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EDITOR’S VIEW

A

re you hanging up a stocking on your wall? It’s the time that every Santa has a ball… You know Christmas is coming when you hear the first few bars of the festive anthem, Merry Xmas Everybody by Brum’s very own Slade, rocking out on the TV or radio. But what will Christmas be like this year? For sure, the impact of Covid-19 will make this holiday like no other that’s gone before. My friend’s young daughter is so worried/excited by the whole thing, she asked: “Daddy, if we leave hand sanitiser with his mince pie and sherry, Father Christmas will still come, wont he?” Seriously, I kid you not! One thing about Christmas that’s a constant here at Birmingham Living towers, pandemic or no, is our famous Big Gift Guide. This year’s edition concentrates on local businesses rather than the big chains. Independent stores and services need all the help they can get after such a tough year. And because they are more exclusive, the gifts they offer are likely that bit more special. Whatever your budget, you’ll find plenty of great ideas in our 10-page section. Christmas cheer, too, as we went to press for Birmingham’s arts and culture with the news that the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund has awarded nearly £9million to help our most iconic theatres and museums get through the Covid crisis. Birmingham Rep trustee, leading theatre and TV actor Adrian Lester said of the award: “It ensures our historic theatre will be there to inspire and entertain again when it is possible to return to full production.” In the words of Slade: “So here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun. Look to the future now, it’s only just begun.” Have a very happy, and safe, Christmas!

s n h o J d i Dav

visit www.brumliving.co.uk @brum_living Cover image:

Baga Chipz photographed by Tom Wren, www.WREN.pro

/bhamliving

FINALIST

EDITOR: David Johns david@brumliving.co.uk FEATURES EDITOR: Shelley Carter shelley@brumliving.co.uk DESIGNER: Tracy Duffy

CONTRIBUTORS: Rob Price, Sue Cooke, Lisa Melvin, Hywel Davies ACCOUNT MANAGER: Jane Morris jane@brumliving.co.uk PHOTOGRAPHY: David Morphew, Andrew Llewellyn PUBLISHING DIRECTOR: Jonathan Carter

Rock Hopper Media Limited Burleigh House, 23 Tagwell Road, Droitwich WR9 7BN tel 01905 771110 © Rock Hopper Media Ltd. Birmingham Living is published monthly by Rock Hopper Media Ltd and printed by Buxton Press. Views and opinions expressed by authors and services and products offered by advertisers are not specifically endorsed by Rock Hopper Media Ltd. Reproduction in whole or in part of the contents of Birmingham Living without written permission is strictly prohibited.

SUBSCRIPTIONS: The subscription rate (post paid) is £24 for one year (12 issues). Subscriptions 01905 771110 ISSN 2051-8560

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INSIDE

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Highlights

Baga Chipz

The Drag Race tour de force talks life, lockdown, Louboutins and festive frolics

Musical Cheers Birmingham’s virtual Christmas spectacular, complete with the Grenadier Guards

Food & Drink Oilver Ngo of Vietnamese Street Kitchen, plus festive news, views and reviews

Health Get fit for Christmas with our expert tips and don’t let the drink go to your head!

Style With partywear on hold this year, jumpers cardis and hoodies top our festive wish-list

The Big Christmas Gift Guide Present ideas galore in a 10-page special with the emphasis on local businesses

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CONTENTS

Best of the Rest

52 54 58 61 64 66 december 2020

Motoring

Move over Rudolph… Santa is switching to horsepower – and a beautiful Bentley

Young, Gifted & Brummie Homegrown MC, Ddroid is living his best life while filming BBC’s The Rap Game Hearts For Hope How Dan Ford turned furlough and copper tubing into a new business

Business Latest news and views as commercial community faces challenging times

What’s On Our round-up of events, both live and virtual, due to take place this month

Up Close With Neal Foster, the man behind Horrible Histories’ car park panto

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NEWS

FAIRYTALE FAVOURITE

Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Rep are teaming for Christmas fairytale, the Nutcracker. The specially adapted production, with audience social distancing, will run from 14 to 22 December and brings the family favourite to the Rep for the first time. The production features new creative direction from Birmingham Royal Ballet director, Carlos Acosta and the Rep’s artistic director, Sean Foley. Ticket details at birmingham-rep.co.uk

NEWS

IN THESE MOST CHALLENGING TIMES, WE BRING YOU STORIES TO INSPIRE AND ADMIRE FROM ACROSS THE CITY

PLAYING POLITICS

A new Midlands-based politics podcast has been launched by the BBC. Fronted by BBC Midlands politics presenter Elizabeth Glinka, the talk show airs at 10am on Sundays on BBC One. Each week guests include politicians, industry leaders and experts from the West Midlands. Elizabeth said: “I hope this podcast will make it even easier for busy people to catch up on what’s going on around us. You can listen anytime on your phone on the BBC Sounds app.”

BRAVO, SAYS ADRIAN TV and theatre star Adrian Lester is welcoming cash hand-outs to city arts venues, including his own Birmingham Rep, to help them through Covid-19. The Rep is receiving nearly £1.4million from the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund, which is awarding £8.7million across the city. Others getting help include Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham Museums Trust and Town Hall Symphony Hall. Rep trustee Adrian said: This ensures our historic theatre will be there to inspire and entertain again when it is possible to return to full production.”

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NEWS

LIGHTS FANTASTIC A magical lantern installation lit up Birmingham’s Chinese Quarter to mark the release of a new animated film. The 26 handcrafted lanterns were brought to life with more than 5,000 LED lights to celebrate Netflix’s Over The Moon. James Wong, community leader and chair of Birmingham’s Chinese Festival, said: “We’re very proud of Birmingham’s Chinese Quarter and thrilled to partner with Netflix to celebrate this film that wonderfully celebrates the Chinese folklore of the Mid-Autumn Festival.”

ENOCH’S GUN COURAGE Brave street warden Enoch White has received a top police award after his swift action led to the arrest of a gunman in Birmingham. The drama

CURTAIN CALL The University of Birmingham’s much-loved Barber Concerts series celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. And to mark the occasion, organisers are calling for people to send in their concert memories to be collated into a special archive to be shared online and via social media. The Barber Concerts began in 1945, being held in the Grade I-listed art deco Barber concert hall, pictured. If you have memories to share, e-mail Emma Margetson at E.M.Margetson@bham.ac.uk or by tweeting @BarberConcertsusing #BarberConcerts75.

came when Enoch was on his latenight break in Broad Street. A car pulled up and the driver threatened him with a gun through the open window before speeding off – but not before Enoch had noted the registration. His action earned him a Chief Constable’s Commendation award from West Midlands Police.

SHEKU’S TRIBUTE

Cello star Sheku Kanneh-Mason wound back the clock to celebrate the centenary of the first concert performed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. The Midlands maestro played Sir Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto – which was conducted by the legendary composer 100 years ago – for a recording filmed by the BBC at Birmingham Symphony Hall which is available to view at the CBSO website until 18 December. Tickets cost £10.

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NEWS

COMING CLEAN PANTO FIRST It’s a pantomime like no other before! Stars, including Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood, panto regular and favourite Matt Slack and Sooty are teaming up to bring a ground-breaking production of Robin Hood to Birmingham, supported by the National Lottery. Two of the city’s top theatres, the Hippodrome and the Alexandra, are joining forces to put on the show – complete with audience social distancing – at the Alex from Friday 15 January to Sunday 31 January. Tickets for the first performance will be gifted to NHS workers and their families.

TOUR DE FORCE Birmingham-based national blood cancer charity, Cure Leukaemia, has been named the first-ever Official Charity Partner of the Tour de France in the UK. The partnership means Cure Leukaemia’s Tour 21 cycling event – which sees amateurs take on all 21 stages of the Tour de France one week ahead of the professional event – will be the only charity event of its kind with the official support of the Tour. The tie-up has been agreed following the achievements of football legend Geoff Thomas, pictured, since his diagnosis with leukaemia in 2003.

JUMP TO IT Know that crazy festive jumper you’ve been saving to wear on Christmas Day? Well, how about donning it a bit earlier and helping Save the Children at the same time? Friday, 11 December is the charity’s special

How are those trainers of yours looking? A bit the worse for wear? A new permanent sneakers cleaning service has been

Jumper Day when it is asking as many Brummies as possible to get

launched at Selfridges –

dressed up and give £2 at the same time. If you don’t have a special

with Aston Villa and

knitted cracker, just wear any old sweater and wrap some tinsel round it.

England football star Jack

Sign up at savethechildren.org.uk/christmas-jumper-day

Grealish first in the queue. The Sneaker Doc is a highend trainer cleaning service, started in 2018 by Brummie, James Harper, pictured with Jack. Shoppers drop their shoes off at Selfridges footwear department and collect them once the Sneaker Doc team has worked its

BAGGIES’ SWEET DEAL

magic. Simples!

Wispa it… the Baggies have a new official snacking

partner! It’s none other than Bournville’s finest chocolate champs, Cadbury. The partnership between West Brom and Cadbury owner, Mondelez International, includes supporting the Baggies Buddies programme – an initiative offering supporters who may feel isolated or alone companionship and a sense of community. Head of partnerships at West Brom, Tomasz Chadwick, said: “We’re delighted to have a partner that will work proactively with us to offer support to those that need it.”

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NEWS

LET’S BAKE!

Is Birmingham good enough to win the Great British Bake Off? The team behind the hit show are looking for competitors for next year’s series – and they are keen to find a brilliant Brummie baker to take part. A spokesman said: “It’s been a while since we had a Birmingham-based contestant and we would love to have one be part of the shows.” If you think you have what it takes go to www.applyforbakeoff.co.uk or call 0207 067 4837.

JO’S ELF ALERT Somewhere under the pointy hat and oversize glasses is comedian and TV presenter Jo Brand! Jo donned the outfit to urge people in the West Midlands to express themsELVES by popping on some elf ears, tights and jolly jingle bell slippers and signing up to Alzheimer’s Society’s Elf Day. The charity day falls on Friday 4 December – but you can hold your own dress up day at any time through the month. For a free fund-raising pack go to alzheimers.org.uk/elfday

STAGE SET FOR ACADEMY Students in Birmingham are being invited to apply for a new academy specialising in technical theatre, film and broadcast production which will open in the city next year. BOA Stage & Screen will be a state-funded academy for 16 to 19-year-olds, based in the Jewellery Quarter. Opening in September 2021, it will develop the skills in both existing and emerging production techniques and broadcast technologies. Applications can be made at www.boa-stageandscreen.co.uk

PERFECT FIT A new social enterprise has launched in Birmingham, to bring together and empower women through fitness, wellbeing and group support. SheBeasts Limited sees fee-paying clients sign up for one-to-one personal training sessions, with profits re-invested into funding group activities for women in refuges across the city. The social enterprise is the brainchild of business consultant and body builder, Sadie Jones.

BEAUTY MOVE

A popular salon has relocated to Great Western Arcade. Beauty by Regis was forced to leave its home in John Lewis when the Grand Central branch closed. The salon is led by Andrea Walker, who has a career in the beauty industry spanning more than 25 years. Among exclusive offerings are three microchanneling, rejuvenation and hydration treatments not available in any other salon or skin clinic in Birmingham city centre.

GOT ANY NEWS? Email your news and pictures to editor@brumliving.co.uk december 2020

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COVER STORY

TART WITH A HEART

TOUR DE FORCE BAGA CHIPZ TALKS DRAG RACE, LOCKDOWN, SPLASHING OUT AND COMING HOME. SHELLEY CARTER LISTENS… welve years ago in Brum when a mate suggested getting dolled up and performing Amy Winehouse, little did Baga Chipz know that by 2020 she’d be a household name. On the back of a stellar run on Ru Paul’s Drag Race in which she came third, Baga has rocked TV shows like Masterchef and Celeb Karaoke as well as having a packed diary of live shows which commanded a tidy fee before Covid put the kybosh on that of course. Next year looks big for Baga. There are collaborations, more TV shows, music and commercial deals on the horizon, so you’ll be seeing a lot more of the self-styled tart with a heart. Baga began her career performing every Monday night for £100 at venues like the Nightingale and the Village before moving to London where she took to the stage at the Two Brewers in Clapham and bagged a residency at the Admiral Duncan.

T

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COVER STORY

Why do you want a burger

when you can have me, prime

steak on a plate? Prime steak? More like a bag of chips!

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COVER STORY

The name, Baga Chipz was born in Brum. She explains: “I was having a drink in a pub in Birmingham when this fella came up and started flirting with me and my mate. I said: ‘Why do you want a burger when you can have me, prime steak on a plate?’ And he said: ‘Prime steak? More like a bag of chips!’ Well, you can’t get more British than a bag of chips can you?” It sums up Baga’s style of drag perfectly – more kiss me quick and all the lols than slick make-up and production, which is one of the reasons why auditioning for Drag Race was a bit of a punt that she didn’t really think would come off. Baga got the call from the show’s producers to say she’d earned a spot on the legendary show while watching her beloved Corrie. She recalls: “I was in total shock. I’m more Lily Savage than Ru Paul,

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so I didn’t think it would happen.” She adds: “I’m working class, I’m from a rough council estate. We didn’t have a pot to piss in when I was a kid, so my act and my character is rough as arseholes.” FANCY A BREW Baga made friends for life on Drag Race and regularly works with fellow contestant and ultimately the show’s winner, The Vivienne. From their hysterical podcast, Fancy a Brew, and Netflix YouTube series, We Like to Watch, to their joint nationwide tour show, they’re infectiously naughty. The Vivienne describes their partnership as ‘the Ant and Dec of drag’ and most nights they were performing or filming pre-Covid.

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COVER STORY

Coming third on the show was the ideal for Baga. She says she got all the exposure of being in it for the long haul without the pressure of winning and she got much further than she ever thought she would. “I thought I’d be on for a week, maybe three max. Every week was a surprise. I was just myself and I’m an absolute tit, so that helps.” Obviously 2020 has been impossible for live performers and Baga reckons she’s lost roughly £250,000 through cancelled shows and projects, but she’s not grumbling. She says: “I can’t moan. There are people who haven’t got jobs.” Baga knows what it’s like living from paycheck to paycheck. Before Drag Race, that’s the situation she was in. LOLLY FOR LOUBOUTINS “I used to live off what I earned. Drag Race changed things financially. “I’ve bought a house in the Midlands and I’m not worried about money.” Baga admits she got carried away when she first began to earn a bit. She says: “I went a bit wild at the beginning. I went from no pot to piss in to buying Louboutins. I spent £8,000 in Manchester then went to Harrods when I got back to London. Oh, I got it all. I’ve calmed down a bit now.” As comfortable in a nice adidas track suit as full drag, Baga says she’s ‘basically a common as muck trollop’ whose make up is more middle-aged woman than a three-hour stint in front of the mirror. She’s all about the entertainment and lols and says being a performer is the most important quality for a drag queen, that looking good isn’t enough to stand out from the crowd or make the audience howl. Look out for Baga on your screens in the new year. As we write, it’s a we-could-tell-you, but we’d-haveto-kill-you scenario, but keep an eye on Channel 4, ITV2 and BBC3. She’s busy. I

COCKTAIL O’CLOCK Baga’s been working with the creators of the world’s most fuss-free cocktail, DJs Cocktail Infusers. The pockets of 100 per cent natural botanicals are hand-blended to transform vodka into six signature cocktails; Long Island Iced Tea, Cosmopolitan, Margarita, Peach Mojito, Strawberry Daiquiri and Sangria. Take your pick at www.coldinfusions.co.uk

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FEATURE

MUSICAL CHEERS

BAH-HUMBUG TO THE LOCKDOWN! HOW HUNDREDS OF BIRMINGHAM SCHOOLCHILDREN ARE TAKING PART IN A VIRTUAL MUSICAL CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR, COMPLETE WITH THE GRENADIER GUARDS 14 birmingham living

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FEATURE

music with thousands of schoolchildren. Earlier in the year, the service – one of the largest in the country, working across 384 of the city’s schools, teaching music to approximately 38,000 children and providing 28,000 musical instruments free-ofcharge – staged its successful Virtual Youth Proms Festival. The festival featured 500 young musicians taking part in 30 bespoke pre-recorded free performances over four evenings, streamed to an audience of 4,000 and watched by many more since. The proms also included six performances by the Band of the Royal Marines and raised more than £6,000 through voluntary donations for the Music Service charity.

ith 2020 being the year from hell you’d be forgiven for thinking the festive season is destined to be all bah-humbug too! But before we rush to accept the Scrooge scenario there is, we are delighted to report, a beacon of light and inspiration shining in Birmingham. And it involves brilliant young musicians from the city – and the Grenadier Guards! During the pandemic and lockdowns, the amazing team at Birmingham Music Service has been working behind the scenes to continue making

W

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CONCERT LINE-UPS “The Virtual Proms were so successful, we’ve decided to do even bigger concerts for Christmas,” said the head of the Music Service, Stuart Birnie. “Nearly 800 children will take part with 22 ensembles and choirs providing pre-recorded pieces. Our contacts with the military mean that this time we have the Band of the Grenadier Guards also performing. Additionally, we are hoping to get official approval from the city council for a relay of traditional festive carols performed live by our brass band and chamber choir from Centenary Square.” The two Virtual Christmas Festive Concerts will be held on Saturday and Sunday, 12 and 13 December and include Birmingham Schools’ jazz, percussion and guitar ensembles, brass and concert bands, string sinfonia and wind and concert orchestras, plus Guardsmen. The concerts are the culmination of an incredible amount of creative thinking, organisation and sheer hard work by Birmingham Music Service which has had to adapt to find new ways of working during the pandemic to continue to bring music education to the city’s schoolchildren. The team is part of the Services For Education charity which was formed in the city in 2012 and now employs 240 staff and is part-funded by the Arts Council. Stuart said: “In a normal year, our summer youth proms held in July would enable 3,500 young musicians and singers, aged from eight to 18, to perform to live audiences at Symphony Hall. This

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FEATURE

PLAY TIME: Stuart Birnie and his amazing Music Service team have set up two virtual Christmas concerts with Birmingham’s schoolchildren

year, with so many restrictions in place and rehearsals an impossibility, the option was either to cancel everything or transform it to an on-line festival. So, the Virtual Youth Proms Festival was born – four nights of concerts weaving together individual performances from ensemble members in their own homes presented live on consecutive evenings via the web.” The evening performances ran alongside four daytime programmes celebrating the work of the Music Service past and present, masterclasses in woodwind, brass and percussion led by the Royal Marines Band Service and messages of support from friends, including world-renowned violinist Nicola Benedetti, saxophonist Jess Gillam and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire principal Julian Lloyd-Webber. The Christmas concerts will follow the Proms template but Stuart is promising they will be even more ambitious. BOLLYWOOD BRASS He said: “Moving forward, once the pandemic is in the past, we will of course be returning to live performing, but the online opportunities will continue to be developed. Streaming our concerts and festivals mean that friends and relations who

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live far away can see their children taking part regardless of the distance between them.” Next year, Stuart aims to widen schoolchildren’s music experiences still further with plans to start working toward summer concerts with the Bollywood Brass Band. He is also leading efforts to make contact with leading artists and musicians to become Music Service ambassadors who would hold masterclasses with children. “We want to show all our children that all options are possible in taking part in and enjoying music.” I The free Virtual Christmas Festive Concerts are on Saturday and Sunday, 12 and 13 December and feature performances by the city’s young musicians and the Band of the Grenadier Guards. For full details go to: https://www.servicesforeducation.co.uk/festive-concerts

MUSIC MARVELS During lockdown, Birmingham Music Service engaged with 75 primary schools, 53 secondary schools and five special schools. More than 450 new music training videos were produced, 7,000 hours of online teaching held and 20,000 individual lessons delivered.

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living

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FOOD & DRINK

OLIVER NGO On the cusp of opening a new restaurant in the Bullring, we caught up with the driving force behind Vietnamese Street Kitchen

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CHEF’S CORNER

Tell us about your cooking

Is the customer always right?

My style is simple, fresh ingredients done in a street food style. It’s traditional Vietnamese street food, but with a British twist. I don’t want to scare people with something like chicken’s feet, so toned down Vietnamese food from that point of view, but still full of fresh vibrant flavours. Food has always been big in my family and recipes have been passed down through the generations.

No. If you want to please everyone, you please no-one. You have to be confident and think ‘this is what we offer. This is our food’.

How did you become a chef? I kind of fell into cooking. I worked in front of house for a while then took a job in the kitchen at District One in Putney which is a Vietnamese street food restaurant. I just fell in love with cooking. I’d always loved eating and trying different flavour combinations, but when I experienced life in the kitchen my eyes were opened. It was always dynamic – the early morning shifts baking bao buns and fresh baguettes, the marinating, grilling and brining of the meat for maximum tenderness and flavour. It was exciting.

What do you eat when at home? Honestly, Vietnamese food – I just love it or an Indian curry.

Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum? The best chef in the world is Jamie Oliver. A British guy taking on another country’s cuisine is brave and some might not agree with the authenticity, but I appreciate adapting to suit a market. I can’t say the best chef in Birmingham, but the restaurant I love more than any other is Ken Ho next to the Hippodrome. The service is – let’s say – not amazing, but the food is 10 out of 10. It’s being refurbished at the moment, but I cannot wait to go again.

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Share a cooking tip Use the freshest ingredients you can.

What was your favourite food as a kid? Banh Mi which is essentially a French baguette – there’s a lot of French influence in Vietnam. The baguette is filled with pate, ham, pickled carrot, mayo. The flavour profile is spot on. The way the ham is marinated, the pickled tones. It’s amazing. Try it!

Food heaven and food hell? Heaven is a well-made traditional Balti curry with fresh naan. Hell is anything bland with no flavour.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten? On a trip to Vietnam, I ate a beating snake’s heart in vodka. It just tasted of vodka and slipped straight down.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be? A stand-up comedian. I like instant feedback, so I think that would be good.

What do you recommend from this evening’s menu? The hot sweetie chicken wings. I

Vietnamese Street Kitchen, Resortsworld, 40 Pentigo Way, Birmingham, B40 1PU – and opening any day now (pandemic permitting), the new restaurant on the site of what was the Handmade Burger Co in the Bullring. Visit Vietnamesestreetkitchen.com and follow on Instagram for Bullring opening updates @VietnameseStreetKitchen

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FOOD & DRINK

NIBBLES and SHORTS

BIRMINGHAM’S BARS AND RESTAURANTS ARE SHOWING HOW TO ADAPT TO THESE CHALLENGING TIMES, WHILE HELPING LOCAL COMMUNITIES LIKE NEVER BEFORE

TASTE OF ITALY AT THE MAILBOX A new Italian restaurant is set to open at the Mailbox this month. Lucarelli occupies a prime canalside position and features a new glass terrace area overlooking the waterways. The 150-seat eatery boasts a menu packed with traditional Italian dishes and staff who hail from all regions of Italy.

CURFEW CAKES

HELP FEED THE HUNGRY

SMOKE FIRES UP

Things are really smokin’ – in a good way – at the newest restaurant on the Hampton Manor estate. Headed up by chef Darren Meacham, who was the second-in-command when the Manor’s restaurant Peels first won its Michelin star, Smoke is made up of a cluster of three buildings (the old furnace house, tomato house and vinery) around a terrace with firepits. The menu features slow cooked meats roasted on Smoke’s woodfired oven.

FoodCycle, the charity that fights food poverty and loneliness, is appealing for The nationwide 10pm Covid-19 volunteers to help feed people across curfew proved a piece of cake for Birmingham. Since the first lockdown, volunteers aparthotel operator Staying Cool have packed more than 15,300 food parcels and local patisserie chef Howing and saved 47 tonnes of surplus food. Due to Lai. They teamed up to bring isolating from the Covid-19 pandemic, #curfewcakes to guests at the 28 volunteer numbers in Brum have AT HOME WITH ANTONA serviced apartments in Birmingham’s dropped. Volunteer at It’s being billed as the ‘perfect night out, in’. http://www.foodcycle.org.uk/ Rotunda. Residents enjoy mouth-watering artisan cakes and desserts at their leisure from the safety of their own apartment, bringing a new sense of glamour to lockdown life.

Following the success of offering at-home meals from his restaurants, chef restaurateur Andreas Antona – he of Simpsons and multi-Michelin star fame – is launching Antona at Home, a nationwide meal delivery service with quality produce at its heart. Prices range from £7.50 for a starter to £25 for a

TALKING TURKEY AT OPUS Who said Christmas is cancelled? Opus will be hosting a festive party including four courses with wines to match – all with social distancing, of course. As well as a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings (and a vegetarian option), the bash on 10 December sees Tony Elvin of the Wine

HUB’S KITCHEN CRACKER

main course. More details at www.antonaathome.co.uk

Bournville Hub has unveiled a new community kitchen after receiving a donation of £2,500 from the Cadbury Foundation. Dedicated to providing community support across Bournville, the Hub’s new kitchen offers tea, coffee and hot meals to those in need in the area, as well as to local residents suffering from food poverty. The Hub was set up in 2014 by Busy Parents Network and Bournville Village Trust.

Events Company on hand with tipples to delight the tastebuds. Call 0121 200 2323 to book or visit opusrestaurants.co.uk

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RESTAURANT REVIEW

AKTAR @ HOME

Opheem, 65 Summer Row, Birmingham, B3 1JJ aktarathome.co.uk he crowd-pleasing Sunday roast is the meal that’s most highly anticipated at Brum Living towers. We’ve tried going out, but we’re almost always disappointed because we are such creatures of habit. Cue cries of ‘it’s just not the same’ which is both flattering and slightly annoying because let’s face it, the mighty roast is a bit of a faff. We all have a different idea of what makes the perfect roast and generally, it seems largely based on nostalgia rather than brilliant cooking. Each family has its own take on the classic meal whether that’s thick gravy you can stand your spoon up in versus more of a jus or cauliflower cheese versus leeks. It’s personal, but in the middle of the second lockdown we branched out and ordered one of Aktar Islam’s roasts. Pick up day was a Thursday (nationwide delivery is available too), so the main challenge was waiting until Sunday while a beautiful looking piece of beef (Argentinian sirloin) and all the trimmings lay temptingly in the fridge. There was a loaf in the package, which felt a bit random. We warmed it through in the oven and snaffled it immediately with hefty slabs of butter and cheese. Delicious. We’ve prepared a few at home meals in 2020 and this was one of the easiest. There were a couple of typos, such as stages repeated in the instructions, but with half a brain, you’ll work it out. Everything was

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vac packed and all accompaniments literally needed decanting and heating up. The beef needed minimal faffing – searing in a very hot skillet pan and transferring to the oven for 10 minutes gave us rare tender meat. Roasties had been pre-cooked, so they just needed a blast in the oven which resulted in crisp, fluffy, damn near perfect tatties. The highlight was probably the truffled cauliflower cheese which came with a garlic-packed crunchy crumb to sprinkle on top which took it to the next level. The carrots were buttery and flavourpacked and probably some of the best we’ve eaten. The creamed cabbage didn’t go down too well. The mustardy flavour was nice, but it was just a bit crunchy and slaw-like which was too much of a leap for us. Yorkies were as big as saucers and perfect vehicles for the rich moreish bone marrow and Malbec gravy. Portions were really generous. One kilo of beef meant we had plenty left over for sandwiches the next day. Would we do it again? Yes probably. At £60 with more than enough food for four it was pretty reasonable. If you bought a top notch cut of beef plus all the ingredients to cook at home from scratch, you’d be hard pushed to do it for less and more than that, the effort required and mess generated was practically none. I

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FOOD & DRINK

PORTS AND BRANDIES

YULE LOVE

ROB PRICE PLAYS SANTA TO DELIVER HIS PICK OF THE PERFECT AFTER-DINNER CHRISTMAS TIPPLES

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ell if we can’t celebrate Christmas with our human friends this year, we should seek out brother and sister Mr Fort Port and Ms Diss Brandy, both very suitable companions for over the festival period. They both have something in common, more alcohol than normal wine. Port is a fortified wine while brandy is a distilled wine. Port is fortified to around 20 per cent abv, and brandy is distilled and then bottled at around 40 per cent – so be careful, these friends can very easily take advantage of you if you keep their company for too long! And there are so many to choose from – which style should you bring into your family home? Perhaps a ruby port; suggest trading up to a reserve ruby, which must be aged for three-plus years, more mellow and better quality than standard ruby. Another style of ‘ruby’ style port is LBV (Late Bottled Vintage) Port. These are typically aged for around six years and are, in effect, a vintage dated ruby.

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TERRIFIC TAWNY Another popular port is tawny. Make sure it’s a reserve tawny or even better a 10, 20, 30 or 40-yearold tawny. These ports have spent the corresponding years in an oak barrel, maturing quite beautifully. Wine matures more quickly in oak rather than bottle, so even a 10-year-old port is already wonderfully mature. In my opinion 20-year tawny port is the best style of port, and my favourite. Or how about a vintage port, which comes from a single year. Vintage port spends most of its life in bottle, so ages more slowly that tawny port. Ideally your vintage port needs to be 20-plus years old. The best years are 2000, 1997, 1994, 1991, 1985, 1983, 1980, 1977, 1975, 1970, 1966, 1963, and 1960. Vintage port also needs decanting as sediment will form in the bottle, and these better years will continue to improve for a long time. So how about brandy? Well it can be made anywhere in the world, but normally in countries that grow grapes – the raw ingredient for brandy. France makes a lot of brandy and the two best and well-known regions are Cognac and Armagnac. Both

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ROB’S 1

FOOD & DRINK

TO TRY

My favourite is Graham’s 10 or 20-year-old tawny port (go for the 20year-old if your budget allows). The 10-year-old though is great value, at less than £20, and beautifully balanced. It’s widely available. But for a real indulgent treat go for the 20-year-old. This Graham’s example is nutty with dried fruits, mellow, and very complex. The Wine Society sells for £39.

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A fantastic vintage port is Warre’s 1997, an excellent year and drinking very nicely now. Huge fruit concentration, complex and long. Remember to decant. Frazier’s Wine Merchants sells for £60.

3

I do like a good brandy and one of my favourites is Hine Rare VSOP Cognac. Quite delicate but still with a richness and complexity, finishing with a mellow after-glow. Waitrose sells for £52.

4

I was recommended this brandy by a friend, so it would have been rude not to try, and wow, for the money a very good choice. Smooth and balanced. So, you too should try Aldi’s Napoleon Brandy – at only £10.99.

in southwest France, the first north of Bordeaux, the later southwest of Bordeaux. CRACKING COGNAC Cognac’s two best regions are called Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne. Cognac will be bottled at 40 per cent abv and sold according to age. VS or *** must be at least two-years-old. VSOP at least four-years-old – and the best examples, XO or Napoleon, must now be aged for at least 10 years. Armagnac is richer, deeper and earthier than cognac. The two better areas are Bas Armagnac, and Tenareze. Armagnac needs more time to develop than cognac, so try to go more aged examples if you can. VS, VSOP, XO need a minimum of one, four, and 10 years respectively to achieve that ‘grade’. A less expensive brandy but one that can (albeit rarely) produce a top tipple is Spanish brandy. Spanish brandy is made using the Solera system; the same method used to make sherry. It provides a really rounded brandy, normally softer than its French counterparts. Try Gran Reserva brandy, aged for a minimum of three years and probably the best value brandy on sale today. I

Birmingham Wine School is an independent wine education company offering fun informal wine tasting events and Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) courses in Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield and Warwick. More information from Rob Price on 0121 270 7359 or visit www.birminghamwineschool.com

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COCKTAIL OF THE MONTH

PORNSTAR MARTINI Pimp up your Christmas with this naughty little crowd-pleaser

o, you may not be spending much time in your favourite swanky bar this December but there’s no reason why you should deny yourself your favourite swanky cocktail. Pimp up your Christmas with this now legendary fruit and vanilla crowd-pleaser. But enjoy responsibly and make sure you have a healthy festive season. I

S

INGREDIENTS:

I 2 ripe passion fruit

I 60ml vanilla vodka

I 15ml Passoa liqueur I 15ml vanilla syrup I 15ml lime juice I Champagne

METHOD: Cut the passion fruits in half and scoop out the seeds and flesh (if you’re feeling proper flash, keep one half untouched to use later as a garnish). Add the passion fruit along with your vodka, Passoa liqueur, syrup and lime into a Boston shaker with plenty of ice and shake until the shaker feels ice cold. Strain into a chilled martini glass and add the garnish if you’re showing off. Legend suggests that you should serve with a shot of Brut Champagne on the side but we won’t tell if you choose prosecco instead... Deliciosa!

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HEALTH

CHRISTMAS GET FIT FOR

PARAMEDIC AND FITNESS EXPERT COLIN APPS SHARES HIS

WORKOUT TIPS TO GET YOU IN SHAPE FOR GUILT-FREE FESTIVE FEASTING

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HEALTH

ritical care paramedic for Midlands Air Ambulance, Colin Apps has created a cardiovascular workout which you can do at home (or in the gym, pandemic rules permitting!) and depending on your fitness level you can choose a low, medium or high intensity routine by deciding how many repetitions to do. He says: “Being a critical care paramedic involves plenty of manual handling, lifting and carrying, so it’s important to maintain a strong core.”

C

COLIN’S WORKOUT Complete as many rounds as possible in a time of your choice – 10, 20, 30 or 40 minutes. One round consists of: I Five walk out press-ups with a jump I Ten mountain climbers (each leg alternating) I Ten sit-ups I Ten air squats I Ten press-ups with a rotation I Plank for 30 seconds Walk out press-ups with a jump Stand tall, then bend at the hips until your hands reach the floor. Walk your hands out to full plank position and lower chest towards the floor. Push up back to plank position. Walk your hands back towards feet, then jump up into the air. Land softly with a slight bend in the knees. Mountain climbers Great for cardiovascular conditioning. Start in a plank position, with shoulders over wrists and hips in line with shoulders. Pull the knee into the chest briefly placing the toes on the ground. Alternate legs. Sit-ups A fundamental exercise to build core strength. Start with your upper back and shoulders on the ground. Pull your torso up to a seated position. Lower your torso back to the start position. Air squat Great for lower back strength. Start with your feet shoulderwidth apart. Reach your hips back and down as you descend into squat position. Stand tall at the top of the movement for full hip and knee extension. Press-up with a rotation Start in full plank position. Lower the chest towards the floor, then push up to the start position. Rotate at the hips holding upper body weight on one arm and extend the other arm up into the air. Lower the arm back to floor. Repeat but rotate using the opposite arm.

For more details of how to support Midlands Air Ambulance and more tips on keeping fit and healthy visit midlandsairambulance.com

december 2020

Plank for 30 seconds Keep elbows and toes on the floor, engage the core and try to keep shoulders back and hips in line. I

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HEALTH

DRINK UP...

BUT DON’T LET IT GO TO YOUR HEAD! WHO DOESN’T LIKE A GLASS AT THIS TIME OF YEAR?

JUST BE SURE TO STAY SAFE AND KNOW YOUR LIMITS

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HEALTH

t’s been a challenging year and it’s no wonder that many of us are feeling a little more stressed and anxious than usual. This can cause our drinking to creep up. And as the festive season arrives, the temptation to increase our alcohol intake is at a maximum. Here’s a quick tippler’s guide on how to look after yourself and those you love this Yuletide.

I

So, what are the guidelines? The current UK guidelines advise limiting alcohol intake to 14 units a week for women and men. This is equivalent to drinking no more than six pints of average strength beer (four per cent ABV) or seven mediumsized glasses of wine (175ml, 12 per cent ABV) a week. There are some pretty startling facts according to recent data from Alcohol Research UK:

In England there are an estimated 586,780 dependent drinkers. Twenty-four per cent of adults in England and Scotland regularly drink over the Chief Medical Officer’s low-risk guidelines and 27 per cent of drinkers in Britain binge drink on their heaviest drinking days (more than eight units for men and over six units for women). Alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among 15 to 49-year-olds in the UK and the fifth biggest risk factor across all ages. Alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions, including mouth, throat, stomach, liver and breast cancers, high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver and depression. In England in 2018/19, there were 1.26million hospital admissions related to alcohol consumption (7.4 per cent of all hospital admissions), eight per cent higher than the previous year. In the same period there were 358,000 admissions where the main reason was due to alcohol, 19 per cent higher than 10 years previously. In 2018, the alcohol-specific death rate in the UK for men was 16.4 per 100,000 and 7.6 per 100,000 for women.

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Tips for reducing alcohol this Christmas: The guidelines aren’t a target but if you choose to drink this much, then spread your drinking over three or more days and avoid binge drinking. Eat something. Food can slow down the rate that alcohol is absorbed into your system so always try and eat a healthy meal. Go small. Opt for a small (125ml) glass rather than a large (250ml) one for wine. If you’re drinking at home, buy smaller glasses for the house. Stop the top-ups. Avoid filling up your glass before its empty. This can help you to keep track of how much you’ve had! Avoid drinking alone. As well as just being a bad habit, research suggests that when we drink alone the measures are just that bit more generous, meaning more units. Drinking a soft drink from a glass you would usually fill with alcohol can be a great way to cut back without feeling like you’re missing out. Or, choose a drink that looks like it’s an alcoholic one or try having a shandy instead. Alternate with water. Alcohol dehydrates you so it’s important to have some water before you begin drinking and in between alcoholic drinks. Alternating alcoholic drinks with water or soft drinks will not only help stop you getting too intoxicated, it will help reduce headaches and hangover symptoms the next day. Keep track of how much you’re drinking and try to be honest with yourself. Keeping a drink diary might sound OTT but the results might surprise you. Avoid the unnecessary drinks. Do you really need that last one at the end of the evening? Maybe try to cut out midweek drinking and just have an alcoholic drink at the weekend. Ask for help. If you’re feeling out of control, then confide in someone you trust or call one of the many awesome and anonymous advice lines available. I

For more stats and support visit www.drinkaware.co.uk

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SNOW CONTEST

Clothing from Miss Selfridge

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LIT KNITS

LIKE FASHION’S VERSION OF A GREAT BIG HUG (REMEMBER THOSE?) A WINTER KNIT IS WHAT WE’RE AFTER RIGHT NOW

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STYLE

ATTENTION TO DETAIL

f ever there was a year to embrace a cosy knit, 2020 is it. While partywear might be relegated to the back of our mind, jumpers, cardigans and hoodies have soared to the top of the wish-list. The holy grail of stylish and practical is the aim. We’ve had a mooch through the virtual rails because at the time of going to press, that’s the only shopping trip allowed – we’d argue the perfect jumper is practically essential, but Boris disagrees, so this is where we’re at. The only issue with shopping for knitwear online is that you can’t feel it, which, above all other style buys, is pretty crucial. Check the product description carefully for wool blends and washing guidelines – we’ve shrunk too many beautiful knits to mention. In a nutshell, regular sheep’s wool is warm, but can be heavy and feel scratchy. Merino is finer and lightweight and

I

Clothing from Matalan

CRYSTAL AMAZE

Christopher Kane embellished wool cardigan £995, Harvey Nichols

SHINE ON

Clothing from Wallis

december 2020

NOT SO GREY DAY

Reindeer jumper £30, Next

BOW BACK

Grey jumper £36, River Island

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STYLE

doesn’t crinkle, while cashmere is softer, has a silky feel and hangs beautifully. Obviously, prices vary wildly depending on the type of wool, but bear in mind that it takes two goats and a laborious process to make one cashmere sweater while one sheep can make four wool jumpers. We’ve picked out some examples from slouchy sofa day vibes to Christmas day cool with price tags from £17.99 to just shy of £1,000 and we’ve thrown in some Christmas jumpers for good measure if that’s your jam. I

ZIP IT

Ribbed jumper £45, Sonder Studio

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STYLE

FESTIVE FEELS

Christmas jumper and trousers, Dorothy Perkins

MONO WOW

Contrast black and white jumper £59.50, Oliver Bonas

CHUNKY KNIT

Spring Leap cardigan £45, White Stuff

HOLY GRAIL

Ruffle jumper £30, Next

ULTIMATE COSY

Family Christmas jumper £46, FatFace

PUD U LIKE

Blue Christmas pudding jumper £22.99, New Look

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STYLE WONDER WOOL

SUPER SOFT

Clothing from Topshop

Velvet trim pink hoodie £59.50, Oliver Bonas

MAKE A STATEMENT

Yellow statement sleeve jumper £35.99, Topshop

MOHAIR FLARE

Erdem Marcilly charteuse mohair blend cardigan £545, Harvey Nichols

SPREAD THE LOVE

Never Fully Dressed Love Heart knitted jumper £89, Selfridges

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STYLE

GREAT SHAPE

Clothing from Next

OLD SCHOOL

Isabel Marant Etoile Riga wool jumper £470, Selfridges

NECK CANDY

Burgundy fine knit gem neck puff sleeve £17.99, New Look

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BERRY GOOD

Red puff sleeve jumper £32, Wallis

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KNIT KNIT

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STYLE FOR MEN

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HOORAY SAY A WARM WELCOME TO YOUR WINTER

WARDROBE AND FIND SOME SOLACE IN

CAMO COOL Camouflage knitted jumper £34.99, Topman

e’re counting down to Christmas and that means wheeling out the beloved knit wear. Whether you’re an oversized sweatshirt kind of guy, or a smart fine knit type, or even a cheesy Christmas jumper sort, we’ve got you covered. WFH chic is more stretchy than structured and we like it a lot. Check out wide stripes at Gucci or bubble gum pink at Eleventy if you’re feeling bold. Then there’s a dreamy sage green sweatshirt and a camouflage wool jumper at Topman, a cracking grey funnel neck at River Island and fitted fine knits at New Look that defy their meagre price tag. I

W

THE COSINESS OF THE HUMBLE JUMPER

DEEP RED Jumper £35, River Island

HAPPY CHRISTMAS Festive jumper from Burton

GO GREEN Sage LA hoodie £34.99, Topman

RIGHT STRIPES Jumper from M&S

BE BOLD Gucci striped jumper £580, Selfridges

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BUBBLE GUM Eleventy crewneck £295, Selfridges

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STYLE FOR MEN

FAB FUNNEL Grey funnel neck jumper £30, River Island

FITTED KNIT Teal ribbed muscle fit polo shirt £17.99, New Look

NO SWEAT Clothing from River Island

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GIFT GUIDE

Chinti and Parker Christmas knit, £250, Selfridges, selfridges.com

Dedicate a seat in the Main HOUSE at Birmingham Rep with a personal plaque and a message of your choice, £250, birmingham-rep.co.uk/ support-us/name-a-seat

THE BIG

s a m t s hri GUIDE CGIFT

This Christmas, more than ever, Midlands businesses need our support, so take a break from boosting Jeff Bezos’s bank balance and check out the hundreds of local

people, firms, organisations and stores doing brilliant things. We’ve not room for all of them here, so go forth and explore what’s on your doorstep virtually or in real life and look out for daily gift inspiration on our social media channels throughout December, too. Oh… and happy Christmas you wonderful Brummie bunch! Gift vouchers starting at £10, Marco Pierre White at the Cube, vouchermine.co.uk/Marco-Pierre-White-Restaurants

BVLGARI Serpenti Forever leather bracelet, £305, selfridges.com YES BAB engraved hip flask, £15, Punks and Chancers, punksandchancers.co.uk

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GIFT GUIDE

SpacePlay concrete Ikon model, £45, IKON, ikongallery.org

‘Paul Smith’ edited by Tony Chambers, £49.95, Paul Smith, Mailbox, paulsmith.com

Gift vouchers for experiences ranging from spa breaks and overnight stays to golf packages at the Belfry, various prices, thebelfry.skchase.com/vouchers

A one-to-one make-up lesson with Alyn Waterman, from £35, email alyn@alynmakeuphair.co.uk or tel 0121 523 7234

Silver ginkgo leaf pendant by Michele White, £118, michelewhite.com

The New Elites: A Career in the Masses by George Walden, £9.99, waterstones.com Heaven Skincare Afternoon Tea hand wash and hand cream, £28, Heaven Skincare, shop.heavenskincare.com Young Rep Bursary – give a disadvantaged young person aged seven to 25 the opportunity to take part in the Rep’s youth theatre, the Young Rep. A £75 donation pays for a term and £200 an entire year, birmingham-rep.co.uk/support-us

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GIFT GUIDE

Midlands Air Ambulance Charity face covering, £6, midlandsairambulance.com

Organic NO BAB sweat, £55 (with £10 going to Sifa Fireside), Punks and Chancers, punksandchancers.co.uk

The Music Sounds Better With You print in yellow, from £12, Disko Kids, diskokids.co.uk

Hanging planter pots by Alex Allday, £28 to £32, RBSA, rbsa.org.uk Hard to Find Whisky Spirits selection advent calendar, £149.95, htfw.com/htfw-advent

Shimabuku Leaves Swim limited edition photographic print, £150, ikon-gallery.org/shop

West Brom pack of six baubles, £10, shop.wba.co.uk

Dishoom cookbook, £26.99, dishoom.com

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GIFT GUIDE

Windrush Child by Benjamin Zephaniah, £6.99, waterstones.com

Heaven Skincare Black Bee Venom mask, £163, Heaven Skincare, shop.heavenskincare.com Private whisky tasting session for two people, from £60, thebirminghamwhiskyclub.co.uk/shop/

Year-long membership of Compton Verney with access to 120 acres of stunning parkland and world class exhibitions, from £37, comptonverney.org.uk

Bartender hamper, £1,300, Harvey Nichols, Mailbox, harveynichols.com

Aston Villa Christmas penguin jumper, £25, shop.avfc.co.uk Kiehl’s advent calendar, £189, selfridges.com

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GIFT GUIDE

Trinket box by Jonathon Vaiksaar, available in sycamore with oak, elm or yew lined with Spanish cedar, £60, Artisan Alchemy, artisan-alchemy.co.uk/furniture/trinket-box/

Recycled silver earrings by My Bear Hands, £42, RBSA, rbsa.org.uk

Gift wrapped house plant complete with care notes, from £9, isherwoodandco.com

Midlands Air Ambulance Kids Crew membership, £20, midlandsairambulance.com

We Can Be Heroes striped tee, £25, Disko Kids, diskokids.co.uk

‘Be More Kid: How to Escape the Grown-Up Trap and Live Life to the Full!’ by Ed James, Mark Taylor and Nicky Taylor, £10.99, Waterstones

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‘Gas Street Basin’ print, £55 including delivery, Brumhaus, Brumhaus.uk

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GIFT GUIDE

Little People, Big Dreams: Frida Kahlo, children’s book, £9.99, IKON, ikon-gallery.org

Materia Rica Wave necklace, £23.95, IKON, ikon-gallery.org

Harborne Kitchen gift voucher, from £25, harbornekitchen.com

Jeremy Deller, I Still Listen to Slade limited edition tee, £25, IKON ikon-gallery.org

A named seat in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, dedications start from £350 and last 10 years, THSH, https://www.thsh.co.uk/nas

Gift vouchers to the most visited sensory experience in the world, Van Gogh Alive, tickets from £12.50, Birmingham Hippodrome, birminghamhippodrome.com/vangogh

Creamy milk with a fino de aroma milk chocolate centre, £6.50 (90g pouch), Russell and Atwell russellandatwell.com

Tickets to Robin Hood at the Alex, atgtickets.com/shows/ robin-hood/the-alexandratheatre-birmingham

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GIFT GUIDE

Supa Commander Wax jacket, £549, Barbour, Grand Central, barbour.com

Walnut laser cut sleeping star earrings with sterling silver posts and hypoallergenic backs, £10 with free postage, Fussy Geek Wares, fussygeekwares.etsy.com

Gold jewellery holder with grey terrazzo base, £16, Honey Bee Home

Avocet brooch Needle felted brooch with embroidered avocet detail, £21, Hobbz Designs, etsy.com/shop/hobbzdesigns/

Michelin-starred food delivered to your door, various prices, Antona At Home, antonaathome.co.uk

Loki Wine gift card for use online or in store, from £5 to £1,000, lokiwine.co.uk

MAC gift vouchers for creative experiences including gigs, films, cinema, theatre and workshops, at various prices, macbirmingham.co.uk

Reeded ice bucket, £250, OKA Edgbaston, oka.com

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GIFT GUIDE

British Motor Museum gift voucher includes two single entry admission tickets and a souvenir guidebook, £28, shop.britishmotormuseum.co.uk

Foka Wolf x Evolve collab ‘Support the Future’ tee, £25, megacorpglobal.com/ product/back-the-youth

Heddon candlesticks, from £37, Neptune Edgbaston, neptune.com

Gingerbread 2oz soy wax melt pot, £2.50, Firefly Creations, fireflyhandmadeShop.etsy.com

Mini hot water bottle, £20, White Company, Grand Central, whitecompany.com

Liberty fabric necklace by Blackbird Geranium, from £15, etsy.com/uk/shop/BlackbirdGeranium

Nancy Spero Parade limited edition print, £150, ikon-gallery.org/shop

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GIFT GUIDE

Burning Barn Rum gift box includes smoked rum, spiced rum and honey and rum liqueur, £16 (3 x 5cl), burningbarnrum.com

Ocean Rose and Bay soy wax candle, £18, Honey Bee Home, honeybeehome.co.uk

Birmingham-born Osman Yousefzada’s Original Bhangra Girl Limited edition tee, £50, IKON, ikon-gallery.org

Polymer clay Gingerbread Man decoration, £6.75, Mythillogical, mythillogical.etsy.com

Miniature bespoke papercut portraits that capture your favourite person in a unique style, usually £40 but reduced to £30 until 1 January 2021, Paper Ink Alchemy, paperInkAlchemy.co.uk

Cute reindeer girl card, £3.50 and free UK delivery, Liz Yuile Studio etsy.com/uk/shop/LizYuileStudio

More Her Beanie made of super soft mohair and kid silk, £35, SzubiCrafts, szubicrafts.com

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Valentino Garavani Rockstud spike bag, £1,465, Harvey Nichols, Mailbox

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GIFT GUIDE

Hand-made William Morris lampshade in Forest printed fabric design, from £30, Fait Par Moi, etsy.com/uk/shop/FaitparMoiUK

Faux fur white stockings, £25, John Lewis, Touchwood, johnlewis.com

Chillys gold bottle, £25, Harvey Nichols, Mailbox, harveynichols.com

Indico Street Kitchen gift vouchers, from £20, indicostreetkitchen.com

Independent Birmingham app offering access to exclusives, discounts and freebies from indies across the city, £1.99 per month, independent-birmingham.co.uk

Annual membership of Birmingham Botanical Gardens which includes free unlimited entry plus free and special offer entry to gardens across the UK, including Kew, Westonbirt Aboretum and the Living Rainforest, from £47, birminghambotanicalgardens.org.uk

Marc Darcy flat cap, £12.99, Suits Direct, New Street, suitsdirect.co.uk

YES BAB pin badges, £6, punksandchancers.com

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Membership of the BRB Dancers Circle which includes concierge ticket booking service, invitations to rehearsals for you and a friend, Christmas party invitation and more, from £1,220, Birmingham Royal Ballet, brb.org.uk

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MOTORING

SANTA DRIVES A BENTLEY SORRY RUDOLPH, BUT FATHER C IS SWITCHING TO SOMETHING A LITTLE MORE LUXURIOUS THIS YEAR… AS AN EXCITED SUE COOKE DISCOVERED! t was not Father Christmas who parked my road test car on my drive this week, but suddenly Christmas fun had arrived earlier than expected. The Bentley Bentayga, all £146,700 of the luxurious SUV, stood with overpowering elegance on my Sutton Coldfield drive. Nothing can quite prepare you for the first time you drive a Bentley. These thoroughbreds are powerful as well as luxurious with a phenomenal bhp pulsing under the bonnet. When I first got behind the wheel of a Bentley, speed wasn’t necessarily my first consideration. The display on the satellite navigation system showed the car sitting in the middle of a blue expanse of water! I was in Finland on Bentley’s Power on Ice programme, to learn how to control the beast on a frozen lake. Not much human input is

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required actually, as there are so many technological safety systems in the multi-award-winning Bentayga that you can drive the SUV on ice or snow and feel safe and secure. IMPOSING LOOKS Originally launched in 2015, this new Bentayga adopts the same Bentley design DNA, the latest onboard technology and an even more cosseting cabin. Bentley says it has listened closely to its customers and revised the SUV accordingly. The exterior verdant paintwork would not be my choice but there are 88 options and if you provide a sample colour, Bentley will match it! But hey, what is a colour when you are behind the wheel of a Bentley. The imposing road presence is enhanced with intelligent LED matrix headlamps and cut

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MOTORING

crystal glassware. I found that dirt from winter roads is easily dispersed as heated, windscreen wipers have 22 washer jets in each arm. In the cabin I feel as if I have wandered into a tenuous ethereal existence and of course I have. The heady aroma of dual tone leather hit my senses as I sink into opulent seats with diamond quilting and embroidered Bentley emblems. Rear seats have ventilation in the five-seater I road tested. But you can choose a four-seater or seven-seater. Legroom in the rear has increased by up to 100mm and the maximum recline of the rear seats has been increased from 32 degrees to 40 degrees offering a selection of six different massage programmes. This presumably is for when you allow your chauffeur to drive your car. And that is what I cannot understand. Why on earth would you allow someone else the pleasure of controlling the V8’s twin-turbocharged petrol engine which develops an impressive 550PS? RISQUE ROAR For driving enthusiasts who place a high value on outright performance and agile handling the Bentayga has taut handling and no body roll. As the exhaust note

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FACTS AT A GLANCE

Model: Bentley Bentayga Price: £146,700 Engine: V8 4.0-litre twin turbocharged petrol engine Performance: 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 180mph CO2 emissions: 302g/km Combined fuel consumption: 21.2mpg

deepens the swift steering shifts are accompanied by a roguish risqué roar. Pure mind-blowing escapism. As if it couldn’t get any better. Bentley has launched the Bentayga Speed which will deliver 0-62mph in just 3.9 seconds. A hybrid also joins the family. Bentleys are reminiscent of the upper-class gentry with a steely core, which take every situation in a calm, cool and collected manner. The Bentayga adds to this with the performance of a supercar, the ride comfort of a limousine and off-road ability to rival the premium SUVs. I

SHOWROOM

Bentley Birmingham, 2 Wingfoot Way, Fort Parkway, Birmingham, B24 9HF. Tel: 0121 756 2348 www.sytner.co.uk/bentley/birmingham

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YOUNG, GIFTED & BRUMMIE

DDROID

THE BRUMMIE MC IS LIVING HIS BEST LIFE SPITTING BARS IN A SWANKY PENTHOUSE IN THE CITY WHILE FILMING BBC THREE'S THE RAP GAME

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YOUNG, GIFTED & BRUMMIE

o doubt you’ve seen the seven-foot mural sprayed by Digbeth’s own Panda, aka David Brown, in the Zellig car park which signalled the launch of the second series of BBC Three show The Rap Game UK. Filmed in Birmingham, the show sees six unsigned MCs take part in a much cooler, less showbiz version of The X Factor – not sure the contestants will like that comparison, but it’s accurate. Six artists are competing for a record deal in a series of challenges while being judged/mentored by big names in the industry – it’s not a startling leap. You get the gist. What is different to the Syco juggernaut is how exposed the contestants are in terms of performance. There’s no fancy-pants staging or a gaggle of dancers to hide behind, it’s just one person and their voice (and okay, the odd orchestra) and it’s seriously impressive when it goes well and utterly toe curling when it doesn’t. There really is nowhere to hide.

N

RAP LEGENDS Each week, the artists are set two challenges in which they are asked to step up and show that they have got the hardest bars, the song writing props and the stage presence to cut it in the music industry. Hosted by 1Xtra’s DJ Target along with rap legends Krept and Konan whose record label will sign the winner, there are guest judges along the way including Wretch 32 who have wowed the contestants. One of this year’s hopefuls is Ddroid – a young MC from Brum who is relishing the opportunity and buzzing that the series is filmed in his home town. He was previously part of successful duo, Wavy Gang, but is going it alone and loving the Rap Game process. He describes his style as ‘melodic rap’. On the decision to apply for series two, he says: “Series 1 was cool. And it was set in Brum! It’s the rapper’s dream – living in a penthouse, spitting your bars, get feedback, come out the backend doing great. Who doesn’t want

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that?” He’s committed to learning through the process. He explains: “I want to learn the technical stuff – the cons, the pros of the industry. The competition goes in depth into the different aspects of the music industry as a whole. It’s gonna be a learning curve. It’s all about what I can take from it – it could mean a lot for me.” ALLY PALLY In one episode, tasked with revealing something personal about himself through his lyrics, Ddroid blew away the judges, including guest Rapman, with a narrative about being sectioned with depression. While some contestants seem uptight, Ddroid is just embracing the opportunity. He says: “I’m just here for the experience. It’s been great so far. I ain’t got no complaints.” He might be enjoying the experience, but he’s ambitious too and says: “In five years’ time selling out the Ally Pally! Maybe a number one album. Maybe even a Grammy. A solid home-grown name. I wanna be known as Ddroid who came off The Rap Game UK.” At the time of writing, filming had to be paused briefly due to Covid-19, but is back minus Shogan who is in quarantine. Fingers crossed for the rest of the series. Check it out on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer. I

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GROWING PLACES

SLAM DUNK

City Academy, Birmingham has become the first basketball academy in the UK thanks to a partnership with Birmingham Rockets. Students will have the opportunity to train with the club’s elite basketball players and take part in international competitions, potentially vying for scholarships in the US. Coaching delivered by Rockets coach, Ricardo D’Alva will be offered from year seven upwards.

MUSIC SUCCESS

ON THE BALL: Ricardo D'Alva, front, David Bailey, left, and Robert Palmer, right, with pupils from City Academy at Nechells Wellbeing Centre

Three talented musicians have been crowned winners in the final of the annual Bromsgrove Young Musicians’ Platform (BYMP). Sophie Costa, 13, from Leicester, won the junior section and for the first time there were joint winners in the senior section – singer Isabella Hulbert, 16, from Droitwich and oboist Jessica Ellis, 17, from Warwick. All three winners have been granted bursaries of £1,000 (senior section) and £750 (junior section) to develop their musical talent.

SCHOOL REPORT

CHRISTMAS CHEER Moreton Hall Sixth Form students are determined to bring festive cheer to local residents with their latest enterprise development – creating Christmas hampers. Sixth formers and development director Lorna Campbell have been working with local suppliers to provide an array of gift ideas for the luxury hampers. Lorna said: “Moreton Hall is always very keen to support our brilliant local producers, particularly during these unpredictable times. We hope that these hampers are the start of developing far greater links with our community.”

SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMME Thursfields Solicitors have joined forces with Aston Law School in a scholarship programme which will see two law degree students working a day a week at the firm for two years. Walid Hakem and Valerie Achebe are the first to win places on the programme designed to broaden access from students from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities or low socio-economic backgrounds. The scholarships will be based at Thursfield’s Solihull and Birmingham offices.

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GROWING PLACES

NURSE OF THE YEAR

VIRTUAL PHILOSOPHY

A trauma nursing student has paid tribute to healthcare workers after winning a top industry award. Corporal Isaac Bekoe, from Birmingham City University, received the Student Nurse of the Year award at a virtual ceremony and was described as ‘special, humbling and inspiring’ by leading healthcare and education experts. Isaac said he was “honoured” by the win and added: “I believe the hard work and dedication displayed by my fellow colleagues who were nominated, makes us all winners.”

One of the world’s most influential living philosophers, Professor Peter Singer delivered an inspiring talk to pupils at King Edward’s School. The Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University gave the talk on Living an Ethic Life virtually, covering a wide range of topics including how to pick an ethical career, non-human animal rights, becoming a vegan and the problem of global poverty. The event was organised by year 13 student Rohil Aurora, who contacted the philosopher after hearing him speak at the Cambridge Union.

ART INSTALLATION Students at John Wilmott School, Sutton Coldfield created a stunning art installation for Remembrance Day featuring a soldier in a field of poppies made from recycled plastic bottles. Pupils in years seven to 10 worked on the project as well as sixth formers who created the soldier at the centre of the work. Every poppy was individually made from a bottle, each representing a fallen soldier.

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ing livBUSINESS

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HEARTS FOR HOPE

WHEN PLUMBER DAN FORD WAS FURLOUGHED IN THE FIRST PANDEMIC LOCKDOWN, A FEW LENGTHS OF COPPER PIPE AND A LOT OF INGENUITY WERE THE CATALYST FOR AN UNEXPECTED BUSINESS VENTURE

hile much attention has, understandably, been on the struggles of businesses to survive the impacts of Covid-19, there have been some amazing and uplifting stories of entrepreneurship born out of the pandemic. Stories like husband and wife Dan and Lyndsey Ford who unexpectedly started a new business – from a length of copper pipe. At the beginning of March, plumber Dan was furloughed by his employer as the country went

W

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into lockdown. Like many others, Dan found himself with time on his hands and, always being an active kind of guy, looked around for ways to keep himself busy. In an attempt to create some positivity – and to prevent himself from going mad – he decided to play around and use up some copper pipe he had in stock. Together the couple fashioned their first Hearts For Hope and decided to see if they could sell them via social media as garden ornaments for charity.

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FEATURE

The hearts proved an instant success, and the range has since been expanded to include homeware items, such as copper heart wine racks, garden hooks and even house numbers. So far, their sales have raised a total of £10,000 for local charities fighting the Covid-19 crisis, including £500 donated to Midlands Air Ambulance which funded two critical care car missions. Dan returned to his full-time job in July, meaning he only has evenings and weekends free to make orders, so there’s now a two-week lead time between ordering and delivery. Charity donations have become 10 per cent of profits from each purchase, instead of the original 100 per cent of proceeds. And Lyndsey has taken over the running of the business, looking after social media, answering enquiries and also learning to make the hearts herself! She said: “We never imagined this idea would have made it this far and never had any original plans to turn it into a business venture, so we’d like to thank everyone for their support. More than six months on we are still going strong and have now got a variety of designs available on our website and are taking on bespoke designs as well. As long as people still want to buy our hearts, we will keep making them. Charity will always be at the heart of what we do and we have got a few exciting fundraising ideas in the pipeline.” CHRISTMAS CRACKERS From playing around with a length or two of spare copper, the couple now have to source considerable amounts of piping to meet the demand for their products. Lyndsey said: “We are now spending all of our spare time arranging supplies and creating the hearts. We weren’t expecting to have so much interest and for so many people to purchase our hearts. It’s amazing!” With Christmas just around the corner, the couple have created some special gifts, including brilliant copper star tree toppers. Lyndsey said they are always open to new ideas. “We love to be challenged so if anyone wants to let us know if they have a design in mind we will try and make it!” I

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>> CHARITY COPPERS All products for sale have 10 per cent of the profits donated to charity. Organisations helped so far include: I St Richard’s, Shakespeare and Acorns Children’s hospices I West Midlands Air Ambulance Charity I Worcester Acute Hospital Charity I Touchstones Child Bereavement Support; I Evesham Adventure Playground Association I Evesham & District Mental Health Support Services I Marie Curie Solihull I Heartstart Malvern I Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust

To find out more about the Hearts For Hope product range, visit www.heartsforhope.co.uk Information is also available on social media: Facebook.com/heartsforhope20 and Instagram.com/hearts.for.hope_

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From only ÂŁ25

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BUSINESS

GRAND DESIGNS

Contemporary designer furniture firm, BoConcept Birmingham, has moved to a temporary showroom at Greenfield Crescent, Edgbaston Village, with plans to open a permanent location in January. Director David Brimson said: “We’re Danish and part of the original 1950s’ Scandi Design movement, still designing and producing contemporary furniture, accessories and lighting for living, dining, sleeping, home office and outdoor spaces.”

NEWS

BUSINESS

WHAT A FUND-RAZOR! Dad Nick England and nine of his colleagues at Birmingham travel firm Trailfinders got together to help raise thousands of pounds – by ditching their shavers for a month. The whiskered wonders were aiming to raise the cash towards the £50,000 target for vital surgery and aftercare for Nick’s three-year-old son, James, who suffers from spastic diplegia cerebral palsy. The surgery will ease James’s pain and could also help him walk. To donate to the fund visit http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/trailfinders-movember2020

MAG-NIFICENT JOB Budding citizen journalists from migrant communities across the West Midlands launched Beyond, an online magazine for Black History Month. The group of mature students from Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry and Walsall spent the last 12 months developing their journalism skills to amplify voices in migrant communities. The 112-page publication highlighted the perspectives, achievements and struggles of migrants and members of the region’s black community.

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TIM’S A CUT ABOVE A Stourbridge hairdresser scooped two national wins at the annual Salon Business Awards. Tim ScottWright @ The Hair Surgery won the Creative Salon award for its skill in cutting, colouring and trend-led vision, before taking the top title of Ultimate Large Salon – the awards’ highest accolade. Salon owner, Tim Scott-Wright, said, “I’m so proud of my team who, like all stylists across the country, have not had the easiest year.”

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BUSINESS

FOUR AT THE BELFRY BUCKING BRONCOS Business partners Kelly-Louise Burrows and Ashleigh Taylor have bucked the Covid-19 trend since opening a new pet store specialising in horse products. The duo launched Bidford Pet Co in premises at Bidavon Industrial Estate in July with the help of commercial property agency John Truslove. The pet shop and farm feed retailer has proved so popular that it is looking to create at least four new jobs by next spring.

The Belfry Hotel & Resort claimed four wins at the prestigious World Golf Awards 2020. It retained its position as the World’s Best Golf Hotel, Europe’s Best Golf Hotel and England’s Best Golf Hotel at the awards which celebrate excellence in golf tourism, courses and golf destinations. The Belfry’s Ryder Cup Brabazon course was once again awarded England’s Best Golf Course for its unrivalled conditioning and layout.

LAUREN’S RETURN TICKET A specialist in restructuring and insolvency has returned to the frontline at Thursfields Solicitors to support its growing commercial litigation department. Lauren Hartigan-Pritchard, who has been with the leading Midlands law firm since 2013, rejoins the team from maternity leave. She said: “The impact of Covid-19 has not been kind to many business owners but, with the right support and advice, I am confident Thursfields will be able to assist clients on their road to recovery.”

SITTING PRETTY

Meriden-based creative communications agency Rees Bradley Hepburn is celebrating its 25th birthday. Formed by partners Tim Rees, Ian Bradley and Debra Hepburn in 1995, RBH has become nationally recognised with an impressive client portfolio and more than 200 creative and marketing awards. Debra said: “From the very beginning we have always done it our way. Twenty-five years later, we are continuing to take risks on bright, brilliant young (and older) people –

LIFE-SAVING SUPPORT

there are now over 50 of us!”

JASPER’S GINGER CHEER Who better than a famous ginger Brummie to taste test a new beer called… Ginger Brummie! Comedian Jasper Carrott raised a glass to the limited edition brew when he paid a visit to its creators at Birmingham Brewing Company. Five per cent of sales of Ginger Brummie will be donated to local family bereavement charity, Edward’s Trust. Jasper said: “‘The trust deserves our support in any way possible, and I can ask you this because I do this myself.”

The Sri Dasmesh Sikh Temple in Birmingham has made 22 life-saving missions possible for Midlands Air Ambulance Charity following a £21,000 donation. During the first national lockdown, the Lozells-based temple responded to the local charity’s fund-raising plea. Rajinder (Roger) Beghal, a representative and committee member for the Sikh Temple, suggested his fellow members collected funds from worshippers to help NHS services and a number of local charities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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BUSINESS

BUSINESS BITES RISING STAR

Glenn Howells Architects’ Shauna Bradley was named Rising Star of the Midlands at the fifth annual British Council for Offices NextGen Awards. The awards set out to mentor and encourage the next generation of property professionals to become future leaders in the industry.

GYM WEIGHS IN

A state-of-the-art boutique fitness studio has opened at Edgbaston Village. STRIIT Fitness in Hagley Road claims to bring a new approach to exercising with a focus on maintaining motivation by creating energising work-outs alongside a strong sense of community. Founder Oli Killi said: “This year has highlighted the importance of exercise for mental wellbeing and here at STRIIT this is something we strive to support.”

TREBLE CHANCE

BERT & GERT’S

Three up-and-coming county solicitors are celebrating after completing their training

contracts with one of the Midlands leading law firms. Katie Hodson, Abbey Jones and Victoria Wall are now set to take on more clients and cases at mfg Solicitors. Katie has joined the firm’s commercial property division, while Abbey will work with the corporate team. Victoria is part of the contentious probate team.

CHARITY PLEDGE

Law firm Clarke Willmott LLP has pledged to extend its support for the Autism West Midlands charity until 2023 after being forced to halt fund-raising activities during the coronavirus pandemic. Phillip Edwards, head of the firm’s CSR, said: “We didn’t want the charity to be short-changed.”

Mayor of Sutton Coldfield, Cllr Jane Mosson, opened the Gracechurch Centre’s newest store, Bert & Gert’s which showcases a collection of small independent businesses under one roof. Founded by brothers Mark and Jason Wilkes, Bert & Gert’s are well known for their arts and crafts markets across the country.

DISCOVER THE JQ A new destination website for the Jewellery Quarter has been launched by the Jewellery Quarter Business Improvement District (JQBID) to make it easier for customers to reach local businesses during these challenging times. Discover JQ (www.discoverjq.co.uk) is a search-based website that provides a one-stop shop for an online community hub. Customers can leave reviews, watch videos and message businesses directly. The Jewellery Quarter produces 40 per cent of the UK’s jewellery and is home to more than 150 independent specialist retailers.

ANDY TO THE FLOOR A flooring firm has been hailed as one of the “success stories of the region” by West Midlands mayor, Andy Street. He made the comment during a guided tour of UK Flooring Direct’s latest 54,000 sq ft facility at Prologis Park. The firm, which now employs more than 160 staff, was started 15 years ago by entrepreneur Jason Ashby who invested £299 in a website. With headquarters in Hinckley, NEW WEBSITE: James Vincent, director of tourism marketing agency Hot Source Creative, and Steve Lovell, marketing and communications manager for the JQBID

UK Flooring Direct now has £50 million worth of annual sales in its sights.

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WHAT: The Nutcracker WHEN: 14 to 22 December WHERE: Birmingham Rep,

HERE’S A ROUND-UP OF SOME EVENTS, BOTH LIVE AND VIRTUAL, DUE TO TAKE PLACE THIS MONTH. PLEASE NOTE ALL MAY BE SUBJECT TO LAST-MINUTE CHANGES OR CANCELLATION, SO BE SURE TO CHECK FIRST

birmingham-rep.co.uk In a Covid-safe environment including socially distanced seating allocated to household or bubble groups only, Birmingham Royal Ballet and Birmingham Rep are bringing a special adaptation of this much-loved production for some desperately needed pre-Christmas sparkle.

WHAT: Car Park Panto WHEN: 2 and 3 January WHERE: Stoneleigh Park, Kenilworth Just when you thought your Christmas show had been cancelled… In partnership with the Birmingham Stage Company, Horrible Histories comes to the rescue with their own unique take on the festive season with a story of how Christmas came to be what it is today. All in a safe, socially distanced manner from the comfort of your own sleigh car!

WHAT: The Queens Head Pub quiz WHEN: Thursdays, 3 to 17 December WHERE: Online, https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/ o/selfridges-christmas-pub-quiz-31568945493 Selfridges and Sink The Pink are getting camp this Christmas as landlady Ginger Johnson flings open her (virtual) doors to the best pub in the world. Expect oodles of sass, barrels of laughter and plenty of Christmas cheer to see you through those long winter Thursday nights.

WHAT: In conversation with Reiko Sudo WHEN: 10 December WHERE: Compton Verney online event, www.comptonverney.org.uk Curator Lesley Millar in discussion with the hugely-talented Japanese textile artist about the development of the exhibition Fabric: Touch and Identity and the inspiration behind the incredible immersive installation Ogi no mai/Japanese Fanfare.

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WHAT’S ON

WHAT: Alpesh conducts Mendelssohn WHEN: 3 December to 1 January WHERE: CBSO online event, cbso.co.uk Alpesh Chauhan needs no introduction here in Birmingham – but today he conducts some of the most fabulous music you’ve never heard. As well as Mendelssohn’s irresistible first symphony to enjoy there is the incredible voice of Karen Cargill.

WHAT: Troy Story WHEN: 12 December WHERE: Royal Shakespeare Company online events, www.rsc.org.uk The RSC is running a series of special online events including this thrilling story of the Trojan War. Across one epic day, RSC actors and special guests recount the Troy Story in five, livestreamed parts of around an hour each, which includes the chance to watch it again over the following week.

WHAT: When Jaguar Bought Daimler WHEN: Now until 29 January WHERE: British Motor Museum, tel: 01926 927823 www.britishmotormuseum.co.uk A new exhibition covering 100 years from the Daimler Company’s beginnings in 1896, its history of Royal patronage, superb engineering, efforts supporting both World Wars and then Daimler’s ‘post Jaguar’ life.

WHAT: Van Gogh Alive WHEN: Now until 18 December WHERE: Birmingham Hippodrome, www.birminghamhippodrome.com Van Gogh’s works have been exhibited and admired for more than a century – but never like this. The multi-sensory experience provides visitors with the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in his artistry and truly venture into his world through beautifully curated projections accompanied by a stunning classical soundscape.

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PERSON TO PERSON

CLOSE WITHÁ NEAL FOSTER On the eve of Horrible Histories’ car park panto, Horrible Christmas, we talk to the man behind the live show’s partners, Birmingham Stage Company BEEN THERE, DONE THAT The events that probably gave my career its kick start was persuading famous actors including Dustin Hoffman, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Glenn Close and Richard Dreyfuss to let me interview them live on stage in the West End and on Broadway. They did it for nothing so I could put all the money towards staging The Seagull at Birmingham Rep in 1990, which was the springboard to everything that came after. IT’S WHAT I DO I’m the actor/manager of Birmingham Stage Company which I created in 1992 and launched from the Old Rep. The company has been a big adventure which has taken us around the UK and to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Malta, Syria and New York. We’ve staged more than 100 productions and had a fabulous time along the way. This year has been a little different, though! BIGGEST SUCCESS I am one of those lucky people who’s been involved in something special almost every year, so it’s hard to narrow it down. Performing in the Concert Hall of Sydney Opera House was spectacular, as is performing in the West End and on Broadway. But I’m just as happy acting at the fabulous theatre in Bridlington Spa if the audience is up for it. It’s all down to the audience in the end – if you find a good one, it doesn’t matter where. BIGGEST LESSON LEARNED My father was a great businessman who gave me some

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advice when I was a teenager. Never have a business partner, never let someone push you around and never give anyone a second chance. This last one sounded incredibly harsh, so I chose to ignore it, but then found in my professional life that whenever I did give someone a second chance it always came back to bite me. Except once – and I guess it’s those exceptions which make life interesting. WHAT I LIKE ABOUT BRUM I was born in Birmingham, so my first impressions are difficult to remember! But my favourite thing is the Old Rep Theatre which provided me with the chance to fulfil all my dreams. It was built by Sir Barry Jackson as the first purpose-built theatre in the country and until 1971 housed Birmingham Repertory Theatre, until they moved to Broad Street. For 20 years it was used by amateur companies until I persuaded the city council to let me move my fledgling company into its walls and we never looked back. DOWNTIME I love reading a newspaper over a gin and tonic. I’m worried that by the time I retire all the newspapers will be online, which I think is much less satisfying. I don’t even have a smart phone. I like the real world too much. I Horrible Christmas by Horrible Histories in partnership with Birmingham Stage Company, is the world’s first drive-in live Christmas panto. Local performances are at the Ricoh Arena (15 December) and Stoneleigh Park (2 and 3 January). Ticket details at carparkparty.com

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Profile for Birmingham Living Magazine

Birmingham Living December 2020 (issue 98)  

Birmingham Living December 2020 (issue 98)  

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