Highbury Theatre Centre

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Issue - 26                                                                                         22 February 2021

Highbury Online Art

Ian van Zyl

Sheila Knapman who organises art exhibitions at Highbury made contact with Ian van Zyl through the Fircone Art Group in Erdington, who have exhibited at our theatre.

Born in Kimberley, South Africa Ian was raised on the family farms.  He started drawing and painting at an early age, inspired by the immense open spaces and wild animals that were part of his daily life.

After completing his school education at Grey College, with Art as a subject, he furthered his studies at the Johannesburg School of Art and is now an accomplished and sought after fine artist.  Ian embarks on an extended field trip into the bush every year often spending long periods alone into the remote parts of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.

It is here he finds his greatest inspiration

He is married to Elizabeth, a Birmingham lass who is his fiercest critic and staunchest ally of some 41 years standing.

His agent in London is Leah Hatt and she can be contacted at

For all information on exhibiting your work at Highbury please email
Sheila Knapman

What's Happening at Highbury

As there’s no timetable yet for any easing of restrictions, Highbury Theatre is continuing its hibernation so we don’t have any plans to announce about plays or films at this stage.  However, when the lockdown eases, we’re hoping to announce forthcoming productions and films at relatively short notice so that we can be as confident as possible that they’ll go ahead.  Keep an eye on our website ( and Facebook page (@HighburyTheatre).

We have been creating more audio recordings.  Last month we released “Luck”, a dramatised version of a short story, and we are now working on "Hartley Hall".  This is currently still in production but look out for it being released soon on our:
YouTube Channel

Also, with the forthcoming anniversary of the first lockdown, plans are afoot to mark this by doing something with Deep Cut, the production that was due to start the day after that lockdown was announced.  It may not be the happy, jolly event that we hope to put on when this is over, but it seemed appropriate to mark the anniversary in some way.  Once again, keep an eye on our YouTube channel.

Also Online

Empty Stage by Birmingham Royal Ballet.

After what has been an incredibly tough 12 months for everyone involved in the live performance industry, Empty Stage is a poignant, hope-filled response to COVID’s impact on live performance and demonstrates Birmingham Royal Ballet’s deep-rooted desire to keep production alive during these difficult times.  The film started off as a trailer for BRB's national Spring tour of Cinderella, which is sadly no longer able to go ahead as planned.
Empty Stage

FOLIO Sutton Coldfield, the charity that supports our local public libraries, is running a series of online local interest talks.  The next talk is about the history of Moor Hall Hotel at 7.30pm on 4 March.  If you would like to attend, a complete list of the talks together with details of how to book your place can be found on their Web Site:

Folio Sutton Coldfield

Some of the talks are being put on FOLIO’s YouTube channel afterwards, and they can be found here:

Dates for the Diary

A date for your diary is the weekend of 20 / 21 March which will mark a year since the country’s first lockdown as well as the spring equinox.  Culture Central, which brings together arts organisations across the West Midlands, is co-ordinating the creation of short audio-based art works which will be available outside, making a change from watching things online.  We’re hoping that there will be something in Sutton Coldfield that we can all enjoy, so put the date in your diary and keep an eye out for announcements.

Player News

So after managing to dodge the dreaded COVID for the best part of 12 months, it has finally got me.  It started with a fairly insignificant sore throat and I didn’t take much notice until I got a message from NHS Test and Trace informing me that I had been in contact with someone who had tested positive, and that I should self-isolate.

At this point I decided that I ought to get tested so promptly ordered a home testing kit.  Reading the instruction booklet was going well up to the point where it said post the completed test in a priority postbox . . . But all these are in public places and the self isolation instructions specifically say ‘avoid public places’.  After a call to 119 it became apparent that they hadn’t been given the script for that one as they couldn’t assure me that I wouldn’t be fined the moment my foot hit the pavement, even though they kept saying that  'it should be OK’.  I will not record here how I overcame that dilemma.

Then came the online registration which went well until I got to that instrument of the devil, the CAPTCHA.  I successfully identified all the sections of the image that had even the tiniest part of a speedboat, but going to the next page always sent me back to speedboat identification (or traffic light, or that familiar English crosswalk!).  After going round in circles for [quite] a bit, it was time for the second call of the day to 119 in order to register the thing.

The test itself was a very simple affair taking just a few minutes with the bathroom mirror and the cotton swab, although I would have preferred two rather than having to recycle. Three days later the confirmation came back in the form of a positive test result, by which time I didn’t need it.  By then the effects had hit hard and I was asking myself questions like "Why is it soo far from the sofa to the bed?" and "Why is the floor so far down?" whenever I dropped anything.  These important considerations coupled with the sore throat, coughing fits and high temperature made for a thoroughly miserable couple of weeks.  On the plus side, I consider myself extremely lucky compared to many who have caught it. 

Next up was my own tracing.  It started with a text message containing a link to go online to fill in contact details.  Now I don’t know about you but the last thing I want to do is use my sausagey fat fingers on a tiny mobile keypad to type in names, email addresses and phone numbers.  I also have a phone that fits easily in my trouser pocket so the screen is not the best for checking the details, especially numbers that contain lots of 3s and 8s.  Now I know what you’re going to say - why didn’t you simply forward as an email?  Well, my phone has broken so I have gone back to using an old handset with no email set up, so not an option - and of course, no possibility to reply to the text messages.

After three days and a similar number of text message reminders I finally get a phone call to ask why I haven’t provided the details.  After explaining my sausage finger syndrome and myopia, I asked if they could send me an email, a simple enough task that seemed completely beyond the capabilities of the person on the other end of the phone.  “Just Google Test and Trace” he said, which I did immediately after the call, only to be met with a request for username and password which I did not know and no certainty that I was actually on the correct page.  In the end I had to forward the text to someone else and ask them to return it as an email so I could do it properly.

So after entering the required details including 'went shopping to Morrisons on Tuesday evening' (good luck tracing that one), I then get another call from Track and Trace to “check the details”.  Fair enough but the first thing was “We just need to do a security check.  Can you tell me your date of birth?”.  Well quite frankly, no. You’re ringing me so you should be confirming your authenticity to me, not the other way round.  And before you tell me that the NHS Track and Trace telephone number is widely publicised and they say “expect a call from 0300 013 5000”, telephone number spoofing is so easy to do that even OFCOM admit that it is a serious problem and they are trying to do something about he misuse of it.  However, after they confirmed that I went to Morrisons on Tuesday evening, everyone was happy.

The final call was to tell me that my period of self-isolation had come to an end and that I could 'go about my usual routine'. Unfortunately, my body didn't get the message until the best part of a week later so I ignored that and went back to bed.

Although I feel that some of the processes let the Test and Trace system down, I have to say that I am very impressed by the people operating the Test and Trace telephone system. They always answer within one or two rings, and with one notable exception, they were all polite, courteous and very helpful.

Richard Irons, for Highbury News - still in bed.

The Highbury Mini Quiz

A Film and TV trail this time. Listed below are sets of three films or TV programs which share a common actor. Simply name the actor that appeared in all three. For bonus kudos, name the characters for each.

  1. The Professionals, Upstairs Downstairs, The Great Escape.
  2. The Great Escape, NCIS The Man From Uncle.
  3. The Man From Uncle, The Magnificent Seven Hustle.
  4. Hustle, Van Der Valk, Mad Dogs.
  5. Mad Dogs, Life On Mars, Dr Who.
  6. Dr Who, Broadchurch, Staged.
  7. Staged, The Queen, Frost Nixon
  8. Frost Nixon, Quiz, Ripper Street.
  9. Ripper Street, Soldier Soldier Game of Thrones.
  10. Game of Thrones, The Bodyguard, Rocketman.
  11. Rocketman, Eddie the Eagle, Kingsman.
  12. Kingsman, Mama Mia, The Kings Speech.
  13. The Kings Speech, The Tailor of Panama, Pirates of the Caribbean.
  14. Pirates of the Caribbean, The Office, The Detectorists.
  15. The Detectorists, Dad’s Army, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

And from last time:

  1. 'Alone' was a top 5 hit in 1987 for Heart
  2. And 1988 'Heart' was a hit for the Pet Shop Boys
  3. Complete the name of the Scottish football team, Heart of Midlothian
  4. In the card game Hearts, the Black Lady is the queen of spades
  5. In 1958, 'Stupid Cupid' was a  hit fo Connie Francis
  6. The statue of Eros stands at Picadilli Circus 
  7. The gentleman thief played by Antony Valentine in 1977 was Raffles
  8. The character Sonny Valentine appeared in Hollyoaks
  9. Valentine's Day is mentioned by Ophelia in The Tempest
  10. The 14th Century writer believed to be the first to associate love with Valetine's day was Geoffrey Chaucer

Funny Bone

There once was a farmer whose wife had died and left him with three beautiful teenage daughters. Every weekend, when they went out on dates, the farmer would stand at the door with his shotgun, making it clear to their dates he wanted no trouble from them.

Another Saturday night came around.  About 7 p.m., there was a knock on the door.  He answered and the young man said, "Hi, my name's Joe.  I'm here for Flo.  I'm taking her to the show. Is she ready to go?"  The farmer thought he was a clever boy and wished them a good time.

A few minutes later, another knock was heard.  A second boy appeared and said, "Hi, I'm Eddie.  I'm here for Betty.  I'm taking her for spaghetti. I hope she's ready."  He bade them off as well with his best wishes.

A few minutes after that, a third knock was heard. "Hi, I'm Chuck..."
The farmer shot him.

And Finally

Paul Barton plays the blues, accompanied by Peter ..... the elephant.

Peter Plays the Blues

Want to know more about Highbury Theatre?
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Highbury Theatre Centre
Sheffield Rd
Sutton Coldfield
Birmingham, W Mids B73 5HD
United Kingdom

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Tel: 0121 373 2761
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