Colors: Blue Color

The Black Country Chamber of Commerce Awards 2017 have been officially launched, celebrating the best in business from across the region.

The Black Country Chamber celebrated the fantastic businesses in the region last year with a sell out Awards Dinner, and this year is set to be even bigger with more Awards on offer. In addition, the Chamber is working closely with the British Chambers of Commerce so that businesses who apply for certain awards will also be entered into the regional and national Awards. These Awards are an ideal platform upon which to showcase your company and celebrate your success, as we recognise those who contribute towards the local economy.

This year we have increased the number of Awards, allowing us to celebrate more businesses and shout about the great work that is happening across the Black Country. The winners will be announced at the Black Country Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner, which will take place on 17th November 2017 at Wolverhampton Racecourse.

Please note, the Black Country Chamber of Commerce Awards 2017 are now open for entry and the deadline to apply is 3pm on Friday 30th June 2017.

Young architects, city planners and engineers are now showcasing their dynamic artwork as part of a schools’ art showcase at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

Students from the innovative West Midlands Construction University Technical College (WMCUTC), a new school specialising in construction and the Application of IT in the Built Environment, are exhibiting etchings, pen and ink drawings and photography at the Lichfield Street gallery until Tuesday, May 23.

Among images on show are two copies of pen and ink drawings of the college’s Springfield Brewery campus created by Year 10 students. The detailed drawings were presented to the HRH Duke of Gloucester and Lord Baker at the college’s recent official opening.

Other pieces include highly detailed and photorealistic hand drawn pencil portraits and large photography pieces on display. The work of Year 10 photography students records the sense of place with shots of the listed Springfield Brewery campus.

The exhibition is part of the gallery’s Young Artists programme, which celebrates the work of students from various schools across the city.

Councillor John Reynolds, City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Economy, said: “The standard of work in this showcase is extremely high and well worth celebrating. Well done to all the students taking part and good luck in their future endeavours.”

The exhibition is in the Sense and Sculpture gallery on the first floor of the gallery.

WMCUTC is a new school, which specialises in construction and the application of IT in the Built Environment providing high quality technical education for 14 to 19 year olds.

Students can follow three pathways in the school -  design, build or innovate.

Design students look to careers such as architecture, interior design, town planning and landscape design, although all students, whether aiming to become civil engineers or software developers, study a core curriculum including a design element.

Sutton Coldfield MP, Andrew Mitchell and Strictly Come Dancing’s, AJ Pritchard and Chloe Hewitt attended the launch of Stage Studios, the new performing arts facility at Sutton Coldfield College – giving the building and its students top marks. 

Sutton Coldfield MP, Andrew Mitchell officially opened the Stage Studios by unveiling a commemorative plaque. 

He said: “Sutton Coldfield has a thriving arts community where individuals of all ages and from all backgrounds can be involved in or be entertained by a range of shows and productions.  The Stage Studios will be a vital part of this local scene.”

Dance duo, AJ Pritchard and Chloe Hewitt who first found fame on Britain’s Got Talent congratulated dance, musical theatre and acting students for the routines, songs and monologues they performed at the launch event.  These included a vocal performance from Hamilton – The Musical, a Shakespeare monologue and a dance routine to the Austin Powers movie theme song.

AJ and Chloe also took part in a Q&A session with students where they shared their experiences of competing in dance events and becoming national and European Latin dance champions.

AJ said: “The studios are fantastic.  It’s great that the college offers a whole performing arts package where learners can hone their creative skills.  Everyone has to start somewhere, so the more knowledge these students gain, the more power they have to achieve their goals.

“And I love how these students are involved in other things on top of their college courses.  Belonging to dance groups, taking part in events and appearing in productions at different theatres will help them go as far as possible in their careers.”

Stage Studios is a £168,000 custom-built facility containing four brand new studios.  150 students developing skills in dance and choreography, drama, acting and theatre studies will benefit from state-of-the-art equipment and the best teaching resources available.  The college offers performing arts courses from GCSE-equivalent to university level.

Sutton Coldfield College Principal, Andrew Cleaves said: “Stage Studios give our students the creative freedom and motivation to develop their skills and perform at their very best.  They have a more flexible area in which to rehearse and to work with other companies and community organisations so they can build on their experiences while working with some of the best people in the industry.”

Guests from local schools, dance schools, theatres and the wider performing arts industry also attended the Stage Studios launch, along with some of the college’s former students.

According to the latest Lloyds Bank regional PMI for March, there has been some easing of performance in Britain, coupled with an acceleration of price pressures. In particular, the latest regional PMI data shows a softening but still robust performance in the West Midlands, which is down from 57.0 in February to 56.1. This reflects the softening seen in the national manufacturing and construction PMIs in March, and in official data with short-term indicators showing slowing but still positive output performance.

Nevertheless, UK manufacturing, construction, and services PMIs all reported an increase in confidence for the next twelve months, with confidence in the manufacturing sector reaching a ten-month high. A lowering of Brexit uncertainty among clients was reported, providing a boost to output demand. There was also increased demand and interest from foreign markets, most probably due to the lower value of Sterling, thereby making UK businesses more internationally price competitive.

The UK PMIs saw increases in new orders in March, with further demand from foreign markets for manufacturers and services providers, and lower anxiety surrounding Brexit was a contributing factor for construction. As a region, the West Midlands appears to be outperforming the UK in terms of new orders, which has enabled growth. Furthermore, as business outstanding increases, there could be an increase in employment as companies raise their capacity to deal with new business. This was reflected in March’s PMIs, with the West Midlands showing employment growth above the UK overall.

The Sterling effective exchange rate has fallen 10.4% since the Brexit referendum and has contributed to tightening inflationary pressures, with the CPI reaching 2.3% in February, the strongest since September 2013. According to official data, producer input prices have risen 19.1% over the same period, and has fed through into producer output prices, which have increased 10.7%. Transport, especially fuel prices were the principal contributory factors. Similar price pressures were evident in the recent PMIs, and remained acute in March. Manufacturing, construction, and services PMIs all reported increases in input prices in March. These pressures were evident in the regional PMIs, with input and output costs rising faster in the Midlands than the UK overall, and many businesses reporting that squeezed profit margins were causing them to pass on costs to clients.

Corin Crane, Chief Executive of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, commented: “The latest West Midlands PMI highlights the need for an effective regionally-focussed Industrial Strategy. The strength of new orders and rising outstanding business demonstrates the need for infrastructure and skills investment in the region. The current capacity constraints appear to be having an impact on future growth prospects and potential gains in productivity performance."

Consumers in Milton Keynes are the big spenders on second-hand cars, shelling out two-thirds more than the UK average, according to research carried out by a leading car finance provider. looked at the average loan taken out over the past 12 months to purchase a used car in major towns and cities across the UK, and found that car owners in Milton Keynes borrowed an average of £18,225, compared to the UK average of £10,962.

The research revealed that the average car loan taken out, varied by as much as 118% depending on where you live in the country. At the lower end, used car purchasers in Ipswich and Norwich borrowed an average of just £8,360 and £8,466 respectively.

The Midlands featured heavily in the list of the UK’s biggest borrowers. Four out of five towns and cities, where consumers borrowed the most to buy a used car, were in that region of the country. The average loan size in Coventry was £13,186 over the past year, the second highest after Milton Keynes.

Former England cricketer and newly appointed Sports Director at Warwickshire County Cricket Club, Ashley Giles, is the latest to join QEHB Charity at Velo Birmingham, a 100-mile closed-road bicycle race that is arriving in the second city on Sunday 24 September.

For Ashley, there was no question as to which charity he wanted to raise money for.

In 2006 he rushed back from the Ashes in Australia, where he was part of the England team, to be with his wife Stine, who had just been diagnosed with a brain tumour.

After successful removal of the tumour and further treatment, in 2012 they were both devastated to learn that two more tumours had been discovered, which required immediate attention.

He said: “The treatment Stine received was so new that she was one of the first people to go through it – she was treated on the new TomoTherapy machine bought by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Charity just weeks before. Without it, there were few options of treatment left.  Stine experienced first-hand how important research and new treatments are so promised herself that if everything went well and her prognosis was good, she would endeavour to raise money to support brain tumour research in the future... and so the Giles' Trust was born”

Thankfully, Stine’s pioneering treatment worked, and, although she continues to have regular checks and scans, she is back enjoying life with her family. Along with Ashley, Stine set up the Giles’ Trust at QEHB Charity which funds research and support to patients with brain tumours. The Giles’ Trust has funded a clinical research nurse who helps Professor Cruickshank to double the number of patients taking part in brain tumour research at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.

Ashley said: “As a cricketer by trade I am excited to try my hand at a new challenge, and cycling 100 miles in 24 hours will be just that – a challenge!

“The work that goes on at QEHB is fantastic, and much of it wouldn’t be possible without QEHB Charity, which raises money for extra research, facilities and equipment over and above what the NHS can provide.

“I hope people dig deep and feel inspired to sponsor my challenge, and more importantly, to help make a difference for future patients like my wife who may, one day, need the fantastic support of QEHB.”

Keeping physical active is vital to maintaining a healthy heart. However, last week the British Heart Foundation revealed new statistics which showed that 1.8million adults in the West Midlands are failing to meet the recommended level of physical activity, significantly increasing their risk of heart disease and early death.

In the UK alone physical inactivity causes one in ten premature deaths from coronary heart disease, and one in six deaths overall. So it’s never been more important to get your heart pumping.

But getting active doesn’t have to be difficult. With the British Heart Foundation’s MyMarathon challenge you can complete the 26.2 miles in your own time, whether it’s over 4 hours, 4 days or 4 weeks. Run to work every morning, jog during your lunchbreaks or run laps around the park in the evenings; you decide the place and you decide the pace.

More than 30,000 people of all fitness levels took part in MyMarathon last year, raising over £1million for the BHF’s life saving heart research. Why not take on the challenge this May and help give your physical activity a boost.

Every pound raised could help BHF accelerate the right against heart disease, and make a real difference the 655,800 people locally that are living with its burden.

You would be hard pressed to find someone who didn't know the name 'Christian Dior' or the fact that he was French, but did you know that the fashion legend was born and raised in Normandy? To celebrate the Dior fashion house's seventieth anniversary this year, the Christian Dior Museum in Granville, the very house in which Dior grew up, is hosting a new exhibition called Christian Dior and Granville: Roots of a Legend, which opened on 8 April will run until 24 September 2017.

On 12 February 1947, Christian Dior gave his first show. It was an unprecedented success in the history of fashion design, instantly making the fashion house the epitome of French haute couture. As part of the 70th anniversary of the Dior fashion house, the Christian Dior Museum is offering visitors a new perspective on Dior's formative years in his home town of Granville.

The exhibition sheds new light on the great fashion designer's life and how his family home in Granville played a key role in inspiring his work. Dior's attachment to his Normandy roots is evoked in the exhibition, and visitors are taken on a historical and stylistic journey. Rekindling the memory of the designer's childhood paradise, the exhibition features around 60 haute couture dresses dating back as far as 1947; both the artistic licence of Dior himself and subsequent directors, who have all remained faithful to Dior's vision, maintaining a connection to his preferred themes and colours.

Salem, Massachusetts may be known globally as the home of the notorious witch trials in the 17th century; however Scotland has had its own share of stories of witchcraft.

This year marks the 420th anniversary of the Great Witch Hunt of Scotland, which took place between March and October 1597 and was instigated by James VI. According to the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft, more than 3,800 people, both men and women, were accused of witchcraft in Scotland during the period 1563 to 1736, which is when the Witchcraft Act was enforced in Scotland*. It is believed that two-thirds of those accused were executed.

Records of Scotland's witch trials shed light on a dark period in Scottish history, exposing a culture of fear and panic that cast a cloud over much of Scotland and Europe.

Many of Scotland's regions have links to this time with fascinating stories and places to explore during the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017. Visitors to Scotland can pay homage to the many locations which are linked to witchcraft, as well as some tours that are taking place this year.

Dog owners are being warned to keep chocolate treats away from their pets this Easter as new figures from the British Veterinary Association (BVA) reveal two in three vets treated at least one case of chocolate poisoning last Easter.

BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey, which polled over 1,600 UK vets, shows a marked increase in the number of vets seeing at least one dog with chocolate poisoning compared to the same period in 2015, with the highest number of incidences happening in the south of England.

Chocolate can be highly poisonous to pets as it contains theobromine, a naturally occurring chemical found in cocoa beans, which, while fine for humans, is harmful to dogs and other animals. 

British Veterinary Association President Gudrun Ravetz said:

“Easter is great fun for the whole family, but unfortunately dogs like to join in too. With their keen sense of smell, they will easily win Easter egg hunts so wherever chocolate is being stored – inside or outside – make sure it is pet proof and out of reach of inquisitive noses to avoid an emergency trip to the vet. Also remind any visitors over the Easter holidays to keep their chocolate out of the dog’s reach too.

“Over the bank holiday weekend veterinary practice opening hours may vary, so make sure you know how to contact your local vet during Easter. If you suspect your pet has eaten chocolate we’d advise contacting your local vet immediately.”

BVA's survey also highlighted that many pet owners are having to make urgent yet preventable trips to the vets over the Easter holidays, with 11% of vets who saw dogs with chocolate poisoning treating five or more cases.

The effects of chocolate poisoning in dogs, which are most commonly affected amongst pets, usually appear within 12 hours and can last up to three days. First signs can include excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhoea and restlessness. These symptoms can then develop into hyperactivity, tremors, abnormal heart rate, hyperthermia and rapid breathing. In severe cases, dogs can experience fits and heartbeat irregularities and some cases can result in coma or death. If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, please contact your local vet immediately.


It marks the beginning of the end of 52 years of hurt, as The Stag Company has announced plans to host the first Bubble Football World Cup in London in May 2018, with the final set to take place on Wembley's hallowed turf.

The hunt is now on to find the first English national team, with applications open for the qualification tournament which will be held in London on 25 June.

The sport, which sees footballers don inflated zorb-style body suits, originated in 2011 on Norwegian television show Golden Goal. In 2013 ex-professional footballer Dan Chillingworth saw its potential for the UK market and set-up Xtreme Events to bring Bubble Football to the nation.

Rob Hill, The Stag Company CEO & Founder of the Bubble Football World Cup said: “In the last few years, Bubble football has captured the imaginations of thousands of people. It's seriously fun to play, a great test of skill and hilarious to watch.

“With the English national team being rolled out of major tournaments on a regular basis, the Bubble Football World Cup could be the thing to end all those years of hurt next May. Every five-a-side team or bunch of mates should think about entering for the chance to represent their country.”

With 12 international teams already signed up, including Brazil, South Africa, Finland, Germany, Scotland and Republic of Ireland, organisers hope to attract even more international talent to take on the new England team come May 2018.

Neville Nania, Head of Business Development from event partners Xtreme Events, the UK's leading Bubble Football hosts, added: “Over 55,000 people are expected to play Bubble Football up and down the UK this year. Our team have hosted and refereed thousands of matches and can testify that there is some genuine sporting talent out there just waiting to be unearthed.”

The USA currently ranks as the biggest proponents of Bubble Football with the National Association of Bubble Soccer boasting 39 leagues, each with 8-12 teams competing.

The Bubble Football World Cup tournament is set to take place throughout the weekend of 19 May 2018, where the final will be hosted at Wembley on Sunday 20 May.

Young architects, city planners and engineers are showcasing their dynamic artwork as part of a schools’ art showcase at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

Students from the innovative West Midlands Construction University College (MCUTC), a new school specialising in construction and the Application of IT in the Built Environment, are exhibiting etchings, pen and ink drawings and photography at the Lichfield Street gallery.

Among images on show are two copies of pen and ink drawings of the college’s Springfield Brewery site campus created by Year 10 students. The detailed drawings were presented to the HRH Duke of Gloucester and Lord Baker at the campus’ recent opening.

Other pieces include highly detailed and photorealistic hand drawn pencil portraits and a large photography pieces on display, the work of Year 10 photography students, records the sense of place with shots of at the listed Springfield Brewery Campus.

The exhibition is part of the gallery’s Young Artists programme, which celebrates the work of students from various schools across the city.

Councillor John Reynolds, Cabinet Member for City Economy, said: “The standard of work in this showcase is extremely high and well worth celebrating. Well done to all the students taking part and good luck in their future endeavours.”

The runs until May 23 in the Sense and Sculpture gallery located on the first floor of the gallery.

WMCUTC is a new school, which specialises in Construction and the Application of IT in the Built Environment providing a high quality technical education for 14-19 year olds.

Students can follow three pathways in the school comprising Design, Build and Innovate. Design strand students look to careers such as architecture, interior design, town planning and landscape design, although all students, whether aiming to become civil engineers or software developers study a core curriculum including a design element.

Green Lane Masjid, a mosque and community centre in Birmingham, has donated £1.2million to Human Appeal, a leading humanitarian aid charity in the UK. The money will go to providing flour for starving people inside Syria and to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon during the winter.

Human Appeal’s flour distribution project is renowned throughout the international aid community as one of the best in the world, it feeds 200,000 Syrians a month. Intentional organisations like the UN have worked with Human Appeal on this project.

The total donated is £1,234,000, mainly by members of Birmingham’s Muslim community, this was raised through regular collections in the mosque, through fundraising dinners, organised street collections and many other methods of raising money.

Othman Moqbel, Human Appeal’s Chief Executive, says of Green Lane Masjid’s support for Human Appeal “We are very grateful for Green Lane Mosque’s support. £1.2million is the equivalent of 4,113 tonnes of flour, which could feed up to 832,000 Syrians.

“This week has seen the plight of Syrians recapture international attention, so money to alleviate their suffering is needed more than ever – especially such a staggering amount”.

“We can’t emphasis enough on the importance of distributing flour to the bakeries of Syria. 9.8 million Syrians are classed as food insecure, with 6.8 million severely food insecure. Food production in Syria has also hit a record low with the 2015/2016 cropping season at the lowest ever. The wheat harvest estimate is approximately 1.5 million tonnes which, 55% lower than the pre-conflict average.

“Bread constitutes a major part of the Syrian diet, however, poor harvest, price hikes in agricultural inputs and loss of agricultural infrastructure has increased the price of bread by 87% in public bakeries. Shares of household expenditure on food has increased tremendously with families spending more than half of their incomes on food.

“Human Appeal began delivering flour to hard-to-reach and besieged areas of Syrian from 2011, today we have reached 3.7million people with our flour and the feedback we get is always positive and they are grateful to receive the food because most of them don’t have the 300 Syrian Pounds needed to buy a bag of bread. Human Appeal currently provides the bread for about 208,000 beneficiaries every month. For an average of 17 bakeries each month, we provide the flour to keep them in operation, giving their staff a regular income and liberating them from being dependant on humanitarian aid.”

Meet four of the runners proudly representing their home nations as part of this year’s Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10K featuring the Commonwealth Run.

Organisers of the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10k have created a distinctly Commonwealth theme at the event to raise the profile of the city’s bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

And runners representing Canada, Jamaica, England and Wales, gathered at Birmingham’s Council House in Victoria Square to meet each other for the first time.

Taking place on Sunday, 30th April, the popular city centre run is now less than a month away and will feature elite teams from as many Commonwealth nations as possible, with 20 countries now signed up.

Meeting for the first time were runners Alison Fox (Canada), from Nottingham, Thomas Glave (Jamaica), from Birmingham, Graham Williams (Wales), from Smethwick and Adam Guy (England), from Birmingham.

They were joined by Birmingham-born Ian Stewart, one of the world’s leading distance runners between the late 1960s and mid-1970s, who flew the flag for Scotland.

Admin worker Alison, who hails from Ontario but now lives in Nottingham, has lost a remarkable 11 stone in weight since she started running following a family bereavement.

Alison’s grandfather was born in Scotland and after completing a study-abroad year in Leeds in 2011 she applied for a UK ancestry visa to allow her to live and work in the UK.

“I only started running two years ago when I was trying to lose weight,” said the 29-year-old. “I discovered I really enjoyed it. Before, I couldn’t run five-feet, let alone 10K!

“I’ve now lost just under 11 stone and I recently completed my first marathon.

“I’m really excited to be representing Canada at the Great Birmingham 10K,” she added.

“One of my running heroes is the Canadian marathon record holder Lanni Marchant and I asked her for some advice before my first full marathon and she even congratulated me after I finished it.”

Liz McColgan, one of Britain's most distinguished athletes, will be jetting into Birmingham from her Qatar base to take part in the Commonwealth Run as she captains the Scotland team.

A two-time gold medallist over 10,000 metres at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1986 and Auckland in 1990, as well as winning the 1991 World Championships and silver at the 1988 Olympic Games, she achieved further gold medal glory at the 1992 World Half Marathon Championships, 1991 New York City Marathon, 1992 Tokyo Marathon and 1996 London Marathon.

Liz will be among the 7,000 people running, jogging or walking this year’s Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10K on Sunday, April 30.

“With a population of over a million people in the city and an array of Commonwealth nationalities, we’re looking forward to a spectacular day in Birmingham,” said Great Run Communications Director, David Hart.

After 18 months of conservation and structural repair works, Guernsey's 'Little Chapel' is fully open to the public as of Saturday 8 April 2017.

Thought to be the smallest chapel in the world and one of Guernsey's key tourist attractions, the Little Chapel has been hiding behind scaffolding since October 2015 while it has undergone re-stabilisation works, reinforcement of retaining walls, and roof and spire repairs.  The work has included using historic photographs from Guernsey archives to re-apply original decoration, repair damaged crosses, and restore the chapel's eminent mosaic finish.

The chapel, which measures just nine feet long by five feet wide, can only accommodate a few people at a time and its walls are unusually made up of thousands of fragments of china, seashells and pebbles. Nestled in Guernsey's inland parish of St. Andrews, the current chapel is over 90 years old, built by Brother Deodat, an exiled French monk, to emulate the sacred grotto at Lourdes. It had survived 90 years with virtually no damage, even during the WWII German occupation.

The project has so far cost £180,000, while the overall anticipated investment will be around half a million pounds once new flooring and lighting have been installed. A re-ordering of the beautiful landscape around the chapel will also take place to provide better access and viewpoints, as well as more extensive planting of trees and shrubs. A small interpretation building set within the landscaping will tell the story of the Little Chapel, its construction and restoration, and provide toilets for visitors. Guernsey's CCD Chartered Architects and Interior Design donated their time and expertise for the repair and restoration of the Little Chapel at no charge.

The full opening of the chapel aptly coincides with the first day of the Channel Islands Heritage Festival, which celebrates the history of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm with a series of events, activities, tours and exclusive openings over five weeks from 8 April 2017. The chapel is free to visit, however donations are essential for its continued repairs and horticultural enhancement.