Colors: Red Color

Author Adam Weymouth, producer Charlie Fripp and director Chris Lucas will be headlining the South West Outdoor Festival this October, sharing tales from their adventures in the wild Yukon territory, Canada.

The three-day National Trust festival, held in Devon from 5-7 October 2018, offers adventure enthusiasts a comprehensive programme of talks, presentations and film screenings. Festival goers will also be able to participate in trail-running races, cycling challenges and a variety of water sports including coasteering, kayaking, swim/runs and paddleboarding.

During the weekend, screenings of The Yukon Assignment (a film about a dad-and-son team from Cornwall canoeing along the territory's mighty rivers) and readings by author Adam Weymouth from his book Kings of the Yukon will showcase this extraordinary, magical and untamed land.

Adam will host reading sessions from his book, published on 15 May 2018 by Penguin, which details his four-month journey canoeing the length of the great Yukon River. Paddling against the King salmon, Adam discovered how their decline is affecting the indigenous communities that have relied on them for survival for so long.

The Yukon Assignment follows British adventurer Chris Lucas (34) and his actor father Niall (64) as they canoe down one of the most remote rivers in Canada. The film is a breathtaking exploration of one of the earth's last wildernesses and the story of how adventure can bring people of all ages together.

The legendary guitarist and composer Gordon Giltrap recently released a new album, called Heartsongs, to raise money for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Charity. Gordon underwent two bouts of major surgery in 2016 and has since turned his attention to raising money for the hospital that treated him.

Heartsongs has proved to be a huge hit amongst music fans and charity supporters alike, with the initial run of the CD selling out, raising £2,500 for QEHB Charity. The CD is now back in stock online, and Gordon hopes to raise even more money for the hospital charity.

Gordon said: “Creating this album for QEHB Charity has been one of the most joyous and profound moments of my life. I have had many albums released since those far-off days of 1968 when my first recorded efforts were released onto the market.

“Over the years, I have had a degree of success commercially, but artistically that really belongs to another realm, outside the remit of record sales and big bucks. To that end I regard Heartsongs as one of the most significant albums I have ever produced.

“This is truly my way of saying a heartfelt thank you, and the opportunity to give something back for the life I am living right now.”

The album includes tracks featuring major artists from the rock worlds such as Brian May of Queen, Midge Ure, Steve Howe from Yes, Neil Murray from Black Sabbath, Simon Phillips from Toto and the national treasure Rick Wakeman.

Whilst music royalty may feature on the album, the reverse of the album booklet features medical royalty in the form of Mr Samuel Ford, who was Gordon’s surgeon at QEHB. Gordon said: “Mr Ford is truly a beautiful and gifted man. On the day that the photograph was taken I told him that ‘I owed my life to him’. His reply was something along the lines of ‘No Gordon, I just did my job and you got better.’”

Heartsongs has raised money for QEHB Charity, which works to provide equipment, facilities and research that go ‘over and above’ that which the NHS is able to provide, helping to improve the hospital experience for patients and their families at Birmingham’s busiest hospital.

Justine Davy, Head of Fundraising at QEHB Charity, said: “The Charity is hugely grateful for Gordon’s generosity in releasing Heartsongs to raise money for patients here at the hospital. It is so special that he has used his musical talents to raise money for a cause that is close to his heart. Heartsongs is a wonderful album and it has been flying off the shelves, which is credit to Gordon’s talent and popularity.”

Heartsongs is available to purchase online at hospitalcharity.org/shop for £10, including postage and packing. If you’re at the hospital, you can also pop into the Hub in the atrium to pick up your copy.

The Royal Shakespeare Company will be taking part in EGX BIRMINGHAM, the UK’s biggest gaming event at the NEC between 20-23 September

The Company will be showcasing a brand-new trailer for its upcoming production of Troilus and Cressida created in Epic Games Unreal Engine, and set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The RSC will also be spotlighting some of its latest AR technology as it continues to push boundaries with digital technology, interactivity and live theatrical performance. Troilus and Cressida, one of Shakespeare’s more rarely performed plays, will run in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre between 12 October – 17 November 2018, with a live cinema broadcast on 14 November.

Troilus and Cressida swear they will always be true to one another. But in the seventh year of the siege of Troy their innocence is tested, and exposed to the savage corrupting influence of war, with tragic consequences.  Mad Max meets Shakespeare in an epic tale of war-crossed lovers.

RSC Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, will collaborate with virtuoso percussionist Evelyn Glennie and designer Niki Turner in a production that will feature a 50/50 gender split company with Gavin Fowler as Troilus and Amber James as Cressida.

Kerry Radden, Head of Marketing at the RSC, said: “We are always striving to make our work as accessible and appealing to as many people as possible.  We regularly make video trailers to give audiences a flavour of what to expect.  The creative team behind Troilus and Cressida is aiming to create a sardonic futuristic vision of a world resounding to the rhythm of battle, so using the video game genre seemed perfect for this particular trailer. We’re really excited to be working with our in house video team to continue to push the boundaries in the content we create for audiences.”

British actor Henry Cavill, who played Superman in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Justice League is said to be hanging up the red cape.

The Hollywood Reporter has reported that negotiations between Warner Bros and Henry Cavill recently broke down, meaning Henry Cavill will no longer be playing the Man of Steel going forward.

This is yet another crushing blow in a string of crushing blows for Warner Bros and DC, which began with the disappointing box office performance of Justice League – a film that should have been their biggest movie to date, but actually ended up being their lowest grossing movie, failing to out-gross Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman. Couple that with reshoots that saw the budget balloon out of control and the poor reception from critics and audiences alike, Justice League is considered by many to be a full-blown flop.

Just five movies in to the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), things are already looking rocky and the future of the franchise isn’t looking good, but with Aquaman due for release on December 14th 2018, Shazam due for release on April 5th 2019 and Wonder Woman 1984 already deep in to production with a scheduled release date of November 15th 2019, it is likely that the future of the entire DCEU rests on those three movies.

A representative for Warner Bros released a statement on the Cavill situation, saying “While no decisions have been made regarding any upcoming Superman films, we’ve always had great respect for and a great relationship with Henry Cavill and that remains unchanged.”

Henry Cavill’s manager Dany Garcia addressed the situation on Twitter and gave fans hope that the report isn’t true. “Be peaceful, the cape is still in his closet. Warner has been and continues to be our partners as they evolve the DC Universe” she said.

Cavill himself addressed the situation in a cryptic video posted to his Instagram, which features him staring blankly into camera while wearing a t-shirt that reads “Krypton Lifting Team” and slowly bringing a Superman action figure into frame, then slowly dropping it back out of frame, never breaking his gaze. The bizarre video was also accompanied by the caption “Today was exciting. #Superman”

Exactly what this video means is anybody’s guess – some fans are taking it as confirmation that the rumours are false and that Cavill is indeed staying on-board as Superman, while others assume it is just Henry Cavill having a little fun and stirring up the rumours, much in the same way Idris Elba did last month with the James Bond casting rumours.

While nothing has been confirmed by either party and all those involved seem unwilling to provide fans with a simple, straight-forward answer, it is still pretty evident that things seem to be in need of a shake-up at Warner Bros/DC, especially with the rumours that Ben Affleck has also dropped out as Bruce Wayne/Batman. If both of these reports are true, Warner Bros have lost their Superman and Batman, the two biggest superheroes on their roster, leaving the future of the DCEU hazier than ever.

American superstar comic and award-winning actor Chris Tucker is delighted to announce he is returning to the UK to perform a limited five shows later this year. In his first shows since his UK debut in 2012, this tour will see the stand up bring his brand new live comedy show to Birmingham (Arena Birmingham), Manchester (O2 Apollo), Glasgow (SEC Armadillo) and two London shows at the Eventim Apollo this autumn.

Chris Tucker is an international award-winning actor and comedian best known for playing the role of Detective James Carter in Brett Ratner’s Rush Hour film series. He became a favourite on Russell Simmons’ HBO Def Comedy Jam in the 1990s and came to prominence in his first starring role, the 1995 film cult classic Friday along-side Ice Cube, which celebrated its’ 20th Anniversary in 2015. In 1997, Tucker embarked on his first production as executive producer and co-starred in the hit movie, Money Talks with Charlie Sheen and shortly after appeared in the highly successful Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element. In 2006, Tucker negotiated an unprecedented $25 million salary to appear in Rush Hour 3, which at the time made him the highest paid actor in Hollywood.

Chris co-starred in the 2013 Oscar-nominated film Silver Linings Playbook with Robert DeNiro, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. In 2015, his first standup film, Chris Tucker Live, was released exclusively on Netflix, and marked the first project that Tucker has starred in and produced through his own company, Chris Tucker Entertainment. Tucker’s latest project was Ang Lee’s powerful Iraq war-centric film, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk co-starring with Vin Diesel and Steve Martin, which was released in theatres in November 2016. To date, Tucker has starred in films that have collectively grossed over one billion dollars in box office sales world- wide.

In 2017, Chris embarked on a successful U.S. and international comedy tour, receiving rave reviews from all over the world. Outside of comedy, Tucker is a dedicated humanitarian, spending much of his spare time traveling around the world, doing philanthropic work to make a difference through his Chris Tucker Foundation.

Following a sell-out run in London’s West End, innovative Afrobeats musical Oliva Tweest heads out on a whistle-stop UK tour this year, coming to the Belgrade Theatre 4-6 October.

Created, produced and directed by radio presenter and producer Yinka Ayinde, aka PureYinkz, this energetic, feel-good show returns to the stage with an exciting lineup of new black British talent.

Leading the cast as London hustler, club promoter and self-professed “gyali” (ladies’ man) Tobi will be rising star Luke Wilson, a recent RADA graduate whose West End theatre credits include the Olivier Award-nominated The Scottsboro Boys and award-winning Disney musical The Lion King.

Doubling up as Testimony and Joanna will be Latisha Antoine, an alumnus of the prestigious Anna Fiorentini Theatre and Film School. As well as starring in BBC Three drama Excluded, she has performed with Leona Lewis at the Royal Albert Hall and as part of BBC Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend Festival. Her theatre credits include Dick Whittington And His Cat at both the Hackney Empire and Broadway Theatre, and Eternal Ages at Shaw Theatre.

Completing the lead cast will be rising star Emmanuel Imani, who reprises his role as fan favourite character Pastor Bayodele. A graduate of the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, Imani is currently starring alongside Michaela Coel and John Goodman in the hotly anticipated BBC and Netflix series Black Earth Rising. Previous roles include 2016’s Criminal alongside Kevin Costner and Tommy Lee Jones, and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit alongside Chris Pine and Keira Knightley.

First staged in London in 2013, Oliva Tweest is the UK’s first ever Afrobeats musical, the brainchild of Sky Academy Arts Scholarship recipient PureYinkz. This refreshingly original production tells the story of a young man with big ambitions as he attempts to shake off his shady reputation and carve out a serious career in the entertainment business.

Driven by his need to succeed, Tobi plans the ultimate concert in the hopes of attracting his idol, the Afrobeats legend D’Banj, even naming his show after the musician’s international hit song Oliver Twist. But when he finds out that the landlord of his chosen venue, Pastor Bayodele, is planning to convert the building into a church, Tobi is forced to disguise his true intentions…

Join Tobi as he navigates comedic and sometimes explosive clashes with women, family, tradition, and his reawakened conscience, all set to an irresistible mix of classic and original hit songs, performed by a live African band alongside high-energy choreography.

Oliva Tweest shows at the Belgrade Theatre Coventry Thursday 4 to Saturday 6 October. Tickets

Students and graduates from Birmingham City University’s Royal Birmingham Conservatoire are celebrating after achieving critical success at the world’s largest arts festival, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Events website The List ranked the top-rated shows from all reviews, with ‘Trojan Horse’ named as the third best at The Fringe. Starring recent Conservatoire graduate Shobat Kadara, the play also won the Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award and a ‘Scotsman’ Fringe First award.

Based on real-life events that saw several Birmingham schools being investigated following claims of ‘hardline’ Muslim teachers and governors plotting to control them, ‘Trojan Horse’ depicts a community torn apart by racial division, British values and the culture of the counter-terrorism strategy known as Prevent.

In 2017, while studying Acting at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Shobat played Dan in the first BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) production of Patrick Marber’s multi-award winning play ‘Closer’.

Produced by theatre company Strictly Arts, which was founded by graduate and Honorary Member of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Corey Campbell; ‘Freeman’ was written with graduate Camilla Whitehill and directed by Danièle Sanderson Head of Undergraduate Studies – Acting and BA (Hons) Acting Course Director at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. As well as Conservatoire alumni featuring among the cast, ‘Freeman’ was overseen technically by Stage Management graduate Connor Dickens.

Inspired by the first man in America to plead Insanity as his defence, ‘Freeman’ examines the unspoken link between mental health and systemic racism. The List placed it as the 13th best production at The Fringe and it received recognition in the Mervyn Stutter’s ‘Spirit of the Fringe’ Awards, known as The MERVs. These awards acknowledge and celebrate the talent, hard work, pluck and sheer doggedness demanded of performers to make a show a success from all genres at The Fringe.

Writer and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire alumnus Camilla Whitehill, said: “I’m so thrilled that so many people connected with the show in Edinburgh. Its success is a reflection of how hard Strictly Arts worked and how talented they are.

“We would never have met and collaborated if it wasn’t for Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. I think it’s a great reflection of the kind of work we’re encouraged to make whilst training.”

Elsewhere, The List placed musical ‘Six’, starring alumna Alexia Macintosh as Anne of Cleves, as the fifth best production at The Fringe; with ‘Kids Play’, featuring current Acting student Clement Charles, came in at 26th; and ‘Our Boys’, starring recent alumnus Christopher Lowry, was ranked 63rd out of more than 1,600 shows. The latter also won a Derek Award for Best Overall Show.

The open-access festival has been providing opportunities for creative groups and individuals for over 70 years, and offers anyone with the desire to perform – from emerging artists to big name acts – with an exceptional platform to do so.

Professor Stephen Simms, Vice Principal and Head of Acting at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, said: “The highly anticipated festival is a significant occasion for our actors, as it provides a unique platform to showcase their talent and develop their practice. Festival-goers not only find our established graduates in shows and productions as part of The Fringe, but some of our most recent graduates and even some current students headed to Edinburgh, in some cases with original shows they have written and produced.”

In 2018, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire had a particularly strong presence at the festival, with six current students and several graduates all performing throughout the three weeks in August at various venues around the Scottish capital.

Formerly known as Birmingham School of Acting, the Conservatoire’s Acting Department is one of the leading drama schools in the country, with roots dating back to 1936. Graduates typically go on to pursue successful careers in theatre (including musical theatre), television and film.

Notable alumni include Nicol Williamson, Tom Lister, Catherine Tyldesley, Rachel Bright, Nicola Coughlan, Barbara Keogh, Luke Mably, James Bradshaw, Stephen Laughton, Jeffrey Holland, David Holt, Anna Brewster, Jimi Mistry, Helen George, Ainsley Howard, Nicholas Gledhill and Tania Hales-Richardson.

In addition to the BA (Hons) Acting, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire also offers foundation courses, short courses, and undergraduate degrees in the associated disciplines of Stage Management and Applied Theatre, as well as taught postgraduate courses in acting and professional voice practice.

Burt Reynolds, the Oscar-nominated star of such classics as Smokey and the Bandit, Boogie Nights and Deliverance, has passed away in Florida after suffering a heart attack, a spokesperson confirmed.

He died at the Jupiter Medical Centre in Florida, surrounded by family. Reynolds’ niece, Nancy Lee Hess, told the BBC that his death had left her and the family “with a broken heart.”

“My uncle was not just a movie icon” She said. “He was a generous, passionate and sensitive man who was dedicated to his family, friends, fans and acting students.” She explained that, although he had health issues, his death was “totally unexpected” and has left the family in a state of shock. "I want to thank all of his amazing fans who have always supported and cheered him on, through all of the hills and valleys of his life and career” she added.

While his acting career began in the late 1950s, he got his breakout role in 1972’s Deliverance – the story of four friends on a canoeing trip deep in the backwoods of Georgia, who must fight for their lives after crossing paths with a group of hostile locals. Deliverance went on to be nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing and it shot Burt Reynolds into a whole new realm of fame.

From there, Reynolds went on to star in countless films that combined both action and comedy, in a unique formula that became synonymous with Burt Reynolds and echoed his fun-loving personality. Films like The Longest Yard, the Smokey and the Bandit Trilogy and The Cannonball Run perfectly represent the kind of man Burt Reynolds was and the kind of actor he wanted to be.

In 1997, Burt Reynolds was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Jack Horner; a charismatic, pornographic film director in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights. In a now infamous story, the working relationship between Burt Reynolds and Paul Thomas Anderson was so tumultuous that it ended in a physical altercation, with Reynolds reportedly throwing punches at Anderson. After seeing a rough-cut of the film, Reynolds was so unhappy with it that he immediately fired his agent for recommending the role to him and refused to join the promotional tour for the movie. However, once the final film was released and was inundated with rave reviews, many of which praised Reynolds specifically, he had a change of heart and eventually and went on to receive the first and only Oscar nomination of his storied career.

Unsurprisingly, there has been an outpouring of love and support for Reynolds and his family during this dark time, from many of Reynolds’ fellow Hollywood heavy-hitters.

Arnold Schwarzenegger shared a tribute to Reynolds;

“Burt Reynolds was one of my heroes” He said. “He was a trailblazer. He showed the way to transition from being an athlete to being the highest paid actor, and he always inspired me.” He added. “My thoughts are with his family.”

Actor Wesley Snipes, who became a bona-fide action hero throughout the 1990s in films like Demolition Man and Blade also tweeted a tribute to his close friend;

“I will never forget our dinners, laughs and the gems you dropped.” Snipes said. “Meeting you was one of the greater joys of my adult life and artistic career. You were the “Man” then, now & forever in my book.”

Snipes then ended his tribute with an emotional reference to 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit – one of Reynolds’ biggest and most famous roles.

“10-4 Bandit – you’ve got nothing but open road now. Love, WS.”

The screen is sure to be a lesser place without the cheeky, undeniable charisma of Burt Reynolds – a man who dedicated sixty-years of his life to the entertainment of others.

Rest in peace; Bandit.

Warner Bros has become the first major Hollywood Studio to adopt a company-wide policy designed to increase the diversity of their employees, both on and off-screen, expanding upon a concept popularised by Frances McDormand earlier this year during her acceptance speech at the 2018 Academy Awards, where she won Best Actress for her performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

An “inclusion rider” is a clause that an actor/crew member can insist on being inserted in to their contracts that requires cast and crew on a film to meet a certain level of diversity.

Dr Stacy Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, is responsible for the concept after conducting research on diversity in films produced in the United States, which showed that the casting was rarely representative of the population as a whole. Smith suggested that an “equity clause” or “inclusion rider” could be a part of the solution.

“The typical feature film has about 40 to 45 speaking characters in it” she explained. “I would argue that only 8 to 10 of those characters are actually relevant to the story. The remaining 30 or so roles, there’s no reason why those minor roles can’t match or reflect the demography of where the story is taking place. An equity rider by an A-lister in their contract can stipulate that those roles reflect the world in which we actually live.”

Smith’s research conducted on the top 100 American movies of 2017 shone a harsh and revealing light on the issue of diversity and inclusivity in the film industry, finding that just 31.8% of characters with dialogue were women and that white actors occupied 70.7% of all speaking roles, with men cast in more than twice as many roles as women.

Warner Bros announced their new initiative on Wednesday, stating that it will also apply to their sister companies, HBO and Turner, with the initiative going into full affect for the first time with Just Mercy; an upcoming film starring Michael B. Jordon, who was one of the first actors to commit to the idea back in March.

“Inclusivity has always been a no-brainer for me, especially as a black man in this business” explained Michael B. Jordan, star of Creed and Black Panther. “It wasn't until Frances McDormand spoke the two words that set the industry on fire – inclusion rider – that I realized we could standardize this practice.”

WarnerMedia, the parent company of HBO and Warner Bros, did not provide and specific details in the announcement, but said in a statement that “we will engage with our writers, producers and directors to create a plan for implementing this commitment to diversity and inclusion on our projects, with the goal of providing opportunities for individuals from under-represented groups at all levels”.

Michael B. Jordan called the WarnerMedia policy an “enormous step forward” for the industry and added that “This is a legacy-bearing moment.”

WarnerMedia said it would issue an annual report on its progress.

 

With the Edinburgh Festival Fringe coming to a close, Philadelphia CVB is encouraging UK travellers with a passion for performance art to head to the 'City of Brotherly Love' this September for its very own Fringe Festival showcasing local, national and international artists as well as ground-breaking world premieres.

Every September since 1997, FringeArts hosts a 17-day Fringe Festival throughout the city to celebrate the innovation and creativity in contemporary performance and to promote Philadelphia's vibrant arts community.

This year, from 6th – 23rd September 2018, visitors at Philadelphia's Fringe Festival can choose from more than 1,000 curated and artistically-daring performances, including Le Super Grand Continental by Sylvain Émard, which will see hundreds of performers join together outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Travellers can also enjoy hearing a 3,000-pipe organ play during In Plain Air at the International Contemporary Ensemble at Christ Church Campus and spectate the unusual manger by Boris Charmatz.

The dynamic Festive Gift Fair, now in its 23rd fabulous year, continues to be the best place to start your Christmas experience and is one of the most popular Christmas Shopping events in the UK at Birmingham’s NEC 15-18 November.

As well as finding great gifts for your loved ones, treats for yourself and all your sparkling Christmas essentials, you’re sure to have a fun-packed day! The Fair will be bursting at the seams with a colourful eclectic mix of unusual stocking fillers and presents, traditional gifts, festive food and great home decorations. With 325+ stalls all under one roof, the variety is huge, with clever gift ideas for all ages and tastes… and lots of Special Show Offers! There’s even a Present Creche to drop off your full bags.

The festive atmosphere is always fantastic and there’s even more this year with new icicle lighting throughout the hall and a new Victorian bandstand where live Bands will take centre stage. While browsing the stalls, let the music get you into that Christmassy mood and be entertained by Santa himself, Stilt walkers and Pantomime characters.

Make sure you visit the popular Festive Food & Drink area where you’ll find 40 tempting stands selling everything from cheese to chutneys, spices to spirits, puddings to preserves, chocolates to champagne, beer to brownies and hampers to hog roasts! Of course, it’s also time to set the mood and get creative…. decorate your table, your stairwell, your mantelpiece and garden with greenery, twinkling lights, door wreaths, baubles, candles and so much more.

So, take the strain out of Christmas, enjoy a day out at the Festive Gift Fair and get your festive preparations off to a cracking start! There’s no better reason to indulge than Christmas, and at The Festive Gift Fair you’ll discover a vast array of tasty treats and boozy delights that are sure to tantalise your taste buds.

 

For your chance to win one of 10 pairs of tickets to The Festive Gift Fair at the NEC Birmingham, just answer this simple question!

Which decoration would usually be found on a Christmas Tree? a) Bauble b) Snowman c) Wreath

Just email your answer, with your name, address and contact number to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the subject “Festive Gift Fair 2018 Competition”. Competition closes at 23.59 on 2nd November 2018. There is no cash alternative.

“Witness the origin of the relationship that changed our world forever in Alpha – the story of Keda; a young man on his first hunt who becomes injured and separated from his tribe. Lost and alone, Keda forms an unlikely alliance with a wolf that has been abandoned by its pack and together, facing overwhelming odds and danger at every turn, they must traverse the harsh and unforgiving landscape in a desperate attempt to make it home before winter.”

Alpha marks the first solo directorial effort of Albert Hughes; who, along with his brother Allen, form the directing duo The Hughes Brothers. Together, they have worked on films like Menace II Society and The Book of Eli, but they have temporarily parted ways to allow them the freedom to work on solo projects and, in his first feature without his brother, Albert Hughes has delivered something rather special with Alpha – a film that tells a simple and familiar story in a unique and unfamiliar way.

Kodi Smit-McPhee plays Keda – the soft, kind-hearted son of the tribal chief. “He leads with his heart, not his spear” says Keda’s mother, acknowledging the fact that her son is not like his fellow tribesman and it is this mantra that echoes throughout the film, as we see Keda relying on ingenuity as opposed to good, old-fashioned brawn. Keda empathises with all life and this is evident when he rescues an injured wolf. Where his fellow tribesman would have slaughtered the wolf and used its meat to fuel their bodies for the fight ahead of them, Keda is far more concerned with making sure the wolf lives – like his mother said, “he leads with his heart, not his spear.” Keda names the wolf Alpha and thus begins a bond that will see them take on the elements together. Smit-McPhee is fantastic in a demanding, multifaceted performance that requires a broad spectrum of emotion, from love and compassion, to anger and desperation and he manages to hold both the screen and our attention with an unwavering confidence. The rest of the cast all do a great job, but for the most part, Alpha is very much a one-man show and Kodi-Smit McPhee is more than up to the task.

Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) with Alpha in Columbia Pictures and Studio 8's ALPHA.

Now, it would be easy to assume that a story about the adventures of a boy and his dog would be aimed at children, but nothing could be further from the truth. Alpha is a very serious and surprisingly dark story of survival with characters who speak in a crude, unknown foreign language that was specifically invented for the film and serves to heighten the authenticity of its prehistoric setting. Hughes is meticulous in his attempts to make Alpha feel as raw and real as possible; everything from the costumes and props to the sets and accessories are finely detailed and help to ground the story in its time period and pull audiences in to its reality, never questioning what we’re seeing on screen. The only English spoken in the entire movie is in the form of an opening and closing narration from the king of narration himself, Morgan Freeman, and in all honesty – it’s the most jarring part of the film and doesn’t feel like it belongs. Oftentimes, less is more when it comes to filmmaking and the final shot of the movie is both aesthetically stunning and emotionally resonant, suggesting that the bond Keda has made will change mankind forever, so we honestly didn’t need a narration to reinforce the images we’re seeing, because they are powerful enough on their own.

Speaking of stunning visuals, Alpha is absolutely littered with them. Albert Hughes has teamed with his cinematographer Martin Gschlacht to craft and deliver some of the most earth-shatteringly beautiful images you’re likely to see on a big screen this year. Everything from close-ups of Keda’s dirty, weather-ravaged face to shots of the surrounding wilderness or the night-sky aglow with the light of infinite stars is captured with such clarity that you find yourself hypnotised by anything that’s onscreen. I would honestly go as far as saying that Alpha features a handful of instantly-iconic shots that will be applauded for their beauty for years to come. One such shot occurs when Keda plunges through the ice and into the freezing water below – something we’ve seen a hundred times before in a hundred different movies – but never quite like this. Alpha frantically tracks Keda’s silhouette as it drifts away beneath the ice and, in an act of sheer desperation, Alpha leaps in to the air and at this moment, everything slows down. The screen is divided perfectly; the top half is a crisp, white blizzard with Alpha plunging towards the ice and the bottom half is a deep, cold ocean with Keda trying to hammer his way back to the surface. The framing of this shot is exquisite, with Keda and Alpha’s will to survive perfectly mirrored through the layer of ice that separates them. This shot is just one of many throughout Alpha that will really make you sit up and take notice of what’s on screen.

Alpha is surprising in a lot of ways. What could have been a schmaltzy, overly sentimental film aimed at children is actually a mature and patient story packed with heart, accompanied by startling moments of brutality and some of the most breath-taking visuals of the year. Honestly, you could pause Alpha at any moment and the frame on screen would be worthy of printing, framing and hanging on your wall at home like a beautiful piece of art. It may not have big, A-list stars or a complex story, but Alpha is a simple and wonderfully old-fashioned adventure told with a modern finesse and a film that every dog lover in the world should see, because it serves as a love letter to that age-old, unbreakable bond between a man and his dog and you’ll arrive home even more in love with your canine companion than you already were.

Birmingham City University’s Royal Birmingham Conservatoire is welcoming some of the world’s most gifted performers for a unique concert that proves disability is no limit to musical talent.

Comedian Al Murray will host The OHMI (One Handed Musical Instrument) Trust Gala Concert on Friday 7 September which will feature performances by Felix Klieser and The Petry Sisters – who all play with their feet.

Virtuoso French horn player Felix Klieser will be making his UK debut at the Gala Concert as part of the 2018 OHMI Conference, which is also taking place at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 September. Performing Mozart’s Horn Concerto No 4., Felix is an ambassador for the OHMI Trust, a UK-based charity which pioneers the development and adaptation of musical instruments for physically disabled people.

Despite having been born with no arms, Felix Klieser took up the horn at the age of four in his native Germany. Now 27, he plays with the instrument fixed into a specially-design stand and operates the valves with his left foot. With his right foot, Felix operates a rolling stand which enables him to change the sound of the horn with a mute. Felix has won the Leonard Bernstein Award, and performed as recitalist and soloist with ensembles as varied as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and with singer-songwriter Sting on his world tour.

The Birmingham concert, a celebration of virtuosity by disabled musicians will also include recitals by the first big band formed entirely of disabled musicians, Bader’s Big Band, and performers from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Inga Petry and Elena Petry – known as The Petry Sisters – were born in Siberia and adopted by US music teacher Jennifer Petry, who also works as a director and consultant for music students with special needs. Although Inga did not have arms, she insisted that she get her chance to play, and began cello lessons on a viola placed at her feet before she turned three years old. Inga is now 18 years old, studies cello and has performed all over the US and across the UK.

Elena Petry began cello lessons at the age of eight, also studying with her mother. She plays on a 7/8 cello granted to her by the PLAY Foundation, and uses an adaptive cello holder and bow holder made for her by May We Help, the volunteer, non-profit organisation in Cincinnati that has worked with both girls throughout their musical studies. The pair will play Vivaldi’s double cello concerto at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire concert.

Established in 1982 by the friends and family of RAF flying ace Sir Douglas Bader, The Douglas Bader Foundation advances and promotes the physical, mental and spiritual welfare of physically disabled people. The foundation’s musical arm, Bader’s Big Band, is the first ever big band to be formed entirely of disabled musicians and highlights the benefits that music can bring to those whose lives are affected by disability.

Any deficiency or disability in one hand or arm makes traditional instruments unplayable to any reasonable standard. As a result, millions across the world are excluded from music-making for the lack of suitable instruments. This includes people with congenital disabilities such as cerebral palsy and hemiplegia, amputees, those who have suffered a stroke or developed arthritis.

To overcome this, the OHMI Trust runs an annual competition to encourage inventors, designers and instrument makers to develop a musical instrument that can be played without the use of one hand and arm, and that has all the characteristics and facility of a traditional instrument.

For any music fan, getting to talk songwriting with Paul McCartney sounds like some kind of fantasy, but for one Birmingham City University academic, his dream has become a reality.

Dr Simon Barber, Research Fellow in the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research (BCMCR), alongside collaborator Brian O’Connor, are more widely known as Sodajerker, the creative partnership of two long-time friends who love songwriting. Their independent podcast, ‘Sodajerker On Songwriting’, is comprised of long-form interviews with some of the world’s most successful songwriters about how they approach the art and craft.

Since its launch in November 2011, the show has released over 120 episodes featuring in-depth discussions with the likes of Paul Simon, Alicia Keys, Johnny Marr, Noel Gallagher, KT Tunstall and Joan Armatrading. The show has been downloaded millions of times by music fans the world over and has charted in more than 50 countries via Apple Podcasts.

There was, however, one guest that remained elusive; the man the pair describe as “the holy grail of songwriters” – Paul McCartney. Despite having studied at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), where the former Beatle is Lead Patron, they hadn't managed to interview the legendary artist – until now.

On Friday 7 September, Paul will release his 17th solo studio album, ‘Egypt Station’, on Capitol Records. To mark the occasion, the songwriting enthusiasts sat down with Macca at LIPA to talk about the writing process behind the record.

Dr Simon Barber, Research Fellow, Birmingham City University, said: “As it does for millions of people around the world, Paul McCartney’s music occupies a very special place in our hearts. We were raised on his songs and, at this point, life is quite unimaginable without them. So, to get the opportunity to spend time with Paul talking about what he does best – songwriting – was the thrill to end all thrills.”

At Birmingham City University, Dr Barber researches, writes and lectures about popular music, the music industries, digital culture and jazz. He is particularly interested in songwriting, and the relationships between creative workers and industry.

Dr Barber added: “It was a long and winding road to Paul, but we stayed the course and fulfilled a lifelong ambition. We can't thank him enough for giving us his time and insights.”

Simon’s research has focused on how songwriters articulate, rationalise, and reflect upon the work that they do and the sorts of strategies employed by songwriters in the collaborative process. His conversations with everyone from Brill Building writers of the 1960s to contemporary pop hitmakers has helped him to imbue his research with real world insights.

He has published in ‘Popular Music and Society’, ‘The European Journal of Cultural Studies’, ‘The Radio Journal’, ‘The Journal on the Art of Record Production’ and ‘Jazz Research Journal’ among others.

This summer, Simon was awarded an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) grant to develop a research network devoted to establishing the field of songwriting studies. He will lead the two-year project in partnership with a co-investigator at University of Liverpool. Together they will produce four events bringing together academics from a variety of disciplines alongside industry workers and leading practitioners.

Dr Barber said: “Despite how important songwriting is for a whole range of stakeholders including scholars, artists and those using songwriting as a tool for social change, there has been no galvanising force bringing together their varied discourses as part of a coherent field of study. We aim to transform that landscape as we embark on this new project.”

Birmingham City University was one of the first UK universities to offer media degrees and today boasts cutting edge facilities – including six digital radio studios and Europe's largest static green screen – in its £62 million Parkside Building.

Following a slew of sell-out shows and five star reviews at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Strictly Arts return to the Belgrade Theatre this September with their award-winning show Freeman.

Described by the Guardian as “a revelation”, Freeman takes inspiration from the true story of William Freeman – the first man in America to plead insanity as a legal defence – to explore the often unspoken link between systemic racism and mental health.

Created in collaboration with writer Camilla Whitehill as part of the Belgrade Theatre’s Springboard talent development initiative, this urgent and deeply moving story combines incisive drama with high-energy physical theatre, gospel singing, shadow puppetry and more, drawing on extensive research into deaths and mental illness amongst prisoners of colour.

As both the first West Midlands company and the first black-led group to be awarded The Pleasance’s Charlie Hartill Special Reserve Fund, Strictly Arts went on to enjoy sell-out performances at The Pleasance Courtyard in Edinburgh, receiving a Special Commendation from the SIT UP Awards and The Mervs “Spirit of the Fringe” Award, as well as being shortlisted for an Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award.

Throughout time and across waters, the show weaves together the story of William Freeman – a black man driven to violence in the US – together with those of David Oluwale, Sarah Reed, Sandra Bland, Daniel M’naghten and Michael Bailey, highlighting the continued need for movements like Black Lives Matter in the 21st-century. During 2016, when Strictly Arts began making Freeman, 120 self-inflicted deaths were recorded in prisons across the UK – the highest number since records began.

Strictly Arts Artistic Director Corey Campbell said: “As an individual who has been a victim of racial profiling, wrongfully accused by the justice system, with friends and family who have suffered from poor mental health, and a member of the black community myself, the statistics and information I’ve researched are both relevant and frightening. To think that William Freeman’s story from as far back as the 1800s can still be an example to us today shows that we are still in dangerous waters.”

 

Freeman is written by Camilla Whitehill and Strictly Arts and directed by Danièle Sanderson, with lighting by Joe Hornsby and sound by John Roddy. Casting includes Keiren Amos, Pip Barclay, Corey Campbell, Kimisha Lewis, Aimee Powell and Marcel White.

Organisers of the BFI London Film Festival believe they are moving in the right direction when it comes to gender representation in cinema, unveiling a festival programme in which 38% of the directors are women.

In 2016, a study conducted by the San Diego State’s Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film painted a bleak picture of gender equality within the film industry, revealing that a meagre 7% of the Top 250 highest grossing movies of 2016 were directed by women. The disparity between male and female directors in Hollywood is immense and the study also revealed that women made up just 24% of producers, 17% of editors, 13% of writers and 5% of cinematographers.

At the 2018 BAFTAs, there were no women nominated in the Best Director category for the fifth year in a row and at the 90th Academy Awards earlier this year, Greta Gerwig became only the fifth woman to ever be nominated as Best Director. Several European festivals also have some shocking figures, with only one of the twenty-one films in contention at the Venice Film Festival being directed by a woman and only three out of the twenty directors appearing at Cannes. The BFI London Film Festival has identified this issue and are clearly pushing for diversity and equality amongst those appearing at this year’s festival.

“We are moving in the direction we all want to be moving and we are seeing lots of really exciting new female film-makers coming through the programme,” says Tricia Tuttle, the artistic director for this year’s festival. “While we all want to move towards parity, we don’t want to set quotas for ourselves. We are trying to serve audiences and serve the programme and that is always at the heart of our curatorial process.”

What this means is that Tuttle and the BFI London Film Festival team are not attempting to shoehorn equality into their festival and that the wider variety of films and directors appearing at this year’s event has happened organically. Tuttle has stated that championing female talent and British cinema is something she is very proud of. “I love British film,” she said. “I’m a North Carolinian by birth but I’ve been here for 20 years and it always struck me when I came to this country how, at that time, the UK had no idea what an incredible film industry there was.”

The representation of female talent at this year’s BFI Film Festival is something all we should all be proud of, as the UK is showing the world that we are leading the charge when it comes to equality and diversity in cinema and hopefully, before long, the British film industry will be a shining example to production companies everywhere that talent comes in all shapes, sizes, colours and genders.

BFI London Film Festival will run from October 10th to October 21st 2018.