What's it all about...
A beam flickers, lights up the room; multi-layered movie and text burst across the screen as the soundtrack dreams its way into our subconscious. Then it dawns on us that jazz percussionist Richard Sealy, slightly to one side of the space, is teasing out live beats on a cajon – and just as we are getting a handle on what is assaulting our ears and eyes, Lee Ming comes to the mic, violin poised, and draws us further into a haunting, nuanced world of improvisation. It is a wonderfully constructed underload of sound and image designed to transport us way beyond the room.
This is ten minutes of Phil Thomson’s Arts Lab, an upstairs, intimate fifty- seater, known for its standing-room-only outings of poetry, music and experimental film, set up in the Spring of 2018 at 1000 Trades, an independent neighborhood bar and kitchen set in a listed building in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham. Artists pitch in with an exciting mix of original performances and fresh ideas – where the rehearsal is truly over and the applause begins – and as well as a generous attitude towards open mic, there is always this blend of the familiar and the unexpected. Among the guests have been Sellotape Cinema, offering deconstructed film mixed before our very eyes; The Trail of Thomas Love opening up the music and mystery of Industrial Shropshire, and award-winning poet Gregory Leadbetter who premiered his enigmatic new photo-suite ‘Balanuve’.
There are regulars too, such as visual artist and composer Tom Tebby, constantly surprising with his complicated kit and live electronic soundscapes; actor and satirist Vince Gould’s guaranteed quasi-politico rhetoric, and Vincent Stokes, whose readily retro poetry of the disaffected lights up the room. The programme for this Autumn also includes an evening celebrating the tenth anniversary of one of the Midland’s most successful imprints, Nine Arches Press, with a clutch of their poets and authors on display.
All this is held together by Phil Thomson, himself a well-published lyricist, writer/artist and collaborative poet. His view on the evenings is quite simple:
“We discover that we are experiencing creativity in a slightly different way, and maybe at a different pace. There is a blend of the familiar and the unexpected and always a degree of experimentation. That’s what a lab does. Testing things out. Expect to meet interesting people in a wonderful setting on either side of the mic.”
That setting, 1000 Trades, is the perfect environment in which to eat, drink and have a conversation, with a discerning range of craft beers and an inventive bespoke menu to choose from, and you’ll find that there are plenty of other adventurous evenings in the programme week by week. As an addition to the creative life of the area, Phil Thomson’s Arts Lab is turning out to be a true marker of risk and revelation. You will find all the info you need on the 1000 Trades website. The real experience is to be there yourself. And it’s free.
THURSDAY 31 MAY
Phil Thomson’s Arts Lab 7.30pm - 10.00pm
True to the ethos of the laboratory, expect the unexpected in a POETRY, MUSIC, FILM programme which sees the return of Sellotape Cinema to premiere brand new work, gives free reign to the live Fashion Film Installation of LA-IT, drops in some more Open Mic, yet still leaves plenty of time for the pictorial poetry of artist John Wigley, a sideways swipe at the world from poet Caroline Stokes and, completing the evening, the electronic soundscapes of composer Tom Tebby. An exciting experience on either side of the mic! And free.