Summer in Southside, Closing Weekend: Bank Holiday Jamboree

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A jamboree jam-packed with a huge range of amazing live acts, the closing weekend of this year’s Summer in Southside finished off the festival in spectacular style, with singing, dancing, clowning, acrobatics and a truly explosive finale!

The events kicked off on Saturday with Ida Barr’s Mash-Up, a hilariously bizarre blend of music hall, R&B and pantomime drag led by acclaimed theatre creative Christopher Green, while Inspector Sands‘ audio tour High Street Odyssey roamed Hurst Street and Arcadian, delving into the past, present and future of Southside with some surprising consequences.

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At 1.30, Wired Aerial Theatre presented a series of spectacular feats in Straw Dog, with two performers portraying internal conflict through a breathtaking physical struggle, inspired by a Native American saying. At the same time, Candoco Dance Company explored the themes of frustration and disappointment through two duets – Studies for C and Two for C – telling the story of a slowly stagnating relationship. Meanwhile, in Push, Tangled Feet offered a playful and touching take on the trials and tribulations of motherhood, perfectly capturing both the sheer joy and utter anguish of bearing and raising children.

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Showcasing circus skills and traditional clowning, Le Navet Bête‘s Extravaganza was a fun, family-friendly farce taking over Arcadian in between appearances by Ida Barr. In sharp contrast, the Helen Chadwick Song Theatre‘s poignant White Suit used music to tell the story of an aspiring footballer who becomes a landmine victim, highlighting people’s willingness to ignore the suffering of others rather than risk the consequences that helping out might have on their own lives.

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Throughout the day, popular arias were presented in a series of pop-up shows by Oyster Opera, while Icarus‘s beefy Rugby Player Duo wandered through the crowds on stilts, chatting to visitors, actors and volunteers alike.

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And of course, beneath the Arcadian Umbrella, the Hippodrome Plus Youth Ambassadors were on hand to chat about the shows at the Talkaoke table, hosting a series of interesting discussions with creatives and performers from Wired Aerial Theatre, La Navet Bête, Southpaw Dance Company and High Street Odyssey.

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On Sunday, High Street Odyssey, Straw Dog, White Suit and Extravaganza returned, while Talkaoke was shifted to prime position in front of the Hippodrome theatre.

DSCF1891In place of the Rugby Player Duo, Rannel‘s Stereomen pumped up the volume, encouraging party-loving passers-by to dance along with them.

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Taking over from Ida Barr, Circus Mash set up early in Arcadian, showing off some amazing circus skills and calling on audience members to participate in workshops in Float, with a great response from lots of enthusiastic kids and parents. At 2.30 and 5.30, Company Chameleon‘s Push examined the complexities of human interaction and power balances.

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At the end of the night, audiences were invited to grab themselves some gourmet hot dogs and dance to tunes chosen by Summer in Southside’s guest DJs, The Smoking Dogs, before settling down to watch Southpaw Dance Company‘s Faust. A lively reimagining of the harrowing tale of a man who sells his soul to the Devil, Faust saw the story’s arrogant scholar transported to 1920s Speakeasy, with drinking, gambling and illegitimate boxing all set to cool big band music. Members of the company moved fluidly and faultlessly across a blazing stage, performing complex stunts and energetic dance fusions all with apparent effortlessness.

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DSCF2034Finally Arcadian’s Le Truc played host to a late-night festival wrap party where the Summer in Southside team finally got to relax, enjoying a well-earned rest accompanied by more music. It was fun enough to make some of us miss the last train home….

If you attended any of the shows, please let @brumhippodrome know what you thought on Twitter using the hashtag #BHOutdoors.

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Summer in Southside, Day 1: Live and Local

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The summer holidays are here at last, and what better way to spend the warm, sunny days (well, mostly…) than enjoying three weekends packed full of free theatre, music and dance? This Saturday (9th August), marked the first day of Summer in Southside 2014, an exciting outdoor performance festival put together by Hippodrome Plus and taking place in streets, squares and pubs around the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre.

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After the success of Summer in Southside 2013, the festival has this year been expanded from just two weekends to include a much broader range of performances. On Saturday, “Live and Local” kicked off at 1pm with A Haka Day Out in Arcadian and Talking Birds’ Cricketers in the Hippodrome Square. Cricketers is a short, interactive comedy show that sees viewers roped into an amateur game of cricket with some hilarious consequences, while A Haka Day Out allows audiences to learn the traditional Haka war dance in workshops with Maori (New Zealand native) performers. Related arts and crafts activities such as tribal face and body painting also took place alongside the show.

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Next up were 2Faced Dance Company’s Two Old Men, an extraordinary, acrobatic, dance fusion performance telling the story of two old friends over a little journey ending at the local pub, as well as Tin Box Theatre’s Pint Dreams, a blend of folk music, puppetry and traditional storytelling taking place at The Old Fox pub. Following these, Corey Baker’s light-hearted Headphones emerged in Hurst Street, showcasing a plethora of dance styles and musical genres, and at 3pm, Arcadia played host to an hour of hip hop and break-dancing by a series of talented local acts.

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Throughout the day, performances were repeated to ensure plenty of opportunities to catch each show. Every 10-15 minutes, Highly Sprung’s beautiful fairy tale Travelling Treasury was told inside a caravan in Inge Street that had been gorgeously decorated to give audiences the sense that they were walking into the pages of a book. Also by Highly Sprung, alien family The Roswells wandered around the Southside area, taking photos, having a picnic and enjoying their summer holiday on Earth. Meanwhile, Pod Projects and Eye Candy Festival presented an assortment of wares by regional artists, illustrators and designers at the Bicycle Basket Bazaar – a “kind of art fair meets car boot sale”.

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Those who wanted to share their thoughts on the performances – or anything else on their mind – were invited to come and chat to Hippodrome Plus Ambassadors over a cup of iced tea at the Talkaoke table situated in Hurst Street. Talkaoke is a relaxed, pop-up chat show that enables participants to lead a discussion on a topic of their choice. Set to reappear on every day of the festival, Talkaoke will be situated in Arcadian next Saturday.

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As the daytime performances wrapped up and the evening began, budding DJs were invited to bring along their own records and show off their skills in Come Vinyl With Me while enjoying a drink in Arcadian, before moving on to the Hippodrome Dock for a trippy clubbing experience inside a giant white balloon called The Pod.

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If you missed Summer in Southside this weekend, or if you enjoyed the shows, make sure you come along next Saturday (16th August), for “Euro Stars”, where you’ll be able to catch some amazing international acts, ranging from Acrojou’s spectacular Frantic to Gijs van Bon’s sand-writing robot, Skryf. Don’t forget to let us know what you thought on Twitter (@brumhippodrome) using the hashtag #bhoutdoors. For more information on the festival, visit the Birmingham Hippodrome website, or check out the Summer in Southside tumblr.

Talkaoke photos by Matthew Kong.

Hippodrome Volunteering Opportunities – Minimum Monument & Summer in Southside

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As part of its education and outreach programme, Hippodrome Plus, the Birmingham Hippodrome is offering two exciting volunteering opportunities over the summer, perfect for those with a passion for the creative arts or looking to add to their CV.

First off, from Thursday 17th July until Friday 2nd August, award-winning Brazilian artist Néle Azevedo will be working on a new public art project, Minimum Monument, in Birmingham’s city centre. Designed to commemorate the First World War 100 years on from the event, Minimum Monument will be a striking display of 5000 figures sculpted from ice, celebrating the common man and the bravery of ordinary people – not only soldiers, but also their families and all those who suffered and made sacrifices during the war.

Minimum Monument 2The finished piece will be presented to viewers in Centenary Square on 2nd August, but in order to turn the idea into a reality, Azevedo requires a dedicated team of 20 volunteers to help create the sculptures and to work alongside the exhibition production team. Volunteers will not be required to work every day, but will need to be able to commit to a minimum of 5 shifts between 17th July and the exhibition opening, and must be aged 18 or over. Those interested should fill out the online application form, or contact zaraharris@birminghamhippodrome.com for more information.

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Following the exhibition, the theatre’s annual outdoor performance festival, Summer in Southside, will be making a return in three weekends packed full of short plays, dance, circus skills, live music and more. Thanks to the success of last year’s event, Summer in Southside has this year expanded from covering just two weekends, and as such, the theatre will need all hands on deck to ensure everything runs smoothly.

There are a range of roles available for enthusiastic volunteers to try out, including event promotion, stewarding and assisting artists and performers directly. In addition, all volunteers will also receive World Class Service training in Outdoor Arts and a certification of their volunteering hours. Those interested should fill out the online  application form or visit the Birmingham Hippodrome website for more information. All volunteers must be aged 18 or over.

Illuminate and War Horse Sleepover: A Weekend of Special Events at the Hippodrome

As the autumn nights grow longer and the first wintry chills begin to creep into the air, the Birmingham Hippodrome will be bringing a little light into the darkness with a full weekend of special night-time events.

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From 25th-27th October, free, outdoor light spectacular Illuminate will be taking place across Birmingham’s Southside area. Amongst various roaming light performances, the festival will feature a stunning, 360 degree film igloo in which audiences can immerse themselves, awe-inspiring fire dance performances and a series of live, giant projections of Southside faces onto local buildings.

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lightsIn addition, Hurst Street’s Gallon Car Park will also be hosting the Lanterns of Terracotta Warriors exhibition, a breathtaking art installation initially created for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The installation features over 90 larger than life-size figurines inspired by China’s Terracotta Army.

Illuminate will close with a brand new performance, commissioned by the Birmingham Hippodrome in association with DanceXchange. Echoalia combines movement and projections, and was created through an innovative collaboration between choreographer Sonia Sabri and new media artist Andy McKeown.

Events will be taking place from 6pm-10pm on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 October and 6pm-8pm on Sunday 27 October and are all completely free. As if that wasn’t incentive enough, the first 100 visitors to the Hippodrome Square or LeTruc will receive an Illoom glowing balloon to enable them to join in with a light procession in Hurst Street. For more information, visit the Birmingham Hippodrome website.

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From 7pm on Friday 25th October, families are also invited to participate in a unique, War Horse-themed sleepover that will see the theatre’s Patrick Centre transformed into World War I style trenches. Throughout the evening, guests can take part in a series of activities including art and crafts, games, singing and storytelling, as well as an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour which will offer an exciting insight into the National Theatre‘s award-winning production.

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Said Liz Leck, the Hippodrome’s Creative Learning & Development Manager,

“We will be transporting families back 100 years to a time free of technology in a transformed Patrick Centre; families will find themselves in a ‘far-off field’ in France and make camp in ‘trenches’ overnight.”

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National Army Museum representatives will also be attending to share a range of genuine and replica artefacts from the museum’s collection. At the end of the evening, a collaborative family performance will be created from scratch: act, sing or bring along a musical instrument to join in. For the less theatrically-inclined, the “Hippodrome Herald” will be seeking out budding war correspondents and cartoonists prepared to put their journalistic skills to the test.

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Tickets for the sleepover are priced at £20 for children and £30 for adults, and can be booked by calling 0844 338 5000. Calls cost 5p per minute. A minimum of 1 adult per 3 children is required for each group.

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The Family Sleepover is part of a nationwide Family Arts Festival offering events and activities across the city. Click here for more information on the festival.

New Season Launch – Autumn and Winter at the Birmingham Hippodrome

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After the fabulous free theatre we’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks across Birmingham’s city centre, the summer may finally be over, but the fun is far from it! The Birmingham Hippodrome has just announced a new season packed full of all sorts of exciting shows to brighten up the cold, dark winter days!

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18389_sFrom October through to Spring next year, you’ll be able to enjoy a range of smash-hit musicals, National Theatre shows on tour, contemporary dance, world-class opera and ballet from the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Welsh National Opera, and of course, the return of the world’s biggest pantomime this Christmas.

The new season kicks off next month with the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s ‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café, E=MC² and Tombeaux (3-5 October) and later The Sleeping Beauty, (8-12 October) followed by the National Theatre’s War Horse (16 October – 9 November). If you want to get yourself some War Horse tickets, act fast, since the show is almost sold out already!

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Alongside the War Horse run, two additional special events will be taking place: Only Remembered (Friday 8th November), a concert featuring live readings from the original War Horse novel by its author Michael Morpurgo and music from John Tams and Barry Coope, and a War Horse-themed sleepover (Friday 25th October) that will see the Patrick Centre transformed into World War I-style trenches.

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Towards the end of the month, there will be more opportunities to experience free outdoor shows in Birmingham. Make sure you wrap up warm for Illuminate! (25-27 October) a three-day light spectacular featuring interactive street projections from Shanghai, dance performances and The Lanterns of Terracotta Warriors, an extraordinary exhibition originally created for the Beijing Olympics.

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Throughout November, the Welsh National Opera will present Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca (12 & 16 November) and Gaetano Donizetti’s new Tudors series: Anna Bolena (13 November), Maria Stuarda (14 November) and Roberto Devereux (15 November). 

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As Christmas approaches, the Hippodrome will be helping you to get into the festive spirit with a Birmingham Royal Ballet production of The Nutcracker (22 November – 12 December), as well as its excellent, all-star pantomime Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (19 December – 2 February). This year’s panto will star Gok Wan, Stephanie Beacham, Gary Wilmot, John Partridge and winner of the BBC’s Over the Rainbow series Danielle Hope.

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February is a great month to catch some ballet at the Hippodrome, with two more productions from the Birmingham Royal Ballet (Three of a Kind from 19-22 February and The Prince of the Pagodas from 25 February – 1 March), as well as Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake (5-15 February).

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Meanwhile, March is the month for music, with three WNO operas and two exciting musicals.  The Welsh National Opera will present Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata (4 & 8 March) as well as two brand new productions, Manon Lescaut (5 & 7 March) and Boulevard Solitude (6 March). From 11-15 March, award-winning producers Music & Lyrics will be presenting their take on Fiddler on the Roof, starring Paul Michael Glaser and, towards the end of the month, the theatre’s stage will be flooded with 12,000 litres of water every night as part of its Singin’ in the Rain performances (18 March – 5 April), starring Maxwell Caulfield and Faye Tozer.

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In April, Wet, Wet, Wet frontman Marti Pellow will star in Evita (8-19 April), while a brand new musical based on the classic TV series Happy Days will star Sugababes’ Heidi Range (22-26 April). The Happy Days musical is written by the series’ creator Gary Marshall, with creative consultancy from Henry Winkler, TV’s original “Fonz”.

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May sees the return of the biennial International Dance Fest Birmingham, co-produced by the Hippodrome and DanceXchange. The festival will kick off with Sideways Rain (29-30 April) by Genevan contemporary dance company Alias, and will also include Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s M!longa  (23-24 May), international hip-hop festival Breakin’ Convention (20-21 May), a new adaptation of William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies by Matthew Bourne (14-17 May) and a performance from acclaimed ballerina Sylvie Guillem in 6,000 Miles Away (6-7 May). Bourne’s new production will feature young New Adventures dancers from the West Midlands as part of efforts to inspire a new generation to get involved in dance. 

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As Spring leads on into summer, the National Theatre‘s five-star comedy feast, One Man, Two Guv’nors will arrive in Birmingham (26-31 May), providing an excellent opportunity to catch this highly-praised production if you missed it in London. One Man, Two Guv’nors is an adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s classic 1743 comedy The Servant of Two Masters, reimagined in 1960s Brighton by Richard Bean.

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So it comes full circle back to summer. Next summer’s big musical show will be Wicked (9 July – 6 September). It may seem a long way to plan ahead, but tickets for Wicked are already being snapped up by audiences. In September, the Hippodrome will also be showing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. Check back here for details about when tickets go on sale.

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To book tickets and for more information, visit the Birmingham Hippodrome website.

Happy watching!

4 Squares Weekender – Free Theatre to Launch the New Library of Birmingham

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If you’ve been following the news this week, you may well have spotted that the new Library of Birmingham was opened on Tuesday by Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who survived being shot by the Taliban for championing girls’ rights to education.

Speaking on the day, Malala described books as weapons for beating terrorism, claiming that “the only way to global peace is reading, knowledge and education”. With characteristic eloquence, she went on to explain that,

“Books are precious. Some books travel with you back centuries, others take you into the future. Some take you to the core of your heart and others take you into the universe. […] It is written that a room without books is like a body without a soul. A city without a library is like a graveyard.”

Malala also spoke about the importance of Birmingham as a city, describing it as “the beating heart of England“.

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Following on from this official launch, a weekend of free live performance across Birmingham City Centre will celebrate the library’s opening, beginning at 9.30pm tomorrow with As the World Tipped, a spectacular, aerial outdoor show by Wired Aerial Theatre, set on a huge 12 metre screen against the night sky. Watch this space for updates: I’ll be attending and reporting back on both the show and the media launch beforehand. If you can’t make it tomorrow, the performance will be repeated at 9pm on Saturday.

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Across Saturday and Sunday, you’ll be able to see a diverse range of shows taking place across Birmingham’s Oozells, Centenary, Chamberlain and Victoria Squares, with something for all ages to enjoy. In the words of Peter Knott, Regional Director of Arts Council England, 4 Squares Weekender is, “a spectacular weekend to celebrate arts and culture”, offering “something to suit all tastes”.

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In Oozells Square and Brindleyplace, there’ll be a series of performances and activities organised by mac Birmingham. Inside Ikon’s galleries, there will be music by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, as well as dance from Sampad and contemporary circus by Pif-Paf. Outside, you can take part in family-friendly activities, helping to build a giant city out of clay.

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A musical picnic will take place in Centenary Square, courtesy of Town Hall Symphony Hall, and featuring performances from Birmingham-based saxophonist Soweto Kinch. Meanwhile, inside four converted caravans, the Birmingham REP will be providing impromptu acting and storytelling, and inside the new library itself, there’ll be music from Ex Cathedra and the Birmingham Opera Company.

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TippaIrie2013In Victoria Square, NoFit State Circus will be providing performance and circus skills taster workshops. If you missed them at Summer in Southside, this is a great chance to catch up with their incredible acrobatics, as well as to take part and learn some skills yourself!

Finally, in Chamberlain Square, The Drum’s Simmer Down stage will be hosting a range of reggae, ska, bhangra, sufi and hip-hop music, including performances from Tippa Irie and Musical Youth. Inside the Town Hall, you’ll be able to see dance performances from the Birmingham Royal Ballet and DanceXchange, including opportunities to take part, while the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery will be presenting a full day of film courtesy of Flatpack Festival.

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Said Stuart Griffiths, Chief Executive of the Birmingham Hippodrome, “”Birmingham’s arts organisations offer some of the most vibrant and exciting programmes in the country. We are delighted to come together to welcome the new Library of Birmingham at this incredibly exciting time for our city.”

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If you’re attending, don’t forget to tell us about your experiences on Twitter, using the hashtag #bham4sq. As with the Summer in Southside festival, I’ll be hanging around over both days, so check back here if you’re curious about anything you don’t manage to attend.

Hope to see you there!

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