Tuesday, 24 March 2020

West Bromwich Voices - Childhood days

Here's a great conversation amongst older people from West Bromwich talking about their childhood days during the war years. The conversation was recorded by Ray Gormley and Pete Millington in around 2009 with local West Bromwich historian Anne Wilkins.

Pete is now editing a book of local memories on behalf of Age Concern Birmingham with funding from The Lottery Fund. If you would like to contribute your memories to the project, please contact me on peter.millington@birminghamcarershub.org.uk   

Thank you to Alice Millington for transcribing the interview.

West Bromwich Voices

Childhood days

Our stomping ground, or playground, whatever, was the rec’. Because you’ve got all the football pitches that you wanted on there. Play cricket, or in the summer, do whatever you wanted. And of course, they had got, over by the canal basin, they had got swings and slides and whatever. I know a few times people, like myself, have ended up in the canal basin, especially in the winter when we thought the ice was thick enough to stand your weight, and of course it wasn’t, it just collapsed. 

And I know, the one time, I was at school when it happened and we’d gone over there one lunchtime and, of course, I came back and my trousers was all wringing wet. And of course there was no parents at home then because they were both at work and you just had to just dry off at the school. They didn’t give you anything else to help you or anything like that.

I mean, we used to get bean cans, knock holes in and get burnin’ hot coke. Fire cans – whizz them round and had a competition to see who could make theirs glow the best. Oh, and then leapfrog. We used to play leapfrog, didn’t we?

I’m trying to think…what was the name of that?


With the broom handle under your arm to give you balance.

Diablo, as well. And whip and top.

Oh, yes! Whip and top! These shops nowadays, they sell all these old games, don’t they? 
The National Trust Shops.


But nobody knows how to play.

Well, I bought a whip and top because I used to be quite a dab-hand at that. And I bought it, I’m going back perhaps four or five years, and d’ya know I couldn’t even get it to spin!

And of course, you had the Boys’ Scouts if your parents would give you the money to join then. There was the one up the back of Westley and Churchill.

And the Boys’ Brigade. There was a Church Hall where West Bromwich Building Society main office is standing now.

That was a Baptist Church.

The Boys’ Brigade were a Baptist organisation. I think you’ll find that the Scouts were a Church of England sort of act, and I suppose the Baptists thought they’d got to have something (so they) started the Boys’ Brigade.

We used to have a lad in our street and he used to…he’d always got a ruler about that long. 
And he’d go on, flicking them, and he’d flick them and they’d go over the houses. These bottle tops.

It was another street game, you see.

That’s right, yeah.

Nobody seemed to bother us, then, in those days. Your parents just said “Well, where have you been ‘til now?” and it’s “Ah, we’ve been playing, mom.”

The area called the Mill, near Albion gas works, which mainly got its name from the mill pond which was still there but was surrounded by slag heaps. The most prominent thing about those banks were, underground, it was just one massive fire, and you had to be careful. You could see the flames coming through and the smoke. You had to be careful that you didn’t step on those because you sank in. And people used to collect horse manure for the gardens. The ponies which were tied up there and roamed around never seemed to get burned, which was a miracle. But I remember two children from the area were sent over to collect horse manure, and the girl sank in up to her waist and her brother endeavored to get her out and he was burned.

To the side of the canal there, opposite The Boat pub which has been demolished now, there was some waste ground and we went over there one day, me and a couple more. And we found this little parcel tucked in this long grass. We opened it up, and it was rashers of bacon! “What are we gonna do with this”, you know?

Talking about the police, we knew it was illegal, we’d got all these rashers of bacon. What was we gonna do with it? Well, somebody from the canteen of the Nelson Smelting Works had put it there to pick up at night when they come out. Right, so what did we do? We was afraid to take it home in case we had a good hiding off our parents. We threw it in the cut. So, I says, I says to my mother and dad, “hey, mom” I says “we found this parcel of bacon”. My dad says “what?” I says “yeah, somebody had wrapped it up” I says “by the side of the Nelson factory, and hid it.” He says, “well where is it?” I says “we throwed it in the cut!”

And I bet you got a good hiding for saying that?

He says “you what?” I mean, rashers of bacon which he never saw. I mean, I think you was entitled to one rasher a month, per person, and that was about as big as that envelope and that was about your rations for a month. And we was afraid of the police having us, stopping us with this parcel of bacon and we go into a remand home, you see. And that’s what we thought of. We never give it a thought to stuck it down our trousers and took it home to eat.

They were very strict.

Oh yes.

If you did get caught and people did round by us. In our road, in Stour Street, it branched off into a little road called Collins Street and there, that was the same sort of houses. But, this chap’s mother died and there was five of them and in the war, his father was a special constable and he married this woman who’d got 7 children as well. So, in a little three-bedroomed house there were fourteen of them. Joey, he ran away from home and he lived rough in a derelict house for a week ‘til they found him. But I think they did have him for what today is called shoplifting, but would be called thieving then. And you went to court and he had…I forget how many lashes of the birch rod he had. He certainly had ten, I think. And he was sent away to the North East on a, what they used to call, a remand home, but this was on a ship, it was on a remand ship and he would be about ten at the time. We never saw him again. He remained on this ship until he was eighteen, and they released him then to go in the army. When he came home on leave from the army, he did come home to see his parents. But that’s how strict they were at the time.

And what year would that be then?

That was in the war time… that was in the war years. It would be about ’43 I think.

You were afraid of the police. Stories like I’ve just told you were always quoted by your parents to make you afraid.

But your parents knew the local bobby, didn’t they? I lived on the ‘rec on the Avenue. The family’s home I spoke of, was on Oak Road, they lived in that house from 1908 or something like that so it was…up to, well it’s still standing actually, but 1970 that last one came out of there. But I always used to go up there and the local bobby round there was Mr Bullus and I went to school with his son. He always used to see me, he would be on his pushbike. You’d not done anything wrong or you’d not been playing up and they’d happen to see you coming up. You used to creak in your own shoes, like you know, because you were frightened in case your mother and father were gonna say anything to him anyway…even though they might just say “Alright, Bill?”

You stood there as though you had done something wrong.

The same really with the betting. Why they never actually collared anybody, they all knew it went on. I always used to take bets when I was staying in Oak Road, to Mason’s in Bowater Street. And yet the local Bobby, I mean, I say he knew what he was doing. I don’t think I ever knew Mason being had up for doing illegal betting and yet he must have been doing it for years. All the family knew him, and what have you, and you know?

I think, mainly, they had the runners.

Well, they did, yes. But, I say, I mean even they never got collared unless perhaps it was the local bobby which they were in with in them days, they’d say, just keep an eye on it, you know, cut it down a bit. They used to just do it like ‘I’ll keep out of the limelight for a bit’, and then they’d carry on. It was the same if you’d got caught, wasn’t it? If you’d done any scrumping…if the police was ever brought round to your house, it was just a warning. No over the top or anything like that about it. “Look, we’re warning you. Cut it out.” And, of course, you did.

In other words, they used common sense then, which has gone out of the window.

That’s correct.

Lives in Music: Roy Williams - from an extraordinary 70s club to making extraordinary things happen

Photo credit: Suzy Gallier
Another great audio trip down the memory lane of West Midlands music heritage with Robin Valk. In this edition of Lives in Music Robin chats to Roy Williams, an understated music icon from Sedgley in the Black Country. A co-founder of the legendary JBs live music venue in Dudley, the associations are fascinating. Little Acre, Chicken Shack, UB40, Dexys, Weapon of Peace, teenage mates with Robert Plant, getting close with Van the Man, The Cure, Seasick Steve, Roland Gift, The Alternative Dubstep Orchestra, poet Liz Berry ....the list of associations is pretty damned comprehensive. Mixing, managing, networking... 

Robin introduces the podcast:   

In this edition I'm talking with an extraordinary, super-capable, veteran music pro from the Black Country of the UK, who has, quietly, had a massive influence on music making in this neck of the woods and far, far beyond. Roy was one of the team that launched the legendary JBs in Dudley, where anybody who was anybody simply had to play. Then he went on to managing, sound mixing, often for a lifetime friend, Robert Plant. and just doing an awful lot for an awful lot of people, simply because it was the right thing to do. But it's the sidelines that make this conversation so interesting - the by ways, the diversions, and the way he frequently drops hints and prompts about interesting music areas. And, of course, the stories.

To learn more about the music, or the musicians mentioned in this podcast, head to the companion blog post. 'A Life in Music: Roy Williams', which you can find at www.radiotogo.com. Everything that Roy touches on is linked there so you can explore to your hearts content.

The Lives in Music series celebrates people who have spent a lifetime in music. They may be famous; they may be people who have spent their lives working in the background for the love of it. They all have stories. Lives in Music is a Radio To Go production.

The intro and outro music in this series comes from the great bass player Mike Hatton, who you can hear interviewed in series 1, here. 'Everything Changes' is included in his excellent 2019 album 'Bassic Salvation'. 

Listen to the podcast here

Worcester Moments - Religion: The dissolution of the monasteries and the effect on the religious life of Worcester - Programme 1

Andrew Reekes

In this programme, Andrew explains how the Dissolution of the monastaries at the hands of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell had a profound impact on the religious life of the city and the welfare of its residents and led directly to the foundation of the Kings School. He talks to the publisher of History West Midlands, Mike Gibbs.

Listen to the podcast here

Monday, 23 March 2020



A Leeds Playhouse production in co-production with Ramps on the Moon

4* The Stage
‘Disabled people are still woefully under-represented in the arts, but Amy Leach’s production offers an entertaining, embracive, necessary corrective’

A brand-new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel Oliver Twist comes to Birmingham Repertory Theatre from Wednesday 29 April – Saturday 9 May 2020 as part of a national tour.

This bold, brutal and beautiful new version of Oliver Twist sends audiences on a dark adventure through the twisted streets of London. Adapted by award-winning playwright Bryony Lavery, every performance of Oliver Twist will feature the use of integrated creative sign language, audio description and captioning.

Born into poverty and misfortune, Oliver Twist escapes the workhouse for a life of adventure where he joins Artful Dodger, Fagin and their mischievous gang of pick pockets. But the enjoyment is short lived as he falls under the influence of the vicious Bill Sikes.

The REP is part of Ramps on the Moon a consortium of seven major UK theatres, plus partner company Graeae, committed to putting D/deaf and disabled artists and audiences at the centre of their work. Each year, one consortium organisation becomes the lead producing partner creating a large-scale new production which champions diversity both on and off stage. Previous Ramps on the Moon productions include Our Country’s Good, The Who’s Tommy and The Government Inspector.
Integrating disabled and non-disabled performers and practitioners, this programme aims to achieve a step change in the employment and artistic opportunities for disabled performers and creative teams, and a cultural change in the participating organisations to enable accessibility to become a central part of their thinking and aesthetics.

Oliver Twist is directed by Leeds Playhouse’s Associate Director Amy Leach (The Night Before Christmas, Hamlet, Road, Romeo & Juliet). It stars Brooklyn Melvin in the role of Oliver, aided and abetted by a gang of wily pickpockets led by the Artful Dodger, played by Nadeem Islam, who is best known for presenting the BBC’s See Hear series, and Caroline Parker MBE as Fagin (Our Country’s Good, Ramps on the Moon and Nottingham Playhouse UK Tour).

Director Amy Leach comments “Oliver Twist is a vivid, dark and visceral story and I am so excited to explore how adding artistic layers of creative sign language, audio description and captioning can enhance the story-telling for all audience members. Oliver Twist gives the integrated ensemble cast of D/deaf, disabled and non-disabled actors the opportunity to play a brilliantly varied range of characters and showcase a wide range of talents.”

Every performance of Oliver Twist will feature integrated creative sign language, audio description and captioning. Recommended age 11+

OLIVER TWIST runs at Birmingham Repertory Theatre from Wednesday 29 April – Saturday 9 May 2020.  Tickets are priced from £15. Weekday matinees from £10.  To book tickets telephone 0121 236 4455 or online at www.birmingham-rep.co.uk

Twitter @BirminghamRep
Instagram @therepbirmingham

Light House urges 'Virtual Attendance' during temporary shutdown

Wolverhampton’s Light House cinema will temporarily closed its doors to audiences in the face of the coronavirus outbreak from tonight (19.3.20) . However, the charity is urging customers to consider a Virtual Attendance whereby they donate the money they would have spent on coming to the cinema to their #LoveLightHouse campaign. 

CEO Kelly Jeffs says: 

‘Times are difficult for everyone during this unprecedented turn of events, but as a charity things are especially tough as we are totally dependent on ticket sales and donations. As such we would urge our customers to consider donating money they would normally spend on tickets to our cinema. We’re calling it a ‘Virtual Attendance’ - people would be showing their support by pledging their ticket money to our Love Light House campaign instead of avoiding the cinema completely. Donations can be made through our website or by cheque through the post. We’d like to thank everyone in advance for their help at this difficult time and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to Light House as soon as possible.’
If you would like to donate to the Love Light House campaign, please visit www.light-house.co.uk .

Music will help see us through corona crisis

A violin and viola teacher from Great Malvern in Worcestershire is launching lessons via Skype, as schools close across the UK.

Self-employed Daniel Neville normally teaches violin and viola at a wide range of local schools including Hanley Castle and Chantry High Schools, RGS The Grange, Malvern St. James and the Gloucestershire Academy of Music.

With schools set to close indefinitely, he is offering one-to-one lessons via Skype to pupils of all ages and ability levels.

“Being at home for weeks on end has the potential to get boring – but using some of the time constructively by learning an instrument is a fantastic way to challenge yourself, have fun and let off some steam,” says Daniel.

“I’ve already started teaching some of my local students by Skype this week – but I obviously now have the ability to teach people from literally anywhere. 

“My regular pupils range in age from 6 to 80.  If you’re an adult whose playing has lapsed and you are going to be homebound for a while, then this is the perfect time to get back in shape and to rediscover your love of music.”

Father-of-two Daniel Neville also runs a weekly string orchestra in Great Malvern (the Poolbrook String Group), which has also had to temporarily stop as a number of players are over 70.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by all the kind messages of support from members of the string group,” says Daniel.

“It provides a great social network for local players - and we will relaunch again as soon as we get official advice that it is safe to do so.”

42-year-old Daniel Neville is a professionally qualified teacher and is fully CRB checked.  He has extensive experience teaching the violin and viola to pupils of all abilities, from complete beginner through to grade 8.  He also teaches Scottish fiddle repertoire.  Daniel is a music graduate from the University of Birmingham, and a former member of the National Youth Orchestra.  He is also a member of the Kings Quartet, which performs regularly at weddings and social functions across the UK.

For information on the Kings Quartet, go to www.kingsquartet.com 

He can be emailed at Daniel.neville93@gmail.com  or call 07454 359794. 





British rock band VEGA who originated from Stratford-upon-Avon will release their new album “Grit Your Teeth” on Friday 12th June 2020 via Frontier Records. The album will be available pre-order from March 20th from https://orcd.co/grityourteeth 
and www.vegaofficial.co.uk

The first single “Grit Your Teeth” will be released Friday March 20th and will available digitally from Apple Music, Amazon Music and Spotify.

Buckle up and hold tight, VEGA are back with the album of their career. “Grit Your Teeth” will take you to screaming highs and gritty lows. It’ll keep you coming back for more.

Says the band’s lead singer and frontman, Nick Workman, “Selfishly, we’ve taken a few risks by recording an album, that, first and foremost, we can be proud of. Don’t try and tag it with any sub-genre of rock or metal, just enjoy it.”

“Nick’s right”, says VEGA’s keyboardist, James Martin. “We set out to do something different on this album. We wanted to stand out from the rest of the pack.”

“The band agreed on making a more modern sounding and edgy record.” Reflects VEGA’s drummer, Martin Hutchinson. I think we definitely achieved that.”
“I think it’s our best album yet,” adds guitarist Mikey Kew.

If the last album, “Only Human”, was a commentary of what was going on our lives. The new album is very much a reflection of those times and the outcomes. It’s a very positive album in its overall message, but it also has a lot of dark moments. It was very therapeutic for the band to write and record the album.

VEGA’s love for love rock from the 80’s and early 90’s shines through without rehashing it. Their inspiration comes from the 80’s and 90’s (they even have a Miami Vice drum roll), however, the album also draws inspiration from other places, and dragged into 2020.

VEGA wrote the album from January 2019 until they started recording in August 2019. The album was recorded in an industrial unit in York with the Graves Brothers who have previously produced Asking Alexandria. That is more the “metal” side of the album and was a perfect fit for VEGA as they wanted to blend melody and hooks with power.

“Joe and Sam Graves did a great job producing the album. They knew exactly what the band were trying to achieve,” says Workman. Tracking finished by September 2019. Mixing and mastering was completed before Christmas.

Says VEGA’s bass player, Tom Martin - “This is stadium rock for 2020.”


Thursday 28 May

Friday 29 May SOLD OUT

Saturday 30 May

COVID-19 iSE Response and Support for the Sector

COVID-19 iSE Response and Support for the Sector

A message from iSE CEO Srah Crawley

Following on from the previous news that iSE CIC took a difficult but responsible decision to cancel City Drive 2020, and a turbulent week of announcements from Government, I wanted to provide an update on iSE activity, how we see the impact of COVID-19 on the West Midlands social enterprise sector and what support we are working on to help social enterprises get through this challenging time.

Firstly, the team and our networks have been working incredibly hard to review information and still maintain the ‘day job’ while managing many additional communications across iSE CICDigbeth Social Enterprise Quarter and the Women’s Enterprise Hub.
Secondly, we’re also aware there is a vast range of information being shared from many different sources… some well-founded, some a little less so which can add to individual stress and anxiety (personally and professionally) at this time.
With this in mind, we have pulled together a number of references, resource documents and useful links that we feel provide robust and relevant information for the sector.
Eden Community Action 2

We also want to reaffirm a message of kindness, which has been embodied by the outpouring of positive community-minded action.

We wanted to thank everyone who has messaged us, helped a neighbour or supported a colleague in recent weeks – it shows that a caring, civil society is about ‘us not me’ and we can all #DoMoreGood in these difficult times.
More updates will follow here, as and when there is new information that we can signpost you to.
Stay safe and well, and please get in touch if you need social enterprise guidance or support across Birmingham and the West Midlands. We will endeavour to help wherever and whenever possible.
Sarah Crawley (CEO, iSE CIC) | 0121 771 1411 | info@i-se.co.uk

Taking control of any challenging situation can help reduce your personal anxiety.
Here are our practical tips to help you manage your response to COVID-19 impacts on your enterprise or personal situation…
> Most of all, understanding your numbers is critical - identify and itemise what it costs to run your business each week or month. Be honest with yourself!
> How long can we ‘keep the lights on for’ – what’s your sustainability if your income reduces.
> Set up a spreadsheet with details of your staff, including their length of continuous employment, contract type, monthly/weekly cost and whether they are critical to the operation of your business.
> Make an appointment with your local Business Banking Manager and see if you can extend or apply for an overdraft or ask about the Corona Virus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – more information due 23rd March 2020.
> Speak to HM Revenue and Customs. They will suspend debt collection if you contact them and reach an agreement. In addition, the normal interest on deferred tax payments will be waived. Please accept that they will be inundated, and are only human - please be patient, and kind, they are knowledgeable and supportive if you approach them early.
HMRC Corona Virus Business Support Line: 0300 456 3565
HMRC Self Assessment Helpline: 0800 015 9559
> Join a local online group (Facebook is the most popular local platform for this) and seek support and ideas from other local businesses, whether it’s keeping your children occupied and educated while at home, activity packs, free things to do or businesses coming together with offers of support
> Share, collaborate and stay connected with your networks, whether it’s ideas, innovations or general support with others.
> Check Government guidance for the Self Employed HERE – grants are likely to be distributed via local Councils (more information to follow, expected 23rd March 2020). See some further information from Enterprise Nation on Self Employed ability to claim early Universal Credits here.
> Check updates and what support is available on the Government website HERE
> Check the latest health and well-being guidelines from NHS HERE

Links and resources for your business
BVSC and Birmingham City Council – Communities Working Together
GOVERNMENT – Response Survey
PIONEERS POST ARTICLE - Social Enterprise Support
PIONEERS POST – Social Investors Come Together
SOCIAL INVESTMENT BUSINESS - Covid19 Resources and Information
GOOD FINANCE – Resource Hub
BANKS - Funds are being made available to small businesses impacted by COVID-19, including £2 billion from Lloyds Banking Group, £5 billion from NatWest and £7 billion from Barclays
HEART OF ENGLAND – Corona Virus Resilience Appeal

THOMSON REUTUERS - Global Coronvirus Toolkit
ANTHONY COLLINS SOLICITORS – ACS COVID19 briefing(6687236.3) March 2020
THOMAS REUTERS - Global Corona Virus Toolkit
GOVERNMENT ONLINE - Corona Virus Job Retention Scheme
TOAST ALE – Digital Tap Room
FIND IT IN BIRMINGHAM – Help for Birmingham Businesses
BUSINESS IN THE COMMUNITY – Sustainable Development Goals
BRITISH CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE - Prepare for the Impact of COVID-19
GOVERNMENT - Guidance for Charities
CIVIL SOCIETY NEWS - Government Wages Scheme and Charities

Stay safe,

The iSE team