Birmingham Weekender is back this month with over 100 free events to enjoy. 

Taking place at Bullring & Grand Central, the surrounding New Street Station concourse, Birmingham Markets and 1000 Trades Square, the two-day event features dance, music, film, installations and some of the West Midlands’ most talented artists and performers.

Birmingham Weekender is being produced by Birmingham Hippodrome and will take over the entire footprint of the beating heart of the city. Events across the shopping destinations will take place on the malls, in shop units and in a number of outdoor areas, including Rotunda Square and St Martin’s Square.

Funding for the event has been provided by Bullring & Grand Central, Birmingham City Council, Birmingham Hippodrome and Arts Council England.

“We are delighted to be producing Birmingham Weekender once again,” says Graham Callister, director of festivals at Birmingham Hippodrome, “and this time working in partnership with Bullring & Grand Central and Birmingham City Council. 

"Birmingham Weekender has always been a festival dedicated to showcasing the rich diversity and wealth of creative talent in our city and region, and this year will be no different. We have a fantastic programme planned, with dance, music, special installations and much more, featuring many of the best artists from Birmingham and the West Midlands.”

Danielle Bozward, marketing manager at Bullring & Grand Central, added: “We’re so excited to be hosting Birmingham Weekender, delivered through our partnership with the Hippodrome. After a challenging 18 months for all, we’re looking forward to bringing the event right back into the heart of the city and supporting local performers and groups, as well as entertaining our customers with a weekend packed full of festival fun.” 

Fatt Butcher (main image) is one of the artists performing over the weekend. Fatt Butcher: Big Gay Disco Bike show is a feelgood pop-up disco performed on a bicycle. The cabaret favourite will be hoping to get people moving by bringing D-I-S-C-O to Birmingham!

A Weekender preview - including an open rehearsal by Birmingham Royal Ballet - will take place on Friday 17 August between 1pm and 9pm. This will be followed by a full programme on Saturday 28 August, from 1pm to 9pm, and then on Sunday the 29th between 11am and 5pm. 

You can check out some of the weekend’s highlights on the opposite page, the synopses for which have been provided by the Birmingham Weekender organisers...

Stan’s Cafe: The Commentators   

There was a time when The Commentators’ radio commentary brought major sporting events into the nation's living rooms. 

Now, though, having fallen on hard times, they instead bring their unquenchable optimism to commentating on anything and everything except professional sport. 

They have brought their undying passion for words and life to a range of events now, including gallery openings, the World Gurning Championship, awards ceremonies, Moseley Folk Festival and the opening days of the new Library of Birmingham. 

This festival you can find them in the midst of the activity in Bullring & Grand Central. 

The Commentators are managed by internationally acclaimed theatre company Stan’s Cafe, whose inventive and playful performances are devised in Birmingham and have been touring the world since 1991. 

Of All The People In All The World

Stan’s Cafe offers a grain of truth about our planet: every grain of rice represents someone, somewhere.

For this beautifully simple performance installation, the artists build large and small mounds of rice representing political and social realities in the world: one grain of rice for the Queen, 12 grains for people who’ve walked on the moon, a pile for teachers in the UK and a heap for millionaires in Europe.

By making normally abstract statistics tangible and placing them in thoughtful relation to one another, this powerful work of art is witty, shocking and ultimately moving. 

Ray Lee: Chorus  

British Composer of the Year Ray Lee is an artist who makes music that moves. Born out of a fascination for the invisible forces that surround us, his spectacular sound artworks have transfixed and delighted audiences the world over.

Chorus is a monumental installation of giant kinetic sculptures; a celestial choir of spinning sound machines. Towering above the audience, a series of giant metal tripods support rotating arms. At the end of each arm, loudspeakers emit precisely tuned musical pitches, singing out a siren call to all those present. Tiny lights achieve the effect of planets in motion, creating mesmerising orbits of colour. These intersecting lights trace rings above the heads of the audience, while the combined chorus of the spinning speakers creates a hypnotic, harmonious whole that’s both uplifting and transfixing.

Motionhouse: WILD   

WILD, the daring dance-circus production from Leamington Spa-based Motionhouse, explores our disconnect with the natural environment. In our modern lives, is the wild still shaping our behaviour?

WILD creates an urban forest in the everyday world of the city. Accessing the powerful physicality distinctive to Motionhouse, the performers use dynamic choreography, acrobatic movement and hand-to-hand partnering to move through a forest of tall poles, which form the striking set for the show. From the top of the pole, life in the canopy looks down onto the forest floor - a dangerous world of unknown meetings.

Whispered Tales: Distant Drums 

Distant Drums is a dynamic and thought-provoking production that tells the story of Reggae Sound System culture and its role in the fight for racial equality. 

A handcrafted, bespoke sound system stands proudly on a statue plinth. As the speakers power up, digital screens appear within the stack and two performers transport the audience from Africa to the Caribbean before finally arriving, suitcase in hand, on the shores of the UK... Written by Madu Messenger, narrated by Wolverhampton-born reggae artist and rastaman Macka B, and choreographed by Donald Edwards with a distinctive Dub soundtrack by Vibronics, Distant Drums promises to be an exhilarating performance not to be missed.

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