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.

Quick summary

April 16, 2007

Huh! It’s already Sunday and I haven’t been able to blog as much as I would have liked. First there is so much going on at the same time, and then, it’s true what general secretary Jeremy Dear said at the new media meeting: It’s actually not possible to do three things at the same time, even if you want to.

At least not if you want to sleep occasionally.

So, I have focused on pictures this ADM, as there were many other blog reports from fellow student delegates.

So watch this space, as there will be some late additions to the blog over the next days, such as the edited audio recordings of some fringe meetings and some more in depth reports of the last days.

There are still some audio recordings in the brew, such as of the Latin America fringe events, the Media Workers against the War, and a few of the speeches at the new media event till the batteries died.

The dates for the next ADM have just been publicised on the big screen in the hall.

The ADM deadlines for 2008 are:

Closing date to motions: 26th of November 2007
Closing date for confirmations, amendments and delegate nominations:
1st of February 2008
Registration closing date: 14th of March 2008
Next ADM: 3rd-6th April 2008, Europa Hotel, Belfast


April 13, 2007

I arrived in Birmingham on Wednesday. I quickly settled in and started to get to know some of the others at the conference.

I always pictured journalists as people wearing suits, glasses and speaking in a very sophisticated manner, but I soon realised this was not the case. They were all pretty relaxed and down to earth.

It is the first time I am attending a conference this size and I have found it really interesting. The first day we mostly spoke about the exploitation of students on work experience. I recorded the event where we were discussing this issue with the secretary general and others. I will try to post the audio on this site.

My personal experience is that my employer was really good to me, I even got paid a little for the work I did. I phoned newsdesks, updated the database for the company, loads of interesting stuff.

I also went to the meeting in the church on Thursday evening, I exchanged contact details with some of the organisers.

In the evening I went out for a few drinks which were so so so so so cheap £1.25 a pint(!) for a Carling. In the end I could not resist and went over the limit, so I had pretty mixed feelings about getting up at 6am for the breakfast meeting with the Birmingham Post.

Anyways I did so in the end, and chatted with the Mayoress of Birmingham, listened to the Deputy Chairman of Ofcom and – most importantly – had breakfast which I desperately needed…

I then went on a walking tour to visit the local BBC and ITV headquarters. We walked around the studios and newsrooms, basically all around the building.

I arrived back at the Holiday Inn around 12pm, just in time for the appointment of the Honorary Members of the NUJ.

We had lunch at one again, now I am writing this blog thing and I am going to have tea with the Mayoress again this afternoon in about an hour so I better get going.