Personal

My own thoughts/personal experiences

50 Shades of Brum

Discovering the Second City

I moved to Birmingham from the beautiful and earthly depths of Cornwall in 2012. After nearly three years, three different places to live and countless amazing experiences, it’s only now that I feel like I’m finally starting to understand and appreciate the real Birmingham.

On first arrival, as with most students that have left home and ventured to an alien city, I stuck with what I knew. Everywhere has a run-of-the-mill Walkabout, a cheap and cheerful Wetherspoons and a towering Vue cinema. As time went on I dipped my toes into some of the quirkier sides of the city. Walking along the canals, tucking into a lovely pie and chips from The Malt House, watching a band (other peoples shoulders) at an intimate gig at The Institute and painting the town red in Digbeth or the flamboyant Hurst Street nightlife.

It’s only now that I know I’m discovering the real Birmingham and if I thought I couldn’t love the city anymore than I already did, I was mistaken.

There are some crazy good initiatives and companies within the city that are the ‘brummie lovers’, they know everything there is to know about the past, present and future for the city, because they care. Birmingham isn’t a vessel for them, it’s life. I CHOOSE Birmingham and Independent Birmingham are where to find and build your Birmingham TO-DO’s for the year ahead.

I’ve picked out some of my favourite things to do in ye’old Brum and asked others to tell me what they love for restaurants, drinking, music, comedy and days-out. I even asked them as Birmingham connoisseurs for simple tips and tricks for becoming one yourself. Whether you’re a born and bred ‘brummie’ or a newbie to the area, you will definitely thank me for bringing them to your attention. Take a leaf and discover the greats of the city.

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  1. Grab a ‘banging’ roast – Take a different approach to your average joe Toby Carvery and dive into a famous plate from The Plough in Harborne.
  2. It’s neat on the streets at Digbeth Dining club – DDC is purely flavour in abundance and a proper good time. Theres a huge variety in what the vendors have to offer and it’s an alternative dinner experience at Spot*light.
  3. It’s all heart with Cherry Reds – Cherry Reds have two independent and cosy cafe/bars situated in King’s Heath and on John Bright Street in the city centre. It’s was described to me as a home from home.
  4. Everything is shiny and new at The Sunflower Lounge – After a revamp and relaunch in January, The Sunflower Lounge have been making food headlines. Street food heroes Big Papa’s have taken over the Kitchen and are cooking up a storm so head over and grab yourself some yummy buttermilk fried chicken or cola-pulled brisket (dribbles).
  5. Hidden Hurst Street gem Topokki – This Korean restaurant will have your tastebuds smiling. With fresh and crisp spices and a truly authentic menu, it provides something a bit different in a diner style environment, truly delicious food.
  6. Bonjour to Le Truc –  Not having experienced Le Truc myself yet, this recommendation says Oui! Oui! “Absolutely delicious French food. Uses all fresh produce and is something a bit fancy but affordable.”
  7. Colourful Bodega – Bodega has been more than raved about. As part of the Bitters N Twisted chain it provides good eats, cocktails and atmosphere that can do no wrong.
  8. The delicious Peel and Stone bakery is a gem within the Jewellery Quarter, offering a wide range of baked goods for every taste.
  9. Carters of Moseley – Carters is an award winning restaurant boasting seasonal and affordable fine dining with expert wine pairings with a warm atmosphere. Slightly costly but the experience is more than worth it for special occasions.
  10. Pigeon park star, Fumo – The sister to celebrity dining favourite San Carlos is a classy Italian, perfect for a lunchtime catch up with a friend or a well priced and quality date.

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  1. Always be jamminnnnn at Turtle Bay – Caribbean through and through, Turtle Bay’s heart and soul shines through in its excellent menu and tooty-fruity cocktails.
  2. The social hub of Sidewalk, Hurst Street – either sit back and relax with a drink on the sofas or party with the best of them on the dance floor.
  3. It’s all go at Boho, Bohemian Bar Moseley – Indie bar Bohemian has a lovely upbeat vibe with plenty of signature cocktails to keep you entertained all night. The personality of the venue and it’s staff are what makes it special, paired with it’s ability to become a night club’esque venue at the weekends.
  4. ‘Not so slow’ Slug and Lettuce Harbourne – a high end, classy and modern take on the chain that can sometimes be a bit same old.
  5. Get your gin and juice at The Jekyll and Hyde  – boasting over 80 types of gin and offering Mr. Hyde’s Main Bar and Dr. Jekyll’s Gin Parlour, this bar has made a name for itself and continues to maintain it’s weird and wonderful offering, wowing customers every time.
  6. Pricey but nicey – For the view it’s worth heading up to the top floor of The Cube to Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse. Grab a tasty cocktail and enjoy the city and it’s night lights from the heights.

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    The view from Marco Pierre White Steakhouse

  7. Get loose at The Goose, Selly Oak – This pub is vibrant and full of life. A definite student venue which does a fabulous quiz every Sunday evening.
  8. Prince of Wales, Moseley – A renowned regal pub situated in the heart of Moseley, it’s the ‘best ‘secret’ beer garden in the city bar none’. It has it’s own Tiki cocktail hut, wine coneisseur ‘hut’ and cigar shed.
  9. BrewDog – Not for the feint hearted, this craft beer specialist brings you some of the best from around the world.
  10. A well needed pit stop along the canals at The Malt House – A warm and friendly place for a bit of grub and a beer, especially if the sun’s out.

BEATS

  1. The Sun on the Hill – It does what it says on the tin, provides a busy and bright music scene every weekend featuring the best DJ’s and live music.
  2. The Hare and Hounds – Described to me as ‘the sticky floor and the scent of a hot and sweaty night…I LOVE it!’ The Hare and Hounds is an all singing, all dancing venue that entertains, entertains, entertains.
  3. The Asylum – built by musicians, for musicians. This 600 capacity venue keeps the city’s rock and roll scene at the top of it’s game.
  4. The Jam House – an eclectic mix of music genres and attractive to a wide range of ages, this venue makes you ‘want to get to the front of the crowd and love life’.
  5. The Old Crown – Digbeth’s go-to venue for a few beverages before a night on the town, also known as Birmingham’s oldest inn!

TREATS

  1. Thrifty and nifty charity shopping in Harborne – Ten minutes from the city centre, Harborne is a treasure chest of charity shops and you’ll find yourself browsing for hours before walking away with some bargains, maybe even stop at Boston Tea Party for a relaxing coffee afterwards.
  2. A mooch around the Custard Factory – peruse some cracking shops see some of the ever changing street art.
  3. Loki wine tasting – Loki’s amazing range of wines get the palette tingling – you can buy sips by topping up a card and dip your toes in many varieties of the grape juice.
  4. Famous curry’lovin – You cannot come to or live in Birmingham without heading to the Balti Triangle to tuck into Birmingham’s signature dishes.
  5. Get pumped at Fuel, Bullring – Treat yourself to a tasty treat from Fuel…not to mention getting your five a day at the same time.

LOLS and GO-TO VENUES

  1. MAC – Make art a part of your life by experiencing their extensive programme of theatre, dance, independent cinema, music, spoken word, comedy, exhibitions and special events.
  2. You’ll leave smiling at The Glee Club – featuring the likes of celebrity comedians and rookies, the Glee Club is a nice alternative to a night out and will have you belly laughing no matter who’s on the stage.
  3. The Dark Horse – there aren’t many quiet nights for TDH, the calendar is full of comedy nights, open mic nights and live music.
  4. Ikon Gallery – Showcasing some of the best in contemporary art within the stunning neo-gothic school building at Brindleyplace.

BEFORE AND AFTER THE SUN GOES DOWN

  1. Get some air in your lungs – Birmingham has a wide network of canal systems. Do take a stroll along them and experience the beauty and serenity of it all.

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    The beauty of the canals on the route to the Mailbox, February 2015

  2. A few pounds to go around – If you aren’t partial to a stroll, put a few quid towards a cruise along the canals, you’ll see some wicked derelict buildings and interesting architecture.
  3. ‘Round the bend’ crazy golf at Golden Putter, Cannon Hill park – After opening in 2014 this attraction provides a super time for some friendly competition.
  4. Electric Cinema – Not your normal cinema experience, sit back and relax on a sofa and order your treats and enjoy a classical flick.
  5. Find pretty places, venture across brum and appreciate the beauty of it. There are so many hidden gems and sites like BrumPic will help you to find your way.

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    Cannon Hill Park offers some of the best views of the city

  6. Visit the Brum YumYum markets – take a wander and experience some of the best street food brought to you by The Street Food people and producers of the new KingshEATh streetfood market. It’s all about StreetEats, StreetTreats and StreetBeats.
  7. Go for the looks and the books to the Library of Birmingham – whether you want to just gaze upon the city from the balconies or take a pew and get lost in a book, the Library of Birmingham is perfect for both.
  8. Canalside Cafe – grab a cuppa and sit back and ponder…or just watch the canal boats and birds.

FORGET-ME-NOTS

  1. Sign up for I CHOOSE Birmingham – Brought to you by passionate Birmingham-born writer and editor Tom Cullen, I CHOOSE will give you the most up to date information and advice on the best places to go to to discover the city.
  2. Read the local news – You can only discover the city if you know what’s happening, where it’s happening and why it’s happening.
  3. Independent Birmingham – you’d be silly not to sign up and purchase an IB card, offering some crazy deals for some of the best.
  4. Use Twitter – for some of the fastest information about Birmingham and it’s offering, head to the Twittersphere and follow EVERYTHING ‘Brum’.
  5. Open your mind and step out of your comfort zone – not your type of music? Not your type of food? Not where you’d usually go? You might find a new love if you take chance on something you might not have done before.
  6. Ask others – the more you talk to people about their experiences in the city the more you can start creating your own.
  7. Save splashing out on nights out you wont remember and put the dolla you save to doing some of the things on ’50 Shades of Brum’.
  8. Spread the word… the more the merrier! Join the Birmingham revolution and spread some pride in how much of a great time there is to be had here.

Fall in love with Birmingham and let me know how it goes!

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Why I love my media degree

It’s a funny little word ‘media’. A simple term that is usually thrown around without a second thought, but as an undergraduate of media and communications I have learnt a key message, that it’s inevitable and undeniable complexity cannot be ignored by any one of us.

Each and every consumer across the world experiences the ‘media’ in a unique way and makes it their very own, and that is why I am in complete and unequivocal love with it.

Traditional forms of media, television, radio and newspaper (the big players of the olden days) didn’t have much competition as the platforms were limited. Everybody used to watch those few channels, listen to those few stations and read those few sheets. That was all they had… no breadth or depth of wonderful technology.

Now have a think about what you have at your fingertips. Every morning from waking up until bedtime…What apps do you check? Who do you speak to and how? Do you listen? Watch? Share, like or play? How do you record your life?

Everybody, everything and every taste has a producer to cater for it. For every gap in the market there is someone working on it, it’s this exciting fact that creates the desire to be that person figuring it out and creating the next big thing.

I have realised my previous obliviousness, my juvenile understanding and lack of consciousness about pretty much everything going on around me which generally involves the some form of the media. Studying this degree has opened up  my understanding of the past, present and future of the media, and within that the future of communications, something that us humans must all do to survive.

Two years in and it is now second nature for me to question it all. Why is Coca Cola putting names on bottles? How does Justin Bieber deal with bad press (let’s face it there’s a lot of it….)? How is skin perfected on that picture? How are the people behind each company, however small, building  Each media student has a completely different experience and asks completely different questions. I’m making my degree mine, moulding my own end result that nobody else will have.

The beauty is the choice and freedom. Learn and try photography, music industries, events or journalism and find your passion. The sheer volume of things you can experiment with will give you the drive to show the world what you can create, write and achieve. You will speak in front of people and sell yourself and your work.

Theory isn’t ‘war and peace’…it’s around my interests and the things I want to research. I can delve in to the representation of celebrity in David LaChappelle’s work or compare two public relations campaigns and their messages.

Adaptation and evolution are two words I associate with my media degree, not a mickey mouse subject or an easy ride, technical and practical industry focused development is what we learn, its hardly easy! As well as embracing the constant change and keeping up with the fastest paced sector of our age.

I get to meet the people that have succeeded before me and be one of the people behind the next phase of the biggest creative sector of our century. I’m using my weird creativity to fuel the next generation because it’s not just about becoming employable and spending £8,500 each year on a piece of paper. You learn to love what you do and put your signature into your work.

Not only that but being in the second city, known for its industrial and technical development and with an increasingly up and coming future is more than a little bit exciting.

Innovation. You could wait for it or you could be a part of it. 

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Ben Cooper for BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra – In pure awe

Yesterday I attended the annual ReThinkMedia conference held by Birmingham City University in the shiny new Parkside Building. I was lucky enough to watch the speech by Ben Cooper, the controller for the Radio 1 and 1Xtra and if I’m honest I had goosebumps for the whole time that he was stood up.

Although I’m not involved with radio production, and do not know the slightest thing about radio at all, I don’t think I could have enjoyed the talk any more than I did. Ben spoke about the station with such passion and used some incredible facts of life that really made the audience consider and question their media consumption.

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Day to day media consumption explained by Ben Cooper

Every day we get up and the cycle begins there:

1.check phone in bed

2.watch tv/laptop whilst getting ready or eating breakfast

3.check phone on travels to uni/work/plans for the day

4.sit using laptop or screen at work

5.check phone leaving work and travelling home

6.watch tv/laptop eating dinner and getting ready for bed

7.check phone just before you turn out the light

It scares me to know how predictable and programmed that we, as media consumers have become when living our day to day lives. We are married to our phones and we sometimes interact more by using devices than we do by F2F (face to face, for those who don’t understand a non-technology related abbreviation) communication.

Post to be continued….

 

Dissertation for the nation

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Ok, so next week is the deadline for the dissertation proposal. Scary stuff.

As you can see from the picture I’m not too enthralled about the whole thing. Not because I don’t want to do a dissertation, its all just a little overwhelming to be thinking of these ideas half way through second year. I get the fact that preparation is key here and it will help to make life a lot easier in my third year, but now the D word has been mentioned it feels as if university is beginning to slip through my fingers.

Obviously it’s not, because we still have over a year left. It is challenging trying to narrow your ideas to one topic, but also not to get too caught up in thinking that its definitive once you have picked it.

My mind wanders so easily from idea to idea, so I know there is going to be some wiggle room before the actual dissertation is written.

Lets see how it goes.