast.

The Eden Project, based near St Austell in Cornwall, will be marking the release of this cinematic treat with a series of themed activities taking place around the gardens and Biomes.

The dome tent in the arena will be transformed into a Stone Age cave, where visitors will be able to daub cave art on the walls, make their own prehistoric accessories and help in an archaeological dig.

Animation enthusiasts can also discover the tricks of the trade and see how the film was made in the studio area.

This will feature behind-the-scenes footage and film clips and production art work, providing inspiration for everyone to make their own character from the film in the model-making workshops.

Visitors will be able to trek through the Rainforest Biome to find Schookel coins, the film's prehistoric currency, and take part in bush craft and survival skills workshops.

Set at the dawn of time, when prehistoric creatures roamed the earth, Early Man tells the story of courageous caveman hero Dug (Eddie Redmayne) and his best friend Hognob as they unite his tribe against a mighty enemy Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) and his Bronze Age City to save their home.

Peter Lord, Co-founder & Creative Director, Aardman, said: “Early Man is set to be one of the best family films of the year and we're proud to be celebrating it at Eden this February half-term. Dug, Hognob and their lovable band of prehistoric misfits will be enlivening Eden for the duration of the holiday with some amazing stone age stunts.”

Leading Dug's tribe of lovable misfits is Chief Bobnar (Timothy Spall) who is joined by Treebor (Richard Ayoade), Magma (Selina Griffiths), Asbo (Johnny Vegas), Barry (Mark Williams), Gravelle (Gina Yashere), Eemak (Simon Greenall) and Grubup (Richard Webber). Maisie Williams voices Goona, the gallant and indomitable rebel who befriends Dug and helps the tribe in their battle to beat the Bronze Age at their own game.

Aardman is a production company based in Bristol specialising in stop-motion animation. Their most famous work includes the Wallace & Gromit films, Shaun the Sheep and Creature Comforts. Feature films include Chicken Run, Flushed Away and Arthur Christmas.

Two upcoming Birmingham musicians have joined forces with fire alarm manufacturer, Fire Angel, to raise money for the national charity the Children’s Burns Trust.

Andy Lawrence Flynn and Dan Hodges from Wolverhampton, decided to launch a charity single to make people aware of the fantastic cause.

The single, ‘Never Be Alone’ has been written and produced by Andy Lawrence Flynn and Dan Hodges and was recorded at Attic Music. When composing the song the duo were inspired by conversations with the team at the Children’s Burns Trust and wanted a song which encompassed how young burns victims may feel.

Alison Tweddle from The Children’s Burns Trust, said: “We are thrilled to be working with Andy, Dan and Fire Angel on this single. The success of our charity is dependent on the kind donations of people to ensure that we can offer burns survivors both rehabilitation and financial support, as well as helping us to raise awareness of the important messages around prevention and good first aid”.  

Speaking of the single launch Jess Pennington, Campaign Manager for Fire Angel, said; “The Children’s Burns Trust is a fantastic charity and we are delighted to be helping them raise awareness of their activity.

“The campaign will also help make people aware of the importance of fire safety in the home, especially in the run up to Christmas when candles and decorative lights become more prevalent in the home. 

“Unfortunately a high majority of burns incidents occur in the home but the risk of a fire incident can be dramatically reduced by regularly checking and replacing a fire alarm.

“Many people don’t realise that smoke alarm sensors will degrade over time, leading to a reduced sensitivity in detecting heat or smoke, as a result they should be replaced every ten years.

“In order for a smoke alarm to be certified by European safety standards, they need to have a replace by date on the alarm.”

The Royal Opera presents Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto – a work the composer himself called his ‘best opera’ – live in cinemas worldwide on Tuesday 16 January.

Rigoletto was performed 250 times in the 10 years following its premiere in 1851 and has become one of the most popular of all operas. Featuring many musical highlights, the opera includes the well-known arias ‘Questa o quella’ and ‘La donna è mobile’ (both made popular by tenor Luciana Pavarotti, among others) and the much-loved Act III quartet ‘Bella figlia dell’amore’, which was recently heard in the 2012 British comedy-drama film Quartet.

The opera’s story follows Rigoletto, the hunchbacked court jester to the libertine Duke of Mantua, who is cursed by the father of one of the Duke’s latest conquests for his mocking laughter. When the Duke turns his attention to Rigoletto’s own daughter Gilda, it seems the curse is taking effect, and the jester must plot to protect her from the Duke’s immoral intent.

Directed by David McVicar, the production highlights the cruelty at the heart of Verdi’s tragic opera. Featuring dark, Renaissance-inspired set and costume designs, the staging creates the shocking and insidious world within which this gripping tale unfolds.

Alexander Joel conducts a cast led by Greek baritone Dimitri Platanias in the title role and featuring American tenor Michael Fabiano as the Duke of Mantua, alongside English soprano Lucy Crowe as Gilda.

Macao is hosting some of the film industry's finest for its second annual International Film Festival and Awards‧Macao (IFFAM), which is taking place until 14 December. Under the theme 'A New Avenue to the World of Films', the festival features a dazzling line-up of international film stars and directors – including Hollywood star Jeremy Renner and renowned director John Woo – as well as a colourful programme of screenings, red-carpet presentations, industry events and masterclasses, and a high-profile awards ceremony.

The festival kicked off on December 8 with an opening ceremony followed by the screening of Paddington 2, and is showcasing more than 40 international films over seven days. The competition section features 10 films including British productions “Beast”, starring Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Trystan Gravelle and Geraldine James, and “My Pure Land”, which is the UK submission to this year's foreign language Oscar category.

The films screened fall into several different categories including Gala, Flying Daggers, Best of Fest Panorama and Crossfire, classic genre films selected by six heavyweight directors. Other highlight events include a Masterclass from internationally-acclaimed director John Woo – who is also the Festival Ambassador - and an “In Conversation” with Michelle Yeoh, star of iconic films such as Tomorrow Never Dies, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha. Hollywood icon Jeremy Renner - who starred as Hawkeye in the Marvel films and was nominated for an Academy Award for his acclaimed performance in The Hurt Locker – is acting as Talent Ambassador.

For the second year running, a collaboration with the British Film Institute (BFI) sees 24 of Macao's most promising young filmmakers working together to produce two short films, led by industry professionals from the BFI.

Artistic director of IFFAM, Mike Goodridge, stated “I am so delighted to unveil our programme for the festival this year. I am very proud of the line-up which brings a feast of world cinema to the audiences of Macao.”

The Sleeping Beauty is one of the grandest ballets in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s repertory, with a classical score by Tchaikovsky and original choreography by Marius Petipa. The opulent world of Imperial Russian ballet, with its marvellous mixture of virtuoso dance, fairy tale characters and dazzling spectacle, has delighted audiences for over a hundred years. Sir Peter Wright’s 1984 production for Birmingham Royal Ballet, with designs by Philip Prowse, is acclaimed as one of the best in the world.

Alongside the full length production, Birmingham Royal Ballet will also present its first ever relaxed performance, with a specially adapted version of The Sleeping Beauty to be performed at Birmingham Hippodrome on Tuesday 20 February. This exciting new initiative is open to everyone, but intended to cater for anyone who may find going to the theatre challenging. In particular, BRB’s relaxed performance is designed for people with an Autistic Spectrum condition, learning disability or sensory and communication disorder. Changes to the production will include a shorter running time, changes to lighting and sound levels to avoid sensory overload, and a flexible seating plan with plenty of room to move around during the performance.

Record-breaking, global comedy superstar, Jeff Dunham, is bringing his cast of characters to the UK in 2018 for two dates only. America’s favorite ventriloquist has announced the UK leg of his ‘Passively Aggressive’ tour and his only dates in the country this year on 19th May at Birmingham’s Genting Arena and 20th May at London’s The SSE Arena, Wembley.

Recently Dunham released his latest standup special, Jeff Dunham: Relative Disaster, on Netflix that was recorded in Dublin. The special features Dunham along with his ill-behaved and slightly demented posse of characters for a gleeful skewering of family and politics. Dunham and his famous cohorts Walter, Achmed the Dead Terrorist, Bubba J, and Peanut also consider what a new member to their already dysfunctional family could mean, putting the ‘relative’ in Relative Disaster.

Dunham, a Guinness World Record holder for “Most Tickets Sold for a Stand-up Comedy Tour,” has built an entertainment empire over years of non-stop touring and innovation. With over a million YouTube subscribers amassing over a billion views, he has carved out his own unique space in the comedy world leading to record-breaking viewership with his comedy specials on Comedy Central and NBC. His 2015 standup special, Jeff Dunham: Unhinged in Hollywood, debuted on NBC Primetime in the fall and ranked as the time period’s top non-sports program on the Big 4 in every key measure.

Finally, adding to an amazing list of recent accomplishments, Dunham’s contribution to the world of show business and comedy for over two decades of superstardom was recognized when he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

A firm fixture on the city’s festive calendar, Birmingham Bach Choir present their hugely popular Nine Lessons and Carols on Sunday 17 December 2017.

Taking place at St Alban’s Church, Birmingham, at 3.30pm, Nine Lessons and Carols features a series of Bible readings telling the Christmas story, interspersed with seasonal music for the choir and congregation.

Led by conductor Paul Spicer and accompanied by organist Paul Carr, those attending are invited to join in singing such familiar carols as O Come All Ye FaithfulO Little Town of Bethlehem and Hark The Herald Angels, as well as listening to the choir perform John Rutter's Dormi Jesu, R Rodney Bennett's Lullaby Baby, and Tomas Luis de Victoria's beautiful 16th century motet, O Magnum Mysterium.

Though a long-held annual tradition, this year marks Birmingham Bach Choir’s second visit to St Alban the Martyr, in Highgate, Birmingham. A hidden 19th century Grade II* listed Gothic Revival gem, it’s renowned for its magnificent ornamental panels, painted by Birmingham-born artist Kate Bunce. With a hand-beaten copper frame by sister Myra, the panels demonstrate a strong Pre-Raphaelite influence.

Birmingham Bach Choir Chair Sarah Platt, said: “Just a few minutes away from the bustle of the city centre, the magnificent St Alban’s is a lovely venue for our traditional afternoon Nine Lessons and Carols service, which touches on the true spirit of Christmas. We welcome all to come and join us in reflection and song.”

Nine Lessons and Carols takes place on 17 December 2017, the last Sunday before Christmas, at 3.30pm. Admission is free, with an optional collection for church funds. No booking required. St Alban the Martyr Church, Conybere St, Highgate, Birmingham B12 0YH.

In addition to the traditional service, members of the Birmingham Bach Choir together with the Midlands Military and Community Choir will be filling the atrium of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Edgbaston, with the sound of Christmas carols on Wednesday 20 December 2017 from 6.30pm-7.45pm. This fundraising appearance will help to provide Christmas trees for the wards, treats for staff and patients, and free parking and television for patients and their visitors on Christmas Day. Passers-by are welcome to join in the singing (and usually do!).

The UK’s leading classical ballet touring company will be crossing two oceans in 2018, as Birmingham Royal Ballet announces extensive international touring to Virginia and Japan. The company will be flying across the Atlantic to perform Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet at Virginia Arts Festival (20-22 April 2018). Next, from 11 to 27 May, the Company heads east to perform in four cities across the southern region of Japan. Performing in Japan’s capital city of Tokyo, they will bring to life Sir Peter Wright’s The Sleeping Beauty and Sir Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée, alongside further performances of The Sleeping Beauty in Nishinomiya, Shiga and Nagoya.

In April 2018, Birmingham Royal Ballet makes a welcome return to Virginia Arts Festival after seven years to set hearts alight with Kenneth MacMillan’s exquisite Romeo and Juliet. Love at first dance, forbidden passions, dangerous secrets and star-crossed fate combine in this exhilarating classic ballet. From the balcony scene’s ecstatic pas de deux, exploring love in all its soaring wonder, to the lovers’ heart-breaking ends, Romeo and Juliet is dance at its most poignant and beautiful.

Promoted by NBS Performing Arts Foundation based in Tokyo, the company’s tour to Japan celebrates two greats of British ballet with performances of Sir Peter Wright’s The Sleeping Beauty and Sir Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée.

Dancing alongside Birmingham Royal Ballet principal Mathias Dingman, Alina Cojocaru will guest in two performances of The Sleeping Beauty in Tokyo (18 and 20 May). Born in Bucharest, Alina trained in Kiev for seven years before joining the Royal Ballet School in 1997. Upon completion of her training she returned to Kiev to join the company as a principal dancer. She joined the Royal Ballet in 1999, and was promoted to principal in 2001 after a performance of Giselle. Alina joined the English National Ballet in 2013 as a Lead Principal. She continues to perform with companies worldwide, and is a regular guest with the Hamburg Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. In February 2012 Alina premiered her Alina Cojocaru - Dream Project in Tokyo, Japan, which she directed and staged, featuring friends and colleagues from the Tokyo Ballet, Hamburg Ballet, ENB and Royal Ballet. Alina's second Dream Project took place in July 2014.

Mathias Heymann will guest in two performances of La Fille mal gardée in Tokyo (25 and 27 May) alongside Birmingham Royal Ballet principal Momoko Hirata. Mathias trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School, and joined the corps de ballet of the Paris Opera Ballet at the age of 17. In 2006, he was promoted to coryphée and awarded the Prix du Cercle Carpeaux and Prix AROP de la Danse. Following further promotions in 2007 and 2008, Mathias was made an étoile on 16 April 2009 following his debut performance as Lenski in John Cranko’s Onegin. In 2012, he was awarded the Prix Benois de la Danse and the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.

The Sleeping Beauty is one of the grandest ballets in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s repertory, with a classical score by Tchaikovsky and original choreography by Marius Petipa. The opulent world of Imperial Russian ballet, with its marvellous mixture of virtuoso dance, fairy tale characters and dazzling spectacle, has delighted audiences for over a hundred years. Sir Peter Wright’s 1984 production for Birmingham Royal Ballet, with designs by Philip Prowse, is acclaimed as one of the best in the world.

Sir Frederick Ashton’s sunniest, funniest masterpiece, La Fille mal gardée (The Wayward Daughter) mixes spectacular classical ballet with finely wrought English comedy, colourful sets designed by cartoonist Osbert Lancaster, a clog-dancing dame and a super-cute miniature pony. It is based on a 1789 French ballet originally created by Jean Dauberval; John Lanchbery created the music for Ashton’s ballet from Ferdinand Hérold’s 1828 score. Inspired by Ashton’s love of the English countryside, La Fille mal gardée includes some of his most virtuoso, energetic choreography as well as elements of traditional folk dancing.

Wolverhampton Art Gallery’s free Friday lunchtime performances by talented musicians from across the city are back.

The concerts are organised in partnership with the Wolverhampton Music Education Hub to give young musicians the chance to perform in inspiring spaces away from their schools.

Each show at the Lichfield Street gallery’s newly-refurbished Georgian Room features a range of music from classical to contemporary - and most stops in between.

The next concert takes place on Friday, November 24 and starts at 1.10pm.

A flute choir made up of young musicians from Coppice Performing Arts School, Wolverhampton Grammar School, St Peter’s Collegiate Academy, Wolverhampton Girls’ High School, The King’s School, and St Edmund’s Catholic Academy will be performing music by Tchaikovsky, Debussy and John Williams.

Further concerts will be taking place on December 8, January 19, February 2 & 9, and March 23.

Councillor John Reynolds, City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Economy, said: “If you are looking for something to do on a lunchtime then come and spend it in the Georgian Room at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

“We have a spectacular programme arranged, where young students from across the city will be singing and playing instruments for your entertainment, for free.

“It would be great for people to go along and show their support.”

One of the world’s most acclaimed South Asian musicians has joined Barnardo’s as an international ambassador, in a huge boost for the children’s charity.

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan accepted the offer after topping the bill at the sell-out Annual Gala Dinner at London’s Dorchester Hotel for the UK’s South Asian community to support Barnardo’s work with vulnerable children and young people across the UK.

The renowned Pakistani singer played a mesmerising set of traditional Qawali music in front of celebrity guests including Barnardo’s ambassadors Andy Serkis, Nicola Roberts, Lydia Bright and Debbie Douglas, along with new supporters including celebrated musician Naughty Boy and top TV presenter Sonali Shah.

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said: “It’s a huge honour that Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan has agreed to become Barnardo’s International Ambassador. The maestro comes from a 600-year-old family heritage of Qawali singing and has a huge global following and influence.

“He was very generous in his praise for Barnardo’s work to help vulnerable children and young people - last year alone we reached 272,000 children, young people, carers and parents.

“Barnardo’s works in a wide range of communities across the UK.  From our earliest days over 150 years ago, Barnardo’s has been proud to help those who need us most, regardless of cultural or religious background. We have always valued and respected diversity at our core. Britain’s Asian communities have made a huge contribution to UK life, and helped develop a respect for and tolerance of difference, making this great country a vibrant place in which to live and work.”

Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan said: “I’m honoured to become an international ambassador for Barnardo’s as I know how hard the charity works to support vulnerable children, young people, carers and parents of all backgrounds in the UK, including those with South Asian roots.

“It was wonderful to raise funds for Barnardo’s, and I’m looking forward to working with the charity so that more children who have experienced tough situations in the past can look forward to a better future.”

Will Self has been revealed as the headline act for the second annual Wolverhampton Literature Festival.

The English novelist, journalist, political commentator and television personality, is the author of ten novels, five collections of shorter fiction, three novellas, and five collections of non-fiction writing.

Reader in English Literature at the University of Roehampton, Sebastian Groes, will host the evening with Self, in Wolverhampton Art Gallery’s Georgian Room, on Sunday, January 28, at 5.30pm.

The city’s inaugural literature festival last year proved a popular event with audiences and, the 2018 festival - from Friday, January 26 to Sunday 28 - will see more than 80 artists and performers.

Organisers are now putting the finishing touches to the rest of the programme that has three themes running through it – music and literature, politics and journalism and community voices.

The aim is to build the event over the next five years and make it a permanent fixture in the calendar, after receiving Arts Council England funding up to 2022.

Councillor John Reynolds, City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Economy, said: “The pilot festival in 2017 was made possible by the generous contributions of artists and local businesses and was a great celebration of literature in our city.

“I am pleased that the festival will take place again in 2018.  Already there is a great variety of entertainment lined up during the three-day festival, with even more authors and events to be announced.”

The council is working in partnership with the University of Wolverhampton and Express & Star on the festival.

It will include a range of discussions, workshops and performances celebrating City of Wolverhampton’s rich relationship with the written and spoken word.

Events will be taking place across the city at Wolverhampton’s 16-strong network of libraries, art gallery, Bantock House, Archive, and other venues.

Exciting additions to the programme include a story writing competition for local schools, which will see winning entries adapted for the stage and performed by drama students from the City of Wolverhampton College.

The Grand Theatre will also be home to the National Theatre’s modern production of Hedda Gabbler, Ibsen’s thrilling masterpiece which has been brought to bold new life by Olivier Award-winning playwright Patrick Marber (Closer) and directed by Olivier and Tony Award®-winner Ivo van Hove (A View from the Bridge).

In conjunction with Write Out Loud and the Express & Star, there will also be a poetry writing competition for adults inspired by the city’s motto – ‘Out of darkness cometh light’. Poets are invited to submit pieces of up to 40 lines on the theme of ‘out of darkness’ before the deadline of December 31, 2017.

The competition is open to all, with a first prize of £400, and poems will be judged by City of Wolverhampton poet, Emma Purshouse, who said: “I will be searching for those poems that engage with the reader, those poems that people will want to read again and again.”

The winners will be announced in advance of the festival itself, giving them the opportunity to read at an awards event during the festival.

Suffolk's St Peter's Brewery is gearing up for the Mindful Drinking Christmas Festival this weekend, a two-day event at Spitalfields, London.

With sales of its two alcohol-free beers now accounting for 15% of its overall sales, St Peter's Brewery is keen to target those looking for high quality alcohol free drinks to enjoy and the Mindful Drinking Christmas Festival is the perfect opportunity.

Organised by Club Soda, the free Mindful Drinking Christmas Festival on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th November provides a platform for the growing quality and diversity of the UK's alcohol-free drinking scene, with a range of zero to 0.5% alcohol craft beers, wines, ciders and sodas all available for tasting, alongside street food, music and entertainment for all the family.

St Peter's will be offering visitors to the event free tastings of its two delicious alcohol-free beers, St Peter's Without Original and Without Gold, selling single bottles and gift packs and hosting a competition which will see one lucky festival-goer winning a year's supply of St Peter's Without Original and Without Gold (45 cases in total!)

St Peter's Brewery launched Without® Original, its first-ever alcohol-free craft beer in August 2016 and it has created a huge buzz in the industry, with the likes of Tesco, Nisa and The Co-Op all giving it national listings. In July the brewery unveiled its second zero-alcohol beer, Without® Gold, a citrusy, slightly malty golden ale to appeal to lager and ale drinkers that is currently sold exclusively through Morissons.

“We are dedicated to providing the highest quality alcohol-free beer,” explains Steve Magnall, CEO at St Peter's Brewery. “Our Without® Original and Without® Gold have been phenomenally successful, proving just how much demand there is for high quality, alcohol-free craft beers that really are as good as their alcoholic counterparts. By supporting the Mindful Drinking Christmas Festival we have a fantastic opportunity to prove how strong the alcohol-free category is becoming and ensure that even more people have a chance to try our fantastic alcohol-free beers,” adds Steve.