School Reunion part one #indielove

I am going to a school reunion at the end of this month. My secondary school, Holly Lodge, recently had an open day and a lot of ‘old’ girls and boys went along to see the new buildings. I was away that weekend, or I would have gone. I loved school, really, I would wake up every day and look forward to going. So after a few had posted on the Holly Lodge Facebook Page, somehow plans were made for some of us to meet up again.

As some of the girls are coming up for the weekend, I offered to give them a mini guide of what to do in Birmingham while they are here. Simon Calder must have heard about this as he pipped me to the post in this article, 48 Hours in Birmingham.

As I think I know the city better and have an interest in promoting all things indie, I was not swayed and here is my guide, for a group of fantastic fiesty fifty something ‘old’girls’. We will not be wearing purple nor wearing red hats. However this is a Warning to you, Here Come the Girls!

Visit the Christmas Market, early. It is so busy later on and it gets a bit lairy for my liking. I do however recomend a sausage for lunch. DSCN9189A ride on the carousell may be fun though ladies!

Time for tea or coffee. Avoid the horrid chains and visit some of the best indie cafes there are. Yorks, Cherry Reds, (see also hereUrban, Six Eight (at the back of Rackhams) and Brewsmiths are all different and all fantastic for tea or coffee. In my view the best cake is at Six Eight, not don’t got to Druckers almost next door. Really no, don’t.

The music at Brewsmiths is fantastic and the furniture an eclectic mix of scrubbed pine and vintage. A bacon butty and a muc of builders tea is my choice here, yet there is an amazing rage of teas and seriously good coffee.

Urban is also another favourite, New York loft style. Good coffee and tea although I don’t rate the food. But squashy sofas upstairs and good music make it a favourite of mine.

Six Eight cakes are to die for. Seriously, go.

Yorks is also loft style and have an interesting range of teas.

I have not visited Home is yet, but it is on my list as is Cherry Reds.

So that is coffee and cake sorted.

My next post will be shopping and why you have to visit the Crafty Muthas.

Not so much #indielove

I’m sitting in what is probably the best coffee shop in Bearwood. It has free wifi. I should be happy. I’m not.

I am not happy, because I have been spoiled. By Brewsmiths, by Yorks Bakery Cafe, by SixEight and by the Urban Coffee Company.

I am in We are Mud, a coffee shop that is also a pottery painting shop. The only people I have ever seen on line here is my friends. They don’t let you use the electric sockets to charge your laptop like all the cafes in Birmingham do. They don’t seem to get get the online community, they have probably never heard of Coffee Birmingham and would not let me hold a Social Media Surgery here without me hiring the space. Which is why the next one will be at Warley Woods cafe.

I have been banging on quite a bit about supporting independent traders in Bearwood, and quite honestly from some of the reactions I have got, you would have thought I had proposed opening up a brothel.

Some of the comments on The Bearwood Page on Facebook are incredibly mean spirited and I will be honest, have upset me. I dared to comment that Poundland has a poor employee engagement record and that they actively contribute to third world wage slavery. I added that a Poundland is preferable to boarded up shops, yet I believe that a pound spent there will never be as valued as a pound spent in a indie, run by a local entrepreneur. A pound spent with one of our lovely independents such as Vangelis, Miss Molly’s Flower Room, Andrew’s Plants or Webbs Walled Garden makes a huge difference to them. The owners of these businesses know their customers names and don’t have to write it on a cup. Yet apparently others do not agree with me, are fed up of hearing about indies and are practically falling over themselves to get to Poundland.

So back to Mud. An indie I’ve tried hard to love. I don’t get pretty pictures on my latte and you cleaned around me and my friends when there was still half an hour till closing time. You don’t tweet your offers or have loyalty scheme. Yet you are local, and I will steadfastly continue to support local indies. And it is lovely to meet with other local people and catch up over coffee or tea.

Birmingham coffee shops will still be first choice for me, with book shelves, music I like and yummy food and baked goods to bring home to my family.

I visit every new shop that opens in Bearwood to welcome them. I photograph them and promote them via social media. I drive business to them. I offer to help them with PR and marketing. I do this for love. Yet the people on The Bearwood Page don’t care. Poundland and a non local B list celebrity seems to be valued higher than hardworking local independent traders trying to make a living.

Bearwood, be careful for what you wish for, a high street full of multiples who put profit before people. Before their customers. If you don’t use your local independent shops, you will lose them. And what will your high street look like then?

#indielove

Today, because it was raining and the thought of being alone in a cold house all day, I decided to try out a couple of coffee shops that my friends rave about. I got into coffee in a big way in Melbourne and one place I visited set the bar very high so I can be um, hypercritical, and this was Mart130. Another place I love for brunch, not as faraway as Melbourne is Pinky Murphy’s in Fowey. Still not somewhere I can just pop out to though.

First stop was Yorks Bakery and Cafe. I have been there before so it’s not new to me. It is very New York lofty industrial style and the bread they bake there is truly wonderful. It was just gone 11.30 and they were winding up breakfast, so on the suggestion of the barista (who I think used to work at SixEight) I had a pulled pork roll with my small latte. Just under £8 is isn’t cheap but then I did stay there until 1.00. Also it was very cold in there, and I’m usually hot everywhere I go, so I was sitting near the door on one of the wettest Mondays that has caused flooding and train cancellations country wide. I could have moved seats I guess. I wish they did an all day brunch. The barista thinks so too!

Lots of suits in there over lunch time and I’ve been so out of the smart clothes loop, I’d forgotten that people wear ties to work and so many women in boring black suits. Shudder. No, I cannot go back to the corporate life. So seeking somewhere more me and wanting tea I went in search of Brewsmiths which claims it’s in the JQ. It is under a railway arch and I have to say while so less über cool than Yorks, I like it. I had my own armchair and coffee table, and tea and a bacon butty cost £3.20 which is a bargain. It’s cozy. It has bunting, books, magazines and music I like. I could move in.

The downside is that to get there from Snow Hill you have to go through an underpass. And they scare me. I had to use this one every day when I worked in Cornwall Street and there was a resident tramp, which bizarrely made me feel safe. He’s not there anymore.

Anyway. Another indie I have visited. If I lived or worked nearby I would come more often. So it’s back to Bearwood with frankly its poor choice of coffee shops with wifi and atmosphere. Sigh!