Friday, 30 November 2012

Batter Bearwood

We just love this......Bearwood Fish Bar on Three Shires Oak Road have found the perfect solution for the Christmas Dinner Takeaway! Battered turkey, battered sprouts, battered parsnips, battered pigs in blanket and even battered mincepies and battered Christmas pudding.

Owners Maxine and Steven Devonport told the Express and Star that the festive menu's proving to be a real success with their customers and we must admit it's one Christmas dinner we would be intrigued to try!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Thimblemill Library's December Calendar

Reading groups, craft clubs, jewellery making sessions, health surgeries and creative classes for kids throughout the month not forgetting the A Christmas Story Coffee Morning on Monday 1st December and the Storytelling cafe on Thursday 13th December, we're so lucky to have Thimblemill Library right on our doorstep.

Check out the quotes on Thimblemill Library's website and you'll see we're not the only ones to think so!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Chamberlains is the plaice to be!

One of our recent discoveries and favourite plaices to eat (see what we did has to be Chamberlains Fish and Chips Restaurant

If they serve fish and chips in heaven this is what they’ll taste like. Click on here to find out why!

There are so many exciting things happening at Chamberlains that we wanted to share them with you.
Christmas Parties

Fizz 'n' chips at New Year's Eve

OMG! Only £4.95 for lunchtime fish and chips and a pot of tea!

We were really happy when we heard how much 2 of our competition winners enjoyed eating at Chamberlains too.

"Yep we went on Friday evening and it was excellent. Huge, tasty fish and great chips. The onion rings are out of this world. The service was excellent and really friendly too. We were really impressed and I'd highly recommend it to anyone. We noticed they did take away too so we may have found a new favourite chip shop!"

"The food at Chamberlains was great. The fish and Chips were lovely together with the side order and bread and butter which filled us right up to the brim. Even little things like having two tea bags in my pot of tea was nice, meaning I could have my tea extra strong, just the way I like it.  The staff were all very welcoming and attentive giving a prompt but not rushed service. Overall it was a great evening and I will definitely be using Chamberlains again and recommending others to visit."

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Can you cook a proper curry?

Khakan can!  Not only does he bake amazing cakes, he can cook a proper curry too! 

We caught up with Khakan Qureshi whilst he was busy in his kitchen to find out more about his Indian cooking and to ask about his favourite curry.

"My favourite dish to cook has to be chicken curry as succulent pieces of breast (or for the fuller flavour use chicken on the bone) combined together with fresh ingredients such as onions, ginger, garlic, green chilles, hot spices and garnished with fresh coriander and garam masala, makes a wonderful hearty meal in the evenings, especially at weekends when you can serve it up with naan breads, chapattis or rice. The wonderful thing about this curry is that it can be cooked in an hour

If you're fed up with takeaway meals, disgruntled with the Indian meal in a restaurant or disappointed by the way your curry has turned out even though you followed the recipe very carefully, give Khakan a call and he'll demonstrate how to cook an Indian dish like a meat/chicken balti, vegetable curry or dahl (lentils) from scratch. Khakan is able to provide cookery sessions within your own home, using the required ingredients and skills to really capture the true taste of Indian cuisine.

If you would like a cookery session or demonstration, or meals for a small dinner party, call Khakan for further details on 07896717678.

P.S. You can find more of Khakan's recipes by visiting the Channel 4 receipes website.  They're from when Khakan appeared on Come Dine With Me - here's the link

P.P.S  Check out his amazing cakes - right here!

BBC Good Food Show Winter 2012

The best and biggest food show in the country starts tomorrow at the NEC and we're getting really really excited.

We'll be looking out for our favourite Hairy Bikers, hoping we'll bump into John Torode and Greg Wallace and fingers crossed we'll get to see British Bake Off's Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.  We were bowled off by the number of entries who gave us their names  for our Good Food Show competition.  Well done you! 

If you weren't one of our lucky winners, there are still some Good Food Show tickets left to buy, so to pick up some foodie tips and inspiration for this year's Christmas Day lunch click on this link now.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Tiny Dancers

Don't just watch dancing on Strictly next Saturday (1 December),  put your own dancing shoes and get yourselves down to St Mary's Church for Birmingham Women's Hospital Christmas Charity Ceilidh. Yeeeehah! 

Featuring the Cadenza Ceilidh and Barn Dance Band, this festive hoe down is to raise funds for the Tiny Babies Big Appeal.

Amanda Swindale contacted welovebearwood to tell us why the appeal means so much to her.
"Our son was born 16 weeks early in september last year weighing only 1lb 3 oz, sadly we lost his twin sister when she was 10 days old but Toby is now a very happy 13 month old."  
"The monies raised from the event will go to the Birmingham Women's Hospital Tiny Babies Big Appeal who looked after Toby on their neo natal unit."

Read more about Amanda's story here.

Tickets are £8 per person and children under 12 are FREE. It all kicks off at 7 and the dancing should finish by 10 so it's perfect for a family night out.

For more info and tickets contact Karen Blanchford on 07908 681 651 or Marian Hills at

Friday, 23 November 2012

Pop up!

The world needs more pop up outlets! 

So yeah...courtesy of the Bearwood Indoor Market there are pop up stalls now available to rent in Bearwood!
Got some things you want to sell but don't know where to go? How about a Pop-Up-Stall in Bearwood Indoor Market?

You can now rent a space for as little as one day to allow you to sell your surplus wares in a High Street location without a lengthy contract.

Speak to Daniel on 07908743124 for details of having a unit for a day, a week or an amount of time to suit you!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Merry Stress-mas!

You have to admit it the run-up to Christmas can be really stressful!   All the shops have really long queues and never have the gifts you’re looking for, you can’t avoid the herds in town and even if you order all your pressies over the internet there’s no guarantee that snail mail will deliver them in time.

If it does get too much and you need take time out  Birmingham Counselling and Psychotherapy Centre based in Bearwood may offer the solution you're after.

Ellie from the Centre contacted welovebearwood to tell us that they are a friendly and professional Counselling and Psychotherapy centre based in Bearwood, working locally and nationally.

"Our welcoming centre offers a wide range of services, for individuals and businesses, including counselling and psychotherapy, therapy groups, counselling and psychotherapy training, consultancy and training for businesses and workshops.

We have a number of professional and wonderful therapists with us, all of whom can be found on our website. Some of our therapists offer a limited number of reduced rate sessions, depending on client circumstances. Please don't be afraid to get in touch with us!"


Twitter: @couns_direct

Facebook:Birmingham Counselling and Psychotherapy Centre

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Azzari Loo!

Photo courtesy of Express and Star

Good news for Bearwood's loos!

Barry Hall, owner of Azzari Too restaurant, is currently in talks with Sandwell Council about how to rejuvenate the toilet facilities at Bearwood's bus station on Atkins Road.  The toilets have been closed for the last 2 years due to vandalism.

Barry's plan is to keep part of the building as public toilets and to turn the other part into a takeaway deli. Steve Eling is backing Barry's idea.

Barry explained to the Express And Star that “I spoke to the council about the toilets a while ago and was told they might have to be knocked down. I thought it was a real shame.

“So we came up with this idea and had a meeting in April and since then they have been really supportive. It should be stunning when it’s finished.”

Monday, 19 November 2012

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas!

Meadow by Alan Reynolds I think it’s safe to say Christmas is on its way!

Been to the German Market in town and enjoyed a pint of Orchard Pig Cider, Bearwood High Street has its Christmas lights and Christmas tree, the Crafty Muthas are holding their first Christmas Bearwood Handmade fair this Saturday, Chamberlains Fish and Chips Restaurant are promoting their Christmas menu and Warley Woods’ very pretty Christmas cards are for sale.
We caught up with Viv Cole, Warley Woods’ Trust Manager, to find out more about the Christmas cards.....

"Our images are all taken by volunteers who let us use them free of charge to help raise funds. They are exclusive to Warley Woods and all (of course) of beautiful Warley Woods.
Tree Path by Alan Reynolds

All of these happen to be by Alan Reynolds, apart from sleging which is by Anne Abbott.
Sledging by Anne Abbott

Anne attends all of our events and gives us a disc a month of her images, so we always have lots to choose from and a great record of the site. 
Veteran Tree by Alan Reynolds

The jigsaw images are all by five different volunteers which is lovely. The cards cost £2.25 for a pack of five (online they are more to cover postage).  The jigsaw is £15.
Warley Woods Jigsaw

All proceeds go to help fund the maintenance of the park and the golf course.  Shop is open 9am – 4pm during the week and 8am – 4pm at weekends. "
Watertower by Alan Reynolds

Saturday, 17 November 2012

We love Webb's Day Newsflash!

Hooray! It's finally arrived! Get yourselves down to Webb's of Bearwood today!

10% discount off everything you buy and all you have to say is We love Webb's Winter Wonderland.

Our Christmas shopping starts today!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Catching up with Khakan

We were so excited when we found out that Khakan Qureshi from Bearwood was going to be on ITV's gameshow The Chase. 

We hurried from work and plonked ourselves in front of the telly and loved every second of it.  Khakan did Bearwood proud.  We were lucky enough to catch up with him to find how much he enjoyed being on the show.

"It’s easy to sit at home and answer questions when watching quiz show “The Chase” on ITV, right?

I thought so too, until I applied for this early evening programme online and was fortunate enough to be called to an audition. This process in itself was difficult. I thought I made a complete mess of it, but the casting producer and Production Team must have seen something in me to call me up a few days later and informed me that I was a successful candidate! From applying online to actually being auditioned could take weeks if not months or you might not hear anything at all!

After the audition, as we all know (like applying for a job) not everyone is successful. But that’s another story…

I met the other three contestants and we all sat in silence for a while. The researcher encouraged us to talk between ourselves to get to know each other as we would need to “work as a team” on the show. We needed to be comfortable with each other, yet competitive at the same time. The objective being that we had to answer the questions as best as we could, return to the contestants’ panel and not be thrown off.

We were ushered into what can only be described as the proverbial “Green Room” and provided with a pep talk by another member of staff. An effort to make us feel at ease and calm. As we were scheduled to film at a certain time, lunch was provided. We were then instructed to bring out our own items of clothing, which was scrutinised by the wardrobe department. They had to look at each garment to see whether or not it was suitable/acceptable for television purposes (no logos, stripes, checks, designer wear, motifs, nothing garish, nor black or white).

After we got dressed in our chosen attire and made up, we didn’t wait long before we were called into the TV studio, a large black studio with lots of people milling around, electric cables everywhere, monitors, the large pixelated screens in red and blue, headsets and microphones. The sound man came along and after a quick test on the microphones to see how your voice will pick up and an introduction to see how you would look/sound on the screen. Then Bradley (Bradley Walsh!!) came over to introduce himself. He appeared to be charming, amusing, and made us feel comfortable in front of the camera…and requested a name check. Did he get my name right? No, not really. I did mention its pronounced “car-Khan” but it was too late! I no longer cared. My name was in lights and I was experiencing one of the most surreal experiences I’d ever had in my life!

Then, it was time for the show to start…and ready for the cameras to roll…,

First up was Helen, who appeared very cool, calm and articulate. I thought she was a natural. She made it through. Phew! Then, Chris. Poor soul was so nervous; he couldn’t keep his hands from fidgeting. Although he was anxious, he passed with flying colours. Next up was Vera. We thought she had the luck of the Irish, but she was chased off the stage. My turn next. My mouth was dry, my heart was beating. I was having palpitations and my stomach was churning. I’d seen Bradley work like a true professional and I wanted to match his qualities. I think we all know what the outcome of that was! He had a twinkle in his eye and came across as sharp and witty. I couldn’t keep a straight face! We engaged in light hearted banter, and he asked questions about our jobs, hobbies etc. but of course we all know that the show is edited so you only catch a glimpse of the contestants’ personality.

Then the quick fire round, a short break – it does get hot under the spotlights - a quick gulp of water, and time to face The Chaser! We had Ann Hegarty (aka Frosty Knickers/The Governess). I must say, she does look like a formidable woman in real life, and she is there to save her title as a brainy individual.

I came off the set and had the opportunity to watch Chris and Helen try to beat the Chaser and win £15,000. It saddens me to think that they lost… However, I am fortunate enough to have kept in touch with Helen via Facebook.

I would like to think I did my best, and sometimes after answering the question and you get it wrong, you do think “I knew the answer to that!” But the pressure is immense, people are watching you, urging you to succeed, and you can get a mental block. It happens and I think it just depends on how the questions fall. It’s a fast paced game, you win some, and you lose some. It’s just unfortunate that I lost mine!

As Bradley said “For you, The Chase is over!”"

P.S.  You can watch how Khakan got on - by clicking here!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Bearwood Handmade!

As they say on the Crafty Muthas' website......."See you there or be a granny square!" 

We'll see you there!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Chamberlains batters the competition!

Long before we all caught the balti bug Fish and Chips was our national dish, as British as a cup of tea, lousy summers and losing at football. It’s a deceptively tricky thing to get just right though; its reputation’s no doubt sullied by those sad, dried out specimens that you often see lying forlornly under heat lamps on high streets up and down the country. Being here in the landlocked Midlands (pretty much as far away from the coast as you get) probably doesn’t help but even a lot of seaside Chippies seem to have lost their way in recent years. 

Against this backdrop expectations for Chamberlains were modest, despite it winning Best Newcomer in the UK to the Fish and Chip Industry at the National Fish and Chip Awards 2012. 

The set up’s simple but effective with a take away section at the front of a welcoming 76 seater restaurant that’s got a modern feel without losing that traditional edge. Mirrors and subtle lighting mix well with old photos and there was a nice early evening buzz about the place. We were greeted by Kate, friendly, efficient and knowledgeable about both the restaurant itself and the food, and handed our menus. Again, as with the decor, there’s a pleasing mix of the old and new with traditional favourites like Cod and Chips nuzzling up against the more exotic Smoked Hake in Boursin Sauce and Mussels in Holden’s Cider.

When in Rome (well, on the Bearwood/Oldbury border) it seemed almost sacrilegious to have anything other than the traditional fish and chip meal though (especially on our first visit) so we plumped for the Haddock and Cod options with side orders of onion rings and mushy peas and a bottle of chardonnay (well, it was Saturday night!). One of the big sells of the Chamberlains experience is that everything’s cooked fresh and to order. 

Despite this waiting time is minimal and just a few minutes later our feast arrived. And it was a feast...for the eyes, nose and tastebuds. Even without diving in you can see it’s a fresh as a spring day on Scarborough beach (now that’s fresh!). 

The generous bowls of onion rings and homemade minted mushy peas looked every bit as inviting as the main dishes too. 

After a gentle drizzle of vinegar and a light dusting of salt we cut into our fish, the crisp, golden batter satisfyingly crunching away to reveal the moist, pearly white flesh within. So often these days fish batter’s hard and cloying, burying the subtle taste of the fish rather than complimenting it. At Chamberlains the batter’s light, crisp and full of flavour (that’ll be the traditional beef dripping that they use) without being overpowering, enveloping the fish and keeping it mouth-wateringly moist. That first bite whisks you away to the can almost feel the spray of the ocean...and it takes a second or to two to come back to reality. If they serve fish and chips in heaven this is what they’ll taste like. 

Overcoming our reverie we checked out the sides. The onion rings (again, how often do restaurants get this one wrong?) were perfection, with the crisp batter yielding to a tender, juicy halo of onion. It’s probably a bit sad to rhapsodise about mushy peas but bear with us here. The mushy pea is the forgotten hero of the fish and chip world, bringing a springtime freshness to all that deep fried loveliness. They can be miserable, grey and anaemic, slopped out of can and reheated so many times that it’s difficult to detect any signs of life. Chamberlains make their own though and, by the taste of it, they’re up at the crack of dawn to pick the freshest peas and sprigs of mint, blending the two together to create unctuous spoonfuls of deep green loveliness that cuts through the fried elements of the meal, cleansing the palate beautifully. Top the whole thing off with thick freshly sliced wholemeal bread (don’t worry, they’ve got white on offer too) and proper slabs of butter and you’ve got a meal that puts the humble fish and chip supper on the pedestal it deserves.  

Efficiency personified Kate cleared away our plates and returned with the menus. We were nicely full but the puddings looked so tempting they were impossible to resist. The Creme Brulee Cheesecake was even more delicious than it sounds, with tiny nuggets of brandy snap offering up a neat contrast to the soft creamy cheesecake, whilst the bread and butter pudding (smothered in proper custard) was moist and rich in plump raisins.

At under £20 per head (including a honey and lemon-tastic bottle of Chardonnay and two large pots of tea) Chamberlains offers exceptional value and truly memorable food, sourced, cooked and served by people who really care. Best Fish and Chips in the country? This place batters the competition...

P.S. Just wanted to say a BIG thank you to everyone who entered our competition to win Fish and Chip meals for two.  We've been overwhelmed by the number of entries and the competition is now closed.  The winners will be notified shortly. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Can you catch him...

...yes you Khakan!

Tune into ITV tomorrow at 5pm to find out how Khakan Qureshi did on general knowledge quiz The Chase.

Khakan can't spill the beans until the show's been broadcast but he did tell us that he made Bradley giggle.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Well worth a book!

Last weekend NX News' Christmas Catalogue landed on our doormat. We love giving (and receiving! hint! hint!) good books at Christmas so we had a look through to see if there were any books we fancied.

There was so much choice...The John Lennon Letters (with a very tempting £5 off), Duran Duran's John Taylor's In The Pleasure Groove (big crush on him in the 80s!) and Hollywood Costume (gorgeous pictures) would definitely be on the top of our Christmas pressie list.

Manish who owns NX News explained to us how you can order books via their online ordering service.

"People can order online from and can follow the link provided on that site. From there they will be redirected to a hive website where they can search and order books. If the customer gets the delivery sent to their home there is a delivery price unless if their order is over a specific amount, but delivery to my shop where they can then collect it will be free of charge whatever the book."

We also asked Manish for his top tips for Christmas...."We have signed copies of Kate Morton's The Secret Keeper which can be a bestseller if word is spread." 

Sounds like a right riveting read, it was recently described by the Marie Claire Good Book Club as "an evocative tale of wartime secrets and family loyalty...the story unfurls with a beguiling sweetness, but there's a real sting to this tale, too".

And for all those 50 Shades of Grey fans out there Manesh recommended new author Sylvia Day's Reflected in's currently being devoured (yes...literally!) up and down the country.

Check out NXBooks right here - the bookseller where the customer really does come first!

Website: NX Books
Facebook: NX Books
Twitter: NX Books

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Ten From Ken!

Avebury Stone Circle, Wiltshire

We had seen Ken Harrison with his camera at Lightwoods Park Festival and the Mary Portas Pilot Walk so when we got chance to speak to him at the recent Heaven 17 gig we asked him about his photos, his love of 80s music and his connection to Bearwood.  Ken sent us 10 of his brillant photos too!

The photos on your website are amazing. Where do you get your inspiration from, what do you like about taking photos and how long have you been taking photos for?

Thank you; I’m chuffed whenever I get compliments. Many things inspire me, whether it’s a desolate beach, a crowded city, an old building, a prehistoric stone circle, or even a new concrete, steel and glass tower.

I have been taking photographs since my teens, but didn’t make anything happen until I bought a “proper” camera in 1993. For the first few years I was playing around with it, taking landscape and building pictures and experimenting with black and white film (which worked far better for me as I have a low level of colour-blindness) and especially Infrared film. In 2000 one of my architecture pictures won a prize in the Millennibrum Birmingham Photo Competition ran by Birmingham Central Library. With the prize money, I bought a second hand roll-film camera (more on that later) so that I could get better quality images.

In 2006 I really got going (as I had finished my university stuff) and started taking lots more photographs, and learned how to process my own film and make my own prints. As most people had switched to digital, I equipped my darkroom for a very small cost, and was also given a couple of hundred rolls of film by a friend who had “gone digital”.

Taking photographs allows me time and space to research different locations, get out and about, see different places and people and get creative. My day job does not allow so much of the creativity, so whether I’m standing in a landscape at dawn or dusk watching the sun rise and fall, or in the “pit” at a music venue shooting a band, I’m in my element.
John Lydon, PIL

We love your live music shots. Which websites, magazines etc do you take photos for? Is it difficult to emulate the atmosphere of gigs in your photos?

I shoot mostly for Birmingham Live  and for Gig Junkies websites who are Birmingham based and pair up photographers and reviewers for images and reviews of gigs so that you really get a feel of the performance. I have also contributed to other local websites and am always on the lookout for working with other publications.

Gig photography is difficult, far more difficult than sticking your iPhone (other camera phones are available!) in the air as I quickly found out when I started doing it officially. Often getting a good photograph is difficult as some shows have very difficult lighting (lots of red or blue and subjects being backlit so you can only get silhouettes) and/or lots of smoke. Add to that the time restrictions (at best you only get the first three songs to shoot and are then escorted from the venue by security) and other artist particular foibles (you can shoot from one side, or no-close ups etc. etc.) and oh yes, no Flash! Feel the pressure?

Midge Ure, Ultravox

Like us you’re a big fan of 80s music. If you could take photos of any bands or singers from that era who would you choose and why?

I am a big fan of anything vaguely electronic (if it’s got a keyboard…I’m there), plus punk and new wave and I have been lucky to see many of my favourite artists over the last twenty odd years and more recently with a “New Wave” of reformations/anniversary tours of classic albums I missed first time around. I have photographed many of them by taking in compact cameras stuffed in a pocket, but am now trying to get to “officially” shoot them all.

On one hand, I would love to shoot the bands in their heyday, (going back some 30 years) when they were all in their youth and still in good health (or even still alive), but as time travel is not yet possible I have to stick with the present day and those that are about.

I have recently shot Ultravox (who are my particular favourite band) John Foxx, Heaven 17, Howard Jones, Steve Strange, Nik Kershaw, Blancmange, The Stranglers, Public Image Limited and lots of others. I also shoot outside of my particular genre because it has opened my mind up to a lot of other music and some interesting new bands like Metronomy, Twin Atlantic and many others.

Mark Chadwick, The Levellers

If pressed for an ultimate, it would have to be David Bowie, with so many iconic images and sounds; it would be a joy to capture something of his character. Sadly, I think we won’t be seeing anything from him in future as he appears to have faded out of the business, but I live in hope….

I would like to shoot Gary Numan (as it was a set of pictures from his Pleasure Principle Tour that secured my initial contact with Birmingham Live!) OMD, Kraftwerk. I’ve already got my name in for Simple Minds 2013 tour, and will be trying to do Depeche Mode next year too. Although The Rolling Stones are touring…that’ll be some show!!

Miles Hunt, The Wonderstuff

You exhibited your photos of listed buildings in Smethwick at the Smethwick Heritage Centre in the summer and we understand that you have recently photographed The Waterloo Hotel in Cape Hill. What was it like taking these photos and what do you think should be done to save these beautiful old buildings?

A Picture of Smethwick Exhibition

The project took shape over a couple of years, when time and access to some locations became available. Taking a walk around Smethwick is like walk through history and some of the buildings I was allowed to enter were surprising to say the least. For example Soho Foundry, tucked away at the back of Avery’s in Black Patch. The entrance to the foundry was unassuming, dark and dusty, but walking into the brighter expanse of the Pattern Shop was like walking into a cathedral, this immense silent space being softly lit due to the dirt stained rooflights. Chances Glassworks is another such place, also unused, but rich with history.

Soho Foundry

Smethwick is full of such places, many that are forgotten, unloved and neglected as the industries that created and sustained them have long gone. The GKN works on Grove Lane shut down years ago and is due to be bulldozed for the new “Super Hospital”. And here lies the problem, the buildings in my project were “listed” so have some sort of protection, but are not immune to getting vandalised and burnt down. Once this happens even being “listed” does not protect it from demolition and the subsequent erasing from public awareness for only memories and memorabilia to be behind glass in a museum.

Many such buildings in Walsall have recently suffered this fate. For even one of these places to survive it takes major commitment over a long period to raise awareness, find a sustainable sympathetic use, obtain funding and get something brought back into use and managed properly into the future.

Soho Foundry

Sadly, given the state of the economy, the general lack of investment and the ability to find suitable alternative for many of these buildings, I think that many such places will not survive. Although as I write this, there is some good news; The Waterloo Hotel has been sold at auction to a buyer for £144,000 who now has a huge repair commitment. The new owner will need a sympathetic eye on the history and the beauty of this iconic building, a big input from Sandwell Conservation officers and a large cheque book to bring the building back. I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

Waterloo Hotel

We understand that you are going to be taking photos of the progress of the Lightwoods House and Park restoration project. What do you think of the plans and what do you think the project means to Bearwood?

I’ve been involved with the project since before the building came back to Sandwell from Birmingham Council. I photographed the building and talked about what I had found. The building was in a sorry state at my first visit and had clearly not been looked after.
During the restorations, I will be taking a set of photographs each quarter so will be able to show the changes to the house and park over time. This will make a great long term project and hopefully I will be able to exhibit some of the pictures.

I have been to many of the consultation events and know the amount of work that has gone in to make the project happen. I think that the team have come up with the best possible uses for the building and park, but of course the community of Bearwood and the wider area need to continue to support it. Bearwood certainly needs a shot in the arm, something to bring people in, particularly to improve the trade on the high street. I think the restoration will go some way to do that and will make Bearwood somewhere to go to.

Do you use a particular camera? If so which one and why?

I use three different cameras, dependent upon my subject. I have a professional Nikon digital camera for the gigs, as film would not be practical or speedy enough to publish. My first digital camera was very quickly found wanting, so made the investment as soon as I could. Typically, Nikon announced an upgrade to the model within a few days of my purchase, so my 12 month old camera is obsolete. Having said that, the image quality is great and will last me a good while yet, so will not be joining in the annual upgrade race.

For the landscape and architecture pictures I have an old roll-film camera (a Mamiya M645 with a wide angle lens almost permanently fixed to the front) which is around 40 years old, weighs a ton, but is a joy to use. All of the listed building pictures were taken using it. Also have a Minolta X700 35mm film camera which is around 30 years old which also gets dusted off occasionally. The digital camera also acts as a useful back up when shooting with the film cameras as I can instantly see what I have taken and I can also get some quick shots online while I work on the film pictures.

Do you prefer taking photos the old fashioned way and developing them in a dark room or taking them using a digital camera and posting them on the internet? Why?

I like both, but prefer working with film. The immediacy of digital has many benefits, particularly when I have got some good gig shots to publish and a deadline to meet. I don’t tend to do much Photoshop type work on my pictures, typically some minor adjustments or cropping but the most I do is convert some of the gig pictures shot in poor light to black and white.

For my personal work I love using the old cameras, with their slower way of working and idiosyncrasies due to their age and the type of film used. It is an experience to develop film and print up big black and white prints in the darkroom there is something very magical about watching a picture appear in the developing tray, I never tire of it. Interest in film is enjoying something of a resurgence latterly with Lomo and Diana cameras being produced and special film to go with it. Even the use of programs such as Instagram is encouraging people to try the real thing rather than use a computer. I held a workshop on film processing a few months back and will be planning some more shortly.

Who is your favourite photographer and why?

For landscapes it has to be Dave Butcher, a Derbyshire based photographer and master printer. Dave shoots beautiful landscapes on black and white film. His work in the Derbyshire Peaks and Lake District is beautiful. I have three of his books and the pictures are superb on his website.

For music photography there are some great people around, many of whom I have met over the last couple of years working in and around the West Midlands and many more based elsewhere in the UK who I have “virtual” contact with via the social media networks.

Gary Lornie is probably my favourite, as he has been a music photographer since my teens, when he started out in Liverpool hanging around at “Eric’s” club and shot many of (and was and still is friends with) the local bands coming out of the city at the time. His photography is great, and has a massive archive of superb images, many of which are online here.

What one piece of advice would you give to an amateur photographer who has just started taking photos?

You don’t need the latest gear, the best camera you have is the one in your hand.

Shoot anything you can, experiment with different subjects, find something you have an interest in, try and find your own view on things.

You’ve been the official photographer for events in Lightwoods Park. Is there anywhere you particularly like taking photos of in Bearwood? Why?

Bearwood and the surrounding areas have lots of green space, Lightwoods Park, Warley Woods etc. Lightwoods Park is of particular interest not only because of the restoration project, but also due to the level of activity with the recent events and local interest in making the park something special.
Colin Hall and band outside Lightwoods House

What’s your connection with Bearwood?

I’m a born and bred “Brummie” and I moved to the area a few years ago after I married a Smethwick girl. I now have a Black Country passport and feel very much at home here.

What do you see as the future for Bearwood? What changes would you like to see happen?

I would like to see Bearwood be again the vibrant, bustling place I remember from my youth, with the park and house restored, with thriving businesses in the area and lots of people wanting to be here. I think the changes should be the investment of people’s time, energy, passion and certainly investment in local businesses, by the people and the businesses themselves. The enthusiasm and passion are clearly visible…you only have to look at the recent Mary Portas Pilot. People got up and did something...I would love this to continue

Mary Portas Pilot March

Please tell us your Bearwood All-Star. In other words what, who or where makes you smile in Bearwood?

Its back to the previous question I think. There are a number of local groups that are coming together to make stuff happen in the community. It shows me that people love the place they live in and that there is a good community spirit where people are willing to put themselves out. I’ve been involved with some of the recent events which have got me doing stuff I perhaps wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do. Lightwoods Festival, The Drive-In movie, The Mary Portas march down the High Street have all given me the chance to make my own small contribution for the community also.

We always have to ask this question.....what makes Lightwood’s chippy’s chips orange?

Do you know, I’m not sure….must do a taste test… back soon….”Collects keys off the table, walks out of front door….crunch of gravel as wheelspins off in the general direction of Bearwood…”

If you want to see some examples of my work, please visit me at;

Web: Ken Harrison Photography
Web: Birmingham Live!
Web: Gig Junkies