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ART: Forward: New Art From Birmingham, Ikon Off-site at Medicine Bakery and Gallery, Wed Jan 23 – March 24

Tereza-Buskova-Beheading-of-the-Cockerel-2009-courtesy-the-artist-Photo credit: Ikon Gallery, Birmingham,

A group exhibition proving just how Birmingham’s artistic community is thriving. It features work by 28 artists living and working in the city, highlighting the depth and vitality of a wide range of practices, including this piece by Tereza Buskova, a UK-based Czech artist, who re-interprets Slavic rituals, traditions and customs with performance, print & video. Taking place in Medicine, the old gallery space of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, from which sprang the young generation that founded Ikon more than 50 years ago, it opens with artist Kevin Atherton’s live performance, In Two Minds at 6.15pm on Wed Jan 23. The work premiered in 1978 at the Serpentine Gallery, London. Since then there have been a number of re-engagements by the artist where he directly communicates with his younger self.;



**NEW YEAR, NEW SPA** Ardencote, Claverdon, nr Warwick

Photo by Soft Focus Productions

Massage, mani or sauna anyone? This month the 110 room 4* Ardencote hotel opens its £1.1m refurbished new thermal facilities. They include a Himalayan Salt Sauna, Aromatherapy Steam Room, Tepidarium, Tyrolean Kilo Sauna, Foot Spas, Ice Fountain, Monsoon Shower, Relaxation and Tranquillity Lounges. There’s also the existing Outdoor Hot Tub and Outdoor Heated Swimming Pool. It all looks very inviting. Ardencote is surrounded by 83 acres of stunning countryside and a 3-acre lake. It also has an 18-Hole Golf Course, 18 conference rooms, state-of-the-art leisure facilities and a Brasserie Bar and Restaurant. ardencoteTel: 01926 843111.


TALK: An Audience with Joanna Trollope, Warwick Arts Centre, Tue Jan 22

Photo and copyright: Barker Evans

The best-selling author from the Cotswolds village of Minchinhampton, who has been writing for more than 30 years and is well known for her enormously successful contemporary novels, will be discussing her long career, as well as her most recent book An Unsuitable Match. After studying at Oxford University, she joined the Foreign Office and taught English before becoming a full-time writer in 1980. Tickets: £16, warwickartscentre


NEW COMMUNITY DRAMA WORKSHOPS: Acting classes for homeless adults, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, weekly in Jan

Emerging theatre company, Underground Lights will deliver a set of practical, skills-based workshops for around 15 people with experience of homelessness and mental health difficulties in Coventry and Warwickshire, culminating in a showcase for an invited audience. These open and welcoming sessions aim to support people faced with social disadvantage, drawing on research that demonstrates how participation in theatre and the arts can play an important part in improving mental health and wellbeing. The company also hopes to establish a series of more informal and friendly “Creative Cafés”, where participants can come and share their own creative projects. Founded by drama practitioner and mental health researcher Emma Ormerod, who has 10 years’ experience at homeless drop-in centres in Leamington, Crisis in Birmingham, and a PhD in Criminal Justice, along with Lewis Ford, who has himself experienced homelessness.

Underground Lights Community Theatre begin their programme of weekly workshops at the Belgrade Theatre at 2.30pm on Fri Jan 11. To register your interest, please visit or Tel: 0775 244 5595.



THEATRE: Timon of Athens, Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, until Feb 22 2019


Simon Godwin directs the acclaimed Kathryn Hunter as Timon in Shakespeare’s sharp satire on wealth, greed and betrayal.  Poignant, funny and bitter, it tells the story of how the world moves from privilege to poverty with heart-breaking speed. rsc


COMEDY: Nish Kumar – It’s in Your Nature To Destroy Yourselves, Butterworth Hall, Warwick Arts Centre, Fri Jan 25

Double Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee Nish Kumar brings his brand new show to Cov. The host of BBC topical comedy show The Mash Report will be telling jokes about politics, mankind’s capacity for self- destruction and whether it will lead to the end of days. Good fun stuff, 8pm. Tickets: £24.50, warwickartscentre, Box Office: 024 7652 4524.


COMEDY: Stephen K Amos – Bouquets and Brickbats, Theatre, Warwick Arts Centre, Sat Jan 26

As Brexit looms, Trump reigns rampant and everyone seems pushed to extremes, Stephen’s main aim is to cheer us up. Forget everything that’s going on in the world and immerse yourself in the warmth of “one of the most likeable figures in British Comedy” (Radio Times), 8pm. Tickets: £18.50, warwickartscentre, Box Office: 024 7652 4524.


HERITAGE: Shakespeare Birthplace Trusts’ The Secrets of Conservation, Shakespeare’s 5 family homes, throughout Jan


The charity is lifting the lid on some of the conservation work that takes place at the 5 historic Shakespeare Family Homes in Stratford-upon-Avon and in its internationally recognised library, archive and museum collection. Special events will take throughout January, including an exhibition of never-before-seen photographs taken during the £6m redevelopment of Shakespeare’s New Place, a talk on how the archaeological finds dating back to the Shakespeare’s time are being conserved and the rare chance to see some of the normally hidden discoveries at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Experts from the Trust will also be sharing their hints and tips on how to care for household antiques.

A full programme of events is listed here:


THEATRE: Tartuffe, Swan Theatre, Stratford, until Feb 23

Asif Khan as Tartuffe and Sasha Behar as Amira. Production photos by Topher McGrillis (c) RSC

BAFTA and Emmy-Award winning TV writers Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto – creators of The Kumars at No. 42, Goodness Gracious Me, Citizen Khan and The Office – have reimagined Moliere’s great French comedy in modern-day Birmingham. The result is a sharp, vigorously funny and topical comedy set within the home of a well-to-do Brummie Pakistani family. It cleverly blends themes of religious hypocrisy, #metoo “victim shaming”, Brexit jokes and music styles including a freestyle beatbox rap battle. Review herersc


COMEDY: Dave Gorman – With Great PowerPoint Comes Great Responsibility Point, Butterworth Hall, Warwick Arts Centre, Sat Jan 26  

Dave’s bringing his laptop and projector screen with him so expect the “King of PowerPoint comedy” (The Guardian) to have detailed analysis of those parts of life you’ve never stopped to think about before. Not all super heroes wear capes,  8pm, Age 12+. Tickets: £29.50, warwickartscentre, Box Office: 024 7652 4524.


ART: Haroon Mirza: Reality is somehow what we expect it to be, Ikon, Birmingham, until Feb 24 2019


UK artist Haroon Mirza recently displayed two new artworks at Frieze London in response to French Fashion house, Louis Vuitton. Imitation, featuring Louis Vuitton bags and wallets, are installations created by the artist, “in response to window displays in various cities by the French fashion house that Mirza says are ‘blatant appropriations’ of his solar-powered sculptures,”. The artists’ new show is the most comprehensive exhibition of his work in the UK to date. The Ikon’s exhibition space will be filled entirely with moving imagery, sculptural installation and electronic sound.


MUSIC: Low, Birmingham Town Hall, Wed Jan 30

After 25 years this American trio, which includes the husband-and-wife vocals of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker along with Steve Garrington, have scored a critically-acclaimed master-piece with Double Negative. It was also chosen as one of BBC 6 Music’s top 10 Albums of the Year and The Guardian’s 50 Best Albums of 2018The band teamed up for the record with producer B.J. Burton, who previously worked with rap acts like Eminem and Lizzo, thsh


The Verdict, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry Wed Jan 30 – Sat Feb 2

A new cast starring Ian Kelsey (Blue Murder, EmmerdaleCasualty, Down to Earth, Where the Heart isDoctors and Coronation Street) as washed-up alcoholic lawyer Frank Galvin will appear in Middle Ground Theatre’s critically acclaimed adaptation of The Verdict as it embarks on a new 2019 UK tour kicking off at the Belgrade Theatre. Best known from Sidney Lumet’s Oscar nominated film version, this new production of Barry Reed’s gripping courtroom drama the cast also includes Denis Lill (Only Fools and Horses) as his mentor Moe Kat, Christopher Ettridge (Goodnight Sweetheart) as his rival, J Edgar Concannon and Paul Opacic (Bad Girls, Emmerdale, Hollyoaks) as surgeon Rexford Towler. Tel: 024 7655 3055, belgrade


VEGANUARY: Turtle Bay, Leamington Spa, Solihull & Birmingham

Hurray! As half our family our veggie and love Caribbean food we were very excited by this. This quality Caribbean chain has this month launched a new three-course plant-based Vegan Lunch deal for £15 and updated its vegan and veggie offering including its first vegan burger, the Kernel Burger – as sweetcorn patties are given a Caribbean twist with vibrant flavours and spices, roasted red peppers and sweet onion chutney. Other specialities include: Crispy Chickpeas, Caribbean Hummus, Smashed Avo, Chilli Pineapple Salad, Sunshine Quinoa, Supergreen Salad, Sweet Potato Fries, Spiced Fries, Coconut Rice‘n’Peas, Steamed Rice, Green Herby Rice, Lemony Rice, Bara Roti, Sweet Plantain and Creamy Coconut Callaloo. 




The Favourite, from Tues 1 Jan

Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone star in this love-triangle / power battle that looks wonderfully bitchy. Olivia Coleman is Queen Anne, dominated by her scheming courtier Rachel Weisz. When Emma Stone appears at court she is determined to win the Queen’s favour. What ensues is a jaw-dropping power struggle, played out against the backdrop of England during the Restoration.


Mary, Queen of Scots, from Fri 18 Jan

More period queeny drama as Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I battle it out in in 1569. The film stars Saoirse Ronan as Mary and Margot Robbie as her cousin Elizabeth I. Fab costumes, extraordinary make up and good performances are promised but some critics aren’t happy about some historical inaccuracies. What, you mean Elizabeth I doesn’t marry King Eric of Sweden after all? *thud*


Serenity, from Fri 25 Jan

Interstellar co-stars Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway reunite for this thriller about a fishing boat captain pulled into a web of deceit when his ex-wife begs him to save her from her abusive new husband.



COMEDY: Mark Thomas, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Wed Feb 13

What’s going wrong in our NHS, how it can go right, and what the future might hold for us? Ask Mark Thomas. He’s 54, the NHS is 70, and the UK national average life expectancy is 84. If Mark makes it to 84, the NHS will be 100. What will they both look like? Based on a series of residencies and interviews with leading experts in and on the NHS, Mark uses his own demise to explore the state we’re in,  After a once-again sell-out Fringe run in August to absolute critical acclaim, swiftly followed by a two week sell-out run at London’s Arcola Theatre, Mark Thomas returns with his now famous style of theatre, comedy, investigative journalism and reportage, warwickartscentre, Box Office: 024 7652 4524.


COMEDY: Kieran Hodgson: ’75, Royal Spa Centre, Leamington Spa, March 27 2019

Kieran Hodgson will be returning to the Royal Spa Centre with 75 –  one of this year’s buzziest and best reviewed shows at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018. Following on from two consecutive Edinburgh Comedy Award nominations for Best Show for his genre-defining shows Lance and Maestro, Kieran claimed his third nomination. He was also the second performer to sell out his entire run by the end of the first week of the Edinburgh Fringe festival and then sell out 7 extra shows!



THEATRE: When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Ourselves, the National Theatre, London, Wed Jan 16 – Sat Mar 2

Cate Blanchett makes her debut at The National alongside Stephen Dilane in this new play by Martin Crimp, based on Samuel Richardson’s novel Pamela. It explores desire, sexual violence and the complicated roles men and women play – blimey!. There’s also a series of talks with members of the production and the playwright throughout the play’s run though Cate isn’t on the menu I’m afraid.


FAMILY DAY OUT: Hogwarts in the Snow, Harry Potter Studios, Watford, now until Sun 27 Jan

Hogwarts in the Snow – as regular as Christmas!  The festive makeover will see Christmas trees line the Great Hall, the Gryffindor common room dressed for the season and a blanket of filmmaking snow covering the majestic Hogwarts castle model. Visitors will even be able to touch samples of the different types of ‘snow’ used during production, each selected for its ability to float like falling snow, crunch under foot or glisten in the light like ice. Trust me, your kids will love it.


CHRISTMAS: Kew Gardens, London, now until Sat Jan 5

Photo: RBG Kew

A spectacular winter trail with over a million twinkling lights and thousands of laser beams, Kew’s light show is awe-inspiring. You can be mesmerised by the Fire Garden, walk through the moonlit woods and check out the laser garden. Mulled wine, hot choc and spiced cider will help keep you warm and the kids can whizz round on vintage fairground rides whilst looking out for Santa and his elves.


THEATRE: A Christmas Carol, The Old Vic, London, until Jan 19

Another smash hit of Dickens’ classic adapted by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and directed by Matthew Warchus returns to the Old Vic and this time Stephen Tompkinson stars as Ebenezer Scrooge. This big-hearted and warm production’s unique staging immerses the audience in the story and there’s music, mince pies and much merriment for a fab festive night out.


BOOK NOW! ART: Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory, Tate Modern, Jan 23 – May 6

Pierre Bonnard Le Jardin 1936 Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (Paris, France).

Rediscover this French post-impressionist master of colour and composition in this first major exhibition of Bonnard​‘s work since a much-loved show at Tate 20 years ago. The exhibition concentrates on Bonnard’s work from 1912, when colour became a dominant concern, until his death in 1947. Interesting tie-in events include Yin Yoga, brunch and Bonnard (Jan 26, Feb 2 & Feb 9)


BOOK NOW! ART: Keith Haring, Tate Liverpool, Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool, June 14 – Nov 10

Keith Haring Ignorance = Fear 1989 © Keith Haring Foundation/ Collection Noirmontartproduction, Paris

Excitingly the first, major UK exhibition of artist and activist Keith Haring (1958–1990) takes place this summer featuring more than 85 of his art works including large, vibrant paintings, drawings and sculptures.  So if you’re a fan you’ll need to book early. A part of the legendary New York art scene of 1980s, Haring was a champion of his generation’s counterculture. He was inspired by graffiti, pop and underground club culture. Haring worked with like-minded artists such as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. tate



MUSIC: State of Flux tour, NYO (National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain), Warwick Arts Centre, Fri Jan 4 

Looking for a brilliant way to get teens to experience live classical music – for just a fiver?  Kirill Karabits unleashes the full power of Britain’s super talented teenagers and until you’ve experienced these 164 players raising the roof of the Butterworth Hall, you don’t know what remarkable young musicians can do! Rick Dior’s Science Fiction collects together clips from classic sci-fi movie scenes underpinned by electronica and minimalist riffs, John Adams’ Doctor Atomic Symphony captures the high drama and conflicting emotions experienced by the ‘fathers of the atomic bomb’ and ending with Sibelius’ Second Symphony to restore inner peace, 7.30pm. Pre-concert Talk: Helen Martin Studio 6.15pm £2.50. Discover the stories behind the music at a Pre-concert Teen Hangout: Studio 6.30pm free. The NYO will also be touring the Barbican and Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham. Tickets: £22.50-£41.50; (£21.50-£39.50) and only £5 for under 25s, warwickartscentre, Box Office: 024 7652 4524.

THEATRE: Emily and the Thing, Patrick Studio, Birmingham Hippodrome, until Sun Jan 6

This is really lovely for very young children! Created for the stage by Tall Stories (The Gruffalo and The Snail and the Whale) this is an imaginative adaptation of the much-loved book by the award-winning duo Cressida Cowell (How to Train Your Dragon) and Neal Layton for children aged 3+.  The production has enjoyed sell-out runs including Edinburgh Fringe, and appeared at the Sydney Opera House, in Melbourne, Brisbane, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. After Birmingham, the show will transfer to New York for a North American tour in 2019.  Review here: Tickets: £12.50. birminghamhippodrome or Tel: 0844 338 5000.

PANTO: Sleeping Beauty, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, until Sun Jan 6

The fab writer and director Iain Lauchlan, who wrote BAFTA-winning series The Tweenies, returns this Christmas as Nanny McWheeze. He will be joined by partner in crime Craig Hollingsworth as Muddles the Jester. Together the comedy double-act will be helping Prince Valiant on his quest to rescue the sleeping princess through a sci-fi Stranger Things (Netflix) inspired time-portal. Unmissable festive family fun. Review hereTel: 024 7655 3055, belgrade

MUSIC: Ella Mai, O2 Institute Birmingham, Tues Jan 8

Image courtesy of 10 Summers/Interscope Records

Quick-rising R&B star Ella Mai had an amazing 2018, working with John Legend and Chris Brown on her critically acclaimed debut album, alongside breaking a chart record in the US. Not bad for an X Factor reject. But the south London singer feels Britain doesn’t quite get her style. She is now living in LA signed to hip-hop heavyweight DJ Mustard’s 10 Summer’s label. Now on The Debut Tour this is your last chance to see her in smaller venues. academymusicgroup

MUSIC: Wolf & Moon, Hare and Hounds,  Kings Heath, Birmingham, Wed Jan 9

The Dutch folk duo, who also happen to be a couple, filmed their wedding and turned it into a video for 2017’s loved-up single Home to Me. Their latest album Before it Gets Dark is out on January 25, http://hareandhoundskingsheath

MUSIC – Fontaines DC, Coventry Central Library, Sat Jan 12

Photo by Molly Keane

If you like fast and furious garage indie punk rock this noisy Dublin band of ‘musical agitators’ will be just up your street. Their gigs are quickly selling out across Ireland and the UK due to the word-of-mouth fervour attached to their live shows. Their new single Too Real is phenomenal! You can totally hear vocalist Grian Chatten’s thick Irish accent barking out ‘tales of disillusionment and mental dissolution’ (NME).

FILM: Mary Poppins Returns (U), out now in cinemas

Emily Blunt is Mary Poppins in Disney’s MARY POPPINS RETURNS, a sequel to the 1964 film

One of our favourite family films last winter was Paddington 2, especially Hugh Grant’s deliciously funny villain! This Christmas we’re looking forward to this live action musical reboot following the story of the now grown-up Michael Banks, who needs a nanny when a personal loss leaves him looking after his three children alone. An all-star cast includes Emily Blunt taking over from Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, Angela Lansbury, Ben Whishaw, Colin Firth, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Meryl Streep and the return of Dick Van Dyke, the only original cast member.

FILM: NT Live – Antony & Cleopatra (Encore Screening), Warwick Arts Centre, Sun Jan 13

Broadcast live from the National Theatre, Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo play Shakespeare’s famous fated couple in his great tragedy of politics, passion and power. Director Simon Godwin’s Timon of Athens is currently showing in Stratford at the RSC’s Swan Theatre. warwickartscentre

WELLBEING: Drift Away Spa Day, The Belfry, Wishaw near Sutton Coldfield, book before Jan 14

Start the year as you mean to go on with a reduced ultimate spa day in the January sale.  Your treatment will include a shoulders, neck and scalp massage followed by Afternoon Tea. Was £109, now £89. Available until 28th February 2019. Subject to availability. Book by Jan 14, thebelfry

THEATRE: Commonism, Birmingham Rep, Tues Jan 8 – Fri Jan 11

Bothered by Brexit? Award-winning theatre makers Andy Smith from the North of England and Amund Sjølie Sveen, from the North of Norway go in search of some common ground in this UK premiere. / 0121 236 4455.

MUSIC: Ruby Turner, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Sat Jan 19 

Fresh from Jools Holland’s 25th annual Hootenanny on NYE Jamaican-born, Birmingham-based singer Ruby will be performing solo at her Coventry gig. Described as truly the genuine article and blessed with a voice that has been likened to Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin, Ruby continues to win the hearts and minds of an ever growing and diverse fan base, 8pm. Tickets: £23.50, warwickartscentre, Box Office: 024 7652 4524.

THEATREA Christmas Carol, Royal Shakespeare Theatre until Jan 20

Photo by Manuel-Harlan Young Scrooge and his fiancee.

Bah, humbug! With a new cast for 2018 including Aden Gillett replacing Phil Davis as Scrooge and all the magic and cosiness of last year’s smash new adaptation by David Edgar, this ‘magnificent & wonderful’ (Daily Telegraph) show focuses’ not just on the text but on young Dicken’s early life and his abhorrence of child labour. My favourite Christmas show of 2018 – it combines vitality, slick choreography and touching humanity. As Mark Kermode illustrated in his Christmas Cinema Secrets modern Christmas films  owe so much to Dickens’ storytelling. Review herersc

MUSIC: The Streets, O2 Academy, Birmingham, Thurs Jan 17 (extra date)

After their sell-out comeback tour earlier this year, The Streets are back to do it all again. With a new album (and film) in the works, plus a catalogue of iconic records, these shows will see Mike Skinner and co take things to a whole new level. Resale tickets currently available. https://academymusicgroup

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