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June 2017

GTECH TAKING IT TO DYSON

BBC BREAKFAST’S ALEX LESTER

SUMMER’S HOTTEST TRENDS

ALEX CLARIDGE

A FEAST

TV’s MR SPORT GARY NEWBON

of

FESTIVALS

MANSELL IS BACK

F1 LEGEND LAPS UP NEW-LOOK CITY


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EDITOR’S VIEW The British are known for being particularly supportive and generous to charitable causes and Birmingham leads the way, with millions raised every year to help those in need

’m a keen follower of cycling. I say follower because I’m not all that in the saddle itself but I do love watching the real experts competing in the three summer Grand Tours of pro cycling – the Giro D’Italia, Le Tour de France and Spain’s La Vuelta. I’m always amazed by the fitness, stamina and sheer drive of the likes of Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish as they cycle over mountainous terrain for three weeks at a stretch. All of which makes my respect and admiration all the more for former Wolves and England footballer Geoff Thomas and four other local amateur cyclists who are pedalling the course of the three Grand Tours consecutively, one day ahead of the pros – that’s a total of more than 10,500km in just 63 days of cycling. The distance they will cover is the equivalent of riding between Birmingham and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Only 39 professional cyclists and, to date, no amateur team have ever achieved this epic feat. The driving force and purpose behind the team is the aim to help Birminghambased blood cancer charity Cure Leukaemia raise an extra £1million in 2017 to fully fund the expansion of the world-leading Centre for Clinical Haematology at the QE Hospital. Geoff is a blood cancer survivor who owes his life to the treatment he received at the centre and he has become a regular major find-raiser for the unit. Cure Leukaemia is just one of the many significant and amazing charities based in Birmingham, many of which we feature regularly in news and features articles in Birmingham Living. As a nation Britain is known for being particularly supportive and generous to charitable causes. And Birmingham sets the example, leading the way as being the city of good causes.

I

David Johns

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, Rose Gallagher

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

Cover image: Nigel Mansell

visit www.brumliving.co.uk @brum_living

june 2017

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When you have finished with this magazine please recycle it

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INSIDE

Highlights

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Nigel Mansell ‘Our Nige’ is back in Brum… and makes a quick pitstop to talk golf and the British GP Gary Newbon The doyen of TV sport reveals a new venture and what makes him proud to be a Brummie Alex Claridge The head chef of The Wilderness on why eating ants and Oh Bollocks makes sense! Food & Drink Foodie news, eating at The Balcony and One Elm, chillin’ with the best Sauvignon Blancs Summer Style Hot, hotter and hottest! Revealing this summer’s must-have dresses for your wardrobe Health – Beat the Sneeze! Top tips to help hayfever sufferers, plus getting to grips with the gut issues of IBS

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CONTENTS

79 20 LIP SERVICE Great British Bake Off winner Candice Brown is baking live at this month’s Foodies Festival

Best of the Rest

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Homes – Bathrooms All the new trends from the industry’s biggest show, including super loos of the stars Motoring With diesel under fire, Sue Cooke test drives a great new petrol engine from VW Young, Gifted and Brummie Sally Rea Morris, the girl with a guitar and a dream to become a country music star Spotlight on Business Company to Watch: Gtech, plus news and views from the business community Social Scene The pages that picture who’s been out and about networking in Birmingham this month Shows, Arts, Gigs and More What’s on, where and when – all you need to know about the entertainment scene In The City BBC WM’s Alex Lester on the Brummie Breakfast, proper boozers and city music

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NEWS

FEELING BLUE?

g n i livTODAY

The world renowned Blue Man Group has announced its first UK shows since 2009 as part of a new world tour – with Birmingham chosen as the host city. Brum features alongside Milan and Vienna on the tour's global pitstops. The award-winning production – best known for its blue and bald performers – will run from 28 December to 6 January in ICC Hall One.

Bringing you the brightest and most colourful stories from across the city each month

GOOD FOOD HUB More than 100 restaurants, bars and pubs feature in a new ‘best places to eat’ online hub. The site launched by BID Leamington showcases great eateries in the town centre. Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said: “Leamington has an impressive mix of independent and national outlets and the site celebrates this and will help visitors find what they are looking for.” See www.tasteleamington.com CHEERS: Executive chef Curtis Stewart and Ayrton Hugo of Restaurant 23, above, with BID Leamington’s Stephanie Kerr and Alison Shaw

SERVING UP A CLASSIC MAYOR’S MOVES

Tennis fans are in for a treat as Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber, pictured, world number three Karolina Pliskova and number five Dominika Cibulkova have all joined this year’s Aegon Classic Birmingham player field. The tournament from 17 to 25 June features eight of the WTA’s top 10 players, including Britain’s Johanna Konta, in the strongest lineup ever seen at Edgbaston Priory Club. Visit www.edgbastonpriory.com/tournaments/ aegon-classic/

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The boss of John Lewis who gave up his £800,000-a-year job to become the first West Midlands mayor has started off his term in office with a pledge to help the region’s homeless. Andy Street visited the St Basils charity in Digbeth, which works with young homeless people, and gave a pledge to set up a taskforce to look into the problem.

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NEWS

VILLA’S FINEST Aston Villa legends Tony Morley and Peter McParland joined blind super-supporter and author John Flanner MBE at Villa Park for the launch of his book about the team’s memorable 2-1 triumph over Manchester United in the 1957 FA Cup Final. The publication of Beautiful Game, Beautiful Memories coincided with the 60th anniversary of the club’s victory. UP FOR THE CUP: Peter McParland and John Flanner, above

COCKTAIL KINGS

OH YES… I’VE RUN IT! A delighted Shah Begum shows off her medal after completing this year’s biggestever Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10K. Shah was among 8,000 people who took part in the event, shown live on Channel 5 TV, and celebrating the city’s hopes of hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Runners from 23 Commonwealth nations were represented in the music-themed run from Jennens Road to Millennium Point.

Two bartenders from the Edgbaston Boutique Hotel and Cocktail Lounge have reached the final of the Diageo World Class GB cocktail competition. James Bowker – who we featured in our Young, Gifted & Brummie pages last year – and Thomas Matthews sailed through the semi-finals and advance to the GB final with the chance to fight for the global title in Mexico City.

HEADS THEY WIN Midlands community groups are celebrating after a grant-giving organisation distributed a record £640,000 in three months. The Heart of England Community Foundation delivered funding to 68 projects in Coventry, Warwickshire, Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country. One of those to receive funding was Women and Theatre in Moseley, which was given aid for a project to deliver seasonal productions in conjunction with older adults. GETTING AHEAD: Heart of England’s Jess Cook and Janice Connolly, artistic director of Women and Theatre.

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Picture: Ty Singleton

DANCE MOVE A new initiative has been launched to develop choreographers, composers and designers. The five-year Ballet Now project is the brainchild of Birmingham Royal Ballet in association with Sadler’s Wells. Annual commissions will support six artists a year and include mentoring from BRB’s artistic director David Bintley and other dance experts. Ballet Now will be overseen by a Creative Consortium drawn from the ballet world.

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NEWS

LAURA SWINGS BY

HOT MODS

Women’s golf legend Dame Laura Davis is getting set to tee-up in one of the country’s biggest golfing events. She will be taking part in the Farmfoods British Par 3 Championship at Nailcote Hall, Berkswell in August. The championship will be hosted for the tenth successive year by former Major winner and Ryder Cup captain, Tony Jacklin. The event also plays host to two Celeb-Am days. See britishpar3.com/booking/event-ticket/2017

A fleet of vintage Lambrettas and Vespas relived the days of the Mods in the Midlands. The rideout by Coventry and Warwickshire’s All or Nothing Scooter Club marked the opening night of the musical All or Nothing, based on the story of the hit band the Small Faces, at the Belgrade Theatre. Members of the show’s cast joined the scooter club to try out the machines for themselves.

IN BRIEF

TOP CHEF OPENS IN MAILBOX Birmingham’s burgeoning reputation for fine food will go up another notch with the arrival of a new restaurant from two Michelin star chef Atul Kochhar. Located at the front of the Mailbox, NRI by Atul Kochhar will showcase high-quality but affordable spiced dishes that draw inspiration from Atul’s background from Malaysia and Japan to South Africa and beyond.

HOUSE CALL Winterbourne House and Garden has joined Birmingham’s world class museum collection after Arts Council England formally upgraded its status. The Edwardian house and botanic garden are at the edge of the University of Birmingham Edgbaston campus.

SYRIA AID

TEMPER BEARS ALL! Celebrated Birmingham artist Temper is creating a sculpture ‘with a twist’ after it was revealed he will be designing one of Retail BID Birmingham’s charity bears for this year’s Big Sleuth sculpture trail. The Big Sleuth is the sequel to the Big Hoot which raised more than £625,000 for Birmingham Children’s Charity. “I’ve created a bear called Window Shopping,” said Temper. “She’s a female bear, carrying a shopping bag. “

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BLOOMING HIT If you ever needed more evidence that we are a nation of gardeners the green-fingered folk at the NEC have the proof. More than two million visitors have visited BBC Gardeners’ World Live since it came to Brum more than 20 years ago. The show returns on 15 to 18 June with big crowds again predicted. This year’s event includes show gardens and expert advice from Monty Don, Alan Titchmarsh and Carol Klein.

Birmingham’s Green Lane Masjid mosque and community centre has donated £1.2million to Human Appeal, a leading humanitarian aid charity in the UK, to help starving people and refugees in Syria and Lebanon.

FREE VOWS Couples are being given the chance to win their wedding for free at the Biggest Wedding Party 2017 charity ball on 24 June at the National Motorcycle Museum, in aid of the Lily Mae Foundation.

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NEWS

FUN IN THE PARK More than 100 parks and green spaces across Birmingham are set to play host to thousands of fun, free activity sessions as ParkLives returns to the city for a fourth summer. Delivered by teams from Birmingham City Council in partnership with Coca-Cola Great Britain, ParkLives venues include Lickey Hills Country Park and Handsworth Park, with activities ranging from Tai Chi and bushcraft to zumba, nature play and open water swimming. Visit www.parklives.com

FLOWERS OF LOVE

THREE TOURS IN 63 DAYS?

NO SWEAT!

A field of wrought iron forget-me-nots brought a glorious mass of colour to Brindleyplace. Individuals, families and businesses donated to dedicate one of the 1,500 flowers in memory of loved ones as part of the Forget Me Not appeal by Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice. At the end of the week-long display the flowers were given to the donors to place in their own gardens as a personal memorial.

Five amateur cyclists are taking on the ultimate challenge by riding the sport’s toughest events consecutively in only 63 days. The team, led by former Wolves and England footballer Geoff Thomas, will pedal more than 10,500km, covering the routes of this year’s Grand Tours – the Giro D’Italia, Tour de France and La Vuelta a España. They are raising money for Cure Leukaemia to fund expansion of the Centre for Clinical Haematology at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

FLYING VISIT

SUMMER IN SOUTHSIDE The countryside is coming to the streets of Brum. This year’s Summer in Southside festival on 17 and 18 June celebrates the great outdoors and features the likes of alternative sports days on the Village Green and a giant tree growing to the sound of magical stories and enchanting music. Go to www.birminghamhippodrome.com/summerinsouthside

A new dance film, charting the arrival of an outsider to Coventry, has been released. Sent to Coventry is the work of independent Touchtype Films and dance company Ascension Dance. The film follows the arrival of Ben, played by Ben Morley, to the city and has been supported by an arts grant through Coventry City Council and further funding from Coventry City of Culture Trust – the organisation behind the bid to be UK City of Culture in 2021.

GOT ANY NEWS? Email your news and pictures to editor@brumliving.co.uk 10 birmingham living

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COVER STORY

MANSELL

IN OVERDRIVE Our Nige is back in town to play golf and catch up on the

British GP. Super-fan David Johns enjoyed a quick pitstop with the still ultra-competitive Brummie legend

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COVER STORY

igel Mansell and I have met before – not that he’d know it, although he’ll certainly remember the occasion. To my immense pleasure, as well as a little bit of shame, as a young lad I was one of the many delirious British F1 fans who invaded the track after ‘Our Nige’ won the 1992 British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Such was the excitement, enthusiasm and sheer volume of fans, Nigel was forced to abandon his Williams F1 car on his celebration lap and hotfoot it to the podium with the help of security men. To this day I’ve never forgotten the moment I patted the great man’s helmet as he clambered out of his car. Thankfully for Nigel, as well as me, our second encounter after all these years was much less frenetic. The ex-World Champion is heading back to Birmingham over the coming weeks, not to race but to play golf in the British Par 3 Championship – and keep and eye on this year’s British GP at Silverstone too.

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features large as one of the most revered sons of Brum, so much so that he has a star on Birmingham’s famous Walk of Stars, an honour he would never have dreamed of receiving as a kid growing up in Baughton, Upton-upon-Severn and then Hall Green, Birmingham. The winner of 31 Formula One races and 1992 World Champion who drove for Lotus, Ferrari, Williams and McLaren, was one of four children. The family lived in what Nigel describes as a ‘modest’ semi-detached house with not a lot of money. He attended Rosslyn School (sometimes referred to as Hall Green Bilateral) before going to Sharmans Cross Comprehensive in Shirley, Solihull from 12 to 16 and then Solihull Technical College and Matthew Boulton College, Birmingham. “Growing up in the area was interesting, eventful, educational and for the most part enjoyable,” he says YOUTH CHARITY But as detailed in his autobiography, there was a dark side to those years when Nigel revealed how he suffered frequently as a target of school bullying. His father worked at Lucas Aerospace, which entailed the family moving around quite a bit, and the young Mansell always seemed to be the ‘new kid’ being picked on at school. His experiences growing up heavily influenced his desire to help youngsters from whatever backgrounds, culminating in him becoming president of the UK

REJUVENATED CITY When we spoke on the eve of his return, it was clear Nigel is looking forward to being back in the Midlands. “Birmingham and the Midlands have changed immeasurably in recent times for all the right reasons and is challenging for a better status than London,” he said. “I don’t think there is any question that anyone who has been away for any length of time is shocked to go back and find what a fantastic modernised and rejuvenated Birmingham and the Midlands have city Birmingham has become. It’s a great cultural centre to visit.” changed immeasurably for all the right reasons and He added: “As for the golf, the is challenging for a better status than London Farmfoods British Par 3 event at Nailcote Youth charity which has a membership of nearly Hall is fantastic. It’s played on a brilliant course one million young people. Nigel has personally where the accuracy of your shot is everything. They raised more than £1million for UK Youth projects are lovely people who organise the event and I am and in 2012 he was awarded the CBE by Prince delighted to be taking part again this year – I am Charles for his services to children. “I’m still very much looking forward to it.” working hard with the UK Youth charity as every As the only person to ever hold the Formula One year there are new challenges, which is normal,” and US Indy Car titles simultaneously, Nigel

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COVER STORY

The British Par 3

Championship is played on a brilliant course where the accuracy of your shot is everything. They

are lovely people who organise

the event and I am delighted to be taking part again this year

THE NINETEENTH HOLE: Nigel celebrates at the Par 3 Championship’s after-golf party with legend Tony Jacklin and TV Catchphrase presenter and comedian Roy Walker

he explains. “I am very excited about the future of UK Youth as without question it is one of the great national charities.” Another local charity, Midlands Air Ambulance, also benefits from Nigel’s ongoing support as one of its celebrity fund-raising ambassadors. The air ambulance base at Strensham is near where Nigel was born and the role of air ambulances in saving drivers’ lives at motor racing events is well documented. “The Midlands Air Ambulance has a close connection to Formula One and motorsport in the region and to every one of us who drives on our busiest roads and motorway networks each day,” he said. HAMILTON VIEW One thing’s for sure, none of us wants to see the air ambulance in action when the F1 drivers come The Farmfoods British Par 3 Championship is at Nailcote Hall, Warwickshire from 8 to 11 August and features leading golfers and celebrities. Tickets and details britishpar3.com

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to Silverstone for the British GP on 16 July. What does Nigel make of Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and the rest? “They are definitely more protected these days, but that certainly doesn’t make them any more or less of a driver – they still have a job to do,” he says. “Evolution has changed significantly where the longevity and lifetime of a driver has almost doubled due to the incredible advances in technology and safety.” And what about Silverstone itself? “I think without question there is an element of rose-tinted spectacles when we look at Silverstone,” says Nigel. “But it is still a fantastic GP circuit and can be viewed among the best and quickest in the world, but like anything it needs reinvestment constantly.” The name Nigel Mansell will forever inspire generations of British sports fans, but the man himself plays down the fame. “I was an enthusiastic and honest driver who gave my all in the car, and the fans truly embraced this,” he explains. “I have always been of the mindset that if you get knocked back you dust yourself off and start again which is something I think the fans really appreciated.” I

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FEATURE

QUESTION OF SPORT Gary Newbon is the doyen of TV sports broadcasting, covering seven World Cups, three Olympic Games and everything from greyhound racing to speedway and boxing. Now he talks to David Johns about his exciting new venture hey must have invented the phrase ‘been there, done that, got the t-shirt’ for Gary Newbon. The veteran TV sports reporter, interviewer, presenter, producer and broadcaster has pretty much seen the lot and talked to most of the ‘greats’ – whether it’s interviewing Muhammad Ali (three times!), or Pele (seven times!!), or sparring with Brian Clough or Sir Alex Ferguson. So, when Gary nominates his personal ‘greatest of the great’ moments as an occasion right here in

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his hometown Brum, you know it must indeed be something very special. “The biggest honour of all was being inducted into the Birmingham Walk of Stars,” he said. “It was a wonderful, personal moment to see my name on one of the stars and see it laid down alongside such great and famous Birmingham names.” That was back in 2009 but Gary still recalls the occasion fondly like it was yesterday. And who can blame him when he shares the Walk with the likes

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FEATURE

The biggest honour of all

was being inducted into the Birmingham Walk of Stars

of Sir Lenny Henry, Jasper Carrott, Ozzy Osbourne, Frank Skinner, Julie Walters and Nigel Mansell.

THE BIG INTERVIEW Today, Gary is as busy ever. He regularly produces and presents series on Sky Sports – as we spoke he was in the midst of setting up a run of new autumn shows for Sky called The Big Interview. “The series is going to feature really big names, really big,” he stressed. And after spending 50 years and appearing in more than 10,000 TV programmes, Gary has decided it’s time to pass on all that knowledge to others by setting up a brand new business venture. He will provide TV and public speaking training and voice coaching. Managed by his Prime Ticket

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Productions company, he says the aim is to help those who “dread speaking” in public. “When I began my TV career aged 23 at Westward TV in Plymouth, I had never spoken in public and had to learn my lessons the hard way. The biggest fear for many leading business executives or those with important public roles is speaking to large groups of people – and just drying up. I am giving them the chance through my experience of how to overcome this.” Now aged 72 years young, Gary came to Birmingham when he was 26 to work at the old ATV studios, where he met his wife Katie who was in the station’s newsroom. The couple, who live in Solihull, have three children – daughter Claire, a showbiz feature writer, and twins Neil, an actor who has

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MAGNIFICENT: Gary with Birmingham Press Club chair Llewela Bailey (picture: Jas Sansi)

>> GARY’S MAGNIFICENT 7 TV MOMENTS 1. Covering seven football World Cups and three Olympic Games. 2. Interviewing Muhammad Ali and Pele. 3. Sharing a TV studio with Brian Clough. 4. Covering the legendary Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn fights.

it reflects the restaurant scene which when I came here was terrible, but which is now also brilliant. There’s so much great that’s going for Birmingham now – the likes of Symphony Hall, the Hippodrome, Barclaycard Arena, all the wonderful hotels. Birmingham has improved beyond all recognition.”

5. Interviewing Sir Alex Ferguson after Manchester United’s extra time European Cup victory against Bayern Munich in 1999. 6. An emotional Ferguson giving him the famous quote: “Football? Bloody hell!” 7. Covering Seb Coe winning the 1500 metres at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

appeared in hit TV shows like Hollyoaks, and Laurence, who is a top outside broadcast cameraman. OUR GREAT CITY Progression up the career ladder saw Gary become controller of sport for Central Television for more than two decades. As deputy head of ITV Sport he introduced many well-known faces to the screen. He developed Jimmy Greaves as a soccer pundit as well as the likes of Aston Villa legends Andy Gray and Andy Townsend. Gary admits that when he first came to work in Birmingham he thought it was a “pretty awful place”. He explained: “It was full of buildings that were blocks of concrete and really depressing. There was nothing like Brindleyplace for instance back then. Today it has become a magnificent city. I guess For more details about Gary’s TV and public speaking training, e-mail enquiries@tvandspeechtraining.co.uk

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FOOTBALL FOCUS Gary laments the fact that Birmingham and Midlands sport isn’t matching up to the success of the rest of the city. “Sport has gone the other way,” he says. “Football in particular. In the past, the clubs here achieved great things. The likes of Villa in Europe, and Birmingham and Wolves with such great teams and players, and Stoke winning the League Cup. Right now, apart from West Brom, they’re all struggling a bit. It’s cyclical and I hope it all comes good again in the future. There are bright spots for our sport though. Edgbaston Stadium for instance is brilliant, hosting test matches and top cricket.” Gary yearns for a return to the days when local TV meant something. The city used to be the hub of a vibrant network of TV news and programmemaking. “News and sport coverage in general is pretty thin on the ground these days, which is a real shame. I still love what I do and I have no plans to retire, subject to health, but one of the things I miss doing is the live sports coverage. Going to the football grounds and interviewing the likes of Brian Clough. I always got on well with him. You could say that Cloughie helped make my career!” I

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FOOD & DRINK

ALEX CLARIDGE The head chef and founder of The Wilderness explains his constant search for new expressions of flavours – and why ants and Oh Bollocks make sense! Tell us about your cooking We’re not cooks, we’re storytellers aiming to present something new and unexpected with a sense of fun. I’m of the mind-set that it’s only food. We’re not saving lives, we’re a small team of people who enjoy food, aim to entertain and are blessed to have a busy restaurant. Striving for new expressions of flavour often recalling an emotion gets me going. A dish on the menu called Oh Bollocks looks like a Mr Whippy ice cream that’s been dropped on the plate. It raises a smile and is big on nostalgia. We use the very best ingredients and a broad larder including insects occasionally which grabbed the headlines when the restaurant first opened, but it wasn’t about the shock value for me. The ants made sense in the context of the dish adding texture and flavour. I’d never use a random ingredient without it bringing something to the dish.

How did you become a chef? I went to a traditional grammar school where the careers advice was limited. ‘Go into finance’ was the general advice. Going straight from university into a corporate graduate job I had an existential crisis and quickly realised it was never going to make me happy. I sort of grew into food from there and I’m largely self-taught.

What do you eat when at home? Not a great deal. My fridge is shamelessly empty although there’s always wine in it. I’d rather eat out.

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Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum? I have no answer really. You’re only as good as your last service. It takes a lot to be a great chef and you can forget any hope of an ordinary life, so I admire that hugely. I like places that are single minded. For instance, I went to Romania a while ago and found a bakery that made just two pastries, but did them brilliantly, rather than trying to do everything not very well. We could do with more of that ethos in Birmingham. We have a lot of venues, but not many with that sort of focus.

Is the customer always right? I think the customer has a right to expect to be treated with respect, warmth and love and we get that right. We have really cool customers that get what we’re doing and are supportive. Is the customer always right? No.

Share a cooking tip Less is more. To quote Marilyn Monroe, ‘take the last thing you put on off ’.

What was your favourite food as a kid? Milky Bars. Apparently for the first six years of my life I ate Milky Bars almost exclusively.

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CHEF’S CORNER

Food heaven and food hell? Heaven would be really smelly cheese – the sort that would put most people off – with a sherry or port. Hell would be anything that’s just one texture, like a lasagne or similar, where every mouthful is the same mushy texture.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten? Ambergris (bile) from a sperm whale at the White Lyan in London. It gives a luxurious richness without the fat.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be? I never had a plan B!

What do you recommend from this evening’s menu? Heritage hogget with early wild garlic. I

The Wilderness, 1 Dudley Street Birmingham B5 4EG. Tel: 0121 643 2673 www.wearethewilderness.co.uk Picture: Amy Huggett/The Wilderness

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FOOD & DRINK

NIBBLES

and SHORTS

Birmingham has a lively and buzzing bar and restaurant scene. Here, we present our insider guide to what’s going on in your city’s eateries and drinking dens THE SECRET’S OUT… Park Regis Birmingham is launching a new event space called the Secret Terrace. Offering a tranquil outside area for guests to relax, the summer garden-inspired terrace overlooks the city’s skyline. Throughout summer hotel guests will be able to enjoy a range of events hosted on the terrace, including BBQs, whiskey tasting, cocktail hour and seasonally themed activities.

ON TOP OF THE WORLD Hotel Indigo's rooftop bar – part of the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar and Grill – has been named the best in the UK. It was praised in the annual Simply The Guest awards launched by hotel reservations site LateRooms.com which celebrates the UK’s best performing hotels according to satisfaction scores posted by guests.

BENNETT’S HILL GETS MEX FACTOR Chilango is bringing its Mexican menu of burritos, tacos, nachos and salads to a basement spot in an old bank building in the Bennett’s Hill area. The eatery is aiming to mirror its success in London, where it already has 10 restaurants. In a nod to the current 'clean-eating' trend, Chilango Birmingham will offer the option to order burritos ‘nudo’ (naked) with all the fillings without the wrap.

MISH MASH TAKES AWAY TITLE Caribbean restaurant Mish Mash has been named one of the UK’s favourite 10 takeaways, coming fourth in the hungryhouse.co.uk Most Loved Takeaway awards which looked at more than 12,000 restaurants nationwide. The Birmingham eatery serves Caribbean cuisine with a modern British twist. The takeaway top 10 is based on customer reviews and star ratings.

MODERN TWIST ON AFTERNOON TEA Artisan coffee concept SOHO Coffee Co has opened in Debenhams in the Bullring. It’s the first SOHO to serve afternoon tea, alongside its coffee, jacket potatoes, salads and sandwiches offering. MD Penny Manuel said: “Our new afternoon tea offers a modern take on the traditional to capture customers’ taste buds as well as imagination.”

TREBLE JOY FOR HOTEL Four-star family-owned Lea Marston Hotel, Sutton Coldfield has reached the finals of the national Conference and Hospitality Show awards in three categories – including the Best Independent Venue award. The awards recognise the nation’s best hotels and venues. Phillip Allsopp of Lea Marston said: “The awards are an industry seal of approval and we are thrilled to have been recognised.”

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COCKTAIL OF THE MONTH

WHEN IN ROME…

Mixologists have concocted this terrific tipple to mark the RSC’s dramatic Rome season o celebrate the Royal Shakespeare Company’s current Rome season, the master mixologists at the Rooftop Restaurant have rustled up a marvellous Romaninspired cocktail. Fittingly called Cocktail of War, the heady concoction of spirits and orange juice is inspired by Shakespeare’s Coriolanus and has a real kick. It’s guaranteed to spark anyone into action – but as always, drink responsibly…

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COCKTAIL OF WAR Ingredients:

I 40ml Grappa I 25ml Martini Rosso I Spoon of Fernet Branca I 25ml orange juice I 12.5ml Blue Curacao syrup

Method: The Rooftop Restaurant, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6BB. Tel: 01789 403449 www.rsc.org.uk

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Shake all the ingredients together except the syrup, then strain the mixture plus the syrup into a tumbler over crushed ice. Relax and enjoy.

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RESTAURANT REVIEW

THE BALCONY W

Selfridges on 4, Bullring, Birmingham B5 4BP. Tel: 0121 600 6869 http://thebalcony.co.uk

e love Selfridges. Fact. We can lose hours in the beauty hall and get dizzy with excitement by the arm candy on the fourth floor. However, while the store is shopping gold, it’s rarely our first choice to eat beyond a swift nibble in the food hall. We got wind of a new menu at The Balcony and thought we’d better test it out for you, our loyal readers. Yes we are selfless. First let’s talk interiors. The restaurant manages to blend comfort with style in a way that other places fall down. All cool greys, neutral tones and rustic crockery make for a relaxed vibe while the streaming light from the glass roof of the Bullring means you get a massive hit of vitamin D while you dine. The cocktail list is short and sweet with lots that appealed, although more non-alcoholic cocktails would be a welcome addition. We were heading straight for the hard stuff, so no bother. Berry Heaven with a healthy dose of gin was refreshing and not too sweet – the downfall of many cocktails. Spring Stream, also gin based (Prairie organic), was nicely balanced with bitter notes and camomile tea providing freshness. Almost everything on the new menu screamed ‘eat me’, varying from a virtuous superfood salad to classics like champagne fish and chips and steak frites. I backed a winner with a punchy pea and ham terrine starter that was rich and smooth – almost like a foie gras texture – served with an unctuous blob of vibrant green sweet pea puree and warm fresh bread.

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Undoubtedly the star of the show. Watercress soup was tasty too, but overshadowed by the terrine’s brilliance. Salmon fishcakes tasted great with a big handful of dill, a crunchy outer served with a fantastic tartare sauce. However, we’d have liked plenty more fish and less potato. Sea bream with greens was super light and fresh while a side order of fries revealed the best chips/fries we’ve eaten in Brum. Oreo cheesecake did what it said on the tin - rich, creamy and Oreo-like in flavour served with a sharp sorbet that balanced the cream-fest nicely. A lemon tart with vanilla Chantilly cream was delicious with a zingy freshness, great pastry and a crunchy burnt sugar top. All in all, we reckon The Balcony is a winner. It’s comfortable, lively, the food’s good – excellent in places – and the drinks are delicious. We also managed to circumnavigate Stella McCartney on the way home without splurging. Success. I

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LUNCH SPOT

ONE ELM

1 Guild Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6QZ. Tel: 01789 404919 www.oneelmstratford.co.uk

here’s something about Sunday lunch that makes the most accomplished of restaurants fall down – which is why we prefer lunching at home by a country mile. However, we’re always happy to be proved wrong because let’s face it, Sunday lunch is one hell of a faff to have to prepare and cook. So, veering from our usual Brummie patch, we gave Stratford a whirl in the form of One Elm, sister pub to The Highfield at Edgbaston. In your wildest Sunday lunch dreams there’s probably a dedicated person delivering extra yorkies and roasties to your table whenever you feel like it… right? And a generous jug of super-charged gravy to slather over your plate with gay abandon. A courtyard bathed in sunlight all afternoon long? Comforting puds and delicious ice cream in waffle cones if you fancy? Yes please!! Well, say hello then to One Elm. We spent a lot of time in our youth sunning ourselves in the beer garden at The Sun Inn on Clapham Common. One Elm has the same sort of relaxed, easy vibe and managed to transport us back to 1999 except with two children in tow, a designated

T

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driver and food – we didn’t eat much in 1999. We could’ve stayed all day. Lively, relaxed, unpretentious and packed full of rustic charm, One Elm ticked a lot of boxes and the locals clearly love it too. Was it the best Sunday lunch we’ve eaten? Probably not. The roasties could’ve been crunchier and the lamb was a bit too rare for us, although the beef and pork were spot on. Stuffing balls packed a punch and the yorkies were dreamy and plentiful. The gravy was a winner and puddings were fantastic and more importantly we had a great time. It felt like a home-from-home, which I guess is what you want for a Sunday. A nod to the charming, happy staff too who added to the warmth of the place and were either very content or very good actors. Either way, it made for a super Sunday. I

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SEASON'S EATINGS

GOOSEBERRIES GALORE T he season for fresh British gooseberries is a short one – around three months or so, with the best fruit available right now in June. The season starts with the familiar green gooseberries which are juicy and tart, perfect for cooking. Later in the season come the sweeter dessert eating varieties. Try our brilliant gooseberry pies – with a lovely splodge of cream or scoop of ice cream. Yum….

INDIVIDUAL GOOSEBERRY AND ALMOND PIES Ingredients For the pastry:

I 1 large egg, separated I 225g softened, unsalted butter

I 50g caster sugar I ½ tsp salt I 350g plain flour For the filling:

I 50g softened, unsalted butter I 50g caster sugar I 1 large egg I 1 tsp almond extract

I 50g ground almond I 1 tbsp plain flour

I 300g gooseberries

Method For the pastry: Add the egg yolk, butter, sugar and salt to a food processor and pulse until creamy and soft. Add the flour and pulse again until mixture comes together in clumps but avoid overworking the dough. Tip dough onto work surface, press into a smooth disc, wrap and chill for 30 minutes. For the filling: Beat the butter, sugar, egg, almond extract and almonds together until creamy. Fold in the flour, add a pinch of salt. Line a large, flat baking sheet with parchment. Roll pastry on a floured surface until just thicker than a £1 coin. Stamp 16, 9cm circles using a pastry cutter and put 8 of the rounds on the sheet, allowing a little space between each. Spoon 1 tbsp of the filling onto the middle, flatten it out a little, then press in 6 topped and tailed gooseberries. Briefly beat the egg white with a fork until frothy. Brush some of this over the remaining circles, then sit them on top of the berries. Sprinkle with caster and chill for ½ hour. Preheat an oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5 then bake the pies for 35 mins or until golden. Serve warm with cream or ice cream.

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FOOD & DRINK

PLAYING IT COOL Rob Price looks at Sauvignon Blanc, grown in cooler climates and one of Britain’s best-loved wines

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FOOD & DRINK

auvignon Blanc is one of the UK’s favourite grapes. Zesty, aromatic, fresh and crisp – there’s a lot to like about it. Generally grown in cooler climates, it is charistically always high in acidity and hence very refreshing on the palate. It’s also very aromatic with typical floral, grassy, citrus and stone fruit notes. In slightly warmer regions, such as Marlborough, New Zealand, you’ll find more stone fruits and tropical fruits evident. As Sauvignon Blanc prefers cool climates, it finds a magnificent home in France’s Loire Valley. Here we have the famous village of Sancerre that makes fantastic and expensive Sauvignon Blanc. It’s located in the very middle of France, hence the vineyards are called the Central vineyards. It’s also been the centre of French resistance over the years.

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SAY CHEESE One of the very best ways of tasting Sancerre is with a cheese from Chavignol. It’s a goat’s cheese and is a brilliant way of tantalising your tastebuds. Most goat’s cheese and softer creamy cheeses work well with Sancerre. To experience another equally wonderful Sauvignon Blanc, we go to the village opposite Sancerre over the Loire, Pouilly-Fumé. About half the size of Sancerre, and while similar in style, Pouilly-Fumé has a more flinty and chalky aspect. (Don’t confuse Pouilly-Fumé with Pouilly-Fuissé – the latter is made with Chardonnay and comes from Burgundy.) Better value Sauvignon Blanc can be found in villages like Menetou-Salon and generally in Touraine, where you’ll find it sold with the grape name shown on the label – always useful I think! The vast majority of Loire valley Sauvignon Blanc is unoaked to keep it fresh and crisp, but just like the top crus in Chablis there is an increasing trend in ageing their very best wine in French oak adding more texture and depth. You can also find interesting and good value

ROB’S Bourgeois Sancerre

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TO TRY

A wonderful example comes from the Henri Bourgeois estate. Generally, all good, but try his La Bourgeoise. Full of refreshing minerality and citrus fruits. Connolly’s sells the 2014 vintage, £23.

Cono Sur 20 Barrels From one of the best and coolest vineyard regions, Casablanca in Chile, this is ripe and rich for a Sauvignon Blanc but still retains trade mark crispness. Not always in stock, but Waitrose, Majestic and Tesco all sell the 20 Barrels range. About £16.

Saint Clair Reserve A top range wine from Marlbough, New Zealand, Saint Clair Reserve Sauvignon Blanc is produced from the best vineyards, using some wild yeasts. Majestic sells the 2015 vintage, £25.

Mud House An excellent value Marlborough Sauvignon is produced by Mud House. Lovely aromatics of grapefruit, and grass. Vibrant and fresh in an uncomplicated style. Sold quite widely, around £7 or £8 a bottle.

Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux, quite often it’s blended with Sémillon making both premium sweet wines and great value dry white wines. Again, some oak may be used.

POPULAR PICK But what most folks drink as our favourite Sauvignon Blanc in the UK is from New Zealand, and Marlborough specifically. Warmer than the Loire Valley we find vibrant and pungent Sauvignon. With an easier label to understand and generally lower price points it’s not hard to understand why this has become so popular. And other countries are also trying to get in on the act with cooler, often maritime regions in Australia, South Africa and Chile producing high quality and very excellent value Sauvignon Blanc. 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, Warwick and Milton Keynes. For more information, contact Rob Price, 0121 270 7359 www.birminghamwineschool.com

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MELLOW YELLOW Mai Tai pleated midi dress £75, Oliver Bonas, New Street Station

GET DRESSED Pick out this summer’s hottest new dresses and you’ll look super-cool and ultra-chic

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STYLE

HELLO SAILOR Striped dress £69.99, TK Maxx, Bullring

LESS IS MORE Marcus butterfly jumpsuit £249, Zoey tassel slider £98, Jigsaw, Cannon St

HOORAY CHAMBRAY! Chambray dress £35, La Redoute www.laredoute.co.uk

ur pins are buffed and we’re ready to slip into some of this season’s hottest dresses. The choice is mind boggling, but there are a couple of must-haves that have skyrocketed to the top of our wish list. Firstly, if you buy one dress this summer make it the white, one shoulder cut-out dress from Next (pictured on page 34). Its quality and chicness defy its meagre price tag and while it’s smart enough for a garden party, it would work for lunch with your girlfriends too. In fact, while we’d stop short of doing the vacuuming in it, for any other occasion it will do wonderfully. Secondly, if you buy two, make sure you grab a smock-like pinafore for lazy summer days when you want to achieve relaxed chic without any effort whatsoever. We like Laura Ashley’s (a brand not usually on our hot list) navy version with cute floral print and oversized pockets. Pockets are underrated. Fact.

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PERFECT PINAFORE Spring print petticoat £95, Laura Ashley, House of Fraser, Corporation St

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STYLE

BE SQUARE Checked dress £65, Debenhams, Bullring

SHEER WINNER FLOATY MAXI

Sheer floral dress, Topshop, The Fort Shopping Park

Floral printed maxi £385, House of Fraser, Mell Square

TOP OF THE LUST LIST One shoulder white dress £85, Next, Bullring

THINK PINK Jumper dress £49, La Redoute www.laedoute.co.uk

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GIRLIE CHARM Sheer peach dress with detail £45, Topshop, The Fort Shopping Park

CUT IT OUT Sienna dress £179, Hobbs, Grand Central

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STYLE BARE-ING UP

FLORAL NOTES Floral tie waist dress £90, Laura Ashley, House of Fraser, Corporation St

Stripes of all size, colour and direction get the nod big time this summer as do bare shoulders and checks large and small. Check out (sorry) Debenhams for its button-up red checked dress with cute folds and oversized pockets. Dreamy. Summer hasn’t arrived in earnest until you’ve chambray in your wardrobe, so look lively. It’s utterly timeless and stylish. So timeless in fact we’re donning last year’s smock already. No one would ever know. Winning in the maxi dress stakes is a billowy floral printed number from House of Fraser that we’ll be swanning around town in at every appropriate – and inappropriate – opportunity. It’s on the pricey side for the high street, but worth every penny. Delicate camisole dresses are still having a moment. Wear with sneakers rather than heels for a cool relaxed vibe and to avoid looking like you’re from TOWIE. Never a good look in our book. Here are some of our favourite pieces. Go shop. Disclaimer: We’ve sneaked in a jumpsuit that looks every inch a dress. Shoot us now. I SUNNY SUNDAYS Striped dress £55, Oasis, Bullring

TEA ANYONE? Fan print tea dress £169, Pretty Eccentric www.prettyeccentric.co.uk

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STYLE ALL THE FRILLS Black dress, River Island, Bullring

TECHNICOLOUR DREAM Carina crochet dress £119, Monsoon, Grand Central

MAXIMUM IMPACT Pleated colour block maxi £42, Next, Bullring

UNDER AS OUTER Cami dress £69, House of Fraser, Mell Square

WIDE STRIPES Autograph £59, M&S, The Fort Shopping Park

COLOUR BLOCK

HAPPY STRAPPY

Colour block dress £45, TK Maxx, Bullring

Red dress £52, Oasis, Bullring

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STYLE FOR MEN

SMARTY PANTS Racing Green shorts and shirt, Debenhams

WE WEAR SHORT

SHORTS

They’re such short shorts and so on. If you’ve never heard that wonderful Fifties ditty you haven’t lived. YouTube it now. We’re talking shorts…

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STYLE FOR MEN

CAMO COOL Camo double layer short £7, Primark

BLUE HUE Red Herring blue shorts £22, Debenhams

BEST DISTRESSED Demin shorts, Jacamo

t doesn’t matter how confident you are with your autumn winter wardrobe, something weird happens in the summer and we end up making suspect style choices. And above all else, shorts prove the most problematic of pieces. Do you go David Cameron in a Cornish village chino vibe or down with the cool kids donning a crystal encrusted pair with a skull emblazoned across one leg? There’s nothing wrong with either as far as we’re concerned. It’s just sometimes in the heat we forget our own style, so stop, think, remember who you are and buy a pair of shorts that your stylish winter self might admire. Here are our top picks whatever your jam. I

I

CASUAL CHARM Replay denim shorts £85, Harvey Nichols

ROCK CRYSTAL Philipp Plein crystal embellished shorts £425, Harvey Nichols

BERRY NICE Linen cotton garment dye shorts £75, Jigsaw

CANARY YELLOW Yellow shorts £31, TK Maxx

IN THE NAVY Hammond & Co smart navy shorts, Debenhams

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NAME DROPPER McQ Alexander McQueen shorts £190, Harvey Nichols

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HEALTH

THE BEES SNEEZE Hayfever makes summertime a misery for millions… so, what’s the answer? ummer is a time that’s strictly for the bees for millions of Brits. Pollen may be the friend for the little striped chaps but it’s the enemy of anyone who suffers from hayfever. When the sun comes out and the temperatures rise so does the misery for one-in-five of the population. A stuffy nose, itching and red eyes, uncontrollable sneezing fits, painful sinuses and a scratchy, sore throat are all too familiar for many. Two main types of pollen affect hayfever sufferers in the UK – grass pollen and tree pollen. About 95 per cent of sufferers are allergic to grass and around 25 per cent to tree pollen – which means some are allergic to both. “Each person can tolerate a certain amount of pollen without reaction,” explains airborne allergies expert Max Wiseberg. “But once this is exceeded – known as the trigger level – hayfever symptoms will occur. So avoiding pollen, or reducing the amount that gets in your body, is key.”

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COMING CLEAN

Max, who invented the top-selling organic, drugfree allergen balm HayMax, says there are simple, practical ways on how anyone can reduce the amount of pollen getting into their body. “Vacuum the house regularly, especially beds and fabrics to remove pollen particles,” he says “Wash bedding very regularly to remove allergens. Dry clothes indoors, rather than on a clothes line to prevent pollen particles being blown onto them by the outside wind.

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Close windows or use an air-conditioner preferably with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Arresting) filter to capture the pollen and circulate the air.” He also recommends tying your hair up and wearing a cap or hat when outside to prevent pollen particles getting caught in your scalp, as well as using wraparound sunglasses to prevent them coming into contact with your eyes. “Wash your face as soon as you get indoors on high pollen count days to remove allergens so that they can’t cause a reaction,” he adds. “And shower at night before sleeping to remove pollen particles from your hair and body.” If you own a pet ensure it is well groomed and shampooed as much as possible to remove grass pollen grains. As well as balms and creams, other treatments can include antihistamines and steroids. While hayfever is classed as a disease, there is no known cure so all treatments are designed to keep the symptoms under control. I

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HEALTH

GUT ISSUES

IBS is an increasingly common condition. What is it, what causes it – and what can you do, if anything, to beat it? We ask the expert ne in five people in the UK suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome which leaves them struggling with stomach cramps, bloating and a variety of digestive issues. An increasing common condition, it is still often misdiagnosed due to symptoms that are similar to a number of other health complaints, including more serious issues such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. In a follow-up to International IBS Awareness Month, we asked Dr Paul Wilson, a consultant gastroenterologist at Spire Parkway Hospital, Solihull, to answer some often-asked questions about IBS.

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What is IBS and what are the symptoms? IBS is a common, long-term condition of the digestive system and can affect some people more severely than others. Flare-ups can last a few days to months at a time and often occur during periods of stress or after eating certain foods. The main s ymptoms are alternating constipation and diarrhoea (although some individuals may have a predominance of either), abdominal pain or discomfort and bloating. IBS usually first develops when a person is in their twenties. Are there any foods I can eat to prevent IBS? Sticking to a healthy diet should help. Include fresh fruit and vegetables and cut down on processed food. Stopping smoking and reducing alcohol intake are two immediate steps sufferers can take which usually improves their situation.

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Should I take medication? First, visit your GP. He or she will document your symptoms and examine you to make sure you are suffering from IBS and not something more ‘sinister’. Once they have carried out an examination they will be in a position to decide whether medication or simply a change of diet and lifestyle would be the best path for you to take – it may well be a mixture of both. Will exercise ease my IBS or make it worse? In general, keeping fit should have a beneficial effect on your symptoms. Those with IBS are often less active than those without and increasing activity has been shown to help symptoms in some cases. Exercise also helps manage stress – a significant factor in worsening IBS symptoms – plus, it will also help keep your weight under control which, in turn, should ease symptoms. Is it curable? IBS is a disturbance in the function of the bowel rather than there being a structural defect and symptoms often come and go over many years. Generally symptoms improve as individuals get older, but there is no cure as such. The key to management is symptom control, using the diet, exercise and health advice already covered. I Dr Paul Wilson is a consultant gastroenterologist at Spire Parkway Hospital, Solihull. Tel: 0121 704 5530 www.spireparkway.com The content of this article is provided for general information only and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.

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From only ÂŁ25

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ADVERTORIAL

EUROPEAN HOTSPOTS

Cool culture, inspiring sights – take a break to some of Europe’s finest cities, direct from Birmingham Airport

ith plenty of cities all over Europe offering cool culture and inspiring sights there’s an endless list of city break destinations for you to choose from. To help inspire you we’ve rounded up four exciting destinations that are not only new to Birmingham Airport but all offer direct flights.

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PORTO: Flight time from 2 hours 20 mins Known for being one of the oldest European centres, Porto has a thriving historical core. Its hilly, cobbled streets and bohemian character give it its alluring charm and the warm temperatures in the summer months add to the city’s appeal. Don’t be fooled by its ghostly appearance – between the empty façades, art deco neons and quiet shop fronts, Porto is steadily coming back to life.

Discover the city’s past

At first glance, Porto seems derelict and abandoned, but that is exactly what makes this city so mesmerising. The crumbling urban infrastructure gives Porto a surreal aura. Join a guided tour to explore all the architecture. Visit the 13th century tower house in Bairro de Barredo – one of Porto’s oldest civilian buildings. Marvel at the gothic São Francisco church and its detailed baroque interior, or the neoclassical Palácio da Bolsa, with its mosaic-filled Arabic room.

VALENCIA: Flight time from 2 hours 45 mins Valencia has seen some major economic developments in the last decade, adding cutting edge architecture and nightlife to the culturally vibrant Mediterranean city. Valencia has a flourishing restaurant scene, museums and shops galore, and of course, miles of sandy beach.

Explore Ribeira

The southern neighbourhood of Ribeira, on the banks of the river Duoro, is the life and soul of Porto. Explore the maze of alleyways, plazas and tiled townhouses to discover some of the best restaurants in town, serving traditional cuisine with spectacular views over the river. Ribeira’s laidback vibe is echoed in the cool cafés, free-spirited bars and general pace of life. Don’t leave without sampling Portuguese wines and tapas.

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Experience the old traditions

Discover the historic Barrio del Carmen neighbourhood – an atmospheric, maze-like area, rocking both the hipster new and the charming old. Visiting the art nouveau Central Market is a must. With seasonal fresh fruit and veg up to your ears, this place is a feast for all your senses. You can also get a peek into Valencia’s past at Llotja de la Seda, site of the ancient silk trade and jewel of gothic architecture.

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ADVERTORIAL Admire the spectacular geology

Visit Lake Agnano – what was once a lake on top of the Agnano volcano, is now home to steamy sulphur baths and picturesque walks. Take a trip to the Gulf of Naples, where you can admire the scenic beauty of the volcanic hills, the coastline and the Bay of Naples’ Islands. From here you are within easy reach of Pompeii, the Herculaneum ruins and the Amalfi Coast.

GOTHENBURG: Flight times from 2 hours The cosmopolitan Swedish port of Gothenburg is often referred to as the capital’s bohemian cousin, but a recent revival has seen the city become one of Europe’s top weekend destinations. Far from its ship-building days, Gothenburg today boasts quirky boroughs, tram-clattering streets, hip cafés and gorgeous green spaces. There is no bad time to visit this vibrant city and with the weather warming up, the streets come to life once again. Get on the water Soak up some vitamin D

The seaside is only ever a short walk away from Valencia. The sandy beaches of El Cabanyal and La Malvarrosa are within walking distance of the city centre. Here you can find the popular Marítimo and marine-inspired restaurants, serving paella and seafood tapas. Take a stroll along the city’s coastline and soak up some rays – if you’re lucky, it might even be warm enough to take a quick dip.

NAPLES: Flight times from 2 hours 55 mins With one of the biggest historical centres in the world, housing over 400 churches as well as the iconic gulf and Mount Vesuvius, it’s a wonder Naples hasn’t received more attention. Despite its slightly shabby exterior, the city has a thriving contemporary art scene, energetic street life and exquisite cuisine. Explore the city’s past

For an immersive experience of Naples’ history, join the Holy Mile walking tour, where you’ll get an insider’s perspective of the cosmopolitan Rione Sanità district. Visit the 12th century Norman Castle dell’Ovo at Porto Santa Lucia and watch the sun set from the top, admiring the breathtaking panoramic views over the city. And a trip to Naples wouldn’t be the same without a stop at the Museum of Archaeology, housing a collection that includes Greco-Roman art and artefacts.

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Hop on a kayak tour and paddle your way past the city’s magnificent sights. This is a unique and peaceful way to view some of the biggest tourist hotspots and neoclassical architecture. Alternatively, try out the Paddan Tours that tour the city’s moat and canals, whilst providing a detailed history of the city’s construction and defence. Shop ‘til you drop

Experience the real hustle and bustle of the city on Avenyn Boulevard. At one end of the boulevard stands the Gothenburg Museum of Art, and at the other, the oldest part of the city, surrounded by a moat. Lined with glitzy boutiques, restaurants and bars, you won’t be short of options. Make sure to check out the side streets and street art jazzing up the walk. I Getting there: Fly direct to these beautiful European hotspots from Birmingham Airport with airlines including BMI Regional. Monarch, Ryanair and Jet2.com. With flight times from as little as 2 hours, you could be exploring your city of choice in no time.

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INNOVATION, Innovation, INNOVATION Back from the biggest event in the bathroom design calendar, Lisa Melvin shares her discoveries – including super loos inspired by the Kardashians!

GROWN UP GLAMOUR Bathroom featuring Geberit Monolith toilet by Lisa Melvin Design

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SMALL BUT PERFECTLY FORMED Shower room by Ripples at Cookes

resh from a trip to the most influential event in the industry, ISH in Frankfurt, I’m back in Blighty brimming with new ideas inspired by the latest advances in technology. Firstly, let’s talk about shower toilets. Twenty years ago the UK had a stab at bidets which saw them randomly fitted in bathrooms across the country. It was the done thing, but we had no idea what to do with them and the trend faded. Well, they’re back (sort of), but in a much more sophisticated and integrated way. The new generation of toilets showcased in Frankfurt are state-of-the-art with in-built bidet functions, heated seats, carbon deodorising systems that are good for the environment

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and self-cleaning features. Japanese firms such as Toto lead the way and they believe once people from across the globe have experienced the technology at the Tokyo Olympics there’ll be no going back to a standard loo.

CALL OF NATURE Many high end hotels in London have had to install the technology as visitors from the Far East demand it and with TV reality stars the Kardashians Instagramming their super loos it’s only a matter of time before we’re all at it. With a starting price of around £900 rising to a whopping £13,000, they’re not cheap, but worth it. On the theme of toilets, Duravit has taken the theme of wellness a step further introducing its Biotracer loo. Believe it or not, the Biotracer analyses a sample of your urine and lets you know what’s happening in your body via your smartphone! Gives a whole new meaning to the call of nature… Bathrooms are becoming bigger with more zoning transforming them from just rooms into relaxation suites. In some of the new builds I work on, the space allocated for bathrooms is enormous. Sofas, chill-out zones, dressing areas, mood lighting and music make for a pretty indulgent space. There’s also a trend for segregating the toilet, so it doesn’t interfere with the luxurious, relaxing vibe.

CLEVER DESIGN Bathroom by Classic Interiors

MIRROR MIRROR Bathroom by Lisa Melvin Design

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NEUTRAL BAY Bathroom by Lisa Melvin Design

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SUITE SUCCESS Bathroom by Ripples at Cookes

Conversely, for the bijou bathroom there are some genius space saving solutions, such as doors that fold back as well as short projection toilets and basins, clever corner units and shower screens that double up as full-length mirrors. So, there’s no need to comprise on style in a small space.

TOUCH OF GLASS The whirlpool spa bath is making a comeback. The technology is much better than its previous incarnation with self-cleaning e-water systems that ensure squeaky clean pipework – one of the problems with the original product – and some include ambient lighting and channelled music. This year’s versions are more expensive, but you get what you pay for. Glass generally was a big theme at in Frankfurt too. Beautiful bespoke Italian basins and pedestals made by craftsmen are like works of art for your bathroom. Much easier to clean than old school glass basins, 2017’s versions are textured and as tough as porcelain, so it makes sense. Mirrors are big news (literally) as some are capable of streaming live news bulletins while you wash as well as providing ambient lighting and music, all while powering up your electric toothbrush. More than just aesthetics – although clearly that’s important too – mirrors have become an integral part of bathroom design. I

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BIJOU BEAUTY Wall covering by Farrow and Ball

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HOMES NATURAL VIBE Wooden accessories range, The White Company, Grand Central

ATTENTION TO DETAIL Hexagon mirror £129, M&S, The Fort Shopping Park

MAKE IT UP Marble brush holder £24, Oliver Bonas, New Street Station

FINISHING

TOUCHES

DESIGNER TOWEL Romy towel by Missoni Home, five-piece set £164, Amara

Create your own stylish relaxation zone with these game-changing accessories

CLOSE UP READY Robert Welch Burford extending mirror £140, Houseology AND RELAX Snuggler £1,249, House of Fraser, Mell Square

STAND UP Eucalyptus tree jewellery stand £26, Oliver Bonas, New Street Station

ALL THAT GLITTERS Christy towels, House of Fraser, Mell Square LIGHTS FANTASTIC Ashley Thomas Penelope chandelier £320, Debenhams, Bullring

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LAUNDRY IN STYLE Marrakech laundry bin, Melbros Gallery Showroom

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Hot Properties A great country house with its own organic fruit farm and a city centre penthouse with lovely canal views feature in this month’s star homes

PICK OF THE CROP Hermitage Court, Worcestershire Guide price: £2.25million Agent: Fisher German, tel 01905 726220

An amazing six-bedroom, country house with delightful gardens – and a 47-acre organic fruit farm! The principal house includes a great open-plan kitchen, three further reception rooms and three bathrooms. There’s also a lovely adjoining three-bedroom cottage, further outbuildings and a view to die for.

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BRICKS&BITS DEMAND FOR MORE SPACE Increased demand for new homes in Birmingham has led to Tamworth-based architects Building Design Group (BDG) taking office space in the Jewellery Quarter to be near its multi-million pound city projects. Ian Harding, director at BDG, said: “The Midlands Engine and regeneration plans, such as the £900million redevelopment around Curzon Street Station, have created a high demand for residential property in Birmingham, which in turn drives the city’s development and business.”

WATERSIDE PERMISSION Brownfield regeneration specialist Inland Homes has been granted planning consent to develop 148 residential units at Sherborne Wharf in Birmingham. The development of the 2.4-acre brownfield site is a key part of the council’s waterside regeneration scheme.

VALLEY PARK SCHEME BID IM Properties has submitted plans for a 209,000 sq ft speculative industrial and logistics scheme at Blythe Valley Park. John Hammond, UK investment director at IM, said: “Blythe Valley Park represents our most significant-ever acquisition and is one of the most desirable out of town office locations in the region and one of the most strategically located in the UK”.

From the industry’s movers and shakers to the latest groundbreaking developments… email your property news and pictures to shelley@brumliving.co.uk

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CANAL VIEWS Liberty Place, Birmingham city centre Guide price: £725,000 Agent: Maguire Jackson, tel 0121 634 1520 A stylish and beautifully presented two-bedroom penthouse apartment with high vaulted ceilings, stylish fitted kitchen with integrated appliances and a conservatory that leads to a fantastic roof terrace overlooking the canal.

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WOOD YOU BELIEVE IT! Church End Farm, Coleshill Guide price: £1.25million Agent: Fine and Country, tel 0121 746 6400 Set in 9.25 acres of idyllic Warwickshire countryside, this five-bedroom, Grade II-listed, timber framed country home also boasts a stunning separate converted barn annex. The property also claims to have the oldest internal beam in existence in a residential home in the UK.

OPEN PLAN LIVING Queensway House, Birmingham Guide price: £595,000 Agent: Knight Frank, tel 01789 297735

Just a stone’s throw from Snow Hill Station, this cracking four-bedroom apartment has an awesome open-plan living/kitchen area, spacious master bedroom with ensuite bathroom and a 195sq ft terrace.

Don’t miss Property of the Week on our Facebook page every Thursday

www.facebook.com/bhamliving june 2017

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MOTORING

PETROL PICK With diesel cars under threat, Sue Cooke has been trying out a great new small VW petrol engine in the facelifted SEAT Leon f your decision this year, against the very real threat of a diesel scrappage scheme, is to move away from buying a diesel engine, then you really should road test the new 1.0-litre petrol engine in the facelifted SEAT Leon range. I must say however that the latest Euro 6 diesel engines are extremely clean and extremely quiet. But buying a smaller car engine is advantageous when a

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FACTS AT A GLANCE: Model: SEAT Leon five-door SE Price: £19,235 otr Engine: 1.0-litre TSi Ecomotive Performance: 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 123mph CO2 emissions: 102g/km Combined fuel consumption: 64.2mpg

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surplus of power is available. And that is what this fantastic 1.0-litre TSi Ecomotive engine has, reaching 62mph in 9.6 seconds. SEAT says it has seen a shift to petrol over the last few months and it’s highly likely that interest will increase when there is a choice like this three-cylinder. The exterior design changes of the new third generation Leon are subtle. SEAT, which is part of the Volkswagen Group, is promoting a raft of highend technology, such as Connectivity Hub (wireless phone charger with built in GSM signal booster), Front Assist and Pedestrian Protection and Traffic Jam Assist, to name but a few. There is a very wide range of models to choose from with a choice of the three-door, which starts from £17,455, the best-selling five-door, or the estate model (ST) which comes with four-wheel drive and starts from £18,450.

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The quality interior has new upholsteries and doors that shut with a satisfying thud, while indicators emit a discreet tick. The range starts with the S trim but SEAT predicts that the best-seller will be the SE Dynamic which will be particularly attractive to fleet buyers with low Benefit in Kind, low running costs, high residual values and more equipment. Fifty-two per cent of buyers of the Leon will be company car drivers.

LAUNCH CONTROL For those preferring a sporty look, the FR trim – which has a different front and rear exterior design, twin exhaust pipes, dark tinted rear windows and a 15ml lower chassis – will be the favourite. The performance model is the Leon Cupra, which has an extra 10PS of power, more torque and 4Drive for supreme traction and handling. The ESC can be fully deactivated and on the DSG model there is a very scary Launch Control, probably better experienced on a race circuit!

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There is a choice of manual or DSG transmission which costs £1,350 more and includes steering wheel paddle shift. Other engines available include five petrol and three diesel. There is an uprated Euro6 1.6-litre diesel with 115 PS which SEAT expects to be the best-seller for the fleet market. The new Leon is easily available throughout the UK as SEAT has 123 dealerships which are all in the process of changing to an exciting new branding identity. Since the launch of its first SUV, the Ateca, SEAT is receiving the highest customer interest it has ever seen. And this will continue with the launch of the striking next generation Ibiza, the Arona which is the baby brother to the Ateca and a new seven-seat large SUV in 2018. Whatever your choice of Leon, please do try this new 1.0-litre engine. You won’t be disappointed. I

SHOWROOM: Bristol Street Motors, 101 Watson Road, B7 5SA. Tel: 0121 327 3700 www.seat.co.uk

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YOUNG, GIFTED & BRUMMIE

SALLY REA MORRIS After winning a talent competition at work that led to supporting Sam Bailey on stage, the singer-songwriter is turning her back on a career in events and following her country music dreams

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ocal country singer-songwriter Sally Rea Morris has been into music for as long as she can remember, but things just got a little bit more serious. After winning the opportunity to support the X Factor’s Sam Bailey in March, Sally has left her job in events and hospitality at The Belfry and is pursuing her dream to make a living from her music. It was while at The Belfry that Sally’s music career took an up-turn. In the hotel’s talent competition, Belfry’s Got Talent which was judged by Sam Bailey, Sally triumphed and relished her prize supporting Sam on stage. While Sally was used to gigging, she hadn’t performed in a theatre setting and was wowed by the experience. She said: “It was amazing. A theatre audience is so different and all the attention is on you.”

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BIT SPECIAL Surrounded by music as a child, it was obvious early on that Sally was a bit special. She said: “I’ve always loved music. My dad had guitars and there were all kinds of instruments at home.” Sally started writing music aged 12, performed in school choirs and was a regular in the city of Birmingham Young Voices choir. Clearly creative, Sally was baffled when taking her options at school it wasn’t possible to choose music and art. It was one or the other. She opted for music and went on to complete a Btec in music at college too. Always performing, Sally was a regular on Birmingham’s music scene gigging around

town while studying. Not content with promoting her own talents, she started running an open mic night at the Roadhouse that became hugely successful and uncovered some great local talent like Esther Turner. “Aged just 15 at the time Esther has gone on to do really well. She’s supported The Jacksons among others. I’m really proud of that,” said Sally. Clearly America is the centre of the country music universe and Sally loves it. An internship in events and hospitality in the US meant she was able to absorb the country vibe first-hand which cemented her passion for the genre. “I began open mic singing while I was out there. It allowed me to travel and I met loads of amazing people.” She plans to spend a lot more time there and was preparing to go to Nashville just after we spoke. Leaving The Belfry was a bit daunting, but the company has been incredibly supportive making it clear the door is always open. Sally’s focused on writing and recording working with Gavin Monaghan in the studio preparing to put a record out with her band Gasoline and Matches. Influences include US country star Butch Walker who Sally was lucky enough to meet. She recalled: “They say never meet your idols in case you’re disappointed, but it wasn’t the case. We were in a bar drinking vodka at 2am! He’s just a great guy. Really charismatic.” With only one major country music event in the UK, Sally would like to see more. “There’s C2C at the O2 in London which is pretty big, but that’s it. It’s an amazing genre with really passionate fans. There should be more here in the UK.” With her events grounding we wouldn’t bet against her forging ahead and organising her own. Despite her penchant for the US, Birmingham will always be home. Sally explained: “It’s such a young energetic city. The shopping is second to none and there are new restaurants popping up all the time. Independents are thriving. Places like Digbeth Dining Club are doing great things. I can’t see myself living anywhere else. Birmingham’s home.” I Checkout Sally Rea Morris and Gasoline and Matches on Twitter @SallyReaMorris and @Gasolineonline

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GROWING PLACES

GOLD AWARD Talented BCU jewellery design student Maggie Lin Jung-Hsuan saw off hundreds of budding designers from across the UK to win Ingle & Rhode’s 2017 Fairtrade Gold Design Award for Undergraduates which is voted for by the public. Maggie said: “Winning the public vote for the awards is amazing and I can’t thank Ingle & Rhode enough. The exposure this opportunity has provided is outstanding and will put me in good stead when looking for employment.”

SCHOOL REPOR T

Birmingham Livin g is committed to highlighting the best of our sc hools and college s. Here’s our round-up of the la test stand-out ne ws and events

JUMPING FOR JOY: KEHS girls show their love of ‘cool’ maths

THE JOY OF MATHS SERVING UP A WIN

A campaign by TV Countdown’s Rachel Riley to improve the

Tennis ace Stuart Shannon from Bromsgrove Preparatory School triumphed in one of the top Grade 3 events on the LTA regional tour. Stuart and his doubles partner Thomas Horsley from Yorkshire won the U14 boys’ doubles title in the Waverley Bruntsfield Sports Junior Open in Edinburgh in a three-set epic match ending 3-6, 6-4, 13-11.

for Girls. The school’s head of maths, Harry Kavanagh, says

image of maths was welcomed by King Edward VI High School initiatives like his Maths Masterclass Club encourage more youngsters to embrace the subject. As well entering pupils in competitive Olympiads, he runs a weekly after-school session for 50 gifted mathematicians from KEHS and four other Birmingham schools. “Rachel Riley is right that in many schools maths is seen as a difficult subject and one part of demystifying it is to make it ‘cool’ for young people to enjoy,” he added.

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GROWING PLACES

EX-ROBBER TELLS HIS STORY Former armed robber John McAvoy who found redemption through the power of sport has been inspiring pupils at Aston Manor Academy with his remarkable story. John broke British and World indoor rowing records while in prison and is now building a new life as an athlete, coach and speaker in the hope that he can help youngsters to make better life choices than he did.

SIMON’S SUPER RUN BOOKING IN: Annie Muscutt, centre, with pupils Laura Arundale, Alex Witt, James Dunn and Catherine Chung

TEACHER TURNED AUTHOR Year 6 Winterfold School pupils enjoyed a creative writing workshop led by author Annie Muscutt – who they know best as ‘Mrs Muscutt’, a reception teacher at the school! Annie had her first novel, Eringuild published in the summer of 2016. Her latest novel, The Devil Within, is a thriller set in early 20th century British countryside. “Writing is a creative passion of mine and I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to share my skills with Winterfold pupils,” she said.

Six-year-old Simon Gunning has completed a sponsored 5k run in Cannon Hill Park to raise funds for Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice. The youngster from St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Harborne said: “The hospice is a very good charity because it helps people who are sick. My class at St Mary’s School chose the hospice as our charity for Lent and I wanted to help get them even more money.” Simon raised a brilliant £260.

NATIONAL SUCCESS Talented woodwind musician Jemima Pickersgill shone in the Gregynog Young Musician of the Year competition, reaching the semi-finals. The Moreton Hall pupil and member of the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Great Britain performed two challenging pieces – the 2nd Movement of Brahms 1st Clarinet Concerto and the 3rd Movement of Horovitz’s Clarinet Sonatina. “It was a wonderful experience to be able to listen to as well as play with these incredible musicians,” said Jemima.

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ADVERTORIAL

NEW HEIGHTS AT

THE HYATT

The multi-award-winning Hyatt Regency Birmingham is set to offer even greater levels of excellence this year with ambitious development plans and key new personnel

t’s exciting times ahead at the Hyatt love with the business when I worked Regency Birmingham. Under the at the Crowne Plaza while still at leadership of general manager Mario college. I’ve also had stints working for Flanagan, the stunning four-star hotel that recruitment companies, so I’m really proudly sits in the heart of the city has risen passionate about combining hospitality to new heights over the last few years. In the with helping people fully develop process, the Hyatt has cleaned up a whole themselves. I’ve been lucky enough to raft of awards, including Best Hotel and experience so much variety in my Best Bar at both the recent Wonders of career, from opening gastro pubs and Westside (WOW) Awards run by Westside new restaurants in the Midlands to BID and have also been nominated for the running fine dining establishments in MFDH 2017 awards. But this is no time to Melbourne and also helping launch rest on their laurels and there are some Resorts World last year. I just love Restaurant manager, Kate Gale ambitious development plans ahead. the buzz of making sure customers Mario has always maintained that people are the most have a fabulous time. important asset and the key to the hotel’s continued success. True to this principle some key new personnel have recently What is your role? joined. We caught up with restaurant manager Kate Gale, I look after all the catering for our Aria Restaurant who joined earlier this year, to find out more about her and and also the in-room dining and oversee a team of the hotel's plans for an awesome 2017. around 25. We’re all committed to providing the very best customer experience and working hand-in-hand Tell us about yourself with our bar manager Justin Davies. We’re attracting I’m a proud Brummie from Bournville and have been some really great people and there are some very in the hospitality industry for 20 years since falling in exciting plans ahead.

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What’s it like to be part of the Hyatt family? I know it sounds cheesy but it’s like one big family here. I knew within about a minute of meeting the food and beverage manager, Alex and Mario that I wanted to work for them. There’s a fabulous culture here and hopefully this helps us pass on a positive experience to our customers. Exciting things happening at the hotel? We’ve recently completed a full refurbishment of the hotel’s luxurious Amala Spa & Club with an exclusive re-launch taking place later this month. It provides a serene setting where guests can swap the hubbub of Birmingham’s vibrant streets for a day of relaxation and pampering. It has a 16m pool which is the longest hotel pool and we’ve recently partnered with ESPA skincare so there are lots of new spa treatments. Also our gym now features brand new state of the art equipment and we’ve introduced exclusive gym memberships that also offer discounts on hotel areas too. We hear great things about the afternoon tea Beautiful and so popular! It’s a traditional tea with gorgeous scones, clotted cream and preserves but with a Hyatt twist so there are also things like Mojito Posset, Orange Polenta Cake, Earl Grey

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SUNDAY LUNCH OFFER: Enjoy a stunning Sunday lunch at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham and enjoy a complimentary dessert when you order two courses. Simply quote Birmingham Living magazine. Prices are 2 courses £25.50, children 12 or under £14.00. 3 courses usually £32.50, children 12 or under £17.50.

Cream and Pistachio & White Chocolate Tart. We have a new themed afternoon tea coming, so watch this space! What would you recommend from the menu? We’ve just re-introduced the Hyatt Sunday lunch which used to be a bit of Birmingham Institution and it’s really gorgeous. The roast beef just melts in your mouth and with proper portions, it’s great value. We have a new and extensive wine list which complements every course. The cocktails in the Gentleman & Scholar Pub are to die for. He’s far too modest to say it himself but Justin is a bit of a magician! I would thoroughly recommend the Bora Bora – it’s non-alcoholic but transports you to a South Pacific island…amazing! I Hyatt Regency Birmingham, 2 Bridge Street, Birmingham B1 2JZ. Tel: 0121 643 1234 www.birmingham.regency.hyatt.co.uk

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ing livBUSINESS

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GTECH

The cordless home and garden products company has seen turnover double in two years thanks to its innovative range and entrepreneurial leader – who is now getting on his eBike! atch any satellite TV channel and when the ad breaks come along chances are you will see a normal-looking guy using a cordless vacuum cleaner, hedge trimmer, lawn mower or riding on an electric bike. Nick Grey is the man upfront as well as behind the huge growing success story that is the Midlands business Gtech. The company Nick launched in 2001 from his garage at home with just £18,000 had turned over £66million by 2015 – and has now doubled that figure to £120million. Gtech’s products all have some common denominators – they are all the brainchild of Nick, who is inventor as well as business leader; they all have top technology at their core to carry out simple jobs better, more efficiently, more cleanly and easily; and they all boast the charcoal grey and lime green finish which Gtech has made its own. “Having products that work brilliantly, are brilliantly designed and really look the part are all key

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factors in the success of Gtech,” said Nick. And consumers agree with him, witnessed by the fact that more than 22 million products have been sold in 19 countries. Based at Shire Business Park in Worcester, Gtech has getting on for 100 staff working at HQ as well as many more in America and China.

TECHNOLOGY & TRUST The current product range includes cordless upright AirRam and cordless handheld Multi vacuums, three power sweepers, cordless mower, hedgetrimmers and strimmer and the latest and most exciting of the lot – three versions of Gtech’s eBike, cycles with electric pedal assist. “I’m thrilled what we have all achieved with the business,” said Nick. “We’ve established Gtech as a brand you can really rely on and which combines superb performance with great technology and design.” It’s the sense of the consumer identifying with the brand and what it stands for that sees Nick present his

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COMPANY TO WATCH

years, working his way up in design engineering to head of product development. He left aged still only 32 on a mission to develop his own ideas for a cordless lightweight vacuum cleaner. He saved up £18,000 – which sounds barely a believable amount to set up any business, even 16 years ago – and worked on designs with whatever materials he could lay his hands on in his garage. “My first prototype cleaner was made using a broom handle and bits and pieces from all sorts of donor products.” His big break came thanks to some contacts in the business in America who encouraged Nick to takes his ideas and products to the Chicago House Show. “The product flew in the States and convinced the people who had helped me get to the show to pay for the tooling needed to make the product in the numbers needed,” said Nick. “It became clear we needed much more capacity to keep up with the huge demand.” Gtech also ‘flew’ in the German and Australian markets before making a big impact here in the UK. “Then someone said why don’t you make products for outdoors too? At that time all electric trimmers and strimmers had to have long power cables draped everywhere. They were hard to use and not very safe.” Like all of its products, Gtech started out ensuring the battery technology was as good as it could be, and then created its range of outdoor tools, including a cordless mower. products in TV advertising. It’s an unusual step because most businessmen are far happier leaving that job to specialist hired help. “For the first 10 years of the company I wouldn’t do it, I said I was the inventor not the presenter. But then the new person in charge of branding came in and told me to ‘get out there’ to give added authenticity to the product. I went away and did some media training and it seems to have worked.” Gtech started out as a 100 per cent retail brand but then added direct to customer business. “Moving forward, I’d like to see a hybrid of both,” said Nick. “Direct business keeps you close to your customers which is very important, but I appreciate that you have to have a presence in the big retailers too.”

CORDLESS MISSION Nick says he always knew growing up that he’d want to run his own company one day, he just didn’t know what that would be. After 18 months fitting double glazing on cold and draughty building sites, he saw an advert for a job at local vacuum cleaner company Vax where he stayed for 12

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BIKE TO BASICS The same philosophy was applied to the eBike. “I had tried an electric bike and it was an appalling thing,” said Nick. “It was complicated beyond belief with so many settings and 27 gears to select from, which is ridiculous. What I wanted was a simple bike, with just two gears and electric assist when you need it to get up hills or just coast along. We realised that the cycling enthusiasts wanted a bit more and we made our sport model and now have just launched our mountain bike too. It means everyone can go get up the Malvern Hills if they want and enjoy it without all the usual agony!” If a designer and engineer who’s also an innovator, entrepreneur and all-round front man sounds like someone else more famous we all know, Nick’s not worried. “Far from it,” he said. “Competing in the same market with James Dyson is tough but rewarding. As a market leader Dyson is great because of the interest he has created in the sector. I suppose you would have to call him a hero…” I

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BUSINESS

CHEERS TO CHINA A Midlands family-run winery is the toast of China after being invited to supply wine merchants in Shanghai and Beijing. Buzzards Valley Vineyard, Sutton Coldfield impressed the Chinese at the Fine Foods Expo held in March in Shanghai. The company was represented at the expo by Birmingham solicitors Ian Henery, which was also invited by large law firm Winteam 500 to be a part of its network with more than 100 branches in China.

BUSINESS NEWS ON TIME: Gavin Wade, director of Eastside Projects, Susan Philipsz and Big Art Project chairman Glyn Pitchford

PR FIRM EXPANDS Birmingham-based PR consultancy Story Comms is having a successful first half of the year after gaining four client wins, expanding its specialist team and moving into new offices in Colmore Business District. The new clients are British Business Bank’s Midlands Engine Investment Fund, Drive Midlands, Enterprise Telford and national property firm CEG. Reflecting Story’s rapid growth, two new faces have bolstered the team – account manager and corporate communications specialist Sophie Zumbe and account executive Arya Chopra.

BIG ART WINNER CLOCKS ON The winner of the £2million Birmingham Big Art Project was revealed to business leaders and VIPs. Station Clock by Turner Prize-winning Susan Philipsz is a large aural clock, comprising of 12 digits representing the 12 tones of the musical scales. It uses different vocal combinations for each digit made up of more than 1,000 voices from Birmingham’s diverse population. The clock will sit in a new square at Eastside’s HS2 station. See Social Scene

HEATING HERO

A local heating engineer has been named one of the UK’s best after going above and beyond the call of duty to help a visually impaired customer with his central heating. Stuart Woodward who words for HomeServe Walsall & Sutton, was crowned regional winner in the West Midlands category at the 2017 Heating Installer Awards, which celebrate the unsung heroes of the industry in the UK. The 47-year-old lives in Stechford, Birmingham. AWARD: Stuart with HomeServe Connect MD Thomas Rebel

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BUSINESS

BARRISTERS ON THE BALL HELP: From the left, Wigley Group director James Davies, MD Robert Wigley and L/Cpl Gavin Prue

PARAS SUPPORT A commercial property company is helping soldiers into new careers. Wigley Support Fund, set up by the Wigley Group, helps retrain soldiers identified by the Parachute Regiment charity Support Our Paras. The first beneficiary is Coventry-born L/Cpl Gavin Prue who is studying computing at the city’s Henley College. The company has raised £63,000 from its annual Golf Open and Gala Dinner over the last four years. This year’s event is on 19 July at Staverton Park De Vere, Daventry.

WELCOME: Victoria Metcalfe, Neil Rogers, Jessica

Twenty-eight teams competed for seven titles in the No5 Barristers’ Chambers National Club Championships at Edgbaston Priory Club. The three-year partnership between No5 Barristers and the Edgbaston club aims to grow the event and raise awareness of squash and squash57/racketball, including the national racketball championships that will be held at the Priory in July.

GROWING PLACES Investec Wealth & Investment has promoted Nicholas Jones to divisional director and head of the firm’s Birmingham office. He takes over from Adrian Quin, who has been appointed regional head – Midlands and South West. Nicholas joined IW&I as an investment director when the firm acquired Williams de Broë in 2012. In his new role he will focus on growing the Birmingham office’s private client base and partnerships with financial advisers. MOVING UP: Nick Jones, left, and Adrian Quin

Fountain and Charlotte Hampton

NEW FACES The Birmingham office of business and finance adviser Grant Thornton has invested further in its city-based tax team with four key appointments. Joining the Entrepreneur and Private Client (EPC) team is senior manager Victoria Metcalfe. Also recruited to the EPC team is Charlotte Hampton. Grant Thornton’s corporate tax team is expanding with two new associate directors, Jessica Fountain and Neil Rogers.

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AIMEE TAKES OFFICE TITLE Delighted Aimee Williams of Thursfields Solicitors has won the Office Manager of the Year title at prestigious legal awards. Judges at Worcestershire Law Society’s Legal Awards said Aimee’s “hard work, attention to detail and tenacity” clinched her the trophy. Aimee is Thursfields’ internal operations manager coordinating 140 staff based at sites in Worcester, Stourport-on-Severn, Halesowen, Sedgley, Birmingham and Solihull.

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WOMEN IN BUSINESS FIRST A new networking group for Birmingham businesswomen has launched. The Women in Business Quarterly evening, sponsored by recruitment group Alexander Daniels, was held at Grosvenor House, St Paul’s Square. Delegates heard about the rise to success of two prominent businesswomen – Sharon Walton, COO of property management consultancy GVA and Eileen Schofield, chairwoman of Birmingham Law Society. The next Women in Business Quarterly event is on 13 July.

INVESTING IN MIDLANDS A new body to attract investment, jobs, visitors and businesses to the region has been set up. West Midlands Growth Company was formally established at a Marketing Birmingham general meeting. Formed by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), it will raise the profile of the region in national and global markets, making it more attractive to investors. It will work in partnership with LEPs, local authorities, growth hubs, universities and the private sector. LEADER: Paul Kehoe, above, chairman of the new West Midlands Growth Company

BREAKFAST LAUNCH Birmingham and Solihull-based recruitment firm SimkissGuy Recruitment, is partnering with Aston Business School to deliver a series of business breakfast events. Fresh Perspectives will provide business leaders with the opportunity to gain insight and hear from a different guest speaker on a bi-monthly basis. The first event included a presentation on Brexit by Dr Andrew Glencross, senior lecturer at the Department of Politics and International Relations at Aston University.

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MILESTONE FOR HSBC HQ It’s all systems go for HSBC UK’s new head office in Birmingham. Work is well underway on interior installations, including internal walls, lift machinery and plumbing, following the official ‘topping out’ of the new £200million building at Centenary Square. HSBC UK is moving more than 1,000 head office roles from London. Antonio Simoes, CEO of HSBC Bank plc, pictured, said: “We’re proud that our new head office will be one of the greenest buildings in Birmingham.”

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TOP BOSSES RAISE ROOF FOR HEROES Air ambulance gathering enjoys high life as Rofuto lays on special business lunch idlands Air Ambulance Charity hosted a networking event at Park Regis Birmingham’s rooftop Rofuto restaurant. Held in association with Wall James Chappell, the lunch was attended by CEOs, managing directors, senior managers and corporate supporters of the charity. Guests sipped lemongrass cocktails, sampled fresh sushi and enjoyed a feast of Japanese chicken and sticky rice, while appreciating panoramic views of the city. The charity’s corporate partnerships manager Sofia Voutianitis said: “Guests made many exciting new business connections, as well as discussing fresh ideas with old friends.” I

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1 Jack Royle, Neil Betteridge, Max Allen. 2 Nigel Dunn, Craig Withers, David Fisher, Richard Cupples. 3 Sofia Voutianitis, Hanna Sebright, Anabela Ferreira, James Roussell, Susanna Griffiths. 4 Anne-Marie Eden, Fiona Lockyer. 5 Sandeep Nandra, Lee Gill, Dave Hadley. 6 Arthur Chan, David Owen, Simon Muncey. 7 Gurdip Chamba, Chris Allen-Jones, Roger Stone 8 Lisa Moore, Anthony Levelle, Tessa Rhodes. Photography by Jermaine Clarke, i.One Photography

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BRINDLEYPLACE GREETS NEW THAI RESTAURANT Premium offering with a twist on the menu as Siamais makes a big splash

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uests enjoyed the launch of a new Bangkokinspired restaurant and bar in Brindleyplace. Siamais takes its name from the word Siam (the old name for Thailand) and the word Siamese to reflect the twin offering of food and drink. The eatery – quirky in style but a premium offering – boasts a menu that is a modern representation of Thai classics. There is even a ‘secret’ drinks menu which changes every month. I

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1 Sara Saba, Krishna Parmar, Beth Deaves, Keshia Golbourne. 2 Yen Ting Miu, Nishil Nathwani, Conor McCormack. 3 Becky Humphries, Janna Hadley. 4 Aidan and Anne McGowan. 5 Maila Tablizo, Stefan Mirea. 6 Aidan and Anne McGowan. 7 Simran Bansal, Steve Denyer. 8 Nathan Humphries, Anita Champaneri, Andy Goulding. 9 Nishil Nathwani, Sacha Brooks, Yen Ting Miu. Photography by Designer Photography

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LIFE’S A BALL AT 50 FOR BIRTHDAY GIRL Masquerade ball with family and friends makes for an unforgettable celebration racy-Jane Cummings from the 6th Gear Group, celebrated her 50th birthday at Nailcote Hall, Berkswell. Guests enjoyed the black and red-themed masquerade ball hosted in Nailcote’s bespoke marquee. “I couldn’t think of anywhere better to celebrate than at the gorgeous Nailcote Hall which is owned by my very special friends Sue and Rick Cressman,” said Tracy-Jane. “Thanks to all my lovely friends and family for helping make it such a memorable and fantastic occasion.” I

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1 Tracy-Jane Cummings, Linda Takhar, Rachel Patstone, Lori Slark. 2 Tony ‘Banger’ and Carol Walsh, Sue Cressman, Tracy Ford, Jon Day. 3 Tracy-Jane and Andy Cummings. 4 Holly Alsop, Janet Miles, Nicola Steele. 5 Ruth Reader-Georgeson, Razia Meer-Baloch, Sarah Grace, Ben Bates. 6 Eileen Meredith, Shelley Irwin, Derek and Wroxy Meredith.

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MOVERS AND SHAKERS EVENT HELD AT BISTRO 4

Legal firm on the case as professionals take time out to relax at Purnell’s Bistro ‘Movers and Shakers’ professional networking event was held by Birmingham legal firm Sydney Mitchell at Ginger’s Bar, Purnell’s Bistro in Newhall Street. More than 50 professionals from the city and wider Midlands region enjoyed the occasion – many commenting on the relaxed atmosphere and the excellent cross–section of professionals in attendance. The food provided by Glyn Purnell and his team was, as always, superb. I

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1 Andy McGill, Morgan Keating, Rebecca Gadd, Joph Young. 2 Richard Smith, Suzanna Patalong, Nick Frost. 3 Clive Perks, Andrea Jones, Clive Margetts. 4 Stewart Coles, Angela Hyde, Brian Chappelhow. 5 Sundeep Bilkhu, Ian Marriott, Hayley-Jo Lockley. 6 Ian Morgan, Kay Passars, Paul Maycock. 7 Mike Hobbis, Linda Heyworth, Gerald Irwin. 8 Lucy Bluck, Ellie Lewis, Shelley Collingbourne. 9 Paul Fielding, Amanda Holland, Paul Sargent.

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MAZARS HOSTS TEA AT THE CUBE FOR CHARITY Children facing life-threatening illnesses benefit from ladies afternoon fund-raiser nternational accountancy and advisory firm Mazars hosted a ladies afternoon tea in aid of charity at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill at The Cube. The event was in aid of Molly Olly’s Wishes which supports children with terminal or lifethreatening illnesses and their families. The charity – founded in 2011 by Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw after their daughter Molly lost a five-year fight against cancer – grants individual wishes and donates therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK. I

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1 Emma Wells, Emma Baker, Abhi Punj. 2 Julia Fitzsimmons, Rebecca Prince. 3 Danielle Boyce, Emma Harper, Stevie Heafford, Laura Thursfield. 4 Aanisha Begg, Julie Davies, Larraine Heath. 5 Jenna Taylor, Kerry Edwards. 6 Louise Carter-Sheckleford, Adele Raiment, Paige Hylton, Kerry Thomas. 7 Lucy Hogg, Charlotte Ward, Michelle Perry.

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Photography by Dale Martin

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BILLY ELLIOTT STARS BOOST DANCE CASH Hippodrome reception raises funds in support of local young dancers uests at Birmingham Hippodrome got up close with the stars

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Leading Ladies reception. The event featured a pre-show

Q&A with the stars, compered by BBC presenter Kathryn Stanczyszyn, which raised more than ÂŁ3,000 in support of youth dance opportunities in the local community. Prize donations came from Radisson Blu, Birmingham, Wagamamas (the Bullring) and the Mailbox. I

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1 Alison Haigh, Suzanne Barnes, Julia Brookes, Faith Walker. 2 Anja Potze, Jayne Herritty, Audrey Parker. 3 Helena King, Emma Cooper, Mara Lagonigro. 4 Jo Kinsella, Katie Yates, Jo Salmon. 5 Kathryn Stanczyszyn, Tony Garnham. 6 Hadyn May, Italia Ross. 7 Jackie Hendley, Leanne Beardmore. 8 Denise Nickle, Kelly Talbot, Jackie Kelly, Laura Davis. 9 Naz Assadi, Sarah Rush, Natasha Walkden, Debbie Matthews. Photography by Vivienne Bailey

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VIP WELCOME FOR BIG ART PROJECT WINNER City celebrates award of landmark commission to Turner Prize artist he winner of the Birmingham Big Art Project was announced at a special event at BMAG. The £2million public artwork, entitled Station Clock, is by Turner Prize-winning Susan Philipsz. The large-scale aural clock features musical scales and different vocal combinations for the 12-hour digits. Project chairman, Glyn Pitchford, said: “Station Clock will become an iconic image for the city of Birmingham.” The artwork will feature in a public square to be developed around the new HS2 terminal in Eastside. I

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1 Francis Thomas, Anita Bhalla, Cllr Ian Ward. 2 Sarah Fortes-Mayer, Brendan Handley, Kamleigh and Helena Parfect. 3 Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Birmingham, Susan Philipsz, Glyn Pitchford. 4 Sarindar Sahota, Nick Venning. 5 Steve Brookes, Anita Bhalla, Altaf Hussain. 6 Vanessa Boni, Gavin Wade. 7 Courtney Pearce, Jack Mulligan. 8 Susan Philipsz, Lara Ratnaraja, Ammo Talwar. 9 James Lomax, Robin Kirkham, Joanne Masding. 10 Glyn Pitchford, Dominga Devitt, Toby Watley. Photography by Jas Sansi

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WHAT: Elton John Wonderful Crazy Night Tour WHEN: 7 June WHERE: Genting Arena, tel 0844 338 8000 www.theticketfactory.com The pop icon released his 33rd studio album, Wonderful Crazy Night, last year to rapturous acclaim and now he’s wowing audiences across the UK with his epic live show.

WHAT: Antony & Cleopatra WHEN: Now until 7 September WHERE: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, tel 01789 403493 www.rsc.org.uk Following his critically acclaimed productions of Othello and Much Ado About Nothing, Iqbal Khan returns to the RSC to direct Shakespeare’s classic tragedy of love and duty. Starring Josette Simon and Anthony Byrne – and with music composed by Birmingham’s very own Laura Mvula.

WHAT: Beverley Knight plus special guests WHEN: 26 June

WHAT: Coventry’s Motofest

WHERE: Symphony Hall, box office tel 0121 345 0600

WHEN: 3 and 4 June

www.thsh.co.uk

WHERE: Various locations throughout the city

Following the release of last year’s acclaimed Top 10 album Soulsville, the awesome singer songwriter is on the road with a broad set featuring hits from her stellar career as well as a few customary surprises that fans have come to expect from her legendary live shows.

https://coventrymotofest.com

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A great two-day festival dedicated to the city’s motoring heritage. This year promises to deliver the biggest classic vehicle offering ever staged at the event with more than 1,000 cars and bikes on display.

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WHAT’S ON

WHAT: Aegon Classic

WHAT: Foodies Festival

WHEN: 17 to 25 June

WHEN: 23 to 25 June

WHERE: Edgbaston Priory Club, tel 0844 581 4997 www.edgbastonpriory.com Firmly established as one of the top tournaments on the WTA tour, the Aegon Classic returns with a host of top names, including Britain’s own Johanna Konta. Last year the tournament enjoyed the best player field in its 35-year history – and this year is looking even better!

WHERE: Birmingham Cannon Hill Park, www.foodiesfestival.com This wonderful celebration of food and drink returns with live demonstrations, the street food avenue, wine and champagne theatre and a chance to watch Great British Bake Off winner Candice Brown baking live in the Cakes & Desserts Theatre.

WHAT: Birmingham Bears T20 Blast WHEN: 8 July WHERE: Edgbaston Stadium www.birminghambears.com The Bears first home game of the domestic Twenty20 season is against high-flying rivals, the Nottinghamshire Outlaws. Come and cheer the boys on as they try to reverse last year’s defeat.

WHAT: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time WHEN: 4 to 8 July WHERE: Birmingham Hippodrome, tel 0844 338 5000 www.birminghamhippodrome.com The winner of seven Olivier and five Tony awards brings Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel to thrilling life on stage. Adapted by two-time Olivier award-winning playwright Simon Stephens and directed by Olivier and Tony-winning director Marianne Elliott.

WHAT: Breakin’ Convention WHEN: 2 and 3 June WHERE: Birmingham Rep, tel 0121 245 2024 www.birmingham-rep.co.uk WHAT: The Christians WHEN: 1 June WHERE: The Jam House, tel 0121 200 3030 www.thejamhouse.com As part of their 30th anniversary tour the funky chart-toppers are taking to the stage with the full range of their hit singles from the 80s and 90s, including Forgotten Town, Ideal World and Harvest for the World.

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The world’s biggest festival of hip-hop dance theatre arrives in town featuring exciting groups including Just Dance, the Soweto Skeleton Movers and Tentacle Tribe.

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WHAT’S ON

WHAT: Justin Moorhouse

WHAT: BBC Good Food Show

WHEN: 8 July

WHEN: 15 to 18 June

WHERE: The Old Rep Theatre, tel 0121 359 9444

WHERE: NEC, tel 0844 581 1341

www.oldreptheatre.co.uk

www.bbcgoodfoodshowsummer.com

Fresh from Live at the Apollo, this cheeky Northern chappy has been described as a ‘comedic tour de force that will charm your pants off’. With TV credits that include Phoenix Nights, 8 Out of 10 Cats and Shameless, this should be a rib-tickling occasion.

Packed with seasonal produce and ideas for al-fresco entertaining, some of the UK’s top chefs will be cooking up a storm at this unmissable show for food lovers. Tickets include free entry to BBC Gardeners’ World Live.

WHAT: Colmore Food Festival WHEN: 30 June and 1 July WHERE: Victoria Square Birmingham www.colmorefoodfestival.com Celebrating all things Birmingham this fantastic festival run by the Colmore Business District includes live music, cooking demonstrations, entertainment and some mouth-watering dishes and cocktails from some of the finest venues in the area, including New Kids on the Block Gaucho, Gusto and the Alchemist.

WHAT: Ricky Gervais Humanity WHEN: 27 and 28 June WHERE: Barclaycard Arena, tel 0844 338 8000 www.theticketfactory.com The award-winning stand-up comedian is widely considered to be one of the most influential British comedians since Charlie Chaplin. With four massive international tours under his belt this could be one of the hottest shows this year.

WHAT: Rick Wakeman: Piano Portraits In Concert WHEN: 24 June WHERE: Town Hall, box office 0121 345 0600 www.thsh.co.uk Currently celebrating his 50th year as a professional musician, Wakeman recently made chart history when his Piano Portraits album became the first solo piano album to enter the UK’s Top 10. The show will include at least eight of the pieces on the album, plus other musical surprises.

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WHAT: Germaine Greer: Women for Life on Earth WHEN: 29 June WHERE: Mac Birmingham, tel 0121 446 3232 www.macarts.co.uk A unique chance to ask all those burning questions you have been longing to have answered as the outspoken and controversial academic, broadcaster and feminist icon pops into town. Expect a candid, enlightening and highly entertaining encounter.

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WHAT’S ON

WHAT: Royal Ascot Ladies Day in The Marquee WHEN: 22 June WHERE: Nailcote Hall, tel: 02476 466174 www.nailcotehall.co.uk This annual Ascot celebration is always fantastic fun. Enjoy a champagne reception on the terrace, buffet lunch and live big screen TV coverage of all the action, followed by an indulgent afternoon tea.

WHAT: Toyah Willcox – 80s Icon In Concert WHEN: 23 June WHAT: An Evening of Burlesque

WHERE: Redditch Palace Theatre, tel 01527

WHEN: 17 June

65203 www.redditchpalacetheatre.co.uk

WHERE: New Alexandra Theatre, tel 0844 8713011

The pop icon, stage and screen actress and Birmingham Living cover girl is on tour with her Acoustic, Up Close & Personal show. This is a unique chance to experience Toyah in an intimate setting where music and stories take centre stage.

www.atgtickets.com/birmingham Leave your inhibitions at the door and prepare to experience the UK’s biggest burlesque extravaganza. With a bevy of beautiful burlesque stars, speciality variety artists and fabulous costumes. Strictly over-18s only.

WHAT: Brindleyplace Dragonboat Race WHEN: 24 June WHERE: Brindleyplace www.brindleyplace.com Now in its 18th year, the event promises to be bigger and better than ever. The plucky teams do battle in fancy dress to help raise funds for Birmingham-based blood cancer charity Cure Leukaemia. Sponsored by Deutsche Bank, there’s plenty of family-friendly entertainment for spectators and supporters to enjoy.

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IN THE CITY Great radio should be like chatting to your mates in the pub – you have a laugh but you also talk about what’s going on in the world

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF I’m Alex Lester, breakfast presenter for BBC WM. I started my career in Birmingham so it’s great to be back. I grew up in Walsall and studied Communications at Birmingham Poly before getting my first job at BBC WM (then known as Radio Birmingham). It was in this city that I first started presenting for BBC Radio – 13 out of the 30 years I worked there were spent broadcasting from Birmingham and the rest in London. Now I’m back on BBC WM it’s like I’ve come full circle. HOW DO YOU GET INTO TOWN? I drive to BBC Birmingham in the Mailbox from where I live in Wednesbury. My show starts weekdays at 6am so when I head in at 4am it’s very quiet. HOW’S THE COMMUTE? When I head home around lunchtime I’m going against the flow of traffic so I’m lucky enough to escape the rush hour rage then too.

Great radio should be like chatting to your mates in the pub – you have a laugh but you also talk about what’s going on in the world.

LUNCHTIME? If I haven’t brought my Thomas The Tank Engine lunchbox in to work (!) then I will stop off somewhere, but I’m not into posh cuisine. The Lord Clifden in Hockley does a mean all-day breakfast called the Brummie. I also like Café 21 in Perry Barr for a chicken and mushroom pie with veg. POWERWALKING? The old Birmingham canal is forever romantic to me. I used to live on a narrow boat at Hockley Port and loved it.

WHERE’S YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF THE CITY? The music scene in general, wherever that may take me. From live gigs at the Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath to trawling through Breakfast presenter, Alex Lester old records at the Diskery, Bromsgrove Street – I’ve spent hours in there over the years.

IS BRUM A GOOD PLACE TO WORK IN? I’ve worked in a lot of cities and Birmingham has everything that London has but it’s even better because it’s closer together. In my lifetime it’s been completely re-generated. It makes me furious when people say that Manchester and Newcastle are cooler than Birmingham! The pub and music scene here has always been, and still is, second to none. COFFEE BREAK? In the studio, I drink gallons tea – with a mug of tea in your hand you can take on the world! We have a meeting after the show in the offices, but if we go for a chat after work then the best ideas always come in the pub! We go to the Craven Arms nearby or the Wellington on Bennetts Hill.

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AFTERWORK PINT? I like proper old boozers for sitting and holding conversations in rather than bars with big tellies and fancy food. The Barton Arms in Aston is the most fantastic Victorian pub. HOW CAN THE CITY BE MADE BETTER? By getting people to walk more. The city is so allied to motorcars and it’s great how the tram has been extended, but it’s even better if you park up and walk everywhere. You can still see the heritage around Horse Fair and Bristol Street. I Breakfast with Alex Lester, weekdays 6am to 9am, BBC WM 95.6 FM and digital.

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June issue (issue 57)  
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