End of an era … The Drum is now closed

July 1st, 2016

Yesterday, 30 June 2016, marked the closure of The Drum Arts Centre. The Special Resolution to wind-up Newtown Cultural Project Ltd, better known as The Drum, was taken by its Chair, Sharon Palmer and the Board of Trustees in March of this year. Their decision was made following a review of the organisation commissioned by the Arts Council. The building will now revert back to the landlords, Birmingham City Council.

Newtown Cultural Project was incorporated as a company. limited by guarantee, with charitable status in Autumn 1994. It spent four years developing its vision, securing funding and engaging with audiences before moving into the building based in Potters Lane, Newtown, Birmingham which was the site of the former Aston Hippodrome. After being closed for decades, Aston Hippodrome was reincarnated in 1998 as The Drum Arts Centre, reigniting its legacy as a venue where arts, diversity and cultural activity could be enjoyed by all.

The Drum came about following a strongly articulated desire in the 1980s by the region’s Black artists who presented a strong case for the need for a major building based resource. This desire contributed to West Midlands Arts and Birmingham City Council’s 1992 Black Arts Strategy. The Drum opened its doors in Spring 1998 and occupied these premises for nearly 19 years.

Throughout its 22-year history, The Drum provided a much-needed resource for Britain’s African, Asian and Caribbean artists and communities. The multi-purpose arts centre welcomed artists, audiences and participants – African, Asian, Caribbean and European from across Birmingham, the UK and the rest of the world. It presented a diverse mix of music, theatre, dance, comedy, spoken word, literature and film supported by workshops, masterclasses and a programme dedicated to developing the confidence, artistic and cultural talent of young people from the surrounding area. The Drum was also synonymous with some of Birmingham’s major celebrations and festivals including Black History Month, Aston Heritage Day and Simmer Down.

The Drum is proud of its history. It’s proud of its achievements – the dedication of all its audiences, participants, artists, promoters, advocates and staff who contributed their time, energies and talent to support the organisation’s vision to be the UK’s leading Black Arts Centre. Thank you to each and every one of you.

In order that we might find some way to try and explain and understand the background and decisions leading up to the winding up of Newtown Cultural Project and the subsequent closure of The Drum Arts Centre; in order that 22 years is not consigned purely to archives and history books; in order that The Drum doesn’t become yet another unfulfilled promise and the latest demise of a Black-led, dedicated Black arts venue, Birmingham City Council facilitated the coordination of a Steering Group. This group have been meeting for several weeks and is now taking discussions forward under the banner of Birmingham Black Arts Development Agency (BBDA). Please visit the website https://bbada.wordpress.com for more details and to join the debate.

The Council is also welcoming proposals to run The Drum building. All interested parties are being invited to submit an Expression of Interest. For more information, go online and visit property.birmingham.gov.uk. Alternatively, email bpslettings@birmingham.gov.uk or call 0121 303 3935. The deadline for applications is 1 August 2016 at 2.30pm.

Closure of The Drum is a loss to everyone – not only to those who enjoyed its support and facilities. It is the loss of the symbol of Britain’s promise to promote cultural diversity in the arts and particularly to Britain’s national Black Arts Strategy. A light has gone out, but the spirit and heart remains!


March 10th, 2016

The Drum would like to respond to the confusion that has arisen around Upfront Comedy and our plans for new comedy forms at The Drum.  Upfront Comedy has enjoyed over 20 years at The Drum. It has been a great success and for many, the highlight of starting the weekend with friends and family whilst listening to some fabulous tunes and watching some great internationally known comedians.

We have known for over four years Birmingham has Europe’s largest under 16 population. Statistics and feedback suggests a growing demand from the 18 -24 age group for a range of offers at The Drum. As part of our annual review of programming we have explored how we can maintain loyal audiences whilst attracting new audiences. We tried to explore this vision with John Simmit and believed we had reached an understanding about the future of Upfront Comedy which was to return as soon as July but definitely no later than October. In short, the Arts and Marketing team would produce a short programme from April – June and then John would return with Upfront Comedy.  We planned to monitor the new programmes model and together, with Upfront, make necessary adjustments to accommodate both. Therefore, his announcement on Friday came as a shock and surprise to us all.  We’re sad and disappointed but respect John’s decision and would like to wish him well for the future.  He has been more than a partner – he has been instrumental in the development of The Drum. From our humble beginnings over 25 years ago.  John has been a constant feature in terms of helping getting us to where we are now and we will never forget that.

So, with John’s decision to move Upfront to new venues we will have to revisit our comedy vision.   We are working on plans to introduce new comedy and cabaret formats which we hope to attract new audiences whilst making sure we have something for those audiences who have been loyal to the venue for many years.  So watch out for news and updates on our website and social media regarding our comedy programme.



Charles Small

CEO, The Drum

New Writer and Producer in Residence

February 1st, 2016

The Drum is very pleased to announce the appointment of Tennexa Freeman as Writer and Producer in Residence. Playwright, producer and director Tennexa has enjoyed success with her theatre productions including Babymothers and Bashment Housewives. Tennexa will be working with The Drum over the next eight months on two new productions and will be branching out into filmmaking.

Recognition from The Culture Trip!

January 20th, 2016

The Drum has been voted one of the top live music venues in Birmingham by the Culture Trip! 


Birmingham acting school explores the impact of sexting on young people

November 25th, 2015

Birmingham School of Acting (BSA), part of Birmingham City University, is addressing the impact of sexting and pornography on young people and their relationships in a new theatre production.

Devised and performed by 2nd Year Applied Performance students at BSA, The Sext Generation is an interdisciplinary performance which uses a fusion of song, dance and spoken word to tell the story of Sophie and Josh, a teenage couple who face the consequences of sexting. Pressurised by friends, Josh asks Sophie for an inappropriate image of her – the play goes on to explore how their relationship with each other and their peers is impacted as a result.

Sophie and Josh are almost ‘Facebook official’ and then he asks her for a picture…

Sexting is an increasingly common activity among young people, where they share sexually explicit texts, images or videos on their mobile phones – usually in a text message. Worryingly, young people often do not see sexting as a problem and are reluctant to talk to adults about it because they are afraid of being judged or having their phones taken away. However, there were over 1,200 ChildLine counselling sessions that mentioned ‘sexting’ in 2014/15.

While devising The Sext Generation, the performers themselves spent time researching the issues of sexting among the 13-18 year old age group the play is aimed at. They found – through focus groups with teenagers – that sexting is affecting children as young as 11 years old.

Hannah Phillips, Course Director of Applied Performance at BSA and Director of The Sext Generation said:

“The Sext Generation is being performed during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign and we are hoping to highlight our concerns around issues of ‘sexting’ and sending ‘naked selfies’ as a current form of exploitation of young women.

In this fusion of drama, song, dance and spoken word we also explore the accessibility of pornography for young people through digital technology and the impact this has on them and their relationships. We don’t have all the answers to these complex issues but we certainly hope to raise some important questions.”

somewhereto_Exhibit Grand Unveiling

September 10th, 2015

somewhereto_Exhibit Grand Unveiling
Thursday 17 September, 6pm

Next Thursday we are excited to be hosting the unveiling of the unique designs of young rising talents in partnership with somewhereto_WM.

The exhibition will see our tables in the Café Bar being transformed with the remarkable designs of young artists: Ayesha Jones, Tom Xiao Ji, Idriss Assoumanous, Zara Skyes and Cassandra Wiggan.

The featured designs were selected as the best of all the submissions to somewhereto_WM. Expect to see each artist’s stories reflected in their designs, which we are sure, will spark conversations.

somewhereto_  works across the UK to link free events and urban spaces to give young creative minds the opportunity to fulfill their passions. Working countrywide, somewhereto_ have a wide range of spaces which have been donated for the use of creative individuals and aim to match the right space to each individual’s needs, in their local area. For more information on somewhereto_ visit  somewhereto.com/

Featured artist, Zara Sykes commented on her experience ‘somewhereto_WM has really given me a boost in acknowledging and supporting me not only as a music artist but as an Artist’s champion I strive to encourage and support where I can. The Drum has been supportive over the years and it’s such an honour to have my art work displayed there.’

Pop into our Café Bar for a cuppa or a bite to eat and check out this exhibition which will be a permanent fixture at The Drum.

For more information, please contact our Box Office  on 0121 333 2444.


Upfront Comedy … Angie goes down a storm

September 7th, 2015

After a short break for the summer, last Friday night we welcomed the return of Upfront Comedy.  Keeping it in the family were comedy duo Angie Le Mar and her son Travis, with their show aptly titled Mother & Son Standing Up.  As always Angie delivered a heavyweight set.   She stole the show and had everyone in stitches.

We’ve still got three Upfront Comedy shows left for the autumn season so check out the list below.  You won’t want to miss out, so book your tickets now!

Saturday 3 October
Saturday Night Laugh Fever
A full Saturday night special featuring Brixton’s brutal Felicity Ethnic, mixing it up with exciting afrocentric newcomer Athena Kugblenu, and variety in the form of laddish humour from  award winning comics Kevin J and Axel Blake.

Friday 6 November
Big hitters galore on November’s line up, which sees comedy’s duchess Glenda Jaxson, teaming up with veteran rude boy Rudi Lickwood and south Londoner gagster Junior Booker for laughs aplenty.

Friday 4 December
Slick Real McCoy veterans Jefferson & Whitfield head up December’s show with their smooth blend of jokes, musical interludes and bedroom banter; contrasting with the whirlwind that is Annette Fagon, and the urbane wit of Jason Patterson.

Doors open: 7pm
Advance tickets: £13.50 (£11.50 for concessions)
OTD: £16.50
Season ticket: £40

Food available on the night.


September 7th, 2015

Black History Month 2015

The countdown to the official launch of Birmingham Black History Month is on. With just over three weeks to go, The Drum in partnership with Birmingham City Council, have organised a month long programme of events. Our events will celebrate the achievements, contributions and struggles of African, Asian and Caribbean people.

The theme for this year’s programme is the 50th anniversary of both Malcolm X’s significant visit to Smethwick and the passing of the Race Relations Act 1965 – the first legislation to address racial discrimination.

The launch will take place on:

Fri 2 Oct, 6 – 9.30pm
The Drum Arts Centre
144 Potters Lane, Aston, Birmingham, B6 4UU

The Black History Month 2015 launch programme will consist of a drinks reception followed by the opening of the RACE 50 exhibition. Our guest speaker Dr Kehinde Andrews will discuss Malcolm X’s visit. He will also discuss how attitudes to racial discrimination have changed in Birmingham and the rest of the UK since the Act was introduced. ‘Celebrating the Light’ is a specially commissioned piece by young musicians who are part of the Arts Champions Scheme.  Also featured in this year’s line up are members of Young Drum – The Drum’s Performing Arts Academy for young people aged 7 – 25 years. They will be presenting a multi-artform piece based on the theme of Malcolm X.

If you would like to attend the launch please RSVP by visiting www.bhmbrumlaunch2015.eventbrite.co.uk or contact The Drum Box Office on 0121 333 2444. Alternatively, email Paulette Francis-Green p-officer@the-drum.org.uk by 5pm on Wed 30 Sep. You are able to bring along a maximum of two guests. Please note this event is very popular and due to capacity and catering requirements, places are limited and will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Young Drum is back this Autumn 2015!

September 1st, 2015

Young Drum is back this Autumn 2015!

Are you aged between 7 – 25 years and looking for opportunities is arts, heritage and culture?
Do you want to take part, watch, create and lead the way?
Join Young Drum and begin your creative journey!

Membership is just £30 per term or  £3 per week. For new members we have a one-off fee for only £10.
This term we will be focusing on Black arts, history and culture to celebrate Black History Month. All groups will work towards delivering an end of term showcase event on Saturday 19 December. Work will be shared with friends, family and the general public.

Autumn Term Activity

Term time activity runs from Mon 7 Sepember until Sat 19 December. No sessions during October half term (Sat 24 – Sun 1 Nov)

 6 – 7.30pm

Spoken Word, Poetry & Storytelling
 6 – 7.30pm

Film & Photography
 6 – 7.30pm

Arts Award
 11am – 4pm (Sat 5 Sep to Sat 17 Oct)
Beginners Dance 12 – 1pm
Advanced Drama 12 – 1pm
Beginners Drama 1 – 2.30pm
Advanced Dance 1 – 2.30pm
*Young Drum Dance Elite Troupe 3 – 4.30pm
*Young Drum Drama Academy 3 – 4.30pm
Visual Arts 3 – 4.30pm

*Opened to young people aged 14+

Book you place today by calling our Box Office on 0121 333 2444