Jorja Smith pops up at Bene Culture’s Custard Factory store

Words by Emily Doyle / Photographs by Connor Pope

Brit Award Winner and Walsall native Jorja Smith appeared at Bene Culture this weekend to celebrate the launch of her highly anticipated second album, Falling or flying.

After summer single ‘Little Things’ stormed the airwaves, Jorja returns with Falling or flying. Her sophomore album, following on from 2018’s Lost & Found, sees her stepping into a new era of her music, with features from British rapper J Hus and Jamaican singer Lila Iké.

Following an excitable queue snaking round the side of the Custard Factory, fans were welcomed into the store to explore an exhibition and pop up shop. An exclusive collab with Bene Culture forms the centerpiece, with a table of exclusive stamps for shoppers to customise their purchases.

The walls are adorned with photos and collages from the album artwork, and the dress Smith wears on the cover hangs in the window.

And what’s a party without good food; local favourites Only Jerkin’ are keeping everyone well fed with Caribbean style fried chicken and cauliflower, while Big Kid Ice Cream are back in town offering such esoteric flavours as “Champagne and Maraschino Cherry” and “McDonald’s fries”. Peak “mood drinks” have furnished the pop up with a well stocked fridge of their beverages for caffeine enjoyers and avoiders alike.

With a buzz that looks set to build as the weekend grows on, it’s heartening to see one of Birmingham’s success stories celebrating with the community that got them there.

Jorja Smith at Bene Culture, Custard Factory – Friday 29 September / Connor Pope

For more on Jorja Smith visit

For more events at Bene Culture visit

SANITY releases new album, Bruises to Blossoms, with launch party at Café Artum on 30 September

Words by Ed King and Jasmine Khan / Profile pic by Connor Pope, promotional pic and artwork supplied by SANITY

On Friday 29 September, MC and musical artist SANITY released her new album, Bruises to Blossoms – available now to download or steam on all major music platforms.

But SANITY’s new album will be further celebrated at a special launch event at Café Artum on Saturday, 30 September – promoted in association with 93:00.

Doors open at the Bruises to Blossoms launch event from 7pm, with tickets priced at £5. The evening will feature a live performance from the Birmingham MC and musician, alongside an insight from the artist into her ‘creative process, inspirations, and stories behind the music’.

For more information or online ticket sales, click here.

Bruises to Blossoms follows the release of SANITY’s recent singles ‘Grass is Greener’ and ‘Blossoms are Forever’ – the latter inspired by the artist’s mother, who is called Blossom, and featuring vocals from London singer Jasmine Oakley.

Both singles are featured on the nine track LP, which also includes the local MC’s specially written track for the Commonwealth Games 2022, ‘Midlands Child’ – featuring Birmingham’s all female a cappella quintet, Black Voices.

SANITY was born and raised in Erdington, Birmingham, learning to rhyme and perform lyrics in the playground of Stockland Green Secondary School, and “started taking music more seriously” when she was 16.

“When I was doing music at Stockland Green, I was learning how to play the guitar, and my teacher, Mr. Scott, would spring it on me that I was doing lunchtime performances,” told SANITY.

“I remember I used to do little rap ciphers and battles on the playground. As soon as kids see a few people gathered, they all come over. It didn’t develop my stage presence because, obviously, it was on a gravel floor. But it’s the performance-esc-type-vibe.”

Building a solid reputation as an artist and performer across Birmingham and London, SANITY would also take her music around the world with a special performance at the Commonwealth Games 2018 closing ceremony on Australia’s Gold Coast – four years before she would be back on the major sporting event’s bill in her home city.

Ahead of her upcoming new album, SANITY added: “The whole project is centred around growth as a person, and of course, you can’t have growth without knowing where you’ve been. So, I pay homage to certain elements and vibes like faster flows that I’ve done before.

“It’s centred around the theme of nature and making something beautiful out of the most natural thing. It has this really earthy feel to it. It’s polished, but we also (in the mixing and mastering process) wanted it to have a bit of grit.”

‘Blossoms are Forever’ – SANITY (featuring Jasmine Oakley)

Bruises to Blossoms was released on 29 September and can be found on all major music platforms. For more on SANITY visit

The Bruises to Blossoms launch party will be held at Cafe Artum on Saturday 30 September, for direct information or links to online tickets visit

For more on Café Artum visit

To read Jasmine Khan’s original interview with SANITY, first published in Erdington Local, visit

Birmingham Anime Film Festival launches at The Mockingbird Cinema and Midlands Arts Centre – running from 29 September to 5 October

Words by Billy Beale and Ed King

Birmingham sees the launch of its first Anime film festival this week, with screenings at The Mockingbird Cinema and Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) running from 29 September to 5 October.

Organised in partnership with Flatpack Festival and Geeky Brummie, with sponsorship from the Glasgow based AllTheAnime, the inaugural Birmingham Anime Film Festival will showcase 20 films – from well-loved releases from Studio Ghibli to groundbreaking films from movie makers such as Makoto Shinkai.

Born from Japanese animated story telling there are now around 430 production companies producing Anime content, reaching audiences across the world through film, television, and modern day muti media.

Recognised as an important part of modern cinema, Anime releases have built dedicated audiences and achieve the highest industry accolades – with Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards.

Ahead of the Birmingham Anime Film Festival launch, Lee Nabbs from The Mockingbird Cinema told: “The Mockingbird is renowned for its mix of new releases, cult, and eclectic films.

“Regular Anime screenings have always been part of our scheduling mix and we’re proud to launch Birmingham Anime Film Festival to show our love for the genre and bring together fans from far and wide, to show the breadth and depth of this special part of cinema.”

David Baldwin, Producer – Cinema & Screen, Midlands Art Centre added: “The world of anime is no longer some niche genre. It’s a global phenomenon that has become a major part of cinema, streaming, toys and conventions.

“MAC is very pleased to be a part of Birmingham’s first official anime festival, with a focus on some of the more transgressive titles from across the history of anime, including classic works from Satoshi Kon and Eiichi Yamamoto.”

And to help you along your merry little way, Birmingham Review’s Billy Beale gives his cherry picked ‘ones to watch’ from the first ever Birmingham Anime Film Festival.

Weathering With You (subtitled – Saturday, 30 September, The Mockingbird Cinema)

A teenage boy moves to the city and meets new friends, including a girl who can magically bring the sun out on rainy days. Director Makoto Shinkai’s follow up to Your Name treads on familiar territory – teenage relationships in a relatable contemporary setting, with a magical twist.

Weathering With You wants to argue hopefully about future generations’ relationship to local communities, older generations, the environment. More than anything, it’s a sweet story with masterful animation.

Weather With You – official trailer


The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl (subtitled – Wednesday, 4 October, The Mockingbird Cinema)

The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl tells the story of a single revelrous night and the colourful characters that come in and out of the unnamed heroine’s drinking session, and the equally anonymous man pursuing her romantically.

It shares a great deal of its characters and art style with The Tatami Galaxy series and somehow manages to fit the same amount of youthful hangouts and cosmic introspection into just 90-odd minutes.

The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl – official trailer


Belladonna of Sadness (Wednesday, 4 October, MAC)

A uniquely stylistic retelling of the Joan of Arc story, with suitably psychedelic artwork for 1973 and a soundtrack to match.

Apparently, this film bankrupted the studio on its release but it’s now being celebrated for its cult success 50 years later.

Belladona of Sadness – official trailer


Promare (Thursday, 5 October, The Mockingbird Cinema)

Like everything that comes out of Studio Trigger, Promare is high octane, high drama, high action. A team of elite firefighters combat pyromaniacal freedom fighters that threaten the public peace with their mutant fire powers.

It’s all clashing neons and pastels, mechanical fire trucks that don’t stop unfurling more and more firehoses until they’re about six storeys high. A feast for the eyes.

Promare – official trailer

The first ever Birmingham Anime Film Festival comes to The Mockingbird Cinema and Midlands Arts from 29 September to 5 October – in partnership with Geeky Brummie and Flatpack Festival, with sponsorship from AllTheAnime.

For more on the Birmingham Anime Film Festival, including full festival programme and links ot online ticket sales, visit

For more on The Mockingbird Cinema visit
For more on Midlands Arts Centre visit

For more from Flatpack Festival visit
For more from Geeky Brummie visit

For more from AllTheAnime visit

BFI London Film Festival is back at MAC – running from 4 to 15 October

Words by Jimmy Dougan (to follow him on Letterboxd click here)

Brummie cinema lovers rejoice. The BFI London Film Festival (LFF) returns to Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) on Wednesday, 4 October with a curated line-up of some of the year’s most hotly anticipated releases – screening exclusively before they hit cinemas and streaming platforms.

There’s no atmosphere on the planet quite like that of a film festival. And don’t just take my word for it. David Baldwin, Producer – Cinema & Screen at MAC, told Birmingham Review: “A fair few of these films won’t even have a trailer yet, so you can go in completely uninformed and immerse yourself in brand new cinema from across the globe.”

He’s not wrong; Lukas Dhont’s Close is one of the most singularly devastating films I’ve ever seen, and I went into it knowing nothing more than the title. What an experience.

But festivals can also take a bit of planning, even leaving you feeling daunted by the number of films screening or at how much it will all cost. But no need to panic, read on to find out Birmingham Review’s three unmissable picks as the BFI London Film Festival (LFF) returns to MAC.


Saltburn – Wednesday, 4 October at 7:30pm

This year’s Opening Night Gala slot has been awarded to Saltburn, directed by Emerald Fennell. Depending on who you ask, Fennell’s 2020 film Promising Young Woman was either a feminist call to arms against patriarchal lad culture or a catastrophically misguided dud, advocating suicide to overcome trauma. I was in the latter camp, though was smitten with Carey Mulligan’s sensational central performance and the snappy, pop-drenched soundtrack.

Saltburn tells the story of university student Oliver (Barry Keoghan) and his increasingly desperate infatuation with classmate Felix (Jacob Elordi). Keoghan’s chops are in no dispute – he was crushingly sweet in The Banshees of Inisherin – and the principal allure of Saltburn is finally getting to see him in a leading role. Let alone the fact that Elordi starred in Euphoria and the stacked supporting cast includes Rosamund Pike, Carey Mulligan, and Richard E. Grant.

Call this critic cautiously optimistic.

Saltburn – official trailer

For more on Saltburn showing at MAC as part of the London Film Festival visit


Eileen – Wednesday, 11 October at 8:00pm

One of the films that has me most intrigued is William Oldroyd’s Eileen, co-adapted by Ottessa Moshfegh from her own intoxicatingly nasty novel of the same name.

Thomasin McKenzie stars at the titular character, a miserable and lonely young woman who works as a secretary at a prison for sex-starved teenage boys. When an alluring new psychiatrist called Rebecca (Anne Hathaway) arrives, Eileen finds herself sucked into a swirling vortex of sexual fantasy and violent catharsis.

Moshfegh is one of our most exciting literary talents, and the novel Eileen is a bleak and funny tale of twisted empowerment. That said, it isn’t Moshfegh’s strongest (that would be 2022’s Lapvona) and it doesn’t have the popular appeal of 2018’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation, so I’m fascinated to see what darkness Oldroyd, McKenzie, and Hathaway – who described it as “Carol meets Reservoir Dogs” – spin from it.

Eileen is a violent and pulpy tale with a suffocating atmosphere courtesy of cinematographer Ari Wegner, and a plot twist for the ages: brace yourself for a plunge into the abyss.

For more on Eileen showing at MAC as part of the London Film Festival visit


How to Have Sex – Saturday, 14 October at 5:30pm

A necessary – incendiary, even – examination of sex and consent comes in the form of Molly Manning Walker’s already acclaimed debut, How to Have Sex. Easily the film I’m most excited for, and winner of Cannes 2022’s ‘Un Certain Regard’ award; buzzy is an understatement for this film.

How to Have Sex follows three teenage girls on a rite-of-passage holiday to Malia. The focus of the trip is sex and drinking, something which weighs heavily on Tara (Mia McKenna-Bruce) who is yet to lose her virginity.

Manning Walker worked initially as a cinematographer on short films, before gaining acclaim for her work on the music video for A$AP Rocky’s ‘Sundress’. More recently she worked on indie-hit Scrapper, a colourful and vivid depiction of a father-daughter relationship that wasn’t afraid to push into darker territory. It deftly critiqued the failing welfare state and a disinterested social service, with two stunning performances from Lola Campbell and Harris Dickinson.

While How to Have Sex may draw superficial comparisons with 2022’s superlative Aftersun simply for being set in a typically British holiday destination, expect a topical and profoundly melancholic meditation on teenage self-image, consent, and hopefulness.

How to Have Sex – official trailer

For more on How to Have Sex showing at MAC as part of the London Film Festival visit

These are Birmingham Review’s pick of three films we think are ‘must-sees’, but the full LFF at MAC programme is a varied and exciting line-up of some of the most exciting works contemporary cinema has to offer. There’s something for everyone of all ages, proving that there’s never been a better time to be going to be going to the movies.

As David Baldwin adds: “October is literally the most wonderful time of the year for cinephiles.” Cheers to that.

What films are you excited to see at this year’s LFF screenings at MAC? Did we miss anything you feel is a ‘must see’? If you see Birmingham Review at any of the screenings during LFF at MAC make sure to let us know.

BFI London Film Festival screenings begin at MAC on 4 October and run until 15 October, with tickets for all films and events on the programme now on sale. For full listings and links to online ticket sales visit:

To read more about the BFI London Film Festival go to:

For more from MAC, including all events listings, visit

Not the Last – Women & Theatre’s exploration of Birmingham benefactor Louisa Ryland, at MAC until Sunday 17 September

Words by Ed King / Promotional pictures by Kate Green

What is a legacy? How are we remembered? What do we leave behind that tells others of us? Is it our children, is it our wealth; is it our lives played out in theatre and song?

For Louisa Ryland it was none of these. Until now.

The heiress of the Ryland estate, who inherited her family’s vast fortune when she was just 29 – and the world was 1843 – is the subject of Women & Theatre’s latest production, Not the Last, running at Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) until Sunday 17 September.

Named after the motto emblazoned on the Ryland tombstones, Not the Last is a retrospective look at the life and death of the prominent Birmingham benefactor and final branch on the wealthy industrialist family tree. Written by Susie Sillett and directed by Jennifer Davis, the play explores the last of the Ryland bloodline – who donated modern day millions to the city she was born into, both during her life and after she died.

Many of Birmingham’s hospitals, educational institutes, churches, and public parks – including what is today known as Cannon Hill Park – were donated or built by this ‘Friend of Birmingham’, who courted no celebrity and wanted no recorded recognition for her gifts to the city.

Nor did Louisa Ryland marry or have children of her own, instead dedicating her love, life, and spending habits to those she chose to care for – breaking the Victorian status quo over a woman’s place in polite society, and planting seeds for the future now nurtured in an original production from Women & Theatre.

Performed in the round, in MAC’s main theatre, Not the Last uses a simple patch of earth as it’s stage – roughly 10m by 3m, set on a rostrum in between two audiences flanking the performers. At first it appears sparse, with the two protagonists lying top to tail as the audience enter. But soon dialogue and subterranean props and set buried beneath the top layer of soil bring the stage to life.

Designed by Imogen Melhuish, it’s a clever use of space and allows the cast – Dina (Janice Connolly) and Raynor (Adaya Henry) – to switch from inner city Birmingham to the greenbelt of Warwickshire, as they explore, excavate, and occasionally steal parts of the Ryland heritage, pulling the occasional bench or folding chair from the ground beneath their feet.

Dina and Raynor are part of a local historical society, with the appropriate obsession with acronyms making its way gleefully into the script, and are researching Louisa Ryland as part of a clandestinely competitive presentation the hobbyist historians must make to the wider group.

As a couple brought together by chance, the literal drawing of straws, the exercise allows the pair to not only look at the life of an extraordinary woman – who became supremely wealthy before she was 30 and gave millions in land and money to the city of Birmingham – but to look at themselves.

Dina is stuck in a thornbush of self-doubt, left to grow wild since their school days, with Raynor gasping through a suffocating fear to be all they can be whilst rehabilitating from a damaging head injury. Both women have a story to tell beneath their obvious façade, and by researching the plot points of Lousia Ryland’s life unearth more about themselves in the process. And the occasional piece of garden furniture.

In essence, Not the Last is a self-analytical study on what we are remembered for, and why. And why any of it is important.

Delivered through an astute and funny script, often thought provoking, and relying mainly on dialogue (although each character is given one solo slot in spotlight) the 75 minutes pass almost too quickly and without interval, as we move from initial research to final realisation.

Themes such as self-worth, ambition, acceptance, social norms, the cruelty of the feudal system and our inherited landed gentry, are brought simply and sympathetically to life. Even through death.

But the expectations and challenges chaining the hands of women in the time Louisa Hyland lived and died, on the cusp of the suffragette movement, when women would legally relinquish ownership of their mind, body, and money to their husbands, is a the prominent narrative thread.

The story, which both my sister and I remember being told by our grandmother, another woman not afraid to buck the tend of her time, is that Lousia Ryland never married after being forbade to wed her publicly chosen suitor and not-quite-wealthy-enough man called Henry Smith – who would go on to serve two terms as Birmingham’s Mayor.

But in doing so she kept her wealth, which was – in the parlance of blue blood and wealthy industrialists – significant. And set about donating and distributing it around the growing city of Birmingham, building places of both secular and religious sanctuary across the city.

The play also brings into question the relationship between Louisa and her longstanding nanny then governess, Charlotte Randle – as it does the need to question it in the first place. And whatever the conclusion, or perceived necessity of reaching one, the two women are buried next to each other and the latter’s surname appears on at least one door in Cannon Hill Park.

But the resounding imprint left by Not the Last is not in the script, which has some stand out lines but occasionally jumps over opportunities for development, but in the performances from the two women who introduce, stand up, and deliver the near hour and a half long play.

Going through its own history defining evolution, Women & Theare’s new Artistic Director (Adaya Henry) gives a confident portrayal of a young woman redefining her place in her world, whilst she searches to make sense of the same journey from 200 years ago.

Whilst Janice Conolly, who will leave the same role when she leaves the same stage, is superb – deft in her delivery, pitch perfect funny, experienced, beguiling, and ultimately the aim of anyone who treads the boards, believable.

Not the Last is a sensitive yet unflinching reminder of a life that helped shaped Birmingham which is often forgotten, be it by the patriarchy writing the history books or those of us too wrapped up in modernity to look over our shoulder.

But it’s also about the dangers of history repeating itself – physically and emotionally – and the ease in which we can step into the wrong line because society or the devil on our shoulder tells us to. And if we get only one garden on the earth then what will we use it to grow?

So, thank you Louisa Hyland, for your bravery and benefaction. And the green spaces where so many of us shared so many formative moments. And good luck Janice Connolly.

Two women Birmingham is well blessed to remember.

Women & Theatre’s original production, Not the Last, runs at Midlands Arts Centre until Sunday 17 September. For more information and links to online ticket sales visit

For more on Women & Theatre visit