Midlands Art Centre
The Day Long Date
Featured in the picturesque setting of Canon Hill Park, The Midland’s most popular arts centre (hence the name MAC) is the place to be if you aren’t quite sure what you or your date want to do and equally excellent if you do.
If you’ve ever been in a relationship the following scenario has almost certainly happened to you:
Person one: What do you want to do today?
Person two: I don’t know, what about you?
Person one: I didn’t have anything planned.
Person two: Well I’ll do what you want to do if you had anything in mind.
And then the day is spent doing something mutually garbage because you go back and forth with half-hearted ideas that then end in you both watching Netflix and ordering a Pizza.
Now a relationship cannot live on Netflix and Pizza alone, nor can your partner’s interest in you if the two of you don’t do something interesting every once and a while
‘An Arts centre? That sounds so pretentious.” You groan. Well I don’t want to insult you since you have been kind enough to read this far, but you are wrong and sound like someone who thought that the Credit Crunch was a type of breakfast cereal.
That’s because the MAC has hit a sweet spot for public engagement. On one hand, the architecture and décor is modern and upscale enough in appearance to wow even the most die-hard Jackson Pollock curator and it’s bright and airy enough to make a little kid feel as if this is a fun place to be.
The location of a popular, family orientated and community engaging park makes the MAC a great go-to location at any time of the year, and with the weather improving; a great picnic spot between your paddle boat sessions come summertime too.
But I have to steer your attention away from Canon Hill Park for a moment, because whilst the MAC sits on the grounds of the park and your dates to the MAC benefit from the park, it’s not going to be the MAC is the reason you’ll be here.
With a Media Studio, two theatres, a Cinema, Café Bar, Bar, Pottery Studio, Sculpture Studio, Music Room and Gallery all on the first floor alone, the two of you could easily spend all day here and spend a LOT less than the £60 budget I’ve posted at the top, for so many things here are free to watch and participate in and the upstairs exhibition hall adds to the free activities too.
Of course, not everything is free and is subject to the exhibitions themselves, but you could take your £60 budget and blow it on excellent quality food and several rounds of drinks at the Arena Bar or Bridges Café Bar.
Now when I say excellent quality food, I really do mean excellent quality at what is a very fair price too. Coming in at less than £10 each, my date and I secured ourselves a very intriguing Grilled Chicken burger and a Rustic Pizza any pizzeria would be proud to have produced.
In my experience, there is usually a premium paid on top of food of this quality and freshness, whilst food at this price usually isn’t good. However, the MAC is a non-profit charity, so whilst your food is affordable, know that you are only paying what you have to pay for each dish.
Pairing your dish with a beverage of your choice is simple too. The drinks menu caters to popular tastes with its soft and hot drinks selection, whilst the assortment of alcoholic beverages hits a spot between indie craft beer and bland commercialised pub stuff.
It means that whilst you might not find your Fosters on draught, you can very easily pick up a bottle of ‘Samuel Adams’ or a ‘Rekorderlig’ whilst knowing you can choose a ‘Desperado’ for the next round.
The wine list is like this too, meaning many of the drinks on offer I had never seen before, but my date who knows her wine lists better than I do, knew what she wanted and was happy with her choices.
The MAC’s menu also falls perfectly within the category of ‘not doing too many things to be trustworthy’ whilst also having the range of items to keep the majority of people happy whilst avoiding a ‘cuisine type’ as to avoid us imposing expectations onto them.
Instead, the overall dining experience has a ‘I want to come back again’ quality to it rather than a ‘save it for a special occasion’ or ‘this is my regular spot’, yet in the same breath it very easily could be or might well be depending on your proximity to the venue and your budget.
In fact, coming to the MAC is easy because it is so nonchalant in how impressive it whilst still caring about how it comes across to people. The Mac wants to be striking, accessible, memorable and engaging and it does all of those things.
However, nowhere is perfect and the MAC does have several kinks in the armour, even if they aren’t shortcomings.
For starters, there may be free ample parking, but sections of the car park aren’t paved, nor lit, so if it rains, tell your date that you’re sorry about their shoes because avoiding a puddle will be difficult.
Secondly, the proximity to Warwickshire Cricket Ground coupled with Birmingham’s near tragic traffic system means getting here when the roads are even remotely busy, a nightmare. If you can’t drive, I’d suggest taking the bus to save yourself a hefty fare.
A strange and unexpected weakness is that if you pre-book your food, you will be allowed to collect your ticket at the ‘Sales and Information’ booth at the front of the building. However, when you attempt to redeem your voucher, staff seem to be bemused as to how to redeem the voucher. If you want to order food, forget about pre-ordering it, just order from the café; you’ll have to wait like everyone else anyway.
If I gave out date location awards, the MAC would take one. Easily a place I can recommend to anyone, regardless of budget, taste, physical ability or interest. If you find yourself wondering what to do one day, the MAC should be your answer.
The Staff are super happy people who seem like they actually wanted to turn up for work today, adding to the already great vibe of the place.
Cinema is worth an honourable mention as it’s certainly better than your typical cinematic experience.
Outstanding food at an incredible value.
Amazing array of activities, you really could come here without a plan an lose an entire day just exploring the grounds and enjoying the company of your date.
A great selection of interesting drinks, balancing the line between obscure indie brands and your everyday, run-of-the-mill beverages.
No pretentious ‘Art Gallery’ Vibes you might expect.
Even when it’s busy, the space feels non-threatening as there is so much of it.
Noticeably clean, even as it got late (past 11pm).
Coming here feels like a sense of occasion.
Parking area is a hazard to your fresh garms, particularly if it rains.
Staff couldn’t work out the in-house voucher system, making pre-paying pointless if you’re doing it to save time.
If your plan was to come here and picnic, like all outdoor venues this is subject to the weather.
Cinema volume is deliberately a little lower than you might expect, so be prepared to listen a little harder than your may be accustomed to when visiting your local VUE, Cineworld or ODEON.