Fierce Festival: Fierce Volunteer Drop In Sessions

Be part of the action and volunteer with Fierce Festival 2017. If you are passionate about the arts, we would love to hear from you!

Upcoming Fierce Volunteer Drop In Sessions – all welcome

Come along for an informal chat with the team to learn more about becoming a Fierce volunteer and how you can play a vital role in creating an unforgettable festival experience across the city of Birmingham.

When: Tuesday 26 September and Monday 2 October from 6-8pm

Where: Map Room at Cherry Reds Café, B1 1BN

More information on volunteering and how to apply can be found here. BIRMINGHAM IMPROV FESTIVAL 2017 – WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT

BIF logo green


The lineup for next month’s festival is huge, with 24 different groups performing at the Blue Orange Theatre.  The reviews below give a taste of what is to come.









The Birmingham Improv Festival runs 23-29 October at the Blue Orange Theatre.

Stan’s Cafe Theatre Company: Building Resilience

Nina glanced at the file under my arm “Building Resilience” and then looked at me with pity in her eyes, assuming I was undergoing that familiar mid-life crisis in which artists retreat from a life of creating ephemeral whimsy and retrain as structural engineers. Untrue. I was at Piccadilly Station retreating from two days thinking how we can build the resilience of Stan’s Cafe to insure that if the roof falls in the roof won’t fall in. Essentially the challenge put to us whether we could ensure that if one of our five main sources of income dried up could we ensure we wouldn’t have to turn the lights out and perform theatre in the dark?

Back in 2010 Michael Kaiser introduced his theory of The Cycle to a post-crash audience of shell shocked local arty types. His theory was and remains disarmingly simple – it runs something like this: make amazing art, market it and you like crazy, use the art and marketing to build a ‘family’ who love you and your art, then monetize this love. This love money is then invested back into making more great art and so a virtuous cycle rolls on.

We had these principles in mind back in November when we launched our Scheming Friends initiative. We used a party as an excuse to gather a large group of loving ‘family’ together and us Graeme Rose smashing a 25 Anniversary Cake to smithereens with a cricket bat as the inspirational cue to ask people to support us ‘make more of the different’.

We’d rejected all traditional ‘transactional’ schemes in which donating x gives you y and donating 2x gives you y+z and donating 3x gives you w+y+z. Scheming Friends demonstrate friendship by donating an unspecified amount of money and in return receive occasional unadvertised tokens of friendship in return.
You may have noticed the discreet bright red – support us – tab at the top of every page on this website – that is standing in for Graeme, the cake and the cricket bat.

If you click on the fatal red tab now be warned there is a chance you’ll feel compelled to donate to us, but don’t be too scared as, post-training, I see that we have fallen into that foolish error of quoting numbers to substantiate our claim to be saving the world by quoting empirical evidence such as the number of young people engaged in schools in the city‘s less affluent wards in 2015/16. It was 4,000, is that impressive who knows? How engaged were they? Were they engaged in worthwhile activity or flicking rolled up bits of paper at us while we talked at them?

Darn it, time to set to work on the 2.1 version of that page. If you’re curious I’d click now before it’s truly persuasive.

Fierce Festival: Can You Feel It? Fierce & Club Culture

Michele Rizzo: HIGHER

It’s no secret that Fierce loves a party, and over the years we’ve thrown some truly Fierce ones. From bum printing in a basement (yep – bum in paint; bum on wall), to a surprise appearance from The Knife’s Olof Dreijer (in drag), a man literally walking on fire and performance artist Brian Catling strapping nine personal alarms to his face in the middle of the dancefloor and setting them off – and that was all just one party: Harminder Judge’s Holy Mountain Party, Fierce Festival 2012.

Fierce believes club culture is a legitimate, political, innovative and beautiful culture equal to anything hanging in a gallery or on a stage – or anywhere else in the Fierce programme. If we look at histories of club culture time and time again we see queer and POC communities at the centre of new musical and cultural developments – from disco and ball culture in New York to techno in Detroit. These developments have often accompanied difficult social circumstances against backdrops of white supremacy and racial injustice, homophobic police forces and crises such as AIDs, with the dancefloor acting as a place of solidarity, release and ecstasy. This year at Fierce we present a number of events that consider electronic music, the politics of the dancefloor and communal joy.

Lucy Suggate’s iconic solo dance work PILGRIM is set to music from techno producer James Holden’s acclaimed 2013 album The Inheritors. “It is a reminder of the ancient and enduring kinship between Dance and Music and the deeply transformative qualities of both. The work is haunted by remnants of English folk heritage and pagan sensibilities shifting between hypnotic and euphoric states”. In Barbara Ehrenreich’s fascinating book Dancing In The Streets she charts a history of collective joy that is as old as the human race itself. From fossilised footprints found in French caves that suggest dance like movement to modern day carnival Ehrenreich argues that dancing is something inherent in all of us playing a significant role in many religious and culture events. PILGRIM is a primal and ritualistic performance that is seemingly both ancient and contemporary. Over 45 minutes Suggate let’s go taking the audience through various states of exhaustion and euphoria.

For choreographer Michele Rizzo clubbing is like going to church. In Rizzo’s dance piece HIGHER three lone figures attempt to become one to an infectious soundtrack by Warp Records artist Lorenzo Senni. Rizzo studied people dancing in clubs to develop this choreography challenging notions of what constitutes ‘high art’ legitimising an often overlooked form of expression (see also Owen Parry’s Fan Art inspired Scheduled for 10pm on the Saturday night of Fierce this is the perfect show to warm up for our big Club Fierce party. We guarantee, by the end of this you’ll be gagging to get up and dance and that’s why we’ve planned our huge Club Fierce festival party immediately after!

Featuring our biggest line up to date, you’re all invited to join us on the dancefloor at Club Fierce: We Are Fierce for some ecstatic communion! Parisian queer DJ Kiddy Smile of Let A B!tch Know Fame headlines the party, Deeply influenced by the sleazy, lazy feel of 80s and 90s house music and the fabulous legacy of the Ballroom scene we’re delighted to welcome him to Birmingham for the first time. Over the years Fierce has welcomed many a nightlife legend and this year is no exception as we welcome NYC club kid Imma Asher for a very special performance. Alongside this Swiss choreographer Marie-Caroline Hominal presents the UK premiere of her gig/show/dance Silver and  Serbian rapper Gnu??i is an exuberant, eclectic singer who has made a name for herself through the creation of pumping club music sure to get you moving. Not least we’re also delighted to welcome LMGM to the decks. Part of the team behind Berlin based party Room for Resistance a queer forward collective focused on community building and creating space & visibility for women, gender queers, non-binaries, trans people, black people & people of colour in Dance Music. LMGM – real name Luis-Manuel Garcia, currently an ethnomusicologist at the University of Birmingham also penned this brilliant article for Resident Advisor An alternate history of sexuality in Club Culture which offers a brilliant introduction to the themes touched upon here.

Oh and for vinyl aficionados – be sure to see Louis Vanhaverbeke’s show Multiverse, drawing on rap and hip hop culture, he manipulates vinyl in a variety of surprising ways – with some killer track selections and even some dry ice.

Hope to see you on the dancefloor!

Aaron Wright
Artistic Director, Fierce Festival

Lucy Suggate: PILGRIM
Michele Rizzo: HIGHER
Club Fierce: We Are Fierce
Louis Vanhaverbeke: Multiverse

Further Reading:
Love Saves the Day: A History Of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-1979
Dancing in the Streets: Barbara Ehrenreich
RA: Lorenzo Senni: Rave voyeur
RA: An alternate history of sexuality in Club Culture
The Quietus review James Holden’s The Inheritors
Meet Kiddy Smile Ballroom Warrior

Stan’s Cafe Theatre Company: Open Market

On Saturday 23rd, as part of Birmingham’s Weekender event The Commentators are streaming live radio commentary from the Bull Ring Open Market. I was very excited about this opportunity until I realised that a family commitment 50 years in the making means I have to relinquish my seat, lip mic and sheepskin coat to Graeme, my daughter is overcome with relief.

I love the Bull Ring markets, note not Bullring – the omnivorous private mall, but the set of three council run markets just south of the bland behemoth. The indoor market majors on fish and meat with a scattering of other stalls. The rag market focuses on fabrics, clothes, shoes and hardware. The open market is outdoors and it is principally populated by fruit and vegetable stalls. I’m a fan of all three but the Open Market is may favourite, it’s more raw.

In 1991 I was time rich and money poor, I lived on Ombersley Road and would walk a mile and half to the market, buy as much fruit and veg as it was possible to carry and stagger home, the bunched up plastic carrier bag handles cutting the blood supply to my fingers throughout.

On my first visit I wandered around trying to decide which stall should have my first custom and realised it had to be the man in the vest, bouncing around, bubbling over with banter, pumping out energy. I bought 10lb of potatoes for £1 from Carl Seigel and continued to buy vegetables from him for twenty years.

Carl piled good quality vegetables high and sold them cheaply, he was consistently cheery, had great repartee and built relationships with his customers, remembering their stories and sharing fragments of his own live. Occasionally you would see someone hard up being slipped a free bag of veg.

Over the years Carl’s stall changed and in so doing charted the evolution of the market, it moved when the 60s version of the market was demolished to make way for Bulling. Later the vegetables started to arrive trimmed and scrubbed clean of mud. His bags ceased to be branded by whatever bankrupt firm had sold its bag stock of cheap and became the homogenous blue that the rest of the market used. Once strictly a root vegetable man Carl started stocking broccoli and later even vine tomatoes and ultimately even, occasionally, mangos. Unable to stem the march of ‘progress’ he eventually lay out a few £1 a bowl deals. Carl got a bit ill but bounced back, he started wearing a weightlifter’s belt for back support, always whip thin he started to look gaunt and one day he wasn’t there. His stall was there, with its familiar “Jolly Nice” labels still in his handwriting but he wasn’t behind the stall which was now being run by one of his former assistants, Carl had retired and I’d never got the chance to congratulate him and thank him (there are photographs of and an excellent interview with Carl Spiegel in this Birmingham Mail article, plus further biographical detail and a better description of the market than I’ve managed in this article from The Guardian.

Eamon sells me most of my fresh fruit, he likes fishing, has had two replacement knees and always enquires after Eve who he’s known since she was born. John with his soft fingers sells free range eggs £1 for six. Shopping at the market reminds me of shopping with my Grandmother in Rye going to a different shop for each class of goods and having conversations with each shopkeeper as she went.

Within these steady relationships I like the unpredictability of the market: What exotic goods will have flooded the stalls this week? What will be mysteriously ‘out of season’ and unavailable? What eccentric people will be around? What will the banter between the stall holders be today? What street evangelists will be shouting, what buskers playing, what fortunes with the Gypsy in her caravan tell.

Supermarkets ensure eating healthily is crippling expensive in the Open Markets it’s cheap. From the supermarkets the fruit is rarely ripe, from the Open Markets the cheapest food is so ripe you have to eat it as fast as you can and turn the rest into soup.

This one of the few places in Birmingham where the rich and poor push past each other, rub shoulders and queue together. It’s a real place and I love it.

Craig and Graeme will have no trouble finding enough action to commentate on.

Women and Theatre: Recruiting: Shadow Artist for project with Young People

Women & Theatre want to recruit a paid shadow artist, aged 16-25, to support a new project taking place September – December 2017.  #SpeakingUp will see W&T work with three groups of girls in the creation of 3 short films inspired by mac birmingham’s ‘Women in Protest’ Season. For more information, please see full details on our ‘Recruitments’ section here –


CVs and a short covering letter stating interest should be emailed to by noon on Wednesday 13 September.  Interviews will take place on Wednesday 20 September.

Stan’s Cafe Theatre Company: Moving home

On Tuesday the Birmingham Post made fully public the news that our landlords A E Harris & Co. Ltd. have sold their site for redevelopment, they will be moving to new premise to continue their business and we will have to do the same.

This development is no surprise to us. We took on our lease knowing the site was for sale and we have always been kept up to date as offers have come in and negotiations progressed.

Being based @ A E Harris has transformed how we have been able to work, allowed us to increase our ambitions and enabled us to help other people realise their ambitions. It will be a significant wrench to move on as we will leave many happy memories behind.

Plans for our future base have been developing in recent months and we are entertaining a range of possibilities. We consider this forced change a great opportunity to refresh our approach to how we make art, how were relate to our home city and how we support others.

The end of our current arrangement is still a little way off, planning permission needs to be submitted and granted for the new development and after that A E Harris need to relocate so we expect @ A E Harris to continue as it is for at least 12 months which would be an neat point to leave as it would be ten years on from when we first arrived at the factory in order to perform Of All The People In All The World.