Independent Businesses in the Midlands

There’s never been a better time to buy from independent businesses.

The Midlands is fast becoming one of the most popular places for entrepreneurs to launch their start-ups and businesses.

Each year at the Bishop Castle Arts Festival, we’re astounded by the ever growing number of local folks who have taken their hobby or passion and turned it into a succcessful business. We thought we’d take some time to highlight some of our favourite business based near Bishop’s Castle, in Birmingham and the rest of the Midlands. You can either seek out these business’ stores for yourself, or visit their sites to find out how else you can support them.

These are currently the favourite independent businesses for our writers to frequent:

Hillers Farm Shop

There’s something so wonderfully British about a Farm Shop and when it’s done well it can make for a gloriously wholesome (and expensive!) day out. Winner of a prestigious Countryside Alliance Award in 2016, Hillers compiles everything that’s brilliant about rural Britain and dares you not to leave with a car boot full of delicious produce and lovely home decor. Come for the day so you can have a stroll around the garden, a bite to eat at the restaurant and grab a few bits from the farm shop on your way our.

Matrix Virtual Reality


When you’re networking events in Birmingham success is never guaranteed, even more risky is opening a business that has never been tried before. That’s exactly what Matrix Virtual Reality have done and so far it looks like it’s working! The Virtual Reality industry is a burgeoning one and the friendly chaps at Matrix have cottoned on early, opening the first Virtual Reality arcade in the Midlands. Using the popular HTC Vive headset, players can enter into virtual experiences of all kinds and get a taste of the future of gaming!

Green Cow Kitchens

Fancy a taste of local produce that delivers on flavour as well as fine-dining standards? Green Cow Kitchens does exactly that. This one-of-a-kind restaurant is open for evenings a week, offering diners a tasting menu that changes monthly in response to the seasons. The chefs here have the utmost respect for their ingredients, they source their produce as locally as possible and then task themselves with finding new ways of presenting them each and every month.

Swordfish Records

Opened in 1979 as ‘Rockers’, Swordfish Records has been providing a place for the music lovers of Birmingham to listen, buy and sell records ever since and although they’ve moved location a couple of times, their wide selection of records has piqued the interest of famous faces from the world of music including Robert Plant, Mark Ronson, Neil Diamond and Jamie Callum. As well as selling records, they’ve also released music through their own label helping to bring a new generation of Midlands music makers to prominence.

Purity Brewing Co.

Although rugby fans might associate the Purity Brewing Co. with the London Wasps, this well-established company has always had its home in Great Alne. Started by Paul Halsey and James Minkin in 2005, they set out to create beer that wouldn’t compromise on flavour or consistency, whilst also committing doing business in an ethical fashion free of prejudice. Although they only have three beers to their name, their pioneering approach to their work has made them a favourite amongst the UK’s beer drinkers.

Summer Music Festival Round-Up

No Glasto? No Worries.

Sunshine, Beer and Music: These are the three known quantities required for a successful music festival.

Over the last few decades the British Music Festival scene has become one of the most recognised in the world. Whilst stateside shindigs such as Coachella and Burning Man festival might attract some of the biggest A-list attendees, the UK is home to festivals that far pre-date these and have a whole heritage unto themselves. As the culture of the music festival has grown in popularity over the years, more and more events have cropped up to compete for the attention of summertime revellers.

If you haven’t clocked it yet, Glastonbury Festival is taking a year off this year, so whilst the well-trodden fields in Pilton get a chance to recover, we thought we’d clue you in on the rival UK festivals looking to take your hard-earned cash this summer:

All Points East

A brand new 10-day festival finds its way to London’s Victoria Park this year with some of the buzziest, hippest acts taking to the stage. There’s something for everyone at this groundbreaking festival, including a traditional three day festival with LCD Soundsystem, Bjork and The XX taking headline slots. From the 28th to the 31st families and fun-loving individuals will be able to make the most of free activities and entry to the festival site, whilst one-off events will be taking place between the 1st and the 3rd June with acts such as The National, The War On Drugs and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds taking to the stage.

TRNSMT

After Scottish music fans bemoaned the loss of eight festivals in the space of a year, they could at least be consoled with the announcement of a new series of one-day festivals under the name TNSMT Festival. Similar to All Points East, TRNSMT offers several days of entertainment with some undeniably massive acts gracing the Glasgow Green including: Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, Queen + Adam Lambert, The Darkness and Stereophonics. Tickets start at around £60 for the day and whilst you can never guarantee that the sun will be shining in Scotland, at this time of year it’s a pretty safe bet.

Green Man

If you’re looking for a fun, friendly festival that is nestled within one of the UK’s most stunning locations then Green Man is the one for you. The Brecon Beacons are the backdrop for this very special festival featuring a music lineup that boasts well-respected alternative acts from a variety of genres. Fleet Foxes, fresh off the success of their 2017 album Crack-Up headline one night in addition to Aussie prog-rockers King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Black Angels and Grizzly Bear. Aside from stellar music, you’ll also be able to make the most of a strong literature, comedy, film and visual arts selection.

Beautiful Days

Now in its 16th year incarnation, this award-winning festival is tucked away in a charming nook of Devon and consistently takes home gongs for its grass roots organisation and family-friendly appeal. Organised by 90s folk rockers The Levellers (who headline the final night each year) this is a small festival that sells out each and every year, so if you want to catch the likes of the Manic Street Preachers, Nadine Shah and Feeder you’ll need to book your tickets soon! In addition to music, there’s also a good range of comedy acts, theatre and a number of real ale bars selling local ale from Otter Brewery.

Major Music Moments of 2017

The Defining Acts That Shaped Music in 2017

Yes, I’m well aware that we are now a sixth of the way into 2018…

…but, unlike other writers in the industry, I prefer to give it a couple of months to offer up my retrospective looks at the year gone by, rather than jumping the gun halfway through December in a half-hearted attempt to dominate the search results.

Although it might seem rather arrogant to claim one particular year as more eventful or iconic than any other – it’s important to remember that every now and agailightning strikes several times, causing a cacophony of thunder storms that amounts to a serious force for change in the music industry.

This kind of change can be brought about by any number of social or cultural factors, whether it be a certain President coming into power or social-justice issue coming to the forefront after decades of denial. All of these factors combine to create a shift in consumption patterns that, when looked at in restrospect, reveal the rising genres and power players that are set to be the soundtrack to future generations.

British Invasion Mk 2

There was a time somewhere in the 90s when the ‘breaking America’ was a legitimate challenge. Not only did A&R guys struggle forcing records in the hands of their US counterparts, but they then had to force a disparate America to actually buy the damn things. You could say that the distribution of new music has got somewhat easier in the 21st Century and this has directly benefited our British stars – catapulting them into the American mainstream and onto worldwide fame. Considering the successes that have greeted Ed Sheerhan (the No. 1 artist on the US Billboard chart in 2017), Adele (No. 1 for 2016) and One Direction (No. 1 in 2015) it looks like America are more eager than ever for British imports.

The Domination of Black Music

Despite our plucky Brits shaking things up last year, the genre that received the biggest boost in popularity can more easily be defined by the race of the musicians behind the songs. For lack of a better word, thanks to landmark releases from artists such as Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar and Solange, ‘Black music’ became a major force for political and cultural change last year. It’s been over two decades since music created solely by African American artists has been so in vogue and rarely has this work been so well acclaimed. Social awareness has raised interest in R&B, Hip-Hop and Soul music making these artists more in demand than ever.

Rising Stars of American Hipster Indie

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the white-pasty flip-side to the rise in contemporary R&B music, namely the slow-burn ascendance of a number of Alternative bands that are finally starting to reap the benefits of years of touring and recording. Baltimore born synth-pop stalwarts Future Islands made waves with their fifth studio album The Far Field climbing higher on both the US Billboard and UK Charts than ever before, whilst Philadelphia’s The War on Drugs broke in at No. 10 with their new record A Deeper Understanding in addition to winning the Grammy for Best Rock Album. Despite critics claiming that Rock was dead some time ago, it would appear that these committed groups are proving them otherwise…