The birth of Birmingham Vintage Fair

Huge thanks to Rebecca Sloan from Glacier Films for this fantastic film

 @glacier_films   @Rebecca_sloan                    

Before I start going through all the feedback (we gave out feedback forms – taking this very seriously!), I just want to document what worked for me.

The highs

The music; LOVE, now and forever

Two bands? Well of course, it’s my event.

The guitar solos, the hair, the psychedelia, and the shirts – I’m in musical heaven, if a little self indulgent. 

The traders trust in the event despite it being a new and unique concept what with Retro café and live music as well as lots of handmade and jewellery all mixed up with the more usual vintage. This is no ordinary event and I would never want it to be.

The fantastic effort they made to make their booth as unique as possible and to spread the word is just amazing.

The amount of people who came (258 paid + over 60 in the room, nearer 400 all in all.)

And the feedback, ideas and support they gave. 

The family, festival atmosphere

The outfits; so many people in 70s style which somehow made us all feel even more chilled out and laid back. 

The number of Twitter mentions

The support of Fellows Auctions, 24 Carrots, MyJQ and Jewellery Quarter Association who had nothing to gain other than help raise the profile of this wonderful neighbourhood 

The press coverage – Birmingham Mail, the Post and even Express & Star all covered it as well as mentions on Switch Radio. These are just the ones I know about.

The cakes – three cake stands? Well of course, it’s my event 

The festival vibe achieved without the alcohol

The staff and the volunteers

The film makers & photographers who took hundreds of fantastic and differing photos

The music. Again.

Birmingham Vintage Fair – review

June 25th 2011

Photos by rhys@photomaestro.co.uk

The idea came when I became frustrated by the lack of an event to showcase local, creative talent and that gives these

Photos by rhys@photomaestro.co.uk

people an opportunity to sell their products. There are vintage fairs of course but they are just vintage. I love vintage but I also adore having lots of unique, quirky things in my house. I take great joy in finding something I want to buy and then find it’s created or sold by a local person. Whereas national events display the wares of many people who travel to Birmingham to do business, my dream was to build business for local traders of vintage, new, handmade, home wares or arts – anything goes if it fits the vibe, in the style of 24 Carrots Farmers Market.

However, those who know me will know I won’t do anything by halves (my Daddy didn’t raise me that way!) and will always make it different. I don’t see the point of replicating what’s already around. The first thing I need when planning an event is a theme – I can’t even plan a brunch for 4 without a theme! – and as the 1970s are having a rare moment in the spotlight, this is an easy decision. From this came the most important element for a festival atmosphere, the music followed by the imagery (yellow backed by a kaleidoscope of clashing colours; purple, orange and brown) dress and food.

What transpired after months of planning and research were launched as BVF, onto a few select people back in April is beyond my wildest dreams. Word spread like More Cocoa’s hot chocolate spilling over strawberries and everyone from 24 Carrots to the Jewellery Association and Handmade Birmingham to the traders is promoting it.

The highlights for me as an organiser is the community vibe the BVF evoked and how so many people made an effort to get into the 1970s easy going spirit. Every trader, photographer, film maker, organiser and many visitors made this event a success with Twitter playing a massive part.

As an observer, what made it for me was the music; I feel truly blessed to have both Naked Remedy and Dakesis perform at the (first) BVF and more than that, just to know about both bands that I’m now so looking forward to seeing again.

Maybe this is what heaven’s like? I had my music, cakes, coffee, clothes and my friends and family; everything I need.

I’d love your comments and feedback.

Photos by rhys@photomaestro.co.uk

Adventures in Birmingham: 24 Carrots Farmers Market

For you out of towners, 24 Carrots is the very local Farmers market in my neighbourhood, the Jewellery Quarter.

I was first introduced to it at @Likemind (via Twitter) and then as I was recommended the Bolivian coffee from Beans and Leaves by Katy, I go along. Not being a cook (I can cook but won’t cook) I have no need for carrots unless they come chopped and ready flavoured via St Michael, the patron saint of food. I do however, have a regular need, or at least desire for coffee.

My catalyst for my first visit though comes via an invitation from Kiss Me Cup Cakes. I figure if they’re there, there’s at least one more thing for me to buy that isn’t a vegetable.

The surprise when I get to the Big Peg (now that I know that this is a building and not a giant sculpture of something that pins clothes up) is there is not a hint of carrot but plenty of cakes, every type of coffee you could wish for as well as jams from the wonderfully named Mr & Mrs Preserve. Nowadays the vegetable stall is a refreshing regular – and it sells carrots of the orange kind rather than precious metal.

Since then, I have persuaded many regulars who I now meet up with and introduce to my regular fixes:

I’ve not been a fan of hot chocolate (not a big eater of chocolate, not because I don’t like it but because it’s one vice I can live without). However, a year down the line I find myself addicted to this hot chocolate. It all started as there was never a coffee around but now that my regular home-from-home Urban Coffee have finally arrived in the Quarter, I still choose the chocolate on 24 Carrot occasions, due to loyalty, tradition but also because it’s irresistible. I still don’t drink hot chocolate at any other time.

Next up is a chat and regular order of Kiss Me Cupcakes, vanilla & lemon, but many more if I’m due to visit any friends in the next 24 hours. Then it’s seeing what new delights Beans & Leaves and Mrs Preserve have on their stalls, I go with whatever they recommend and it’s always great. Most definitely there’ll be some hot samosas to pick up and quite often fresh eggs and gorgeous beeswax candles in primary colours on the same stall.

If needed I’ll buy some detectable flavours of cheese from the lovely ladies on Vee’s Deli. Of course you can decide on the famous carrots, pies, ready-made meals, honey, bread, homemade toiletries and much more. If we’re lucky, there’s some great music to keep us entertained which guarantees I stay for a second hot chocolate.

24 Carrots has become an institution in the Quarter. Come and say ‘hi’ if you’re going, we’re normally hovering between Kiss Me Cupcakes and More Cocoa for most of the time.

Tour of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter

At the weekend, I went on a guided walk of the Jewellery Quarter so I can find out more about the neighbourhood I am currently calling home.

The Jewellery quarter was established in the 18th century, springing out behind St Paul’s Square (my ‘hood) and lead by one of the city’s founding fathers grew until Birmingham had its own Assay office. Originally in the main city centre street, New Street, it moved to where it is now on Newhall St, much closer to all the manufacturers.

 

I learn that the manufacturers have to be close together as each plays a small part in creating a single piece of work.

The family homes had workhouses built behind them, in what would be the garden so they can live and work there. These were real family businesses as there is a lot of trust involved when working with precious metals and stones.

The pens became popular in the 19th century when Joseph Gillott (Is that why we have Gillott Road in Edgbaston?) perfected the technique of machine-manufactured steel nibs. I find out that previously pens cost the equivalent of two days wages but this technique meant the spread of literacy and writing to the working classes.

Apart from making over 40% of all UK jewellery involving 300 businesses, the JQT as we affectionately call it also produces whistles (not just the ones on the original Titanic), pens, all sorts of silver giftware and the trophies, including the one for the women’s Wimbledon winner. The premiership trophy was designed in Birmingham but alas not made here.

What I haven’t noticed before whilst dashing through the JQT to get to Lord Clifdens are the spectacular Prince of Wales Gates. A beautiful piece of art, they are the gateway to the Jewellery Business Centre. I read they were once owned by the Prince of Wales and ‘sculpted’ by Michael Johnson to represent the contemporary jeweller’s art.

I know there is so much more to learn but it’s a start.

Links

http://jewelleryquarter.net/
http://myjq.tumblr.com/
http://www.24carrots.org.uk/

Adventures in Birmingham: 9 – 14 August

Urban Coffee Co is one years old

I’d already said yes to a dinner at City Inn when I get the invite for this a couple of weeks ago but feel as I was there at the birth, I should really be at the kids first birthday. I agreed to meet the others later so I can at least pop in but as (bad) luck would have it, one of my friends had a family bereavement so we decided to cancel the dinner and the rest of us three all go to Urban.

I get there bang on time at 7pm and my friend is already waiting, along with half a dozen other celebrators. By the time the doors open, there are a good 30 people on Church Street and we all dutifully check ourselves off the guest list before entering, strolling politely past both goodie bags and the ready poured drinks.
 

When Rickie met Urban

The reason the opening of Urban was so momentous a year ago is that I had not long before arrived in Birmingham, with my previous address in New York and wondering where on earth I could go to write, un-disturbed, that had decent coffee and wasn’t a large chain (mentioning no names).
I found out about Urban when I met Simon Jenner, the co-founder through the Birmingham Entrepreneurs MeetUp that he runs. I imagine I probably said ‘I’ll be the judge of that’ when he said he was opening a coffee shop with decent coffee, on Church St. I spend the next couple of weeks walking past the premises, checking progress. It’s my route home so it’s not as desperate as it sounds. Not really.

On pre-launch opening day, I arrive on my way back from the city, chatting on the phone to my (now ex-) boyfriend in New York, telling him that England was finally getting a decent coffee shop by all accounts.

I’m introduced to Hannah, Super Senior Urbanista and predictably the talk turns to coffee, namely my likes and dislikes. My number one dislike, I explain is cold coffee and that no one can make latte in this country so I only have it at home. I probably mutter that cappuccino is only made to be drunk first thing, before breakfast and don’t understand how people consume it at other times.
Hannah took all my coffee snobbery in her stride and recommended I have an Americano as it’s all hot and I can have it with hot milk for extra hotness. Despite my protestation of having to ask for a poncy coffee, when I normally like to say ‘just coffee with milk’. ‘Latte is that?’ ‘No, just fresh coffee with milk, please’.

So a large Americano, with hot milk, in a take-out cup, it has been ever since* – not that I need to tell any of the Urban staff that, even new girl Katy remembers my drink after just a couple of visits. The take out-cup is to keep it extra hot by the way, plus I’m no good with the cup and saucer thing, another thing that Americans do well, give me a mug any day.
*Oh except when I go anywhere in North America, I can have hot filter or latte and usually be pretty happy with either.

Urban further excelled when they agreed to cakes, specifically Kiss Me Cupcakes so I now have a supply of those whenever I fancy. Cupcake Friday is born! They even started offering chai, which is my second tipple if I’ve had my 2 cups a day coffee quota.
Other things I have thought of but don’t ever remember talking out loud about are music, especially on a Friday, weekend opening (a godsend as those are my big writing days) and a desk upstairs. All duly granted (A pile of napkins and a big table would be great upstairs. Just thinking that so the staff can mind- read that too).

I’ve recommended the place to hundreds of people, taken dozens more in with me and my guests have always been delighted to say the least and become regulars themselves. Not sure if they have obtained the coveted Urban coffee cup, received after you have drunk your way through 50 – count them, 50 coffees but I’m well on my way to the saucer to match.
The evening is a great success, the KissMe bite-size cupcake display unbelievably enticing, the music perfect, the pimms (still on offer 2 for £5) was divine and the vodka jelly and birthday cake…actually what happened to those?
Seeing as I’m in there every other day, I didn’t recognise one face from the throng that filled the little coffee shop to capacity. But of course, they’ll say the same thing in reverse. I go in, usually get my regular and bury my head in the laptop for a couple of hours, oblivious to anything going on around me but curiously not to what goes on outside my window. Now that’s the sign of an excellent coffee shop.

Ikon Cafe

 
Wednesday is a repeat visit for the weekly live music only this time it’s markedly quiet compared to my post World Cup visit in mid-July. Then, I was advised to book as there were 9 of us. It is a lovely mid-week treat to have someone strumming a guitar whilst we have a drink, eat tapas or just catch up. I bet they would have been glad of the 9 of us as it was almost empty this week.

Friday is a bonus book writing day with a 2000 word target although I’d have let myself off with 1500. As it happens, I went over the 2000 via a morning in Urban and an afternoon in Brindleyplace, with lunch at home and all followed by a film at Cineworld. Which I walked out of. I finally achieve my ambition of walking of a film because it’s so dire. Review is [here]

Chameleon


A new place in a street I don’t think I have ever walked down. Well actually the address is ‘Victoria Square’ but that’s a little optimistic, its half way down the street behind the post office.
Inside, it’s airy, the staff are attentive and the interior all very modern and at 6.30, almost full. As I wait for the rest of the gang to arrive, I scan the room and it’s like an advert; everyone smiling, chatting, drinking and eating. There are people of all ages and I like that in a place as generally a mixed crowd means there’s no pretentiousness. There’s a stage, which looks promising, a massive private seating area with a circular red sofa, outside seating, big lighting fixtures and most importantly for any interior, a disco ball. I feel right at home.

We’ll be back although for me, more likely for a Sunday lunch or midweek drinks rather than being crushed in a weekend crowd. Unless there’s live music, you know I’m a sucker for any live music.

Lord Clifden

There is no live music tonight so will a visit to new favourite still be good on a Saturday evening? Yes.

How is this place so popular? There are other drinking holes in the JQT, although this is across the road so technically it’s Hockley, but wait isn’t the JQT in Hockley? I’m sure it used to be. I even bump into two people I know and I know almost no-one in Birmingham.

My plan is to leave at 10pm to get back in time for the first Match of the Day of the season. The season seems to have started a week early but nonetheless I’m looking forward to it. 10pm came and went of course, I was mid-flow in telling the story of my first Christmas in New York but at 10.17 precisely, I finish my drink (why don’t they have Budweiser in bottles when they did last time? I had to go to the bar inside to have swift halves poured, I cannot remember the last decade I drank Bud out of a glass) make my excuses and sprint back to St Paul’s Square. Turns out I can make it from Lord Clifden’s, in heels, through cobbled streets back home in 12 minutes flat. No mean feat but Lineker and Co are waiting patiently.

What have you been up to this week?