Red Peppers at Birmingham Mailbox

With Manager Craig’s incredibly tight ship and effortless flare hosting a packed out Red Peppers this Friday night, we were shown to our seats and introduced to our waitress, Gosia with the minimum of fuss, refreshing for a city restaurant located at the heart of the bustling Mailbox veranda canal side terrace.

Even though the d├ęcor has an instaneous warming effect on you when you take a moment to view your surroundings, Craig explains that the restaurant is having a refurb in the next few weeks. Stunning interiors give you the atmosphere you would find in any Mediterranean bistro but, like the food and drink, there’s a bit of something for everyone at Red Peppers.

I began with a Rasberry Caipirinha – a drink with Cachaca, brown sugar, lime and raspberries over a bed of crushed ice. This drink has a powerful kick but just enough lime and sugar to soften the palette.

There was a lot going on when we arrived, an open fronted kitchen is a centrepiece at one end of the restaurant and a large blackboard displays specials of the day in all their glory.

We begin with a Greek Salad to share with Garlic Potato skins and a Guacamole, sundried tomato, and mozzarella freshly baked pizzetta. The dough is soft and still warm and the bread has a slight hint of chilli oil with stunning textures in the bite. The potato skins were light and crisp with the taste of olive oil coming through. All this, perfectly washed down with a Pepper Lynchburg Lemonade, a refreshing cocktail of Jack Daniels, Orange Liqueur, and sweet and sour flavours mixed together with an warm glow.

The food has a variety of Mediterranean dishes but you could easily say that recipes have been sought from a plethora of cuisines from around the world including Mexico and even Thailand.

For my main I go for Spaghetti Gamberoni because I refuse to have steak in a restaurant anymore. It’s ok on a normal occasion but as I’ve already heard fantastic reports about Peppers’ Bloody Mary and their Rib Eye steaks I go for something a little bit more creative.

A sauce of capers, fresh tomatoes, and spinach is the perfect accompaniment to the delicate and deliciously fresh Tiger Prawns. My girlfriend opts for the Vegetarian Enchilada complete with Three Bean Chilli and Mexican Rice. We share a side of roasted new potatoes which was the only dish that I feel was slightly bland.

To finish we went for the Tiramisu and a fantastic, warm pecan pie which was incredibly rich in terms of treacle flavour but warm and well cooked coupled with a delicious cold ice cream. The two hot and cold elements worked very well here.

The staff and service was exceptional, - it seems that Peppers is definitely one of the gems the 2nd city has to offer.

John Smedley shows that two centuries expertise can be priceless in today's challenging climate

For over 225 years John Smedley has brought its leading British knitwear expertise and versatile styles to men and women around the world. New for AW11 sees the launch of a beautifully crafted women’s Capsule Collection of luxurious winter knits and voluminous silhouettes.

Re-defining John Smedley Womenswear this season sees a fusion of technology and refined styling in a capsule collection of statement pieces, which challenge traditional design through the use of the John Smedley whole garment machines, which knit each garment as one unique piece. 

Each garment is sculpted to mould to the body, producing an uncompromising fit with seamless perfection. The new coat, jacket and cape styles are formed organically as 3-dimensional shapes, which wrap, cocoon and drape the body to create fluid lines and movement.

The new collection uses extra fine Merino Wool, carefully sourced and spun into incredibly fine yarn in a colour palette of classic black. This season’s essential coat style combines super-fine wool with silk and cashmere to give a heavier quality for the coldest of winters.

Styles are organised and compartmentalised into categories and fits whilst considering simplicity and luxury as key definers.

The collection groups into neat, regular and one size as our key areas of fit. Themes of ‘off-duty chic: a collection of tailored items with relaxed styles’ and ‘luxe leisure: fabric diversity with sports inspiration to create effortless chic’, to inform this season’s styling.

The men’s collection has been refined and edited. We have our classic fit and this season introduce the ‘under jacket fit’ for a next to skin garment; whilst men’s luxe leisure provides a more easy-fitting styling in new blends.

A cruise collection of John Smedley’s Sea Island Cotton styles has been introduced to provide a transition from Winter to Spring.  Seasonal styling is informed by two key characters: ‘the fisherman’ and ‘the farmer’, with hints of nautical and utility references.

This season we offer eight key melange colours adding a new depth to the seasonal palette. Our broad selection of wearable colour is accented by a few highlight shades.

For more information about this classic winter warming brand, visit

A tailor made success with A Suit That Fits

Over the last 5 years there has been a renaissance in British Tailoring, and A Suit That Fits has played a major part in this silent revolution. Programmes like the Apprentice and today’s ever growing need to look the part in an increasingly competitive job market illustrate the importance of a good suit and the difference it can make in representing the person you want to be seen as.

When Warren Bennett stayed with a family of tailors during his gap year in Nepal, he never could have imagined that, five years later, A Suit That Fits would have grown into an award-winning tailoring business offering suits that fit a suit lover’s frame, budget and personal style – starting from £200.

I am fascinated by the brand and have become slightly obsessed with their wonderful build your own suit or shirt website which allows you to create each element of your made to measure garment so that it reflects your individual style and personality.

Although much of the world’s tailoring is done in the East, A Suit That Fits is by far the most ethical company that you could come across.

On returning from his gap year, Warren met school friend, David Hathiramani, and they decided to use their respective engineering and IT backgrounds to work with the family of tailors and create the world’s first online tailoring company. Since the business was founded in June 2006, A Suit That Fits have donated 5% of the cost of each suit to the school in Nepal where Warren volunteered, and have paid their tailors 50% above the local rate.
It all began in June 2006 when Warren and David did some simple market research at a stall on Hampstead Market. Within 20 minutes of opening they had sold their first suit.

Overnight they created a website (just about able to build a suit and take payment). It was rapid growth for the young entrepreneurs however. Quick to build a reputation for excellence in 2007 they won ‘New Product of the Year’ at the Growing Business Awards.

Since then the business has gone from strength to strength recently purchasing Savile Row tailoring company Sartoriani and opening countless stores around the UK putting them firmly on the map as two of the most forward thinking entrepreneurs in the country.

The Birmingham branch has been open for just under a year located at 67 Newhall Street, Birmingham City Centre. When I arrive Jonathan Haynes greets me and immediately I notice the detail on his suit with a hanky peeking out from the jacket pocket. No sooner does Jonathan introduce himself he tells me that my appointment will be with his identical twin brother, David.  Jonathan then leaves the room and David walks through the door in a remarkably similar suit but with a different colour tie and make of shirt. It is quite a start to my journey along bespoke Britain.

David quickly builds a rapport asking me about everything you can think of, slowly getting a picture of who I am, what I like, and that sort of thing.

“This is all part of the tailoring process”, David explains, “building a personal relationship and that traditional values quality that comes with handcrafted work.”  

After a few minutes of putting the world to rights we take a look at some of the fabrics from a wide selection in the swatch books on the table. David takes some time to show me some examples of previous suits and shirts made for his customers around the UK and tells me a little bit more about the history of the company.

Then comes the measuring stage where countless measurements are taken to ensure that each length, curl, and stretch of fabric fits your shape exactly. David tells me that “There are about 30 to 32 measurements across every angle of the body. Sometimes one hand hangs lower than the other, so we take all of those measurements, and then we take three pictures to see how much the slope of the shoulders is, how the waist sits etc. Also, we take in how the customer wants to look such as a slim fit or relaxed. We create shirts and suits, for big or small. A Suit That Fits can offer anything a customer wants, like hand stitching, handmade button holes, different linings, or name embroidering on the inside of the jacket or cuff of the shirt.”

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After 10 minutes or so of looking at fabrics, I find a colour which I’ve always wanted to try but never found the right style. Now that I can create my very own, it seems the perfect choice - a striking red sea island cotton. Once the measuring is complete you can choose anything from the shape and style of your collar, through to the colour of the buttons and stitching on the fabric. I decide to go for something a bit ostentatious with a classic twist, red and white mother of pearl buttons all the way down odd and even all the way down, an extra cutaway collar for a sharp look and a white stitched monogram with my initials on the left cuff. From start to finish the whole process should take about 4 weeks.

A few weeks later, I get a call from Jonathan to me to tell me my shirt is ready to collect.

The red looks even better now the shirt has been made. The colour is rich but subtle, as though it has aged like a good wine. The details are stunning with each measurement making it fit perfectly to my frame. The monogram on the cuff is also a great feature, and likened to most tailors you find in Savile Rowe the price is also very reasonable. Even suits start at just £200 which is well worth the investment.

For more information or to book an appointment visit or call
020 3006 7999

The Little Green Sheep provide a natural way to help your baby get a good night's sleep

Back in 2006, Mark Nicholls and Paul Maurice conducted market research into the hundreds of baby brands available to parents. What was revealing was the lack of information available for products, and how so many of them were disconnected from their customers.
Mark and Paul quickly learnt that most parents and parents-to-be wanted products that were above all safe, and that didn’t contain harsh chemicals. 

Logic pointed them along a very interesting journey where they began to create a series of products which were 100% chemical free and also manufactured in Britain; and so The Little Green Sheep was born!

In the early days The Little Green Sheep created mattresses and bedding, but over time, after building a strong reputation from exhibiting their products at venues such as The Baby Show, their range soon expanded into Moses Baskets and Sleepwear. 

For the entrepreneurs, the challenge was to get parents to question where the products they bought came from, the processes involved in manufacturing and most importantly, what went into the product they bought for their baby. All of this has cemented The Little Green Sheep’s reputation as one of the most ethical baby brands on the market.

It’s good timing for The Little Green Sheep company too. Like anything it takes time for trends to get started, such as the organic food trend of recent years seeing brands such as Innocent reach international acclaim with similar ethics about customer engagement and using the finest ingredients in their drinks. For the Little Green Sheep, they see the future as very bright with the potential for a boom in organic baby products, especially cot mattresses, just around the corner.

The entrepreneurs now boast an inspiring complete bedding range for anything from cots, to baby toiletries. Their Baby Mattresses include the Twist™ natural latex mattress, which has two levels of firmness – a firm side for babies and a softer side for playful toddlers. 

They are also the UK’s first and only manufacturer of Soil Association certified Organic Wool mattresses, which are ideal for babies with skin allergies such as eczema due to the anti-dust mite and breathable elements of wool. You can even get your very own Moses Basket mattress custom made to fit your basket – an excellent option for people wishing to replace a gifted basket or discontinued model size.

For more information or to purchase any of their stunning products call, 0800 028 1433 or logon to  

Alfred Dunhill – the man and the brand

When Alfred Dunhill took over the family saddlery business in 1893, he dedicated himself to creating the very finest men’s apparel and accessories. Today dunhill combines this rich heritage with style, innovation and functionality to create luxury menswear, leather goods, pens and men’s accessories that are without rival. 

At the beginning of the twentieth century, motorcars arrived from the manufacturer with a chassis and body, but without the accessories that are now taken for granted. As a gifted entrepreneur, the then 21 year old, Alfred seized this opportunity and converted the family business from a saddlery to offering motor accessories. ‘Dunhill Motorities’, as the shop was then known, provided ‘everything but the motor’ – from leather driving coats and helmets to goggles, car horns, dash board clocks and luggage trunks.

Highly regarded as an innovator and credited with having invented the articulation of the rear view mirror in 1907, Alfred Dunhill set up his own Patent Development Company in 1908 to accommodate the many different inventions he was creating. In 1922, Alfred successfully applied for a patent on an interior light for bags which would illuminate when opened thus allowing his wife to apply her lipstick with ease during the ballet. He supplied everything from fishing rods and reels, cricket and golfing gear and even “Avoritites” – accessories and outfittings for the new “aeroplanist”. Such idiosyncratic pieces established the spirited and pioneering nature of Alfred Dunhill – a legacy that has spanned over 100 years and remains today.

As the success of ‘Dunhill’s Motorities’ grew and its acclaim amongst the upper echelons of British society escalated, the 20th Century saw the business begin its global expansion that would confirm its status as the only truly global luxury brand for men. The first store on Duke Street (later to become the Jermyn Street store) opened in 1907 and international expansion soon followed. In 1921 a dunhill store opened on Fifth Avenue in New York and following this the first continental European store opened its doors in 1924, at 15 Rue de la Paix in central Paris.

In 1930 Clement Court, the manager of the Paris store, travelled to Tokyo to sign an agreement giving dunhill the worldwide distribution rights for Namiki pens. These exquisite pieces of art soon became – and remain today – the most prestigious and coveted writing instruments in the world. The 1930s also saw the expansion of the dunhill timepieces, with the first full collection created in 1936. This included the Facet watch – a design based on the interior light of a coach built Rolls Royce that would continue to influence dunhill designs throughout the decades. Other timepieces included the Key Watch, an ingenious design that combines a clock casing with a key which could be cut to fit the customer’s lock.

In the USA, dunhill’s expansion continued with shops opening in Beverly Hills, Chicago and San Francisco from 1951-61. Hong Kong was home to the first Asia Pacific store, opened in Prince’s Building in 1966, and the first Japanese store in Tokyo began trading in 1969. By the late 1970s, dunhill was offering a range of over 3,500 luxury products and men’s clothing in more than 20 stores around the world.

dunhill became part of The Richemont Group in 1998, joining a roster of some of the world’s finest luxury brands. Further expansion followed, with a store opening in Moscow in 2005 and a joint venture agreement giving Alfred Dunhill control of 24 retail stores in China. Today there are approximately 150 dunhill retail stores worldwide with a further 2,000 wholesale points of sale.

dunhill’s most ambitious and exciting project to date was to build a series of the greatest retail emporiums for men. The Homes of Alfred Dunhill represent the third dimension of luxury – the experience – allowing the customer to truly live the brand. Offering a superior retail environment and distinguished by a range of services – which include a bespoke tailoring service, barber’s shop, fine wine cellars, bar or restaurant, screening room and spa – the Homes in London, Shanghai, Tokyo & Hong Kong provide the pinnacle of dunhill service and attention to detail.

dunhill has further established its prestigious standing with considered sponsorship, aligning itself with partners that reflect the core values of the brand – masculinity, luxury, functionality and innovation. The annual Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is the best example of this. Played over three of the greatest links golf courses – the Old Course at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns in Scotland – the championship gathers legends from the worlds of sports and screen to play alongside the world’s leading professional golf players.

Today the brand remains faithful to Alfred Dunhill’s mantra, “It is not enough to expect a man to pay for the best, you must also give him what he has paid for…” From the ultimate luxury of bespoke or custom made suits and shirts, to luggage which can be created to your specifications, Alfred Dunhill continues to provide the exceptional and the surprising for the discerning gentleman. In the 21st Century this innovation has resulted in the Revolette pen which, inspired by the spinning barrel of a revolver, combines three writing instruments in one, as well as the use of carved mammoth tusk or crushed meteorite upon the brand’s hard products. The extensive Alfred Dunhill archive remains a rich source of inspiration. For example, the reintroduction of the Key Watch and Facet Watch amongst the launch of timepieces that use movements by Jaeger Le-Coultre, a partnership that was first formed in the 1950s. dunhill retains its bespoke leather craft workshop in London’s Walthamstow where the very finest bags and accessories are hand made. The menswear collection utilises rare materials from Camdeboo mohair to ultra-lightweight Super 160s suiting cloths, and its designers work with only the finest manufacturers in Italy and Britain.

Florence and The Machine come to Birmingham as part of UK Tour

Florence and The Machine will perform at the LG Arena in March as part of their new arena tour, which follows the hugely successful second album, ‘Ceremonials’.

The London-born singer, Florence, has seen the recently released album sell over 1 million units in just over 2 weeks. ‘Ceremonials’ has already hit the top of the UK charts and placed within the Billboard Top 10 in its first week.

The new tour celebrates this success and proves that Florence is back and definitely here to stay, as she announces her first full line up of UK dates since the Cosmic Love tour which took place in May 2010.

The main support act comes in the form of UK rock band, The Horrors. The five-piece, originally from Southend-on-Sea, also recently released a new album which reached number 5 in the UK charts. At the event, both acts will be joined by a third, upcoming band called Spector, who recently featured on Later.. with Jools Holland.

Florence + the Machine will play the LG Arena, which is one of the UK’s biggest and best live entertainment venues, hosting world class music, sport and comedy events throughout the year. Over the years, it has welcomed the likes of U2, Queen, The Killers, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Take That. To find out more about the LG Arena and the Florence + the Machine tour, visit

Tickets for Florence + the Machine go on sale at 9am on Friday 25 November, priced at £29.50 (subject to booking and transaction fees). They will be available from The Ticket Factory: or 0844 338 8000.

James Dyson Award winner 2011: Airdrop overcomes drought, with inspiration from a beetle

Engineering, not magic: the 2011 winner of the James Dyson Award extracts water from thin air. Airdrop is a low cost, self powered, and easy to install solution to the problems of growing crops in arid regions.

Inspired by Australia’s worst drought in a century, Edward Linacre from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, turned to nature to find ways of capturing moisture from air. Edward studied the Namib beetle, an ingenious species which lives in one of the driest places on earth. With half an inch of rain per year, the beetle can only survive by consuming the dew it collects on the hydrophilic skin of its back in the early mornings.

Airdrop borrows this concept, working on the principle that even the driest air contains water molecules which can be extracted by lowering the air’s temperature to the point of condensation. It pumps air through a network of underground pipes, to cool it to the point at which the water condenses. Delivering water directly to the roots of plants.

James Dyson said, “Biomimicry is a powerful weapon in an engineer’s armoury. Airdrop shows how simple, natural principles like the condensation of water, can be applied to good effect through skilled design and robust engineering. Young designers and engineers like Edward will develop the simple, effective technology of the future – they will tackle the world’s biggest problems and improve lives in the process.”

Edward’s research suggests that 11.5 millilitres of water can be harvested from every cubic meter of air in the driest of deserts. Further iterations of his design will increase the yield of Airdrop. He said, “winning the award’s £10,000 prize will mean I can develop and test the Airdrop system. It has the potential to help farmers around the world and I’m up for the challenge of rolling it out”. A further £10,000 has also be awarded to Edward’s university department to support other young engineers keen to follow in his footsteps.

Runners Up:

Kwick Screen (UK)
A portable, retractable room divider developed by Michael Korn, a student at the Royal College of Art in London. The KwickScreen allows healthcare professionals to make the best use of available space; giving maximum privacy, dignity and protection to patients. Michael explored the use bistable materials such as slap on bracelets and tape measures, and like Edward drew inspiration from concepts found in nature, including the Venus fly trap and a frog’s tongue.

Blindspot (Singapore)

An aide for the visually handicapped, helping them travel around unfamiliar surroundings, developed by Se Lui Chew from the National University of Singapore. Blindspot informs the user of nearby friends using information from geographical-based social apps such as Foursquare, and communicates with them via a Bluetooth earpiece connected to the cane. The cane guides the user to their friend using a horizontally rolling ball on the cane handle which points in the direction they should walk.

Birmingham City University student’s dream of gold comes true

A Birmingham City University student has been given the honour of designing the official UK Coin to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Birmingham School of Architecture student, Saiman Miah, won a prestigious competition to create the design for the official London 2012 Olympic coin – which will soon be in the hands of Games enthusiasts around the world, ahead of next summer’s Games.
Since the Helsinki summer Olympic Games in 1952 it has been tradition for commemorative coins to be struck in celebration of the Games.  Now Moseley student Saiman joins the artistic elite by creating the new £5 coin design which will be a permanent and much-treasured memento of London 2012.
In previous years the official UK coins have been designed by a renowned artist or sculptor - Saiman’s design was selected following a Royal Mint competition for art and design students attending higher education colleges and universities across the UK.  Students were challenged to create a design celebrating the capital’s role as host city of London 2012, including the Olympic and Paralympic Games logos. Designs were requested that could be symbolic or literal and could involve the use of emblems or lettering.
Currently studying for his Master’s degree at the Birmingham School of Architecture, Saiman first became interested in art during his secondary school education.  After completing his Art Foundation course he chose to pursue his passion for architecture. Inspired by his love architecture, Saiman’s design for the official London 2012 Olympic coin captures a snapshot of the London skyline including the London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s cathedral; which act as a backdrop for the iconic River Thames.
As well as the honour of designing the official coin Saiman also receives £5,000 prize money. The £5 coin, which is legal UK tender, will go on sale this month and is expected to be collected by thousands of Games enthusiasts around the world.
Kevin Singh, Head of Birmingham School of Architecture at Birmingham City University, said:  "We are absolutely thrilled that Saiman has won the competition to design the Olympic £5 coin.  It is an incredible achievement for one of our students to be part of Olympic and UK history.
“Saiman has studied at Birmingham School of Architecture for both his degree and now his Master’s in Architecture and it shows what a fantastic all-round education architecture offers.  Saiman’s success demonstrates to fellow students that with a pro-active and enthusiastic attitude, the world really is your oyster. The School, the Faculty, and University whole heartedly congratulate him on this accolade."
As well as the honour of designing the official coin Saiman also receives £5,000 prize money.  The £5 coin, which is legal UK tender, will go on sale this month and is expected to be collected by thousands of Games enthusiasts around the world.

Baby Concierge: It’s what parents want!

Baby Concierge was founded by mum of two and author of best-selling baby book What To Buy For Your Baby, Caroline Cosgrove. After falling pregnant with her first child, Caroline discovered that shopping for a new baby was overwhelming, confusing and daunting – and not the exciting experience she had anticipated. When Caroline’s child was six months old, Caroline established Baby Concierge, a bespoke shopping service for expectant parents.

Testament to the quality of its service, Baby Concierge’s reputation has grown by word-of-mouth alone, so much so it is now a renowned consultant-led shopping experience in West London with two more showrooms opening in Islington and Chelsea. Baby Concierge has also proven a go to place for celebrities too, with the likes of Jools Oliver visiting the original Kensal Road showroom.

Each consultant on the Baby Concierge team has undergone a rigorous training programme to ensure they are the authority on all things baby to offer parents-to-be in-depth, educated and unbiased advice. Where once parents would meet with Caroline alone, the company now employs a team of eight fully-trained personal consultants who work alongside her including a multiple-birth specialist, maternity nurse and ex-nursery store manager, who are all experts in making product recommendations based on parents’ individual needs.

Founder Caroline states: “Baby Concierge was established out of a need for someone to consult with when I was shopping during my own pregnancy. There are so many products to chose from it can often make it very hard to decide what to go for. Here at Baby Concierge we take great care to understand a parent’s lifestyle and then make suggestions that will fit with them. Our aim is simple, to take the stress out of baby shopping and make the experience as easy and fun as possible.”

Not just another baby shopping service, parents-to-be visiting Baby Concierge are guaranteed a personal experience with exclusive and private access to the showroom to test out the products on display and receive considered advice on each and every item – from major baby brands to boutique labels. A personal consultant will guide them through the product choices and make expert recommendations based on the parents’ lifestyle to create a tailored baby shopping list for their new arrival. Once agreed, Baby Concierge work with the parents to find hard-to-source items, answer any questions they may have and advise on further purchases. All products are then delivered and assembled all at once, making life as convenient as possible for the expectant parents. What’s more, Baby Concierge also price match John Lewis giving parents an exclusive yet inexpensive option when it comes to buying for their new baby.

Caroline says: “Our reputation comes from the advice we offer and we have a friendly, enthusiastic and professional team who are all very committed to ensuring our customers get the very best guidance from true industry experts.

She adds: “We hand-pick products based on what parent’s need, rather than what they want, and pride ourselves on sourcing hard-to-find items to make parents’ lives that little bit easier.”

A consultation with Baby Concierge costs £120.00 and if parents spend £500 or more, 50% of the consultation fee will be refunded. 

For more details visit the website:

The Adventures of Tin Tin - The Secret of the Unicorn by Ethan Beattie

The Birmingham Gazette caught up with 9 year old Ethan Beattie, following his epic evening out to watch Tintin - The Secret of the Unicorn at the Midlands' largest giant cinema at Millennium Point. 

My Mom told me that I was going to the cinema to see Steven Spielberg's Tin Tin in 3D with my Dad's close friends when I got home from school. I was very excited as I'd seen some of the older Tin Tin films before and really liked them.

We entered Millenium Point through the main entrance and went up the escalators to the ticket office, which was quite busy but not packed. Most people were in the cinema already. Although we could buy snacks and drinks, I did notice that there wasn't a bar anymore though and I think my Dad would have been disappointed!

The building is a lot more interesting than most cinemas as there is a lot more going on as it's part of Millenium Point so it's more exciting for children to go to the IMAX than other cinemas such as the AMC. They could improve it by having some more entertainment (such as air hockey or arcade games) though. 

Being a 3D only cinema on a huge sceen, you don't keep the glasses which is a shame. These are collected from the entrance area (near the snack bar). The glasses had different coloured bands for children and adults but lenses were like sunglasses. We sat at the top in the back row in the middle facing the screen – these were definitely best seats in the house!

I was worried that the new film wouldn't be as good as the older cartoons, but I wasn't disappointed. The new story was better than most of the older Herge cartoons and the computer animation and 3D really brought the story to life.

Compared to Avatar, Tin Tin was a better story and had better special effects and the animation was just as good. The film was a fun adventure-mystery (mostly mystery!) and I really enjoyed it. I think it would be really nice if all parents take their kids to see it!

The incredible journey of the Poppy Factory

The Poppy Factory, explains the story behind the red commemorative poppies and the ex-service men and women who make them.

With the death of the last First World War combatant earlier this year, another of the human threads connecting us to that time fell away.

But in a white factory building by the Thames, there is an unbroken link between modern ex-service men and women and the soldiers who came back from the 1914-18 war, wounded and in need of work.

The building is the Poppy Factory, and for nearly ninety years it has provided a safe place to work for people who face challenges in civilian life.

Tony is 57 and left the army after being badly burned on a training exercise.

"I was on the sick for three years. Basically I'd been written off. I do have psychological problems and in the end I just couldn't work because of panic attacks. There's no other way I could get work unless I came through a supported programme.

"I make as many poppies as I can, but in the background there's no stress or anxiety about having to do a certain number."

The Poppy Factory was the creation of Major George Howson, an engineer with remarkable energy and imagination. His family still talk of the pulley he rigged up across his large garden, and the bridges he built across stream at the bottom.

He had a genius for connections. After the success of the first Poppy Appeal in 1921, when flowers had been imported from France, he could see the need for British poppies. And as founder of the Disabled Society, he knew the plight of wounded soldiers. So he put the two together.

But he wasn't optimistic about his plan to set his men to the delicate, repetitive task of making poppies. "I do not think it can be a great success," he told his parents in 1922.

His workforce of five grew quickly, and within a few years more than three hundred and fifty men were meeting the entire demand for Remembrance poppies, along with a sister factory in Edinburgh. The Poppy Factory moved to Richmond, where it still stands.

Though it's a smaller team now - some of the work is done by home-workers and machines at the Poppy Appeal headquarters - millions of poppies, wreaths and crosses are still made in Richmond.

Preparing Foliage for Wreaths in the early 1920s at The Poppy Factory

Barry spent thirty years in the Royal Navy. He has a box of chocolate ├ęclairs at his feet, family pictures around his desk, and a shelf of Abba albums and greatest hymn collections. It's repetitive work, clicking together the plastic and paper to make poppy after poppy, but he cherishes the environment.

"I always wanted to visit the Poppy Factory, never thinking I'd ever work here. I was indoors for three years with arthritis. They're lovely people to work with."

Bill saw a poster about the factory when he was visiting the organisation Combat Stress in Leatherhead.

"You get a lot of military banter, but if you start to feel uncomfortable for some reason and want to back off, then they let you be quiet. It's a safe environment for ex-service people with certain problems."

The 1920s soldier wouldn't recognise the spacious factory floor and working conditions. But the need for mental space and time to find your own working rhythm hasn't changed. Neither has the importance of jokes. Before coming here, Bill says, he did a horticultural course, but then couldn't find a job.

"I'm still working with flowers though."

Jaegar celebrate the classic timeless style of the British Empire

The Duke of Windsor’s wardrobe is often a magical place to find inspiration for autumn winter designs. With a fabulous legacy of past royalty and courtiers, the depths of Kensington Palace’s archive can provide an excellent feast for the eyes when it comes to tailoring which oozes charm and style.

The exquisite detailing, sartorial elegance and authenticity of these pieces are extracted and made modern. Building on Jaeger's long-standing reputation, and the great winter coat is central to the collection.

Brushed mohairs, cashmeres, wool Meltons boucles and wool jerseys in rich tones of navy, black, vicuna, Guardsman red, military green and ivory with strong highlights of cerise, colonial yellow, rust and turquoise make up the pinnacle of the collection.  Coats, which are a Jaegar signature come in a multitude of silhouettes and lengths, mixing traditional detailing with flamboyant creativity.  Whether cropped or dramatically floor-sweeping, they were abundant in their number and proportions. From the opening look of a cut-at-the-hip navy reefer coat, whose huge lapels swooped down to the waist in a generous curve, that was teamed with neat, slim-fitting grey trousers, it was clear that a play on coats was at work.

Jaegar does all the right things –collaborating with Noel Stewart for stunning peaked caps, along with shoe designer Michael Lewis for cool sheepskin ankle boots and a beautiful array of models.

Jaegar also shows off all the right ingredients at its shows with new languid bent, high waists, pleat-fronted trousers, graphic prints, cape coats, plenty of belts and a new sophisticated take on velvet.

This is reminiscent of the British Empire during colonial times as was the influence of the spice markets of Cairo and Bombay - brought to life through the rich palette of mustard, paprika, khaki, chilli-pepper red, navy and blacks.

The fresh-faced girls carried bags that had elements of antique luggage to them, recalling the colonial theme.

Knits were deliciously chunky and, in one instance, came as a khaki sweater dress that was worn with a navy boiled wool scarf that had its own reefer collar and pockets, with the whole ensemble being given some shape via a slim belt fastened at the waist.

"I liked the new riff on the reefer - oversized lapels, longline or sleeveless," said Vogue's market editor Emma Elwick-Bates. "The grown-up knits were high on style in lovely Seventies autumnal shades of russet and teal."

Elsewhere, coats came in polite Prince of Wales checks, houndstooth and wool meltons and were worn over just-below-the-knee skirts that had a fresh Seventies feeling to them - especially when worn with the great, stack-heeled knee-high boots with spat detailling. Silk chiffon blouses in bright pops of colour were teamed with flowing harem pants and also with leg-flattering trousers that had crisp pleats at the front and back.

Killer heels with a difference, welcome to the world of Wedge Wellies

Elegant, stylish, comfortable.  Not epithets normally associated with wellington boots -but they really do describe Wedge Wellies.  With all the protection and practicalities of any other rubber boot, at long last Wedge Wellies provide a chic and fashionable look just as great on a city shopping expedition or a trip to the races,  as a ramble in the country. 

The rubber wedge heel is a fantastic addition to those of us who might be slightly vertically challenged and who rely on our killer heels or indeed, any heels to add the odd inch or two.  With a pair of the currently fashionable skinny jeans tucked in, the extra height provided by the wedge is without doubt an added bonus.

Featured on the well known BBC programme Dragon’s Den wedge wellies have been welcomed by festival goers looking for fashionable but practical footwear,  as have the more traditional sporting fraternity.  The shiny Black Legend Wedge Welly  is really chic especially worn with the skinny jeans or jodhpurs whilst there is a range of more funky designs and colours perfect to complement Glastonbury glitz.  Yet another plus is the availability of different calf widths – great for extra comfort when tucking trousers into the boot......... without needing a tug of war to get them off again!

Whether you wear them for a shopping trip, music festival or trip to the races, the real bargain, hit or winner is your pair of Wedge Wellies.

Oliver Sweeney leading the way in sartorial footwear

Oliver Sweeney is one of the world’s most renowned shoe makers. With an interest in shoes that the man himself admits borders on fetishism, it’s easy to understand why. Like a doctor of the feet, Sweeney began his training at McAfee, the bespoke and stock shoemakers.

Sweeney never wanted the shoes to go out to customers either, preferring them to stay in the studio where he could stare at them for hours as the time passed by.

When Sweeney launched his own brand in 1989, he began crafting his techniques aiming for an almost 'demi-bespoke' product: shoes that were factory-made but of a quality reminiscent of the bespoke pairs worn by Royals, the Beckhams, and the aristocracy of bespoke Britain. Sweeney's shoes although sold 'off-the-shelf' make each customer feel he is buying and wearing a bespoke product.

The secret perhaps, is the hand-finishing - the polishing, brushing and staining - which gives unparalleled character to the leather, transforming a plain brown into a deep rich wood brown. More recently, you could even get your pair of Sweeney’s tattooed. This makes Sweeney quite unlike any shoe maker in the world today.

In days gone by when you actually buy a pair from Sweeney himself, he would urge his customers to rub black polish into their brown shoes, exclaiming that he hated ‘bland colours’.
Sweeney names his shoe styles after the cinema greats, illustrating his keen appreciation for stardom. Bogarde is the name for his semi-brogue. Then there is Connery, the plain Oxford; Pacino, the full-brogue; and Redford, the chukka boot.

Despite the recession hitting the business hard in 2008, things have been looking up for Oliver Sweeney in recent months with social media networks, increased marketing activity and masterful creative concepts such as pop up tattoo shops being hailed a huge success.

Sweeney prides itself on producing high quality footwear built to last. Staff are highly knowledgeable about fit, and shoe-trees can be bought in the shop to prolong the life of the shoes. They provide a re-soling service and their website features ten tips on lengthening the life of your shoes and declares that 'a good pair of shoes are a life-long companion'. This is a very welcome change from the majority of high street shoe retailers selling shoes that won't last the year and expecting you to return faithfully to stock up on landfill.

Mobikats along with Oliver Sweeney’s fashion photographer have designed something called the Oliver Sweeney Shoe app for the Apple iPad. The app allows the user to design custom Italian shoes at the point of sale for the first time.

The Oliver Sweeney Shoe app for the Apple iPad allows users to select shoe design, colour of shoe skin for each panel, type of luxury skin, and the delivers the ability to see just what that shoe looks like, and thus improving on the shopping experience.

Mobikats director, Phil Hunt says, “The challenge for Mobikats with this particular iPad app was to make sure that Oliver Sweeney staff and customers had fun and were helped every step of the process by the app.” The Oliver Sweeney Shoe iOS app key features are 6 different shoe designs, 5 different luxury skins from stingray to leather in varying colours, simple touch interface, different views of the finished design, the ability to email the designed shoe to others.

The Autumn / Winter collection 2011 retains the seasonal staples but introduces a twist on a classic brogue with shoes such as the Skelton Brown hand painted shoe. Yet the ever-present handwriting of Oliver Sweeney, together with the careful selection of matching belts, or the premium quality of the range of leather jackets allows the wearer to stamp his own style upon the look in an instant. With inspiration from the decorative Art Deco movement, the collection's bold use of materials and form offers something for everyone. Everyone who has an ounce of style, that is.
For more information visit

There’s nothing as uplifting as listening to your favourite tracks at the right volume at the highest quality possible

The HD 380 Pros from Sennheiser certainly fit the bill. Built for professional use, these collapsible cans are packed with technology. Closed-back headphones do have their pros and cons though. On the plus side, there’s almost no noise leakage (ideal for DJs and music producers who don’t want to distract others while in the bedroom studio), but on the downside, enclosure vibration can have a negative impact on clarity and dynamics. Sennheiser’s Eargonomic Acoustic Refinement (E.A.R.) channels the audio signal directly to your ear which is no mean feat. The driver actually aligns the driver with your ear, allowing the audio to be directed into the ear canal. This means that you can actually turn the volume down and have less fatigue as a result which is great for extended listening and long mix sessions.

Extended frequency response with increased sound pressure level (up to 110dB) gives incredibly accurate sound reproduction.

The Sennheiser HD 380 Pros really are the best of the best. Closed circumaural design produces a stunning passive attenuation of ambient noise, ideal for monitoring use. What could be better than keeping the music in and the noise out. They are lightweight, comfortable with a folding design which makes them the ideal travel companion too complete with a stylish carry case so you can just slip them into your laptop bag or record bag while out and about. Another cool feature is that they have a removable cable, so if you accidently get these caught up in some equipment, or a door. If this happens all you have to do is pick up a new cable – and you’re good to go.

The upshot of these tech specs is that these headphones like to be cranked up – they can really handle it – and because they are designed for the professional market, they deliver uncoloured sound, even at higher levels. The bass they deliver is beyond deep, the middle rangers are crisper than crisp and the high frequencies are exceptionally toned. We can see why these headphones are aimed at the professional market; they deliver a genuinely clear representation of the track you’re listening to, even at incredibly loud volumes.

Giant Entertainment at The Giant Screen

Boasting a new state-of-the-art digital projection system, new luxury seats, new screen, and upgraded sound system, The Giant Screen at Millennium Point opened its doors to the public on 24 October. Having undergone a digital transformation, the cinema is reopening as the UK’s largest independent giant screen cinema.

The first new feature showing on The Giant Screen is Steven Spielberg’s 3D performance capture film The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn 3D starring Jamie Bell as Tintin, the intrepid young reporter whose relentless pursuit of a good story thrusts him into a world of high adventure.

With partners D3D Cinema, Barco, and Dolby, Millennium Point has installed a 2D/3D digital 4K dual projection system. The cinema is now able to show a greater selection of 2D and 3D feature films and documentaries, plus in the future, a wider range of content including live screenings of music, cultural and sports events.

Karen Steed, Acting CEO of Millennium Point comments, “Our new digital projection system is the very first of its kind in Europe. By introducing this state-of-the-art projection technology, we have greater freedom to show even more of the 2D and 3D films we know customers want to see on the giant screen.”

D3D President and Founder, Don Kempf is excited about working with Millennium Point. “We are thrilled to be partnering up with Millennium Point.” Kempf continues, “We are at a unique period in cinematic history where cinemas, like that at Millennium Point, can take advantage of this new 4K projector technology to show an expanding library of content, both documentary and studio, guaranteed to immerse the audience with a superior image quality.”

The new system includes twin state-of-the-art Barco 4K digital projectors, paired with industry-leading Dolby Digital 3D technology.

The projection system is not the only part of the cinema to be improved. The giant silver screen has been replaced with a new white screen, the sound system upgraded and new luxury seating installed throughout the auditorium.

Breastfeeding essentials from Sioned Hilton

Whether you are six months pregnant, or you are now a proud parent, the topic of breastfeeding will not have passed you by. To help our readers the Birmingham Gazette had a chat to Sioned Hilton; Lactation Consultant and Education Manager at Medela UK, the world’s leading breastfeeding company, to find out more. 

Sioned has been working with Breastfeeding mums for more than 20 years and has given us some essential breastfeeding info below:

Preparing for your baby: Your body is extremely clever and will start preparing for your unborn baby’s arrival from the moment he is conceived. You will notice some changes during this time but this is completely natural.

What to look out for? At around 16-18 weeks your breasts will begin to change and develop for their all important role of breastfeeding. Breast tissue, for making milk, continues to develop from this point until birth. Your breasts will grow bigger, they may feel tender and some mums may experience a few leaks. This is nothing to worry about and can be controlled with a breast pad and supportive bra.

You may have already made your decision to breastfeed months ago, but as the due date draws near, many mums have some questions. Three common questions answered:

So what happens if you’d like to breastfeed but due to the high number of women who given up keep wondering if it’s worth trying at all? Lots of mums have great success and it is such a rewarding experience it is definitely worth trying. Mothers give up for various personal reasons but everyone is different and if you come across any problems help is always available and many supportive products can get you through the initial teething problems. Breastmilk will unarguably give your newborn the best start and it is advised this is your number one choice for your baby for the first 6 months.

I want to breastfeed but I’m sure I’ll be very self-conscious. How can I get over this? Firstly you must be proud of yourself, breastfeeding is the most wonderful thing you can do for your baby and you certainly must not feel ashamed. It is natural however to feel a little self conscious but there are many ways to overcome this. Something as simple as a square of muslin laid over your shoulder and covering your baby whilst breastfeeding will make you feel more comfortable. Specific products are available these days to help you cover up.

*Product tip: A feeding top such as Carriwell’s Kaj top or the clever breastvest will help.

Formula has improved so much now that I wonder if breastmilk is still really the best for your baby? Breastmilk is a totally unique and clever substance that can, in no way, be matched by formula. Breastmilk changes day by day to adapt to and meet your babies ever changing needs and growth spurts, and its unique properties also helps fight infection also.

It all happens naturally...breastfeeding from day one: Once your baby is born, you will start to produce a substance called colostrum. This is like a concentrated version of breastmilk filed with antibodies and nutritious goodness for your baby. Following this period, between days 3-5, your milk, that is tailor made for your baby, will come in. This may leave your breasts full and tender – a cool compress and gentle massage may relieve some of the pressure too.

*Interesting fact: Your baby’s tummy is the size of a small marble so the amount of colostrum produced will be just the right amount for your baby.

Breastfeeding in practice: Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things a mother can do for her baby and your baby will instinctively know to search out your nipple. But, there may be the odd hurdle along the way. The step by step guide should provide some support:

  • To breastfeed the baby needs to have his body in the optimal position where his nose is in a straight line to his belly button.
  • He needs to be supported by mothers hand behind his shoulders - this allows the baby’s head to tilt back slightly so he can open his mouth wide ( think about how we drink from a glass we lift our chin to the lip of the cup and tilt our head backwards) this is the same for a breastfeeding baby.
  • Place the baby’s nose in alignment with the nipple and rest the baby’s chin on the breast and gently supporting the baby shoulders bring baby to the breast – baby should open his mouth wide.
As you are starting your breastfeeding journey you may wonder how often you are supposed to breastfeed, however, every baby is different and will have a unique feeding pattern. 

On average a baby will feed every couple of hours as breastmilk is easy to digest and always in production, but it does vary for each individual mother and baby. If your baby likes to feed every few hours it may be that your breasts have a smaller storage capacity and he is a frequent feeder. The baby who feeds every 3-4 hours may have a mother with a larger storage capacity. Over the day both babies will have a similar volume of milk and be getting all the benefits of their mum’s milk.

*Product tip: If your nipples get sore at any stage you can try applying hypoallergenic lanolin based ointment such as PureLan by Medela to the nipple to aid healing, this does not need to be wiped off before a feed.

What you eat does affect your breastmilk: This is important to bear in mind, although a well-balanced diet is essential so in the early days carry on eating what you normally do. Drink a normal quantity of fluids approximately 1.5 – 2 litres per day, but avoid too much tea and coffee as they contain caffeine. You may find that you are thirsty when feeding so have a drink nearby. If you want to have an alcoholic drink bear in mind that it does cross into your milk so if you are planning on having more than 1-2 units of alcohol (a 175ml glass of wine is 2 units!) avoid breastfeeding for 2-3 hours after drinking (Breastfeeding Network– if you need to empty the breast for comfort you can express and discard the milk.

*interesting fact: Certain foods such as greens can cause a bit more gas but implement calming strategies such as baby massage or skin to skin time can manage this discomfort.

That’s it for now but please keep a look out as in the coming weeks as we will be giving you more advice on feeding whilst out and about next week, getting dads involved and answering some of the common questions new parents ask.

Reuben Colley Fine Arts and Danny Howes support Help for Heroes

Danny Howes has been painting for a number of years, but earlier in 2011 he reached new heights showcasing his first public works at an exhibition held at Reuben Colley Fine Arts in Moseley.

The exhibition was hailed a success selling many works within hours of opening.

In the past few months, Danny has been busy in the studio once again, creating a series of paintings inspired by the war in Afghanistan and one painting in particular has been donated to the Help for Heroes 2012 Auction, raising vital funds for service men and women injured at war.

The portrait, ‘A Letter to Home’ will form part of the new exhibition by Danny Howes that will be held in late Spring 2012. The collection named‘Unguarded Moments’ will be based on the soldiers out in Afghanistan, showing a side of life out there that we rarely get to see on television news reports or in the news papers. ‘A Letter to Home’ will be on show in the window of the gallery until the afternoon of Friday 4th November.

Danny said: "For a decade we’ve seen the war in Afghanistan unfold through the eyes of the media. During this time I’ve often felt unease with our involvement there, while conversely my support for our troops doing an incredibly difficult job has never wavered. 

I was lucky enough to gain some insight from a friend who is an army doctor and keen amateur photographer. He allowed me access to photos he’d taken during his last tour, not the usual shots of war on the front line but predominantly of the servicemen and women in more relaxed surroundings when not out on patrol in the desert. I found the photos both inspiring and the perfect source material to use for the paintings. 

My intention is for these paintings to convey a more unguarded and personal side to the soldiers’ lives, documenting the ordinary things we seldom see – cooking, reading, doing the laundry, writing to loved ones, sharing a meal – activities we all take for granted back home yet are essential for them to help retain some normality in the uncertain and extreme environment they live and work. 

The painting given to the Help for Heroes auction captures a personal and timeless moment - a young soldier taking time to write a letter to his family. I wanted to acknowledge this crucial support played by families and organisations helping the soldiers back home, and donating one of the key pieces from the show to the Help for Heroes auction seemed a fitting way to make a my own contribution."

Each beautifully painted canvas Danny creates captures the soul of the subject in such a convincing manner we feel like we already know them and can empathise with their experiences, good or bad. Danny tells a story about the people he sees, often using the power of the eyes to reveal all. In Howes' work the eyes truly are the window to the soul.