Archives for category: Food

Values for the Future seminar

Cost for the whole day is £10 – paid at the door or booked through the PCF website:

See also:  

Colin Hines is a former co-ordinator of Greenpeace International’s Economics Unit, co-founder of Localisation West Midlands, and co-ordinator of the Green New Deal Group (dedicated website temporarily unavailable).

He has campaigned on population, food security, nuclear proliferation and the adverse environmental and social effects of international trade.

He will speak about his conviction that the only way to solve these problems is by replacing globalisation’s open borders with ‘Progressive Protectionism’ (left, recently published).

Malcolm Currie, a former geography lecturer and community activist has long had an interest in environmental issues.

This recently led to a partnership with the founder of the Midlands Environmental Business Club which has focused on a project aiming to demonstrate the feasibility of neighbourhood based sustainability: the Uplands-Hilltop project (above). Read more about this from the joint project leader on the right-hand bar of this site. Malcolm says: “The problem is how to attempt to create a sustainable world without wrecking the economy that provides most people with jobs and incomes . . .

The case has to be made that in the longer term regional diversity and shorter supply chains make for greater efficiencies (and local jobs). Global production and distribution is actually highly inefficient, apart from producing a monochrome world and damaging the biosphere.”  A different way of organising trade and industry has to make sense to those who control, or are engaged in, business.

Christine Parkinson, a biologist (medical research), has more recently been involved in regeneration projects in Birmingham’s inner city suburbs. 

She has just finished writing “Three Generations Left? Human Activity and the Destruction of the Planet”, which outlines how so-called progress has combined with a host of other factors, including free trade, a market economy, population increase and the development of a super-rich minority owning most of the wealth of the planet, to bring about global warming and climate change which could lead to a loss of many species and mass human extinction before the end of this century.

The book offers clear and constructive proposals for measures which will avert such a disaster.


Seating limited: prebooking is recommended.



Robert Kornreich (Kings Heath) recommended ‘The Third Plate’, a programme on BBC Radio 4: American Chef Dan Barber, who had early success as a ‘farm to table’ chef, is currently in the UK with a project called ‘WastED London’ – an unusual temporary restaurant taking aim at the problem of food ‘waste’.

Food is ‘Too Good To Waste’

The Priory Rooms is a busy meeting and conference venue in Bull Street, Birmingham city centre and in their latest newsletter, Joanna adds more information about their commitment to sustainable meetings.

As customers are provided with a substantial and varied catering, a huge amount of food passes through its kitchen but waste is avoided.

One of the ways they do this is by offering free, cardboard food boxes and paper bags, made of recycled or biodegradable materials. Customers can then take away leftover food to enjoy later – something they really appreciate.

Food waste is a serious national issue. For every meal eaten in a UK restaurant, nearly half a kilo of food is wasted – through preparation, spoilage and what’s left behind on the plate.

600,000 tonnes of food waste are being thrown out from restaurants every year, most of it filling up scarce landfill space. As well as the cost to the environment, this waste is costing restaurants and diners a fortune.

If this subject is of interest to other workplaces, more information is given here:





This news was sent by Aldo Mussi, Tutor-Activist in Health Promotion/Public Health, Public Health teaching team Birmingham City University. He writes:

“Climate change is not only a pressing public health, ecological and justice concern – it’s increasingly a financial worry. With fossils fuels increasingly seen as a liability, the shift by investors away from this old technology is growing”.

At the end of 2016 Arabella Advisors reported that 688 organizations ― including some charities, faith-based groups, universities and local governments ― and 58,399 individuals across 76 countries have committed to pulling their money out of oil, gas and coal companies.

In keeping with that trend, in November 2015 Aldo had welcomed reports that BCU was in the top 16 of British universities which had started ‘divesting’ from fossil fuels. (The top 10 were divesting completely, while the fund managers for BCU and others were merely fleeing tar sands & coal (the dirtiest fuels). Others have joined the trend since then, but BCU is still in the top 25% of universities who have made the move.

People & Planet (a national network of student eco-societies) publish a ‘green league table’ of British universities, and in the 2016 results, it’s good to see BCU placed 31 out of 150 institutions (top of the list of those awarded a ‘2.1’, but frustratingly just missing out on a ‘First’).

Birmingham City University People & Planet University League 2016 Scorecard:

1. Environmental Sustainability; Policy and Strategy 100

2. Human Resources for Sustainability 40

3. Environmental Auditing & Management Systems 100

4. Ethical Investment 0

5. Carbon Management 35

6. Workers Rights 15

7. Sustainable Food 60

8. Staff and Student Engagement 20

9. Education for Sustainable Development 35

10. Energy Sources 31

11. Waste and Recycling 76

12. Carbon Reduction 78

13. Water Reduction 50

Aldo comments, “A quick look at BCU’s scorecard (below) raises an obvious question: If we are at the forefront of divestment, why did we score a zero for ‘Ethical Investment’? It turns out that People & Planet’s criteria depend largely on being able to audit an institution’s published policies, including an Ethical Investment policy. BCU had not yet published one, so that counted against us. Interestingly, had it been published, our partial divestment would have counted for a score of 5% – possibly enough to push us up into a ‘First’ next time? It seems that BCU management may be addressing this in the near future, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to report even better news soon…”





Visit and find out why it’s so named . . .


In December, Business Desk reported the opening of friendly independent Gorilla Coffee in Drayton Road, a fully-licensed cycle cafe based in Kings Heath. Cyclists, who feel some venues look askance at them if dishevelled and sticky, will feel welcome there.

Everyone with an interest in pedal-powered transport is catered for – watching cycling events on the big screen or having their bike repaired or serviced in the fully-equipped bike workshop.


Gorilla Coffee’s co-owners James Connolly and Stacey Jarvis have been working on the project for two years. They support local suppliers and serve coffee created by Worcestershire-based Coffee Masters, while the craft beers on offer celebrate the best the area has to offer.

One of the most popular beers – No Brakes IPA – comes from Blackheath’s Fixed Wheel Brewery. Above the café, operated by experienced cycle mechanic Damian Towers, is Gorilla Coffee’s workshop, fully equipped to undertake everything from minor adjustments through to full servicing. There are two service packages available: the Domestique service, which is an interim service to keep your bike running true, and the King of the Mountain service that sees the bike fully stripped down and rebuilt.

The café is aiming to expand its cycling services in 2017 with a collection and delivery service within five miles of the shop.


On BBC Radio 4 today it was reported that some supermarkets are limiting sales of fruit and vegetables.


A newspaper elaborates: “Morrisons and Tesco have limited the amount of lettuce and broccoli after flooding and snow hit farms in Spain. Shortages of other household favourites – including cauliflower, cucumbers, courgettes, oranges, peppers and tomatoes – are also expected. Prices of some veg has rocketed 40% due to the freak weather. Sainsburys admitted weather has also affected its stocks”.

HortiDaily reports on frost in Europe in detail (one of many pictures below) and the search for supplies from Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia.

A former Greenpeace Economist foresees these and more persistent problems in his latest book, Progressive Protectionism.

Read on:




Rising to the challenge: Practical organic farming solutions for an uncertain future


The 11th Organic Producers’ Conference will be held on Wednesday 1st February and Thursday 2nd February 2017 at Conference Aston, Aston University, Birmingham, B4 7ET

ORC’s annual Organic Producers’ Conference is the event where organic and other producers interested in ecological approaches to sustainable food production come together with researchers and advisers to share ideas on making agriculture perform better, for their businesses and society.

How can we rise to the challenges which Brexit represents? Can we make our work and businesses more resilient to the changes that will take place in the next few years? What opportunities will the new situation present that we should be welcoming with open hands? What should we be asking of policy-makers to ensure a vibrant organic community in future, delivering both environmental and other public goods, as well as contributing to the economic wellbeing of the UK? Can we build bridges with others facing similar challenges and aspirations?

Without question, the Brexit referendum result has opened up a significant debate about the future of agriculture in the UK, and the place of organic food and farming within it. It’s also created huge uncertainty for producers and other organic businesses, in terms not only of access to and continuation of conversion and maintenance support, but also how exchange rates and regulations might change and the impacts that will have on both domestic markets and export opportunities. Research and other organisations supporting organic businesses are facing similar challenges, as access to European funding for research, promotional and other initiatives comes into question.

As usual we also have a range of practical technical sessions, on the themes of; business/markets, arable, horticulture, grassland/livestock, and food/farming policy post-Brexit.

Some sponsored places for producers and students are available. Please contact Gillian Woodward with your reasons for needing an assisted place. We have negotiated good package deals for B&B at the Conference Centre but many other options including budget accommodation are available in the vicinity of the conference venue in the city centre.


More information and to book:






All are welcome at the next Popup Restaurant event

at Stirchley Baths.

It will be on the 3rd November 7.30-11 pm with an all-you-can-eat buffet offering a wide variety of dishes from around the globe, ranging from curries via (raw food & cooked) lasagne to pies (sweet & savoury), mousses & coulis!

ChangeKitchen will aim to have at least one dish from every continent and much more …

Choose 2 courses (£15) or three (£18) and bring your own wine or beer. 



Please get in touch via or phone 07828825850 to find out more about the menu & how to reserve a place,

Read more about this social enterprise at[UNIQID]




 stirchley-bathsThe Birmingham Cookbook was launched at Stirchley Baths earlier this month 


In his foreword, Birmingham born and bred chef, Glynn Purnell, explains that this book highlights our regional food, from the provenance of ingredients from farms on the outskirts of the city, through to breakfasts on offer in suburban café, lunches from delis and ‘proper gastro pub fare from real ale houses’.


The event was hosted by Birgit Kehrer of ChangeKitchen, a social enterprise which offers award-winning locally sourced organic vegetarian and vegan food. Two of her helpers (above right) welcomed and served all-comers – the first to arrive being a representative from Citylicious Birmingham. Citylicious is a dining guide which offers a choice of restaurants and introduces the newest artisan producers and focusses on provenance – farm to plate.


Sanjay (right) from Spice Kitchen, has set up a family business which offers fresh, authentic spices by mail order. He explained:

“We source the spices in their raw state, like cloves, curry leaves and cardamom pods, then we roast and grind them by hand. Everything is fresh, made in small batches within a week or so of the order, unlike the stuff in shops which has been hanging around for a long time and gone stale”.

Orders are coming in briskly after Spice Kitchen exhibited at the recent Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2016 held at Olympia.

b-kerre-3Kerre Chen from Meze Publishing spoke about the Birmingham Cookbook to the gathering. She conducts public and press relations for Meze, which has published sixteen regional cookbooks. Meze Publishing recently won ‘best new-comer’ at the Independent Publishing Awards and issued the cookbook in collaboration with Dine Birmingham. Contributions came from Adams, Purnell’s, Simpsons and independents such as Cherry Reds, Loaf and Original Patty Men.

Tom Maher is co-founder of The Original Patty Men, another independent, which was often seen at Birmingham’s street food events like Digbeth Dining Club, serving locally sourced longhorn beef burgers. OPM has now opened a Digbeth base in Shaw’s Passage in one of the railway bridge arches (below).


There were people representing a good ‘mix’ of establishments from different areas including, Stirchley, Edgbaston, Digbeth, Ladypool Road, Kings Heath and Wythall.

b-nathan-eadesThey included the following contributors:

Nathan Eades (left), the new head chef at Simpson’s, Edgbaston’s newly refurbished Grade II listed Michelin starred restaurant

Sadie Williams – formerly with MAC, who came from Beckett’s Farm, Wythall, Orange Kitchen Cookery School .


Sadie came with her colleagues Hannah (marketing) and Rachel (conferences)

b-ali-imdad-headAli Imdad, Great British Bake Off contestant, opened a 60 seat dessert parlour in Ladypool Road last year.

Artisan desserts offers a mix of Asian and traditional English fare in an Asian area, where people don’t just want to have a kulfi after their curry – and some customers travel from as far afield as Manchester.

And Tracy Fletcher (below, far left) from the Kitchen Garden in Kings Heath came with Charlotte from Stirchley. She joined others who attended the launch, relaxing after the event.


More detail about the cookbook is given on Spice Kitchen’s website.


Thanks are due to Shirley Institute’s Ann (cameraman) and Malcolm Turner (escort & moral support) for stepping in at the last moment to take photographs.




The Bartons Arms was built for £12,000 in 1901 on the site of a former pub as the flagship of Mitchell and Butlers’ brewery estate by Mr. Brassington of James and Lister Lea. In 1976 it was listed as a Grade 2* building. This architectural practice designed a number of Birmingham’s most recognisable public houses, some of which are now listed buildings.

bartons arms stairsThe arched entrance to a Thai restaurant – dining room below

bartons arms dining room

The history page on the Bartons Arms website records that Vesta Tilley, Marie Lloyd, Sid Field, Enrico Caruso and Charlie Chaplin ‘drank and lodged’ there after appearing at the adjacent Aston Hippodrome. Laurel and Hardy once stayed there and were photographed serving beer from behind the bar. More recently patrons of the Bartons Arms have been joined by Nigel Kennedy and Ozzy Osbourne. The Birmingham Mail adds that one night, during the 2011 Birmingham riots, the pub was looted, windows were smashed, and fires started, but prompt action by the manager, Wichai Thumjaron, extinguished them.

bartons arms bar

The neo-Jacobean design of the terracotta, brick and stone exterior, with its foursquare clock tower, is said to have been inspired by Aston Hall. Many original features have been retained: mahogany woodwork, stained and engraved windows and mirrors, snob screens which allowed middle class drinkers to see working class drinkers in an adjacent bar, but not to be seen by them, a sweeping wrought-iron staircase and wall to wall Minton Hollins tiles with glazed decorative patterns and some large tiled murals. The cellar in which barrels of beer are stored runs the length of the building and it is said that a tunnel used to run from the cellar of the original pub to Aston Hall.

In 1974, a film was made in which Bob Warman recorded a tour of the Bartons Arms and interviewed Peter Hartley of Mitchells and Butlers. It may be seen here.

bartons armsThe Bartons Arms lies on the A34 – a road which separated the city’s two main gangs in Lozells and Aston. Drug-dealing in the area was rife and it was reported that between 1999 – when the pub closed – and 2005, gun crime in Birmingham rose by 500%.

After three years disuse, the Bartons Arms was bought in 2002 by Oakham Ales, based in Peterborough. It has the largest ‘brewpub’ in Europe, the Brewery Tap. Paul Hook, who bought Oakham Ales in 1995, first saw the Bartons Arms as a science student at Aston University and restored the building.

It reopened in 2003, serving real ale, traditional ciders and Thai food, a passion of Paul’s partner, Patcharee Shaweewan.



milan food policy pact gatheringBirmingham is one of the C40 group of world cities which has agreed that unless the food system changes, there’s little hope of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. London’s footprint audit estimated that the food supply chain is the primary source and in March the Greater London Authority published a report on ten years’ of work done by the London Food Board and its partners to foster much needed change.

Last October, Distinctly Birmingham reported that Birmingham had become the 46th of 100 signatories of the Urban Food Policy Pact from all continents in Milan’s Palazzo Reale. The Pact was then presented to Ban-Ki Moon, UN Secretary General, in New York on World Food Day, October 16th.

The Birmingham delegation, which included the Director for Public Health for Birmingham City Council, Adrian Philips and the co-founder of the Harborne Food School, Shaleen Meelu, took part in several workshops and conferences aimed at addressing issues of sustainable food policy in urban environments.

milan 2 food policy pact gathering

Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, City University London, writes that the new Pact seeks a greener, healthier, more equitable food system:

“This needs a strong political voice that engages with and listens to consumers, but is firm about the need for change. The social maldistribution of food on a gargantuan scale that we have today is unacceptable. We need food systems based on full cost pricing, not cheap food and overflowing hospitals and denuded nature”.

Cheap food leads to overflowing hospitals and denuded nature

He reported that many cities have been auditing how they are fed. They now recognise their food systems are in a delicate state, symptoms include:

  • high health and environmental impacts,
  • aspirations for cheap food, ‘hard-wired’ into consumer expectations,
  • rampant waste,
  • too many government concessions to giant food companies selling sugary, salty, fatty, ultra-processed food (we add: giant food companies = prospective party funders),
  • marketing budgets far higher than those allocated to food education and
  • no-one apparently in overall control.

Lang continues: “A new urban politics is emerging, gradually recognising the need to move beyond the neoliberal era’s commitment to cheap and plentiful food which has only spawned an horrendous new set of challenges which it cannot resolve. Many of these drop onto localities’ doorsteps.  Waste. The new food poor. Rising obesity. Street litter. Inequalities. Low waged food work. But the positive news about a sustainable future needs to be grasped. Closer foodways, better jobs, healthier populations”.

Commitments have been made:

  • to develop methods for auditing their food systems,
  • to prepare local sustainable dietary guidelines
  • and to share experimental findings.

Lang asks: Is it progress for cities to fill streets with endless food offers?

Can we let fast food joints surround schools like hyenas?

What powers are needed to recalibrate urban food culture for 2030?

Must we consign workforces to ill-health?

If national governments are content to leave it to Tesco et al to shovel out cheap food, shouldn’t cities step up to the challenge?

Lang: “It’s there that the consuming mass exists. It’s there the food labour is now greatest in rich countries. It’s there that developing mega cities have massive problems – water, sanitation, food, waste, inequalities”. He points out that Britain, as first industrial nation, knows only too well the consequences of severing people from the land: “We need another package. But which is it to be?”

Many readers will opt for this one: ‘more money getting from dependent urban consumers’ purses back to the primary producers’.

Professor Lang ends:

“The schisms between big companies and millions of small enterprises is a key City challenge. The latter create jobs and diversity. And how can cities help repair ecosystems on which humanity and food depend?

“The new pact seeks a greener, healthier, more equitable food system.  This needs a strong political voice that engages with and listens to consumers, but is firm about the need for change. The social maldistribution of food on a gargantuan scale that we have today is unacceptable. We need food systems based on full cost pricing, not cheap food and overflowing hospitals and denuded nature.

“All hail to Milan and the 100 Cities”.