BREVIEW: BIMM Summer Festival @ Asylum 14.06.19

BIMM Summer Festival @ Asylum 14.06.19Words by Charlie Culverhouse

It’s the day of BIMM Birmingham’s Summer Festival and the weather is as miserable as it has been all week. Luckily for the ‘summer’ theme it hasn’t rained today, yet. I cross my fingers that the weather will allow festival goers to celebrate in the dry.

In the venue, I notice a lack of people. I get in early as I study at BIMM Birmingham and know musicians playing tonight, yet I see no-one around.

It’s strange seeing such a large venue so empty, but the emptiness also shows the lack of a summer theme – a few inflatable palm trees, beach balls and rubber rings, but nothing else suggesting a festival happening, which is further damped by the rain now starting up. I quickly start to feel underwhelmed – the music is set to beging in 10mins and the 600-person venue has a maximum of 40 people in it. ‘Summer’ pop music plays in the background, but is over-shadowed by the now pouring rain outside.

The venue feels dingy, too dark for a summer festival. There is no hustle and bustle. As the first act begin, with a simple acoustic song and lack of any audience, I find more interest in the Spiderman movie being oddly screened above the bar.

As The Asylum‘s main room slowly fills out, I notice no one looks particularly summery either – more like they’re in the middle of December. The definitive age gap separates the audience into two halves, the students and their friends running between the smoking area and the front of the crowd, whilst the older gig attendees spread across the back of the venue – enjoying the music without any external noise and chatter. The night is quickly dominated by acoustic songs, and as pleasant as everything sounds I crave something more upbeat. BIMM Birmingham’s Summer Festival was advertised as a ‘talent showcase’, but can you call it a showcase if there’s no genre diversity throughout the majority of the show?

The third song performed by Gerard Harrison is a soul cover of Lionel Ritchie’s ’All Night Long’, which starts the summer feel and lifts the mood of the whole crowd. More musical highlights include Sofia Jones’ cover of Toni Braxton’s ‘Un-Break My Heart’, which sounds so much like the original it’s crazy. Whilst Jones’ second performance, of Lenny Kravitz’s ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way?’, just proves her talent and genre diversity.

By this point in the evening people are starting to loosen up and have a good time, the drinks may be a factor in this. Well, they are for me. But each act only gets to play one or two songs before changing over, which creates a choppy feeling – with the frequent intervals making me loose interest too.

When the music isn’t playing I speak to William, who has been standing at the front of the venue for the majority of the night – singing and dancing through every song. “The event is fun and I will support my mates through everything they do,” explains William, “but I feel like it’s missing something. I want to hear more from some people and get really into the music, instead of feeling like I’m being interrupted halfway through.”  I’m glad it’s not just me. Most of the people I chat to are also here for friends or children – mainly supporting who they know, which is emphasised as I see people leaving after whoever they’ve come to see has performed.

Hunger Moon’s performance is beautiful, as always. The crowd love it and the venue fills out even more. Felix brings a heavier sound, with harsh bass tones, and starts the long-waited transition to some heavier music – a move that I’m craving. The crowd seems to agree and meshes into one, filling the gap between those at standing the back and those dancing at the front. I understand why an event like this may leave heavier styles of music till the end of the night, but this left me (and arguably many of the rest of us) somewhat lost through the first three quarters of the show.

Sundogs end the night. I’m at the back of the venue, as by this point I can’t break through the crowd that has formed. Everyone who has been craving something heavier is now enjoying themselves, as they clearly wish they had been earlier; I’m even pulled into a dance circle, where I jump around with people I barely know having the time of my life and enjoying some really awesome music. It may even have stopped raining, but by now I’m having too much fun to check.

This is the perfect way to close off the evening, and I’m excited to see how future events held by BIMM Birmingham compare to this one – as their first Summer Festival ends in success. Things can only get bigger and better from here. We just need to find a reliable booking agent for sunshine.  

For more on BIMM Birmingham, visit

For more on Asylum, including venue details and further event listings, visit


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.

BPREVIEW: BIMM Summer Festival @ Asylum 14.06.19

BIMM Summer Festival @ Asylum 14.06.19Words by Ed King

On Friday 14th June, BIMM Summer Festival comes to Asylum – a free to attend event, that promises to be ‘a celebration of young musicians from across the region and a chance to showcase the very best local musical talent.’

Doors open at Asylum from 6:30pm, with the music kicking of from 7pm. Age of entry is 16+ until 10:30pm, when the adults in the room take over and the night moves into Asylum 2 for the aftershow party. For direct event info, click here.

BIMM is one of the major players in contemporary music education – ‘a teaching institution dedicated to supporting and nurturing the budding careers of young musicians and music professionals’ with institutions in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Brighton, Bristol and Dublin. But BIMM stretches even further afield these, with two institutions in the German cities of Hamburg and Berlin. And cutting your musical teeth on the live circuits in both the UK and Germany worked out pretty well for a bunch of scousers in the sixties, so…

But BIMM Birmingham’s inaugural ‘Summer Festival’ is about showing of their students in this city, and with a list of alumni that boasts James Bay, Ella Mai and George Ezra (to name a few) then it’s probably worth a quick stop, look and listen. Indeed, as the event’s press release says: ‘Knowing that these big alumni names got their start by performing with BIMM, it is more than likely that the next big star could be performing at BIMM’s Summer Festival this year, who would want to miss out on that?’ Well, quite. Plus it’s free, so you’ve literally got nothing to lose.

So, who’s on the BIMM Summer Festival bill then? The line up includes some lesser known (to us, at least) local acts such as Dream Theatre, Snazzle Patch, Lenny Con Banda, Ace, Allasandra Curle, Cameo and Sundog. Alas, we don’t have much more on these luminaries in waiting – outside of the fact that they represent ‘a line up of artists from a variety of musical genres.’ I guess that’s what Google is for.

But grabbing our attention is Hunger Moon, who Birmingham Review first covered when they released their debut single ‘Oh Friend’ back in March 2018. Signing to the Northamptonshire based Babywoman Records earlier this year, Hunger Moon’s latest single, ‘Honey’, came out in May 2019 and is something pretty special – available to stream for free across a variety of platforms, click here to check it out for yourself.

According to the BIMM Summer Festival press release, Ellisha Green is also performing – a singer/songwriter who was recently nominated in the ‘Rising Star’ category at this year’s Birmingham Music Awards. Plus, 2018 X Factor contestant and ‘internet sensation’ Felix (Shepherd) is marked out for greatness. Both these artists have also had singles out this year, Green releasing ‘Mother, Tell Me’ in March and Felix releasing ‘Gold’ in June – so it’s already a pretty formidable fledgling line up with just these three on the bill.

BIMM Summer Festival is also being presented as ‘a valuable networking opportunity for Birmingham’s music professionals as well as aspiring music professionals’ – and whilst you can justifiably feel an internal shudder at ‘networking…’ (cue memories of awkward business breakfasts and empty evenings talking to someone about how the pet clothing market is about to boom) if you’re young and hungry to learn more about the region’s musical industry then this could be a good night out.

As Antony Greaves, principle at BIMM Birmingham, explains: “The BIMM Birmingham Summer Festival is an opportunity for students to showcase themselves to the music industry, friends, family and the wider public at a free to attend event, as well as being a great way to celebrate the end of a year’s hard work.”

Plus, again, it’s free. Would be rude not to.

BIMM Summer Festival comes to Asylum on Friday 14th June, with free entry to everyone 16 year and over. Doors open at 6:30pm, with live music from 7pm until 10:30 – then it’s 18+ for the aftershow party in Asylum 2. For direct event information, visit 

For more on Asylum, including venue details and further event listings, visit 

For more on BIMM Birmingham, visit


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.

INTERVIEW: Jo Jeffries – Birmingham Music Awards 16.05.19

Jo Jeffries at the Birmingham Music Awards 2018Words by Collette Williams / Pics courtesy of the Birmingham Music Awards

Back for its sophomore year, the Birmingham Music Awards (BMAs) returns to celebrate the bright stars of our city’s music scene at The Mill in Digbeth on Thursday 16th May – with categories recognising both the artists and industry that supports and surrounds them. VIP and standard tickets are available, for online sales click here.

Co-founder of the BMAs, Jo Jeffries, has been a part of the music industry for over two decades – both on stage and off. Birmingham Review caught up with Jeffries ahead of this year’s ceremony, to peak behind the curtains of Birmingham’s only industrywide annual music awards.


BR: The Birmingham Music Awards (BMAs) are now in their second year, following a debut that got a lot of attention from the local music community. But what prompted you to organise the BMAs to begin with?
JJ: Thanks! Initially I was approached by a client, Dean Williams, who hosts the Birmingham Film Festival.  He had wanted to start a similar project in music but didn’t know where to start; I’d built up a big network in the business and had twenty years’ experience under my belt, so I consulted on the project initially and when we realised it had legs, we partnered.

BR: Was it difficult to start such an endeavour from scratch?
JJ: Not really, but again that had a lot to do with our existing audience/network. It also helped that Birmingham’s music scene was crying out for a mechanic to bring everyone together and create opportunities. Very quickly, artists fed-back and shared successes and the momentum gathered organically from there. When there’s a will, particularly from a sizeable group of people, amazing things can happen.

BR: What was the initial response from Birmingham’s music community – both artists and industry?
JJ: On the whole, hugely positive. And our strength is that we focus on the positivity. There is always a contingency of naysayers, but I tend to find that comes hand in hand with doing something great! Awards can attract a few raised eyebrows, but we come from a good place and in the main the results of our work have been celebrated, which is lovely.

BR: Having experienced the industry from an artist’s perspective yourself, do you feel there is enough public appraisal for artist achievements?
JJ: It’s a vastly different business and landscape compared to my days as an artist. What’s particularly exciting is the ease at which (and low budget with which) you can take your work to the public domain today. With that of course comes an amount of public appraisal. But local public appraisal on the level we have created isn’t so common, and we feel strongly that we need to focus on the talent coming through, so we can be a platform upon which said talent can emerge.

I probably wouldn’t be on this ride in any other city, but for Birmingham I think initiatives like ours are crucial, particularly given our wider ambitions for other music projects. Brum isn’t recognised as the world music city it should be. Our talent doesn’t break through the way it deserves to. We lose a lot to London and many of our brightest and best give up, finding it too challenging to sustain a music career here. We’re working to help combat that and rally the community to do the same.

Jack Parker at the Birmingham Music Awards 2018BR: Talk us though the selection process – how do you start shortlisting?
JJ: With great difficulty!! Year one and year two have been completely different ballgames, given the growth year on year. This year a small team of directors and ambassadors read/watched/listened to over three thousand applications over several weeks, starting at 9am and sometimes still debating at midnight! It was very important that we were thorough and subjective, and where we had whittled entries down and could no longer separate them in each category, our shortlist was the result.

BR: Have there ever been any… heated debates about nominees for a category?
JJ: Of course.  We’re all so passionate, and we understand how much the results mean to so many – a good tête-à-tête (or two) is unavoidable!!

BR: What are the qualities you look for across the categories?
JJ: The categories cover the business, the media, the community projects as well as the art, so that’s difficult to qualify in a couple of sentences!  Essentially, we’re looking at each nominee’s body of work and their achievements over the previous twelve months. Their contribution to the city and their passion for the city (we love to see unapologetic flag-flying) is always a bonus!

BR: There are some strong contenders in line for the ‘Rising Star Award’ – what are the specific qualities you look for in that category?
JJ: This one is 50% open to public vote, then 50% panel. We had so many entries this year we were blown away. We’re looking for artists who are in the early phase of their careers and have gained significant momentum this year, are building traction and whose music excites us; artists who are pushing hard, progressing, developing and have set their sights high. Artists we feel have a buzz around them and are championed.

KIOKO at the Birmingham Music Awards 2018

BR: This year’s ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ is going to one of Aston’s finest, Trevor Burton – beating some pretty strong competition. How did you land on Burton as the winner?
JJ: Trevor’s career has been formidable. He honoured the city by creating its first major supergroup in the 60s (The Move) – his journey has been the stuff of dreams and he just keeps on giving. He’s still a major influence on the rock and roll scene and an inspiration for musicians today. His health has deteriorated this year so it’s really important to us that his city gives him the thanks he deserves.

BR: Do you feel awards events such as this should have a competitive nature?
JJ: Competition is inevitable, we are human beings! But what’s so lovely about this event is that the competition is healthy – it sits alongside graciousness; everyone saluting each other, willing each other on. There is a real understanding that if we work together, everyone wins. We see camaraderie and hear some great banter.

BR: How do you maintain a balanced event that’s inclusive to all, even those in the music scene who haven’t got nominations?
JJ: We try to reach as many musicians and industry professionals as well as students and aspiring musicians.  We partner businesses, organisations, education providers who help us spread the word. We haven’t reached everyone yet, not by any stretch of the imagination, but we are growing our audience by the day and we work as hard as we can to ensure the inclusive message is our mantra – even when we meet adversity or scepticism. We make sure half the ticket allocation is open to the public/non-nominees, and we reserve the other half for nominees; we invite and welcome everyone.

BR: And what about accessibility, if a band that had been nominated couldn’t afford to attend would they still be able to win?
JJ: Of course. Our motivations are not financial. We have to be commercial in order to deliver our events (there are ten additional free to attend monthly networking events around the calendar, and all eleven carry significant costs) but we are here to celebrate the talent and the contributors to music in our city.

Our ticket price is discounted for nominees too; last year the event was free for nominees and we took the hit.  The response was tremendous, and the general feedback was that people would be more than happy to pay to sustain and grow the event rather than force us to re-mortgage our homes.

Lady Sanity & Brian Travers at the Birmingham Music Awards 2018BR: The Birmingham Music Awards have a wide range of ‘Ambassadors’, from all corners of the industry. How do you select those on the BMAs team?
JJ: Yes, we’re very lucky to be able to draw upon people who have had such successful careers. Whilst their experience is crucial, we try to focus on recruiting those who bring real value for our nominees – people who display the willing and drive to guide, mentor and create opportunities/open doors.  They must personify integrity, ooze passion for the city (and shine a light on its talent), as well as share our common goal for more Birmingham music success.

BR: You work with a range of event partners too, including local education providers BIMM and ACM. With both institutions having a lot of active musicians, how do you ensure an unbiased relationship is maintained throughout the process of the event?
JJ: We are very honest and open with everyone from the outset. It’s crucial that everyone understands that we want to reach and include everyone who wants to be involved with Birmingham music, and all entries are on a level playing field. Sponsorship from competitive education providers of course comes with its challenges as there are so many across the region, some with budgets others with little to none.

But we try to navigate these with a clear message; we are accessible for everyone and we will try to help everyone. We will not compromise our integrity, or we risk affecting those we are trying to help. And that message has actually served to bring them closer together, and even collaborate, which is awesome to see.

BR: How about the charity Changes UK – what prompted you to work with them?
JJ: Changes UK is an incredible organisation based in Digbeth, supporting people in recovery from drugs and/or alcohol. This help comes from a place of real authenticity and an understanding that addiction comes from a place of pain. I’ve witnessed so many cases where Changes have turned ‘pain into purpose’ and quashed service users’ dependence; the team is a real inspiration. Mental health issues are all too common in music and since we want to give something back, Changes is the perfect charity to support.

BR: Organisations such as Attitude is Everything work with venues to make sure deaf and disabled audiences can still access gigs. Many places in Birmingham still don’t have wheelchair access, how can the city become more accessible?
JJ: I wish I had an answer that involved anything easier to drive than awareness, investment and serious hard work.  But that’s the formula. We must get better.

BR: And how about the issues of sexual harassment and violence in live music venues, as being tackled by campaigns such as Ask for Angela and NOT NORMAL NOT OK?
JJ: Again, I wish I had an answer that could be implemented overnight. I too have experienced some pretty appalling things in my time, in a business where impressionable young dreamers are preyed upon by those in power.  So much so that you come to expect it. And heaven forbid, accept it. So, these campaigns are a Godsend. It’s back to awareness and rallying the community together to commit to care and look after each other and to make a stand, side by side, en masse. We need to be looking out for each other today more than ever.

BR: What do you feel are the most prominent pros and cons of Birmingham’s music community – on stage and off?
JJ: Birmingham has a vibrant, diverse and independent music scene and some of the most incredible talent. Its live scene is supported by awesome venues and indie festivals. Our education provision is second to none. But we lack a really strong music business infrastructure (when compared to other UK cities including Manchester, Liverpool, Brighton) that can sustain music careers and retain the best of our talent in our city.

As a non-Brummie who made albums in both Liverpool and London before settling here, I found it tough in the beginning to find collaborators and sensed an amount of unhealthy competition, lack of belief and often self-sabotage in the city too… But this seems to be increasingly stamping itself out and it’s a very exciting time that has started with everyone coming together, communicating, supporting, believing, creating together. That’s when the wider UK business notices us and takes us more seriously. We become a force to be reckoned with. That’s when they invest in us, they consider a Birmingham base for their businesses (ACM and BIMM, for example, have arrived in the last two years), they realise this a great A&R pool, they head to our venues. Then more entrepreneurs pop up with new music ventures, our students graduate to employment, our artists are supported with managers, labels, publishers, promoters, radio stations etc.

BR: Do you feel the city gets enough recognition nationwide?
JJ: Not yet, but it will.  Birmingham has a nationwide battle for recognition across multiple sectors as we continue to build ourselves up after the decline of our manufacturing base and infrastructure twenty plus years ago. Things are changing though; excitement is building and momentum is gathering pace as we are fast-establishing ourselves as a key business destination.

Big wins in the city organically lead to national and international opportunities. Resorts World Genting has quickly established itself at the NEC site, HS2 will eventually catapult the city into a ‘transport hub’ – Grand Central Station, John Lewis and The Mailbox’s multi-million-pound refurb, as well as the airport’s extended runway and impending development, further demonstrate the economic opportunities about to come our way.

BR: And how about tour operators that skip Birmingham, as it’s reportedly seen as a difficult city to sell?
JJ: Because it is more difficult to sell than the cities aforementioned at the moment. But also, because we still have to win the respect of the rest of the UK. We do that by implementing the above and shouting about how great we are.

BR: What role in the evolution of the city’s music scene do you see the Birmingham Music Awards BMAs) taking?
I hope the BMAs help to empower our music community with the belief they need to keep driving forward. We can continue to shout about it and shine as bright a light on it as we can muster, but when everyone comes together on that mission, that’s when we’ll be able to pack the punch we need.

We’re so much about delivering those ‘right time, right place’ scenarios and opportunities that were drummed into me as a kid: “Get out there, play as many gigs as you can; you never know who’s in the audience…” At the ceremony last year, we had a classic manifestation of this with those pop/reggae maestros KIOKO and the legendary UB40. We gave the KIOKO boys the heads-up that UB40 were in the room, told them to play a cheeky UB40 cover, they went out there, owned the stage and blew the roof off. And were invited to head out on tour with UB40 for their fortieth anniversary. From three songs at the Glee Club to a support tour at arenas and the Royal Albert Hall. Stuff of dreams. Just as they deserve.

BR: This year’s Birmingham Music Awards are being held at The Mill in Digbeth on 16th May, what is the main message you want people to take away from the event?
JJ: We want to add as much weight to the Birmingham crusade as we can and champion the importance of every single person in that resolve. Look what happens when we all come together, we create opportunities and successes for each other and for the city.

Celebrate, collaborate, support, believe, make things happen. Together. And fly the Birmingham flag as you do it. 

Birmingham Music Awards 2019 will be held at The Mill in Digbeth on Thursday 16th May. VIP and standard tickets are available, for online ticket sales visit 

For more on the Birmingham Music Awards, visit 

For more from The Mill, including full event listings and links to online ticket sales, visit 

For more on Changes UK, visit


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.

EVENT: Readdressing Gender Balance in the Music Industry – Panel & Discussion @ BIMM Birmingham 08.03.19

Words by Ed King

On Friday 8th March, the British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) Birmingham will be hosting a special panel and discussion event – where women from different professional arenas will be ‘discussing the current gender balance in the music industry’.

Free to attend, the event will be held in BIMM Birmingham’s Live Hall from 5:30pm to 7:30pm – to secure your place, click here to visit the Eventbrite page or visit the BIMM Birmingham website for more general information.

Live music will also be performed from BIMM Birmingham’s students, with Alessandra Curle, Eve Pitt, and Julian Bastock playing from 5:15pm until the panel and discussion starts – followed by Renaye & Nandipa, and Lydia Mason playing once the panel and discussion has come to close. There will also be a chance for more informal discussion and networking with those both on the panel and in attendance.

Organised to coincide with International Women’s Day, the panel and discussion at BIMM Birmingham will address the disparity that still occurs between genders in today’s music industry – including why in 2019 is ‘female fronted’ still being referred to as a genre, and the gender imbalance that many still see in the music industries festival and live circuits. The latter is an especially pertinent issue, with festival programmers across the UK and North America being called upon to present line ups with more female artists; a selection of female professionals from within different areas of the industry will look at these pervasive issues of inequality and encourage a group discussion from the other panel members and the audience.

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On the panel will be Jo Jeffries, who has a well established carer across the music industry as both a performer in her own right and a songwriter for international pop artists including Holly Valance and Michelle McManus. In 2016 Jeffries founded the local arts and music collective 7LOCO, which works with major brands and broadcasters to promote talent from across the music and entertainment industry. Then in 2017 Jeffries also launched the Birmingham Music Awards, celebrating artists from all genres in both a high profile annual awards ceremony and monthly networking events.

Also on the panel will be Sue Buckler, a long standing radio plugger who has represented artists from Kylie to Britney Spears – achieving airplay for the rosters of major labels and music groups from Sony to Virgin. Buckler is also Head of Radio for the online distributor Ditto Music, working across global territories to promote the music of new and unsigned artists from a catalogue of genres.

Writer Sophie Maughan will offer further insight from the world of music journalism, as a current contributor to publications included Metal Hammer, TeamRock and Distorted Sound Magazine. Whilst Nova Twins (aka Amy Love and Georgia South) will represent current performing artists at the BIMM Birmingham panel event, bringing their worldwide experiences from clubs and concert venues into the discussion.

BIMM Birmingham hosts a free to attend panel and discussion on ‘Readdressing Gender Balance in the Music Industry’ on Friday 8th March. To secure your place, visit the Eventbrite page and register here.

For more on BIMM Birmingham, visit