If you take a walk down Poplar Avenue you'll come across a blue plaque on no 144 which tells you that William Slim, Viscount Slim of Burma used to live there.
With a name like that welovebearwood just had to find out more and luckily we were able to ask our favourite local historian Mary Bodfish about him.
This is what Mary told us.....
"William (always known as Bill) Slim was born Bishopton, Bristol in 1891. The Family moved to Birmingham (and presumably to Poplar Avenue) in 1901. His father, John Slim was in business as a hardware manufacturer and dealer. Bill Slim attended St Philip’s Grammar School on Hagley Road and then transferred to King Edward VI School where he joined the Officer Training Corps. John Slim’s business ran into difficulties, and to help the family financially Bill took the job of a pupil-teacher at a local elementary school for two years before becoming a clerk at tube-makers Stewarts & Lloyds. Bill was by now interested in a military career so he joined the Officer Training Corps at the University of Birmingham, although he was not a student there. In 1914 he was offered a job in London to start in September, but instead the deteriorating international situation catapulted him into the army as a Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Thus began the career of a man who became a consummate soldier who was held in great trust by the men he commanded and who rose to the highest of military ranks. What follows is a very brief resume of his career.
The First World War saw Bill at Gallipoli, where he was wounded; France; then into the West India Regiment with service in Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq), where he was awarded the Military Cross and later wounded for a second time. He was sent to India, where after recovery he served with the Gurka Rifles on the North-Western Frontier. While on board ship returning to England in 1924 he met Aileen Robertson, whom he married 2 years later and with whom he had 2 children. A period out of active service saw him in India as a Staff Officer at the Army headquarters in Delhi and Simla, then as an instructor at the Staff College at Camberley. In 1938 he returned to India and was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel.
With his wealth of experience Lieutenant-Colonel Slim was immensely valuable to the campaigns that were fought early in the Second World War campaigns across east Africa, Iraq, Syria and Persia, during which he was wounded once again. In March 1942 he was given command of the Burma Corps, which was attacked by the Japanese Army and forced to withdraw to India. The Japanese offensive in India was eventually repulsed in desperate battles of which the most famous was fought at Kohima. Slim was promoted to Lieutenant-General and in 1945 headed the British advance into Burma to attack the invading Japanese army. Learning from mistakes made by the Japanese in their failed India campaign he made the supplies to his armies a top priority. His men called themselves “The Forgotten Army” as their theatre of war was so far away from all the action in Europe. He also worked hard to raise the morale of his troops through training them in jungle warfare and insisting that their officers lead the way in taking the horrible-tasting quinine that was essential to prevent malaria. Slim won their trust; his tactics boosted both the physical and mental strength of his men and enabled them eventually defeat the Japanese in Burma. Slim was promoted to General and retired from active service.
His post Second World War career saw him as Commander of the Imperial Defence College; Aide-de-Campe to King George VI; and promotion to Field-Marshal. Amongst other later appointments he was Governor-General of Australia (purely a ceremonial post ). He retired to Britain in 1959 and then served on the boards of several major British companies. Slim’s achievements were recognised by the award of many honours, culminating in that of being created Viscount Slim of Burma. His final appointment was that of Constable of Windsor Castle in 1964 and he died in London in 1970 at the age of 79. He was given a funeral with full military honours at St George’s Chapel, Windsor and a memorial plaque to him was placed in St Pauls’ Cathedral."
Andy Hamilton will go down in the history books for being a jazz legend, for his role in Bearwood Jazz and for being one cool dude.
We wanted to find out more about the great man so with the help of Phil Musgrave we contacted Alan Cross who played a huge role in Andy’s life to find out more.
Alan had so many stories to tell us about Andy that we’ve decided to split the interview into 3 different parts.
Over to you Alan....
How did you become Andy Hamilton’s manager and how long did you manage him for?
I was never really Andys manager, it was much more that I helped him.
It started at Ladywood School where I was Head of PE and Andy lived across the road and sent 7 of his children to the school, there were 2 there when I started in 1973 and 5 more came in the next few years so I got to know him and the family well. When Andy went into his coma in 1985, we all thought he was gone but one day I was told he had come out of the coma and wanted to see me. So I went to the QE and he grabbed my arm and told me the extraordinary story of his vision of of seeing Errol Flynn dancing on the deck of his yacht The Zaca, to a song – Silvershine – that Andy had not played or thought about since leaving Jamaica in 49. He said that while Flynn ( who had been dead for 26 years) was dancing on the deck he pointed at Andy and said “Andy, Keep Playing That Song”.
Andy said he then came out of the coma with the song in his head and had phoned Sam Brown – his piano player – and that he was going to teach the song to his band and he wanted me to organise a gig for him. Something I had never done in my life !
So a couple of months later when he had recovered we organised a gig at The Junction in Harborne, which went well and the landlord asked Andy if he wanted to come and play regularly and Andy pointed at me and said “ I will if he does” I said yes and it all started from there.
What was Andy like to manage?
Wonderful and impossible. Andy had been organising gigs since he was a kid back in Jamaica and since arriving in Birmingham in 49 had played in just about every venue in the city so he was teaching me how to do it. He knew every trick in the book and one of his favourite sayings was “ No ! It don’t go like that !” and he would then explain how things could be done properly. He knew so much more than I did and was quite insistent that things were done properly. He taught me how to make flyers, where to get them printed and places to take them, how to set up a venue, how to get more money for gigs, he also taught me how to compere shows “ Just go out there and preach man. Baptise them!”
Andy must have told you some amazing stories.Do you have a favourite which you would like to share with the readers of welovebearwood?
Andy was a great West Indies cricket fan, he played a lot as a very young boy and saw an England team play in Jamaica in 1929 when his school were given the day off to go and watch. When he came to Birmingham he would always organise nights out when the West Indies came as hundreds of West Indians would come and stay in the city and he did this every time they came on tour, one night at The Bear about 6 of them turned up
He told me the story of how in the 50’s he was blamed for them nearly losing a Test Match they should have won.
In 1957 the West Indies came to Edgbaston to play England, the match started on a Thursday and was scheduled to finish on Tuesday with Sunday as a rest day. Andy had organised nights out on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday.On the first day England were bowled out for 186 with Sonny Ramadhin taking 7-46. The West Indies batted most of Friday and Saturday with Collie Smith, a fellow Jamaican, scoring a brilliant 161 and the West Indies scored a huge 474.
Andy’s gigs were packed with very happy West Indians, the players who came along were bought many drinks by happy fans and stayed till the early hours. On the Monday and Tuesday England batted again and scored 583 – 4 declared against a tired looking West Indies attack and on the Tuesday the West Indies just about hung on for a draw at 72 – 7.
“They all blamed me” said Andy !
It was a very sad day in Bearwood when Andy passed away (3.06.12).The concert at the Symphony Hall and the Blue Notes performance at Mostly Jazz were both fitting tributes to the great man.
What will you miss most about him and what do you think the legacy of Andy Hamilton is?
I miss a very dear friend who had been such an important part of my life for over 25 years, hardly a day went by without a phone call and there was always something to look forward to as we planned the next gig or he would tell me about a new young player he had found.
His legacy is huge, beyond description, almost everybody who came into contact with Andy since he came to Birmingham in 1949 has a story about how he organised a great night out, gave them a chance to play, booked their band or it was where they met their partner, played at their wedding, taught them how to play and then play better, became like a father too them, gave them good advice.
His immediate legacy is The Notebenders Big Band which he set up in about 2004 and are doing really well.
Coming soon in Part 2....all about Bearwood Jazz and how Frank Sinatra’s(yes you heard right.....FRANK SINATRA!) trumpeter played Dirty Betts (now sadly being slowly demolished on Hagley Road)
Viv Cole, Warley Woods Trust Manager, contacted welovebearwood to tell us that they've got a summer project for anybody who's arty or very very crafty!
Viv said "Our old tombola drum died recently. It had been bodged and taped and we finally decided that it helps us raise so much money that we deserved an upgrade.The new drum has arrived from ebay today and is fabulously robust but it is plain wood.Now we could just give it a good plain coat of paint like the old one, but that seems like missing an opportunity and I think it needs a custom paint job - maybe something that relates to the Woods, but certainly something that makes it look cheery on the fundraising stall."
"Anyone up for the challenge?We'd need it done by Friday 7th September so we have time to fill it full of tickets for All About Dogs on the Sunday."
So what do you reckon.....anyone up for the challenge! Please contact Viv at Warley Woods Pavillions for more details.
P.S. We couldn't resist this......it should get rid of those Monday morning blues!
Aston Performing Arts Academy's salute to Usain Bolt
Take some big names and some new ones, stick them all in one of the best symphony halls in the world , add a little West Indian spice and there you go!
Yes, on Wednesday night welovebearwood attended the concert to celebrate 50 years of Jamaican Independence at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall.Wow!We had a great time.
Jaki Graham got us grinning like loons with Could It Be I’m Falling In Love, Beverley Knight made Many Rivers To Cross her own, Aston Performing Arts Academy danced their socks off (saluting Usain Bolt along the way...nice touch, see the above photo), there were Jamaican tinged arias from soprano Abigail Kelly, gospel from the Birmingham Town Hall Choir...we didn’t sit still in our seats once.
Oh... and Count Prince Miller appeared on stage too. He took part in the original Jamaican Independence event back in 1962 and he doesn’t look a day older! Speaking of miracles Benjamin Zephaniah should definitely be our next poet laureate – his poem about British and Jamaican culture was just spot on. Of course the biggest cheer of the night came when the Jamaican Olympic Team appeared on stage. We’ll be rooting for them (as well as Team GB of course).
Jamaican Olympic Team on stage
Bearwood played a big part on Wednesday night too with both The Bear and Corks getting a shout out. We clapped very loudly at those bits. You’ve got to represent your ‘hood...sorry...’wood haven’t you eh?
One of our favourite 80s tunes has always been Pass The Dutchie so we had big smiles on our face when Musical Youth featuring Bearwood’s own Dennis Seaton showed up. Andy Hamilton’s band featuring his sons and friend Vic Evans did Bearwood proud too.You just melt when your hear Vic sing...get this dude an album deal!
Just outside Dudley, so not a million miles away from Bearwood, you'll find Bumblehole.
Going there you would never guess that this quiet splendidly green nature reserve in the Black Country once played a significant role in the Industrial Revolution.
Steven Hodgkinson from The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country contacted us to tell us about the events that are taking place at Bumblehole this summer.
"This years summer holidays promises to be filled with more than glorious sunshine, birds and bees because we want kids across the black country to get out and into the woods to enjoy a traditional break. If you have never climbed a tree, lit a camp fire or played games in the woods then we have the activities for you. With the support and funding from Awardsforall this August The Friends of Bumblehole Conservation group and The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country are hosting free forest play activities. Activities include den building, making shelters, cooking on a campfire, making woodland items – all guided by a professionally qualified Forest School leaders."
Steven also rightly said that "Getting back to nature is what it is all about this summer, we want to get kids back into the woods and greenspaces and let them try out the things that we used to do in the woods. We can show them ropes, fires and dens what more can you ask for!"
Sue Goodyear from the Friends of Bumblehole Conservation group added "Forest play is brilliant for those long summer holidays. We want kids to enjoy and respect the nature reserve and hopefully keep on visiting into the future."
The sessions run from 10am-1pm and 1-3pm Tuesday - Friday and are suitable for ages 8 -14! You must preregister and places are limited. Sensible footwear is needed as well as a parent or guardian to accompany the children. Parents can play too or sit around the campfire and drink tea or coffee.
To find out more have a look at bcll.org.uk or if you want to join us on one of these sessions then you need to book your place, for free, by contacting Paula on 0121 4541199
Okay, so it’s a bit late notice but us Bearwoodians are a spontaneous lot eh?
Tonight there’s a star studded concert at the Symphony Hall to celebrate 50 years of Jamaican independence and there’s a bit of a Bearwood flavour with a tribute to Andy Hamilton (featuring his sons) and a special appearance from Musical Youth (with Bearwood’s very own Mr Dennis Seaton). There’s Beverley Knight, Jamelia, Jaki Graham, Benjamin Zephaniah and a whole bunch of up and coming artists too...oh...and Usain Bolt as well! Yep, it seems as though the Jamaican Olympic team (who’ve been based in Birmingham for the past few weeks) are going to be there as well. Amazing! There may still be a few tickets left...it’s always worth a try though. Here's the link. After all how often would you get to see the fastest man in the world AND Musical Youth on the same bill eh? Exactly...
Jo-ann Lloyd, one of our favourite Bearwood Promoters, makes incredible cakes. Really good old-fashioned cooking with lots of love and tlc.
Jo-ann tries to source all of her ingredients from Bearwood too and all the money she raises from the sale of her cakes is used to help fund future Bearwood Shuffle events. No wonder at every Bearwood Shuffle we've been to her cakes have sold out in seconds.
Welovebearwood have always been very partial to fruitcake so Jo-ann sent us the recipe for her ‘Shuffle Along to Tea Time Loaf’.
Get your wooden spoons and mixing bowls out and give it a go.
She’s going to be selling at the next Bearwood Shuffle on Sunday 16th September so make sure you get a slice because it will be selling like...yes...you've guessed it...hot cakes!
350g dried mixed fruit ( i use a mix of raisins, cherries and mixed peel)
Ultimately a personal choice Source Co-op
350ml tea Source Co-op
2 Eggs beaten Source Coral Musgrave (free range organic chickens)
270g Self Raising Flour Source Co-op
200g Dark Brown Soft Sugar Source Cape Hill Asda (as i can't source 'exotic' sugars in Bearwood)
1tsp Cinnamon Source Hughes
1. Soak the fruit in the tea overnight. Line a 21/2 lb loaf tin.
Step 1 - The fruit soaking in tea
2. Preheat oven to gas mark 3 for 1 - 11/2 hours
3.Mix fruit with eggs, flour, sugar and cinnamon.
Step 3 - In the mix!
4. Transfer to lined tin, sprinkle brown sugar on the top.
One of welovebearwood’s favourite magazines is The Chap.In a world where t-shirts and jeans are far too much a part of our daily wardrobe this fine journal shows you how to dress like a chap or chapette with true grace and style.
We particularly like it when the magazine carries aPin Up Parade advert because they’re based in Bearwood...hurrah! See, Bearwood really does have style!
Welovebearwood caught up with Helen Highwater who runs Pin Up Parade as well as her own vintage repro dress company Swagger Joint.
Over to you Helen...
We love your look. How did you first get into vintage fashion?
It started when I was a teenager. I’d always liked old things and had trouble finding things I liked on the High St. One day, I thought, why don’t I just wear stuff I like? So what if it’s second hand or looks old fashioned? So I did, and that was that! I think it helped that there was all the mod stuff going on in the 1990s, so you could go about looking 1960s and weren’t entirely on your own doing it – although that said, I lived on a small island so was a bit alone in it.
When, how and why did you start your own clothing range, Swagger Joint?
I started the Pin-Up Parade shop back in 2007, the whole idea being to import American repro, especially in the larger sizes which other shops weren’t selling. I’ve had ideas for different dresses for ages and thought, heck, why don’t I just start my own line? About 10 years ago, there was a dressmaker on Bearwood High Street (in the parade of shops opposite Bearwood Primary) and she used to make dresses to my designs for me to wear – lovely fabrics like herringbones, dogtooth check, satin-backed crepe, velvet. She moved away and it was then that I got into American brands, because they were so good! But I’ve decided that the time has come for me to unleash my own designs, and use those fabrics which I love.
How would you describe the Swagger Joint style and which dress is your best seller?
The Avril dress is really popular. I was surprised, as it’s the most expensive one! It’s made from 100% wool crepe, so the fabric isn’t cheap, but it feels beautiful. It gives the dress a weight that you only really get in vintage clothes, and it makes the skirt hang really nicely. Millie Dollar, who models the Avril on my website, said she had it at a shoot and someone thought it was actually vintage! It’s also appeared on stage in a musical about Vera Lynn for a scene where she’s on telly in the 1950s. So it’s my most famous dress as well.
I really love the dresses that Givenchy made for Audrey Hepburn – I like how they’re smart and elegant but with character so they’re not boring. So that’s an influence in what I come up with. I adore the 1950s New Look with the full skirts and little waists so that’s something which comes out in the dresses too – the Avril is my attempt at that!
Then again, I love shiny, glittery things so the bronze lamé that the Viv dress is made with addresses that side of me. I’m going for late 1950s/early 60s Mad Men cocktail party with that one. When I’m not doing Pin-Up Parade and Swagger Joint, I’m in a sort of punk band called The Ritas, and we wore the bronze Viv dress on stage at one of our gigs. I also got it made in red to wear on stage too, but you could wear it wherever the heck you like, really – why not? I’m sorely tempted to use animal print one of these days, too... watch out!
I named these two dresses after female cover stars from Smiths singles. I’m a big Smiths/Morrissey fan and I’ve always liked that aesthetic of a melancholy monochrome world that probably never existed, and the glamour of the everyday. Avril Anders was on the cover of “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish” and Viv Nicholson is, of course, the famous 1960s pools winner – she was on the cover of “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.”
Something else I’ve decided to do with Swagger Joint is have the dresses made only in the UK. The first style, the Esme, which I named after my grandma, was a bit of an experiment and was made abroad, but after several hitches I found manufacturers in the UK. Yes, it does make Swagger Joint dresses cost more, but you can rest assured that your purchase is helping to keep family-run, small British businesses alive. Even the belts are British-made – several British couture labels use them as well, so again, they’re not cheap, but they’re the best quality belt you can get.
We’ve just had a look at the Pin Up Parade website and fallen in love with your Gallery Page. What does being a Pin Up mean to you and how do you become one?
Quite simply, you just need to have some nice photos taken! Other than that, though, it helps if you are aware of the visual cultures of days gone by, otherwise you wouldn’t know the poses or what to wear. Having a good wardrobe is very important for anyone who wants to be taken seriously as a pin-up. You don’t want to bore everyone by wearing the same clothing in every shoot you do.Although some shoots come with make-up artists and hair stylists, it’s really good if you can learn how to do that yourself. Of course, a lot of pin-ups were into vintage style long before they did pin-up, which obviously helps! I sell two books in my shop which are invaluable –Vintage Hairstyling and Retro Make-Up. They have step-by-step instructions with colour photos so you’ll look fabulous in no time at all.
I got into pin-up myself because I love the dressing up and performing. It’s really fun!
Who’s your favourite Pin Up and why?
I don’t really have a favourite – I like old pin-up magazines like “Parade”, which have lots of different models as well as Hollywood actresses and Parisian dancers. I do like Bettie Page though. She turns up uncredited sometimes in “Parade”, which is quite funny, especially when it’s one of Bunny Yeager’s famous leopard print bikini photos! In terms of contemporary pin-ups, one of my current favourites is Stephanie Jay, who recently modelled for Pin-Up Parade. I also really like Millie Dollar who is a burlesque dancer as well – she’s got fantastic tattoos!
Captain Dress by Bettie Page Clothing.Photos by Bettie Page Clothing.
We know that you’ve loved vintage fashion for years but why do you think it’s become so popular recently?
I think a big element of it has been the burlesque scene and figures like Dita Von Teese, and that’s encouraged people who were into alt scenes like goth and emo to get into vintage. Then again, a lot of goth is vintage too (rather than just Victorian, it lends itself to mid-20th century as well). And indie has a strong vintage vibe to its style too. I think as well people are reacting against what they see on the High Street. When every shop sells exactly the same thing, and when it’s things like smocks which really don’t flatter everyone, the past is a never-ending seam of inspiration to draw from, and people have lighted on the mid-century because it’s glamorous.
Where do you get your main sources of inspiration from?Who is your style icon?
Do you think music influences your style (and vice versa in your case) and if so how?
I don’t know if it’s a British youth cult thing, but there’s always certain styles that go with particular kinds of music. That said though, it’s impossible to be purist about it these days, because with hindsight we can see that a lot of mod music drew on 50s r’n’b, and punk was influenced by 50s r’n’r and 60s r’n’b – like The Clash covering “Brand New Cadillac”. I went to Hemsby, which is a rockabilly weekender, and there were all these women strolling to “Green Onions” by Booker T & The MG’s – that really blew my mind because it seems like one of the most mod songs imaginable. I think the lines blur far more readily between the different youth cults now, though. If I’m going to a rockabilly weekender, then I’ll go vintage, but saying that, I went to see the Manic Street Preachers wearing a vintage-style pseudo-army dress! I think whatever I wear, it ends up looking a bit vintage. Which is no bad thing.
We can tell you love the 1950s. Why?
Because red lipstick rocks.
What do you think the future of vintage fashion is?
Can’t answer this one. I really don’t know!
Helen – we would love to know what you think about living in Bearwood too.
What’s your connection with Bearwood?How long have you been living here for?
Over 10 years. I’ve never lived anywhere else in the West Midlands.
What’s your Bearwood All-Star?In other words, what, where or why do you like living in Bearwood?
I like the independent spirit that Bearwood has. The city centre is all well and good (and it’s convenient having it in such easy reach from our suburb up the Hagley Road) but Bearwood’s more individual – there’s so many lovely independent places to shop like T C Hayes, Global Food, Webb’s Walled Garden... . I’d far rather have my hair done at Vangelis 520 on the High Street than at some snooty, poseur-ridden hell-hole in the city centre
What do you think the future of Bearwood is?
I think more people will get behind Better Bearwood, when they realise that it’s local people who care about the area, who want to improve it without changing it, if that makes sense.
We always like to end with a silly question.Here goes...what makes Lightwoods Chippy’s chips orange?
It’s Friday and because it’s almost the weekend we’ve got a competition for you!
Helen is such a lovely vintage vixen that she’s donated one of Pin Up Parade’s favourite books as a prize, “Retro Makeup: Techniques for Applying the Vintage Look”.
This is a prize every vintage lover should have in their bookcase as it gives you detailed tips on all sorts of essential make up conundrums...like how to get your red lipstick just right for that big night out (without looking like Robert Smith).
In order to have a chance of winning please answer the following question:
Welovebearwood fell in love with Chicken Bone John’s cigar box blues when we saw him play at the first Bearwood Shuffle last July.
Not only can Chicken Bone John sing the blues but he makes his own blues guitars!He makes them from old cigar boxes, petrol cans and bits of wood.In fact anything that he can get his hands on that would make a suitable guitar.He even owns one made from a wooden loo seat!
If you would like to learn how to play cigar box bluesor if Sick Sea Steve is one of your heroes, you should get yourself along to Chicken Bone John’s workshop next Saturday 28th July.The workshop is going to be from 1-4pm at St Gregory’s Church Hall on Wigorn Road in Bearwood.
It’s only £10 per person and Chicken Bone John tells us that “cigar box guitars will be provided for those who don't have one already. All levels catered for, from absolute beginner upwards.”
Yeah – that means we can have a go!See you there!
P.S.If you fancy a great 'honky tonk' night out get yourselves along to The Maverick, Stourbridge to see Chicken Bone John’s fellow blues artists Blackriver Bluesman & Bad Mood Hudson who have come all the way from Finland.
It's just been announced that Warley Woods has won the Green Flag Award for the FOURTH year running! Welovebearwood are so pleased for them.
Viv Cole, Warley Woods Trust Manager, contacted welovebearwood to tell us their good news and said "thank you to everyone who helps at Warley Woods and who comes to activities and events. The Judges are always impressed at the true community spirit and the way the Woods and Golf Course are valued by local people".
You could tell that by all the happy smiley faces at the picnic on Sunday!
Welovebearwood are 100% behind the Bears for Bearwood Campaign and we love Keith Bracey’s idea of a big wooden bear to stand guard at the entrance of Lightwoods Park.
Keith told us where he got his inspiration from...
“For 20 years we holidayed in the East Devon area and my kids grew up saying 'Hello Bears' to the original 3 carved wooden bears (presumably Mummy Bear, Daddy Bear and Baby Bear) who lived at the roadside in Newton Poppleford whenever we drove through the village to Sidmouth where we would spend our day on the beach.
In the evening we would all shout; 'Goodbye Bears' as we drove back to our campsite. As I said originally there were 3 bears. Over the years the number of bears has grown to the family of bruins as you can see in the photo above.”Aaah...they are so cute!
The Bear would need to be cost-effective though so Keith has had a brilliant idea...
“As the cost of a statue of a 'Bronze Bear' (or bears) is likely to prove prohibitive, the idea of a group of carved wooden bears, possibly using fallen tree wood from Lightwoods Park or Warley Woods becomes even more attractive as it is kinder to the environment, recycling 'dead' wood into a piece of public art.”
As Keith explained “The Bearwood Bears would then 'do what it says on the tin': they are 'Bears from the Wood'
Bear...wood, we love it!
P.S. It's amazing what can be carved out of a piece of wood!
Did you know that legendary rockers Thin Lizzy - famous for songs such as ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’, ‘Whisky In The Jar’ and ‘Jailbreak’ played at The Dog on Hagley Road AND at The Bear on Bearwood High Street on the same bill as Judas Priest?No!Us neither...OMG!...WOW!
Welovebearwood have scoured the YouTube archives and found this incredible footage of Thin Lizzy’s performance at The Dog for Channel 4’s Saturday Stayback programme in 1983.
With jazz in Lightwoods Park bandstand and Warley Woods’ mini festival this weekend welovebearwood would love to know more about Bearwood’s musical heritage.
Who have you seen play live in Bearwood?Were you at Andy Hamilton’s gig the night Mick Hucknall of Simply Red turned up? (thanks for the tip Phil Musgrave) Did you see the Beatles play at Thimblemill Baths? Did you know Chrissie McVie (nee Perfect) of Fleetwood Mac when she lived here?
P.S Have a read of Bob Piper’s hilarious ‘Unidentified object expected over Bearwood’ article on the Bearwood Blog by clicking on this. It made us smile!
Your mouth just waters when you look at Azzari Too’s website – the food looks so inviting – and when welovebearwood heard on the grapevine that the restaurant had started selling fresh fish as well we just had to find out more. So last Saturday we popped down Lightwoods Road for a good old chat with Barry, Azzari Too’s genial owner and master chef.
We were intrigued to know where the name Azzari Too comes from so Barry explained that he named his daughter Azzari so the restaurant is named after her. It means 'guided by God' in Hebrew. Aaah, that's just lovely.
Azzari Too’s been open for 14 years now but it’s only been in the fishmonger business for the past few weeks. Why the new business? Well there are no fishmongers on Bearwood High Street and the sad looking specimens that you find in the supermarkets aren’t quite the same so Barry decided to venture into catching his own fresh produce (well not quite...there’s no sea in Bearwood...maybe the odd lake or two after all the rain...). All Barry’s fish comes fresh via Birmingham’s legendary markets and you can tell the difference straightaway. Salmon and plaice are definitely the best sellers and if you’re looking for...ahem...‘finspiration’...Barry can even provide you with a recipe card. Welovebearwood aren’t the best chefs in the world so we just love this idea!
Barry describes his own personal style of cooking as “Eclectic fusion” and his favourite chef is the New Zealander Peter Gordon, the father of fusion cooking, who brought the idea of cooking creatively with new flavours and textures from all around the world to the UK back in the 1980s. Barry’s style of cooking is equally creative and he loves trying new dishes. It all started when he began helping his Mum out in the kitchen when he was only 8 years old (bless!) and his love of cooking just grew and grew and grew.
Having always lived locally and been schooled in Bearwood he dreamed of owning his own restaurant here. Barry studied hard at catering college and then following a stint at the Apollo Hotel on Hagley Road someone gave him a couple of telephone numbers to help further his culinary career.He called the first one and it turned out to be Gardener Merchant who do the catering for all those fancy pants high society events (Wimbledon. Silverstone, Henley Regatta – you name it Barry’s cooked the food there!) and for the queen too at her Garden Parties (wow!).Barry’s worked as the Head Chef at Villa Park too. Originally he was just going to cover the summer season but in the end he worked for Gardener Merchant for over 3 years.
Most of Barry’s advertising is through word-of-mouth watering mouth – after 14 years Azzari Too has such a good reputation that regular customers end up coming back for more and more of his delicious food – even from as far away as Florida and Barbados. He’s served the odd celebrity too (being the soul of discretion...or perhaps that should be ‘sole’...he keeps most of the names to himself) including legendary footballer Cyril Regis...a dude who clearly knows one or two thing about landing things in nets.
Barry’s now looking towards the future and he’s noticed that our perception to food has really changed over the last few years. We all lead increasingly busy lives, calling for convenient ready meals, but our tastes are a lot more sophisticated than they were in the past.Findus crispy pancakes are definitely no longer in vogue!So right now Barry’s working on his own food range that’ll capture Azzari Too’s unique flavours ready to dished up at home, in schools, hospitals...wherever there’s a demand for great tasting food.Did you know that on Virgin flights to the Caribbean they don’t serve any Caribbean food? Something tells us that Barry’s their man!
There’s a range of fresh fish available to buy at Azzari Too every Friday and Saturday morning between 9am and 12 noon.
For the full Azzari Too experience why not book a table first and get some ‘finspiration’ (hey...if a pun’s worth doing once it’s worth doing again) though!
P.S. Here are some Azzari Too Dates for your diary:
Sunday 29th July - Azzaritoo Brunch club (11 am –2.30 pm). Bookings now be taken.
Tuesday 31st July - Azzaritoo pudding club ( 7 pm –10 pm).
Please click on here for Azzari Too's website or here for their facebook page for more details.