Birmingham for Under a Tenner

Birmingham is full of little festivals and club nights or street entertainment that you’d never know are there unless you read the right blogs, knew the right people, or remembered that little sticker you saw on the back of the traffic lights as you crossed the Suffolk Street Queensway.  Here are some of the best that we’ve been to this year, all for under a tenner.


South African fare at the Digbeth Dining Club

  1. Digbeth Dining Club – Every Friday night down at The Spotlight on Heath Mill Road there are street food stalls with a selection of world cuisines from South African springbok and vegan falafel to a New York hot dog and French crêpes covered in sugar. If you’re lucky enough to get down there on the First Friday of the month you’ll find more food and drinks stalls out the back and live music later on. We ate there quite often over the summer, it attracts all ages too, from families with young children, to a safe teenager’s night out and folks in their 50s looking for something different than a restaurant or the theatre. Cost: food costs around six pounds a pop so with a beer on top you’re still looking at under a tenner.
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    City of Colours Festival

    City of Colours / Summer in Southside / Outdoor TV – There are so many outdoor festivals during the Summer. The likes of Moseley Folk Festival and the Jazz festival cost upwards of £30.00 just for a day ticket, so we went on the lookout for some smaller, more unique festivals this year. The Outdoor TV in Brindley Place puts on children’s films for a matinée, and normally runs a theme for the evenings, it also shows the tennis from Wimbledon which had an amazing atmosphere last year when Andy Murray won! The Summer in Southside is an arts festival full of street performances and activities around the Hippodrome and Gay Village area, all completely free. City of Colours was without doubt the best, a one day festival around Digbeth centring on the Custard Factory, full of organised street art competitions and live spraypainting art in the streets. Complete with live music, BMX bike display, street dance competition, this was a complete surprise, we only intended to stay an hour or so but spent six hours exploring and watching the art grow as the day went on. The good news is that it should be back next year with a two-day programme. Cost : a tenner covers a couple of beers and an icecream.

  3. Quiz night at The Queen’s Arms – On a Thursday on Newhall Street, it gets ruthless. We went originally for the 2-for-1 pizza deal but then at 20h00 we discovered they had a quiz, after cajoling our friends, we joined in. A traditional pub with stained-glass windows and high bar stools, this quiz offers a picture round, a double or nothing, a conections round, it’s the perfect quiz package. Cost: a quid for the quiz, the pizza deal and a beers might just keep you under the £10.00 limit.
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    Quiz at The Queen’s Arms

    B-Town / International Dance Festival – In May the International Dance Festival descends onto Birmingham, with paying performances in the Symphony Hall, the Rep Theatre and so on. But there are also plenty of free shows in the street if you know where to look. One very cold night we went out to see B-Town, a  dance-based performance about a post-apocalyptic Birmingham as the sole-surviving city after flooding drowns the rest of the country. Queen Roxy must make the decision to let refugees into the city before the floodwaters rise further. This was simply… brilliant. A collaboration between several local dance schools this was a story that sucked you in despite the cold and the threat of rain. Cost : a fiver for a hot chocolate afterwards.

  5. Exhibitions at Birmingham Museums – All the museums in Birmingham are free, and there is so much going on! The Ikon gives a taste of modern art, the Museum and Art Gallery in Victoria Square houses the Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire Hoard a rolling programme across the Gas Hall and Water Hall spaces. Out of town there’s Sarehole Mill where you can explore JRR Tolkein’s childhood, Soho House which was home to Lunar Society back in the day, and the beautiful Aston Hall. Cost: £5 maximum per museum.

Our information comes from a variety of sources, the Meetups are great because you get to see a lot of the mainstream festivals in the City like the International Dance Festival and the Colmore Business District Food Festival, and we have a few friends that are close to the artsy scenes in the City, but most of the time you just have to search the blogs (let me know if I’ve missed any!) : I CHOOSE Birmingham · Digbeth is Good · BMAG · Digbeth First Friday · Out in Brum · The Foodie Couple Blog · Brum Review · Brummed Out · Birmingham Student Foodie


My Second Pozole : Mexican Independence

Mexican Independence Day, the day that Hidalgo and Allende stirred Mexicans into war against Spanish rule with the Grito de Dolores, and that is re-enacted throughout Mexican villages and towns and cities.

Latin America Focus has some wonderful photos of this year’s celebration in Mexico City, and one day I’d love to be there to experience it for myself. Normally the UOB Mexican Society will have a party to celebrate, which we went to last Friday at the usual Mexican House. We tasted so many regional dishes and took our own rajas con crema, we laughed, ate and danced all night, and even had a little gritito ourselves. Our marking of this date at home last week was a bit more subdued.


My second pozole

Knowing from My First Pozole that it takes about three and a half hours to make, I found a few ways to speed this up for a Tuesday night after work. Firstly, using smaller chunks of pork and chicken to get the meat cooked and ready to shred in under an hour, then buying the hominy maize ready-cooked in a tin rather than dried and requiring an overnight soak and hour’s simmering. The broth is seasoned with onion and garlic, peppercorn, bay leaves and salt. Bring it all together with toppings of chopped radish, red onion and lettuce, season again with chili powder and serve with a side of hard-shell tortillas / tostaditas covered with cream and grated mozzarella.

My recipe is a simplified version of Thomanisa Miers’s in Wahaca: Mexican Cooking at Home (I actually found this version in the Guardian newspaper). Our maíz blanco came from, 800 grams for £3.20, the meat came from the market at less than £1.00 per item, the Old El Paso shells were £1.49 for eight, then everything else is basic store cupboard ingredients. We actually had a lot left over, so I’d say we cooked enough for six people, so a really yummy recipe for about £1.45 per head.

The verdict : one second helping, two empty bowls and one very happy Mexican.

Trooping the Colour

A few years back I was travelling to London a lot at the weekends, and between the old markets, the Barbican and the surge of Oxford Street, one in particular sticks in my head. Being a bit touristy and walking along The Mall, I spied a group of soldiers on horseback, and then realised that the road was full of police. Walking down a bit further were more soldiers, dressed in that distinctive red and gold uniform, and then that thumping, rhythmic, military music came into focus in our ears.


Trooping of the Colour

We all know that the Trooping of the Colour takes place on the Queen’s official birthday in June, regiments dress in their official uniform and parade their flags (troop their colours) before the Queen at Horse Guards Parade. But what you might not know is that we caught the full dress rehearsal the week before.

Written for Ailsa’s Travel Theme : Noise

The wonders of being a girl in the late 90s and early 00s

have you heard the latest

1. Hair Mascara. Slicking back that pony tail with the help of your trusty nit-comb so it was entirely bumpless remembering to leave two strands (center parted) hanging down either side of your face.  Then brushing orange mascara through one strand and purple mascara through the other. Dip dye, dip shmy…this was cool before it was cool.

2. Roll on glitter. Always applied to the face in a butterfly motion.

Roll-On Body Glitter

2. Handwritten notes. Passed to you best mate during maths and written in an assortment of glitter gel pens and decorated with stamp pens. You always opened with “How R U?”even though you knew she was just fine because, oh yeah, she was sitting next to you.


3. Skirt/Trouser Combos. Thanks to Steps and the like we LOVED this trend. Not just any old skirt thrown over trousers though. No you bought this as a complete item, a Skrouser if you will…

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