Monday, 30 September 2013

Lightwoods House and Park Restoration Dates

There's definitely a light at the end of the tunnel as the official opening of the restored Lightwoods Park and House has been confirmed as August 2016.  This year seems to be flying by (can it really be October tomorrow?) so it hopefully won't seem that far away.

It will be fascinating to see the House and Park being developed and we are particularly excited about the work which is due to start in October 2014.  Watch this space! 

Friday, 27 September 2013

Steve's Story

Steve Rabone
One of the things we love about writing for the welovebearwood blog is the people we meet and hearing all about their lives in Bearwood. Recently we got to know Steve Rabone through his son, Conor, the lead singer of Brothers of Caedmon, who played at last year’s Bearwood Shuffle (the one in St Mary’s Church Hall) and at this year’s Warley Woods Picnic in the Park.

Although Steve lives in Redditch now, he spent his childhood in Bearwood and told us about his fond memories growing up near Warley Woods and Lightwoods Park. 

"In terms of my connection to Bearwood, well I was born at St Chads Hospital on the Hagley Road on the 31st October 1968 and returned to the family home in Loxley Road, Bearwood , where I spent the next 23 years of my life before getting married and moving initially to Halesowen and then latterly Redditch.

I lived in Loxley Road with my dad Ron and mum Ann ( also known as the lady with the dog, but more about that later) and younger brother Mark. Loxley Road runs parallel with St Mary's Road and was a great location close to the main shops on the Bearwood Road but also in easy reach of my favourite destinations of Lightwoods Park and Warley Woods.

You have asked me for my earliest memory of living in Bearwood and I must confess it is difficult to pick just one out so here are a few of those moments in my childhood that stand out for me:

At a very early age I can remember a hot summers day and water splashing against my feet. No, I wasn't on holiday in Paignton (a favourite destination for the Rabones) but actually in the paddling pool at Lightwoods Park with what seemed like hundreds of other children enjoying the british weather. Its hard to believe that 40 odd years later the remains of the pool still exist, although skateboards and BMX bikes are now the order of the day next to the play area

I spent most of childhood up 'the woods' with my mates and whilst this evolved from doing the normal boy activities of climbing trees, playing army games and then cricket and football, one particular early evening adventure still lasts in my mind today. One of my best mates had heard about the ghost that was said to haunt the stables near the old Abbey at the top half of the woods near the golf course. Apparently she was called the Grey Lady and we embarked on an early evening trek to see if we could see her. I seem to recall there were about four of us and we quickly reached the old derelict stables that were in a state of disrepair. We crept up to the wooden doors and looked inside, not quite sure what we would see.

The story was that the Grey Lady had died there over a hundred years ago and someone thought that she had hung herself. So we were already pretty spooked but having peered in through the wooden doors into the darkness we could just make out what we thought was a piece of rope hanging down from the rafters....I can't remember which one of us screamed first but before long all of us were running back down the hill, our hearts pounding and sure that we had seen something. I don't think there is anything left of the old Abbey or stables now although obviously we have the constant reminder that it existed given that Abbey Road is still there.

Warley Woods Silver Jubilee
Steve's the one in the large blue E+R hat
The other memory which I have fondness for and the one that my mum will no doubt still have pictures for was the 1977 Queen's Silver Jubilee. (See above!)

I would have been 8 going on 9 at the time and even now I can recall it as a happy time when we seemed to speak to people and neighbours that we hadn't done before. Obviously there were street parties happening all over the country at the time but we joined lots of our neighbours at St Mary's Church Hall where trestle tables had been put out for an indoor party.

This came the day after another party that my school, Abbey Road Junior and Infants had held up Warley Woods.   The school had run a competition to design the best hat and I had proudly worn a large soldiers hat my dad had made from card and crepe paper. Along with my Aston Villa cardigan I felt the bees knees and whether it's the fact there are lots of photographs but this seems to be the outfit that I always think back to when I was growing up. I know it probably sounds quite corny now but as a youngster this did seem like a really happy time with everyone getting on together and it did feel like the whole of Bearwood were celebrating together

To be honest there are so many other memories that I could throw in from the many, many hours playing cricket up the Woods with my mates, swimming at Thimble Mill baths, hide and seek up the Brook off Norman Road, going ice skating at the Windsor to catching the 448 bus to senior school at Bristnall Hall and playing in the school brass band with four of my mates. On behalf of me and my four mates I would like to take this opportunity of saying sorry to our parents for the noise that we must have created during this last endeavour, we were without doubt the worst 5 piece brass band ever to attempt this form of music.

In terms of Bearwood, I suspect wherever you live and grow up has a place in your heart, but I do genuinely think that Bearwood has certain qualities that appeal to many people and I know over the years it has attracted new people to the area, many professionals who like its location to Birmingham and beyond.

I always felt that Bearwood was in some ways a bridge between the posher area of Harborne and its neighbour extension Smethwick, in particular Cape Hill. As a result I think it has always wrestled with a bit of an identity crisis in terms of whether it was joined to Harborne or Smethwick. To be honest when I was growing up it always felt like we were an off shoot of Harborne sharing many of the shops and outlets of Harborne, even the main street looked and felt the same. However over the years this connection did seem to disappear and in my teenage years and certainly after I left for Halesowen it did feel like Bearwood had become more of an extension of Cape Hill rather than having its own distinct look and feel.

Steve at Abbey Road Junior School
There has however also been lots of other changes over the years and I was really pleased to see recently the talk of renovating the big house in Lightwoods Park. For me this Park, the Extension and Warley Woods are the centre piece of this area and its great to see the recent investment that has been made.
There are not many places in and around Birmingham that can boast such an abundance of parks. You only have to ask my mum, the lady with the dog who can testify to this. My mum has owned a dog for many years and now that her sons have left home and my dad passed away it is fair to say that she spends most of her time either walking to, around or back from one these three parks.

As you say my son has recently played at a couple of gigs and for me both brought back great memories for me. Due to the bad weather the Bearwood Shuffle was taken inside and Conor performed at St Mary's Church Hall, which as I said was where we held our Silver Jubilee Street Party.

Similarly the recent Party in the Park at Warley Woods was a huge success and on a personal note was the first time I had been back to Warley Woods in many years. It was slightly odd seeing my son perform on stage just yards away from where I used to play cricket during the school holidays and summer evenings. The amount of people at this event was great and proved that Warley Woods is a great centre piece for the whole of Bearwood to come together and I hope many more events take place.

I now live in Redditch and have a family life centred around here, with its big roads, roundabouts and vicinity to the countryside all very practical for me and the family. However I will always have a real attraction to Bearwood because I do think it has a lot to offer for the people who live there.

The houses, whilst predominately terraced have character and do remind you of Dr Who's tardis...they are definitely bigger on the inside. The Hagley Road is great link into Birmingham although the speed camera's do mean it takes slightly longer to get there these days. It does also boast a close proximity to a Premiership Football team and whilst I am Villa fan through and through I know most of my mates would like me to call out the fact that West Bromwich Albion is literally just down the road. Bearwood Road was also a great place to shop and still attracts lots of shoppers as my mum will testify by the fact it is so difficult to park in her road on a Saturday.

As I said earlier I always felt like Bearwood was a bridge between Harborne and Smethwick and over the years it seemed to move from one to the other. I guess in terms of its future it now needs to have its own distinct identity, it certainly has enough going for it."

P.S. Are you Bearwood Born and Bred?  Would you like to share your memories about growing up in Bearwood?  If so, we would love to hear from you.  Please email us at

P.P.S You can find out more about Brothers of Caedmon right here!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Chamberlains Charity Coffee Morning

Chamberlains are at it again tomorrow and this time it's to help raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Last Chance To Vote!

In the last 2 years Warley Woods have got to second place in the Green Flag Award for the UK’s favourite park.

This year we want them to go all the way (ooh err missus!) and become the nation’s favourite park. They definitely deserve it.

You have until September 30th to get your vote in so please just click on this link and vote NOW! It really couldn’t be easier! They've got ours already.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Smooth Operator

Vic ‘Velvety Tones’ Evans, long time vocalist with the Blue Notes, is appearing this Thursday night at the Silvershine Jazz Club (558 Bearwood Road).

This time Vic’s bringing his own band so get yourselves along to Bearwood’s no1 jazz club for a night of crooner numbers with a real Caribbean flavour.

Tickets are only £4 per person.

P.S Future Silvershine Jazz Club highlights include:

11th October - Lucas D & The Groove Ghetto  featuring Luke Shingler (Sax)

24th October - Roy Forbes with The Blue Notes

31st October - Arabella Sprott Quartet


Thursday, 19 September 2013

Super Saturday!

We've decided to rename Saturday 21st September 2013.....Super Saturday! Why? Well, that's simples! There's so much happening in Bearwood!

Over at Sandon Road Methodist Church between 11.30am - 2.30pm, they're having a Table Top Sale. Cakes, jewellery, handicrafts, refreshments, second hand items etc. Lovely jubbley! Entry fee is only 20p (what does that buy you nowadays, eh?).

Then from 10am – 4pm at St Mary's Church Hall, Smethwick Heritage Centre are holding their Bearwood...Past, Present and Future Roadshow in association with Lightwoods House and Warley Woods. There will be exhibits of Bearwood past including photographs of the shops along Bearwood High Street, Midland Red, British Pens, Eclipse, Haws, Herbert James VC, photos of the old Warley Woods Abbey and an oral history display.

The Sandwell Council Parks Team who have been working on the historic restoration of Lightwoods Park and House will also be displaying the future Heritage Lottery funded plans for the park and house along with some of the history of the site. Entry is FREE too!

In the evening, head over to the Bear Tavern for musical mini fest Bearwoodstock. The Beorma Morris Dancers kick off the afternoon at 3.30pm and all day wristband entry is only £6. With money raised going towards their chosen charity, Stroke, what's not to like!

Here's a taster from Ska Tribute band, 2-Tonics, to get you in the mood....

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Hot News Flash! Bearwood Fish Bar Presents...

Bargain of the week....half price Doner Kebabs at the recently re-opened Bearwood Fish Bar on Three Shires Oak Road.  Fast Food Heaven!

P.S Don't forget Chamberlains on Hagley Road who are in the running for the nation's best fish and chips restaurant and Mario's Catch next to the old Thimblemill Pub who have been getting some rave reviews. 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Legend of Mike Smith @ The REP, Monday 16th September 2013

Soweto Kinch Ricardo Da Silva and Tyrone Isaac – Stuart
Photo Credit: Graeme Braidwood 
Last night the welovebearwood crew went to the new and very shiny STUDIO theatre at the Birmingham REP for The Legend of Mike Smith.  Here’s what we thought of Soweto Kinch’s masterpiece.
Thankfully not a glowing tribute to 80s DJ and TV presenter Mike ‘Smitty’ Smith, instead this show brings to life the latest album from jazz saxophonist, MC, festival organiser and all round dude Soweto Kinch.

Inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins (with a dash of Dante’s Inferno thrown in for good measure) it’s the tale of an aspiring MC and his struggle to get to a showcase gig that could make or break him. The Seven Deadly Sins? Dante? Hip hop? Okay so perhaps they’re not the most likeliest of bedfellows but if anyone can make it work you’d put your money on Kinch.

The plot itself is fairly straightforward. Smith has a few hours to prepare a rap and get to the gig. Along the way our hero has to battle with everything from sloth to gluttony though, via a series of set pieces simply but effectively depicted (clever lighting adds movement and depth to the stage) and using graphic novel style still images projected onto a cloth as the backdrops.

Part gig, part improv, part theatrical production Ricardo Da Silva impressed as Smith...well, the main Smith anyway, both Soweto and Tyrone Isaac Stuart also played elements (alter egos perhaps?) of the role. He’s particularly good at the more comedic parts of the show, especially the innuendo rich Lust section. Hilarious. Trust me chaps, you’ll never buy a pair of shoes from a lady the same way again.

This being a Soweto Kinch production the man himself is pretty much onstage throughout of course, either blowing up a storm behind the backdrop or shadowing / tempting Da Silva in front of it. Happily (and if you’ve seen him before you’ll know how good he is at this) he even manages to work in a freestyle section too, leaping about through the audience and good naturedly ripping a few of them to pieces. Local poet Spoz copped for some particularly hilarious lines this evening...

Throughout it all Shane Forbes and Nick Jurd provide some fine and suitably jazzy drums and bass respectively, flanking Kinch either side of the cloth backdrop so they’re visible too, cleverly blurring the line between a more traditional jazz gig and this hybrid. Add effective choreography (street style with a little ballet thrown in) from Jonzi D (an MC and Poet as well as a graduate of the London Contemporary Dance School...jeez, these dudes make me feel such a slack ass) and the whole thing’s a delightfully fresh fusion of fly raps, jazzy beats and classical references that somehow manages to be as entertaining as it is ambitious.

A few decades on from hip hop’s birth in the Bronx it now takes another bold and intriguing step forward in Brum. Missing it would be the biggest sin of all...

The Legend of Mike Smith is showing at The REP until 28th September. Tickets here.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Strictly Come Bearwood

 With Strictly fever back on our TV screens it seems perfect timing that the new dance academy from Riven Productions opens in Bearwood this Saturday.

With their big launch party only a few days away we caught up with Jennie Sutherland, Riven Productions’ Director, to find out more.

“We are now launching our new dance academy for the local children from 4/5yrs to 16yrs+ and all age group classes are FREE all day. We want to offer so much to our local kids and find some amazing new talent.”

The dance studio will be increasing the number of classes to include weekday evenings for adults and also other specific classes and training for children as well.

The Saturday classes (which start at 10am) focus on training in Musical Theatre Dance and Commercial / Modern dance styles. Jennie explained that children will be able to learn a variety of techniques, dance style and performance skills and to produce an end of term performance (the next one’s in December).

All costumes are included at the dance studio and a FREE (our favourite word again!) t shirt gets given to all academy students! There are no hidden exam fees or extra costs and just one monthly or termly payment depending on your preference.

Riven Productions are a team of professional choreographers who have worked in London’s dance industry over the last 18years.  The company was originally established in 1998.

The studio is based at the Hurst Road Community Centre (near Warley Woods).

If your child has a passion for dancing and would like to put Darcy Bussell out of a job please confirm his/her attendance for this Saturday by emailing Jennie at

You can find out more about the dance academy right here.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Bearwood Past, Present & Future

It's all about Bearwood on Saturday 21st September.....past, present and future.

In association with Warley Woods and Lightwoods Park, Smethwick Heritage Centre are holding an exhibition at St Mary's Church where you'll be able to find out more about Bearwood.

Make sure you don't miss local historian Mary Bodfish's talk at 2pm. Mary has a wealth of knowledge about everything Bearwood.

Admission is FREE! So if you are Bearwood and Proud and want to know about the local area please pop along to St Mary's Church on Saturday 21st September.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Webb's Weekend Sale

Our friends at Webb's Walled Garden Gift Shop on Three Shires Oak Road get a big welovebearwood thumbs up this weekend!

In preparation for all the Christmas goodies being delivered from Santa's warehouse Samantha who runs the gift shop told us that they urgently need to make lots of room. Being such lovely kind generous souls they've slashed all their giftware by 20% this weekend (yes...that's amazing 20% off everything in the gift shop!)

The gift shop will be open today and tomorrow from 10-5pm and on Sunday from 10.30 - 3pm.

Make sure you get there early to avoid disappointment!

P.S. This offer applies to Webb's gift shop only.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Champion Chamberlains

It's official!  Our favourite plaice (geddit!) Chamberlains has recently been voted best Fish and Chip Shop restaurant in the whole of the Sandwell area.  

Chamberlains has also been included in the Six Of The Best Fish and Chips Restaurants feature in the September edition of Brum Notes magazine (make sure you pick up your free copy!) and they’re also in the running for the nation’s favourite fish and chippy too.

They get our vote every time!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia starring Bearwood Born and Bred actress Julie Walters has to be the perfect choice for Lightwoods Park’s drive-in movie on Saturday 28th September.

Here’s our Julie in action…..

Abba Tribute band, Ever Gold, will be making sure everyone gets in the Abba mood from 5.30pm.  Don't miss their covers of Dancing Queen, Waterloo and our all time favourite Super Trouper.