Thursday, 30 August 2012

At the Drive-in

Evoking 1950s Americana Grease is the perfect choice for Bearwood’s FIRST (rock ‘n’ roll!) drive-in movie at Lightwoods Park on Friday 14th September.

Entrance fee is £12.50 per car so pile your friends and family and pets into your car (hell...why not?) and drive down to Lightwoods Park for an amazing night out!

The movie soundtrack will be played through your car FM radio so you’ll be able to sing along with Sandy and Danny to your heart’s content!  Gates open at 5.30pm so get there early to get a good view.  The film starts at 8pm.

Tickets are available from the ticket office at Thimblemill Swimming Baths or by phoning 0303 303 0121.

For more info please visit the brilliant Bearwood Blog and Enjoy Bearwood site.

P.S. "We go together....Like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong!"

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Q&A with The Ritas

When welovebearwood contacted Helen and Olivia of The Ritas to ask if they'd like to do an interview with us we were delighted when they said yes.

We wanted to know all about the band, where they get their inspiration from and what they thought of the live music scene in Bearwood.

So we popped our questions over to them and didn't have to wait too long for an answer. And wow...what a reply we received!

But they've gone even further, they've made a film...showing them answering our questions too, which is so much more than we could have ever wished for.

The Ritas...we applaud you! You definitely deserve to be Bearwood All-Stars!

P.S. For more info about The Ritas please click on the following links:

The Ritas
The Ritas Facebook Page

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Woof! It's all about the Dogs!

One of welovebearwood’s favourite films this year has to be The Artist.  With all the style and fashion of the roaring 1920s we just love it. 

Of course one of the stars of the film has to be Uggie the dog, which is why welovebearwood are particularly excited about Warley Woods' 'All About Dogs' event on Sunday 9th September. 

This year’s Doggy Demonstrations section would definitely be something Uggie would want to enter and who knows, maybe Bearwood's home to our very own Uggie eh? 

Now a regular event on the Warley Woods calendar, All About Dogs, a jointly organised event between the RSPCA and Warley Woods Community Trust, will be popular with the many dogs and their owners that visit the park every day.
There will be a fun dog show with a range of categories suitable for any size and breed of dogs – including the waggiest tail and best rescue.

Many of the judges come from organisations that support Warley Woods or the RSPCA, including several this year from Fastsigns who are sponsoring the event for the first time.

There will be doggy demonstrations, including agility and flyball and the chance for people to try these activities themselves with their own pets. There will also be a dog “scurry” where dogs compete for the fastest time along a course.

Lots of other charities which have dogs at their heart will be represented and there will be doggy merchandise on sale as well as food and drink and craft stalls.

Companion Care Vets and a dog behaviouralist will be at the event to help give advice.

Viv Cole, Warley Woods Trust Manager said “We have so many dogs and their owners visit Warley Woods every day and so it is great to have an event especially for them.”

Helen Tuite, who is Community Fundraiser for the RSPCA, also told us "We are so grateful for Warley Woods Community Trust for allowing us, once again, to hold a dog show there this year. The money raised will go towards our Leaps & Bounds Appeal to build our new animal centre in Frankley, which should be open to the public in November."

The event starts at 11am and finishes at 4pm with dog show classes running throughout the day. Registration for the Dog Show starts at 10am.

The Trust and RSPCA are very grateful to Fastsigns for their sponsorship of this event.

For more information please call the Trust office on 0121 420 1061.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Our Bearwood Eats Page!

Bearwood has more than its fair share of foodie heavens so we have decided to compile a list of them on our Bearwood Eats page.  Click on this link to read our list so far.

We've recently added newcomer to Bearwood, Home to Home Cooking, and we want our list to expand with our waistlines.  Well not quite (hee! hee!) but hopefully you get the picture. Please feel free to email us at with your fave food places.  They can be shops, takeaways, restaurants, pubs, delis etc, whereever you want the rest of Bearwood to know about in fact.

P.S. Home to Home Cooking's Head Chef, David Lewis, has contacted us to let us know that Home to Home Cooking will be available to buy at Antonios Food Emporio in St Mary's Road, Bearwood from next weekend and that you can go along this Saturday (25.08.12) at 1pm for a free coffee and tasting.  Love it!  See you there!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Bearwoodstock IV Line-up Confirmed!

Welovebearwood are so excited!  There's so much happening in September it's brillant!

One of the highlights for us is Bearwoodstock IV on Saturday 22nd September. The gig's in aid of Guide Dogs for the Blind, so it's for a really good cause.   Doors open at 4.30pm and then it's nearly 6 hours of non-stop fun.

We caught up with Mark who organises the Bearwoodstock events to find out the bands/choirs (wow!) who will be playing. 

Mark told us that "Brandhall Community Choir, have been in existence for over 18 months and sing covers from Queen, Robbie Williams also "Sing" The commonwealth song by Gary Barlow."  

Brandhall Community Choir in rehearsal

The Monicas are no strangers to Bearwood as they played at Lightwoods Picnic in the Park in June. 
The Monicas
Mark told us he's really happy that "The Loud Noises will be playing Bearwoodstock for the fourth time. At last year's gig they were the "tightest" I have seen them."

The Loud Noises
Another Bearwood favourite, The Sharp Darts will be playing too.
The Sharp Darts

One of the founding member of The Move,  guest vocalist to Raymond Froggatt, member of the Steve Gibbons Band, Trevor Burton will be playing Bearwoodstock IV with his band.  He's definitely one of Birmingham's true rock legends. 

Mark told us that he worked on a sound crew for Steve Gibbons Band several years ago on the tour promoting "Tulane" when Trevor was The Bass player in the band.

The Trevor Burton Band
There will be classic videos shown on a big screen between the different acts so you won't have time to get bored!

All this for only £6 per wristband.....see...what did we tell you....Bearwood is definitely the place to be!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Thimblemill Library's September Calendar!


All these events and and you can hold your child's birthday party there too - Thimblemill really are spoiling us! 

Thank you!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Alan's Got No Cross To Bear Part 2

Andy Hamilton by Russ Escritt

If you read part 1 of our interview with Alan Cross you'll already know that he's a fascinating character...if you missed it click on this link to catch up.

Now...pause for fanfare...we're delighted to be able to bring you part 2 in which Alan reveals some more stories from his time managing Andy Hamilton, his thoughts on the uncertain future of Bearwood Jazz and about how Frank Sinatra’s trumpeter played at Dirty Betts (OMG! No way!).

So settle down with a cup of tea/gin...we know our readership...and enjoy!

Please tell us about Bearwood Jazz. How long has it been going for, what different venues has Bearwood Jazz used?

"In 1985 stayed at The Junction in Harborne for about 6 months and suddenly it was cancelled without any notice despite being a popular night, we then went to the Ivy Bush – for 2 nights – and again suddenly it was cancelled – it became obvious there was a problem somewhere and as I was just about to move to Bearwood from Harborne things went on hold.

I then got a call asking if we were interested in a new place and a couple of weeks later we started our first venue in Bearwood, in 1986, at Dirty Betts on Monday nights and it quickly became very popular, it was tough setting it up as the tables and chairs were the old cast iron style but it had a great atmosphere. It was built during the 2nd world war as a bar for American servicemen and was designed as a wooden American Diner.

We stayed there for about 18 months and had some great nights with some wonderful guests, including some of Andy’s American Jazz heroes Benny Waters, Joe Newman and on the last night before the place was closed for a refurbishment we booked the legendary Harry Sweets Edison – next to Miles Davis the greatest jazz trumpeter of all time – Frank Sinatra’s trumpeter in a tumbledown bar in Smethwick !!"

Harry Sweets Edison

"We had a very good friend, Norman Ward, who used to pick up visiting artists and put up them up at his big house and bring them down to the venue in his gold Rolls Royce. When he arrived at Dirty Betts with Sweets for our big night the place had become a semi derelict and muddy building site but when he walked into the packed venue a huge cheer broke out and we had a great night.

We would always book a special rhythm section when we had top class guests and the regular pianist was John Patrick who was born in Bearwood and loved coming back home to play. John continued to work with us for the next 25 years.

It was quite disappointing that we had to put the Dirty Bett’s programme on hold but we were told it was only for a few weeks, so we moved across to The Kings Head and started a regular Saturday night in the basement, which was a fantastic 60’s venue which ran the length of the whole pub and is I think still there but closed off. Probably the best night was with Dudu Pukwana and his band Zila who went down a storm.

Then something strange happened, to start with a couple of days after we left Dirty Betts the whole building collapsed and so they decided to rebuild it from scratch which was going to take about 6 months and so as I watched it progress day by day I anticipated a call for us to go back but then saw a flyer saying Dirty Betts Jazz was back but it was being run by Jim Simpson who I suspected had been behind our removal from The Junction and Ivy Bush.

Andy was as angry as I have ever seen him about this and so on the night that they opened I went down and sat on the terrace and watched Simpson smugly walk past me up to the new plush venue with a bag of chips in his hand - he got to the door where he was told politely that no food was allowed, he started with the “Don’t you know who I am ?” line and got into a heated argument with the doormen who eventually lost patience and said “ I don’t give a #### who you are, you are banned ! “

I do not think I have ever laughed so much in my life !!

So a couple of weeks later we were asked back and although The Kings Head had been great for Saturday nights it was not really a jazz venue so we went back to Dirty Betts and stayed for about 3 months but the atmosphere was not the same, the old wood building had been replaced by glass and plastic and the sound was not as good and then out of the blue the district manager of The Kings Head got in touch and said he was refurbishing The Bear and would we be interested.

Andy and I went down and the room was great, the landlord George was a gem and Andy realising he was in a strong position played hard to get and got the brewery to put in a stage, pay for a piano and print our flyers before agreeing to move in.

Our 1st night there was a sensation, it coincided with Sandwell Arts Festival and for the first and only time we got some funding from Sandwell Council and booked the legendary Slim Gaillard and Will Gaines. The place was absolutely packed and a great start to what was a fabulous 15 years at The Bear.

Soon after we started the 4 XXXX Cabaret, who had followed us from The Kings Head, started a weekly comedy night with Frank Skinner as compere and a good Blues night also started and The Bear became a great place for a night out. Over the coming years our Monday night programme attracted some of the biggest names in UK and international jazz, saw Andy emerge as a world recognised musician and while George was in charge it was a great pub.

With the release of Silvershine and Jamaica By Night, Andy’s profile became big and we were able to book some amazing artists and bands, Sweets Edison again, Art Farmer, Tal Farlow, Scott Hamilton, Teddy Edwards, Johnny Dankworth and loads more - but all good things come to an end and the beginning of the end was when George retired in about 1998.

After he left we had a whole series of temporary landlords, some good, some bad and a couple terrible. The worst ones kept their cats in the function room and when we arrived on Monday for the jazz, the smell in the room was shocking and a lot of people got to the top of the stairs and turned back. Also it had started to get a bit rough downstairs without George to keep order and the place went into decline.

Eventually, after a couple of Andy’s very old Jamaican friends, who had always came on Monday nights, were told to take their hats off or be banned, Andy very sadly said to me “ Alan I don’t want to play here any more” So we finished at The Bear after about 15 mainly very happy years.

Andy, by now into his 80’s, was not going to give up and soon after called me to say he had a new venue, when I asked him where, and he said Bearwood Corks, I was amazed, as despite living just round the corner from The Corks, I had never been in there and did not know anyone who was a member. We went to have a look and Cath, I think the secretary of the club, was most welcoming and the venue looked good with a stage, lighting, bar and for the first time a backstage area and Andy was very happy again.

The night moved to a Thursday and for over 10 years a weekly programme of high quality jazz has been organised – again featuring some of the great jazz musicians and many local bands. Highlights have always been Andy’s birthday nights with Andy always looking amazing in one of his many stunning suits, ties and shoes and even though he slowed down a little, he could always, up until recently – and much to his frustration – play as well as anyone alongside him.

If I had to pick one night it would be when Grammy winning American saxophonist David Murray was booked to play in Birmingham and stated that if he was coming to Birmingham he had to play with Andy and so with fellow legend Hal Singer, they joined Andy and his band for an amazing night."

"Richard Jones is the real hero of The Corks, he not only did the door every week, he organised the programme with Andy, organised and printed the flyers and posters, set up and ran the website and was just brilliant dealing with the countless problems of running a venue and honourable mention must also be made of Captain who has been in charge of the PA, always first to arrive and last to leave.

But right at the centre of all this has been the remarkable Andy Hamilton whose enthusiasm and determination to provide a good night out and bring people together, to say nothing of his musical genius, has written a golden chapter in the cultural life of Bearwood."

What role does Bearwood Jazz play in Bearwood?

"I think that when the Jazz was at The Bear it played a more significant part in the life of Bearwood mainly because of its position. If you put a poster up in the window a lot more local people saw it and would come in and try it out and then invite friends for a night out so we had a much wider representation of people coming, many going to jazz for the first time.

Also there was a great record shop round the corner that stayed open late when there was jazz on so it became a good night out, check some records, have a bite to eat in The Bear and go up to the jazz later on.

At The Corks the audience seems to be much more just jazz fans who can be very selective about the style of jazz they pay to watch. Also because it is a private members club I think people have been reluctant to go in which is a pity because it is a great room for music, there have been some top class bands and the staff at Corks have done everything possible to support Andy.

Bearwood could be a good place for music, the turn out at the events in the park show there is lots of enthusiasm for live music but the lack of public venues and performance spaces makes it very difficult."

Bearwood Jazz has a really good musical heritage in Bearwood and we would love to see it continues. What do you think the future of Bearwood Jazz is?

"It is very uncertain at the moment. Andy was such a key figure in keeping it going with his band and reputation amongst musicians around the world who would come and play for him despite the fact we could never pay them much, that it is impossible to replace him.

Funding is also a big issue, for the last 6 years we had a very small grant given to Andy from The Arts Council and that is now finished. Richard has been programming 50 gigs a year at The Corks and now there is no financial support.

This leads to a downward spiral - if you cannot book name bands and cannot afford to publicise as much then attendance drops and as the only source of income is door receipts and bands have to be paid on the night it becomes too risky to carry on booking quality bands. All it takes is one bad night and someone has to find £500.

Many many times Andy would end up the night out of pocket and I had to remortgage my house twice. It is a vicious circle and without any funding the future does not look good."

Who or what is the next big thing in jazz to look out for?

"Locally there is a brilliant young pianist, Reuben James who started with Andy and The Notebenders when he was 12. He is now 18 and has become a big name in London. He is amazingly talented well beyond his years and I would advise everybody to go a see him – he is a real talent."

"On a wider perspective I would like to think that Jazz Funk will be big again. "

What’s your favourite jazz album and why?

"I have to say Andy’s Silvershine because it changed so many lives, including my own and came about in such extraordinary circumstances. Andy was 72 for heavens sake and had never been in a proper recording studio and it became the biggest selling jazz album of the year and Times Jazz Album of the Year."

"Jamaica By Night also by Andy is another great album with a lot of original Andy compositions and took us on a national tour."

"Other than Andy it has to be Miles Davis Kind of Blue and Marvin Gaye Whats Going On."

What’s your connection with Bearwood? What/who/where makes you smiles in Bearwood ?

"I first came to Bearwood in 75 and lived above Victors hairdressers for a year then moved out to Bewdley for 8 years then came back and bought a house in 86 and have been here ever since.

Having taught in the city centre for almost 30 years and daily struggling with rush hour traffic on Hagley Road, what makes me smile now is to wake up, pop down to the shops on the High St, come home, have breakfast, maybe play some golf at Warley Woods and listen to Test Match Special in my wonderfully peaceful garden and listen to great music until the early hours !

Bearwood is a great place to live but it really needs somewhere for people to listen to and enjoy live music where they can meet people in the evenings and weekends on a much more regular basis."

Big Shout Out For Bearwood!

When David Lewis contacted welovebearwood and told us about his Home to Home Cooking service and that he had relocated here via Cotswold and Lake District, we were so happy to hear what he thought about Bearwood.

“Having recently moved to the Bearwood area, after 12 years in the Cotswolds and having been brought up in the glorious Lake District, I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised at how well Bearwood and the West Midlands compares.

As you can imagine, I love nature and greenery and in Bearwood I have found some wonderful green spaces. Everyone told me before I moved that the West Midlands is a bleak area and thankfully, I can now tell them how wrong they were! I take my dogs walking around Warley Woods and Lightwoods Park and can honestly say, the places are beautiful.

I moved to the area to be with my partner and to set up my home cooking business, Home to Home Cooking, which caters for up to 30 fresh, home cooked meals a day and for up to 60 pensioners or housebound at the weekends.

I am also looking to volunteer some of my time and cooking skills to a local charity or good cause, so if anyone out there has any suggestions, please feel free to contact me, David Lewis at

P.S. David's food looks yummy - can't wait to try it!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Hot News Flash! Oldbury, Langley and Warley Through Time Book Signing!

Local historian, Terry Daniels, has just had his new book  ‘Oldbury, Langley and Warley Through Time’ published and he is going to be doing a book signing at Langley Library, Barrs Street, Langley between 2.00 to 4.00pm  this Friday, 17th August.

His book shows the changes in our area over the last century and it links old pictures of the town with the same scenes taken today, and contains over 200 photographs.  Wow! We would  to see those love old photos!

Terry has said that "People will be fascinated to see what used to happen where they are living now, or what the buildings we see around us have replaced.  We peep inside the old court and jail, see inside the Big House, look at the changes in the Town Square, see the Five Ways at Langley Green reduced to three, watch the houses cover Warley’s countryside, and much more.”

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Bearwood's Psychic Fayre

Smethwick Paranormal Society are holding their Psychic Fayre at the Bear this Friday...but if you're that way inclined you probably already knew that!

We think the Bear must have loads of ghosts...well spirits at we couldn't think of a better place to hold it!

Lynnette Sharratt told welovebearwood that  "we are hosting local crafts people , like charlies moms chocolate factory, jewellery, handmade cards"

It's on from 12 - 9pm so get ready to be spooked and go!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Bearwood Does Vintage Competition Winner!

Vintage handbags at the ready...welovebearwood are really happy to announce that the winner of our Bearwood Does Vintage competition is...wait for it...drum roll...whoop!...whoop!...the lovely Annie Paris. 

A big thank you to everybody who entered. We were bowled over by the number of the competition entries, Bearwood has so much style.

Huge thanks to our favourite vintage vixen Helen Highwater too for being so generous in donating the prize...the ultimate guide to getting your retro make up just right!   

Watch out for our next exciting competition coming soon...especially for all those Bearwood foodies out there.