Express & Star

Diverse feast of arts and culture on offer in 2023

New year will bring a sparkling celebration of artistic talent to venues across the region, with something for everyone to enjoy.

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Eurovision star Sam Ryder

The dark days of the pandemic will start to feel like a lifetime away as 2023 brings a celebration of arts and culture to the West Midlands.

From festivals to disability arts, dance to panto, and sweaty, little clubs to giant, rockin’ arenas, the region has one of the best arts offerings in the UK.

It helps, of course, that Birmingham is on the doorstep.

The second city is first among equals, offering more diversity, big-name stars and original artists than any town or city, outside London.

Forget the brouhaha around Manchester or Liverpool; Birmingham is where it’s at.

With the Utilita Arena and Resorts World Arena bringing the biggest names to the region, there’s plenty to look forward to.

The Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour starts proceedings at the Utilita Arena

The Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour starts proceedings at the Utilita Arena from January 20-22 and before you can say Someone You Loved, Lewis Capaldi will be headlining his Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent tour.

He’ll be followed by Florence + The Machine, Panic! At The Disco, Lizzo, Tom Grennan, Don Broco, and Jim Jefferies before Peter Kay moves in for his long-term residence.

The nation’s funniest stand up will play the first in a series of gigs in April, before returning more times than he’d care to remember between spring 2023 and December 2025 – yes, 2025.

There’ll be other highlights, not least Paramore, Kevin Hart, Duran Duran, Iron Maiden, Peter Gabriel and Shania Twain.

The second city offers headline shows, including legend Elton John

It’s a similar story at Resorts World Arena, which can look forward to headline shows from The 1975, Black Stone Cherry, Young Blud, the legend that is Elton John, Snoop Dogg, Andre Rieu, Sam Smith, Michael Buble and Kiss, among others. Ozzy Osbourne is also back on June 23, while Louis Tomlinson and Justin Bieber will thrill pop fans.

Mind you, those shows pale against the brilliance of P!nk, who plays Villa Park in June, and Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band, who headline the same venue a few nights later. The middle of June promises to be spectacular.

But of course fans won’t have to travel as far as Birmingham to get their fix of big name artists when Wolverhampton’s Civic Hall finally reopens in June 2023.

The venue will be operated by AEG Presents after an eight-year revamp that’s cost £48 million.

Stourbridge-born AEG Presents CEO Steve Homer, said: “Having hosted artists from The Clash, Bowie and Nirvana to the Manic Street Preachers and Morrissey, it’s incredible to be able to bring an iconic venue back to life and as a local lad, this is all the more special.

“We can’t wait to open the doors of The Halls Wolverhampton and bring the world’s best artists to the West Midlands stage.”

Fans won’t have to wait that long, however, for good local rock music, with KK’s Steel Mill and the ever-reliable Robin 2, in Bilston, serving the Black Country market.

KK’s Steel Mill goes from strength to strength and will welcome Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls next month.

In the months ahead, there’ll also be shows from Black Star Riders, Voodoo Six, King King, Hayseed Dixie and Devin Townsend, among others.

Blues star Chantel McGregor is another to look out for, with a headline show in May. The Robin 2, meanwhile, will present an eclectic mix of tribute artists, heritage rock acts, blues stars and talks from former footballers and one-time rock stars.

Few venues work as hard to bring talent to the region and owner Fraser Tranter will be looking to enjoy the coming year, having survived the pandemic and upgraded the venue.

Local theatres will feature dance, comedy and drama during a dizzyingly diverse 12 months.

Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre will welcome one-offs from Guz Khan, Tony Blackburn and Giovanni Pernice as well as such classics as The Nutcracker and Spirit Of The Dance.

And if that wasn’t sufficient to showcase its wide offering, the venue will also welcome The Classic Rock Show, the brilliant Stewart Lee and this year’s best panto – no contest – in February, when Ian McKellan brings Mother Goose to the venue. Expect every seat to be sold.

Telford’s Oakengates Theatre will be punching above its weight as manager Debbie King welcomes such stars as Tom Allen, Paul Young, Ross Noble and Lulu to the venue.

Ross Noble will feature in October in his latest show, Jibber Jabber Jamboree; Paul Young will reminisce about such classics as No Parlez when he stars this spring, in April; while the evergreen Lulu will bring a mixture of music and stories to the venue in November in a new show, called For The Record.

The hilarious Sarah Millican is back, too, with Late Bloomer.

Telford’s QEII Arena will welcome N-Dubz in July.

In Staffordshire, Lichfield Garrick Theatre has a dazzling line-up with Henning Wehn, the marvellous Susie Dent, Clare Teal and The Drifters performing during an exciting spring programme.

Camp Bestival fun is returning to Weston Park

Festivals will be big news by summertime, with Camp Bestival Shropshire at Weston Park in August.

This year’s headlines will include Primal Scream and The Human League while there’ll also be sets from disco diva Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Eurovision star Sam Ryder, former Spice Girl Melanie C and BBC Radio 2 DJ Sara Cox.

And Ella Henderson, Bez and Rowetta, Pop Will Eat Itself and Badly Drawn Boy will all add to the fun.

In Shropshire, a four-day feast of folk music will play out when Shrewsbury Folk Festival returns.

The 2023 tickets are now on sale and announcements will follow soon about the event’s full line-up. Regional theatres from Stafford to Shrewsbury, from Cannock to Bridgnorth, and from Walsall to Market Drayton will play their part.

Walsall Arena’s profile has soared in the past 12 years under excellent management and a busy year is in store, with Status Quo frontman Francis Rossi undoubtedly the pick of the bunch. He’ll be playing all the Status Quo hits, acoustically, in a headline show on September 24.

Birmingham will offer world-class theatre and dance, with The Alexandra offering popular shows, The Rep providing innovative new productions and The Hippodrome welcoming the nation’s biggest stars. Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty will feature at the Hippodrome from February 7 to 11, providing a spectacular gothic romance, while Birmingham Royal Ballet will showcase Swan Lake later that month, in a long-running production.

A major new production of My Fair Lady will feature in March while Jack Dee will visit with I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue.

Titanic The Musical is stopping off at Birmingham Hippodrome in April

Titanic The Musical will visit The Hippodrome in April while The Commitments will follow, later that month.

The region’s art galleries will no doubt be busy throughout the year while the region’s amateur scene continues to go from strength to strength, as it rebuilds following the pandemic.

With so many venues offering such a wealth of talent, arts will be roaring back in 2023.