Idiots Assemble: Spitting Image Saves The World – World Premiere At Birmingham Rep, 1 February – 11 March

Words by Ed King / Images courtesy of Avalon – profile pics by Mark Harrison

If you ask someone of a certain age to “stick a deckchair up your nose” (or indeed to “casserole your gran”) they’ll immediately think a cigar smoking Thatcher, peas for dinner with John and Norma, and a mischievous gin swigging Queen Mum – firm fixtures in the original cast of Spitting Image.

First broadcast in 1984, Spitting Image is the ground breaking TV political satire sketch show where a cast of caricature puppets poke fun at modern figureheads from Westminster and popular culture.

Now, nearly 40 years to the day it was first aired, Spitting Image is treading the boards with its world premiere at Birmingham REP – running from Wednesday 1 February to Saturday 11 March.

Written by Al Murray (The Pub Landord), Matt Forde (Political Party), and the REP’s own Artistic Director Sean Foley (The Play What I Wrote) – the latter also sitting in the director’s chair – Idiots Assemble presents a modern cast including King Charles, Idris Elba, Adele, Greta Thunberg, and Rishi Sunak.

Produced by comedy giants Avalon and Birmingham Rep, the plot for the Spitting Image stage show is a relatively closely kept secret – although as the full title suggests it’s unlikely to celebrate the cerebral prowess of its protagonists. And in a world with pick and mix Prime Ministers, temper tantrum threats of nuclear war, and Donald Trump, the line between farce and reality has seldom been so faint.

Sean Foley told: “Trying to develop a satirical comedy based on the shifting politics of today has been the original fool’s errand: we’ve already thrown away three entire scripts – and several famous puppets aren’t even going to make their stage debuts anymore…

“But the sheer joy of casting Tom Cruise alongside King Charles, Greta Thunberg, RuPaul and Meghan Markle has made up for it. To be premiering this theatrical extravaganza in Birmingham, the home of the original ground-breaking television series, is a wonderful thrill.”

Spitting Image is the brainchild of artists Peter Fluck and Roger Law, first brought to television by the late designer and branding champion Martin Lambie-Nairn.

Born from the plasticine caricatures Fluck and Law created for the Sunday Times magazine, Spitting Image was originally dismissed by TV execs who believed a show with puppets could only be aimed at children.

However, after continued petitioning from Lambie-Nairn the show was picked up by the then called Central Independent Television (now ITV) and brought to the small screen on 26 February 1984 – amassing nearly 8 million viewers.

Ratings for Spitting Image dropped during the first season, with the final episode being axed, and writers Dough Grant and Rob Naylor were recruited to salvage the show for series two. Under their guidance, the writing team behind Spitting Image (which included Richard Curtis, Ian Hislop, and Ben Elton) saw the show achieve cultural acclaim and a peak of 15million viewers.

And if any Gen Zeder out there reading this is and screaming “…RELEVANCE?!?” into their iPhone27, check out the B side (turn the plastic round thing over) to the inaugural Spitting Image release and embrace the sad realisation somethings, or people, just never change.

Spitting Image was, however, finally taken off air in 1996 after a decline in viewing figures, but was briefly reborn for two series on the BBC/ITV digital broadcast platform BritBox – with Al Murray and Matt Forde amongst the team of writers, and a new cast of contemporaries including Boris Johnson, Billie Eilish, and Gareth Southgate.

Idiots Assemble: Spitting Image Saves the World is the first time the sketch show has been adapted for the stage, making its world premiere at the Birmingham Rep from Wednesday 1 February to Saturday 11 March.

Idiots Assemble: Spitting Image Saves the World – introduced by Al Murray, Matt Forde, Sean Foley

For more on Idiots Assemble: Spitting Image Saves the World at Birmingham Rep, including the full performance schedule and links to online ticket sales, visit:

She’s Royal world première Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio 18.10.22

Words by Ed King / Images supplied by Blackstory Partnership

She’s Royal opens with its world première today at Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio, starting a two day run in Birmingham – before heading to the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre in November.

Evening performances will be held at the Patrick Studio at 7:30pm on both 18 and 19 October, with an additional matinee performance at 1pm on 19 October – click here for full theatre details and links to online ticket sales.

Produced by Blackstory Partnership, the Tonia Daley-Campbell She’s Royal script explores the story of two women of colour who were prominent members of the royal household under Queen Victoria – Sarah Forbes Bonetta and Sophia Duleep Singh, both goddaughters to the monarch.

Directed by Lorna Laidlow – whose acting credits include roles in Emmerdale, Doctors, and most notably series character Aggie Bailey in Coronation Street – the recently penned production has been produced by Blackstory Partnership, as part of Birmingham’s Black History Month.

Delivered by an all female cast, She’s Royal recants the real life stories of two important female figures who were people of colour in British Royal Family history – hoping the play will inspire young women and celebrate the role people of colour have played in British high society.

A child slave in the court of King Ghezo of Dahomey (today southern western Nigeria), Sarah Forbes Bonetta was gifted to Queen Victoria via Captain Forbes – as part of a burgeoning relationship between Britain and the West African province, whilst the Navy Chief was visiting to try and break ties with the Atlantic slave trade.

Schooled in both Britain and Africa, Queen Victoria was impressed by the young Sarah’s intellect and precocity, taking the child under her care and encouraging her to enter Victorian high society. At the request of Queen Victoria, Sarah Forbes Bonetta married the wealthy Yoruba businessman Captain James Pinson Labulo Davies at St Nicholas’ Church, Brighton, in August 1862,

Sophia Duleep Singh was the British born third daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, and his first wife, Bamba Müller. All the Singh daughters were encouraged to become socialites by Queen Victoria but following a visit to the Deli Durbar in 1903 the young Sophia became disillusioned with the world of pomp and ceremony, instead dedicating her adult life to “the advancement of women.”

Becoming a key part of the rising Suffragette movement, Sophia Duleep Singh would play an integral role in the getting royal consent for the Equal Franchise Act in 1928, enabling women over age 21 to vote on a par with men, and would go on to establish the Suffragette Fellowship in 1930.

The stories of these incredible women ‘form the backbone’ of She’s Royal, a new production ‘held together by their emotional and complex connections to Queen Victoria and the Great British Empire.’

Tonia Daley-Campbell, writer of She’s Royal, said: “There are so many female stories from our shared history, that have not been told, hidden histories of women of colour in particular. As a black female writer, I felt compelled to write this play when Blackstory Partnership approached me.

“When I heard about Sarah I thought, how on earth did I not know that Sarah Forbes Bonetta was walking around 1800s England as a quintessentially English woman, goddaughter to Queen Victoria? For young black girls growing up, I think hearing about these women will make them feel so empowered and seen.”

Lorna Laidlaw, Director of She’s Royal, added; “It’s been an amazing experience. The whole journey has been incredible for them and will make the play even better. We’ve got someone in the cast who is a Nurse so one minute she’s in the operating theatre and the next she’s at rehearsals! It’s such an interesting story and they’ve learned so much from it and the process.

“There are so many hidden histories like Sarah and Sophia’s, and what I would love to see is that we all support each other telling them, whatever your gender or the colour of your skin. I’d like the audience to be a big mixture of people because once we all hear these stories we start sharing them and that’s what’s important.”

She’s Royal opens with its world première at Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio on Tuesday 18 October, with a performance at 7:30pm. There will also be performances of She’s Royal on Wednesday 19 October at both 1pm and 7:30pm.

Tickets start from £15 by calling the box office on 0844 338 5000 or online via:

She’s Royal will also be performed at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre on Tuesday 1 November at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

She’s Royal – official trailer

She’s Royal is an original production from Blackstory Partnership. For more on Blackstory Partnership visit

For more from the BImringham Hippodrome visit

Future Days – Alternative Music Festival Back At The Crossing On 15 October

Words by Ed King / Promo artwork by Lewes Herriot

On Saturday 15 October, Future Days comes back to The Crossing in Digbeth – for a one day festival of ‘the finest alternative, punk and experimental music in the U.K.’

A bold statement… but as it’s programmed by This Is Trmw – who have been keeping Birmingham’s music scene on the right side of credible for about a decade – it’s probably a fair one.

And with a line up that got more fight in it than a Tyson Fury/Wolverine love child (it could happen) we feel confident enough to put it in writing.

Plus, the inaugural Future Days back in February this year was such a success the powers that promoter powers that be decided to squeeze another one in before New Year – stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Michael Eavis. Er… no pun intended.

Doors for Future Days open on Saturday at The Crossing from 3pm, as there’s quite a smorgasbord to fit in. So, get there early, build yourself a noise nest, and settle in.

And continuing the avian metaphors… all the ‘Early Bird’ tickets have long since gone, clue is in the name, but you can still get your middle digits on a standard ticket for only £22.50. That works out at £2.50 per band, which considering the line up below is not to be sniffed at.

So, finger click here and skidaddle over to Skiddle to get one before they well deservedly sell out.

There’s also an official after party at Ruin, if your home doesn’t have a deluge of punk bands and a fully stocked bar in it to go back to – with doors opening at 9m and DJ sets from Total Luck and Brian Food.

Check out below for the full line up and some talking pictures of some of the bold, bright, and beautifully loud bands coming to the Future Days stages this Saturday. Enjoy.

Main Stage:

Gilla Band (formerly Girl Band), Porridge Radio, Traams, The Lounge Society, Sinead O’Brien

Weird On Purpose Stage:

Black Mekon, KEG, Spits Milk, Brian Lightning, Wiiince


‘Backwash’ – Gilla Band

‘The Rip’ – Porridge Radio

‘Like Culture’ – Sinead O’Brien

‘Mean Drunk/Still a Drunk’ – Black Mekon


‘Kids’ – KEG

For more on Future Days click here to visit the official event Facebook page.

Or if you’re already committed to committing, then click here for tickets direct from Skiddle.

“The worst thing in life is a bored pop star.” Birmingham Preview talks to Jah Wobble, ahead of Hare & Hounds gig on 07/09/22

Words by Ed King

Jah Wobble and the Invaders of the Heart play the Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath, on Wednesday 7 September – for more gig info an links to online tickets visit:

“It’s the worst checkout… they’re lovely, they’re really friendly, but there are never any fucking bags.”

The last time Birmingham P/Review interviewed Jah Wobble was back in 2010, when he was on the road with the Nippon Dub Ensemble – a Japanese Dub inspired offering with an onstage show of Ikebana (flower arranging) for support.

Over a decade later and the renowned bass player and punk pioneer (…when you grow up playing in bands with John Lydon and Sid Vicious) is coming back to Brum with the Invaders of the Heart, the band he’s played with since the late 80’s.

But when we make the call Jah is stuck at the tail end of a supermarket on a busy sunny Sunday afternoon in London. And as he negotiates the self service dystopia, his self effacing candour is a brusque but fresh breathe of air. “I mean, how do you get attention without looking like a self centred twat.”

An Aeries, who likes to surround himself with fellow rams, you can be assured there will be no fluff in this PR exercise.

“…Even my dog Tyson was an Aries,” continues Jah, “they can often be rude, they butt up against things. But they’re not snidey, they will just break through the barrier. As long as you’re honest and direct they’re fine.”

Having to cancel the last tour due to Covid, Jah Wobble and the Invaders of the Heart are touring 19 dates across the UK – coming to the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham on Wednesday 7 September. It’s been a while since he’s been in the second city, and the current tour has focused on the more “in between” towns that often get skipped.

“I like a small room, individual kind of places,” tells Jah. “I played with my top off in Northampton, because it was packed and there was not AC. So, I got my shirt off – I said ‘sorry and please avert your eyes’, but it was really sweaty. But I like that, it’s a direct thing. There’s nowhere to hide, you can’t fake it.

“We also played two festivals last week, and that went really fantastic. Both of them were really different.

“I like making festivals like events, where you just feel what the vibe is and don’t necessarily do a normal set – you stretch it out. I had my family there for the last one and we just went off into this Chinese thing… and people seemed to like it.”

The comments littering social media agree – from a crowd often in awe of being so up, close, and personal to the co-founder of Public Image Limited and one of the holy trinity of ‘70’s punk Johns’ (alongside Lydon and Ritchie, aka Rotten and Vicious).

It’s infectious, the candour, and you get the sense a Jah Wobble gig is as much about the man as the music – for the audience at least.

But there is intellect and humble introspection behind the acerbic humour, alongside a broad musical heritage that started in punk and moved (literally) around the world, embracing new sounds, styles, and audiences from across the globe.

As Jah decrees, when we delve into his stint working for the London Underground during his drying out period (the man has been clean and sober since the mid 80’s), “I like being involved in regular life… sometimes the best thing is the steady Eddie, to just get involved in life.

“The worst thing in the world are bored pop stars.”

We talk more about his family; Jah is married to the celebrated guzheng player and harpist Zi Lan Liao, and they have four children together – two of which have followed their parent’s footsteps into music.

His also wife runs a community centre, “hoovering up the people who have fallen between the cracks of social services and the NHS. It’s quite astounding what she does, so she’s very busy with that – fighting the community centre’s corner.”

Open about his personal life, there is a palpable sense of pride in his pride. And from a man whose Wikipedia entry regales an early life of drink, drugs, fights, and flights, as Jah states about people these days, “nice goes a long way.”

The conversation jumps from topic to topic, the difficulties of selling out shows in Birmingham, to the vagaries of an Arsenal supporter, and the increasing social media and bureaucracy of life on the road.

“I had to appoint a fire marshal within the band recently… for a venue,” he sighs, “everyone wants more and more information; everyone wants access to your Facebook page. That side of it’s a pain.

“But playing on stage is a joy. We’ve got a great line up; they’re good fellas. So, I couldn’t wait to hang out with them again.”

We touch on Covid, which forced Jah to cancel his last tour but gave him the time to develop his musicianship, getting to explore chord progression and delve back through music theory.

Jah also used the pandemic to achieve his Level 3 teaching qualification, which supports a music programme he offers to engage people through recording music – tacking the increased isolation left by the Covid  lockdowns.

“I thought, let’s try and do something for society – and what’s a good thing to tackle? I thought loneliness, lonely old blokes especially would be a good kinda target. I started it up north, and it was a bit difficult.

“But I’ve got a very good mate of mine called Anthony Hopkins (not the actor, although Jah has met him and is an ‘exceedingly good bloke’) who works for Borough Council and is a big music fan, he can play a bit as well. He helped adapt this idea.

“So, we started with him and Jon Klein (Suzie and the Banshees), a really good player and a lovely guy. Another bloody Aries.

“We started that, the pandemic came, and we carried on in Zoom. I became a teacher during lockdown to help when we resumed, which we did. So that’s turning; it’s become like a club. It’s a really nice thing.”

As we segue into class systems and the world yet to come, I could continue this conversation for longer than our time allows. But the football is starting and there’s only so many words you can fit on a page (or screen).

Jah Wobble’s the current tour feels like a good opportunity to hear both the music and musings of a man who has lived though, and survived, some of the more iconic moments in popular culture.

I have a thousand thoughts to add, but I end on a simple question, to a man once prone to an outburst or two but never shy of an honest answer.

“Yes, I am happy. Really happy. I was really happy in the 30’s because I stopped drinking and drugging, and I touched on something at that time.

“Then I get into my 40’s, had kids, and it’s been more graft. It’s been nice, but graft – you’ve got family, you worry about your family. Then in my 60’s, these last few years, and it’s felt golden again as it did my 30’s.

“And now’s a good time to go out and play these places, with large catchment areas and enthusiastic people who will promote the shit out of it. Any everyone’s fucking loving it; all the punters.

“And it’s a lovely vibe, so you really push the boat out.”

Jah Wobble and the Invaders of the Heart play the Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath, on Wednesday 7 September – for more gig info an links to online tickets visit:

For more on Jah Wobble visit: www./

For more from the Hare and Hounds visit:

MADE Festival 2022 – Saturday 30 July @ Dunstall Park, Wolverhampton

Words by Ed King / Event pics by Hannah Metcalfe & Daisy Denham

On Saturday 30 July, the mighty MADE Festival throws open its doors (tent awnings) for another raucous ride of UK rap and hip hop, drum & bass, house, disco, jungle, reggae, and bass music.

At the time of writing, MADE Festival 2022 is 90% sold out, but you can still snag tickets £65 (single purchase) or £55 (group purchase) plus booking fee – click here for a direct link to online sales.

Having outgrown its not so humble beginnings in Digbeth, Birmingham – this year the celebrated music and arts festival has upped sticks to Dunstall Park in Wolverhampton.

20000 people can squeeze into the new site, as MADE presents it’s eighth festival since the first packed out show in 2014.

But never fear your footsies, because Dunstall Park (or Wolverhampton Racecourse is you’re a fan of the ponies) is only a traffic dodging 16 minutes on a train from Birmingham New Street – which is roughly the time it takes to walk from the Bullring to The Custard Factory.

If you’re a designated driver there are all day parking passes for less than £15, or shuttle buses to carry you back to Brummagem if you’re sensibly avoiding all responsibility for the night.

And with headliners including AJ Tracey, Eats Everything, Andy C, Pa Salieu, Ms Banks, Bru-C, Shy FX, Kings Of The Rollers, TQD, Prospa, Alisha, Jaguar – spread across eight stages – we think a couple of shekels to West Midlands Trains is a burden worth bearing.

There’s also some stella DJs on the Police Rave Unit, including d&b legends Nicky Blackmarket and Kenny Ken – alongside the Midland’s own Mistress Mo. If only getting picked up by the bees always turned out so well…

But if you really don’t want to go home when the final whistles blow (it’s a rave thing…) then you can head over to the official MADE Festival 2022 after party at The Hanger, Pearson Street – with Australia’s very own Luude and Scottish duo LF System heading the line up, with a smorgasboard of acts alongside them. So if you miss the bus, or just want another 6 hours to really stamp out those last few braincells, the after party might be a pretty good option.

But however you decide to start or end the day, night, or morning, MADE Festival 2022 offers a strong and diverse line up for a ticket price most promoters would be desperately adding a booking fee to that looks more like a modern day gas bill.

Put it this way, for roughly the same price you could go and see the Blue 20th Anniversary Heart & Soul tour. Or times it by three and you get to spend the night in a small room with the boy band’s most ardent followers. So, you know, it could be worse event ‘bang for your buck’.

MADE Festival Director Pete Jordan said: “Putting on MADE last year took a titanic effort but it was worth it to see the enjoyment on people’s faces after enduring such a hard time.

“We’ve moved to a bigger home in Dunstall Park this year so we can step it up again. More space, more bars, more toilets, less queueing and really easy to get to.

“We want fans to focus on the music, the atmosphere, the incredible line up we’ve been working so hard to put together, and on enjoying one of the friendliest festivals the UK has to offer.”

MADE Festival 2022 – Saturday 30 July @ Dunstall Park, Wolverhampton

MADE Stage:
AJ Tracey / Pa Salieu / Ms Banks / Bru-C x A1 x J1 x Shasimone / Shae OT / Girl Grind UK / Ninteen97 / Reepa Of Wolves / Vital Powers / Plus very special guests: Bad Boy Chiller Crew

Weird & Wonderful:
Shy FX & Dynamite MC / TQD (Royal-T x DJ Q x Flava D) / Sammy Virji B2B MPH / 24hr Garage Girls / Mr Traumatik / Jamie Duggan / Tom Shorterz / Joe Hunt / Mini69 / TomFire / Jay Hatton

Weird Science:
Andy C / Kings Of The Rollers & Inja / DJ Zinc / A.M.C / TNA x P Money / K Motionz / Georgie Riot / LFM / LUCE / H.O.L + MC’s: Tonn Piper, Eksman, Phantom, IC3, Busta, RVS

Afta Dark:
Eats Everything / Alisha / Jaguar / Afta Dark DJs – Alex Parkin, Ryan Nicolls, A.D.H, George Davis

GW Harrison / Saffron Stone / Murphy’s Law / Alex Bowen / Jack Gardner / Roberto / Guy Burns / Alex Wilson / Lewis Carroll

Carnival Magnifico:
Deekline / Reggae Roast / Jamie Rodigan / Young Culture DJs / Mali / Boxout – DJ Buxley / DJ Danni

Police Rave Unit:
Nicky Blackmarket / Kenny Ken / Gray / Mistress Mo & Boogieman / Frenetic / Court-T / Police Rave Unit DJs

VIP Stage:
Disco Pussy x Voyage / Jay Carder / Nikki Tesla / Trieste / Karakat / Talk To Frankie / BIMM Artists / Disco Pussy Drag & Stage


MADE Festival 2022 comes to Dunstall Park in Wolverhampton on Saturday 30 July.

For more on MADE Festival 2022 and links to online ticket sales, visit