29 May 2014

Birmingham Pride 2014: Through The Rain, We Danced On!

I attended Birmingham Pride for the first time on the 24th and 25th of May 2014 to experience an amazing weekend even though my Bank Holiday Monday didn't feel so pretty! I was at Birmingham Pride 2014 to simply have a great time and to be part of UCB's LGBT Society. The appalling weather didn't stop us for through the rain, we all danced on! Where's the Gin?! 

Birmingham Pride 2014 had been building to the end of my final year at University in Birmingham and the time spent as a member of the UCB LGBT Society, we had a parade to work out so along with several other Birmingham Uni's we were decked out in the colours of the Rainbow flag of freedom for the Pride March 2014. The weather wasn't exactly sunshine and bright skies but we donned our face paints and made our way to the beginning of the march outside the Council House in Birmingham's city centre. Remembering that being fabulous is all well and good it was great to hear LGBT Activist and Pride Ambassador, Peter Tatchell make his opening speech to initiate the beginning of the March. 'Equality and Freedom All Around The World' happened to be the mantra for the 2014 event to reach out to our LGBT neighbours in Russia, Uganda and Brunei for its not legal to be Gay! Let the March commence!

Almost every part of the LGBT community of Birmingham marched proudly through streets, lets not forget the Straights!? The rain pelted down like a monsoon! With our banners we served our motto and hashtag that as UCB students #WeAreProud to be a part of this event. From the floats that were filled with the muscle men and go-go boys to a gaggle of fabulous drag queens anyone who was anyone was out to celebrate Birmingham Pride 2014! Being behind the Nightingale and Village Inn floats we danced along in the pouring rain to some of today's tunes and to a perfectly suitable anthem by 'The Weather Girls' for yes we did sing 'It's Raining Men!' A song that was aptly named for the theme and forecast of the day! It felt like a family affair because being a part of the UCB LGBT Society gave us a purpose to march! The only religious reference welcome was Madonna's 'Light A Prayer' I noticed a number of outspoken onlookers tried to make their feelings known about the march.


Birmingham's Gay Village has played host since 1997 for Birmingham Pride has been around for 17 years! From Missing Bar on Hurst Street right through to Eden Bar on Sherlock Street the vicinity of the 'Village' was a hype of energy for two days through the rain and through the shine. After Saturday's monsoon conditions it was a relief to see some blue skies, maybe somewhere there was a rainbow? To the right is one of the main streets alongside the line of community stalls that lay close to the Village Inn Cabaret Marquee, a certain sense of togetherness could be felt in the air! Don't we live in the age of modern love? I must not forget the areas around Kent Street, Bromsgrove Street and Inge Street for the Nightingale Club had lots going on too!

Throughout my final year at university I wrote and researched my Dissertation, surrounding the development of Gay Tourism in Manchester to find a nationwide trend with most other Pride events in England. I experienced a great Pride in New York City back in 2012 but through research and understanding the theme and working of Pride events work in a different fashion, honestly?. To cut a phrase the 'Pink Pound' numerous authors contested that Gay orientated events attract visitors that have a higher level of disposable income, a lucrative market to invest in. Birmingham Pride being a young event has seen a surge in popularity leading to a 65% rise in attendance for the 2014 Pride event. A 'Gay Glastonbury' vibe was about with the wristbands and stringent security. 


It had to be Angie Brown the soul diva of the 90's! Returning to the stage at Birmingham Pride 2014 made my day! Bless one lady in the audience for she got right into the 'Gonna Get You' groove for she didn't waste anytime. I loved every second of that very performance, I said Birmingham Pride 2014 'I'm Gonna Get You!' The Marquee of the Village Inn was jumping right back to the 90's! Don't tell anyone because I'm a child of the 1990's! I honestly loved the Village Inn Marquee for there were two bars so getting another drink didn't take to long, plus a healthy number of my fellow pride-goers were quite handsome. Back to the formidably shameless Sandra, she sure knows how to stir some controversy! Yes, DJ pumped that party!

Gay Pride is all about the Drag for me! I just couldn't get enough of the Village Inn Cabaret Marquee, I'll be honest I preferred it to the main stage but we're all different aren't we? On Sunday 25th so I paid my dues to the mainstream talent that was on offer at Birmingham Pride. I saw a wide array of Queens strut their stuff, making everybody laugh and gasp at their razor sharp sense of humour. Hangovers aren't allowed so I made my way back to the Village Inn Cabaret Marquee as soon as I could on Sunday 25th for Saturday had served up some good times! Sandra served as compare, she had everybody in stitches of laughter with her unapologetic jokes and slaying! I loved it! The ciders were going down nicely! Birmingham wasn't going to judge me! Did you see Angie Brown sing?

Dressed to kill I returned back to Birmingham's Gay Village for my final slice of Pride 2014 for I had two more Queens to see that Bank Holiday Weekend! Choosing Eden Bar to conclude my Birmingham Pride 2014 experience! I had not previously been to Eden Bar so I was doubly excited to see The Queens Of Pop there! The party was turned up and everyone was having a brilliant time, I was advised about the joys of Botox and was told I looked 18! The clock stroke 1am it was time for Manchester's hottest duo to take to the stage! I found my way to the foot of the stage to get the best view of the fabulous Queens Of Pop! Beginning with their Cheryl Cole and Nadine Girls Aloud! Go go back to Belfast! Go go! The Queens served a little Taylor Swift blending into a dab of Kylie and Dannii Minogue! I have to say I was loving my life, both seeing the Queens Of Pop and also by being in a new club in the village!

Where's Kerry?! C'mon Girl Wobble Yer Head! I shouted that line with pride! The Queens Of Pop did a great Shak and RiRi but their Atomic Kitten reigns supreme! Donning their trademark wigs for their 'Whole Again' finale it was such a great place to be standing amongst the crazy crowd! Now what the hell is that Kerry?! Natasha put Kez in her place with a suggestive little white bag of something! It's great to begin something with a smile and finish it with a smile no matter how many ciders and Gin and Tonic's were consumed for the Spring Bank Holiday of May 2014 was out of this world! So from my moment marching through the parade to taking a few close looks at the operation inline with my Dissertation I would not of changed a single thing! With all the Drag Queens to the sensational Angie Brown I enjoyed my first British Pride event in Birmingham! Sandra stay fierce! My final weekend in Birmingham as a University student ended with a bang! Enjoy Pride in 2015! Bye now gurr!

C'mon Birmingham Wobble Yer Head!

Joseph Harrison

23 May 2014

BMAG: Jewellery Quarter, Soho House & Aston Hall

It's no secret that Birmingham pushes its main shopping area and the Library of Birmingham for I mentioned in a previous Birmingham centred publication, I took matters into my own hands to seek three experiences that champion the historical wonders of Birmingham. The masters of business have left behind a legacy of arts, history and culture. Brum is much better!

Are diamonds forever? I went to the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter to be educated that Birmingham's glittering trade in precious metals has left a legacy. Brum shone bright like a diamond thanks to the hard work of the skilled craftsmen that created the fine jewels throughout Birmingham's day of industry. Smith and Pepper had their own factory on Vyse Street, where they crafted and traded for 82 years from 1899 to 1981. Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter wasn't a retail hub for jewellery shoppers back in the sparkling days of the 1800's for it was strictly business! Smith and Pepper adopted a no nonsense approach to making bracelets and other types of jewellery for each speck of gold dust was saved to make those pennies go further, so its true the pennies truly make the pounds! I've never been one for bling I gained an appreciation for the work that had been  at Smith and Pepper's former empire! Yes B!

Getting to grips with the conserved parts of the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter enabled myself and the rest of the tour group to see the condition of the remaining factory and offices. I previously mentioned that Smith and Pepper's Jewellery empire closed in 1981 it was clear to see the modernisation effort would have costed a considerable amount for it looked vintage to say the least. The conditions of the factory itself would have been acceptable for the day but I noticed that a lot of the machinery would not comply with health and safety, but in this crazy health and safety minded world what really does? Losing a finger or two or even the sight out of one eye could happen whilst operating one of the many pressing machines. Sisters did for it themselves as women were allowed to work in the factories eventually, their work was deemed unskilled and they got paid the least, losing a fingertip didn't phase the women! The JQ produces 40% worth of trade today! 

Turning back the hands of time to my visit to Soho House brings a sunny day that I would like to shout about! Located within the Handsworth area of Birmingham this 18th Century manor house holds many secrets and triumphs that would account for Birmingham's success as a successful industrial city. Soho House, now a working museum was the home to Matthew Boulton, a man who started Birmingham's development into a vibrant city of the time. No longer acting as a residence to the Boulton family for time ticks onwards but the regal Birmingham property remained a family abode till the 19th Century. Soho House has a range of private rooms that include a Powdery, Drawing Room and other sitting rooms. Matthew Boulton and his associates would meet in the Lunar Room, the moon would guide the great minds home for streets lights weren't around in the 1800's. Oh, a lot of history!

Who knew so much history existed in Brum?! Visiting these places of interest didn't cost me the earth either, lets just say seeing another side of Birmingham is well worth the admission fee! I don't use buses in Birmingham but Soho House can be reached by the Midland Metro from Birmingham's Snow Hill Station and the same for the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter so getting from the city centre to these historical gems isn't time consuming at all! Back to Soho House for the close proximity the area of Handsworth makes this BMAG property stand to be like a oasis! If I could live in a house like Matthew Boulton did I would have loved having a Powdery for it was just darling! Empire was strong during the days of Soho House for the many exhibits played reference to the many territories that Great Britain governed during the reign of Queen Victoria. I say don't be a fool by not visiting Soho House to appreciate the work that's gone into preserving the residence of Matthew Boulton. 

Aston isn't just well-known for football! Aston Hall stands looking over Aston Villa Football Stadium within the neighbourhood of Aston. Built for the stupidly rich Sir Thomas Holte, a man of nobility that had more money than sense and that was in the 1600's! Aston Hall dates back to the 16th Century but was dealt a bad card, remaining in the Holte Family till 1817 this Birmingham manor house was leased by James Watt Jr. the son of James Watt, the creator of the Steam Engine. Aston Hall has a story to tell for sure! Queen Victoria made her presence known by advising the City of Birmingham to take Aston Hall back, to open it as a museum orientated property. We could say that Queen Victoria saved the day for Aston Hall? Forgetting all that bureaucracy Aston Hall still looks amazing, with its original features that were decorated from both the Jacobean and Victorian eras. Aston Hall does turns silver into gold! 

I honestly think that Aston Hall is a diamond in the rough for it's such a grand and opulent property that's located in the centre of Aston, Birmingham. Our Great British weather has been so gracious recently, well for the best part there has been some glorious sun that makes sightseeing a pleasure but at Aston Hall the weather fared to be horrid. It goes without saying that a Hall with such grandeur and decadent decoration definitely took the dampness and depression of the weather away. How did I get to Aston Hall? I took a London Midland train from Birmingham New Street towards Four Oaks, its only two stops away to Aston from the big smoke of Birmingham! Looking at the three Birmingham properties that I've been to I can't say I had a favourite for each setting told a completely different story, both endearing and inspiring for Birmingham doesn't get near enough of the credit it deserves! Jewellery made in Birmingham sounds good, I want a Lunar Room like Soho House!

Take a Chance! Birmingham is Best!

Joseph Harrison

22 May 2014

Stonehenge, Old Sarum & Salisbury Cathedral

Just a pile of rocks? Don't throw shade towards a pre-historic monument that has stood strong since 2000 BC! Stonehenge wasn't my only port of call during my full-packed Wiltshire pursuit for I made sure I didn't leave any stone unturned! From the peaks of Old Sarum to checking out the almost 800 year old Magna Carta, I made the best of my nonstop day! Let's go B!

Hello Stonehenge! My journey was lengthy but it was worth every moment when I got to the foundations of Stonehenge. This pre-historic site of mystery is a sight that has to be seen! Dating back to 2000 BC, Stonehenge has a lot of answers as to what purpose it was actually built for? Word on the street is that the word 'Henge' means 'Pen' due to its closed formation, picturing the original structure does make sense, I guess see is believing? I found out from the Stonehenge Tour Bus talk that Stonehenge has been a site of importance for Neopaganism since forever! Taking the Stonehenge Tour Bus fared to be my only option for I don't drive and I also didn't fancy the two mile walk along a busy A road from the bus stop, I guess somethings can't be avoided? I'm glad I wasn't a part of any of the coach trips for the hoards of tourists didn't impress me! Stonehenge is a true British sight, the tourists wait your turn! Trust!

I'm not a tourist so my time spent at the magnificent Stonehenge cemented that notion to my best. I made my way round the majestic stone structure whilst I tried my best to take as many undisturbed photos of the world famous English Heritage site. I won't go into the details but I wasn't best pleased with the coachloads of tourists for I usually have the opportunity to wake at dawns break to catch a still snap but I think I done good on the photography front! Taking a deep breath I carried on with my Stonehenge experience to be truly delighted I had chosen to visit this pre-historic wonder of English history. I make no bones, I'm pleased that I made the effort to seek an adventure to Stonehenge for its a once in a lifetime. I guess being from England doesn't really give us the hunger to seek some of our most precious gems? I'll let the Americans answer! My time spent in Salisbury and its surroundings made me feel proud to be British! Yes son! Stonehenge! 

Old Sarum definitely restored some country back in my life! Old Sarum was calling! Moving forwards to the next stop on my Salisbury adventure I wanted to seek something in England that I could be proud of. Steeped in over 5,000 years of history I took my time getting to know the original settlement of Salisbury. Old Sarum had its fair share of drama, conflict and eviction orders so I think that this piece of history would fit into our modern world and its shenanigans! Old Sarum I like your style! I don't go by the tourist guide but being a passenger on the Stonehenge Bus Tour I embraced the pattern of the bus services, I made sure I got the most of my time at Old Sarum! I wanted to just simply view Old Sarum and its stunning vista from the higher points, even the cloudy sky gave a sense of purpose! Old Sarum was quite international in its day for the Romans, Normans and Saxons all called their Old Sarum home! Preach Salisbury!

I never paid attention in history class at school but that was a good thing for my time spent at Old Sarum showed me quite a lot of quirky facts that the previous residents had their own gossip corner! How did I get from Birmingham to Salisbury? I took the Megabus to Bristol then the train to Salisbury, then back to Bristol where I caught the 20:00 National Express coach back to Birmingham so I saved money by not staying the night. It's the age old problem that rail travel in England is just too expensive so what else was I going to do? I really liked Old Sarum for it distracted me from the pace of my day for I just spent a bit of time admiring the vistas from the look out points, another reason to say that I was proud to find something worth celebrating in England! It was madness to think that it was only a two mile drive away from Salisbury, the medieval foundations may have shifted but Salisbury has a regal edge! From the top it was a 'Priscilla Queen of The Desert' moment!

Another city, another cathedral! I kid you not Salisbury Cathedral served up many rich offerings that impressed me much! The Stonehenge Tour Bus has a running provides a rich wealth of knowledge about the cathedral and the Magna Carta. I decided to see Stonehenge and Old Sarum before visiting the cathedral for the railway station is closer and time is always of the essence. The Magna Carta is presented at the cathedral, its one the first decree's of law that was written in 1215, which makes this statement of democracy 799 years old. Definitely a cause for celebration! It'll be 800 years old in 2015! It's only right to take a look at the Magna Carta with respect for it has been around for some serious world movements. The Magna Carta was written in very small print in Latin so its unreadable on two counts but out of the four remaining copies its believed that the best is at Salisbury's Cathedral.

I'm not a religious soul so my day in Salisbury suited me just nicely, undoubtedly Stonehenge has some pagan reference so I saw fit to embrace that factor. The Cathedral served a decree of law that has been a part of our world and previous societies, the Magna Carta isn't just the title from a Jay-Z album its a almost 800 year old parchment of law. Old Sarum took me back to the days of Roman, Saxon and Norman civilisation in England the original foundations of Salisbury. I took my final steps through the main winding streets of Salisbury's quaint city centre to find a favourable amount of original architectural wonder still remaining to this day. The journey wasn't easy and it took a long while but I really enjoyed my day in Wiltshire, it was a once-in-a-lifetime day that I won't be bitter not to repeat for the world still turns! I got back to Bristol, passing through Bath Spa on the train so I loved getting back to the South-West of England for its a really nice part of the country! 

Keep Making That Paper Stonehenge!

Joseph Harrison

16 May 2014

Lichfield - The Cathedral City

Lichfield, a pint-sized city that doesn't take a minute get to know. I took inspiration for the title of this blog from my favourite cheese 'Cathedral City!'. Lichfield isn't famous for cheese its known for its amazing cathedral that's steeped in over 674 years of history. Do you know who wrote one of the first English dictionary? Lichfield is only thirty minutes from Brum! 

Dr. Samuel Johnson was born in Lichfield in 1709 to become the publisher of the first English dictionary. I love to write and blog but I don't think I'll be writing an English dictionary, well I do use some unusual words sometimes in my blogs? Captured to the left is one of the original copies of the first dictionaries at the Dr. Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum in Lichfield. I had been to Lichfield a handful of times before making my most recent visit because I just wanted to do some exploring and see some places that I never got the chance to see. I took the tour around the Birthplace Museum to see what Johnson had really accomplished for I'll be honest that I didn't know a whole lot. Located on Breadmarket Street in the heart of Lichfield's ever quaint city centre the original features of the building are truly remarkable. Considering Dr. Johnson didn't have best start he did good eventually. 

Fame and fortune in the 1700's brings a different stature compared to the range of today's celebutantes, or in simple terms 'Wannabe's!' Getting from the big smoke to the city of Lichfield is so easy by train from Birmingham New Street station and no dictionary shall judge you! I'm moving with the times by not leaving a donation at a charitable organisation or museum for I see a blog as a great way to shout out and great a buzz about something worthwhile. Lichfield's great minds go from Dr. Johnson to another formidable character that has more of a reference to the arts. Samuel Johnson was friends with David Garrick, an actor who caused quite a stir through his time and now has a theatre named after him in the city called the Lichfield Garrick Theatre. I surprised myself because I don't really care for museums and the Dr. Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum did impress me much! I must admit that this section sounds rather like a history lesson but that's just what I saw.

Lichfield has got it going on! Located close enough to the city of Birmingham but within easy reach of the British countryside, Lichfield's a city that offers something different from the big smoke. Like many cities its makes up for its smaller size with an abundance of original features and winding streets that made me forget I was only thirty minutes away from Birmingham by train. To the right is a normal street that's just around the corner from the Dr. Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum that's home to a range of independent cafes, hair salons and sweet shops so everyone is catered for. I take a lot of things for face value so Lichfield ticked the boxes for me. I'm used to busy streets and lots of unnecessary trouble but I chose Lichfield to get away for a few hours to seek a new adventure. I have relatives who used to call Lichfield their home so I was familiar with the streets of the city centre.

Why choose Lichfield? That's a very good question! I cast my mind back to December 2013 when I wanted to seek a new adventure, so tweeting up a storm I came across the twitter account of Visit Lichfield and the rest is history, but I must admit that life does get in the way so I got myself to Lichfield before a ridiculous amount of time would of past. For a pint-sized city I must say that Lichfield has bore some great minds from the writer Dr. Samuel Johnson to the actor David Garrick there's much to make this city very famous for its historical figures. Someone must of cast a spell on Lichfield! I just wish I could transport some of that small town city vibe to my love for living in bustling cities but Lichfield can keep its charm, its just not good to steal! I did come across the Erasmus Darwin House, former home of the physician who I think achieved a fair amount in his time but I decided against taking in that museum for the weather was lovely during my Lichfield afternoon. 

Lichfield has an incredible cathedral! This city has something special, I love it! Dating back to 674 years or so it's no secret that Lichfield's cathedral makes this town city! I'm not religious but I just can't say no to exploring a new place of worship, call it a cultural and spiritual encounter. My last visit to Lichfield cathedral must have been when I was at secondary school, I had the another chance to see this inspiring place of worship. I took my time to see the interior of the cathedral to get the most of my whistlestop day in Lichfield. Choosing to light two candles because that's just what I do when I pay a visit to a church or cathedral in any case. Dating back to the medieval times Lichfield cathedral holds one of England's most unspoiled streets, known as Cathedral Close. I suggest that you take half a day, there's just enough to do for the afternoon. Would you visit Lichfield? The choice is yours!

Cathedrals, winding streets and its own dictionary means that Lichfield is a city that has the potential to inspire us. A budget is what I am on so my limited funds worked well with a cheap train fare to Lichfield and also indulging in a McDonald's for lunch to save money. I now have a clear understanding about where the dictionary comes from and who wrote such a piece of text. As for a cathedral that dates back to the deepest stages of yesterday I don't know how to put into words, oh I do but that did sound rather dramatic. Keep those stress levels down by choosing a smaller and picturesque city for even an afternoon. From famous figures that have left a lasting presence on Lichfield and the wider country, from dictionaries to a theatre I don't know if I could carry on with the likes of Johnson and Garrick. I suggest that anybody should take the train to Lichfield to experience a Staffordshire city with a small town vibe! Lichfield is certainly the cathedral city!

Let's Love Lichfield!

Joseph Harrison

12 May 2014

UCB: The Final Deadline!

It blows my mind to think that exactly four years ago I finished college in Wolverhampton, leaving me with little time to prepare for my university experience that would of commenced in September of 2010. This journey isn't completely over yet, nor will it ever really be because I will have my degree and the memories that were made in the city of Birmingham!

Let's start at the beginning, some would say that its a very good place to start? September 2010 brought the day I moved to the Maltings, the halls of residence for the students of University College Birmingham. I've mentioned bits and bobs about this place but in this instance this will probably be for the final time. I made a group of friends quite quickly and the rest is history. Freshers at the Maltings was amazing, it was a time that I look back on and cherish because before my time in Birmingham I never went out on the town! University and the first semester definitely changed me but really I never needed to be changed for their was nothing wrong with me! From pre-drinks to our nights whilst living at the Maltings the first year was the best of all.

The drama reared its ugly head but without that profound dynamic it would of been only a matter of time before the second year would put us all on our separate tracks. I did enjoy student life quite a lot but time is time! The group changed along with the different flats I lived throughout my first three semesters, some of us would stay in touch but we all had different paths. I would like to say that I'm a good judge of character but I have found over recent years that the more I know about someone its either a make or break situation, if your a friend of mine then you have been saved from the chop! From 142 Davenport House to 813 Thomas House its been emotional. I have made peace with the Maltings so I'm ready to move on forwards! B1 1SB it was an pleasure! It's time to pack up now!

Assignments and presentations whizzed past in the first year, securing me with the grades to move forward to year two. The fresher front had changed quite considerably, we all saw our next step and life gets in the way because the party has to finish at some point. I had only gone and got myself a job at Walt Disney World in Orlando, USA for the summer of 2011. I jetted off to the land of Mickey Mouse to work at Futureworld North, Epcot in the Merchandise department. I interviewed at university during the November period of 2010 and found out before the New Year that I would become a Cast Member! I'm glad I had gained some life experience beforehand in Birmingham during my first year at university because I got on just fine. My magical internship lasted three months but it wasn't all pixie dust and smiles all the time. Oh Mickey, how I miss you! I wouldn't mind going back to work a few shifts! Let's make a wish!

Being at university hadn't really sunk in for there had been something going on from the word go! I loved my time in Orlando even though life provides us with a few hiccups here and there I'm definitely stronger than yesterday! I went to Miami! Little did I know I would be returning to the United States five months after my Delta flight touched down at Manchester Airport. Uni hadn't been so difficult because all the modules I had to do didn't contribute to my final year so it was a free for all as long as we passed the assignment and the year we had got to second year! Away from Disney I knew that things would be hotting up with my studies so it was time to work! Juggling work in Birmingham for the first time with freshers in the first year proved to be a challenge, I look back and just can't comprehend how I could work at Primark with a terrible hangover after another top Friday night at Propaganda! It's a fresher thing! Disney picked me! Joe from Bilo' made it across the pond!

One year in New Jersey?! My degree contained a 48 week placement so I interviewed for a few locations in America but I had a good feeling about Newark Airport. I spent one year working as a Passenger Service Agent for Virgin Atlantic Airways. I found it especially challenging to report for the early shift at 4am most days. I loved my job when I put the tiredness behind me I met some great people, I keep in contact with my specials. Being on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean wasn't always a bunch of roses, I missed the birth of my two cousins but when all said and done I wouldn't trade my Virgin Atlantic days for my down days. I welcome you to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse! I loved that place and the famous faces that I welcomed to Newark's plushest residence, my VS sisters made each of my morning shifts unforgettable! Check-in was crazy, I won't forget checking-in a rather eccentric 80's music icon! Oh, Brit was fierce!

It wasn't all work and no play! I jetted off to several places during my Industrial Placement. Living in Newark was a experience, it was a time that I'll never want to forget! I'm in no hurry to return, I know I will in my own time. Being away from Birmingham gave me the chance to reevaluate the time I had spent getting mortal most of the time so I wanted to get out more and challenge myself to see more parts of Birmingham because the clock would begin to tick as soon as my VS2 flight would touch down in London. Seeing New York City every week or so was such a thrill, I took the subway all over the city and went to neighbourhoods that even my American co-workers hadn't even been to! I loved being an international fish! From Puerto Rico to my two Canadian trips I really didn't know what to expect for my final three semesters back at university. From freshers to checking passports, I have to pinch myself that these amazing opportunities shaped my UCB life.

Back to Birmingham for I had to return for the concluding part of my degree. I went back to university with a new outlook for my future and I had missed Brum from the point of just getting out away from the city centre to seek something new. The modules got more complex but nothing good can be achieved easily, its great to work for something. I struggled to get my head back in the game for the jump from Newark to assignments was a challenge. Friendships are made but I would realise its only natural to phase one or two out. ITO was good! 2013 brought a great summer, I would need the break for final year would feel like a marathon! Never listen to the woes of others about their dissertations! Please don't make me learn French again!

Final year wasn't so bad, its had its moments but above all I have really enjoyed it. I joined the LGBT Society at UCB from October 2013 and through being a member I have made new friends to enjoy some great nights out down the Village. My dissertation took me to Manchester for one night in January 2014 so I could understand my subject. It's not been a bunch of roses completely but what's life without a bit of struggle? With the assignments almost done, the final seminar due on the 19th of May 2014, there's really not much else to do. Birmingham as a city has shown me so much, its taught me that if I can live here and experience Newark as well I can pretty much live anywhere! The final deadlines have all been completed and submitted! I really want a 2:1 degree!

UCB ... The Cakes Army!

Joseph Harrison 

11 May 2014

Birmingham's Little Secret...

Birmingham likes to push two things for its tourism campaign, the new library and the Bullring shopping complex but I believe there's more to Birmingham than clothes and books! I'm a lover of culture, food and discovering neighbourhoods that get a beating by the news so to bust that myth I spent an alternative Friday afternoon in Handsworth, Birmingham.  

Let's trade Birmingham city centre for a corner of Birmingham that's always in the media but not for the right reasons. I chose to get to know Soho House, once the home of a influential Brummie who did wonders for that West Midlands city. Dating back to the 18th Century this regal looking residence served as the home and headquarters of Matthew Boulton, a man who pushed Birmingham to become a bustling and industrially rich city. I didn't know much about the history or really anything about Soho House so it was great that the volunteers had a wealth of knowledge to pass on to me whilst I marveled at the preserved rooms at Soho House Museum. £3.00 was all that it costed for a student admission. Getting from Birmingham city centre to Matthew Boulton's yard is really easy I took the Midland Metro to Soho Benson Road. I say this proudly that the Bullring doesn't define Birmingham! Buckle up B!

The weather permitted a rare day out I wanted to switch things up, living simply is my motto but I loved the powdery lots and would like one in my house now! Soho House is for sure an 'Oasis' that stands out due to its current location but I'm not going to discriminate because I'm sure during the Boulton's time living at Soho House that corner of Birmingham was a whole other story! Since the Boulton's called Soho House their home this Birmingham residence has been used for a whole range of purposes but it was great to see the preserved items that are displayed in the rooms. Take me back to the Lunar room where the great minds of Birmingham used to meet and be guided by the light of the moon, street lights are most definitely overrated! I guess its a good thing to take a chance on something that offers a different experience its all about seeking something new! Birmingham definitely has hidden depths! Soho House Museum you still work and serve! You're welcome!

Does that street look familiar? I made my way from Soho House to Birmingham's most famous street. James Turner Street has become a tourist hotspot since it was featured in the controversial documentary series 'Benefits St'. I'm not going to sugar coat that I was slightly wary about seeking the residence of James Turner Street but it had to be done. I wanted to challenge the stereotypes of Birmingham that are fed to us via the news bulletins because we're all human aren't we? I didn't see White Dee otherwise known as Deidre Kelly, she's Benefits Street's Brummie celebrity of the moment. Who wants tourist appropriate areas when you can travel a few stops down the Metro line to Winson Green, Birmingham? Travel and creating new adventures doesn't have to limit us to the city centre when there's a whole city to see! Don't judge James Turner Street! Respect James Turner Street! Yes Deirdre! I won't judge!

From benefits to manor houses I know that serving something different can make a great day out. I can now say that I've been to Benefits Street like many of my friends the phenomena has took hold of us all! Birmingham's got it going on and I mean this, I just wish I had made tracks to the alternative side of the city a lot sooner! Oh life! Times change and opinions get narrower but we must see the situation from all angles to then be able to make a clear evaluation. Dee must have been busy because she was nowhere to be seen, that was just too bad! Visit Birmingham should take a closer look at Handsworth and feature James Turner Street in next years publicity campaign to entice visitors to this alternative Birmingham residential street. Give me a chance and I'd put some of the lesser known Birmingham attractions out in the world for all to see and be inspired to visit. Brummie I've got you! It's not rocket science to visit the home of White Dee! James Turner St!

Desperately seeking a new part of Birmingham can be hard work so I built up quite an appetite by the time I arrived at Dawat Kurdish Cuisine. Dawat is located on the Holyhead Road close to Handsworth Booth Street Metro stop. I love Middle Eastern food so I looked for somewhere to eat within the Handsworth area to compliment my day of discovery in Birmingham. To the left was my food that I loved! Choosing to order the Kurdish Kofta kebab I opted to drink a jug of Ayran. What's Ayran? It's a cold and refreshing sour yoghurt drink that is very popular in Middle Eastern countries like Kurdistan and also Turkey. I didn't need a whole jug to myself but for £2.50 I guess it was worth it! I learnt that Dawat Kurdish Cuisine had only been open for five months so that explained why the decor and feel of the restaurant was fresh and shiny. I'll have room for a mint tea next time at Dawat Kurdish Cuisine? Supas!

I'm not saying this for it to sound positive but my kebab was amazing, never mind the portion size because I struggled to finish the vast majority that was on the plate but I will be back Dawat! I must admit that Handsworth is a very culturally diverse area, lots of different shops make up the vibrant high street. Aside from Kurdish food matter I would have to say that Handsworth has an tonne of Caribbean eateries that all looked extremely appetising. Birmingham has the advantage of being made up of many cultures and a whole range of different nationalities so that's just fine with me! The shade of it all! I had to take a second to think that I was only a mere three miles away from Birmingham's city centre with more specialist fashion retailers than you would see in The Bullring! Perceptions aside I look at all the press that Handsworth receives and I just want to express that I felt safe during my afternoon in a part of the city that gets a bad name! I know about danger!  

Handsworth ... Manor Houses, Benefits Streets and International Cuisine!

Joseph Harrison