Culture in the city with Birmingham Hippodrome’s Fiona Allan

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In a city that’s bursting with culture, Birmingham Hippodrome’s CEO Fiona Allan shares her thoughts on the performances you need to catch this season.

Words: Fiona Allan

For me, summer always seems to end with my annual trip up to Edinburgh for the festival, this year is just as manic and brilliantly bonkers as ever – a cornucopia of the sublime and the ridiculous. I’m writing this warming up over a flat white in the cafe at Summerhall – a wonderfully eclectic venue taking over the Royal ‘Dick’ Veterinary School, having just seen an amazing solo show by Brummie born actor and writer Selina Thompson called Salt.

Luckily for Birmingham, we have our own massive arts festival to look forward to: Birmingham Weekender, taking place over Friday 22 – 24 September. Pick up a festival brochure from outlets all over the city and map your own programme through the weekend, with loads of free and low-cost arts activity for families and folks of all ages.

I’m particularly looking forward to Clash of Drums, headlining the Saturday night. I’ve always been a fan of music and pyrotechnic displays and this promises to be spectacular. It’s a free event, but as the capacity is limited you’ll need to reserve a spot in advance.

Clash of Drums

One of the reasons I’m in Edinburgh this year is to scout for suitable productions to bring to the Patrick Centre, the Hippodrome’s 200 seat studio space. We tend to programme a lot of dance and physical theatre in that space, and also shows for younger children. It’s a great place to try something new: you could almost consider it the Hippodrome fringe!

We’ve got some brilliant dance shows in the our Patrick Centre over autumn, where you can create your own festival-style experience and try loads of new things, with ticket prices starting from just £10. DanceXchange’s season includes two shows I’m counting down to see.

Firstly Uchenna Dance’s The Head Wrap Diaries on November 2, which celebrates ‘versatility in Afro Hair’ and even has a headwrap salon where you can experiment with styles yourself before the show starts. The other is Humanhood’s Zero on November 16: I didn’t know this company before moving to Birmingham and have just been so impressed by what I’ve seen, and it’s always good to support locally created work.

If you’re keen to support local artists, look no further than Birmingham Dance Network’s showcase at the MAC (Midland’s Art Centre) on November 3. See some electrifying new works by regional choreographers and have the opportunity to give some feedback anonymously. It all goes to creating an even greater dance scene for this city.

Rosie Kay’s 5 Soldiers

Out of all the local dance creations taking place over autumn, I’m especially intrigued to finally get to see Rosie Kay’s 5 Soldiers on October 13 – 14. This piece has gained five star reviews, topped the national dance review charts and been nominated for national awards – and is now back in Birmingham. It tells the story of five men and women on the frontline, and will be performed in an Army Reserve Centre. Tickets can be booked via Birmingham REP.

There’s a lot to love about Birmingham, and for me one of the reasons I moved here was Birmingham’s reputation as a hub for dance. We are a major city for the creation and presentation of dance, not even just compared to the rest of the UK. We have a global edge when it comes to what we do here, so get out there and support our incredible local dance scene. You’ll find there’s plenty to enjoy, and it’s another reason to be proud of our city.

Follow Fiona on Twitter @Fiona_Allan

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