BPREVIEW: Hannah Brown @ The Sunflower Lounge 12.06.19

Words by Ed King

On Wednesday 12th June, Hannah Brown performs at The Sunflower Lounge – with support from Bryony Williams and Watermark.

Doors open at 7:30pm, with tickets priced at £6 (plus booking fee) – as presented by Indie Midlands. For more direct gig info, including venue details and links to online ticket sales, click here.

Hannah Brown is somewhat of a stalwart on the Midlands music scene, having cemented her place on the cultural landscape with her debut six track acoustic EP, The Highbury Sessions – recorded at the Kings Heath studios and released in 2015.

Brown’s 2016 follow up EP, Better for This, followed in the footsteps of her first – delivering another six track analysis into the fragility of the human endevouor, with all the raw strength and determination that you need to survive it. Stretching from strings to keys and back again, Better for This is an inspiring record – covering the visceral themes of youth and identity, with well-rounded production from Rob Derbyshire and Ben Stancombe.

Supported by BBC Introducing and a variety of music focused media, Brown started to develop the ‘full band sound’ that came through on Better than This – progressing as a songwriter and performing artist, with singles such as ‘So Should You’ and ‘My Home’ released across 2018.

Then in early 2019, Brown released ‘Further Away’ – a track of faster paced melodic rock, telling the troubles of disaffection with a confident vocal lead and lyrics such as “I’ll work ‘till I am eighty, or die when I’m not ready… I just wanna stay in.” Super stuff, Brown’s latest single is an exciting stamp of authority from an artist that has embraced their own development and shows more promise than most egos can healthily handle.

There is an album floating around too, the composite The World Still Spins – made up of cherry picked tracks from Brown’s back catalogue, alongside previously unreleased recordings of some of her more tried and tested tracks. But the music wolf still bays for blood, and you can’t release something as solid as ‘Further Away’ and not expect the howls of “ALBUM…????” to be too far behind. Have a stop, look, listen below and you’ll see (hear) where we’re coming from.

‘Further Away’ – Hannah Brown

Hannah Brown plays at The Sunflower Lounge on Wednesday 12th June, with support Bryony Williams and Watermark – as presented by Indie Midlands. For direct gig info and links to online ticket sales, visit www.thesunflowerlounge.com/event/hannah-brown-bryony-watermark

For more on Hannah Brown, visit www.hannah-brown.co.uk
For more on Bryony Williams, visit www.soundcloud.com/bryony-williams
For more on Watermark, visit www.facebook.com/WatermarkUK

For more from Indie Midlands, including further event listings and stories from the region’s indie and alternative music scene, visit www.indiemidlands.com

For more on The Sunflower Lounge, including venue details and further event listings, visit www.thesunflowerlounge.com

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NOT NORMAL NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To learn more about the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues surrounding sexual violence – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL NOT OK website.

NOT NORMAL NOT OK: MeMe Detroit, The Butters Aliens, Sofa King – live gig fundraiser @ Hare & Hounds 07.06.19

On Friday 7th June, the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign hosts it’s first ‘live gig fundraiser’ at the Hare & Hounds (Kings Heath) – with MeMe Detroit, The Butters Aliens and Sofa King all performing.

Doors open at the Hare & Hounds from 7:30pm, with tickets priced at £5 (early bird) and £7 (second release/otd) – as presented by NOT NORMAL NOT OK. For direct gig info and links to online ticket sales, visit the Facebook Event Page by clicking here. The event is further supported by BBC Introducing West Midlands and Birmingham Review.

Tickets can be bought through See Tickets (click here) and through Skiddle (click here). Physical tickets are also available from the artists themselves, or by contacting the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign team directly (click here).

NOT NORMAL NOT OK was launched in June 2018, set up ‘to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.’

Following an op-ed piece published on Birmingham Review, citing the actions of two Birmingham based promoters – one who sexually assaulted a singer of a band they were promoting and the other who made some frighteningly misogynistic comments about women attending their venue – the NOT NORMAL NOT OK partnered with West Midlands Police and the Rape & Sexual Violence Project (R.S.V.P.) to begin outreach work at live music venues in the West Midlands.

For the past year, NOT NORMAL NOT OK has been distributing campaign stickers at live music events across the region – with both the gig going public and the artists performing donning the black and yellow NOT NORMAL NOT OK logos at the gigs they attend.

Venues across the Midlands have been welcoming the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign into their events, from the Town & Symphony Halls to independent venues such as the Hare & Hounds and The Dark Horse – showing solidarity for the message of zero tolerance when it comes to sexual violence.

Now the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign is launching its own programme of live music events, starting with a ‘live gig fundraiser’ at the Hare & Hounds on Friday 7th July – with MeMe Detroit, The Butters Aliens and Sofa King all performing on stage. The event is being supported by BBC Introducing West Midlands, one of the first media outlets to get behind the campaign, who secured MeMe Detroit as the headline act.

A second fundraising gig is being held at Centrala on Friday 25th October, with electro-rockers Flight Brigade coming to Birmingham for the penultimate date on their Chased by Wolves album tour – Flight Brigade‘s new single, ‘Tinderbox’, will be played on BBC Introducing Solent on Saturday 25th May between 8 and 9pm.

All money raised from the NOT NORMAL NOT OK live gig fundraisers will go directly back into the campaign – supporting continued outreach work with live music venues, alongside bespoke counselling/advocacy training for NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign staff with R.S.V.P.

“NOT NORMAL NOT OK was born out of a reaction to stories of sexual assault, intimidation and violence within our local music scene,” explains NOT NORMAL NOT OK Campaign Director, Ed King. “It began with one person’s story, a singer in a band who had been sexually assaulted by the promoter who was putting their gig on. But as we started to talk to people about sexual violence in the music scene, towards those both on stage and off stage, we were told about a frightening number of cases – from people being sexually assaulted in a crowd, to rape. 

It was a horrible realisation and one that I, both personally and professionally, had been naively unaware of. But many people want to see change and with the help of both the music community and our campaign partners – including West Midlands Police and the Rape & Sexual Violence Project – we are now shinning a light on the issue, talking about the ‘elephant in the room’ and exposing a culture of sexual violence that is disturbingly commonplace in the music scene.”

NOT NORMAL NOT OK hosts it’s live gig fundraiser with MeMe Detroit, The Butters Aliens and Sofa King at the Hare & Hounds Friday 7th June – with tickets priced at £5 (early bird) and £7 (second release/otd). For direct gig info and links to online ticket sales, visit the Facebook Event Page by clicking here.

For more on the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, or to seek help and advice about issues surrounding sexual violence, visit www.notnormalnotok.com

For more on MeMe Detroit, visit www.memedetroit.com 
For more on The Butters Aliens, visit www.soundcloud.com/buttersaliens
For more on Sofa King, visit www.sofakingqueen.bandcamp.com

For more on the Hare & Hounds (Kings Heath), including venue details and further event listings, visit www.hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk

BPREVIEW: The Bombpops @ Hare & Hounds 24.05.19

Words by Ed King

On Friday 24th May, The Bombpops will be playing at the Hare & Hounds (Kings Heath) with support from Swan Prince, killer BOB, and La Moxie – rocking their way across Europe on their Punk in Drublic Tour.

Doors open at 7:30pm, with General Entry tickets priced at £8(+bf) – as presented by Nat Bite Music. For direct event information and links to online ticket sales, click here.

The pop-punk-bastard-brainchild of Poli van Dam and Jen Razavi, The Bombpops were born in 2007 – cementing their place in San Diego’s music scene with some anarchic skate rock and punchy live shows. Cue knee jerk references to Blink 182… but don’t come crying to us if you get a mic stand in the chops, comparisons are a dangerous animal.

Independently releasing their first Like I Care EP In 2010, The Bombpops would follow their six track debut with Stole the TV EP just under a year later – sent out into the world through Toby Jeg’s Red Scare imprint. A few years and line up changes later, landing on Josh Lewis (drums) and Neil Wayne (bass) – with Poli van Dam and Jen Razavi staying solid as the band’s guitarists and vocalists, and The Bombpop’s self released 2015 Can of Worms EP would see them take their first trip across the pond – touring Europe later that year.

Extending their fanbase, and with the encouragingly worldwide cry for an album, The Bombpops started writing and recording their debut LP in 2016 – releasing Fear of Missing Out through Fat Wreck Records in early 2017.

The twelve track slaughter house, that strides from ‘peppy to plain badass in the blink of an eye,’ was well received across the punk pop fraternity – with the Punk Rock Theory website rounding off their review by stating ‘the only downside to this album is that it will seriously cut into your time to listen to other bands.’ So, to surmise, a success.

Back in the UK for a smattering of dates, including the Slamdunk Festivals in Leeds and Hatfield, The Bombpops stop off at the Hare & Hounds (Kings Heath) on Friday 24th May – with support from Swan Prince, killer BOB, and La Moxie.

And we’ve said it before and we may well say it again… but for direct event information and links to online ticket sales, click here.

‘CA in July’ – The Bombpops

For more on The Bombpops, visit www.thebombpops.com
For more on Swan Prince, visit www.swanprinceband.com
For more on killer BOB, visit www.killerbob.rocks
For more on La Moxie, visit www.facebook.com/lamoxieuk 

For more from Nat Bite Music, including further event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.natbite.com

For more on the Hare & Hounds, including venue details and further event listings, visit www.hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk

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BPREVIEW: The Performers: Part 2 – EKKAH, Hunger Moon, Kim’s Cold Food Company, Hayley Frances (poetry) @ The Sunflower Lounge 05.05.19

Words by Ed King

On Sunday 5th May, Bad Girls are back at The Sunflower Lounge with The Performers: Part 2 – a showcase of music, modern beat poetry and art, with a positive message of gender equality (and basic respect…) at the heart of it all.

Doors open at 8pm, with tickets priced at £7+booking fee – as presented by Bad Girls. For more event info, and links to online ticket sales, click here to visit the Facebook event page.

Following on from The Performers: Part 1, again at The Sunflower Lounge back in 2017, this sophomore event will see acts and art once again across the whole venue – taking over both floors, the Bank Holiday closer will showcase a local musical line up featuring EKKAH, Hunger Moon, and Kim’s Cold Food Company. Hayley Frances will also be performing some ‘modern beat poetry’, alongside ‘an array of Birmingham’s best artists showcasing their female inspired art’. All for well under tenner, simples.

The event will also be raising money and awareness to support Safe Gigs for Women, a nationwide organisation that works with gig goers and venues to promote safe event spaces for women and to encourage the entertainment industry to speak out and challenge sexual assault. For more information on Safe Gigs for Women, visit their website by clicking here.

The Performers: Part 2 is also championing the message ‘MY CLOTHES ARE NOT MY CONSENT’ – appearing in bold type on their promotional posters and publicity material. Sadly, there are still people who hide behind the idea that the way someone dresses makes it OK or acceptable for them to grab, grope, or to give it its legal term SEXUALLY ASSAULT someone based on what they are wearing.

The event’s response and message is simple, ‘you can wear what you want, when you want, to where you want it and no outfit or item of clothing gives anyone the right to believe that means that you want to be touched, harassed, or “asking for it”.’ A message I hope most humans don’t need reminding of – but one that also (due to a sad splattering of sh*theads) can’t hurt to reiterate once in a while.

The NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign team will also be at The Performers: Part 2 event, handing out stickers and helping to spread the message of respect and inclusivity across the music scene – ‘from dancefloor to dressing room’. If you see the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign at The Sunflower Lounge, stick a sticker on your sweater and post a pic of yourself to the NOT NORMAL NOT OK Instagram page, Twitter feed, or Facebook account. For more on the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here.

But with music also at the heart of this event, it’s a pretty strong line up to round off your Bank Holiday Sunday. Headliners EKKAH are a seriously fun modern day Chic, with a glorious fusion of electro, pop, disco, funk and this-is-my-serious-face’ dance routines. Birmingham Review last saw EKKAH again at The Sunflower Lounge a few years ago, whilst they were riding the wave of their Last Chance to Dance EP, and the words ‘gold’ and ‘dust’ sprang to mind. Should be a few new tracks getting kicked off stage on Sunday ‘an all.

Hunger Moon have been making some well deserved waves since their debut single, ‘Oh Friend’, came out in March 2018. Nominated for the ‘Rising Star’ category in this year’s Birmingham Music Awards, Hunger Moon are a somewhat delectable dish of haunting vocals and brooding melodies. Getting a healthy portfolio of performances under their belt, with their third single ‘Feel It Sometimes’ also released in March 2019, Hunger Moon are a muso-duo well worth some attention.

And despite having the best band/artist name that we can think off in recent times, Kim’s Cold Food Company is also the new manifestation of Diane Burdon – keeping herself busy whilst Sofa King jump on the ‘short break’ train along with so many others of late. We don’t know much about the music, or if indeed there will be any sandwiches or ice cream available, but it can’t hurt to have a stop, look, listen.

Hayley Frances rounds off the bill, performing some ‘modern beat poetry’ – so expect wit, humour, and some intelligence yet acerbic observations. Having worked with organisations including the Rosie Kay Dance Company, IKON, Writing West Midlands and the Birmingham REP, Frances is a well rounded and confident poet. With the backbone of this event being safe spaces, respect and inclusivity, it will be especially interesting to hear what she has to say.

The Performers: Part 2 comes to The Sunflower Lounge on Sunday 5th May – with performances from Ekkah, Hunger Moon, Kim’s Cold Food Company, Hayley Frances. Doors open at 8pm, with tickets priced at £7+booking fee – as presented by Bad Girls. For more event info, and links to online ticket sales, click here.

For more on EKKAH, visit www.facebook.com/WEAREEKKAH

For more on Hunger Moon, visit www.soundcloud.com/hunger-moon

For more on Kim’s Cold Food Company, visit www.soundcloud.com/kimscoldfoodco

For more on Hayley Frances, visit www.hayleyfrances.com

For more on Safe Gigs for Women, visit www.sgfw.org.uk

For more on NOT NORMAL NOT OK, visit www.notnormalnotok.com

For more from Bad Girls, including further event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.facebook.com/BADGIRLSpresents

For more on The Sunflower Lounge, including venue details and further event listings, visit www.thesunflowerlounge.com 

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NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To learn more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this feature – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse, or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK website.

INTERVIEW: Lisa Thompson, Chief Executive of RSVP – ‘What is sexual assault?

Lisa Thompson, Chief Executive of the Rape & Sexual Violence Project (RSVP) / Lisa BretherickWords by Emily Doyle / Pics by Lisa Bretherick, courtesy of RSVP

Since the launch of the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, many questions have been raised and discussed. Perhaps one of the most pertinent and important has been ‘what is sexual assault?’ It seems some people don’t understand the severity of their actions, whilst others can carry doubt over how to describe the aggression they have suffered.

Lisa Thompson, Chief Executive of the Rape & Sexual Violence Project (RSVP) – the city’s leading support agency for sexual violence and abuse, met with us to offer her insight and to help provide a clear answer to this question.

Sexual assault would be any unwanted sexual contact that’s happened without your consent,” Thompson explains. “It could be loads of different things, but for example if somebody touched your breast and you hadn’t said yes, that is a sexual assault. So, the key thing is consent.”

Consent can be withdrawn, it can be changed, and it can be renegotiated,” Thompson continues. “You might give consent to one thing on one day, and the same thing on the next day you might decide not to. Sexual assault covers a wide variety of offences, but the key thing is around that lack of consent.” No means no, a message that seems simple but one that can sadly still go unheard.

“You can go through sexual abuse or sexual trauma without being touched; you could be forced to watch sexual acts, or pornography… you could have had images that were consensually taken but then they’re shared, as ‘revenge porn’, that’s still got an element of sexual trauma.” Thompson makes it clear that there is a broad spectrum of crimes that are considered sexual assault, both in the judicial process and in more colloquial settings.

The other thing to acknowledge is that even if somebody gives consent but it’s been under pressure or coercion,” Thompson continues, “that wouldn’t really be consent. Also, some people might not have the capacity to understand what they’re consenting to, and somebody can’t consent if they are totally under the influence of drugs or drink. So, consent on the one hand can be fairly simple and straightforward, but there are some complexities.”

A client quote from the Rape & Sexual Violence Project (RSVP)RSVP provide support to all survivors of sexual assault. The organisation offers free counselling, social groups, and advocacy services, as well as self-help information, a telephone helpline and other holistic services. RSVP also offer training for professionals who support abuse survivors, and specialist support for asylum seekers and refugees.

RSVP are a specialist rape and sexual abuse service,” Thompson tells us. “We established nearly forty years ago now, so in November we’ll have our fortieth anniversary. We established as a rape crisis service for women, run by women, but in the eighties we started to see men and now we’re a service that’s available for people of any gender who identify in any way.

Some of Thompson’s work with RSVP also involves providing training for organisations who work with survivors of sexual assault and abuse, as well as those who have the power to challenge attitudes surrounding it.

Preventative work is always difficult,” Thompson says. “Sometimes more of the messages are given to victims or survivors, telling them to, ‘drink less, not wear this, not go there, never be separated from your friends…’ What we need to be doing is giving more messages to offenders or potential offenders that this kind of behaviour is not OK, it won’t be tolerated here, and these are the consequences.”

Thompson talks about ‘victim blaming’, a phenomenon which sees survivors of violence retraumatised by the responses of individuals and institutions if they choose to disclose their assault.

“These messages are sometimes really blatant, but are getting more subtle,” tells Thompson. “So, sometimes it might look like you’re doing the best for victims and survivors by saying, ’be careful, be conscious of your safety’, rather than really poking the finger and putting all the focus and the responsibility on the potential offenders.Sharie Shienhmar from the Rape & Sexual Violence Project (RSVP) / Lisa Bretherick I think that’s what people need to be more aware of. Victims and survivors live in a victim blaming world.”

One of the key objectives of the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign is to encourage both the live music scene and wider communities to talk about, and challenge, sexual assault and aggression. Thompson is passionate about changing the conversation around sexual assault, but she’s the first to acknowledge that this leads into uncomfortable territory at times.

When we do talk about sexual trauma and sexual offences there’s sometimes difficult conversations to have, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid having them,” Thompson affirms. “We need to acknowledge where sexual violence is happening… and acknowledge how prevalent it is. If we sweep it under the carpet and try not to have these conversations, we’re not naming the elephant in the room. We’re perpetuating silence, and it’s a silence that makes it more difficult for people to speak out.”

Thompson goes on to talk about how the silence surrounding sexual assault harms survivors on a number of levels. It goes without saying that a lack of discussion makes it harder to speak out, but the damage caused by this attitude goes much deeper.

I think it’s very common for people who’ve been through sexual trauma to think it’s their fault. We live in a world which tells people that what they’ve been through was their fault. Because they’d had too much to drink, because of who they were mixing with, because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time… all this stuff does is perpetuate victim blaming.”

Sharie Shienhmar and Beverley Higgins from the Rape & Sexual Violence Project (RSVP) / Lisa Bretherick“There is a normalising of sexualised behaviour which we need to change. Sexualised behaviour, treating people as sex objects, it’s not OK. It’s not ‘banter’, it’s not harmless, and it can lead to an escalation of different types of crime. I’m not going to say ‘more serious’, because all types of sexual assault are serious…” Thompson pauses to consider this. “But in terms of what we’d look at in the law, definitely crimes that would carry a longer maximum sentence.”

NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign ‘to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.’ And whilst it’s true that RSVP work in areas that some would term ‘more serious’ than sexual assault in music venues, when I mentioned this to Thompson she is quick to challenge the narrative.

The message we like to give is that all sexual trauma is serious, that it’s not OK, and it could have, and usually does have, some impact. For some people, a one-off incident could be absolutely devastating. It really depends on where the person’s at; what other life experiences they’ve had, what kind of support they have around them, the context of what happened, who they are as a person… but all sexual trauma is serious. We should be able to live in a world where we give clear messages that it’s not tolerated.”

As the conversation moves to focus on our endevours, Thompson identifies how the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign can help foster inclusivity in our city’s live music scene. “A number of people who have been abused and raped in other places – in home settings, within relationships – will be going to those venues. If that venue gives a clear message that this behaviour isn’t tolerated that feels welcoming and supportive of them, so they’re more likely to feel safe as well. It could work on all sorts of different levels.”

Natalie Harris, Abba Gordon and Becky Willets from the Rape & Sexual Violence Project (RSVP) / Lisa BretherickWe talk a little more about the campaign, and Thompson hears how NOT NORMAL – NOT OK calls upon everyone within Birmingham’s live music scene to unanimously condemn sexual assault and aggression. With the wealth of experience from RSVP, I ask what actions people can take to challenge those cultural norms surrounding sexual assault?

Make a decision not to be a bystander,” is Thompson’s immediate response. “They can make a decision that if they see something that isn’t right, they challenge it, they do something about it, they intervene. If they can’t intervene themselves they could always get on the phone, if they’re in a venue they could bring somebody over, they could always ring the police, they can ring Crimestoppers anonymously, there are all sorts of things. Or if somebody looks uncomfortable after something has happened, you could go over and just show kindness.”

This is everybody’s business,” continues Thompson. “It isn’t just survivors and perpetrators; this is all of us. We’re creating a culture change – a change within the venues – that is more welcoming, diverse, and safe for all. Just a small act of not walking by something that you thought, ‘hang on, that doesn’t seem right’… an act which might seem small to you could be absolutely huge to somebody else.”

People can educate themselves. They can challenge people and show that they have a zero-tolerance stance. Offer support if a friend is a survivor and discloses. If somebody does disclose, the key thing that they could do is believe them. We live in a world that doubts people when they disclose sexual violence –  if they disclosed a burglary the response would be shock, not ‘are you just claiming this for the insurance?’.”

Thompson shoots me a look that is mostly exasperated. “People don’t respond like that. We can show belief; we can show compassion and kindness. They’re all free things that you can do, but they’re really important to people. And they can start to challenge the kind of messages that survivors might have had from other people and other places, and restore their faith in humanity again.”

“You don’t have to have been a victim or a survivor to actually do something. We can all do something to show that together, we’re working to create a society that’s safer for all.”

RSVP is a Birmingham based organisation which offers ‘empathic services to support and inspire children and adults of all genders who have been affected by sexual violence and abuse.’ RSVP have been supporting the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign.

If you have been affected by sexual abuse, assault or violence, you can access RSVP’s free services – for more information and contact details on, visit www.rsvporg.co.uk

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NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room. To learn more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this feature – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse, or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK website.