Artum Exhibits Ally Standing’s Photography At Hockley Social Club 05/03/23

Writer Megan Treacy / Photographer Andrew Roberts


To walk into Hockley Social Club today is to find a den of warmth and invigorating sounds sheltered from the bleak white skies outside. Friendly dogs, upbeat music, and chatting  families contribute to a welcoming and relaxing Sunday atmosphere just outside of Birmingham City Centre.

Nestled a short venture within is the more intimate Artum space, which today hosts the work of Birmingham-based photographer and lecturer Ally Standing.

As I arrive, the tables are already substantially full and Standing is meandering between chairs to greet visitors. One unexpected sight is several chess matches at play alongside one wall, a sign that Checkmate! Birmingham have also occupied Artum this Sunday.

There is an undoubtedly relaxed feel to the exhibition; the photos are projected onto a single wall and play in a loop for its duration, allowing viewers to sit and watch the display or to return to look at the photos periodically as they enjoy friends’ company (or play chess).

The set-up of the moving projection simultaneously commands attention to Standing’s work while granting space for socialisation and discussion; as conversations are had, each cut of the screen attracts heads to see what the next photo will be.

The photos themselves are snapshots of predominantly urban environments, with Standing describing her practice as ‘psychogeographic’ — an exploration of the intersection between physical location and emotion or behaviour.

This element of her work certainly comes through as her images pass across Artum’s wall. Photos of spaces which hold the same emptiness don’t necessarily evoke the same emotions. Fluorescent lights reflected in the puddles of an abandoned car park make for an eerie and unsettling shot, whereas a vacant outdoor basketball court against a clear blue sky feels peaceful in contrast.

Among the exhibited photos are some familiar sights to Birmingham residents, whether that’s a white exterior recognisable from Minerva Works, an immortalisation of the now-demolished adult film cinema Taboo Cinema Club, or a less location-specific shot of fifty or so NOS canisters collected by a kerb.

A conversation with Standing reveals the worldwide scale of the locations featured in the exhibition’s shots, including Lisbon, Madrid, Wuhan, and Berlin.

Although sprawling in geographical span, the scenes and objects captured feel connected through Standing’s lens; moments of fantastic colour (a shot of an all-pink stairway stands out) or aesthetically satisfying composition (a diagonal roof cutting cleanly across the sky) feel like instances of beauty which might go unnoticed by another passerby.

Recurring also in the work is an eye for geometric forms, mainly those of urban buildings and structures, in their overall shape as well as in their smaller components.

A close-up shot of a Tetris-like window pane made up of small squares of obscured glass draws attention to its craftsmanship, highlighting for a moment an architectural detail which is probably passed daily without thought, the shape illuminated from within by warm yellow light as though spotlit for the camera.

Standing shares the photos exhibited are a mixture of DSLR, point-and-shoot, and iPhone shots, observing often the latter are her favourites since they are the most spontaneous — images captured unpredicted and without the expectation that a camera will be needed.

As the exhibition plays along, Artum remains steadily full of supporters for Standing’s artwork, among them being other Birmingham-based creatives such as Hannah Swingler, a poet with a debut collection published by Verve Poetry Press (‘This Dress Has Pockets’).

The afternoon is not only a show of wonderful art but of the fervently supportive nature of the Birmingham art scene, and the ever-lively and embracing atmosphere of Artum.

For more from Ally Standing go to:

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The Joyous Thing #4: Supersonic’s International Women’s Day Celebration Meets Matters’ Echolocations Album Launch

Writer Ray Vincent-Mills / Photograph Ewan Williamson

It’s Saturday night at the Old Print Works in Balsall Heath, which means it’s the last event of The Joyous Thing by Outlands – a yearly festival in its fourth year honing in on experimental music in the city. This event is in collaboration with Supersonic for International Women’s Day, and the launch of Birmingham based Matters album Echolocations.

The venue teems with excitement from all angles. The room on entry has DJ’s playing in the interim of the bands with samosas and prints for sale. A night I can dance to and eat at – as Old Bort opens the night it’s a no brainer really.

Arch Femmesis kickstart the live music section of the event. A striking, enigmatic duo showcasing their talents in queer electro-pop, with lyrics that are equal parts poetic and self-aware of their social landscape, whilst also managing to uphold a playful and camp tone throughout. This makes for a performance that is fun, sultry, and thought provoking. The range of the vocalist is undeniable and captures the crowd from the offset.

The crowd goes into the next room as DJ Saima plays a feel good fusion set equipped with warm smiles.

PRNCSS enters the stage, shades and cowboy hat in tow exclaiming: “Dancers at the front.” The  music, an eclectic mix of dance music and alternative hip hop, paired with distorted vocals adding multiple dimensions, adds another layer to peel back and dance to.

Her energy and commitment to the crowd’s enjoyment is infectious and she beckons everyone to come closer: “If you don’t dance and you came here, you’re a fucking idiot.” To be honest they’re not wrong. The crowd erupts into a mosh pit before PRNCSS invites the ones committed to the dance to join her on stage. Am I one of those people? Silly question. Absolutely.

“Unleash your inner party goblin,” I hear from someone in front of me and honestly I’m already one step ahead of them.

Before Matters, DJ Sadie HD plays a set which jumps from grime, to pop, to R&B. Did I give up my spot in the drinks queue to bop to a cheeky mix of 212? Of course.

I walk through to the stage and notice a Soviet inspired light installation that runs from the back of the room to the tip of the stage where Matters are playing. I keep trying to come up with succinct sentences to encapsulate the music, but I think it would be doing them a disservice. Less gig, more experience.

The sounds are celestial, dystopian, and I can’t figure out if it feels like I’m melting, tripping, or ascending. Perhaps all three.

The psychedelic visuals behind them add to the auditory storybook that is Matters. It ranges from what looks like single cell organisms to what the inside of the sun may look like if you dared get so close.

“It feels like the sounds are coming out of my body.”

I can’t help but agree as bass reverberates from my throat, chest, and feet. The set is continuous with the light display above going into full effect. It’s like the world’s ending and maybe there’s hope but maybe there’s not – either way you’re dancing it out. A nod to the 90’s rave scene and the existentialism of existence.

The sound is undeniably intricate with the crowd letting their bodies do the talking. The grandiosity of the music is more than apparent creating sections of pure beauty and auditory art. It’s surreal, sleek, and sublime. One half of the band talks about how the night before they were broken into resulting in a lot of their equipment being stolen.

Rosie from Supersonic drove to Cardiff to replace it because as they say ‘the show must go on’, and thank God it did.

After the main event, Limpid (DJ) dressed in just a raincoat plays around with experimental and jagged sounds that electrify the crowd. DJ Birthday Girl closes the night with an erratic, 2000’s inspired set that makes me feel like I’m jumping around in a computer screen.

I guess it’s called The Joyous Thing for a reason.

The Joyous Thing @ Old Print Works – 04.02.23 / Ewan Williamson

For more from Matters go to:
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Matters Talk About The Making Of Echolocations & Their Album Launch Party On 4 May At Old Print Works

Writer Emily Doyle / Photographs courtesy of Supersonic Recordings

Birmingham electronic duo Matters are no strangers to the DIY method, but in the run up to their new release Echolocations (Supersonic Recordings, 03.03.23)  they’re pushing themselves further than ever before.

“I had like thirty different tabs open on my laptop the other day,” Brid says, “and I just went through like closing them – book binding, LED tape, smoke machines… there was some work stuff cause I had to buy a new printer, pop-up book instructions, calculating voltage drop on stuff…”

The pair have taken a short break from fevered preparations for their launch show at Old Print Works this Saturday night to chat to Birmingham Review about what to expect.

It sounds ambitious.

“It always feels like there’s so much that we want to do, that there’s always little things that kind of have to wait ‘til the next project,” they muse. “Undoubtedly there’ll be stuff with this one that gets saved for next time. But this is the biggest iteration we’ve managed to do so far.”

“It’s also the most reusable,” continues Stuart, “but these have been made so they can be deconstructed and slotted back together again, so we can use different elements of it at different sized shows.

“It’s completely modular. The entire back of the venue is gonna be a projection floor to ceiling, and then we have these fixtures going down the middle of the gallery all the way to the bottom above people’s heads.”

Matters have taken inspiration for the staging from a recent trip to Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

“We met the WECOSMOS festival team at Supersonic 2019,” explains Stuart. “We went to the afterparty with them and they asked if we would play and we were like, ‘Yeah? Whatever, sure, that’s gonna happen…’and it did! So we ended up in Tashkent.”

“Well,” Brid interjects, “we were supposed to play in 2020. We were booked in and then it would have actually, I think just, about happened… then the president of Uzbekistan decided that he wanted to build an ice rink in the venue they were going to use.”

“It was a very mixed media festival,” says Stuart. “Outside was music, inside was loads of mad installations and stuff. We were there for a week, they just kind of gave us a chaperone, Vadim, and we could do whatever we wanted.

“We asked Vadim, ‘Can we stop at every metro station?’ and he was like ‘why do you care’… but, it’s like here isn’t it. You kind of forget what’s around you.”

So, Matters are reimagining the Old Print Works in Balsall Heath as a soviet metro station.

“The venue lends itself to that,” says Stuart “because it’s like a straight tunnel, really. Then there’s the drawing room next door and that’s where the after party is going to be. ‘The Lower Gallery and the Drawing Room’… it sounds very proper, but it’s going to be dirty and loud.

“Apparently when there’s that many people in the room the walls start to sweat.”

It sounds like a fitting space for Matters all-encompassing sound. Shifting seamlessly from film score to basement nightclub to industrial noise, Echolocations is a new collection of five songs which takes the band further into otherworldly realms and new approaches to composition.

“We’ve always written very much live,” says Brid, “jamming out ideas and things. Whereas some of these songs are more just from Stuart sitting in front of Ableton for a bit and putting some bits in and then me putting some bits in, and just going back and forth.”

“It’s the first record without a drummer,” Stuart adds. “With a drummer you’re forced into that rehearsal room every week. A couple hours after work in the dark just to kind of hash out ideas.

“The first three tracks on the record were written without a drummer, but they’re stuff we’ve been playing live. The last two, I’d go and record guitars and then I’d leave the room and Brid would sit and just change everything. It’s like when you write a story on folded paper.”

It’s a novel approach to collaboration, but not without its pitfalls, as Stuart explains.

“I mixed it as we went, so I’d get so far with it. Then I’d go back in and what Brid had done was amazing but also broke everything so I’d have to fix everything again. Like, why are there ten distortions on this track? But it’s just a way of doing it that worked out really well.”

“I don’t have the attention span for the nuts and bolts of the mixing,” Brid adds, “so I’ll just be like, put an effect here…really really messy all over the place.”

“But that’s how it had to be and so it’s fine,” Stuart says, turning to Brid. “And there’s so much stuff that I really like and you hate. It forces us to push it together to be something we both really like. ‘Cause you’re really particular, and I can be a bit more like, ‘Well, I want that to be done so I’m gonna say it’s finished,’ but you don’t let it live like that, which is really good.”

“Yeah…” agrees Brid. “That’s why it takes us a long time to do things.”

One thing Brid and Stuart can agree on is the lineup for Saturday night. Electro punks Arch Femmesis are winging in from Nottingham, Supersonic 2022 favourite PRNCSS will be bringing some glitched out beats, and Limpid and DJ Birthday Girl are keeping the party going into the early hours, so there’s something for synth hounds of all tastes.

It’s clear Matters are just as excited to be in the crowd as on the stage.

“We put on our own show in Nottingham a while ago,” says Stuart. “I was desperately trying to find support bands that weren’t just guys with guitars – you know, the usual thing. I put out a call and somebody, I don’t even know who it was, tagged Arch Femmesis. I’d never heard of them, and I listened to thirty seconds of one of their songs and was like, ‘Brid, I’ve found them!’

“So, we had Arch Femmesis, Blue Ruth and us play in Nottingham together, which was the start of a really nice thing. They were in our heads for the very beginning of this show. Then when Supersonic suggested PRNCSS. I didn’t think we’d ever get PRNCSS, so I didn’t even think to ask; I think they were one of my favourite acts at Supersonic 2022.”

“It was really great we could incorporate DJ Birthday Girl and Limpid,” adds Brid. Stuart is quick to offer a flavour of the chaos they’ll be bringing:

“We did Brave Exhibitions with Dianne (DJ Birthday Girl, aka Lyn Vegas) and it ended with her putting an entire jar of vaseline in her hair. And then again, at Future Days where she ate a can of dog food on stage.”

“She talked about One Tree Hill for like ten minutes,” laughs Brid, “an essay almost, on why it was actually a great example for a queer utopia. And while she was doing this she proceeded to make herself a sandwich with dog food in it.”

“A lot of people were very confused,” says Stuart, “but everyone stood and watched the entire time. There was a synth on stage so everyone was expecting that at some point it would just get synthy, and occasionally she just kind of… made a little noise with it. It was a deconstruction of a rock show.”

“It was amazing,” Brid agrees. “And obviously all the kind of post-punk dads just…”

But whether you’re a post-punk dad or vaseline-drenched queer utopian, Echolocations is one to look out for, and the launch show is not to be missed.

If you want to see teamwork in action, get your tickets now for the launch of Echolocations this Saturday at the Old Print Works. Supersonic Festival’s International Women’s Day, with support from Arch Femmesis, PRNCSS, and a late-night party hosted by Limpid & Lyn Vegas.

Tickets are available here:

For more on Matters visit

For more on Arch Femmesis visit
For more on PRNCSS visit
For more on Limpid visit 
For more on DJ Birthday Girl visit

For more gigs and events from Supersonic visit

Lukas Dhont’s ‘Close’ Is A Tender Tale Of Loving Friendship Abruptly Ended

Writer Jimmy Dougan

Close is being screened at Mockingbird Cinema from 3 March to 9 March and MAC from 31 March to 6 April

It begins in the dark: two boys hiding in a derelict house in the woods, snatches of hushed whispers half-heard over a black screen. Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustav De Waele) squat close together, almost touching. Then, they run.

As the boys burst out into the lush Belgian countryside, Valentin Hadjadj’s score swells to life. The camera stays close on them, and it judders and races to keep up as they cross multi-colour peony fields.

These are the opening moments of Close, the sophomore film from Lukas Dhont which secured critical acclaim at Festival de Cannes and won the Grand Prix. A tale of a loving friendship cruelly ended, Dhont’s film follows these boys with unwavering commitment. The result is a quietly devastating film of rare power.

The bond these two boys share is physically affectionate and unfalteringly intimate. They are inseparable, spending most nights sleeping side-by-side in Rémi’s bed. Léo’s parents are working-class, growing and harvesting beautiful flowers. Rémi’s are a bit more well-off, treating Léo like a second son.

Rémi is quieter than the more outgoing Léo and plays the oboe for the school orchestra. Léo wants to travel the world and it’s a given that Rémi will join him.

But starting high school brings trouble; rumours are spreading.

When Léo rests his head on Rémi’s shoulder in class, a classmate watches with a mixture of confusion and interest for just a bit too long. Then, the dreaded question from three – a reference to Macbeth? – young girls in their class: “Are you two together?” Léo especially is befuddled, even offended.

There is, it’s important to remember, a big difference between spiteful maliciousness and legitimate curiosity. Rémi and Léo aren’t necessarily being bullied – nobody is asking these questions to torment them. The closeness of their relationship is genuinely unique for children of their age, especially between two boys. One of the film’s strengths is Dhont and co-screenwriter Angelo Tijssens’ firmly empathetic, non-judgemental treatment of these children.

There are no playground baddies.

The tragedy of Close arises not from Léo and Rémi’s mistreatment, but from the shame that unfurls in Léo regardless. It all feels achingly, sickeningly avoidable.

The difference between Rémi and Léo is the latter is a bit more… tractable. Rémi’s response to the rumours is to shrug. Who cares? They have each other. It’s Léo who pulls away and changes his behaviour. Scared of being seen as feminine, he takes up ice hockey and begins showing an interest in football to meekly ingratiate himself with the (very boring) cool kids.

To say any more of the plot would do Close a real disservice, but it’s hardly spoiling anything to say it moves almost inexorably, as if on rails, towards tragedy. There are two readings of the word ‘close’ after all. The end of this friendship rumbles distantly, like a natural disaster. Before you can react it’s here and you’re left watching these characters try to pick up the pieces.

Is Close a queer film? Maybe. But I’m reluctant to label it as such because neither teen ever explicitly identifies themselves as being queer, nor do they seem to be sexually attracted to each other. It feels silly – perhaps even reckless – to need to define them too, when the film shows so powerfully the dangers of imposing such labels on the young.

It does the complexity of their love a disservice.

Dhont’s debut Girl (2018) was a frustrating – arguably downright creepy – tale of a transgender ballerina and Close can also make for uncomfortable viewing. Some scenes have a voyeuristic quality which stop just short of feeling exploitative: Léo watching Rémi adoringly as he practises his oboe feels like a crass and heavy-handed metaphor for their burgeoning sexualities. And like Girl, this feels a touch overlong.

As for the two boys, Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele are nothing short of astonishing. The chemistry is startlingly livewire, radiating a deeply committed cinematic realism.

Their work left me genuinely slack-jawed, and I’m certain that Close will go on to be seen as one of the great childhood films owing to their performances.

Émilie Dequenne and Léa Drucker are sublime as Rémi and Léo’s respective mothers. Drucker does so much with silence and what hangs unsaid. Dequenne has a warm ethereality. She is first seen lounging in the grass, gradually becoming associated with nature. She embodies grace and then, crushingly, forgiveness.

This isn’t a film that you sit contentedly and watch.

It has no interest in being an act of simple escapism. It is a sad and upsetting experience – perhaps to a fault. Regardless, it lured me in, then left me a bit broken and bruised staring blankly at the credits.

It is a film bursting at every seam with love but has the feeling of watching a car-crash in slow motion. An unbearably moving film, Close feels, for our current culture, essential.

Close – official trailer: 

Close will be screened at MAC from 31 March to 6 April:

It also screens at Mockingbird Cinema, at The Custard Factory, from 3 March to 9 March:

For full listings and links to online ticket salesclick on the links above.

To read more about Lukas Dhont go to:

For more on MUBI and for full Midlands showtimes visit:

Grove Talks To Birmingham Review About Their Legendary Pussy (Music)

Writer Jasmine Khan / Photographers Khali Ackford & Luke Tubbs

**Grove is playing at the Hare & Hounds on Tuesday 31 January, as part of Independent Venue Week – click here for tickets**

“No one really knows who I am,” says Grove in the humblest of tones. I try not to laugh. After Supersonic Festival, all the BR queers know about Grove – I had to fight several of them off  just to secure this interview. Not to mention they played Glastonbury last year.

For those of you who don’t know, Grove is an experimental punk-infused force of nature. The breadth of their sonic exploration includes elements of dancehall, bass, and jungle. But what stands out beyond their complex, erratic, and magnetic sound is how Grove seems to ignite an audiences’ soul.

“With the nature of being a performer, there’s the stage and then there’s the audience,” explains Grove. “But there’s also this palpable energy. It sometimes feels like there’s a force wall that needs to be broken.”

I’m sure we’ve all felt it in the crowd at a gig, the tension between the stage and the floor. When it disintegrates and the audience and performance become one, that’s when music truly fulfils its human purpose.

At Grove’s performances, “You’re not just watching the show, you are the show.” Indeed they emphasise, “We are the show.”

It’s “a collective energy”, one that’s designed to be emotionally and spiritually fulfilling and one which Grove hopes “can be transformed into other aspects of our lives.”

On this point transforming or perhaps transferring energy, Grove is resolute: “People need to be reminded of that, I need to be reminded of that, that we are powerful people, that our energy and our actions hold, especially in all this…” They pause and let out an extended sigh, struggling to find an apt word they settle on, “…social/political climate that we find ourselves in.”

Grove doesn’t sound defeated, but they do sound tired, tired of complaining about the state of the country as I’m sure we all are.

When I ask about what happens to the collective energy Grove builds with their audience and where it goes they say, “the energy at the beginning is a bit more sinister, then building it up to that crescendo point of being like, OK we are all in this, let’s throw everything we have got into this moment.

“I use the concept of catharsis a lot, in terms of a building of energy and then a release. I think I’ve come to realise that the release isn’t meant to be one moment, but taken into the world.”

Grove isn’t massively specific about what we’re meant to do with the energy they gift us at their performances, but I think that’s their point. It’s a gift, it’s for our own purposes; spare motivation to be stored for a rainy day.

Grove explains, after their gigs, the ones which truly feel collaborative, they love connecting with more experienced punks who often have snippets of wisdom about how to balance action with reflection. They also shout out their regular support EJ:AKIN, “a beautifully grounding person to travel and perform with.”

Grove recently performed at Decolonise Fest in London, a non-profit DIY punk festival ‘created by and for punxs of colour’ and it’s abundantly clear through their work and our on-going conversation, that Grove is heavily focused on activism and collaboration.

However, Grove also makes it abundantly clear that they do not (and never could) represent all queer people of colour: “I represent myself at that given time, and I don’t try to hold myself to any past or future version of myself.

“I do take on those labels, but I don’t claim to speak for everybody.”

They continue: “I’ve even come to reconsider the whole masculine and feminine energy thing”, which was a prevalent line in bios and reviews with Grove until recently, “because I think as part of my journey with gender exploration, masculine and feminine for me are so reductive in and of themselves.

“The music that I make reflects how I view gender – you just chuck it all in a pot and see what happens.

“You don’t need to label it, it’s more about the holistic experience of what you’re listening to.”

Getting back to what we’ll be listening to, I’m keen to ascertain whether we can expect anything beyond Grove’s typical experiential gig when they perform in Brum shortly.

“I’m going to be trying out some new tunes from an upcoming release,” says Grove. “It’s going to be very exciting and a lot more politically focused, a small body of work.”

And how would Mx Grove like their audience to show up?

“I want people to bring themselves authentically, unbridle themselves from the weight of being perceived. Move your limbs in ways you’ve never done before.

“If that’s not your thing just listen attentively, and engage in whatever way that means to you, that would be dreamy.”

I try to get a date for their upcoming ‘more politically focused release’ but Grove tuts at me and laughs it off, providing an answer almost as specific as their gender identity. “There’s no set date, it’ll be released sometime after March.” So, sometime between March and the end of time then?

I can’t wait.

Finally, I need to know whether Grove’s Spotify bio, which says ‘legendary pussy music’, is about their sound or themselves. Grove laughs again, louder this time: “I never expected anyone to actually mention it, but my friend Annie said it.

Grove insists it’s about the music. But, I’ll continue to insist it’s about both.

You can catch Grove, said legendary pussy (music), at the Hare and Hounds on Tuesday 31 January – tickets priced at £7.00 as part of Independent Venue Week.

For tickets to Grove’s upcoming Hare and Hounds show go to:

For more from Grove go to:

For more from Hare and Hounds go to:

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