Monday, 31 March 2014

Wallace-en Up!

There’s rumours on the Bearwood grapevine that the Bearwood Shuffle’s back this summer. Can’t wait….watch this space and keep a close eye on Bearwood Promoters' new website too, right here!

To get ourselves in the Shuffle mood we decided to catch up with one of its bright young stars, Amelia Wallace.   Amelia told us why she really enjoys playing at Lightwoods Park bandstand, how she keeps as cool as a cucumber and her love of Bearwood’s charity shops (us too!) 

Hi Amelia. We’ve really enjoyed your performances at the recent Bearwood Shuffles. What’s it like performing at Lightwoods Park bandstand and what do you think of Bearwood’s live music scene?

Thank you very much! The people that attend the Shuffles are just so welcoming and enthusiastic about all types of performers and performances; that is all any performer could ask for. As this is the community I've lived in the whole of my life, every time I play I am able to connect incredibly easily with the audience. The vibe given off it always so friendly, I always feel like I'm just playing to my best friends! I love how the history of the park contrasts with the ages of the diverse genres that are performed there. It's so refreshing. As for Bearwood's live music scene, I think the rest of the world has some competition! The quality of the artists produced here is just phenomenal. I come away from every single shuffle so inspired and uplifted from all of the new artists I've discovered. I'm so proud to be from such an artistic area with so many talented and supportive individuals. I hope that Bearwood continues to exceed in this field of arts because it has already brought the community together enormously!

Yeah, definitely!  We agree!  So tell us about your music. When did you first discover you enjoyed singing and how would you describe your music? Are there any songs you particularly like singing?

I think I've always been into things like musical theatre and the more 'creative' subjects at school. I remember coming back home from going to see a musical and not only singing all of the songs to myself, but also pretending to be the main character for about a week straight. My parents are very musical (I even hear my Nan making up her own tunes whilst washing the dishes!) so I'm lucky that I've always lived in a musical household. I also remember receiving a karaoke machine one Christmas and from then on, I was utterly inspired...I don't think my Mom ever heard the end of that Mariah Carey song! When I taught myself to play guitar, I felt much more comfortable singing and it just felt like the third arm I never had! The guitar is what started my wild obsession with collecting musical instruments that I will never ever need or use. I also think that learning to read music in primary school influenced how much I love music now. My music today is, funnily enough, inspired by my surroundings; the area I live; the people I meet; the places I'm SO lucky to be able to go to. I would describe my music as simple, raw and also(here's something contradictory) youthful but mature - if that makes sense. I like singing the 'crowd pleasers' and the songs that everyone knows and can sing along to, however, I love it when I get someone come up to me and ask "what was that last song you sang? I really liked it!". I makes me so happy that I can introduce new music to people.

You seem so confident on stage.  How do you do that? We wish we could.  Do you ever get nervous and how do you overcome your nerves? What would you like to do with your music in the future?

I have to mentally prepare myself for a gig. I imagine the audience, the stage, the background noise, what I should do if there should be any mishaps etc. I only ever get nervous when I am called up to START performing. Once I get into my first song then I feel like I'm as cool as a cucumber... Or a cucumber with dyed red hair. I only have one tip for overcoming nerves: just do it. Don't dwell on it, just take the first step and the rest are easy! In the future I'd love to keep performing little gigs with a mixture of bigger gigs all around the country. Even though it's a little cliché, my dream is just to travel the world and perform to all types of people. I'd also love to make a physical album one day, or maybe have it on vinyl. How cool would that be?

You cover such a great range of different songs.  You must listen to music a lot. Who's on your phone right now? If you could do a duet with anyone, who would it be and why?

My phone has a mixture of the Beatles, Paramore, Foo Fighters, The Smiths, Alt- J, You Me At Six, Biffy Clyro, Bombay Bicycle Club, John Mayer, lots of little playlists of songs from musicals and lots more artists similar to the ones just named! Even though I will always adore singing with my mom or with my very good friend, Mariah, my main picks to duet with would be Hayley Williams or Dave Grohl because both of them are my idols, they have shaped my music today. If it was possible, my next pick would have been Eva Cassidy. Her voice was indescribable. 

We can really tell you like living in Bearwood. What’s your connection with the place?
My main family has always lived here and I have been brought up around Bearwood. While I have grown up, I have watched it grow. It feels so great to be able to support, entertain and give something back to this community! (My nan and I are also tied at the waist to Aldi supermarket)!

Bearwood community spirit always seem to rank highly on our Bearwood All-Star list. Sorry to put you on the spot but please tell us your Bearwood All-Star. In other words, what, who or where makes you smile in Bearwood?

Just to be extremely random: I love being in my Nan's back garden which overlooks the woods and sometimes down the park in the summer, I love the people I meet at all the events I attend, busking, the happy and inspiring people I come across but most of all...the charity shops! 

Amelia, you've been wonderful.  Thank you.  Just one more question which we like to ask everyone. What makes Lightwoods Chippy’s chips orange?

Haha! When I was little, my brother convinced me that they used Doritos and carrots to make them orange. I asked my mom as she used to work there when she was younger, she said it was just batter but who would trust her? When she served you you only got about one chip in the bag; the rest were on the floor because of the way that she wrapped them!

Friday, 28 March 2014

This is 'Wow' They Do It...

April starts next week so it looks as if there'll be some more Spring like weather on its way!  

To celebrate the change of seasons Thimblemill Library is holding a Spring Show Time on Saturday 5th April with musical fun for all the family from the Children's Guitar Club, The Family Ukuele Band and The Make It Click Choir.  Free refreshments and hot cross buns too!

Have your kids, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, brothers and sisters, next door's kids (ok you get the point!) got the Wow Factor?  Thimblemill Library is having a talent competition on 12th April as well...who knows, today Thimblemill Library, tomorrow The Voice!  The prize for the grand final winner is a 2 hour recording session as well. Wow!

 Make sure you print off and hand in the Wow Factor Application Form at Thimblemill Library today!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Chess Mate?

Do you need a mate to play chess or backgammon with because you're finding that your friends and family aren't keen?  

Julie M Oneill was getting fed up of having this age old problem so she decided to see if she could start holding games evenings in Bearwood.

She contacted Ismail the manager at Coffee Junction to see if the cafe was a possible venue and hooray the first night will be next Wednesday, 2nd April.  

Julie told us that you'll be able to play and meet new friends between 6 and 9pm as the cafe won't be closing at its normal time of 5pm.

The cafe will have its own sets you can use but why not bring your own.  If you're not a fan of chess or backgammon, bring along Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly or Pass The Pigs instead!

For more details please contact Julie via her Facebook page here or contact Ismail at the Coffee Junction on 0121 428 5058 or by popping into the cafe on the corner of Bearwood Road. 

Monday, 24 March 2014

Bearwood Handmade

Fantastic news.....those Crafty Muthas are at it again! 

The next Bearwood Handmade Fair's taking place on Saturday 5th April at its new venue, Bearwood Baptist Church Hall on Rawlings Road.

There will be all kind of crafty loveliness to buy and during the day there will be a raffle with all takings being donated to Warley Woods Big Bench Appeal.  

Don't miss it!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Friday Night Live

With live music from 9pm – 10.30pm and then DJ Huntley to keep you in the weekend party mood until the early hours it’s no wonder The Kings Head (Hagley Road) is becoming the place to be every Friday night.

We caught up with Metz Jnr who books the artists and manages the nights to find out more.  “We began this at The Kings Head last year and I was in the meeting and was asked to test the waters and be the first to perform, it was a stormer, I did a few gigs and it started to get busier and busier over the coming weeks. Since taking it on, bringing in artists and performing there each week we have turned our 20-30 punter average into hundreds each week.”

Metz Jnr
Photo Credit: King's Head Birmingham

We fell in love with Metz Jnr at last Warley Woods Picnic in the Park when he got everybody up dancing to his Frank Sinatra tribute. 

It was wonderful to hear him say that say “each time I finish they scream for an encore and fill the dancefloor straight away”. You can read our interview with Metz right here.

Sally Rea Morris will be performing this Friday Night (21st March) and then on 28th March it's Demi's turn. 

For more details please visit the Friday Night Live Facebook Page, right here!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Stop, Brook And Listen

Photo Credit: Kelly Ahmed
Thimblemill Brook is a site of local importance for nature conservation so we were mortified to find out yesterday that planning permission is being sought to put 13 houses with double garages on the land behind the pool at the Thimblemill Recreation ground.

If like us you strongly believe that this can not and should not ever be allowed to happen please sign the Smethwick Working Together petition.

Just click on this link here, it takes only a few seconds and will make a huge difference to us and future generations to come.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Birdsong @ The REP, Monday 17th March 2014

It’s now 100 years since the outbreak of World War 1, an anniversary which is quite rightly being commemorated on TV, radio and with tonight’s production on stage.

Even with the benefit of those grainy pictures being broadcast on the BBC and loads of earnest looking presenters wandering around the battle fields it’s almost impossible to comprehend the horror of it all. The outlook for the average soldier was pretty grim and even if you survived being shot at and/or bombed spending months ankle deep in mud, blood and lord knows what else whilst waiting to go ‘over the top’ must have been frankly unbearable.

Birdsong is set before, during and after all of this horror and it tells the story of an affair between a young Englishman and his French paramour. Somewhat unusually for a stage production the action shifts rapidly between the past and the present, often relying on instantaneous changes in the actors’ demeanour to convey these leaps to and fro. It’s an unsettling approach, which I guess is partially the point, one moment the lead character’s lying seriously injured in bed the next he’s getting down to some serious rumpy pumpy with his lover. 

I won’t reveal any more plot details, suffice to say that the play pulls no punches when it comes to dealing with the horrors of what was obviously one of the most savage and brutal wars of all time. Speaking of which on more than one occasion I witnessed the audience collectively jump out of its skin at the volume and force of the (thankfully) simulated explosions that peppered the performance. At times I swear you could actually feel your seat vibrate with the force of the ‘blasts’. Just imagine if that noise had been amplified a dozen times and accompanied by thousands of red hot shards of shrapnel tearing through you and your mates eh? Equally powerful though was the performance of Peter Duncan who, depending on your age is perhaps better known as a presenter on Blue Peter or for his role as Chief Scout. 

His portrayal of Jack Firebrace was particularly moving and understated, not an easy balance to achieve in a play so drenched in emotion. Kudos to George Banks in the lead role of Stephen Wraysford too. It can’t be easy to so radically change your emotions in a split second and whilst I personally found these shifts a little odd at times he did a fine job of moving between the very best and worst of times.

As with pretty much all productions at The REP the set’s simple but incredibly effective. Dominated by a silhouette of a fallen cross and tangled barbed wire it’s easy to lose yourself in the action and the clever use of lighting also heightens the mood at key points in the performance.

All in all a suitably moving and appropriately unnerving night at the theatre that leaves you with renewed admiration for all those who literally gave everything for King, Country and, ultimately, every single one of us. 

Birdsong is on at The REP until March 22nd. Tickets available here

(All photos courtesy of Jack Ladenburg) 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Hat's the way to do it!

Courtesy of the brilliant Whats on in Bearwood Facebook page (we insist you join today!) we found out about Hayley Deakin’s new business venture, Mad As A Hatter.

Hayley’s lived in Bearwood all her life so it’s great that her shop will be based at 29 Abbey Road.  Work starts on the premises today with the grand opening scheduled for 1st April.

Hayley told welovebearwood that “I love old furniture especially anything quirky and I have a fetish for unusual chairs. Basically I've filled my home with amazing furniture but can't stop buying and up cycling it so it's time for me to branch out and open my own shop. I've had a lot of help from the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and also from my local church The Kings Community Church in Brandhall and now I'm all ready to go! I am aiming to open on the 1st April so fingers and toes crossed!”

Hayley’s also on the lookout for local crafts folk and antique/vintage sellers who would like to sell their wares through her shop.  You can contact Hayley and find out more through the Mad As A Hatter Facebook right here.

P.S. Look out for some of the Mad As A Hatter characters who will be popping up around Bearwood and especially at Lightwoods Park May Day Festival on May 5th giving out flyers.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

When the going gets tough....

Bearwood's definitely up for a challenge especially as places are getting filled up so quickly for 24/7 Gym's Fitness Boot Camp (Hagley Road) which is taking place during the evening of Friday 28th March.

The Bootcamp's FREE too so why not show all your friends and family how it's done!

To register and for more details please contact Martyn Glover on 0121 420 2471

In the words of Billy Ocean...when the going gets tough the tough get going!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Past Times!

Are you passionate about Bearwood’s old buildings and have a great idea about how to save Bearwood's heritage?  Heritage Lottery Funding are coming to Thimblemill Library on Wednesday 26th March to explain how you can apply for a grant to make it happen. 

For more details and to book your FREE (our favourite word) place, please contact Catherine Kemp on 0121 616 6882 or email her at

Strike! Strike! Strike! As part of Smethwick Local History Society's 2014 programme, Tina Gittins will be speaking about the Women’s Chain Maker Strike of 1910 at Bearwood Baptist Church this Wednesday 12 March. When the Black Country women worked mainly from home and went on a strike for a fair day’s wage and won! Now that’s what we call Girl Power!

The talk starts at 2 for 2.30pm and you can obtain more information about this talk and forthcoming events by calling the Smethwick Local History Society on 0121 429 4623.

To mark the 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War, the classic novel Birdsong will be brought to life on stage at Birmingham REP Theatre from March 17th to 22nd.

Set around the time of WW1, Birdsong tells the story of a young Englishman embarking in a passionate and dangerous affair with a beautiful French woman that turns their worlds upside down. The novel is now considered a classic and is regularly voted as one of the nation’s favourite books.

The author, Sebastian Faulks has said “Both Rachel (the stage adaptor) and I want this to be the definitive version of Birdsong on stage. The audience watch it and think, thank God I have never undergone all of this. These experiences are far outside the lives of most people but there is something about the way the production works which makes people identify and think, it could be me...

Tickets are £12.50 - £35 and you can purchase them from the REP’s Box Office Tel: 0121 236 4455 or online right here!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Give up smoking AND give something back!

Do you want to stop smoking? Are you finding it a hard habit to quit? Fed up with nicotine patches and electronic cigarettes? Are your loved ones asking you to stub it out for good?

No Smoking Day next Wednesday 12th March would be the perfect time to do so as St Mary Hospice and Violet Hypnotherapy are getting together to help you.

Philippa Carr told welovebearwood that “I will be providing smoking cessation sessions in Bearwood, Smethwick in return for a donation to St Mary's Hospice. I will also have Gift Aid envelopes to add an extra 25% to the donation if clients are UK taxpayers.

Birmingham St Mary's Hospice is an independent adult hospice providing care to people across Birmingham and Sandwell. Caring for around 1,000 people a year, many hospice patients remain at home for much of their illness, where they are supported by the hospice’s Community Palliative Care nurses, and by Palliative Care Social Workers who work in conjunction with GPs, consultants and other medical professionals.”

If you want to find out more please contact Philippa on 0121 532 1352 or visit the Violet Hypnotherapy website right here.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Uke Like It!

Ok...we have to admit it the welovebearwood team don’t have a musical bone in their bodies. But if we ever fancied learning to play an instrument it would have to be the ukuele. It always looks so cool and we’ve heard its one of the easier instruments to learn how to play.

Local legend (you’ll recognise him from Dexys) and one of the best musicians you’ll ever see, Pete Williams, is currently recruiting for people to join his ukuele classes. There will be six one-hour classes and places are limited to a maximum of 8 people per session. The classes will take place on Saturday mornings between 11-12 at The Padgham Room, Warley Woods Pavillion

Pete told welovebearwood that it’s a great way to increase your enjoyment of music. The classes are suitable for all levels so you can learn how to strum, pick and follow basic chord charts as well as learn how to play a wide variety of different songs. The classes will be relaxed and informal and you’ll make new friends and have a giggle.

For more info please contact Pete Williams at

P.S. Pete is currently raising money for the release of his new album. We’ve heard snippets and fallen in love with it already. You can read all about it and make a pledge right here!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Miss Halliwell / Big Bren’s Combo / The Dollcanoes / D.N.P @ The City Tavern, Friday 28th February 2014

The City Tavern. Just a short stumble away from the festering mass of humanity that spills, totters and...I hope you’ve already eaten...oozes all over Broad Street on a Friday night whilst seemingly remaining a hundred miles away. In that respect it’s pretty much the perfect venue for Miss Halliwell, a band that similarly skirts close to popular appeal with some deceptively catchy tunes and lyrics (check out Free Chips for’s got sing-along hit written all over it) whilst somehow remaining safely outside the ‘mainstream’.

With record label support and global management deals so far disappointingly lacking their inspirational leader Miles Perhower continues to plough his own sweet/sour furrow and tonight’s gig billed as ‘The City Tavern Experiment’ is a yet another self financed and self organised – although happily not just self attended (shit...don’t say people are finally getting the message?) – affair.

First up D.N.P aka ‘Little’ Chris Downing the dude who’s behind the much missed Brumcast series of podcasts. In the intervening year or two he’s clearly been busy copulating with least that’s what his ‘black ambient drone’ sounds make you think of. The video projections behind him neatly hammer (House) the point home.

How do you follow that? With some top notch indiepop courtesy of The Dollcanoes of course. Genius. There’s far too little mixing stuff up on conventional gig line-ups...why shouldn’t you go from Satan’s soundtrack to indiepop eh? No idea how long they’ve been going for (I neglected to ask that during a post gig chat with one of the band, I guess Paxman’s job’s safe for now then) but I believe one of the blokes was/is local legend Bom (of Bom and Magic Drumstick fame). From the BiS-ish Masterbluster through to the more Riot Grrl influenced You’re Dead and Chicks On Speed tinged One For The Road it was a hugely enjoyable set with just the right blend of chat and humour (loved the balloon cock and ball set...not so sure about popping them with a pin but that’s a chap thing...ouch).

As warm up acts go Big Bren’s Combo is pretty out there. Big Bren himself is a performance poet / bar room bard backed by, amongst other instruments, a saw player. Yes, as in the sharp things you cut trees with. Okay, on paper (alright then, screen) it seems an odd proposition but somehow the combination of Big Bren’s broad Brummie delivery and his backing band’s free jazz fusion can be particularly effective. A Child Has Died (backed by the aforementioned saw) was strangely haunting whilst the rant fuelled Noisy Neighbours and Mad Woman both trod the fine line between genius and insanity. Which leads us on rather nicely to our headliners...

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, the main event (if that sounds a little like the introduction to a boxing match it’s no bad thing)...all the way from Bearwood (well some of them at least), with 18 knockouts, no losses and most definitely no submissions...the undisputed heavyweight champions of pissed off pop...MISSSSSSSSSSSS HALLIWELL! Okay, maybe ‘pissed off pop’ isn’t the right term but what is? Answers on Vladimir Putin’s severed scrotum (or any part of his anatomy for that matter) please. It’s seven years since I first started banging on about this band and I confidently expected them to have long ago stolen the hearts and minds of serious music fans by now. The fact that they haven’t yet matters not a jot. They will. And if they don’t, well, shame on us all.

In typical Miss Halliwell fashion they played two or three new tracks tonight (no point in making life easy for yourselves eh?) including the opening number (Galleon?) which saw Miles out front in the audience checking out the band and nodding approvingly. It was well deserved. There’s a complexity to the music that many players might struggle with but (and I’m guessing rehearsals can be pretty intense affairs) they’ve all clearly put in the hours, days, weeks and months. Delving back into his solo During The Interrogation EP, Signature’s stream of conscious lyrics and 1,2,3,4,5 refrain is nothing short of a Miles Perhower post punk classic. Fast forwarding to new album Fresh From The Holy Spring he then spat out Favourite Guitar like some kind of deranged savant, proffering a mic to guitarist Ross in much the same manner as a reporter trying to land a scoop from a shifty celeb. Three songs in and it’s already the kind of gig that makes you glad you’ve got ears. Kickboxing (again I think this was the title) is another new one, once again harnessing Perhower’s knack of stringing together seemingly unrelated words to make more sense than most songwriters manage in a lifetime (sample lyric “Tabloid, haemorrhoid”...doesn’t that just neatly sum up the Daily Mail eh?). During the song Miles played WITH and PLAYED with the band, fiddling with their instruments a little to get the sound he was looking for. Another new track (no idea what this one was called) was recorded “For data” and will no doubt find itself on the next instalment of the Brumdemoters trilogy of films. I wrote down the words “jittery, edgy seat of your pants stuff” but was too involved in watching it all go down to note anything more illuminating. That’s a good thing by the way. A“Thank you, that was fucking tight” to the rest of the band at the end was well justified praise though.

“Time for the hits now” remarked Miles with just the merest sack of irony. They bloody well should be. In Free Chips, Rulerfueller and Ponytail Quest Miss Halliwell has a trio of tracks that we should all be self pleasuring ourselves over. Well I am at least. Bear with me a minute...okay...three minutes. Ahhh...that’s better. Free Chips is so naggingly addictive it should be issued with a Government Health Warning. Live Rulerfueller is far more of a kick up the ass than the recorded version with Miles prowling the floor, seemingly on the edge of a meltdown. He’s saving all that for the last song of the night though, Ponytail Quest, a brain frazzling jazz / rock / metal / punk / prog tinged odyssey into Miles’ troubled mind that ended with him grabbing his coat, ripping down a banner promoting the gig and chucking it at the stage, disappearing down to the bar below to, no doubt “down half a bottle of wine”. And there he remained. No encore. No schmoozing. No compromise.

Seven years on from my first sighting of them Miss Halliwell incredibly remains one of the freshest, most compelling bands I’ve ever seen.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Thimblemill Library March 2014

March already? Fingers crossed more Spring like weather comes soon. 

Thank goodness there's so many different events at Thimblemill Library to keep us busy!

We've added the highlights to our Bearwood What's on page.