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.
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.”
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