Tag Archives: Temple Row

Pigeon Park Press ‘Stories in Winter’ @ 6/8 Cafe

It goes without saying that on Wednesday 30th January I was reminded firstly of how great coffee shops can be off the high street and secondly the importance of storytelling within any arts community. As a newcomer to the fantastic work of Pigeon Park Press I came out buzzing from the eclectic material. From poetry to prose, the performers involved offered some of the best writing in the West Midlands. Through prose, poetry and music, individuals from all over the area came and showcased fragments of their lives and ideas to an enthusiastic audience.

6/8, nestled away from the student hub of The Bullring, is a relaxed, cosy development facing exciting refurbishment. The Temple Row spot proved perfect for ‘Stories in Winter’, the theme of the night. The intimate downstairs space was jam-packed for the whole 3-hour event, reflecting the quality of the material.


Pigeon Park Press honoured their unpretentious ethos in allowing anyone to step up to the stage. The evening opened with Claire Jones, whose poetry stunned me. Her pieces set an exceptionally high standard, with her honest reflections on her gothic days in Back When We Wore Black. My particular favourite, however, was Lemon. ‘Your imperfections make me ache/and make me want you even more’, she read with modesty (and courage, being the first performer!). This is the beauty of such events; the receptive and welcoming audience allow writers to expose some of their most personal work.

After an outstanding opening, the audience were taken through what felt like every possible emotion. From an ode to Day of the Triffids to Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman zombie-fied, organisers Heide Goody and Iain Grant ensured that a rich and varied bill kept a full house for the duration of the night.

If you are yet to attend a Pigeon Park Press event, I cannot recommend it enough. I was introduced to one of the best cafes I have ever been to in Birmingham and met some incredible talent. The night served as a social event as well as a show with the meeting of a large number of creative minds. I would like to thank Iain and Heide of Pigeon Park Press for organising the night, I’m sure it won’t be my last!


The next event is set for around 24th April. To keep up-to-date with upcoming nights, make sure you ‘like’ Pigeon Park Press on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/pigeonpark.press?fref=ts

Eleanor Smallwood


The Gentlemen Press presents: Poetry Espionage

The event is held downstairs in the Six Eight Kafé, Temple Row, Birmingham. There are small tables with small chairs and small candles. Cosy and kooky; your perfect location for a gathering of new musicians and poets.

six eight kafe

Joseph Sale is hosting. Humble as ever, he recites just two of his marvellous poems tonight and only picks up a guitar during the interval. His warmth and buoyancy creates an atmosphere of genuine intimacy and unity between performers and audience.

Max Merrick-Wren is my new favourite musician. He wields guitar and harmonica as if they’re extra limbs, for the most part with his eyes closed. His voice is soothing; his passion consistent throughout. I prefer his own songs to the Dylan cover, especially the gently powerful ‘High Horse’, with its climactic ending. The only constructive point I have is for him to inhale more quietly. I can’t wait to get hold of an album.


Joseph Sale performs ‘The Necromancer’, a haunting piece about raising the figures of history, listening to the ‘silence that became their voice’. Like the mysterious woman I am ‘wonder-morphed’, both by the ideas Joe evokes and the words with which he (appropriately) brings them to life.

Carl Sealeaf gives us two-and-a-half poems, due to an endearing bout of memory loss. The first half of ‘Growth’ is wonderful, expressing his fear of ‘acting out someone else’s definition of growing older, broader at the shoulders but still shrivelled at the heart’. His last piece about macaroni, festivities, ‘stale air’ and ‘oil-smeared hands’ culminates beautifully with a sad and simple point about family. I am left uplifted by his art but saddened by the things it says.

Next is the Italiano Duo, playing for the first time together in this country. Their covers include ‘New Shoes’ by Paolo Nutini, ‘Back to Black’ by Amy Winehouse, and ‘Warning Sign’ and ‘Clocks’ by Coldplay. Their nerves show a little but their gift is undeniable; Winehouse is obviously their favourite since their attitude and the volume are cranked right up. They shouldn’t be shy; their talent deserves confidence.

Elisha Owen offers us six poems in a voice perfectly suited to recital. She carries us with a quiet pensive joy through the vivid Spanish landscape of ‘Handprints’ where ‘the water creates a rhythm that foreigners dance to’. She reads ‘Prostrate Shadows’ where Muslim men are ‘sentinels beckoning the sunrise’, ‘Racing’, ‘Long Jump’, ‘Origami’, in which a seven year old boy  tries to sell her his art, and finally, ‘In the Days Before They Made Them Biodegradable’, where one plastic bag is transformed into a family treasure.

Sean Neil performs three songs; solemn, honest and touching. His strumming could flow better and he needs to use his diaphragm more, but bearing in mind that I can’t sing and play to save my life, that he wrote all of his own songs and that they’re very good ones, I hardly have a right to comment. His work is reminiscent of Damien Rice without the Irish accent, which suits me fine.

386765_299333770097854_1784160791_nNext is Giles Longley-Cook. We flit through dreary rooms in ‘Reflections in Jordan’ and the joys of alcohol in ‘The Budweiser Gita’, while he drinks pointedly from a bottle. After a disturbing piece on the politics of the Holy Land, Giles pauses to let us listen to the whirring of a fan and the sounds of the café above before stating, hauntingly, that ‘I have never fully known silence’. This poem strikes me in a fresh and thought-provoking way before he thunders on into a mock Christmas carol for his finale.

Aliena and Peter follow up with a few covers as well as some of their own compositions (lyrics by Chris who sits bashfully in the audience). The guitar is a bit too loud but Aliena uses this to her advantage and blows us all away with her vocal power; Peter is both talented and utterly unassuming. My favourite song is ‘Avenue of Cosmonauts’, sullen and gripping and very bass-y.

Ben Norris reads a delightful poem derived from his lecture notes on the European Novel. It is sharp and witty, diving from humour to seriousness and back again. The wonderful twist is that although lecture notes in poetry is an innovative idea, the piece insists that nothing is ever truly original. ‘Meaning is contingent’, he claims, ‘his name is Echo’. Ben proceeds with a touching poem ‘Southern Hemisphere’, and then reads ‘After Babel, After Pisa’ concerning theories of the University Library’s reconstruction, and a lovely piece about keeping hold of somebody by collecting physical memories.

Joe rounds the night off with ‘Circles’, a farewell poem that reminds me of Bilbo’s ‘The Road Goes Ever On’. Profound and heart-warming, it weaves in circles of thought about this little gathering of artists and the common desires that brought us together.

‘We must not shake,’ he encourages us, ‘we must not fear, to seek the dream that brought us to this place’.


A special thanks to The Gentlemen Press for running this event. We hope to see more from you soon.

For more information, visit www.gentlemenpress.com

By Danielle Bentley

Hidden Gems: Old Joint Stock Theatre Pub

old joint stock pub

Situated on Temple Row, at the edge of St. Philip’s Cathedral, the Old Joint Stock Theatre Pub is like a trip to Wonderland, and indeed to its Victorian roots. Built in 1864 and designed by Julius Alfred Chatwin, the building is Grade II listed. Originally a library and then a bank, it has been renovated into one of the most impressive bars you’ll find in Birmingham, with an 80-seater theatre upstairs.
stock pub

Passing the stone pillars of the building’s façade and entering through its gigantic doors, you will step into a vast space filled with plush patterned carpets and gleaming floorboards. There are great draping curtains over enormous windows, a marble-topped island bar, with wonderfully atmospheric lamps and its own clock tower, gorgeous paintings and rustic furniture. And that’s before you look up.

On the ceiling are countless historical busts, viewing the whole scene with eyes from another era. Chandeliers and a balcony, where you can touch the stonework, are completely outstripped by a titanic domed ceiling. Old Joint

Since it’s the festive season, their titan Christmas tree will be out now; delicious mulled wine and cider in glass tankards will warm your frostbitten hands.
As a past employee of the pub, I can vouch for their excellent food (pies are their speciality), as well as the quality of their ales and beers, and the welcoming and friendly staff. The only downside is the expense – if you want to dine in a beautiful Victorian building with quality food and drink, you have to be prepared to pay £3.60 for a Carling.

For a list of events at the Old Joint Stock theatre, visit: http://www.oldjointstocktheatre.co.uk/rte.asp?id=2

By Danielle Bentley