Wednesday, 28 March 2012

We are Bearwood

I've had an interesting and busy few weeks since the overwhelming success of our latest Bearwood Handmade fair. Haven't even had a chance to post about the craziness that was 500 people through the doors in the first two hours. Or being filmed talking about pop-up shops for the local news. Cringe. I did well in terms of sales, as I always do on my home turf. Lovely to see both returning customers and new faces. Someone commented that the whole fair had a bit of a 'post-war' feel about it, and I think it did. If post-war means community coming together, making something from almost nothing with just a bit of time and skill (not to mention love), and of course, with a healthy dose of vintage stylishness amongst all the handmade loveliness, well, I suppose it had to feel a bit 1940's.

This photo kindly provided by Andy Thorpe
On the other hand, with the country in complete financial meltdown, and holding an Olympics in just a few months, there are certainly echos of 1948. In a bad way. Friends are being made redundant, money problems abound, shops are closing and businesses failing every day. This is related, in part, to what I've been up to in recent weeks.

Bearwood, my home for the last twelve years, is bidding to become a Portas Pilot. This is a competition launched by Mary Portas off the telly, and the government, to choose 12 towns that will benefit from a share of £1 million to help turn around "unloved and unused" high streets. It is what sparked the '4 weeks shopping local in Bearwood' project I wrote about last time, and it is why I've been pounding the streets surveying traders and locals and getting people signed up to support our bid. I've dragged the kids to quite a few meetings and on Saturday the whole family joined a large procession of passionate volunteers on the High Street to rally more support (and generally have a good time in the sun.

Check out Sonny (far right, above) looking like a dude in his shades
and Scout (far left, below) swaying to that drum beat.

Our application, with YouTube film, needs to be in this week, so my work on this, for now, is done. Which is a bloody good thing, with the Easter holidays about to start. Looking forward to chilling with my babies, and getting some commissions done too. Mind you, there are a couple of 'underground' projects that I've got going with some friends that I cannot wait to share with you. But wait, I must. 

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Morning has broken

There's a blackbird in my garden that certainly lets me know a new day is beginning. Every morning, over and over, his little song a-singing. But what glorious company to have on an otherwise dull morning.

Thursday, 1 March 2012


Wow, today I feel like I'm getting old.....and losing my cool. Not that I've ever had much. Very late night, last night. Planning meeting with the Crafty Muthas that went on longer than planned (you'd have thought we could have addressed at least one agenda item seriously!) and then home to the husband who was waiting to watch Masterchef with me. Til one o'clock in the morning! On a school night! That and the two shots of marmalade vodka that Rachel plied me with means I'm feeling stupidly tired and incapable of most things. But, somehow, sewing tiny stitches is just about the perfect thing to do. Not mentally taxing at all but hard enough to keep me awake. Just. These little owls are destined for twigs. They'll perch in pairs and make sweet little mobiles.

In other news, I've been pounding the streets delivering flyers for the Bearwood Handmade fair this month. And I've also been taking part in a fun, local exercise.

Photographer Melanie Martin lives on my road and came up with '4 weeks shopping local in Bearwood' with a view to exploring her perceptions of our beleaguered high street and also to encourage people to shop locally and support independent traders in these tough times. I've joined her and it has proved to be great fun. I'm in the lucky position of 'working' from home so I can make time for shopping trips and I enjoy walking a bit every day. The only thing I don't like about sewing is the fact that you have to do it sitting down. Too much sitting. Anyway, Mel set up a Facebook page and there are a few of us posting about our experiences. To be honest, there aren't many reasons I'd actually choose to visit our high street. Apart from supporting local business and wanting to get out there and mix with people in my community, which is something I've always felt strongly about anyway, there isn't the quality or breadth of choice to satisfy me I'm afraid. I've used it in the past, regularly enough, for top up shops. But now I've found a butcher that I didn't even know existed. And he's a bloody good butcher. So he has at least one new regular.

The thing I'm really enjoying though, the thing that sort of suits my personality I suppose, is reading and writing the Facebook posts. Duh! I love the mundane. And especially the detail in the mundane. The minutiae of everyday life. It's all a bit Nicholson Baker. You can't talk to people in this sort of detail. You'd have no friends. But because this project needs information to make it worthwhile, I'm able to admit that I can quite happily spend ten minutes reading every label on the low-cal squash bottles, before moving on to a discussion about queueing behaviour in one particular store. I'm making it sound really sad aren't I? It's not. It's the most fun I've ever had on Facebook. Oh, okay, that sounds sad too. Just add it to the list. Old, uncool, sad....

I can't end on sad. So here's one more thing that has totally cheered me this week. A lovely blog post on Folksy's online magazine, Frankly. All about the Birmingham art and craft scene...and featuring me. Love it. Thanks guys.