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    Birmingham, Culture

    Helga Henry in conversation with… Sindy Campbell

    helgasindy

    Whilst Ready Player One might not have been everyone’s hit film of the summer, there is no denying that the enthusiasm for seeing Birmingham on the big screen was one of the big draws for a lot of residents.  Brummies have Sindy Campbell from Film Birmingham to thank for that, and bringing a lot more productions to a city which doesn’t always have the best reputation nationally.  But with the success of Peaky Blinders, and the talk around its creator Steven Knight building a studio in the city, are things looking up for film in Birmingham?

    Continuing a run of successful salon events, based on the seventeenth century tradition of gathering under one room to increase the knowledge of those in attendance through conversation, freelance facilitator and host Helga Henry is back with her third ‘Helga Henry in Conversation With’ event this year.  Previous guests includes property developer Anthony McCourt and TEDxBrum founder Anneka Deva.  Tonight, in the function room of 1000 Trades in Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter, Helga welcomed Sindy Campbell of Film Birmingham to talk about the work she does bringing film to Birmingham.

    Sindy spoke about a lot of misconceptions that people might have about Film Birmingham, namely that they’re not responsible for funding films, but rather supporting filming in Birmingham and making sure shoots run smoothly.  She talked about how the initial disappointment and frustration of Channel Four choosing Leeds over Birmingham, but the silver lining being that some of the money allocated for that will stay in the region and might make its way back to local filmmakers.  Others expressed a disappointment in the hopes that a Channel Four HQ in Birmingham might’ve brought with it more development opportunities for professionals working within the film industry in the city, which had largely disappeared with the closure of organisations like Advantage West Midlands.


    Clearly the biggest thing for the city in terms of filming recently was this summer’s Ready Player One, where several scenes were filmed around Digbeth and the Jewellery Quarter.  Sindy talked about the huge buzz it generated in the city, how people swarmed the sets and the pride people felt seeing their city on screen (even if we were the location of a dystopia).  Reconnaissance work was done months before Steven Spielberg arrived in the city, with his team flying in from LA to scope out locations.

    But it’s not just Ready Player One that’s put Birmingham on screen.  Films like The Girl with All the Gifts, the last three seasons of BBC drama Hustle and the first season of the superb Line of Duty were all filmed here too.  But perhaps Birmingham’s biggest success is one that has never actually filmed here: Peaky Blinders.  The impact of Peaky Blinders has been huge, with people all over the world watching the show thanks to Netflix and BBC Worldwide; Peaky Blinder tours, themed pub nights and stag do fancy dress have all appeared.  Sindy said she would love to have the series film in Birmingham, which was proposed at one point, but the main location requested, the Grand Ballroom, was undergoing refurbishment and wasn’t ready and to make it cost effective a second location would be required.

    Which of course, this brought us onto the news that Steven Knight, Writer and Creator of Peaky Blinders announced plans to open a six-stage TV and film studio, called Mercian Studios.  Helga mentioned that a previous In Conversation With speaker, Anthony McCourt had talked about how quickly big spaces are being snapped up, as Birmingham seems to have no end of appetite for one / two bed apartments in the city.  But the news that a large studio would be coming to the area has been well received, particularly as Sindy spoke about the massive shortage of studio space and build space in the country, but particularly around Birmingham.

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    She also talked about the huge economic impact having a hit series in the area could have to the city, not just for the tourism industry, but also for the hospitality industry and catering who support a large-scale production, and are often sourced locally.  Sindy talked about the impact Game of Thrones had on Belfast, almost growing a film production industry overnight; the hope would be that something similar could happen to Birmingham.  And that the large number of industry professionals who live in Birmingham may no longer have to travel the length and breadth of the country for work, as there would be more closer to home.

    As the event started to wrap up, the conversation turned to looking at what can be done to support Sindy and Film Birmingham, which is really punching above its weight in terms of what it delivers.  Inevitably the question about what the city council’s responsibility is, compared to other cities where arts and culture are given more focus and councils are more willing to take a risk, but it was rightly it was pointed out that they have a lot going on at the moment but both Helga and Sindy pointed out that it is easy to blame others, but instead of us thinking what’s the answer, should we just get on and do something.  Helga suggested that people are already producing things without the big names like Channel Four, mentioning local YouTubers with large follower numbers and the rise of the popularity of podcasts.

    There was also a look at how the city might use what it already has to improve, with Julia from Rebel Uncut talking about the need to have super connectors in Birmingham linking up organisations and people which could have a mutual benefit, like writers and producers.  This isn’t rocket science, and is often mentioned, but is a perennial problem Birmingham faces: a lack of communication.  However, there was a sense that for the filmmakers that do make it to Birmingham, people love it when they get here.  The challenge is just to get here.

    The next ‘Helga Henry in Conversation with…’ is scheduled for 23 January.  The speakers hasn’t yet been announced, but if it’s as insightful and eye-opening as the session with Sindy Campbell from Film Birmingham, it’ll be well worth attending.  To find out more, keep an eye on Helga’s website https://helgahenry.com/

    Birmingham, Online stuff

    Blogging panel at Book to the Future 2018 at University of Birmingham

    brumbloggersRounding off a week off, I headed over to the University of Birmingham for a couple of sessions as part of their Book to the Future festival.  The festival is an annual event with a range of workshops, panels, performances and author talks celebrating literary expressions.

    The final session of the Friday night was a panel discussion around blogging, Instagram, social media and influencers.  With a combined following of well over one million, the panel was made up of Alice Liveing, Hannah Witton and Emma Conway (aka Brummy Mummy Of 2), and hosted by Brum Blogger and influencer in her own right, Ting of The Ting Thing.

    Unsurprisingly it was full booked and I managed to bag a space at the front, before heading out to meet up with some other bloggers.  One of the things mentioned in the discussion was the importance of community, about fostering relationship with other bloggers and attending gatherings.  It’s one of the things I like most about blogging in Birmingham, that people are so supportive of each other and as well as being there to hear from Alice, Emma and Hannah, a lot of us were also there to support Ting.

    As Hannah Witton rightly pointed out, I was scribbling notes because I find I always listen better when I do and I wanted to share some of the insights for people who didn’t manage to bag a spot on the fully-booked talk.  There were a few similar themes which cropped, the importance of authenticity, of community and being a woman online.  Having been to many blogging talks before, it was refreshing to listen to what felt like more of a chat between four bloggers who had both similar and not so similar experiences. Alice, Emma, Hannah and Ting were sincere about their advice and experience, particularly that some of it is about putting in the hard work, but also not knocking being in the right place at the right time and not discounting the privilege and benefits that come from being conventionally attractive.

    I particularly enjoyed the conversations around authenticity. It’s a conversation I hear a lot and it has started to lose a little of its meaning.  But I liked that the panel talked about being yourself online, but not having to give away your whole self, whether that be things you just won’t talk about or reclaiming some of your time for other things – be it switching off at a certain time of an evening, or having things you do away from the online world.

    I said I’ve been to a lot of blogging talks, and I have, but this was one of my favourites for the flow of the conversation between the panelists, Ting’s great questions and the topics covered, many of which I had wished bigger bloggers would mention.  I wrote up my notes here, if anyone is interested in reading them – they’re just bulletpoints, but hopefully useful.

    Birmingham

    Birmingham Design Festival (belated)

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    I’d signed up to two well before heading off on holiday and if I’m honest I signed up to them because they sounded like two that weren’t going to fly over my head as a non-designer, and were of topics that I kinda liked the sound of.

    As someone with a predisposition to saying yes to as much as possible and then finding myself sleeping away a Sunday, I thought the Say Yes talk was going to be dangerous.  As it turns out it was more about Fee Sheal challenging herself to put herself on stage, something she hasn’t done much of, despite convincing other female designers to share the stage as part of the Edinburgh chapter of Ladies Wine Designs that she organises.

    I know a lot about Imposter Syndrome as it often comes up in several spheres of my life, and it’s something that I’ve been actively challenging myself about; when I feel like an imposter, I ask myself “if not me, then who” and if I can’t name someone I would ask instead, I do it – fear be damned.  Gemma’s talk took a much more confident approach, but she started with getting the audience to name three things they’re proud of, and it was incredibly powerful.  She also talked about that moment in your life when you’re at your worst, and harnessing that to realise in future situations, anything that could go wrong probably won’t be as bad as that.

    I tend to be a fan of bullet points when writing notes, so for future prosperity, here are the notes I made during the two talks…

    Fee Sheals speaking at Birmingham Design Festival

    Fee Sheals speaking at Birmingham Design Festival

    Say ‘yes’ deal with everything else later – Fee Sheal

    • be prepared to do the things you ask others to do – as a woman, if you champion inclusivity of women, be prepared to also be one of those that does the talk
    • Find your tribe
    • Encourage, connect and support
    • Women don’t always think of themselves as “speakers” – so ask them to think of themselves as one
    • It’s about equality of opportunity – you can’t always get it right, not everyone you want is available, but you can try
    • Mainly, play your part
    Possible some of my favourite advice from the afternoon
    Possible some of my favourite advice from the afternoon

    What’s the Opposite of Imposter Syndrome – Gemma Germains

    • Think about three things you’re proud of – “F*ck you, you’re brilliant” – own what you’re proud of, be confident about it
    • You don’t learn confidence in a two hour session, it takes time
    • Confidence is try and knowing it won’t kill you
    • Does Imposter Syndrome as we know it really exist? What if, instead, it is reacting to how people react to us – “I’m not Sh*t, you’re a D*ckhead”
    • Trust your gut instinct
    • “Peak-end rule” how people feel at the most intense point and the end, rather than the total sum or average
    • No matter how hard something is, it’ll probably be alright
    • (It’s also important to find space for introverted people)
    • Do we dislike confident people? Not the arrogant people, but the people who are just vocal
    • Don’t wait for people to notice how good you are
    • Know your sh*t – don’t set yourself up to fail – is this the difference to Imposter Syndrome?
    • What if silencing the nagging through in the back of your head wasn’t always good / bad – Some of it is good, and some of it is something which makes you jog on
    • Are creative people more predisposed to distractions because they’re addicted to the endorphins that come with the end-goal?

    I’m guessing given how successful it was, there may well be another Birmingham Design Festival next year. And if so, it’s probably worth keeping an eye on https://birminghamdesignfestival.org.uk/

    Birmingham, Culture

    Brum Zine Fest 2018 at Impact Hub Birmingham

    brumzinefest

    There’s a quote from Roald Dahl about magic, which says “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” It always reminds me to look for magic, no matter how ordinary it might seem because when I’m feeling pretty rubbish, everyday magic is exactly what I need.

    And walking through the doors of Impact Hub Birmingham feels like walking into somewhere magic, it’s in the air, and it was even more so on the eagerly anticipated return of the Brum Zine Fest.  After a six year hiatus it was back, and it was well worth the wait.  I vaguely remember the old BZF, held in cool upstairs of willing pubs, well before Impact Hub existed, with zines of people I sort-of knew and a whole pile of ones from further afield of people I really didn’t.  But the light and airy Impact Hub gave it a sense of freshness, a newness but an openness.  It felt like the ideal place for a rebirth.

    I’d signed up to one of the first workshops so I made sure I was there early.  With enough time to grab a coffee and head upstairs for the first workshop, where I bumped into a few people I know and who it is always a pleasure to see; hearing Anneka talk about Enrol Yourself and Lorna and storytelling for adults reminded me to keep looking for that everyday magic.

    DhA_H36X4AE8ZfoStorytelling Masterclass

    Wolverhampton-based Baljinder Kaur hosted the first workshop, which was a look at her journaling habits or drawing every day, by collecting the pockets of time and everyday truths. She showed the variety of ways she has done this, narrating her life through drawings, some of herself, some of commuters she encountered

    She inspired and challenged us to pick something personal to us that we had with us and document it, in whichever way we wanted.  Despite wishing I could, I can’t draw for toffee, so I chose the Batman keyring given to me by my friend Jude when I moved into my flat.  The keyring has certainly seen better days but it reminds me of friendship, of resilience and perseverance and of small gifts with big impacts.

    Zines and lunch

    I had a look round the stalls and despite trying to set myself a budget, I bought far too many zines.  There were a few music ones including one that felt like a mixed tape my friend Louise would’ve made, so I bought the two issues as a reminder to go back and discover some new old favourites.  I really enjoyed the variety of zines on display, some were created by people with a clear talent for drawing, others who focused more on words.

    After that I couldn’t ignore the calls from my stomach to check out the food that I’d spotted being set up earlier.  Bombay Tapas were selling a few things, but I stuck with the tapas offering and the samosa was so good I went back for seconds.

    Outside they were setting up for Box Wars, a showdown with cardboard.  This mainly involved watching the sheer determination from a collection of very cute children work together to dismantle a very structurally-sound bull piñata.  It was also great to chat to

    DhBLTufW4AIneVGMy First Zine workshop

    I signed up for this in a fleeting moment of thinking I could be more am more hands-on creative than I actually am.  I love the idea of creating a zine, probably partly why I like blogging so much, but realistically I never really know where to start. Or what to do with it when it’s done.

    Early as ever, I headed up to grab my seat for the workshop and spotted the table of example zines that workshop facilitators Megan Boyd and James Wilkes had laid out.  And sat amongst the pile were a couple of copies of Atta Girl, zines from around the time of the previous Brum Zine Fest and a nice blast from the past.  After reading through and reminiscing about those zines, I took my seat ready to have a go myself.

    Megan and James gave us a run through of the history of the zine, its originals in sci-fi fandom and punk counter-culture, and then showed us the relatively simple and yet kind of amazing way to take an A3 bit of paper and create your own eight-page booklet without and staples.

    With glittery stickers, magazines and pens, we were left to our own devices to create our very first zine.  And that’s when writer’s block struck.  Whilst I really liked the idea of creating a zine, at that point I had no idea what I wanted to create one about.  And so I decided to get all meta and create a zine…about the zine festival.

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    Once our time was up we showed off our creations to the rest of the group and it was wonderful to see what other people had created.  Some very talented artists had drawn cartoons, others drawings of life events, it turns out there was a fellow blogger Nati, from Life After Coffee, who was also in the workshop, something I didn’t discover until after.

    After that my head and heart were full and I knew it was time to take my bag full of newly acquired zines home and digest the day.  It was a truly delightful experience, an absolutely pleasure to be part of and considering I’d spent most of the weekend feeling quite on the outside, it was really lovely to feel welcomed and part of the fun.  It felt inclusive and

    I cannot wait for next years. Who knows, maybe I’ll have a zine to showcase by then!

    https://twitter.com/BrumZineFest

    Birmingham

    Seeing a sign…

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    Sometimes, walking through Birmingham city centre with all the cranes and building works makes me feel a bit lost in my own home town. The city feels like a river and trying to grasp a connection to it is impossible.

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    Birmingham

    Finding things in Birmingham

    life as an adventure

    I have never understood the appeal of going home every night to eat dinner, sit in front of the telly and fall asleep, repeating over and over, living for the weekend.  For me, I think every day can be an adventure, even if it’s just people watching in a coffee shop.  Birmingham is notoriously quite bad about shouting about all the great things going on in the city.  So I thought I’d try and write down some ideas, as much to remind myself, but also hopefully as help for others.  I should probably place a caveat here; these are very much the things that interest me, and there are so many other things out there, that I haven’t covered because I wouldn’t know the first place to look.

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    Birmingham, Music and Movies

    Flatpack Festival is back!

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    There’s not a lot I can do at the moment, as I’ve been struck down with the lurgy, but the good folk at Flatpack Festival have released their line-up and I’ve been having a look through it.

    Returning for a ten-day festival of cinematic invention and audio-visual delights, #flatpack12 has yet another a great line-up this spring.  Running from 13-22 April 2018, Swedish witchcraft, animated sushi, teenage mermaids, silent trapeze and Shakespearean puppets are just a few of the delights.  And if that’s just a few of the selected highlights, then you know there’s going to be so much more creativity in store.

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