Making Millionaires: Birmingham

It’s a Thursday afternoon in the UK’s beautiful Second City, and the Imaginary Millions crew are taking in the 1900s redbrick opulence of Methodist Central Hall, a grade II listed building that’s gone from place of worship, to nightclub, to derelict, soon to be repurposed as a luxury hotel and ‘gastro-hall’ in a multi-million pound council-backed development. Across the road, we’ve just set up shop in Café Artum, a slick and simple record shop-art space-community hub-café on the outskirts of the city centre, initially launched with a £10,000 of crowdfunding. Connecting people in physical spaces with progressive music via independent culture is intrinsic to Café Artum, and at Imaginary Millions, that’s what we love to do too.  

So after we’d chowed down on Hip Hop-themed food from OPM (Original Patty Men, ofc) and had a dig through the records, our posters were up on the wall, the instruments plugged in and tuned up, we’re knocking back some exquisite coffee and in the team huddle - all essential pre-gig activities for getting on the same wavelength - holding hands and taking deep breaths before jumping into the stream again.

Within minutes of the opening set (all instrumental) the Unexpected Guests started ramping up the gears, trading melodies and rhythms between the trio, passing the proverbial spotlight between gritty group grooves and expressive floating solos. Ella and I caught each other making these partially confused, partially enthralled, totally wide-eyed faces at each other trying to work out why we were grinning so hard, and why this music was affecting us so immediately and implicitly, and just how all of this was happening. 

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I set off on a sentence trying to work out how to express the emotions that couldn’t be held discreetly in our faces or privately in our minds, scrambling for a word combination to communicate the joy of it all, the release of tension, the familiarity of being at home with the music, and the daunting responsibility of providing vibes for people’s evenings.

I blurted something like - “Rah, that we get to do this, to create music with super talented musicians who happen to be our friends, to travel to beautiful cities as a crew, and to have these shared experiences with whoever walks through that door or jumps on that mic, that’s fully mad……When it’s good, it’s good. ” Where it took me a twisting sentence, I felt Ella nail it in a hook later on in the night - 

it’s about me, it’s about you, 

it’s about how I feel right now

By that second set the vibe firmly settled in as deep as it ever did. With the floor-to-ceiling windows and the band pumping funk and soul that spilled out onto the street, the night was now being led by the words and poems of all-comers, and everyone in attendance was involved in reconstructing our homes again - that music like a portal to a place where we are together with each other and in harmony with ourselves. As the microphone passed from person to person we heard truths together, felt pain together, railed at divisive politics together, and sang together. We heard refrains like “This is the migrant’s march” repeated deep and soulful by Obi Soul, heard the truth that “none of this was written, except in our minds and in our dreams” from Jah-Mir Early,  we saw readers encouraged by their friends to speak their poems aloud for the first time (like PoetCurious said, someone’s gotta lift the mic tonight, right?), and we saw poets who’d put down the pen return to performing with rapturous energy. 

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With every instance of us coming together with the same intentions, riding the same vibe, creating and sharing in these invaluable moments, spending our Imaginary Millions with anyone paying us their beautiful attention, whether it’s in London, Birmingham, Manchester or Amsterdam, the experience grows and gives back to all involved, because in these times, music is a life-giving, blood-pumping, tangibly real energy source. For now, Imaginary Millions continues to travel onwards, allowing us to delve further into our individual selves, and further out into the world. What’s possible from here? 


- Written by The Repeat Beat Poet