2017 Heroes

2017 has been a rough year for us all, with all sorts of upheaval in the news, from political drama to Hollywood sex scandals. Luckily, not everyone was revealed to be total scumbags, and there have been some heroes who have made my year, or who are just generally smashing it.

Here are the people I think should be carried aloft. Some are famous, some are friends, all are fabulous.

Brum bloggers

All of them. After too many glasses of wine at events, I am often found ranting on about why Brum Bloggers are the best bloggers. They are the friendliest, most supportive, welcoming group of bloggers I have ever met. They’re smart, and creative and inspiring. Since the queens that are The Ting Thing and Full To The Brum took over the reins of the community, it’s gone from strength to strength. We’ve had more opportunities come our way, more meet-ups, more bloggers joining us and the support those bloggers show each other is phenomenal. Special shout outs to my blog Girl Squad, Bite Your Brum, Hey It’s Fay, and Miss Pond, and for my blog husband, Brummie Gourmand.  Here’s to more creative excellence in 2018.

technically ron

Brace yourselves, a name drop is coming. Technically Ron, or as I know him, Aaron, is the king of hilarity on Twitter. I worked with Ron years ago, and he’s equally funny in person. Back then, he wasn’t internet famous, he was just the guy from the Technical department who made me laugh on Twitter. Luckily for Ron, apparently he made lots of other people laugh on Twitter too, and now he’s one of the biggest accounts around, producing hilarious viral content such as ‘Reasons Why My Wife is Crying’, Google auto-fill wills, and ludicrous photoshops of newspaper headlines. This year, he has been a bright point of humour in the doom scroll of Twitter, AND he wrote his second book. You can pre-order it here. He’s also a much needed voice talking honestly and frankly about mental health, and whenever I see him popping up in yet another publication bringing honest and funny, I want to stand on my chair and applaud wildly. Consider this post the internet way of doing that.

Patty jenkins

I’m a huge fangirl for Wonder Woman and I was vaguely terrified of the movie. Thank God for Patty Jenkins, who smashed it. Her Wonder Woman was everything I wanted. That’s not why she’s my hero though this year. She’s also my hero because of the James Cameron incident. Cameron, the man who famously made such wonderful comments about his female characters in Avatar including, “Right from the beginning I said, ‘She’s got to have tits. Even though that makes no sense because her race, the Na’vi, aren’t placental mammals.” and nicknaming Kate Winslet ‘Kate Weighs-A-Lot’ during the filming of Titanic, decided to air his feelings on Wonder Woman, calling it a ‘step backwards’. Jenkins responded with great dignity and I applaud her response.

Gal Gadot

Everything I wanted in a Wonder Woman. She just gets it, and she was superb. She makes the list for her very public stance on sexual abuse in Hollywood. She made known her refusal to sign on for a Wonder Woman sequel if Brett Ratner was attached to the project, after multiple accusations about his sexual misconduct came to light.

Senator kamala harris

Being a woman in American politics is not an easy ride. Senator Harris has faced almost constant backlash and interruptions from her male counterparts, but has continued to fight for the rights of working Americans. Her questioning of Jeff Sessions on his conversations with Trump was a glorious moment too. I wish her every success for next year.

terry Crews

What a champ. When dozens of women began to come forward with sexual assault allegations, Terry Crews was angered by the scepticism he was seeing. Rather than keep silent, like many would have, he came forward with his own story of sexual assault. Crews was one of the first men adding their voices to the Me Too movement, and he has continued to talk about the important of men adding support to women speaking out. Read his Time interview here; it’s wonderful.

Richard angell

Most people who’ve been caught up in a terror attack would probably want to stay away from the scene. Not Angell. After the attack on Borough Market, Angell, in a small act of defiance, went back the next day to settle his bar bill and leave tips for the staff. He said, “If me having a gin and tonic with my friends, flirting with handsome men, hanging out with brilliant women is what offends these people so much, I’m going to do it more, not less.”

Saffiyah khan

You’ve seen her. The photo of a young woman at a protest, smiling calmly into the face of an outraged EDL protestor. Birmingham’s own, Khan became the poster girl for defiance in the face of the far right. Since then, she’s used her platform to boost her grass-roots activism, joined Jeremy Corbyn on his campaign tour, and been signed to agency Elite with an aim to bring activism to the fashion industry. I’ve seen Khan around at a few protests in Birmingham, and she’s a passionate, fantastic woman.

Special mentions also go to Brooklyn 99 and Jane the Virgin for their respectful, honest and ground-breaking handling of bisexual characters, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for showing a female anti-hero, the uncomfortable truths of mental illness and a realistic diagnosis struggle, Taika Waititi for speaking out about challenging the double standards of ‘rogue’ characters (and challenging that double standard in his work), every single person who spoke out as part of Me Too, the brave men and women of the London Fire Brigade for obvious reasons, Tracy Porter, a London Paramedic who was on the scene of every terror attack in London this year and Grenfell, Mohammed Mahmoud who helped minimise the violence during the Finsbury Park van attack until police arrived and Tobias Ellwood MP who ran to help the fatally stabbed PC Keith Palmer during the Westminster attack.

Let’s leave 2017 in the dust and like these people, work for a better 2018. I’m giving the last work to a personal hero of mine, Carrie Fisher.

Christmas at the Botanical Gardens with Brum Bloggers

Brum Bloggers had a very Christmassy meet up a little while ago, at the gorgeous Botanical Gardens in Edgbaston.

You may remember I did the Magical Lantern trail last year, but this year, the gardens are decked out in all their Christmas finery, with a trail of incredible Christmas lights. I dug the Christmas jumper out of the back of the cupboard, grabbed a mulled wine and set off to explore.

Botanical Gardens

Christmas at Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Christmas lights

Christmas

There’s a couple of huts at the start of the trail, where can you buy hot dogs, a selection of festive snacks, soft drinks, rum cocktails (pre-mixed) or a steaming cup of mulled wine. There’s a few food stops along the way, including a hog roast that was sadly closed when I visited, and fancy marshmallows that you can toast yourself in a fire pit. Halfway around, there’s also a very special visitor dressed in red, all the way from the North Pole…

Rudolph

The best part is the sweeping carpet of lights across the middle of the gardens. As you reach the end of the trail, find a spot near a speaker, as the rippling light display is set to music, and is really quite special. Excuse terrible portrait video, I was shooting for Instagram stories…

To our delight, we also found a beautiful carousel, complete with grand horses and giant…chickens. No, really. Myself and Fay, of Hey It’s Fay, couldn’t resist. Did you ever see anyone look as happy as Fay as does in this?

The lights trail is on until 30 December. Tickets are £14 for an adult, £8 for children and under 4s go free. You can also grab a family ticket for £40. Tickets can be booked here.

My entry to the trail was free, as part of the Brum Bloggers Christmas meet up. I was not obliged to write a post. 

 

Sunset Boulevard at Birmingham Hippodrome

Sunset Boulevard is a classic. The Tony-award winning musical from Andrew Lloyd Webber has been on the circuit for twenty-five years and remains one of the greatest and most beloved productions. The UK touring production, starring Ria Jones and Danny Mac, landed at the Birmingham Hippodrome last night, bringing glamour and golden age Hollywood with it.

Sunset Boulevard

The staging is ingenious, with clever use of projection to send flickering black and white film across the stage, and a large screen which splits to reveal Paramount Studios, a 50s diner, or the crumbling mansion of Norma Desmond. The staircase in Desmond’s home is used to full advantage, with three interlocking pieces that can be split and revolved to  create new locations. Hollywood is ever present, with homages to techniques of the era, most notably in Joe Gillas‘s flight from debt collectors. His car is a revolving set piece, spun by a stage hand, surrounded by lights and cameras, while a screen behind the vehicle shows the road flashing by. Clever and effective.

Sunset Boulevard UK tour

For those unfamiliar with the show, the musical is based on the film of the same name. Struggling script writer, Joe Gillas, crosses paths with silent movie star Norma Desmond. Pushed out of stardom by the arrival of talking pictures, Desmond has become obsessed with her return to the silver screen and draws in Gillas to help her create the script that will be her grand comeback. She becomes obsessed with Gillas, and he becomes entrapped by the faded star and her world of luxury.

Danny Mac

Norma Desmond and Joe Gillas

Danny Mac was a real surprise. The Hollyoaks  and Strictly Come Dancing alumni could easily have been eclipsed by the huge onstage personality of Norma Desmond, but Mac‘s turn as Joe Gillas was accomplished and skilled. Gillas is not always a terribly likeable character, but Mac was able to make you sympathise with him throughout. His voice is strong, and his rendition of Sunset Boulevard, which takes a big voice to deliver successfully, is wonderful. His chemistry with both his leading ladies, Ria Jones and  Molly Lynch, is palpable. I only wish we could have seen more of his dancing, as his tango with Jones  was a true pleasure to watch.

Sunset Boulevard Birmingham Hippodrome

Max Von Meyerling

Molly Lynch as Betty Schaefer is a delight to watch, with her innocence providing a wonderful foil to the increasingly deluded and manipulative DesmondAdam Pearce‘s beautiful voice shines in a mix of deep bass and astonishing tenor, as Max Von Meyerling. His performance is a wonderful mix of sinister butler, devoted servant and occasional comedic relief in his interactions with Gillas. The whole cast are energetic and drive the story forward with gusto.

Norma Desmond

Stealing the entire show, naturally, though is Norma DesmondRia Jones understudied, and filled in for, Glenn Close at the London Coliseum and it is easy to see why she earned standing ovations every night. Desmond is an over-the-top character and it would be easy to tip into farcical, but Jones delivers a  Desmond who is genuinely tragic, gloriously mad, and often frightening in her obsessive mission to prevent Gillas from ever leaving her. Her performance is an expert study on the great divas, and she often reminded me of icons including Dame Shirley BasseyLiza Minelli, and of course, Glenn CloseRia Jones‘s voice is truly remarkable, and her songs were met with a moment of stunned silence before thunderous applause. She is a triumph.

All in all, this is a remarkable piece of theatre, and a must see for fans of Lloyd Webber scores. The UK tour is at the Birmingham Hippodrome until 18 November, and the tour continues until the end of April. Dates and tickets can be found here.

We paid in full for our tickets. Nobody knew I was a blogger. All opinions and words are my own. Images are production stills from Sunset Boulevard