Best Birmingham Arts for April and May

April and May offer some great art stuff to stare at, including the consistently brilliant Flatpack Film Festival, celebrating ten years of filmy goodness in the city.

Eco-Craft exhibition
Until 7 May
This exhibition showcases designers and makers who have an ethical approach to their craft. Including upcycling, which is so trendy now they might bring Changing Rooms back (I really, really hope) to Fairtrade Certified Gold, which ensures smaller mines aren’t put out of business. From jewellery to homewares, you can buy something without worrying that anyone has suffered for it. Apart from the artist, but that’s the way they like it, isn’t it?

Digbeth First Friday
First Friday of every month
This is always a good bet if you want to see something arty and cultural in Birmingham. Head down to Digbeth and find out what’s going on when you get there. Or for the more organised among us, check out their website to find out exactly what’s happening. Events usually include performance, screenings, installations and there’s always some kind of food and/or drink to keep you going. Power through all the art at the start of the month and your cultural debt is paid, no problem. See website for ticket details.

Flatpack Film Festival
19 – 24 April
2016 sees the tenth anniversary of the Flatpack Film Festival, which showcases exciting new cinematic masterpieces in venues across the city. From classic films, including Harold Lloyd in Girl Shy and Cher in Moonstruck, to documentaries about quasi-religious cults (Sympathy for the Devil, see below) or garlic (Garlic is as good as ten mothers, also see below), there’s bound to be something to excite you. See individual events for ticket prices.

Garlic is as good as ten mothers
22 April
Part of the Flatpack festival, this documentary screening at Centrala is, you will not be surprised, all about awesome alliums. Or garlic. The documentary was mostly filmed at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California, and includes a brief, and rather confused, cameo from Werner Herzog. Filmmaker Les Blank recommends that several heads of garlic should be roasted during any showing of the film, and gardening and food writer Alys Fowler and baker Albert Smith have teamed up to make this dream come true. There will also be a selection of other short films celebrating the strange magic of herbs. Tickets are £7, £5 concessions.

Sympathy for the Devil
24 April
Showing at the Electric cinema, this film from local director Neil Edwards explores the fairly brief life of the Process Church of Final Judgement, which was (wrongly) implicated in the Manson murders. The film includes interviews with observers John Waters and George Clinton, and is interwoven with animated inserts and music by Funkadelic and Nicholas Bullen. Edwards will be there to talk about the film. Tickets are £8.50, £6.50 concessions.

Barbara Walker – Shock and Awe
23 April – 3 Jul
This major new commission of drawings by Birmingham artist Barbara Walker. The exhibition looks at the contribution of Black servicemen and women to the British Armed Forces, which has been largely ignored over the last 100 years. Focusing on the physical and psychological impact of war and the difficulty, this collection of large scale drawings reflects often untold stories about conflict and the people involved. Entry is free.

Shun Ito – Cosmic Birds
2 – 20 May
Part of the Ikon elsewhere series, which sees art installed across the city centre, these kinetic sculptures can be found at Municipal Bank, Broad Street, 11am–6pm. Japanese artist Shun Ito has produced a brand new, large scale mobile made in the city, with 200 rotating steel rings and 30 light bulbs. As part of the International Dance Festival Birmingham there will be a live performance In A Landscape (12–14 May) by Kei Miyata, combining sculpture, movement and hypnotic sounds played live by Ex Easter Island Head. Entry is free.

Diary of a Hounslow Girl
17 May
Like Birdget Jones’s diary, but from the perspective of a 16 year old Muslim girl growing up in West London. The play takes comic look at the conflict between growing up in a traditional Muslim family in the West, and in that London particularly, which must be generally awful anyway, no matter who you are. Tickets are £8.

Motionhouse & NoFit State Circus: BLOCK
27 – 28 May
This new collaboration from NoFit State Circus and Motionhouse involved twenty oversized blocks that will be deconstructed and reformed for performers to play on, move within and explore (explore is a key word, I think it means jump about on). Basically, it’s like a massive game of Jenga, but with lots of dancers “exploring” it. What will happen when circus and dance collide? The world needs to know, apparently. There are four performances over the Friday and Saturday and tickets are £15, £10 concessions.

Sally Watson-Jones
Arts Editor, Grapevine Birmingham.