INTERVIEW: Lydia Brookes – Singing for Supper @ The Castle & Falcon 24.11.17

Singing for Supper @ The Castle & Falcon 24.11.17Words by Ed King / Pics courtesy of Lush Birmingham

On Friday 24th November, The Castle and Falcon in Balsall Heath will be hosting Singing for Supper, a live gig with a somewhat stellar line up – You Dirty Blue, Sofa King, Alfresco Love Sounds, The Chalet Lines will all be performing for only a £5.50 door charge. For online ticket sales, click here.

With each act worth the ticket price to just see them on stage, you’ve got three. Not a bad way to spend your money on Black Friday.

But it gets better. Singing for Supper has been organised by the Lush Birmingham soap store to raise money for The Night Shelter – a Coventry based “safe place” that “provides aid to refugees, asylum seekers and refused asylum seekers – people with no recourse to public funds, which means they’re not entitled to any benefits or any help.”

Birmingham Review caught up with Lydia Brookes, one of the Singing for Supper promoters and a ‘Lush Ambassador’, to ask what made them foray into the world of music promotions on arguably the busiest retail day of the year.

“Homelessness is a huge problem,” explains Brookes, “we see ‘rooflessness’ every single day. It’s an issue close to our hearts at Lush and we wanted to work with this charity (The Night Shelter) because they’re part of such an important community resource”. The Night Shelter is one of the services of support available at the Coventry Peace House, a collection of renovated terrace houses that work on a portfolio of charitable endevours – including projects “to make the area more environmentally friendly, to give people safe spaces and places to learn,” tells Brookes. “We care a lot about this organisation because it’s so small but it’s doing so much. It’s quite unique and we really got behind their ethos”.

But this event is looking at a broader problem than just homelessness, which in itself is a growing killer on the bitter cold streets of the UK. Lush Rocks, a name born from the retailers move into charitable music promotions, hopes their Singing for Supper gig on Friday 24th November will help raise both “money and public awareness” for the plight of those lost in the UK’s immigration cracks, whilst encouraging “people to think about the choices they’re make in and help in any way they can”.

The Night Shelter at the Coventry Peace House“People sometimes don’t realise that asylum seekers aren’t allowed to work, or claim benefits, until their case has been heard,” explains Brookes, “so refused asylum seekers essentially have no options. Only if they’re in an absolute destitution can they apply for funds and even then it’s not guaranteed. The Night Shelter gives the people a warm place to sleep, it gives them beds, its gives people access to showers and hot meals.”

And what about the school of thought that is more anti-immigration to begin with? This is a prevalent issue in the UK, but one that can receive more divided and divisive attention than just straightforward compassion. “We respect everyone’s views,” tells Brookes, “but it’s worth remembering that a good deal of asylum seeker cases that are initially refused then get granted on appeal – and these are cases that should have been granted in the first place, with the administrations going back to them saying ‘you do have a viable claim and this should have been previously granted.’ Whatever your views are on asylum seekers and destitute refugees, we need to treat them as human beings. We have to view people as people, first and foremost.”

But charitable endevours aside, Singing for Supper is a gig simply well worth the door charge – especially with You Dirty Blue on the bill, a Tamworth alt-rock two piece who recently supported Wolf Alice on the first day of their UK tour and are pegged for big and bright things in 2018.

Lydia Brookes and Joseph Parker – Singing for Supper @ The Castle & Falcon 24.11.17“We’re really excited,” explains Brookes, “especially about The Chalet Lines as it’s the solo act from one of the Lush Birmingham staff (Joseph Parker). Sofa King have a really funky vibe to them and we also got Alfresco Love Sounds. Then there’s You Dirty Blue who won’t be playing in small venues for long… this will be a good chance to see them in an ‘intimate’ setting.”

With all the acts “doing it voluntarily”Singing for Supper  at The Castle and Falcon on Friday 24th November should be able to raise a decent chunk of change for The Night Shelter – a support service that is especially pertinent at this time of year.

And if you are fighting your way to bargain blissteria this Friday, Lush Birmingham are also asking for donations of “non-perishable food items with a high energy content, things like jam and sugar. Also simple toiletries, so toothpaste, tooth brushes, toilet roll. And blankets. Just think ‘if I had to get buy on very few things, what would I need’”.

It’s almost as if this time of year isn’t just about shopping for yourself…

Singing for Supper comes to The Castle & Falcon on Friday 24th November, with You Dirty Blue, Sofa Kings, Alfresco Love Sounds and The Chalet Lines performing – as presented by Lush Rocks (from the Ambassadors Team at Lush Birmingham). 

All money raised from the gig will go to support The Night Shelter at the Coventry Peace House – a shelter for refugees, asylum seekers and people who have ‘no recourse to public funds’. For online gig ticket sales, click here.

For more on The Night Shelter, visit 

For more on Coventry Peace House, visit 

For more from The Castle & Falcon, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit


Lush Birmingham are also looking for donations of non-perishable food items, toiletries and FMCGs such as sugar, breakfast cereal, rice, jam, toothbrushes, toothpaste, cooking oil, instant coffee, toilet roll, or washing powder.

If you can’t attend the Lush Rock Singing for Supper event at The Castle & Falcon on Friday 24th Nov, donations can be sent to the Lush Ambassadors Team at: Lush Birmingham, 23 New St, Birmingham B2 4RQ  

To find out more about Lush Birmingham, visit


To learn more about the problems faced by asylum seekers coming to the UK and people who are ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’, please visit the following website for the Birmingham based Asylum Support and Immigration Resource Team (ASIRT)

BPREVIEW: Screening Rights Film Festival @ mac 26.10-01.11.17

BPREVIEW: Screening Rights Film Festival @ mac 26.10-01.11.17

Words by Heather Kincaid

Returning for its third year in 2017, Screening Rights Film Festival is Birmingham’s international festival of social justice film –screenings features from around the world, with Q&A sessions and panel discussions on the themes and issues they address.

Held at mac, Screening Rights Film Festival 2017 will run from Thursday 26 October until Wednesday 1 November – with ticket deals available for people booking multiple screenings. For more info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here

According to the Screening Rights Film Festival website, ‘The need for heartfelt films about the depths of human adversity around the world has grown enormously in recent decades’ – as the festival organisers seek to inspire and develop debate by shining a light on filmmakers responding to major contemporary concerns. At the heart of the project is the question of the potential for film, both drama and documentary, ‘to affect, or even effect, personal, social and political change’, whether by informing, provoking, moving, inciting action, connecting people or simply bearing witness to events.

Emerging out of research conducted by former University of Birmingham film lecturer Dr Michele Aaron, Screening Rights Film Festival has spent the last couple of years steadily establishing a place in the city’s cultural calendar. With Aaron having recently taken up a post at Warwick, this year the festival has been helped by the joint support of both universities, as well as a base at mac Birmingham.

Ghost Hunting @ mac 26.10.17 / Screening Rights Film FestivalBuilding on her long-held interest in the ethics of film and spectatorship, the project was originally kicked off by a symposium on ‘Screening Vulnerability’, beginning as an event series co-organised by Aaron and PhD student, John Horne. In 2016, it expanded to encompass twelve films screened in five different venues. This year, however, the focus has narrowed again, with just nine films being shown at mac. It’s a little smaller then, but the greater simplicity afforded by a single, centralised location might well work in the festival’s favour in terms of attracting audiences.

Unsurprisingly, the films being shown at the Screening Rights Film Festival reflect the organisers’ specific areas of expertise and investigation, as well as being influenced by hot topics on the global sociopolitical stage. Dr Aaron has described how, in recent years, her focus has shifted from writing about “power and ethics of representation and spectatorship in relationship to, principally, mainstream English cinema,” and towards a more outward-looking approach with an interest in film practice, often collaborating with filmmakers and community groups.

Among the manifestations of this change has been an intensive smartphone filmmaking course delivered to university students from the West Bank with the help of Palestinian youth advocacy agency, Sharek. Tramontane @ mac 26.10.17 / Screening Rights Film FestivalThe best short film to come out of that ‘Tammayaz’ scheme was screened at last year’s Screening Rights Film Festival, alongside Mohamed Jabaly’s and Abu Marzouq’s Ambulance. Meanwhile, John Horne’s PhD thesis concerns the ‘western’ spectator and the ‘Arab Spring’. Accordingly, films from and/or about the Middle East feature prominently on this year’s programme, making up a total of six out of the nine films being shown.

2017’s line-up includes the documentary Ghost Hunting, in which Palestinian director Raed Andoni confronts his demons head-on by recruiting a team to help him build a replica of the Israeli interrogation centre where he was held at the age of 18.

Drama Tramontane follows the struggle of a young Lebanese man to uncover the truth about his origins and identity after discovering that his ID card is a forgery; while Raving Iran sees two DJs forced to make a choice between home and family or moving abroad to pursue their passion for forbidden ‘Western’ music.

In The Other Side of Home, a Turkish woman raises questions about identity in a moving, personal tribute to the still-denied Armenian genocide of 1915; in Mr Gay Syria, the crowdfunded debut feature of Ayşe Toprak, a group of LGBT Syrian refugees kick back against intolerance in Turkey.

Raving Iran @ mac 01.11.17 / Screening Rights Film FestivalThere’s also Notes to Eternity, a more ‘impressionistic meditation’ on the Israel-Palestine conflict, centred on the lives and ideas of prominent thinkers and Israeli policy critics Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Sara Roy and Robert Fisk.

Another area of interest for the festival’s creators has been depictions of illness, madness and even death on screen. Among Aaron’s more recent projects, for example, has been the Life: Moving exhibition, comprising a series of films created with residents of Erdington’s John Taylor Hospice, lately displayed at Birmingham REP as part of a wider UK and international tour.

This year, Screening Rights Film Festival has joined forces with Flatpack Assemble to present a screening of Jennifer Brea’s Unrest, which charts the director’s own experience of living with ME, otherwise known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Jaha's Promise @ mac 29.10.17 / Screening Rights Film FestivalDespite the fact that thousands of people worldwide independently attest to similar symptoms, medical science has so far failed to offer any explanation for the condition, leading many to conclude that it is purely psychosomatic. In an attempt to conduct some investigations of her own and potentially change attitudes towards the illness, Brea connected with fellow sufferers, piecing together her film from recorded Skype interviews, iPhone footage and professionally shot vérité.

Coinciding with mac Birmingham’s ongoing Women and Protest season (13 September – 26 November), Jaha Dukureh also uses personal experience as a springboard for her film Jaha’s Promise. Now based in the US, the activist began her life in Gambia where a significant number of girls are subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) during infancy. Having been cut at just a week old, Jaha herself did not discover the truth or what it would mean for her until she was married to an older man at the age of 15. After having a daughter of her own, however, she vowed to return to her home country to confront its deeply embedded culture of FGM, whatever the cost.

Finally, Nick de Pencier’s Black Code uses The Citizen Lab’s 2009 exposure of global internet spy ring ‘Ghostnet’ as a starting point for a chilling exploration of 21st Century surveillance culture. In an unnerving trailer that combines archive footage with satellite imagery and CCTV-style shots, Citizen Lab director Dr Ronald Deibert describes the highly detailed and growing “digital exhaust” produced by Internet users and how three developments – mobile devices, social media and cloud computing – have resulted in “the most profound change in communication technology in the whole of human history”.

But this isn’t just a case of emails being intercepted: there are hints of cameras and audio devices being hacked and switched on unbeknownst to owners, and documents being extracted from hard-drive storage. “This is where Big Data meets Big Brother,” the trailer concludes. Prepare to leave feeling a little paranoid…

Unrest – @ mac 27.10.17 / Screening Rights Film Festival

Screening Rights International Film Festival is at mac Birmingham from Thursday 26 October until Wednesday 1 November – ticket deals are available for people booking multiple screenings. For more info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here

For more on Screening Rights Film Festival, visit

For more information about mac Birmingham, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit