on November 10, 2012
For an excellent night out you can’t beat one of the live events at The Drum on the Aston/Newtown border, right next to Elbow Room nightclub. It was developed as a centre where black and Asian brummies can meet and experience cultural entertainment, The Drum started off as a project but over the years has developed into a much needed and very successful part of the community. A couple of years ago I went to a Carribean night there and had a right laugh, all the black guys in there were running around with face paint 'blacking up’ all us paler types! The music was brilliant; steel drums and guitars playing into the early hours and a buffet of traditional Carribean food which I couldn’t leave alone all night! As a white couple my partner and I attend only certain, more mainstream events, but although it's very much a black community inside we've always felt comfortable in our surroundings and have never seen a moments trouble between the black and (minority) white clientele. They have loads of different events on here such as reggae singers, tribute bands, soul and R&B with all acts being absolutely brilliant and worthy of their spot. We spent a Valentines night in here one year and had a fantastic time; a delicious three course Caribbean meal, totally relaxed and wonderfully delicious with a live pianist playing a great mix of soft romance and jauntier feel-good tunes. The meal was followed with a set by the amazing Courtney Pine, a hugely talented saxophonist who played an absolutely excellent range of reggae, R&B, modern jazz and hip hop - fabulous live and the perfect end to a romantic meal. This experience was reasonably priced at around £30 and I think it was definitely money well spent as we had a fabulous night. There is something for everyone at The Drum; music as I mentioned above, comedy nights, exhibitions and lots of other things which are particularly interesting to the black community in Birmingham - although anyone can go in and feel welcomed and enjoy their night. The exhibitions are usually in the form of art works and are always fabulous, we visited one of their exhibitions which had been outsourced to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery during the summer and it was so clever with part of the museums exterior covered with brightly coloured knitted pieces - it was an exhibition to celebrate the black element of the Olympics and looked absolutely wonderful. I went to a dance show there late last year and it was stunningly put together with wonderful costumes and music that really pulled me into the storyline. It was a modern style Bollywood-type production which I later heard inspired a group of Birmingham based Asian ladies to create their own dance show, telling of the struggles of growing up in a modern city when you come from a deeply religious family. The bar within The Drum is well stocked with lagers, ciders, spirits and liqueurs all of which are reasonably priced and served in spotlessly clean glasses - which is worth a mention as Elbow Room next door often use grimy glasses which is really off putting. One thing I will say here is that it's generally frowned upon to get drunk in The Drum; oh, you're encouraged to enjoy yourself and have a few tipples but I've seen people ejected when they've become falling-over drunk and other drinkers tend to be less than sympathetic. The Drum is much larger inside than it appears from the entrance with space to host the events I mentioned above and it also incorporates a cinema screen in there which is used to show films and documentaries relating to the black community around Birmingham, the most recent of which is to be This Is England which is a film about racism in the 80’s. I must admit I don't use the cinema often at The Drum, simply because they usually show very raw and low budget films where I'd prefer to go and see a blockbuster! It's very popular though, providing a platform for black and Asian film makers to showcase their work which may be comedy offerings or films with a serious message about life in a particular ethnic group.Disabled access is fine, The Drum is multi-levelled but is served by a lift and all areas can be reached thanks to level flooring and wide doorways. I took my mum to the cafe bar at The Drum one time and although she has mobility problems she had absolutely no trouble navigating the building, incidentally she had nothing but praise for our deliciously authentic Caribbean - a minor miracle considering she's very much an English food lover!I think The Drum is a fantastic community project which can only do good in a largely troubled area of Birmingham, I don't know if it's making the Newtown area more accessible as it's an infamously dangerous area of the city but this has the feeling of a haven. Parking can be an issue when there's an event on but The Drum is well served by public transport and there are usually taxis outside at home time. If you're in North Birmingham and fancy a night out with a difference then I wholeheartedly recommend The Drum; it's completely interesting to see shows and exhibits which are so culturally different to what I'm used to, it helps that I adore reggae so keep an eye out on the music section of their website to check if any reggae gems are coming up - I saw the wonderful Macka B here in 2009 at his album launch which was an incredible experience as I've loved this guy for years, The Drum tends to attract up and coming stars in the black and Asian community but they do have the occasional massive star make an appearance and usually at a very reasonable price.
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