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30 Arts and Culture highlights: Warwickshire

Here's the Muddy guide to the must-see music, literary events, theatre, comedy and more for autumn 2018.

It’s snuggling-in season as the nights draw in, but why do that when there’s so much good stuff on across Warwickshire and the Midlands? From two comedy festivals, two literary festivals, to a 50/50 gender split Troilus and Cressida, a breathtaking live show by David Byrne and one of the coolest acts in electro pop, Christine and the Queens on tour: these are the hottest tickets to get hold of this season.



Autumn season, Warwick Arts Centre

(Top L-R clockwise) Jen Brister, Ahir Shah, Tamsyn Kelly, Sara Pascoe, Seann Walsh and Sarah Millican.

An amazing autumn line-up of top comedians on the UK tour circuit including BAFTA award-winner Dylan Moran’s appealingly caustic takes on life in Dr Cosmos, Sara Pascoe: LadsLadsLads (now sold out),  Jason Manford: Muddle Class, Sarah Millican: Control Enthusiastic, Jen Brister: Meaningless, Ross Noble: El Hablador, Ahir Shah: Duffer, Dave Gorman, Dara O’Briain: Voice of Reason, Tamsyn Kelly & Sukh Ojila double-bill, The Mash Report’s star satirist Nish Kumar with It’s in your nature to destroy yourself (Recognise that line? It’s from Terminator 2: Judgment Day) and the Funny Women Showcase.



Leamington Spa Comedy Festival 2018, Royal Spa Centre & Town Hall, Fat Pug and Procaffeinate, Leamington Spa, Sun Oct 7 – Sat Oct 13

Reginald D Hunter

Be prepared to get your laughing gear around this year’s line-up of top comedians including finale headliner Reginald D Hunter, Henning Wehn, Juliette Burton, Evelyn Mok, Have I Got News For You star Hal Cruttenden, Sarah Johnson’s Mum’s going to Ibiza and Gary Delaney. For younger audiences there’s award-winning musical comedian and Edinburgh Festival Fringe fave Jay Foreman with his Disgusting Songs for Revolting Children and Comedy Club 4 Kids on Sat Oct 13.

Award-winning Juliette Burton embarks on her first UK tour with Butterfly Effect, a docu-comedy investigating the power of kindness.

Check out the full line-up here: leamingtoncomedy


Birmingham Comedy Festival 2018. Fri Oct 5 – Sun Oct 14

Highlights of this award-winning annual festival include Ab-Fab’s Joanna Lumley (9 Oct, Symphony Hall), James Acaster (12 Oct, Sutton Town Hall), The Infinite Monkey Cage’s Robin Ince (12 Oct, Comedy Junction, Sutton Coldfield), and the brain behind BBC One’s Hospital PeopleTom Binns (12 Oct, The Glee Club). Adding an international flavour are American legend Rich Hall (11 Oct, Bham Town Hall), Aussie-based comic Jimeoin (12 Oct, B’ham Town Hall) and Canadians Bobby Mair and Dana Alexander (12-13 Oct, The Glee Club). Podcasters are well represented including the return of The Scummy Mummies (10 Oct, Sutton Town Hall).

James Acaster – the 33-year-old is one of the country’s must-see stand-ups with 5 nominations for best show at the Edinburgh Fringe

Guz Khan

All you need is LSD

The very best comedians from across the West Midlands are also out in force, from Barbara Nice (13 Oct, Hippodrome) and Man Like Mobeen star Guz Khan (5-6 Oct, The Glee), and the multi-award nominated The Elvis Dead creator Rob Kemp (14 Oct, The Victoria, Bham). Also watch out for ISIS tragi-comedy Bismillah! (4-6 Oct, Old Joint Stock), the premiere of writer Leo Butler’s All You Need Is LSD (4-13 Oct, The REP), and The Gilded Merkin (14 Oct, The Glee Club), who bring some of the very best cabaret and burlesque acts to the city.




Spoken Word & Performance, Birmingham Literature Festival, Oct 4 – 10

Co-curated by Wolverhampton-born Times journalist Sathnam Sanghera, author of The Boy with a Top Knot (recently adapted into a BBC 2 drama), this 10-day festival has a brilliant line-up including Caitlin Moran, whose gig is already sold out. TV cook Nigel Slater is chatting to fellow chef Ravinder Bhogal, former Slits front-woman Viv Albertine will be discussing her memoir and Lauren Laverne is interviewing beauty journalist Sali Hughes about her new book Pretty Iconic.

Other highlights include Jonathan Dimbleby hosting a live broadcast of BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions? ‘Godfather of Alternative Comedy’ Alexei Sayle, Professor A C Grayling, a preview of novelist Jonathan Coe’s new book, Middle England, a performance by disabled poet and theatre maker Jackie Hagen, an outdoor tour by ‘the urban birder’ David Lindo and a National Poetry Day special with Liz Berry, Roy McFarlane and Jane Commane.  Professor Sarah Moss, who teaches on the English and Creative Writing programme at Warwick University, and author of new short story Ghost Wall, (interviewed on Radio 4’s Women’s Hour last month) is joined by Megan Hunter and Jen Campbell to discuss their latest books.

There’ll also be readings from top poets who contributed to new collection Unwritten: Caribbean Poems After the First World War including Malika Brooker and winner of the 2018 Ted Hughes prize for new poetry, Jay Bernard, women’s rights activist Helen Pankhurst, exciting up-and-coming writers such as Irenosen Okojie and more established ones like Irish author John Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas).  Watch out for one-to-one fiction surgeries, writing workshops and performances include Coat by Yomi Sode, A Night at the Cabaret Voltaire and Mixtape with dub poetry stars Roger Robinson and Nick Makoha.

For tickets and full details see here: birminghamliteraturefestival


BOOK LAUNCH: Illustrated edition of J K Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard, The Albany Theatre, Coventry Thurs Oct 11

One of only 5 events nationally, bestselling author, artist and former Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell will be talking about what is was like to illustrate J.K. Rowling’s words. Includes a reading of The Wizard and the Hopping Pot by a local actor; while Chris Riddell creates some illustrations live on stage. Chris will be signing copies afterwards.

Tickets: £15, Family (2 + 2) £40, Family (1 + 2): £30 including a £5 voucher off book purchases redeemed from local, independent bookseller, Kenilworth Books. All tickets and vouchers can be booked online at albanytheatre or via the box office on 02476 99 89 64 


Stratford Literary Festival, Nov 9 – 17

Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman

The impressive winter festival line-up features internationally best-selling author, Jodi Picoult, historian and TV presenter Lucy Worsley OBE, who will be talking about her latest book The Many Faces of Queen Victoria, Sir Michael Parkinson, sharing his admiration for the legendary footballer, George Best; and Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman whose new book, Bloody Brilliant Women, highlights forgotten but ground-breaking women from history. Two leading BBC journalists, John Simpson CB, and Economics Editor Kamal Ahmed, will be talking about their new books – Simpson’s debut novel, Moscow, Midnight, and Ahmed, an acclaimed and moving account of growing up in 1970’s Britain.

Jodi Picoult, by Nina Subin

Former Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, will be considering why news reporting and analysis in a world of fake news and post truth is more important than ever, and the broadcaster and former stand-up comedian, Viv Groskop, will be offering advice on how women can be more effective public speakers. Other talkers will be Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch discussing his biography of Thomas Cromwell, and former Ford car worker, James Anthony, who has re-written all Shakespeare’s sonnets for the modern audience – a feat described by Stephen Fry as a “dazzling success”.  Three events for children on Sat Nov 10 includes a talk by the ridiculously funny Andy Stanton, creator of the Mr Gum books, a celebration of the 80th anniversary of The Beano with a drawing workshop led by artist Nigel Auchtertounie, and a unicorn Christmas decoration workshop with theatre designer, Judy Reaves.



An Evening with Nigella Lawson, Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Thurs Nov 8

Celebrate the 20th anniversary of TV chef Nigella’s ground-breaking debut cookbook, How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food, as she talks about her life in food and what she’s cooking right now, followed by a 1-hour book-signing.





Autumn highlights @Warwick Arts Centre, University of Warwick, Coventry


Liverpudlian band Echo & The Bunnymen were massive when I was in secondary school, so when I heard they’d reinterpreted 13 songs from their back catalogue including my favourites The Cutter, Seven Seas and The Killing Moon with ‘strings and things’  I was hit by a wave of nostalgia. Ian McCulloch & co will be performing songs from their new album, The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon at Warwick Arts Centre, on Sun Oct 21.

Viral sensation Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox

Other highlights include South African jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (Oct 18),  Dublin-based acoustic trio Slow Moving Clouse (Tues Oct 23), The Robert Cray Band (Wed Oct 24),  award-winning Norwegian pianist and composer Tord Gustavsen (Wed Oct 31 ), Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox  (Nov 22), Afro Celt Sound System (Sat Nov 24) and Barb Jungr singing Bob Dylan (Sat Nov 17).

Cape Town’s Abdullah Ibrahim

Afro Celt Sound System



Jack White, O2 Academy Birmingham, Wed Oct 17

 Did your mum ever tell you off as a child for doing ‘the Boarding House Reach’? Mine did. The always stylish and super talented former White Stripes frontman must’ve been too – anyway, he’s named his latest album after it.


Jon Spencer (of the Blues Explosion), Birmingham O2 Academy 2, Tues Oct 23

Jon Spencer (left) with the rest of the Blues Explosion back in the day

If you’ve seen Edgar Wright’s superlative heist movie Babydriver you’ll recognise the opening track as Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s belter tune Bellbottoms. The man himself will be touring solo with The Melvins.


Sons of Kemet, Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, Fri Oct 26

The brilliant MOBO award-winning jazz act come to Brum. Their Mercury Music Award 2018 nominated third studio album Your Queen is a Reptile celebrates the restless exploration of identity within the Caribbean diaspora within the UK. It was recorded in London with a host of guests spanning the breadth of the UK scene including jungle legend Congo Natty and poet Joshua Idehen. You’ll need to check out returns as their whole UK tour is sold out.



David Byrne supported by 2015 Mercury Prize-winner Benjamin Clementine, Genting Arena, Fri Oct 26

Photo by Jody-Rogac

David Byrne begins each night on the highly unorthodox tour for his most recent album, America Utopia seated at a table stroking a brain in what he has called “The most ambitious show I’ve done since the shows that were filmed for Stop Making Sense.” On stage with an animated 12-piece band in grey Kenzo suits and barefoot he will be performing classics from his solo career and his days with post-punk band Talking Heads.



Gruff Rhys, The Glee Club, Birmingham, Tues Nov 13

Courtesy of Gruff Rhys’ Instagram

The North Wales pop eccentric, formerly lead singer in the Super Furry Animals has this year released his lush fifth solo album Babelsberg, made with The BBC National Orchestra of Wales.



Christine & The Queens, Birmingham O2 Academy, Mon Nov 26

Hurray for the French singer’s new album, Chris. If the ridiculously catchy ‘80s-grooved single Girlfriend is anything to go by, it should be a doozy.


The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 20th Anniversary World Tour at Arena Birmingham, Tues Nov 27

Another biggie. The multi-platinum former Fugees singer and took the world by storm two decades ago as a solo artist with singles from the album including Doo Wop (That Thing) and Everything Is Everything. It won her 5 GRAMMY®  wins.



Autumn line-up, The Assembly, Leamington Spa

UK singer-songwriter Graham Parker’s career was reinvigorated when acclaimed US film producer and director Judd Apatow cast him in hit film, This Is 40. The first song from new album, Dreamin’ is featured in Netflix series, Love Again also directed by Apatow.

Charlie Sloth, the Radio 1xtra & Radio 1 DJ, Trevor Nelson (Soul Nation), Soul II Soul’s (30th anniversary tour), Graham Parker & The Goldtops, Scott Matthews, folk girlband Wildwood Kin, Reef, Raver Tots, Seth Lakeman, Turin Brakes and Somerset veterans, The Wurzels (remember The Combine Harvester song, anyone?), are some of the artists appearing at this art-deco venue in the run-up to Christmas.




Winter season 2018 @the RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon

Over at Stratford the RSC’s winter 2018 season includes Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida (Oct 12 – Nov 17) directed by Gregory Doran in the RST, gender-balanced production of the Bard’s “most testosterone-fuelled” play starring rising stars Amber James and Gavin Fowler (above) as the young lovers. Set in the siege of Troy, it will have a 50/50 split of male and female actors and collaboration with virtuoso percussionist Evelyn Glennie. This is followed by a revival of the critically-acclaimed David Edgar adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (Dec 4 – Jan 20 2019), back by popular demand following its hugely successful run last winter with Aden Gillet replacing Phil Davis as Scrooge.

Jude Owusu as Tamberlaine. Photo by Photo-by-Ellie-Kurttz c RSC.

In the Swan Theatre you can catch Michael Boyd’s critically-acclaimed Tamburlaine starring the excellent Jude Owusu (above, until Dec 1), Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto’s brilliantly funny new version of Moliere’s comedy Tartuffe (until Feb 23) re-imagined in modern-day Birmingham.

Asif Khan as religious hypocrite Tartuffe. Photo-by-Topher-McGrillis-_c_-RSC

The season ends with Simon Godwin directing Kathryn Hunter in the title role of Shakespeare satire Timon of Athens (Dec 7 – Feb 22 2019). Wondering what’s the perfect introduction to Shakespeare for 7 – 13-year-olds? The RSC’s fab First Encounters with Shakespeare: The Comedy of Errorsa 90-minute adapted version just for kids, is touring schools and theatres across the UK (Oct 19-27).

Designed by RSC Visual Communications (c) RSC



Autumn season highlights, Warwick Arts Centre, University of Warwick, Coventry

Top (L-R clockwise) Othello. Kneehigh’s Fup: A Modern Tale, Wilde Creatures – one of Tall Stories’ two shows celebrating the magical world of Oscar Wilde – and Rifco’s new play Dishoom!

Warwick Art Centre’s theatre-opens this Autumn and they’re welcoming back Cornish family favourite Kneehigh for the quirky tale of a 100-year-old man, his giant grandson, and a mischievous duck named FUP. Rifco return with a brand new play, Dishoom! and balletLORENT are set to stun audiences with a spectacular dance performance of Rumpelstiltskin. Often considered one of Shakespeare’s most contemporary shows, Othello remains blisteringly relevant today and English Touring Company’s “riveting production” (The Guardian) of Shakespeare’s Othello is not to be missed. Which brings us to the C-word. Tall Stories, the Olivier-nominated producers of The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom, return with two shows, celebrating the works of Oscar Wilde: Wilde Creatures a new musical adventure for 5 – 105-year-olds, and The Canterville Ghost for ages 12+.



BOOK EARLY! Mimbre’s Fierce Sisters at New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, Dec 11 – 15

Very exciting this! A specially commissioned promenade performance with all-female acrobatic theatre group, Mimbre in the gardens at Shakespeare’s New PlaceBe enchanted as they weave their spell with their evocative choreography and contemporary soundscapes to explore the essence of Shakespeare’s female characters, bursting out of their stories to claim their own space in today’s world. Playful interactive stations invite you to explore these themes and contribute your thoughts and feelings on how women are interpreted and portrayed, then and now.

Booking required at shakespeare or Tel: 01789 204016.


War Horse, Birmingham Hippodrome, Wed Oct 10 – Sat Nov 3

Soooo excited that the outstanding National Theatre production of War Horse is coming to Birmingham in October. Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo and featuring those incredible, life-size puppets of the horses, it’s likely to sell-out, so please don’t leave it too late to book.



Black History Month, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

The UK’s first ever Afrobeats musical, Oliva Tweest runs Oct 4 – 6

Black History Month events throughout October range from UK’s first ever Afrobeats musical, Oliva Tweest following sell-out West End performances (Oct 4 – 6) to Joan Armatrading in concert on Oct 12, a free screening of Britain’s first black feature film Pressure set in 1970s London to a free insightful conversation about black activism, Black, Radical and Proud, on Mon Oct 22 Oct with sociology professor Dr Kehinde Andrews and Pan-African Reparationist Esther Stanford-Xosei. Other events include a Diversity Women’s Networking Lunch on Oct 11. During half-term there’s a lively free family storytelling session featuring puppetry, mime and live music from African drummer and musician Jahman Aggrey on Sat Oct 27.  Finally on Mon Oct 29 hugely popular comedy club Desi Central return with the Comedy Of Black Origin Shutdown.

Tel: 024 7655 3055, belgrade


The Things We Tell Ourselves & Don’t Cry for Me, Theatre Absolute, Coventry, Thurs Oct 11

L-R Writer-performers Cristina Catalina and Stephanie Ridings

This multi award-winning indie theatre company, who have turned a one-time fish and chip shop into a 55-seat theatre, return with two new pieces as part of their Are We Where We Are series. The Things We Tell Ourselves, written and performed by actor and writer Cristina Catalina, looks at the stories we choose to be imprisoned or freed by; while Don’t Cry for Me by Stephanie Ridings takes a personal look at Asperger’s in the 1970’s.

Tickets 8 (full price) and £6 (concessions): https://www.brownpapertickets. Find out more about the project here: theatreabsolute



OCT HALF-TERM: Debbie Isitt’s Nativity! The Musical, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Tues Oct 23 – 28

The children pictured are Amyah Stevens (Solihull), Rex Murphy Hogg (Solihull), Olivia Rose Brown (Birmingham), Erin Jones (Birmingham), Niamh Crowley (Birmingham), Daisy Egerton (Birmingham, Hudson Mansour Webb (Coventry) and Daisy Fitzpatrick (Staffordshire). Photo by Joe Bailey

Yesssss I know it’s only just October! Co-produced by the Belgrade Theatre the second UK tour of Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s production of Nativity! The Musical kicks off in Coventry this October starring local schoolchildren, Simon Lipkin as Mr Poppy, Scott Garnham as Mr Maddens and Wicked star Ashleigh Gray.

Tel: 024 7655 3055, belgrade


Harry Hill’s Kidz Show: How To Be Funny – For Kids! Warwick Arts Centre, Tues Oct 23

Share the laughs with the whole family as award-winning comedian Harry Hill imparts his tips and tricks on how to be a world class joker in his new show.


Rumpelstiltskin, Warwick Arts Centre, Fri Oct 26 – Sat Oct 27

Spectacular dance theatre for ages 7+ from award-winning balletLORENT with an updated script of this Grimm fairy tale by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, a score by Murray Gold (Dr Who), costumes by Michele Clapton (GoT) and narrated by GoT actor Ben Crompton.



Dinosaur World Live, Warwick Arts Centre, Tues Oct 30, Wed Oct 31 & Thurs Nov 1

Families can discover a pre-historic world of remarkable dinosaurs in this raucous 50-minute interactive show for ages 3+. Come face-to-face with a Tyrannosaurus, a Triceratops and Stegosaurus if you dare.




Discover:Gather:Give’ Arts Fair, Stratford-upon-Avon Town Hall, Nov 3 & 4

Looking for artisan Christmas gifts? Look no further…This fabulous and free art fair is now in its fifth year and features 40 artists exhibiting more than 500 pieces of original and passionately created art, offering an exciting and eclectic mix of paintings, illustrations, ceramics, jewellery, glasswork, decoupage, textiles, wood turning, digital art, sculpture and book binding, #Cafdgg. Don’t miss out on The Golden Cup Cafe upstairs in the Ballroom where visitors can enjoy tea and coffee from Monsoon Estates served in elegant vintage golden tea sets on crisp white linen with fresh flowers and and delicious cake!



Whistler and Nature, Compton Verney, Sat Oct 20 – Dec 16


Warwickshire’s Compton Verney is casting a new light on the work of the great late-Victorian master, James McNeill Whistler, in Whistler and Nature (Sat Oct 20 – Dec 16), curated in partnership with The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow. The exhibition, which includes 90 oil paintings, explores the artist’s revolutionary attitude towards the natural world.


The 2018 Big Draw Festival, nationwide, Oct 1 – 31

The Big Draw Festival encourages people of all ages to roll up their sleeves and practise their artistic skills. The 2018 festival takes place across the country throughout October.  There’ll be free Drawing Experiments (11am – 3pm) at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum on Sat Oct 13 including animation, scribble machines and pendulum drawing and over in Sutton Coldfield Library  join comic creator, writer and illustrator, Richy K. Chandler (Lucy the Octopus, What the Hell Just Happened?!) in a Creating Comics and Manga Workshop for Teens (Mon Oct 29, 10.30am – 3.30pm). Ever tried remote control car painting? Electrical tape drawing or painting in the dark? No! Well head over to Tamworth Castle on Sat Oct 6 for Art Attack (10am – 4pm) – free art workshops by professional artists. See here for more details.

To see what else is on look here


SPOKEN WORD: Grayson Perry: Them & Us, Symphony Hall, Sun Oct 28

The award-winning artist; Bafta-winning TV presenter and Reith Lecturer discusses “cultural divisions” in the topsy turvy world of Brexit, Trump and whatever else is thrown at us before this gig!


FURTHER AFIELD: Turner Prize Exhibition, Tate Britain, London,  now until January 6

Works by the four shortlisted artists  the 34th Turner Prize are now on show . They are Luke Willis Thompson, Charlotte Prodger, Naeem Mohaiemen and a collective of filmmakers  called Forensic Architecture, founded by architect Eyal Weizman, a professor at Goldsmiths, University of London.


S Carey & support from Billie Marten, St John’s Church, Kenilworth, Sat Sept 29

Kenilworth Arts Festival ends with a bang – an atmospheric gig by acclaimed American singer-songwriter S. Carey (pictured on right), best known as the drummer, keyboard player and supporting vocalist of the Grammy-winning indie folk band Bon Iver. His third solo album Hundred Acres, was released in February. One of only 5 UK dates on a European tour – S. Carey will be joined by a full band, and performing in the beautiful surroundings of St. John’s Church supported 19-year-old Billie Marten, one of the UK’s finest young singer-songwriters from Ripon, Yorkshire, who first performed a live session on Lauren Laverne’s 6 Music show in between her GCSE’s. Her new singe Mice was one of Lauren’s Just Added top picks this month. Starts 8pm.  Tickets £16 adv (£14 conc).


Anna Meredith & the Southbank Sinfonia orchestra present Varmints, Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Fri Oct 5

Anna Meredith presents her award-winning debut album with her band and the Southbank Sinfonia Orchestra. Described as “one of the most innovative voices in British music”, Anna Meredith is a genre-crossing composer and producer. Her work encompasses the worlds of contemporary classical, art pop, electronica and experimental rock. Anna’s work has seen her create soundtracks for Prada fashion campaigns, compose music for an MRI scanner, write symphonies for nursery children and melodies for sleep-pods in Singapore.


The Music of Harry Potter, Symphony Hall, Fri Oct 12

Wall carvings in Hogwarts Great Hall at the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio, London

Grab your wand and your owl, and join Harry, Ron and Hermione at Platform 9¾ to board the Hogwarts Express for a musical adventure beyond the imagination! Maestro Michael Seal and the full CBSO work their magic tonight, in this concert devoted to the music of all eight of the Harry Potter films.


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