NEWS: Evening of Creativity brings international music and musicians to Erdington on 17 May

Words by Lily Higgins / Pics supplied by Erdington Arts Forum

Erdington’s longstanding arts and music showcase, the Evening of Creativity, return to Oikos Café on Friday 17 May – running from 6:30pm – 9:30pm at the popular Erdington High Street venue.

Organised by the Erdington Arts Forum, the Evening of Creativity is one of Birmingham’s longest running music nights and will be approaching its seven year anniversary in June.

Sicilian singer Manuel Cangemi is travelling all the way from Germany for the event in May. His passion for music started at a young age, merging opera, classical music, and together – accompanied by his Sicilian origins. He will be singing songs by legends Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and others.

Drums Aloud will be performing rhythms which have been taught to them by master West African drummers. They will have up to eight drummers at their Evening of Creativity performance, playing on djembe – a hand drum, and dunduns which are bass drums played with a stick with a bell. Nigel Saddler of the group has been teaching drumming for 14 – 15 years.

Also performing are the two piece band Skint, from Tamworth. Skint perform country style music which they call “council estate poetry”. They will play a set of originals tracks which talk about dealing with being ‘skint’ in England in 2024, including songs ‘Cost of Living’ and ‘Cash Converter’.

When you put your hand in Grandma’s biscuit tin you never know what you’re going to get… which is how the band Grandma’s Biscuit Tin invented their named. An ensemble consisting of five 5 eclectic musicians, the band are classically trained musicians with a huge passion for jazz.

Grandma’s Biscuit Tin have been together for about a decade, who just started out as friends and family having a jam session, and their repertoire includes trad-standards with their own twist.

The International award winning Birmingham Opera company will also be performing at Oikos café.

Jobe Sullivan told Erdington Local: “I think Erdington needs to trumpet loudly what a brilliant achievement the Evening of Creativity is. Seven years, 84 events… not including all our satellite events in Kingstanding, Castle Vale, and other places in the constituency.

“It’s so great to have acts visiting us from around the world – Joana Carvalhas on her world tour, a touring group from New Zealand, an opera singer who flew in from Germany the night before.”

He added: “But our bread and butter are the community. Featuring visual artists, and encouraging choirs, bands, from everywhere – and Erdington is at the heart of it. Erdington has a huge heart, and we’ve been quietly kicking-ass here for seven years, come hell or high water.”

The next Evening of Creativity events will be held at Oikos Café on 17 May and 21 June, between 6:30pm – 9:30pm.

For more information and links to online ticket sales visit: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

This content was generated and supported by GET WRITING GET WORKING and LOCAL AMBASSADORS – to get involved in local journalism and find opportunities in the creative industries email la@erdingtonlocal.com

NEWS: New York’s The Hitman Blues Band pack out Oikos Café as citywide Jazz & Blues Festival comes to Erdington

Words by Ed King / Pics by Connor Pope

Last weekend, hundreds of music lovers packed out Oikos Cafe in July to watch homegrown and international acts perform as part of the citywide Jazz & Blues Festival.

Organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), the main Saturday stage was set for New York based The Hitman Blues Band, playing two sets of modern/alt blues, including originals ‘Bad, Bad Man’, ‘Not My Circus Not My Monkey’ and “the track that got us touring in the UK” – ‘Angel in the Shadows’.

Classic covers were also on the set list, Including Dylan’s folk anthem ‘Time They Are A-Changing’ and Willie Dixon’s blues standard ‘Hoot Koochy Man’ – all given a firm Hitman twist. The UK’s Honeyman Hickling Blues Band were also on the afternoon bill.

Originally planned to be held outside on and around the Village Green, the bad weather forced the live gigs into the upstairs room at Oikos café. But in a space usually reserved for church services and community groups, the musicianship, comradery, and comedy made it feel like Saturday night at Ronnie Scotts.

Regaling stories of broken hearts, relationship battles, and pet tortoises who might survive the tour due to poor merchandise sales, Russell ‘Hitman’ Alexander had the room devouring every word and chord change – with superb support from keys, a horn section, percussion, and vocal harmonies.

“Thank you all for coming out, we really appreciate it,” exclaimed charismatic front man at the end of the final set, with many sticking around for signed CDs and photos with the band.

After a short break, Oikos then welcomed the UK’s own Honeyman Hickling Blues Band, serving up a second slice of the Blue & Jazz Festival pie.

Earlier in the weekend, local trombonist Clive the Slide headlined the Erdington Arts Forum run Evening of Creativity – bringing another rafter packing crowd to Oikos Café, as part of the citywide annual event.

Erdington Town Centre Manager, John Hodgkiss, who brought the Saturday Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival to Oikos, told: “Today has been fantastic, hundreds of people came out to welcome international musicians and a citywide music festival into Erdington.

“The Hitman Blues Band travelled all the way from New York to play in Erdington, delivering two incredible sets – alongside the UK’s amazing Honeyman Hickling Blues Band. Erdington High Street can be a vibrant and exciting place with a generous and supporting community, and we (EBID) want to keep bringing acts and events here to celebrate that.”

Erdington Ward Councillors Gareth Moore and Robert Alden (Conservative) were also in the crowd on Saturday afternoon.

Cllr Moore said “it was great to have the Jazz festival here on Erdington High Street and to see so many people enjoying the events. Thank you to the Jazz Festival, volunteers, the Erdington BID manager and Oikos for all their hard work.”

Cllr Alden said: “We will be working with the Erdington Town Centre Manager to try and bring the festival back and expand the shows in future years.”

Pastor Dan Mandley from Oikos Café and Church added: “Wonderful to have such a wonderful event come to Erdington. Great bands and great atmosphere. I am already looking forward to next year’s festival.”

Look out for a special PICTURE GALLERY feature on the gigs with The HItman Blues Band and Honeyman Hickling Blues Band at Oikos Cafe – in the next print edition of Erdington Local, out from 1 August.

For more on The Hitman Blues Band visit www.hitmanbluesband.com

For more form the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID
For more from Oikos Café and Church visit www.oikoschurch.co.uk

For more details on Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival visit www.birminghamjazzfestival.com

REVIEW: Erdington Arts Forum’s Evening of Creativity at Oikos Café, Friday 17 February

Words by Leni Remedios / Pics by Studio Creativity

Another stunning night at the last Evening of Creativity (EoC) at Oikos Café, Friday 17 February.

The theme of the night was the triangle, and the mesmerising instrument was indeed accompanying all the artists throughout the night, from music performances to poetry readings.

Opening the night was a brilliant young star of Erdington, Zach. The 16 year old musician delighted the room with two jazz piano pieces, a cover of a Bill Evans’s piece of music, and Zach’s own composition, inspired by his favourite jazz musicians. The young pianist said he also likes to explore other genres, such as samba and fusion. Mitch Thomas, a member of Erdington Arts Forum, accompanied him on the triangle.

Headliners of the evening were Forrό Tempo, who blend Brazilian music with European folk influences.

“We formed about 10 years ago,” Recardo, lead singer, disclosed after their gig, “thanks to an influential teacher and musician, Brian Parsons, who set up the ‘Bongo Go’ events at the Moseley Dance Centre and other venues, promoting world, afro, and Latin music.

“Forrό Tempo means ‘time for Forrό’, which is the name of a vibrant traditional music from the North countryside in Brazil. After my trip in Brazil, I shared the Forrό experience with Brian. He encouraged me as frontman singing in Portuguese and always supported the band.”

(Fun fact: Forrό Tempo keep losing their triangle player. Interesting, considering the theme of the evening.)

“Yes, for some reason we have to find a new triangle player every single time,” says Terry, the band’s charismatic double bass player, “but, on the other hand, the four of us have always been there since the start of it and we are still together.”

If you like Forrό Tempo, see them every last Sunday of the month at The Station Pub in King’s Heath and follow them on their Facebook page.

Forrό Tempo brought dancing vibes into the February Evening of Creativity, and so did the Ukulele Allsorts: a seven piece band from Sutton Coldfield, consisting of all types of ukulele and a rather slick, clandestine contrabass. They played a mix of ‘60s classics, and one of the members, Sue, even shared her own song about being on the road, travelling, and finding somewhere to call home.

The triangle notes, this time played by Terry Hall (from Birmingham band Terry and Gerry – not the Coventry namesake), also highlighted the poems recited by the five members of Writers Without Borders: Femi, Barrington, Fiona, Viv, and Hamida. “We thought it was, weird, exciting, excellent,” the group explained.

Writers Without Boarders has been in existence for more than 20 years, meeting at the Hippodrome once a month to discuss, perform and write together.

“Oftentimes, when people do a reading, people might pass on comments – but feedback is always positive, encouraging, and constructive,’ said Femi. “Writers without Borders is a diverse group – one of the most dynamic of its kind. I’ve visited some other groups and this one is so diverse,” added Hamida.

Writers Without Boarders will be performing as part of Refugee Week and have workshops coming up. Members can also join via Microsoft Teams – sometimes, writers tune in from Morocco, Greece and The Netherlands – a truly international group.

The evening also saw performances by EoC regulars Stefan Stefanov, a guitar player who performed together with three of his young student, and John Stachula, who played classical guitar and violin.

John also played the violin with The Erdington Monkeys, an all-local band. In their very first gig, they performed ‘John Belly Mama’, a traditional Barbadian children’s folk song coming out of the post-slavery period – alongside their own rendition of Gotye’s well known pop song ‘Someboby That I Used to Know’, featuring Kimbra.

The Erdington Monkeys consists of John on violin, Mignon on cello, Nathan on ukulele, and Leni on bass guitar, but is keen to welcome new members. The band derive their name from a song by The Arctic Monkeys and love to explore different genres with their own twist.

The Evening of Creativity is founded and hosted by the Erdington Arts Forum – who engages people with workshops, exhibitions, training programmes, exhibitions, and music performances.

Next month’s Evening of Creativity will be held at Oikos Café, on Erdington High Street, from 6:30pm on Friday 17 March, with advance tickets costing between £5-£6.13

For more on Erdington Arts Forum visit: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

For more from Oikos Café visit: www.oikoscafe.co.uk

NEWS: Forrό Tempo and Writers Without Boarders at Evening of Creativity tonight – Friday 17 Feb

Words by Leni Remedios / Pics supplied by Erdington Arts Forum 

Forrό Tempo will be the headliners of the next Evening of Creativity (EoC), to be held on Friday 17 February at Oikos Café, Erdington High Street.

Formed in Birmingham, Forrό Tempo defines itself as: “A Eurofusion of Brazilian folk dance music.”

Known by their Erdington’s audience after the bans 2022 performances both at Oikos and an outdoor festival held on the High Street, people are looking forward to listening to them again and dancing to their notes.

But the musicians have a long history of performances across the Midlands and beyond, from pubs and festivals to big venues such as the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre.

The theme of February’s Evening of Creativity will be the triangle – the three sided musical instrument will be accompanying all acts on the EoC bill, including the evening’s non-music performances, such as the reading from Writers Without Borders, a Birmingham based group founded in 2000.

Originally, Writers Without Borders started to meet up at the Central Library, then from 2021 they moved to the Hippodrome.

“The initial idea was for it to be a mouthpiece for refugee writers,” explains Fiona, one of the group’s members, “this was soon extended to writers from a variety of backgrounds, such as the Caribbean, Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria, and India, to name but a few.

“We meet every month, sharing our writing and giving constructive feedback. Several times a year we invite guest speakers. Sometimes one of our members will organise a workshop for us. Until lockdown we often participated in local events.”

The triangle will also accompany The Ukulele Allsorts. “We are a group of friends who met through a ukulele class in Sutton,” the band told us, “we have different musical backgrounds and experiences, but we all enjoy making music and sharing it with others.

“We are called The Ukulele Allsorts because we play all sorts of music on all sorts of Ukuleles, although on Friday night our bassist is playing an upright bass not a uke bass.”

Last but not least, The Erdington Monkeys, an all-local brand new project, will be joined by Recardo from Forrò Tempo… playing the triangle.

The Erdington Monkeys consists of four people at the moment but, like in the case of the EoC, it is ready to extend to new members and/or collaborations. It all started last month at the Musical Hub – an event hosted every Wednesday evening by the RCCG Church on Orphanage Road, Erdington, where people learn to play their favourite instruments and socialise.

The Erdington Monkeys formed spontaneously, sharing a common passion for music exploration, from folk to pop to indie rock.

Mignon and Nathan from the band explain, “we love exploring the richness that different genres have to offer us. We are quite flexible, especially considering the variety of instruments we play: ukulele, cello, violin and bass guitar, occasionally joined by other instruments.”

February’s EoC will also feature visual arts from Benny Semp, alongside more music from solo artists Zach at the piano, John Stachula playing classic guitar, and Stefan Stefanov again playing the guitar.

The evening won’t lack visual arts, with Benny Semp and his artwork. Other artists might join the event last minute, so for any updates visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

The event will also be broadcast live via the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

The Evening of Creativity is founded and hosted by the Erdington Arts Forum – who engages people with workshops, exhibitions, training programmes, and music performances.

This month’s Evening of Creativity will be held at Oikos Café, on Erdington High Street, from 6:30pm on Friday 17 February, with advance tickets costing between £5-£6.13.To book your advance tickets, click here.

For more from Oikos Café visit www.oikoscafe.co.uk

REVIEW: Eau da Funk’s debut gig at the first Evening of Creativity of 2023, alongside Elena Mylonas and Olivia Wilkes

Words & pics by Leni Remedios

“Music moves the world” is our motto, says Tony, guitarist of Eau da Funk, headliner of 2023’s first edition of the Evening of Creativity (EoC) – held at Oikos Café on Friday 20 January.

The world did move indeed, and so did everybody’s feet at the notes of this incredible band.

It was their very first gig, after having formed last year, and as a debut performance it was impressive – delivering a wide range of classics from James Brown to Lenny Kravitz and Kings of Leon.

Eau da Funk was founded soon after lockdown, when Tony was looking for other musicians to create a new project. Two of them are Erdington locals. “We got in touch online at first and we immediately understood that, beyond the different music tastes, we were united by a common ground,” explained Tony.

In fact, their range of music, as explained by their lead singer Sofire: “goes from funk to soul, to reggae and rock music, but also gospel, which is a big influence on our music. God is also very important to us.”

A diversity also reflected in the different backgrounds of the band members, each of them coming from English, Polish, or Caribbean heritage. Eau da Funk are also planning to compose their own songs.

In a packed Oikos Café, the Friday night crowd saw further performances from Elena Mylonas and Olivia Wilkes, both vocal coaches.

Elena performed songs by The Cranberries and Dolly Parton, but also her own song ‘Rose’ accompanied by some musicians from Eau da Funk (at the Evening of Creativity events, spontaneous collaboration between the artists is often involved). She started playing guitar at 11 years old in her native Greece, and after attending Birmingham University aged 23 she started teaching as a vocal coach.

Backstage, Elena revealed details about her song writing and approach to performing: “When I was younger, in Greece, for some reason everybody expected me to play only cheerful songs.

“Furthermore, people in the music industry were requiring from me to adhere to certain beauty standards, asking me to appear more sexy or girlish. I felt really uncomfortable with it, especially after the death of my brother about seven years ago.

“I needed to express my grief somehow, and music gave me the perfect opportunity to channel those feelings. I wasn’t fitting in the Greek scene of the time though, so I decided to move to the UK, where there is a long tradition of ballads and a broader variety of music genres.”

Elena regularly performs both original songs and covers with bands in small venues, with her debut album set for release in the coming months.

Olivia Wilkes was another big surprise. With her powerful voice, she offered her own rendition of classics from Nina Simone to Nirvana, but backstage further disclosed she is working on original material. Her upcoming gigs include Saturday 27 January at Deadwax and Friday 10 February at the Gunmakers Arms.

Olivia’s performance was followed by Josh, the guitarist and lead singer of the indie-rock band The Shore. He performed the original single ‘Left Alone’, and you can see him and his band on 28 January at The Victoria, in Birmingham City Centre.

The event also welcomed an extraordinary community activist and writer, Veronica ‘Judith’ Asare, who opened the evening talking about her book, The Healing Power of Grace – a journey about a terrible accident that changed her life.

Judith, a practicing Christian, never fell into the darkness thanks to her faith. On the contrary, she found motivation in helping others and funded the charity Judith Ark of Hope Foundation – through which, as a qualified counsellor, she helps people such as single parents, people in jail and their families, and refugees. She gives them hope, providing food, clothes, and psychological support.

“I met her about six years ago, in an outdoor event where she was promoting her charity,” says Michael – who was supporting Judith during her EoC performance. “I was going through a very dark phase in my life, she helped my family and me, and she adopted me as her child.”

Judith Ark of Hope operates in the Midlands but also offers help and support elsewhere, reaching London, Manchester, and other areas.

Another highlight of the night was the reading by Laura Liptrot – actress, poet, and playwright from Stourbridge – who started acting at just six years old. The Evening of Creativity audience was captivated by her lively performance and expressions.

Laura’s new poetry book, Cocktails, is about to be launched; already available on Kindle digital edition, the paperback will be available by the end of the month.

Finally, the event also saw the participation of some ‘regulars’ of the EoC, such as resident poet Simon, reading some of his poetry. Mitch Thomas also showed the audience a piece of her ceramic collection and talked about her artistic journey.

Then was a performance by the duo Stefan Stefanov and Nathan Czeszejko-Sochacki. Stefan is a guitarist and music teacher who is very active in the community, whilst the younger Nathan has been singing and playing ukulele, guitar, and piano at EoC events for about a year.

They performed ‘Hotel California’ and a gospel gypsy song. “All around the World Music,” so Stefan defines his style, and you can see him perform every Sunday at the Bulgaria Church by Six Ways from 5pm.

The Evening of Creativity is founded and hosted by the Erdington Arts Forum – who engages people with workshops, exhibitions, training programmes, exhibitions, and music performances.

Next month’s Evening of Creativity will be held at Oikos Café on Erdington High Street from 6:30pm on Friday 17 February, with advance tickets costing between £5-£6.13

For more on Erdington Arts forum visit: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

For more from Oikos Café visit www.oikoscafe.co.uk

NEWS: Eau da Funk and Olivia Wilkes to headline Evening of Creativity on Friday 20 January

Words by Leni Remedios / Pics supplied by Erdington Arts Forum

2023 starts with two extraordinary headline acts at this month’s Evening of Creativity, Eau Da Funk and Olivia Wilkes – to be held at Oikos Café on Friday 20 January, as organised by the Erdington Arts Forum.

Eau Da Funk is a six-piece covers/function band delivering an eclectic repertoire of funk, soul, pop, reggae, and RnB.

They only started playing together in 2022, formed in Birmingham, and Erdington Arts Forum is extremely excited to host this newly formed band.

January’s Evening of Creativity will also see the participation of outstanding singer and musician Olivia Wilkes. “My vocal tutoring journey started at a music school in my home town where I have taught 45+ students in face to face private lessons,” says Olivia, a singing coach who has a long experience in teaching different genres, from musical theatre to heavier tracks.

Since the age of 15, Wilkes has performed in festivals, weddings, and charity days, collaborated with a lot of musicians and featured on local radio stations, including BBC Radio Stoke.

But that’s not all for the first Evening of Creativity of 2023.

Greek singer and musician Elena Mylonas will be also featuring on the January line up, delighting the audience with her pop rock songs.

Also on the bill will be Mitch Thomas, a regular of the Evening of Creativity, introducing to the audience her ceramic artwork “influenced by love,” alongside a poetry reading by Laura Liptrot – a Stourbridge based actor and playwright.

Members of Arts All Over the Place, a local mental charity that has been active since 2007, will also speak about their community arts projects for adults with mental health problems.

Now a permanent fixture on the city’s cultural calendar, the family friendly Evening of Creativity events at Oikos often sell out – so organisers encourage people to buy advance tickets through a special Eventbrite page.

The Evening of Creativity was founded and hosted by Erdington Arts Forum, whose primary goal is to improve the status of artistic activity in the Erdington constituency. Erdington Arts Forum engages people with workshops, exhibitions, training programmes, exhibitions, and music performances.

This month’s Evening of Creativity will be held at Oikos Café on Erdington High Street from 6:30pm on Friday 20 January, with advance tickets around £5-6. Click here to book your ticket.

The event will also be broadcast live via the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

Follow Erdington Arts Forum on Facebook and Instagram
For more from Oikos Café visit: https://www.oikoscafe.co.uk/

NEWS: Evening of Creativity to headline Artume String Quartet on Friday 15 July

Words by Ed King

Artume String Quartet will be headlining this month’s Evening of Creativity event, to be held at Oikos Café on Friday 15 July – as organised by the Erdington Arts Forum.

Made up of classically trained musicians, the Artume String Quartet have been performing together for nearly seven years – since they first met and began playing together whilst studying at the prestigious Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Now touring across the UK, playing classical concerts, weddings, and high profile corporate events, Artume String Quartet’s line up consists of Leonie Plummer and Lucy Armstrong on violin, Holly Coombes on viola, and Jo Rottenbury on cello.

Coming to headline the Evening of Creativity, the quartet will be playing music from their favourite folk repertoire; a series of original arrangements based on Nordic folk tunes.

Cello player, Jo Rottenbury, told: “We are really looking forward to performing tracks from the Danish String Quartet: ‘Wood Works’ and ‘Last Leaf’. It’s not often we get the opportunity to play folk music together amid our busy schedule.

“There’s a bit of everything in this set – some calmer pieces that build up and then just outright crazy ones. They’re so much fun to play, and we hope we can get some of you stamping along and dancing.

“We’re really excited to bring these beautiful and exciting pieces to the Oikos Evening of Creativity. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.”

The Evening of Creativity is Erdington’s long running monthly music and Art showcase, which has scene acts form all across the world come to play in Erdington.

Launched in 2017, the Evening of Creativity has never missed a month – making it one of the longest running music and arts promotions in the city.

Even during lockdown, organisers established a live streaming service and filmed the events on a closed set the Secret Art Studio Space on Erdington High Street.

Now a permanent fixture on the city’s cultural calendar, the family friendly events at Oikos often sell out – with organisers encouraging people to buy advance tickets through a special Eventbrite page: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/evening-of-creativity-july-2022-tickets-377819808217

This month’s Evening of Creativity will be held at Oikos Café on Erdington High Street from 6:30pm on Friday 15 July, with advance tickets costing £4.90 to £5.98

The event will also be broadcast live via the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page.

Artume String Quartet showreel 2022

Evening of Creativity – promotional video

For more on the Evening of Creativity and Erdington Arts Forum visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

NEWS: A rather ‘Nice’ Friday evening – Erdington’s Evening of Creativity hosted by celebrity guest, Mrs Barbara Nice 20.11.20

Words by Jobe Baker Sullivan / Pics courtesy of Sami Saunders, Janice Connolly, and Anne-Marie Allen

Erdington’s long running Evening of Creativity has never missed a month, even during COVID-19 pandemic.

Thriving on art, creativity, and giving creatives a chance to experiment, it is now being broadcast using a mix of high quality camera-work and editing along with locals being asked to submit their art from home.

Tonight’s Evening of Creativity broadcast will be hosted by actress and comedian Janice Connolly BEM, under the guise of her lovable alter-ego Mrs Barbara Nice. Janice is a comedienne who hosted the 2019 Erdington Lights switch on.

“Up the arts!” she says, with a wry smile, in support of the event. 

November’s Evening of Creativity will commence with a traditional Indian dance from Sahana Shrikaanth in celebration of Diwali, an annual ‘festival of lights’, celebrated by Sikhs, Hindus and Jains.

It will include performances from classical guitarist Mike Bethel – alongside original musical songs by Anne-Marie Allen, promoting her album on Spotify.

Centrala Art Gallery will feature as part of the EoC with their lockdown-special online exhibition – hosting an art collective from Finland called Valmed Ry, exploring ecology and nature through photography, projection and 3d printing.

The Evening of Creativity was founded and hosted by the Erdington Arts Forum, whose primary goal is to improve the status of artistic activity in the Erdington constituency.

The Arts Forum engages people with workshops, exhibitions, training programmes, exhibitions and music performances.

It acts as a conduit for people to explore all range of artistic activities, hosting regular ‘forum meetings’ and running a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook group, and mailing list to keep Erdingtonians and interested parties in the loop.

Ordinarily held at Oikos Café on Erdington High Street on the third Friday of each month, the Evening of Creativity had to adapt to an online format very quickly  due to the coronavirus lockdowns – embracing the chance to invest in new camera and sound recording equipment.

During the summer of 2020, as COVID-19 measures eased, the Evening of Creativity continued at Oikos Café with a small, live audience – using a table booking service to ensure social distancing and safety measures.

The regular showcase, however, continued to broadcast all their events – going out live using a multi-camera system.

Despite a new national lockdown coming into force 5th November, the Arts Forum once again continue to host their Evening of Creativity – following government guidelines – by using pre-recorded clips and editing them into a full length show.

You can watch this months’ Evening of Creativity online from the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page, from 6:30pm on Friday 20th November.

For a live stream of the event, and for more on the Erdington Arts Forum, visit www.facebook.com/groups/cafeartsforum

LOCAL PROFILE: Oliver Hassell

Words by Jobe Baker-Sullivan / Pics supplier by Oliver Hassell

Artist Oliver Hassell took Erdington by storm with his striking, colourful, and darkly-inspired pieces displayed for Black History Month. Erdington Local catches up with him to find out what makes him tick.

Born in Erdington and living here his whole life, Oliver started to enjoy art “as a toddler.”

I’d draw what I’d see on TV – things like Harry Potter,” although he admitted, with a smile, that at this age they were “stickmen, and I’d just label them ‘Harry Potter’.” He sees these early years of drawing “cartoons and action figures” as an important sign he had a calling for visual art.

Oliver says that he “didn’t get into making proper art until I was about 16.” He studied illustration at Birmingham City University (BCU), saying that “Uni was fun, I had a good time” – spending that time developing new skills, professing that he learned a lot “by himself” as opposed to part of the university course.

Oliver creates colourful, eye-catching pieces with dark figures, foreboding smiles, and references to social media, religion, sex, death, and his latest piece regarding coronavirus (with the virus literally coming out of a Corona bottle of beer).

Oliver explains his general working method when creating his artwork. Commencing with a sketch, then “mainly drawing in pens, adding small details in with paints for “mouths and eyes.”

To give the art an extra layer of otherworldliness, Oliver then scans his piece onto the computer and edits slightly to “step it up from a drawing to something to look at.”

Oliver has various inspirations, saying the “past year or so I’ve been concentrating on the concept of the shadow self.”

He goes onto say that “Everyone’s got their dark-side that they don’t really want to look at – It’s up to you to figure out and understand that [dark] side of yourself so you can become a complete person.” He explored these themes in his debut exhibition in January 2020 at The Gap Arts in Balsall Heath.

Oliver worked in a collective setting as part of Gallery 37 which is a ‘creative residency programme where young people can rediscover themselves as artists’. The joint exhibition of 5 artists was called ‘Karma-Utopia’ hosted at Centrala in Digbeth.

Oliver created an art piece which was a colourful, illustrated “stack of blocks, with different values on it like love – creativity.” The words were written backwards, placed next to a mirror.

Viewers could participate with the piece, ordering the blocks in the order of values which they found most important to them. “It puts you with what you think is important,” and the fact it is next to a mirror represents that the values are a “reflection of yourself.”

Erdington Local asks Oliver his opinions regarding Black History Month [BHM]. Oliver is “mixed – Black Caribbean and white British.”

He feels like “We’ve come so far with it now,” thinking that 2020 BHM should be the “start of something that goes on forever.”

Oliver sees the murder of George Floyd in May as a great “injustice” and that it’s important to “support the fight.”

He says he personally “hasn’t felt oppressed by the government,”but was aware of racist language when he was growing up. “It’s a joke when we were kids, but that’s still a problem,” Oliver says.

Oliver was featured as part of October’s Evening of Creativity at Oikos Café and is happy that “stuff like this is happening now in Erdington,” bemoaning that there isn’t much for visual arts in the area.

He transformed lockdown into a chance to concentrate on his own business, ‘Death in Colour’, which is his own clothing line featuring his art work: “Upcycled, vintage clothing with my art work – all customized.”

Starting the business in March, Oliver says he’s been “doing quite well during COVID” with some of his stock now sold out.

He did have intentions for a pop up shop-come-exhibition space, although this was not possible due to the pandemic. “A couple things have been scrapped, but it hasn’t stopped the train,” says Oliver, positively.

Oliver is now learning more about animation, 3D, and digital art forms. He’s interested in “Wallace and Gromit-style,” plasticine 3D animation.

I’m just trying to evolve – build up my skills as much as possible. Good stuff will happen.”

To find out more about Oliver Hassell, visit www.oliverhassell.com

To find out more about Birmingham Black History Month, visit wwwb.irminghamblackhistorymonth.co.uk

NEWS: Evening of Creativity’s Black History Month special at Oikos Café on Friday 16th October

Words by Jobe Baker-Sullivan / Pics supplied by Erdington Arts Forum

On Friday 16th October, running between 6-8pm at Oikos Café on Erdington High Street, the Erdington Arts Forum is hosting a special Evening of Creativity – in celebration of Black History Month (BHM).

Set to be another exciting evening of poetry, music, and visual art, the long running event has been given the coronavirus all clear to allow a limited, ticketed physical audience in to enjoy the show.

A popular showcase of art and endeavour, the Evening of Creativity is expected to sell out – anybody wanting tickets should click here to check availability. All tickets must be purchased in advance.

Anyone who cannot join the live event at Oikos Café will be able to watch online via the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page, with behind the scenes interviews also being broadcast. Donations to help support the event and local Arts Forum can also be made online.

A specially programmed showcase in support of Black History Month (BHM), Friday’s guest producer, Samiir Saunders, who also lives in Erdington, talks more about the importance of the event: “For the past 3 and a half years, the Evenings of Creativity have been an important staple of Erdington’s performance arts scene.” 

He goes onto to say that, “as an artist and poet who is very early on in my career, I have personally gained a lot from being given the platform to share my work with my local community, as well as the opportunity to meet other artists like me.

On producing the special BHM event, Samiir is “incredibly excited this month to be part of the team creating that same platform for others!”

Friday’s BHM special Evening of Creativity is set to welcome the powerful words of published poet Ryan Sinclair, musical musings of singer songwriters Xolo and Philippa Zawe, and a speech from Adrian Anderson from the mental health charity, Black Minds Matter UK.  

There will also be a special celebrity guest live performance from 2018 BBC Young Musician of the year Xhosa Cole and his trio.

The Evening of Creativity’s ‘online gallery’ this month features another Erdington resident, Oliver Hassell, who says: “I’m proud to be exhibiting my work in my hometown, and helping the growth of the local art community.”

Talking about what BHM means to him, Oliver continues: “I believe that Black history should be told every month of the year. It’s just as important as the rest of history and I don’t think that it should only be focused on for just one month. Black history is British history, American history, and world history.”

With Birmingham now in the Tier 2 list of new lockdown restrictions, as announced on Wednesday, it is fortunate that the Evening of Creativity live event at Oikos Café can continue – the event has taken place every month for nearly four years without missing a show.

Oikos Café have been required to make only a few changes to the venue, including only allowing ‘household bubbles’ to sit at a table together.

Ensuring Oikos Café operates COVID-19 safe, venue manager Ben Jeffery has an official statement for Erdington Local:

In light of the Government restrictions to combat the growing risk of COVID-19, Oikos Café continues to operate cleanliness, social distancing and crowd limitations in accordance with government guidelines.

We are proud to welcome people and continue operating legally as a business in this difficult time, and look forward to welcoming patrons and local people for our monthly extravaganza with the Arts Forum”.

To book your advance tickets for the Evening of Creativity, visit online ticket outlet Eventbrite: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/evening-of-creativity-16102020-black-history-month-tickets-122386670827

To watch the Evening of Creativity live stream, including exclusive backstage interviews and other videos, visit the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

For more on Oikos Café, including contact details and information on the venue’s COVID-19 safe regulations, visit www.oikoscafe.co.uk

For more on Birmingham’s Black History Month, visit www.birminghamblackhistorymonth.co.uk