INTERVIEW: David Baldwin – Shock & Gore Festival @ The Electric 28.07 – 10.08.17

INTERVIEW: David Baldwin – Shock & Gore Festival @ The Electric 28.07 – 10.08.17 / Ed King - Birmingham Review

Words by Charlotte Heap / Original pics by Ed King

Walking through Southside to The Electric, I’m struck by how Birmingham behemoth Grand Central now looms over the Art Deco cinema.

Claiming to be the ‘UK’s oldest working cinema’ the building has hosted films since 1909 – originally known as Electric Theatre, then as numerous incarnations (including as a less than salubrious pornographic cinema in the seedy 1970s) until the business eventually died in the shadows of the then decrepit New Street station in 2003. Restored by local entrepreneur and filmmaker Tom Lawes, the Station Street cinema was re-opened as The Electric in 2004, seeking to entice film fans into its monochrome foyer with imaginative programming and broader range of genres than the mainstream theatres.

I’m interviewing David Baldwin, The Electric’s General Manager and the man behind the cinema’s annual Shock & Gore festival – a special programme of horror films, resurrected for the seventh year between 28th July to 10th August. As I arrive and peer into the gloom, squinting against the bright reflections of Grand Central, the doors suddenly swing open and I’m ushered into the faded grandeur of the foyer by a bow-tied barman. After being briefly mistaken for a job applicant, I’m taken down a dark and narrow staircase into the bowels of the building… a suitably spooky place to discuss Baldwin’s devilish brainchild.

David Baldwin joined Tom Lawes at The Electric in 2009, having been “made redundant” from a journalism career that he was glad to escape from. “I could see the way the (newspaper) industry was going”, explains Baldwin. “Tom (Lawes) takes less of a front seat now; he has a lot of fingers in a lot of pies with his films and stuff. Sam (the bow-tied barman) and I do the programming and managing now.”

Since 2009 people’s proclivity for streaming films at home has increased, not to mention the opening of the Everyman and The Mockingbird cinemas, so there is a constant challenge to encourage people into The Electric. One way to tackle this is ‘inventive’ programming. Sitting on a plush velvet sofa, David Baldwin acknowledges the need for a seven year old Shock & Gore to attract the hoards – stating that while it would be easy to show “just zombie films and the classics, we don’t want it to be films you can just watch at home.”

So the pressure is on, as Baldwin and his team “mix it up with special events, Q&As and previews, to create something that’s a bit more inventive. Horror gets a bad rep because you can make it cheaply. There’s a lot of shit out there but there’s great stuff coming out and we’ve found the good stuff and put it in the Shock & Gore programme.” He is also particularly excited about a possibly unappetising feature of the 2017 programme: “The Wickerman showing with themed food and drink is one we’ve been wanting to do for a while; we’re working with Conjurer’s Kitchen and it will be particularly odd. There’ll be edible foreskins…”

INTERVIEW: David Baldwin – Shock & Gore Festival @ The Electric 28.07 – 10.08.17 / Ed King - Birmingham ReviewHaving picked up on the penis-related snacks in the programme, I’m glad David Baldwin raised this. It’s unusual to see food and drink teamed with horror, given that many people (ok, me) can’t contemplate eating while watching a gruesome film. Baldwin emphasises that “Conjurer’s Kitchen are artists and we’re adding a live element that can’t be recreated at home. They design food that makes the experience interactive, even for the squeamish.” Laughing, he does admit to “reining in” Conjurer’s Kitchen for this viewing: “the foreskin is my limit.”

But for those with slightly more squeamish limits, Shock & Gore promises a programme with something for everyone.” A self-confessed 90s horror nerd David Baldwin is looking forward to the 20th Anniversary Shindig for vampire slaying heroine, Buffy – an event that has, albeit unsurprisingly to Baldwin, sold out before the festival opens. “I know my Buffy fans,” he explains, “Buffy and I went to school and university at the same time so our lives have always been on the same track… although I’m not a vampire slayer. Not that I know about anyway. Sadly.”

Perhaps more surprisingly though, Buffy’s smart and slightly sanitised slaying is one of many features in the 2017 Shock & Gore programme with strong female leads.  “People think it’s (horror films) just women getting chased by scary men. But there are so many great female roles like Buffy and Sigourney Weaver as Ripley. Horror is progressive – it subverts and surprises. I mean, in the 1970s no one would have thought Ripley would have survived. There are also a lot more female directors now and more meaty roles for women.”

INTERVIEW: David Baldwin – Shock & Gore Festival @ The Electric 28.07 – 10.08.17 / Ed King - Birmingham ReviewFor example Hounds of Love – an Australian serial killer horror scheduled for Sat 29th, shows the female ‘victim’ as “resourceful, using her brains and fighting back. There’s something satisfying about seeing a female character outwitting men… and causing them to die in horrible ways.”

Everyone means everyone though, and for families looking at the Shock & Gore programme this year David Baldwin recommends the 1954 original of Godzilla, “a silly monster movie”. There’s also Nicolas Roeg’s interpretation of the Roald Dahl classic, The Witches, which is still pitched at a family friendly audience despite my protestations that Angelica Huston as the Grand High Witch gave me nightmares as a child. “It’s a PG,” retorts Baldwin, “and there are some pretty tough kids out there”.

But a horror film festival will no doubt have certain expectations to live up to, no pun intended, and for those at the other end of the tough spectrum to me, “we’re showing a short film showcase,” tells Baldwin, “which is great because they’re punchy and inventive. Martyrs is from the New French Extremity genre and it’s pretty full on: flayings and extreme torture. But it’s a good film and the gore is part of the story; I’m not a fan of gore for gore’s sake.”

Pushed about a hardened horror fan’s gore limits, David Baldwin explains that a visceral, sweaty palmed, dry mouthed feeling is more what he loves about the genre, “when I was younger, The Ring remake, which I think is better than the original, screwed me up for a while. Nightmares and I actually felt my heart pumping, which is rare for me.”

Not often you hear of a remake surpassing the original; how are contemporary horror films holding their own against the classics? “Everyone always thinks it was better in their day,” tells Baldwin, “the 90s was my genre with the self-aware (horror) films, and then the torture porn era came along. It disappeared quite quickly apart from Saw”.INTERVIEW: David Baldwin – Shock & Gore Festival @ The Electric 28.07 – 10.08.17

And what about the modern perception that, as a society, we are becoming desensitised to certain horrors and violence on film? Has the genre become more shocking to challenge our numbness. “It feels as though we’re going back to a more classical, subtle style,” explains the horror festival curator, “like It Comes At Night, which is definitely a psychological style horror. But as make up and special effects get better, and young directors want to make their name, there are shocking things happening.” Although a lot of films still rely on the fear of the unseen, like The Conjouring films. “They’re based largely around shadows and creaky floorboards. There’ll always be that, it’ll never change.”

But if anything, David Baldwin see the horror genre leaning more towards exploiting society’s biggest issues to shock its audiences: “We’re showing Genocidal Organ (a Japanese Anime production) and whilst Japanese films are known for being quite extreme it’s an interesting and intelligent film as well – it’s about genocide and how we have become disconnected from it. Like we hear about people being murdered in media and then just go, ok and go and get a Starbucks.”

How about the more mainstream studios; are there any ‘big releases’ in the genre pitching social commentary as horror? “Get Out, which was really low budget but made a huge profit because it appealed to such a wide audience, made a comment on race-relations and modern day America. Saw 5 was about the failings of the US healthcare system. You don’t expect that in horror.”

INTERVIEW: David Baldwin – Shock & Gore Festival @ The Electric 28.07 – 10.08.17Also on the programme for Shock & Gore 2017 is The Ghoul – the latest sinister story from Ben Weatley, a contemporary filmmaker with a subtle fair for frightening his audiences. Plus one who’s no stranger to The Electric’s wider programme. “Ben Wheatley likes this place, our audience and thinks it’s a great thing for Birmingham,” tells David Baldwin. “It’s nice to hear that from people working in the industry.” A solid endorsement, something that no doubt helps in attracting audiences and industry alike to the Birmingham based cinema; Richard E Grant also took part in a recent Q&A at The Electric as part of the 30th anniversary of Withnail & I.

But this creative approach to programming is what’s needed on the front lines of an increasingly competitive Birmingham film scene: “we thought Everyman might steal our audience,” admits David Baldwin, “but our audience is different. People who go to the Everyman are not necessarily film fans – they’re going for a night out. Whereas people love the history of the place here (The Electric) and want to know what we’re showing, what special events we’ve got coming up.”

Competition can also encourage growth, with Birmingham’s reputation in the wider film industry on a promisingly upward keel in recent years. And like most ‘in the know’, David Baldwin alludes to Steven Knight’s (Peaky Blinders) quest to build a film studio in the second city: “He is still really trying,” tells Baldwin, “and if he does that, it’d be huge. There’s a lot of talented crew here (in Birmingham) but they have to go to London and elsewhere because there’s not much happening.”  

INTERVIEW: David Baldwin – Shock & Gore Festival @ The Electric 28.07 – 10.08.17 / Ed King - Birmingham Review“We need a cheerleader and a champion for film in Birmingham and Steven’s in a perfect position. There’s much more going on. We’ve had Spielberg, Kings from the Golden Circles, Girl with the Gift filming here. Enticing film crews here is a great way to change the perception of the city and Birmingham City Council have finally seen the light.” But what are the chances of an actual studio being built, is it ambition or pipe dream? “He’s (Steven Knight) had people over from Paramount looking at the site; he’s doing it.”

As I’m leaving The Electric, talk turns to the recent death of George Romero – one of the masters of modern horrors. And despite his respect for modern offerings from the genre, David Baldwin will be watching zombie-classic Dawn of the Dead rather than cult comedy Shawn of the Dead at Shock & Gore’s traditional late-night film screening party.

“It’s a great film,” explains Baldwin, “and a commentary on capitalism and shopping; it’s stood the test of time. The best stuff does, and the rest just disappears in to the ether. George Romero, the director, died the other day and he effectively created the zombie genre with Night of the Living Dead. So it’ll be a bit sad.” But Baldwin jokes, “he always said as a big zombie fan he won’t stay dead.”

As I step back outside, once more into the bright reflection of Grand Central – our city’s own trance-like stomping ground, I can only hope Birmingham’s film industry has better odds at its own resurrection.

For more on the Shock & Gore film festival, visit

For more from The Electric, including a full film/event programme and online ticket sales, visit

BPREVIEW: Supersonic Festival @ Various 16-18.06.17

Words by Charlotte Heap

Back after a brief hiatus, Supersonic Festival is returning with its trademark artistically adventurous programme – promising a weekend of experimental experiences across Birmingham.

Launched in 2003, this established festival has a reputation as one of the UK’s most anticipated avante garde music and arts events. Utilising some of Birmingham’s best performance spaces, Capsule (the self-proclaimed ‘cultural alchemist’) have curated a schedule which is bursting with cutting edge artists.

Organist Anna Von Hausswolff opens the festival at the Town Hall: her gothic style complements the concert hall’s magnificent architecture, fusing live electronics and a traditional guitar band with the huge sound of the historic organ installed in 1834.

Capsule have incorporated Lucy McLauchlan’s large scale street art in and around the Digbeth based festival hub, hoping that her monochromatic explorations of Birmingham’s waterways – displayed along the canalside – will entice the viewer to McLauchlan‘s residency within Centrala (Minerva Works) and Boxxed (Floodgate Street).

Committed to bringing challenging cultural experiences to the masses, Supersonic even has a child-focused performance: Melt Banana, a Japanese band, are bringing a somewhat intimidating described “riot of sound and fury” to Symphony Hall’s exalted stage. For Birmingham’s younger audience it should be a memorable musical moment in one of the country’s best concert venues.

An important part of the Brummie cultural calendar, Supersonic needed to come back with a bang after it’s break in 2016. With workshops, talks, film showings and more, the festival’s 2017 line-up is a welcome return for Birmingham’s culture vultures.  Ticket prices for Supersonic events will vary across the weekend’s programme, depending on how much you want to do and where you want to be.

Supersonic Festival comes to various venues across Birmingham, running from 16th to 18th June. For direct festival info and online tickets sales, visit

BREVIEW: Imbalance @ The Patrick Centre 27.04.17

BREVIEW: Imbalance @ The Patrick Centre 27.04.17 / Moving Productions

Words by Charlotte Heap / Pics by Moving Productions

Dynamic dance duo Joli Vyann explored the impact of society’s obsession with technology on our everyday lives with their latest show Imbalance, on a starkly furnished set at The Patrick Centre

Ex-stuntman Jan Patzke and ex-gymnast Olivia Quale, who formed Joli Vyann almost five years ago, have said that they enjoy ‘the subtleties and sophistication of lighting and intimate and focused environment’ that indoor spaces provide. But the gloom in the Hippodrome‘s dedicated dance studio, both before and after Thursday night’s performance, meant that I missed the programme note explaining how Quayle had been replaced by Maélie Palomo – a second year student at the National Center of Circus Arts.

(Ed’s note… A spokesperson from DanceXchange later explained Olivia Quale had hurt her wrist. Maélie Palomo, who had been training alongside Quale, was elected to stand in for the Birmingham performances.)

The intimacy of The Patrick Centre proved a harsh spotlight on the young understudy, as she struggled at times to execute choreographer Jonathan Lunn’s vision as the audience is asked ‘When and how do we separate BREVIEW: Imbalance @ The Patrick Centre 27.04.17 / Moving Productionsourselves from the virtual chaos surrounding us?’ The technological revolution has changed fundamental parts of our lives, how we communicate and how we think; understanding its impact has become a hot topic across the arts.

Jonathan Lunn and Joli Vyann, working together for the first time, sought to use their fusion of dance and circus to explore the undeniable impact of technological temptations and terrors. Just two chairs and a table sat on the stage of this stripped back spectacle; the only props were mobile phones and laptops, whilst Patzke and Palomo wore nondescript costumes. Meditative chanting accompanied a brilliantly understated opening sequence which encapsulated a familiar scene: people present in each other’s company but transfixed with technology. However the challenging choreography caused the clearly shaking pair to stumble, and, in the audience, a sense of unease settled.

The scenes progressed with unrelenting acrobatics which held a mirror to modern life in a more deliberately unsettling manner. Drawing strength from a full auditorium, the duo demonstrated impressive physicality in their movement. The table and chairs were used extensively, both clunkily and cleverly, to represent communicative barriers.  We moved through moments that resonated and amused: the couple moving like boxers, circling each BREVIEW: Imbalance @ The Patrick Centre 27.04.17 / Moving Productionsother, tangling and twisting whilst glued to their smart devices. The soundtrack provided by Dougie Evans, co-Artistic Director of Lila Dance, featured snippets of speech from all walks of society, reinforcing the message that technology is connecting us globally but distancing us intimately.

The storytelling, however, did waver. A brief exploration of cyber bullying and suicide seemed perfunctory and slightly puzzling. The choreography was clever, showcasing impressive gymnastic skills, but like the story it lacked fluidity. Some of the elaborate acrobatics felt forced; if you’ll excuse the pun, the blend of circus with dance felt imbalanced. Imbalance carried a strong, if simple, message but was ultimately frustrating; the best moments, for a purist, came when technology and acrobatic ambition were abandoned. Too infrequently, the couple found pleasantly breath-taking synergy in slick dance sequences.

Patzke and Quayle have been performing their mix of dance, circus skills and stunts as Joli Vyann for half a decade. Palomo perhaps suffered for being a stand in; she is undoubtedly talented and was ultimately impressive, but the couple’s unfamiliarity did detract from the polish of the performance.

Imbalance is only Joli Vyann’s second indoor show and demonstrates the not-fully-realised ambition of this unique style. The acrobatics were breath-taking, but Imbalance’s impact suffered for a focus on fantastic feats. 

For more on Imbalance, visit

For more from Joli Vyann, visit

For more from DanceXchange, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit

BPREVIEW: Imbalance @ The Patrick Centre 26-7.04.17

BPREVIEW: Imbalance @ The Patrick Centre 26-7.04.17 / Moving Productions

Words by Charlotte Heap / Pics by Moving Productions

Are you in or out of balance? Do you spend every waking moment scrolling on your smart device? Is your virtual existence enhancing or stunting your reality?

Joli Vyann are exploring the impact of society’s obsession with technology on our everyday lives with their latest production, Imbalance – performed at The Patrick Centre on Wednesday 26th and Thursday 27th April.

Doors open at 8pm with tickets priced at £14, as presented by DanceXchange and Joli Vyann. For direct event info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

Ex-stuntman Jan Patzke and ex-gymnast Olivia Quale formed Joli Vyann almost five years ago and have been celebrated for their unique fusion of dance and circus: winning the audience prize at the Stockton International Riverside Festival for the dramatically playful Don’t Drink and Dance. The flexible friends now turn their impressive athleticism and acrobatics to a look at our obsessive dependence on technology.

Ah, technology… both the saviour and scourge of society. One can hardly fail to notice that modern life’s every interaction is punctuated by the ping of a mobile phone. There exists, today, a desperate demand for constant entertainment brought to us in more and more convenient forms. It is unassailable that the Internet and technological revolution have changed the way we live, how we interact, and how we think. Alongside the current culture of ‘fake news’, it will be interesting to see how Joli Vyann’s Imbalance tackles this hot topic, asking ‘when and how do we separate ourselves from the virtual chaos surrounding us?’

BPREVIEW: Imbalance @ The Patrick Centre 26-7.04.17 / Moving ProductionsFor Imbalance, the duo are collaborating for the first time with acclaimed choreographer and director Jonathan Lunn, renowned for his work on films Truly, Madly, Deeply and Love Actually.

Individually Jan Patzke and Olivia Quale have impressive credentials, and having worked with many companies and choreographers – including Dragone, Legs on the Wall, Motionhouse and Cirq’ulation Locale – the pair have honed their craft together, performing their blend of dance, circus skills and stunts together for half a decade. Imbalance is their second indoor show, following Stateless in 2015. As Joli Vyann they’ve created a further two well-received outdoor shows, Lance moi en L’air and H2H, and will be reprising the former following the Imbalance tour in France, Graz and Ireland.

Jan Patzke and Olivia Quale have stated that they enjoy “the subtleties and sophistication of lighting and intimate and focused environment” that performing indoors provides. The Patrick Centre, home to DanceXchange and ‘the first dedicated dance space outside of London’, provides an appropriately intimate space for Joli Vyann’s acrobatic spectacle.

Imbalance – Joli Vyann

Imbalance comes to The Patrick Centre on Wed 26th and Thurs 27 April, as presented by Joli Vyann and DanceXchange. For direct gig info and online tickets sales, click here.

For more on Imbalance, visit


For more from Joli Vyann, visit

For more from DanceXchange, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit


BREVIEW: The Big Birmingham Soul Night @ Town Hall 15.04.17

BREVIEW: The Big Birmingham Soul Night @ Town Hall 15.04.17

Words by Charlotte Heap / Pics by Paul Stringer

Stepping into Birmingham Town Hall for the Big Birmingham Soul Night is like stepping back in time. Veterans of the Motown scene, clad in the classic wide-legged Oxford Bags, plimsolls and Ben Sherman polo shirts, dominate the giant wooden dance floor with their distinctive moves.

The spins, kicks; and shuffles (equally exhausting and joyful to watch) are tricky for a Northern Soul newbie to emulate but this doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of this all-nighter. The Night Owl, itself a relative newcomer to the scene, presents an impressive line up of DJs in an equally impressive venue. The listed splendour of the Town Hall and its sprung dance floor dovetails nicely with the nostalgia of original vinyl sounds. The bill, topped by legendary DJ Colin Curtis, kept the dance floor full throughout with famous 4-4 beats.

BREVIEW: The Big Birmingham Soul Night @ Town Hall 15.04.17 / Paul Stringer - The Night OwlFor many of the dancers, this is clearly a relished opportunity to relive their youth and, truthfully, that’s what gives the evening its authenticity. There’s a cathartic, carefree atmosphere: a sense that these ageing Mods have been waiting for this very moment to unleash years of pent up rhythm. Strangely, it’s the younger attendees that seem almost peripheral to the action, imitating but never quite improving upon the confidence of the originators.

The music, both in the stunning main room and downstairs bar, ranges from the familiar to the rare – reflecting the original scene. DJs like Curtis hunted down American Soul 45s and brought them to the hungry masses in the North West where DJs and dancers alike tried to outdo each other with the hardest-to-come-by vinyl and the hardest-to-execute moves. Memorabilia and record stalls add to the sense that this is an event for the serious Soul fan.

The tiny downstairs bar proved to be the only real detraction: the valiant staff struggled to quench the thirst of the sweating crowd in good time. For the dedicated ‘Soulies’ this made little difference; for the more casual participant itBREVIEW: The Big Birmingham Soul Night @ Town Hall 15.04.17 / Paul Stringer - The Night Owl was an annoying inconvenience. This could be easily rectified should the organisers decide to partner again, which they should.

(Ed’s note… after some post party exploration, we were told there had been another bar lurking at the back of the entrance level but most people didn’t know about it. BBSN organisers were already on the case, so next time… please drink responsibly.)

The Night Owl, recently voted Best New Venue by Birmingham Mail, has clearly filled a niche at its bar in Digbeth: it is the only dedicated Motown destination in the Midlands in decades. There’s an apparent appetite for Northern Soul and this partnership was an effective advert for the budding Birmingham Soul scene.

The issue for the organisers now is how to convert the nostalgia into real hunger for more. For the scene to thrive where previously it had withered and died, it will need to attract new, and, dare I say it, younger disciples.

For more from The Night Owl, visit

For more from the Town & Symphony Halls, visit