Adventures in Birmingham: OxJam Oct 16th 10

OxJam: Takeover

OxJam music live music music monday Birmingham

Today I finally participate in an OxJam event; the OxJam Takeover

“40 bands, 6 venues, 1 great cause”

Still relatively new to Birmingham and not knowing many fellow musos, the £4 advanced ticket enables me to sell the idea to some of my new friends. Surprised but delighted that all 5 of my spare tickets are snapped up we meet at the Yardbird to collect our ’bracelets’ and listen to the first band whilst standing in gorgeous October sunshine.

I was keen to visit the Flapper as I’d heard it was a great little live venue. Apart from my request to see Tom Peel at the Victoria later, we all agree to go with the flow and haven’t bothered to read up on any of the bands beforehand.

We are told on entering the Flapper the first band is ‘quite rocky’ and as they set up on stage, I feel they have the look. Had we done our homework, one of our group wouldn’t have had a near heart attack as they launch loudly into their set. Scouting for Girls are ‘quite rocky’ Soni-quella are some kind of metal. I’m happy with most types of metal but not the kind where vocals are barked and not sung but that’s just me. The music is good and they seem like a nice bunch of young boys.

We then have a little folksy reprieve across the road at The Prince of Wales with Mike Smith although I don’t think they really know OxJam is going on before we head across town to some poetry (Jodi Ann Bickley) at Cafe Blend. Neil Ward, the soloist that follows is great and I melt comfortably into my chair give his tunes due attention. It is a shame only a few can actually see the stage but it is good place to hear some soft tunes and you know I’m a big fan of live music in coffee shops.

Of course all day I’m looking forward to seeing my first live music at the Victoria and more particularly Tom Peel. I’m pleased to catch the last couple of tracks from Savant beforehand but Mr Peel did live up to the hype and creates the highlight of the day. A few of us have been out since 24 Carrots Farmers market at JQT this morning so we don’t make it to Island Bar but I’ve been there before anyway. Today is about giving us a taste of a few more of Brum’s little live venues.

More OxJam takeovers please, next time they’ll be 12 of us. At least.

Luvdrop – a new enterprise

In case I haven’t mentioned, just wanted to let you know about a new enterprise I’ve started.

There are plenty internet dating sites around. LuvDrop is not one of them.
LuvDrop is not about finding Mr or Mrs Right, although that may come along later. LuvDrop is about encouraging people to date again. The only criteria is to be single.

Put simply, we use modern technology (MeetUp, Twitter, FB) to enable single people to be in a room together. Thereafter, we introduce them and let nature take its cause.

It’s like we’re holding a small party and have invited our single friends to it. Naturally we introduce them to each other, make sure they are comfortable and have a drink in hand and are not left alone for any length of time.
Ahead of time, we’ll make sure they have plenty of notice, know where they are going and provide them with contact details.

There is no dating scene to speak of in Birmingham or maybe I’m just spoilt by spending so much time in New York. In any case, a friend and I were talking about this one day and a few weeks later, we decided to start LuvDrop.

The first event is planned for October 12th
All the events will be Monday to Thursday around 8pm or possibly during weekend daytimes. There will be no events on the busy Friday or Saturday unless it’s a special occasion. 8pm starts allow people to go home, get ready and present themselves in the dress code of ‘first date’!

At nice venues around Birmingham city centre where we can have a private corner but not necessarily tucked away from the rest of the customers. After all, LuvDrop is about enabling people to get out and start dating again.

By membership.
We’ll accept members by application and then we’ll ask for a token membership fee. We only want to include intelligent, professional and mature men and women who will show respect to their fellow other members.

This is run jointly by me and my business partner Darren Hawkins. We will both host each event and each be available to assist members by email and face to face. Our job is to make them feel welcome and introduce them to the others, just like good hosts do.

I’d really love to know about any experience you’ve had generally in the dating arena. Please comment here or drop me a line at

Link to article on The Business Desk

Adventures in Birmingham – September 12th 2010

Island Bar

Our regular school night fixture, Island bar are celebrating their birthday and as such are giving a raffle ticket to everyone who purchases a cocktail. As a rare drinker, they kindly offered to put some colour in my sparkling mineral water so I don’t feel left out.

My friends however, win 3 sets of glasses between them. Nice!

Pecha Kucha

My friend Jo Hardy has put on this event which is a good enough reason to go. I’m not too keen on ‘networking’ in the evenings, (not keen on networking at all actually) and this show does not kick off until close to 8.30pm but it is a fantastic idea.

With the rough theme of ‘Birmingham’ a favourite subject of mine, six speakers talk about different subjects using 20 slides which show for just 20 seconds each. So each talk lasts 6 mins or so.

I learnt about a renowned local architect from 1960s to 1970s, John Madin, about the Birmingham Music Archive and most importantly that we should not feed bread to ducks because it fills them up without them getting their proper nutrients. Ducks need 5 a day too!

Urban Coffee Co

Friday night is music night and Urban have a superb live band doing bluesy covers. Apparently MojoHooker bring the blues back to the Midlands. Have no idea where the ‘blues’ went in the interim period but it’s good to have it back. I love music in coffee shops and have been actively encouraging Urban for the past year although the Friday night is more about watching the band rather than whispering to friends in between the tracks. It’s loud!

Ikon Cafe

Hardly a week goes by without a trip to Ikon and this time curiosity took me to Ikon Cafe to listen to ’My Favourite Things’ talk by one of my fave radio peeps/musos, Stuart Maconie. Curiosity is now abated.

Adventures in Birmingham: August 2nd

Two weeks of too much going on meant too much going out means getting back into writing and reading mode. I haven’t got back into my book a week habit (that’s reading, not writing one) since before the world cup.
So having said all that about Birmingham being so fantastic there is rarely a need to London, this weekend a few of us are going to see Hair, the musical in London.

I say Hair was the first production I was in whilst at primary school but in a few ways, this is not strictly true; firstly, my debut production was the nativity, 3 months into my school career and I was picked, not auditioned, to play Mary, largely a non-speaking role. I’m sure there may have been another nativity or two before Hair. Now that I come to think of it, I don’t remember a production, just rehearsing so maybe it was just part of dance class or the like? My memory is only of waving scarves and swirling around the floor to the tune of ‘this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius, the age of Aquariuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuus’. That’s all I remember, or I could have imagined it all. All I knew at the time was that I was singing about a star sign, growing up as the youngest of 4 sisters and just one brother, I knew about star signs at an absurdly early age.

So, having spent the weekend easily – well not easily, it was bloody hard, I just mean in the end I topped the target of 1000 words on my book – I start as I mean to go on by picking up a new book to read.
I generally don’t like chick lit (maybe pick up one a year) but this seems good so far, The Truth About Melody Brown by Lisa Jewell.
Best of all my Radio 2 boys are back after a holiday, Mark Radcliffe & Stuart Maconie 8-10pm, sadly now only on Monday to Wednesday having been replaced with live music on Thursdays. When I say ‘live’ I mean recorded at some point in the past. If you’re going to replace the best thing on radio, now that Wossy has gone (Ken Bruce & popmaster a close 2nd) replace it with something better. Nope, that’s not possible; there is nothing better than these two.

These are my reading hours even though I get mightily distracted, not always by the music but by their muso chatter in between perfectly chosen records from now, from the past and most importantly from the future. If I am out, as much as I say I’ll pop in for a quick drink after work (strictly speaking it’s not my ‘after-work’, just everyone else’s’), it inevitably gets to at least 9 before I think of trying to make an exit, even though I rarely drink. (allergy reasons)

Cocktails in an island

Back to Birmingham, this leads to Tuesday, the only night I’ve committed to be Out with the Girls and my third attempt to get to the Island Bar. Living in St Pauls, going to the other side of the city is like going to the dark side. For a start it’s a good 25 minute walk but I make it and a lovely time is had by all, with the first time I looked at my watch being 9.28. Bang on cue then.
It’s nice in there although it took me 10 minutes to ask for my mineral water as the solo barman was busy making something green with herbs. I should have asked for some pink colouring just to make it as fancy as the others.

I was meant to pop in for a drink before we went to see Cherry Ghost at the Alex the other week, but somehow it never happened. They offer cocktails at £3.50 all night on a Monday, I guess we’ll be doing that next month, when I may gear myself up for a drop of the hard stuff. It’s a recently developed alcohol allergy although I’m not a big drinker anyway.

Coffee & Live Music

On Friday, seemingly the coffee shop to the stars had some welcome live music from Pandemonium Peoples Front Skiffle Experience; ‘bringing back skiffle to its coffee bar roots’. They can only be described as skiffle meets folk and runs over the punk on the way. As everyone knows, I’m in there most afternoons to write and although Friday is a day off, I felt it a good enough reason to be at Urban. I’ve loved live music in coffee shops in the evenings since my early days of travelling solo to New York. If one is not a drinker this a fabulous way to enjoy life music and on a Friday, a great end to the working week/start to the weekend. If not every week it will be great to have this at least once a month.

It’s a little loud for a coffee shop ambience as we had to SHOUT TO BE HEARD but otherwise, fantastic.

Flower children

Four of us meet at Snow Hill on Saturday morning to catch a train to London. Why Snow Hill and not the brilliantly fast Virgin train from New St? Because Chiltern trains are running an offer, buy 2 tickets, get four so against my better judgement, I’m persuaded by my three companions that it will be fun if we’re all together.

As it turns out, that was the only negative as apparently there was some maintenance work going but the horrendous delays were not mentioned either when purchasing, on the boards or at any time during the very long journey. Nor that we had to change in deepest darkest West London (barely) and jump on a tube. In total we spent over six hours travelling, more time that we went in London. I think I’ve convinced the others to stick with Virgin and book weeks in advance to get the deal in future.

The ‘day’ in London however was perfection; brunch, coffee, show, coffee & cake before heading back. A great last free Saturday for me before Match of the Day returns. Next weekend, I’m staying in Birmingham, probably.