Neighbourhood Watch : Jewellery Quarter

Still the largest jewellery quarter in Europe where 40% of the UK’s jewellery is made, the area is one of the city’s proud heritage neighbourhoods. Situated just a few minutes’ walk from the city centre, in fact you can pick up the pavement trail down Newhall Street from the Great Charles Queensway (take a look at Milan’s on route, still serving an Indian lunch buffet for £4.95!), the JQ is awash with restaurants and cafes among the traditional and modern jewellers.

Starting right at the edge with St. Paul's, Birmingham's last Georgian square, there's the Jam House and just around the corner, the Actress & Bishop for your live music mix. The JQ residents are lucky to have a choice of restaurants including the long-standing Pasta Di Piazza  and Henry’s Cantonese.also the award winning Lasan or you can enjoy the private booths of the Vaults. Further into the heart of the quarter, Big Nanny’s give you a warm Caribbean welcome and the Blue Nile is worth eating at just for the stunning Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

There are a couple of traditional watering holes in St Paul’s Square or at the other end of the quarter, there is the smart casual Drop Forge, great for private parties. Around the corner on the Hockley side, The Lord Clifden, with its garden, seemingly larger than the pub itself and with focus on music and food. A few steps down The Church Inn opened in 2013.

At the heel of the clock outside the Big Peg which marks the centre of the area, there’s a diner menu available from Rose Villa Tavern,  the 100 year old pub to restored to some of its former glory in 2011, complete with an array of global beers, real ales and cocktails. Beyond the RVT the traditional Red Lion not to be confused with the recently re-opened Brown Lion.

For a long time, Saints Caffe was the lone warrior of independent coffee shops in the city centre. That itself has recently changed hands to end a superb era but in recent years It has been joined by version two of Urban Coffee Co, Brewsmiths, the fantastic old school café just by the back entrance of Snow Hill, and Pomegranate, the gift shop/tea shop. Coffee can also be partaken in Fredericks which turns into a sleek bar in the evening.

The Quarter has more heritage than I can fit in a cluster ring but highlights are the RBSA which displays and sells affordable local crafts and jewellery and St Paul’s Gallery which is famous for its album cover and pop artwork. There is JQ’s own theatre, the Blue Orange, the Newman Brothers Coffin Works is currently being restored plus the must-see Pen Museum run brilliantly by volunteers. Finally if you’re going to the Jewellery Quarter Museum pop into the delightful Vee’s Deli.

Oh, and there are over 100 jewellery shops and makers that get very busy on a Saturday as visitors come from all around the Midlands to buy quality jewellery at a good price.

All of this is just touching the solid shiny surface of this nugget in Birmingham’s history. You can find out more here or by booking on a tour with the wonderful IABTours. Or pop along to the residents social every third Tuesday of the month in the Drop Forge run by @MyJQ or Likemind on the third Friday of the month, which is open to all at the aforementioned Brewsmiths, who serve bottomless coffee. Get it while it’s hot!

By JQ dweller, Rickie, founder of Birmingham Favourites, who can be reached on @BrumFaves or @RickieWrites or add your comments below.

Shining Light on Crafting in Birmingham

By Rickie Everyone is at it. Crafting, that is! So a couple of weeks ago, I went along to Cow Studio (Creative Open Workshops) in the Jewellery Quarter who teach you to make everything from dresses to bags to jewellery or in my case, a lampshade. Fed up with not finding what I wanted in the shops, I'm learning to make my own!

Cow lampshade Collage

The ever-patient and knowledgeable Francine from CoW  talked us through what we'll be doing and we set about choosing our material to make the shade with (top right). You also have the option to take your own in although it's sheer co-incidence that three of us chose shades of blue/green!

While we're learning and making, all the participants chat and it's a great atmosphere, a world away from my normal  city bustle and actually quite therapeutic. We soon go from a blank sheet of special paper and white rings (middle and bottom right) to what appears in front of you in the larger photo.

It took less than two hours to have something looking like a shade in front of us and we go out into the evening air about half an hour after that with our efforts in our hands, ready to take pride of place in our homes.

So now I know how to make a lampshade I really want to make more. Does anyone need one?

To find out more about all of the CoW Studio take a look at their website. Remember to come back and tell us what you made!

Rickie J can be contacted via @BrumFaves or @RickieWrites  or find out more here