Saturday morning: What a Gem- tour, Part 2

April 18, 2007

The next stop was a visit at the contemporary jeweller shop of Lucy Ann’s. She combines handmade lace textiles with jewellery making, using a combination of metallic and silk threads, fine wires and tiny inserts of coloured silk fabrics and specialises in Bridal wear, decorated with tiny seed beads abd swarovski crystals.

By that time we were a little bit tired and so we stopped for a quick coffee before moving on to the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter. Originally it was the Smith & Peppers wholesale jewellery manufacturing company, which was founded in 1899 by Charles Smith and Edwin Pepper. Birmingham had and has still the largest and biggest Assay Office in the world, we were told by our tour guide Sarah. 4000 people are still said to work in the jewellery quarter, although in the past it was about 60 – 70 000 people. An apprenticeship lasted 7 years then.
On avwerage, Jewellers earned more 20 years ago than now, she explained. But still 70 % of the UK’s jewellery is produced here.

In 1981 the family members running Smith& Peppers retired, they had no heirs and none of the other relatives wanted to take over the business. Nobody wanted to buy the business either, so they just closed it one day and left everything as it was, in the hope there would be a possibility to continue production later when the recession was overcome.
In 1990 the Birmingham Council bought the premises to restore it as a museum.
Smith and Peppers sold their products via a wholesale catalogue and specialised in “bamboo bangles”. In the WW2 they continued to make jewellery in the afternoon and air pressure parts for planes in the morning.

The symbol for Birmingham jewellery is the anchor, but it might not necessarily be on the jewellery, but the Smith & Pepper hallmark should be. The hallmark for Edinburgh is the castle, for London the Lion and Sheffield originally had a crown before it was changed to a rose. The symbols were decided by tossing a coin, so that’s why Birmingham got the anchor without being situated at the sea.

Smith and Pepper never made any ring as the market was saturated, but they specialised in bracelets, earrrings and brooches.
The design doesn’t look aged at all, as the 1914 design came back in fashion. The bangles are light and hollow, and Sarah demonstrated how they were made at the workbench. The factory originally was also a family home till 1961, after when they converted the buildings. The white tiles on the outside of the building were used to reflect the light into the work space.

Our group was able to try out some of the tools and after a demonstration of the more heavy equipment we were able to eat our free sandwiches in the neighbouring cafe.
Walking back to the NUJ conference, leaving the rest of the group to further explore Mathew Boulton’s Soho House, home of the Lunar Society, St Pauls Square and the Royal Birmingham Society of Arts in the afternoon.

Visit the NUJ ADM photo website

April 16, 2007

Throughout this year’s ADM student attendees have been taking pictures and posting them to a Flickr webpage – this will be added to in the following days.

Go to to see more (there’s also a live stream of new additions on the right hand column of this blog)

Rosaline Kelly’s dead presidents society

April 15, 2007

Rosaline KellyClick here to hear Rosaline Kelly’s history of previous NUJ presidents.

The Irish Student Delegation experience

April 13, 2007

As a student in University College Cork, I have to admit I didn’t know much about the NUJ before attending the student conference yesterday – apart from the fact that they were a trade union who supported journalists in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. Unfortunately, there is not strong (or any, to be honest) NUJ representation in Cork, which myself and my fellow Cork student delegate Ian Power now hope to change.

I am a member of the Journalism Society and Committee in my university, holding the position of events coordinator, though really doing a bit of everything. The society is newly established, and we held the first ever journalism conference in UCC in November of last year.

Here comes the recruitment bit: for anyone who would be interested in attending our second conference (November 15th 2007) please, please, please get in contact with me so I can organise a ticket for you! I’ve met so many fantastic people since I arrived and everyone has been so interesting, it would fantastic if you wanted to attend.

Student bonding

All student delegates who had to travel from anywhere but London had a great chance to bond yesterday!

We arrived at 11am, the initial start time for the student conference, and were swiftly sent out to occupy ourselves while the poor Londoners were forced to negotiate the mess that was the rail system.

Being a girl, I quickly teamed up with a student delegate from Cornwall, Lucy, and hit the shops – like any professional journalist would do, I’m sure. 

After maxing out the credit cards we came back to more waiting, which was actually quite fun as more people had arrived. 

We finally began at 2pm and the organizers had a lot of interesting topics to discuss with us. The business of the day seemed to be  over quickly and so the drinking began.

Surprisingly it was a quiet night – in fact, I think our facilitators had a later night than we did!

But before you lose faith in the younger generation’s ability to relax, know that the plan for the rest of the weekend seems to include Oceana and copious amounts of drinking.


At the ADM this morning the President and the General Secretary spoke. As the president’s comments have already been discussed I’ll briefly go into what Jeremy said for anyone who missed it.

The secretary expressed his pride for the NUJ members who recently took strike action at the BBC, in a successful action against compulsory redundancy there.

He went on to describe further strike action, including the recent strike within the Daily and Sunday Telegraph against making Saturday a compulsory work day for their journalists.

Mr. Dear holds the position that NUJ members must show solidarity against cut backs in the future, as by working together journalists have a real ability to make a difference and can “once more become a force to be reckoned with”.

Heroes, breakfast and OFCOM

April 13, 2007

What’s the one thing that most people would rather avoid at 7:00am after not enough sleep. After convening with colleagues I can safely says it’s the prospect of having a camera thrust into your face with a relative minor hero to your right. That’s the start that I received after attending the Birmingham at the forefront of the digital media age breakfast hosted by The Birmingham Post this morning.

When I arrived, which was slightly earlier than published admittedly, I was confronted with not only Mark Reeves, Editor of The Birmingham Post but also personal hero Adrian Goldberg. Many a time at uni, which is based in the midlands, I have been submitted to his dulcet tones and political views on the Politics show and has become somewhat of a hero in house filled with male trainee journalists.

I was awe struck but what shocked me more was about to follow, Phillip Graff from OFCOM spoke about the intriguing subject of a news PSP. No not another high-tech version of the popular computer games machine but an idea to start a new Public Service Publisher.

This was news to me. But Mr Graff, calmly and collectively talked us all through it, simplistic enough for student boy here to understand but complex to keep even the most versed on the edge of their seat. Content will be spread over multi-platform, which will give the opportunity to have a product that can be ‘made, mixed and mashed’ as Graff quotes.

All this comes at a price though and the estimated 50-100 million seemed to some to be way short of the mark. If you want to have a quality product then you need to invest in the idea to which Graff retorted ‘’This is a new organisation and everything is up for debate’.

With the digital switchover-taking place in 2008, new ideas and opinions are constantly being voiced on the future of media consumption and if anyone else wants to add then OFCOM are more than welcome to hear and discuss all matters.

So an informative talk, debate and I got the chance to meet a hero, that’s what the ADM must surely be about to students.

More information is available from

I don’t want a Holiday Inn – The Sun

April 12, 2007

First impressions can be misleading. But sometimes they ring true.

So when I arrived at the Holiday Inn about 1pm on Wednesday to be told I couldn’t check in because it was “more convenient” for the hotel staff to check all the NUJ staff and members in together in the main hall at 3pm, I bit my tongue. More convenient for whom? Not me for sure, I was in my motorbike gear and could not change until I had a room and could unpack. I also need a shower.

This attitude continued through to dinner where the chef refused to serve, saying it was “more convenient” if everyone helped themselves. “More convenient for whom?” asked a colleague. “Well certainly more convenient for me,” he answered.

 I found a dead, promiscuous cat in my room. It had discovered to its cost that there was not enough room for swinging.

Birmingham City Council had signed up local train company Chiltern to ferry NUJ members from the capital to the country’s second city for free. There is a band and a welcoming party organised at Moor Street station to greet them. Trouble is, the trains have all been cancelled and everyone now has to transfer to Virgin and arrive at New Street. The President is still being asked to go to Moor Street to have his photo taken with the band and lcoal dignitaries. Extras – to make up the numbers – are being recruited to fill out the photo. Never let a fact get in the way of a good story.

The net result is we have less than half the students expected so the student conference has been delayed.

And one student has been told not to bother coming. Called on his mobile to find out about the delay, NUJ staff discovered he had only just woken up and not even left his East London home. Even with a fair wind, he was never going to make Birmingham before the end of the student conference. He still wanted to come for the freebie weekend. I hear most students are not like that these days, but he sounds like a typical journalist.