Adjei Sun Talks Masculinity & Mental Health At The Moseley Hive On 27 May

Writer Jasmine Khan / Photographer Ryan Ridley

I haven’t been to The Moseley Hive on Alcester Road before, so I’m particularly excited for I FEEL YOU with Adjei Sun on this sunny Friday evening. ‘Masculinity and Mental Health’ is a broad, complex topic, and one I’ve got quite a bit of experience talking about. So, I’m curious as to whether Adjei’s curated discussion will avoid both the ‘poor men’ and ‘f*ck men’ narratives which are unhelpful in masc mental health spaces.

When I arrive at The Moseley Hive it’s packed. The events setup is open and clean but still intimate. There’s a plush blue sofa which matches a singing bowl and a director’s chair that I assume Adjei will soon occupy. There are plants dotted about the place, incense is burning and there are plenty of cushions plopped on the floor, as well as chairs for members of the audience.

DJ Exile Artisan is already playing an interesting mix of neo-soul and afrobeat loud enough that the constant enthusiastic chatter stays as background noise and I get a chance to soak up the ambience.

As Adjei takes a seat in the director’s chair he looks out at us, “This is a beautiful view and I’m really happy to be here” he says. The somewhat forward statement doesn’t feel forced or insincere, it puts me at ease. Next, he explains that I FEEL YOU is a community story-telling project that aims to unpack masculinity, mental health, and gender.

His co-host Mica leads on a short meditation as the sun starts to set. Afterwards Adjei echoes my sentiments exactly: “Thank you Mica, I really needed that.”

Their first guest is filmmaker and poet Atlas Azure, whose short film I Think I Died Last Night, is an abstract rollercoaster about serious loss and long-term emotional pain.

In the discussion that follows, Azure tells us about his grief after losing his parents, cousin, and experiencing a break-up. He explains the sense of isolation and hopelessness he felt quoting “I’d rather be a ghost than a zombie” from his film when prompted by Mica. Azure explains it is because at least ghosts are self-aware – zombies don’t even know they’re dead.

When Mica asks what Azure has learnt from the grieving process as a man, he responds wisely: “Everything is transient, but also not. I’ve learnt to be in touch with my emotions in a deeper way. I use my art to process my grief.”

Then Azure reiterates that, although he’s learnt things from the grieving process, nothing can prepare you for loss on such a scale, “you just go through it”. Azure also takes time to mention that fathers could be more present for their son’s emotions, that the media needs to show men being emotional, and finally that the biggest difficulty for men communicating their grief is “other men”.

The discussion is inspirationally frank as well as deeply moving. George, the first audience member to contribute to the discussion, explains that as a man he’s struggled for years to receive love because it’s seen as weak.

My womxn friends have been consistently present for loss in my life, and George’s comment prompts me to think about how men are often unable to reach out and left to their own devices when it comes to dealing with extreme loss.

Azure then performs some poetry alongside improvised keys by Vato. It’s a raw and heartbreaking experience as Azure’s poetry makes no attempt to hide the depth of his grief, Vato’s off the cuff melody matching his creative flow at every point.

One line really stands out to me: “I won’t have your second hand fear” – something to ruminate on for sure.

Azure leaves to rapturous applause and I’m sure I’m not the only one with tears in my eyes.

Next, there’s a group activity that means I have to talk about my feelings. Group therapy has never been my thing, but two people come and ask me for my sticker colour (which corresponds to a personal question we’re meant to discuss) and before I know it myself, artist Ollie and business student Melanie are talking about what makes us feel loved.

We’re all more honest than I expect and it’s kind of beautiful. When Adjei asks for our feedback, lots of audience members feel confident chiming in. It’s clear the space is non-judgemental and open to learning.

One man, whose name I don’t catch, talks deeply about fear and masculinity, how it manifests as bravado and a lack of giving and receiving love. Emotional intelligence is a practice, and it’s clear that because patriarchy labels emotions as fem, cis-men aren’t pushed to practice emotional intelligence. Which then manifests as a lack of empathy for themselves and people around them.

A few womxn in the room join the discussion, talking about the wider social impact of a lack of male empathy which includes harassment and not respecting peoples’ boundaries.

The next guest is psychotherapist Christie Samuels, a particularly insightful choice by Adjei. Samuels describes himself as a healer and stresses that the best way to listen to someone is “quietly”.

“Listening isn’t just with your ears,” says Samuels, “it’s sensing and feeling what’s in the gaps.”

Adjei asks Samuels what we would need to make a safe space for men and he’s a bit stumped. The question is put to the audience and a few people talk about the notion of ‘safer spaces’ and Azure jokingly adds “one without other men.” But we all agree it needs to be a space where men are allowed to communicate their feelings openly.

Adjei turns to Mica and asks her to introduce the next guest, “it’s you” she says, and we all chuckle. Adjei reads two poems and as he begins, his gentle tone and subtle intonations spread like a warm light filling the room. Adjei flow is confident and clear, and the imagery in his poems is relatable without being too obvious.

But what strikes me most is Adjei’s vulnerability, he clearly intends to practise all of the love, gratitude and openness he preaches.

The final act is a replacement because Isobel is sick, meaning Veronica and Ben have stepped up on short notice. Veronica has pure honey tones and a killer range. Her runs, culminating in heavenly high notes are delivered with ease as Ben plucks and strums his acoustic guitar.

After the set, Veronica switches it up and starts interviewing Adjei about his masculinity. He brings up the idea of developing masculinity which then becomes a group discussion. As the conversation darts back and forth between the responsibility men have for the impact of toxic masculinity on womxn, and accounting the way toxic masculinity negatively impacts cis and trans men, it rests on a somewhat useful conclusion.

Changing the culture of masculinity is not about womxn playing the role of teacher for fully grown adults. It starts with cis-men, but everyone needs to create a more nurturing culture for masculinity, one which jettisons the idea that men don’t cry, that boys don’t need hugs, and that ‘man-up’ is anything other than an inability for one person to engage with another person’s emotions.

I have a lot of anger towards masculinity. But as a non-binary person I’m also figuring out my place in it. This discussion leaves me with lots to think about particularly concerning how I nurture my masculine self, and the ways in which I should go about supporting positive masculinity in those around me.

Adjei rounds off the evening with a song called ‘Girl Your Worthy’ where he raps over an acoustic guitar accompanied by great RnB vocals. An audience member asks if we can sing the chorus a few times over at the end but replacing ‘girl you’re worthy’ with ‘boy you’re worthy’ to send some love to our lads in the room.

It sounds cheesy but I think it’s a real moment for all of us as we sing ‘boy you’re worthy’ to our hearts content at The Moseley Hive

Thank you Adjei, and thank you to everyone that night who vulnerably shared their true self so that I could have this opportunity to learn and grow. It’s definitely not what I usually do on a Friday night.

For more from Adjei Sun follow him on Instagram via www.instagram.com/adjeisun/

For more from The Moseley Hive go to: www.moseleytogether.org.uk/moseley-hive-activities

Suits in Hardhats: A Guide to Gentrification

Writer Mark Roberts

From Shoreditch, to Brixton, to Peckham, London is a great example of how gentrification moves in waves. This process, which uproots local creative scenes and more importantly prices out local communities, is now (in my opinion) here in Brum.

For what seems like forever ago, some government busybody decided that what our neglected railway system needed was one big, really, really expensive railway line.

The HS2 project, whether intentional or not, hasn’t successfully connected the two ends of England, but will turn Birmingham into another grey, increasingly unaffordable satellite city for London.

A Slough 2.0., Reading: The Return of The Office Worker.

It, amongst other ‘development projects’ are the first formidable signs that the change is coming.

Which is why the primary indicator of gentrification is…

 

Suits in Hardhats

The first thing you should look out for are suits in hardhats. They’ll be in a group between two and twenty people – bigger the group the bigger the idea they have to ruin your area. This could be HS2 or it could be a brand-new housing block that will somehow lose the affordable housing part of it just before it is built.

Either way, they’ll be there, pointing at the wrong parts of the site and nodding aimlessly as if the last time they saw anyone build something wasn’t when they employed that guy to extend their indoor swimming pool.

This is always the beginning.

 

The Pretentious Bar

Picture this, you walk into a room and there you see exposed brick, all around you are tables and stools from your science classes and you see a gentleman with a massive beard behind the bar.

You look above the bar to see exposed ventilation, your palms are sweaty. You look at the price board. There it is in black and white, £8 for a 1/3rd pint of a dry hopped-raspberry-double maple-lassi-pancake-saison. You hold back tears as your back crumbles under its own weight on the hard wooden stool.

All you wish is that you hadn’t had that avocado on toast this morning, maybe then you could afford your overpriced drink (and/or a mortgage).

 

The Yuppie

The yuppie is an indicator of the end times for any area.

Nothing is less cool than a yuppie, so unaware, so arrogant. Imagine you’re still in that pretentious bar, your back now a series of loosely stacked pebbles. You hear a loud disturbance coming from the other side of the room. You look across, there he is, the banker (sorry for using cockney rhyming slang, they’re actually a stockbroker).

They’re screaming into a phone on loudspeaker/Bluetooth headset. “Yah Reggie, I was just on the phone with Daddeh”. You try to zone out but their voice drills into your head. The barman asks them what they want, “I’m on the phone” they rebuff.

You realise they bought a pint of the 1/3rd you’re drinking. Bastard.

 

The Chains

Another omen of the end times for your area is the ‘cool’ chain clubs and bars. If it’s trying to look worn down and independent but isn’t, if it’s got a quirky cultural theme but it’s not run by someone from that culture or thinks plastic trees are acceptable decor, then holy shit the gentrification is on. And it’s happening fast.

They’ll raise the prices of the booze in the area, caring not for creativity but profit. Worse, they attract…

 

The Basics

You can smell them in the air, the Selfridges’ fragrance department aftershave and perfume permeates the air. Their unisex fake tan entirely at odds with the patriarchal ideas pouring out of every word they say.

They’ll be there, giving the stink eye to anyone who isn’t trying to live up to their white heteronormative beauty standards, as they slowly push out everyone from the dance floor and out of these creative spaces. Until it’s just a sea of bare ankles, skinny jeans and stilettos.

Fun fact, the ratio of basics to the room is actually entirely correlated to levels of gentrification.

 

Noise complaints

As the suits in hardhats fade away and the giant Duplo blocks rise up slowly filled by basics so do the noise complaints. It turns out no one expected that living next door to a live venue that plays DnB until 6am would be loud? So, the understandable measure is to allow people to complain about noise levels until a venue shuts down.

We wouldn’t want to put out as the owner of a 1 bed flat that’s £1500pcm, so the council must defend their right to ruin culture. And as noise complaints rise, venues close and the life and soul of the area fades away.

This has been just some of the indicators of gentrification. If you’re struggling to find a £5 pint in Digbeth and a spot of sun not masked by a crane, try not to think of this article too much. Or maybe choose a venue that cares about you at least half as much as they care about profit, while you still can.

Music Psychologists – Where Are You?

Writer Mirab Kay / Photographer 

How much does music affect you in everyday life? Whether the answer is “a lot” or “a bit”, if you’re reading this you’ll probably agree that music is a vital part of our lives even when we don’t notice it. But how many of you know why this is? 

The science behind music isn’t shared with us when tackling mental health in school, the workplace or in aiding productivity. It holds nowhere near the therapeutic reputation of meditation or mindfulness. Yet, music is one of the most powerful emotive forces on the planet. 

I’d like us to take a musical journey back to primary school. I have no doubt that we all remember playing with glockenspiels and tambourines, being encouraged to dance and sing. There is no dispute that music played a role in our early years especially in shaping our general music taste but does anyone remember doing music as a subject? 

The government can say all they like in their National Plan for Music Education which was published 10 years ago, and maybe music is being explored more than it was before then. But, as a subject, proper musical education is still widely unavailable to us at our most moldable ages. 

The government’s plan sets out that musical training shall be more available to all children which is absolutely great news… Until you realise there’s a fee. 

Speaking from a working-class, ethnic minority background, music lessons just weren’t an option. Yes, we had the opportunity to learn violin, recorder and even ocarina, but dropout rates increased dramatically when a fee was introduced, as they did up and down the country. 

This does not sound like inclusivity to me. 

Not only are primary school children missing out on the opportunity to delve deep into music theory, but they are also not reaping the benefits of music in general like increased concentration and creativity. 

The government will set out a new plan this year that they claim will “shape the future of music education”. However, I think the 10 year wait alone emphasises an overall disinterest from our government, beautifully summarised in Rishi Sunak’s famous statement about musicians (and other artists says they “should re-train and find other jobs”. 

As if music wasn’t one of the only things holding us together during the pandemic.

There is a wealth of information on the side of researchers, although This Is Your Brain On Music author Daniel Levitin admits: “music experts and scientists could do a better job of making their work accessible”.

The next stop on our journey is secondary school. Music is now a subject, instrument learning is up, and new faces contribute to our music tastes. If you’re as passionate about music as I am, I won’t need to tell you that our listening habits influenced our friend groups and even the way we dressed at this very sociable age. 

Again,​​ this goes without saying. What doesn’t go without saying is why music influences our social lives. 

This WIRED article holds some of the answers, but information like this isn’t shared with us at school and let’s face it, none of us had the motivation to go and find it for ourselves. One point the article introduces is that we make assumptions about music taste based on how a person dresses or behaves. 

Stereotyping, assumption-making, selectively avoiding – I am a metalhead who wears pastel colours and enjoys playing classical music: think of how many people missed out on making my acquaintance because of their assumptions. How much easier would it have been to make new friends if we had known to ask about their music tastes?

During secondary school people are also beginning to decide on potential career paths and I bet no one was encouraged to be a musician or music psychologist by their ‘careers’ advisor.

In fact, I bet barely anyone even thought of music as a safe career option. Science was safe, English was safe, Maths was safe. Who says music can’t be a part of any of these subjects, is music dangerous? As Levitin aptly quotes Robert Sapolsky at the beginning of his book, “So many…feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts”. 

The option to continue music to college or degree level is not represented nearly enough, simply because it is generally thought that taking music means you have to be a musician. But, even this was a safer option than applying for one of the only Music Psychology courses I could find. 

At BIMM, I quickly grew tired of the overall lack of interest in the psychology and science behind the music I was making (on the part of the students as well as the tutors). I produced pieces and layered the bass because we know that these low frequencies form tangible and satisfying connections with the music. But WHY? 

No one could tell me. I lost interest in asking. The subject is so obscure because not enough people care and these conversations aren’t taking place. So I’m begging, the curious few that do care, show yourselves. We’re in the midst of a mental health crisis and we need all the support we can get. 

Elden Ring’s Roderika: Gaming’s Best Brummie

Writer Billy Beale 

When I first met the armourer Yoana in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I was shocked. This was the first midlands/brummie accent I’d come across in any video game and I was impressed enough that it stuck in my mind.

The same game’s Bloody Baron storyline prominently features another midlands accent, though neither of these are particularly accurate examples. They’re a kind of ‘stage brummie’ accent like you might hear from a supporting character at the RSC or as a punchline in a sketch show, and not really what you’d hear on the streets of Brum.

Examples of brummies in video games are few and far between. Credit should be given to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, which centres a chunk of story around Tamworth and the kingdom of Mercia. From what I can tell, there’s at least some local dialect representation there but it’s a game I haven’t played because it’s not weird enough.

A game I have been playing – obsessively, unstopping, like I might not be able to breathe if I do anything else – is Elden Ring. Imagine my shock when only a few hours in, I come across the character Roderika played by Birmingham’s very own Helen Monks, known for her roles in Raised by Wolves and Upstart Crow.

This article from Inverse highlights some of the ways Elden Ring demonstrates an acute awareness of the British-Celtic mythology it derives so much from, much like Birmingham’s own JRR Tolkien did when he essentially invented the modern fantasy genre.

There is a lot of Tolkien in Elden Ring. Clearly, the developers at FromSoftware have done their homework when it comes to using the full spectrum of British voices to enhance the richness of their worlds and characters. They even included the wall of faces from Brum’s Snobs nightclub.

All the characters from the Raya Lucaria part of the world are magic users and speak with Welsh accents. Another character from the game’s Capital City, The Loathsome Dung Eater, speaks with that sort of ‘stage brummie’, but the less said about him the better.

Roderika develops into a confident and incredibly helpful character, strengthening your spectral allies that aid you in boss fights. I like her a lot for that reason, but most of all I just like hearing such a familiar voice in one of my favourite games.

Elden Ring – Official gamelpay reveal

For more on Elden Ring visit www.eldenring.com

Digbeth’s Mockingbird Cinema Reopens With Fresh Interior and Second Screen

Writer Rachel Westwood / Photography supplied by Mockingbird Cinema

Birmingham has long been home to some great cinema venues in the U.K., hosting a roster of iconic independent venues like The Electric, MAC, and Mockingbird Cinema. A hidden gem of sorts, Mockingbird sits tucked away in The Custard Factory, Digbeth’s creative and digital workplace complex.

The Mockingbird Cinema has showcased everything from regional and national premieres to even dog-friendly screenings. Over recent months, the owner of Mockingbird – Lee Knabbs, set out to renovate and expand the establishment by developing a second screen to complement the 98-seat-cinema.

The Mockingbird team has been able to build upon the pre-existing programme, and offer more films to support and nourish the expansive filmmaker and movie fan community in Birmingham and beyond.

To allow the team to fulfill plans for a second screen model, Lee, in February 2022, began a crowdfunding event that was kindly supported by the loyal fans of the cinema. It managed to successfully garner £4,160 within 50 days.

Such generous support from the Birmingham community is what led Mockingbird Cinema to re-opening its doors on 29th April, whereby Lee and the team were able to ensure that local independent cinema continues to thrive.

Digbeth’s indie starlet is back with a completely new interior and vibe: the cinema now has a much more luxurious feel, but thankfully retains its Brummie roots.

I, for one, am very much looking forward to what’s in store for the future of a cinema with as much charm as it has eager filmgoers.

To see what films are currently showing at Mockingbird Cinema visit: www.mockingbirdcinema.com