Archives for category: Retail

Localise West Midlands recently commissioned a video which highlights four local projects that stimulate local economies and decentralise economic power. It was filmed, produced and edited by Susan Jones, Redhead Business Films with funding from the Barrow Cadbury Trust.

After seeing the video people who want more information should go to the LWM blog which has details of the four projects and the people involved.

The new Midland Metropolitan hospital ‘anchoring prosperity in the community’ hopes that one of its retail units will be taken by a social enterprise; it would not only sell locally produced goods but act as a “concierge” type service for busy staff and visiting families, to access the services they need from local businesses. It would aim to make stronger links with local people and help towards regenerating local neighbourhoods, Ladywood, Soho and Smethwick in the same way as Citizen Home in the Jewellery Quarter.

Inclusive business support ecosystems in Balsall Heath: Citizens UK and the Centre for Research on Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship have been working together with business people in Lozells, Small Heath and Sparkbrook to achieve better engagement with support agencies, aiming to generate an inclusive business support ecosystem in these areas. 

Energy Capital is about collaborative sector development, in which energy innovation delivers on the needs of real people and the environment, with locally owned businesses involved at every level. RentE Cars is one of the local businesses that is taking advantage of electric car charging innovations.

Social care, rather than being a problem, can be a positive force for inclusive economics that could help the West Midlands Combined Authority achieve its stated aims of sharing prosperity more widely – as a report by NEF for LWM outlines. Crossroads Care is an example of a locally accountable and adaptable enterprise delivering social care and economic opportunity.

Localise West Midlands explores better ways to do economics – creating an economy which is lively and diverse & in which more people have a stake – meeting local needs with local resources.




40 Vendors. 2 Days. Unlimited Coffee. Birmingham’s First Coffee Festival.


From independent coffee houses and speciality roasters, to companies that are expanding across the UK, we will celebrate the gift that is the coffee bean.

Sipping, Shopping & Networking at the Custard Factory

Gibb St, Birmingham B9 4AA

​These two days will bring together the top 40 independent coffee shops and coffee culture experiences from the local area and beyond.

 You can sample specialty coffee and food from all around the world. Whether you are a coffee drinker, enjoy the coffee shop experience, or own a store, there is something for everyone. ​From finding your new favourite blend to picking your next machine supplier, we have it all.

Have a coffee, cake or lunch and relax in our seating area whilst listening to local musicians. Unlimited samples will be available from our partners as well as plenty of things to buy on the day.

In 2017 our chosen charity is the ‘The Black Country Kitchen’, a volunteer based organisation that helps provide a hot meal every week for the homeless and those in need. All our live music acts will be ‘busking’ and 100% of the money raised by them will go straight to the charity.

Get all the latest news and updates on the festival

on the Birmingham Coffee Festival website.






On Saturday 13th May (12pm – 6pm), the inaugural Independent Birmingham Festival will be taking place at The Bond, Digbeth, showcasing the very best of Birmingham’s independent restaurants, bars, pubs, street food traders, local retailers and artists, designers, producers, in a day-long celebration. There will be an ‘ace programme’ of music and other entertainment.

Independent Birmingham has created the Independent Birmingham Membership Card. The IBcard is now owned by over 15,000 people, acting as a key to the city and entitling cardholders to fantastic discounts and deals at over 95 of the very best independents in Birmingham. The website and the Independent Birmingham Membership Card both act to encourage the people of Birmingham to support local, celebrate the unique and to Believe In Birmingham. Only those independents included on the Independent Birmingham Membership Card will be trading at the event.

Around 70,000-80,000 different people visit the Independent Birmingham website a month, along with a large social media following so we decided that the time has come to celebrate Brum’s marvellous independent culture in a way we’ve never done before.

More news as it comes on our events page.

Tickets cost just £8 (children under 12 go free – no ticket required) and can be purchased here.






Jonathan Guthrie, Financial Times Enterprise Editor reported that canals could regain their role as conduits for trade – because of gridlock on the motorways that superseded them, according to a study for West Midlands councils, the Highways Agency and British Waterways, which found “considerable potential for the reintroduction of freight on the canals”.

He added that the findings will resonate with any driver who has ever watched narrowboats putter past on nearby canals while stuck on a motorway. A canal freight shuttle service between the Black Country and Birmingham could move 175,000 tonnes annually and save 61,750 urban lorry miles, the study found.

From our database, 2001-2016:

  • In Bromage N, Supply Management (UK) 5 Jul 2001 Vol 6 No 14: p. 34 (2 pages) there is a reference to transporting cardboard waste from London to a recycling mill in Birmingham.
  • In 2002 cardboard waste was carried from Leamore Business Parks (Walsall) via canal to a recycling plant in Saltley, Birmingham.
  • West Midlands Waterways joined forces with Brumcan, the Birmingham based community recycling business in 2004 for ‘The Big Recycle’ and moved waste textiles by boat from Brumcan’s headquarters in Saltley along the Birmingham Mainline Canal to Black Country Rags in Greets Green. The boat, named Aurega, then delivered glass to Birmingham’s waste transfer station at Lifford Lane.
  • Lynne Jones MP, for Birmingham Selly Oak, issued a press release: Support Water Freight; 11.08.06, calling for government action to shift the transport of freight from our roads to our waterways, supporting a Parliamentary motion backing the sector.
  • In 2007 Marks & Spencer employed barges to take waste cardboard boxes and packaging from its stores in London along the 157-mile Grand Union Canal to a recycling plant in Birmingham.
  • The 2007 West Midlands Freight Action Plan clearly identified 78 businesses in the Birmingham Study that have the potential for transporting waste & recycling, building & construction materials, steel and retail goods. It also identified 90 clusters of industrial estates and retail parks, 49 wharfs and 12 freight development sites.
  • Birmingham to the River Lee: in 2008 Richard Horne and Tim Collier loaded narrowboats Arundel and Betelgeuse with 110 steel piles, weighing 43.79 tonnes, from the company ALE Piling at Tyseley to be delivered to Lee Valley Marina at Walthamstow.
  • ALE Piling in Tyseley gave a barge company a contract to move steel piles from Birmingham to Walthamstow earlier that year. Progress was slowed through the Solihull area by silt, sunken tree boughs, supermarket trolleys and bicycles in the water. (CBOA newsletter)
  • Heathrow announced (2016) that it would accept, and in some cases exceed, all the environmental targets set out in the Airports Commission report. To this end Nick Platts, head of cargo, said he had been considering low-emission onward transport for freight, including using rail and barges on the nearby Grand Union Canal (Paddington Branch) which links central London with Birmingham.

Caption: ‘No congestion down here’

As Jonathan Guthrie, Financial Times Enterprise Editor reported, the 2007research highlighted a series of environmental benefits from moving freight. Studies agree that waterborne transport is quieter, cleaner & more fuel efficient, reducing CO2 emissions by 75-80% compared with road transport. TV’s Waterworld programme made the startling claim that in one day a lorry used more fuel than a working barge would use in a year.

Next: City could use watertaxis – operating in other UK cities – to take passengers off congested roads




“Banks have been bailed out by taxpayers and the state continues to shower enormous gifts upon them”, thunders Professor Prem Sikka. “Despite this banks show no sense of social responsibility and continue to close local branches, leaving many without adequate financial services”.

The rate of branch closures accelerates and over the past five years more than 430 communities have lost their last bank.

Recently a reader saw a local butcher unable to make a sale because he hadn’t enough change to give his customer. He explained that two Lloyds Bank branches nearby by had closed, and now the nearest one – two miles away – had closed.


Lloyds Lewes branch now closed

She remembered that the Post Office had offered routine services to the customers of Santander and the Co-op for some years but was not able to tell the butcher that this extended to his bank.

As he does not use a computer she searched on his behalf and found out that, during the days of a slightly kinder coalition government, the impact of these closures was mitigated when a deal was co-ordinated by Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable.

In 2015, reportedly under Government pressure, the country’s major high street banks signed a pact  that allowed all their personal customers  and businesses with fewer than 50 employees access their banks at their local post office – putting the 11,500-strong Post Office network at the heart of local communities.

This move meant that bank customers are able to put cash and cheques into current accounts, check on balances and withdraw cash.

As this relatively young man had no idea these services existed and did not appear to know how to access information, one wonders how many small traders are struggling with cash transactions because they don’t realise that there are still some services available – unless of course further post office closures take place.




The small but vibrant suburb of Stirchley is being invaded by supermarkets in a manner reminiscent of the long-resisted Asda development in ‘supermarket capital’ Shirley, which has sadly failed to deliver its undertaking to regenerate the high street.

In Stirchley, already served by a large Co-operative store, Aldi has applied for permission to build on a site less than a mile away and a Tesco store is being built nearby.

Two weeks ago the council’s planning committee had sensibly voted to reject plans to knock down the Fitness First gym and bowling alley in Pershore Road in order to build a Lidl store.

Many councillors and residents argue that the site would add to traffic problems and that knocking down a popular gym, the only one in the area, for yet another foodstore, sends out the wrong message.

It is now reported that officials fear the council would be vulnerable to a costly legal appeal by the supermarket.

The majority of councillors have reversed their decision, agreeing with officials’ advice that a refusal would not stand up to a challenge and voted by six to three in favour of the Lidl plan.

Is the well-being and preference of local residents less important than building yet another supermarket?

Is devolution a hollow undemocratic sham and corporate rule a reality?

See pages about Stirchley on this site

First response by email: “But how else will the starving people of Stirchley eat without another supermarket in the area?”



 Photographer: Patrick Willcocks


Christmas is fast approaching and the pressure is on to find original, interesting or unusual gifts. If you either make or want to buy quality locally-made items, come to The Old Print Works on Saturday 3rd December for our Christmas Market – at 506, Moseley Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham, B12 9AH.


 To book a £10 or £20 stall either phone Mel on 07887946885 or book directly here.





 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.



Asda/Parkgate, according to today’s email message from a local entrepreneur born and bred in Shirley. We add: Asda/Shirley Advance/Parkgate, with the backing of the political party controlling Solihull Council.


Our correspondent writes, “I went to the bank in Shirley yesterday and as predicted on your website, Parkgate has killed Shirley. Many of the shops are now empty and even the charity shops are closing. I think I’d rather have vaguely competent European bureaucrats than inept and or self-serving local politicians”.

It has been a long, slow process, death by a thousand cuts

The first blow: CEGB/Powergen (above) relocated after being refused permission to expand; hundreds of its employees then no longer had lunch and did their shopping in Shirley. The building was allowed to decay and much of the site will be used to further Asda/Shirley Advance property development.

shirley park logoThen came a twenty year struggle against the wishes of over 90% of Shirley residents (who responded to a poll overseen by the Electoral Reform Society). The council finally made the development financially viable by a gift of public parkland on which to build aspirational housing – not for those really in need on the borough’s housing register.

Our correspondent sent the graphic (above) republished in the West Midlands aggregator website and the text of the original 2014 Green Party article.

Measures which could help Shirley

shirley woolworths logo

  • Set up a decent indoor market in the former Woolworth’s building which would attract many stall-holders and customers from surrounding areas who might spend in the few remaining High St businesses.
  • In May, people in all Solihull’s threatened locations should vote to increase the main opposition Green Party and give them control of Solihull Council.
  • Then nationwide vote in a government which would control the exorbitant rents landlords charge. In Shirley it is not unusual for landlords to ask for £30,000 in rent per annum for small shops and overhead flats.

Should the well-being of thousands suffer to maintain the profits of a few absentee landlords and property developers?