We need to talk about Brexit.

Dubai.jpg

I’ve been reflecting on the Emirates decision to cancel one of their three daily flights to Dubai. It’s disappointing to read negative press about Birmingham Airport. I’ve enjoyed sharing monthly reports about record passenger numbers over the past 17 months. 

I’ve been to Dubai five times in the last ten years, flying from Birmingham. Dubai is an extraordinary destination. Its the bench mark of excellence for customer service and visitor expectation. It delivers ‘wow’ like nowhere else. 

It’s expensive, you pay a lot but you get a lot. The price of Dubai has never been an issue but Brexit changed everything. Strong sterling allowed many Brits to live it large overseas. In 2013, I received over 100 Rupees to the pound in India. In 2014, I purchased 1.4 Euros to the pound. In 2015, I got 4.5 Turkish Lira to the pound. 

The decision to leave the EU saw the pound crash. For those who don’t venture overseas, it made little immediate impact. For those who travel overseas for business or holiday, the effect was painful and immediate. 

I perceive Dubai as the one destination falling out of reach. The exchange rate was over seven UAE Dhirams to the pound on our first visit there as a family in 2007. Our most recent visit after the decision to leave the EU, offered close to four Dhirams to the pound. 

I spent ten days in Dubai with my family in August 2016. The reality of the exchange rate  was ordering two milk shakes and a bowl of fries poolside for my children, I calculated the bill on my iphone after signing for the bill, £24. Ouch. 

Post Brexit, Dubai is incredibly expensive for British visitors. Throw in the introduction of 5% VAT in 2019 and I worry about the two remaining flights from Birmingham. 

We are determined to deliver the will of the people. It’s important to understand the will of the people comes with consequences. Fingers crossed, the decision by Emirates to cancel one of their flights between Birmingham and Dubai is not a precursor of things to come. 

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham, a trustee of LoveBrum, a columnist for The Asian Today newspaper and blogger for Downtown in Birmingham.

@jassansi      07930 837 505      sansi1@btinternet.com

 

 

Street Food

Jas Sansi visits Gateway to India in Birmingham’s Westside BID and writes about the explosion of Street Food in Brum. 

004

Pretty safe to safe, Street Food has become the buzz word for eating out in 2017. I’ve enjoyed three Indian Restaurants in Birmingham in recent weeks, opened to deliver this very concept. It’s curious, eating Indian food in restaurants has reverted to the very origin of those in search of a meal, eating out at pop up stalls. 

I remember visiting my dad’s family home in Punjab back in the 1970s. It was a long time ago in many ways and not just in the passage of time. We flew from Heathrow, a name barely a decade old since the change from London Airport and a year after the Piccadilly Line of the Underground unveiled a station at what was to become the world’s busiest airport. 

One of my first memories of landing in Delhi was the sheer number of people, noise, sounds, bustle and chaos. Exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure for a six year old struggling with his first taste of jet lag. 

A seven hour train journey out of the capital awaited us. We rattled across the dusty plains of a country that had fought and achieved independence only thirty years earlier. I spent much of the journey fighting sleep and staring out of the windowless frames onto the parallel Great Trunk Road. 

The travel writer, Paul Theroux had made the opposite journey from Amritsar to Delhi four years earlier and wrote about it in The Great Railway Bazaar; ‘Indian railway stations are wonderful places for killing time in, and they are like scale models of Indian society, with its division of caste, class and sex: SECOND-CLASS LADIES’ WAITING ROOM, BEARERS’ ENTRANCE, THIRD-CLASS EXIT, FIRST-CLASS TOILET, VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT, NON-VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT, RETIRING ROOMS, CLOAKROOM, and the whole range of occupations on office signboards, from the tiny one saying SWEEPER, to the neatest of all, STATION-MASTER.’

Disembarking at Jallandhar Railway Station after dark, we transferred to one of the few motor vehicles seen since leaving the capital. The shopping area near to the family home was cloaked in darkness. Illumination offered only from oil lamps swinging on the carts of peanut sellers and snack stalls; my first introduction to Street Food in all its raw setting.  It would prove to be a life long love affair.

Gateway to India underneath Jimmy Spices on Broad Street is the latest Indian restaurant offering street food. You can experience the food that built a nation within the comfort of a fine dining environment. It is a window on the past from the comfort of the present. 

033

 

The interior is cream floor tiles and dark wood. It feels colonial and will age well. The fine dining interior differentiates it from other Indian Street food offerings in Birmingham and that of chains such as Dishoom in London. It is located just behind Broad Street on Regency Wharf, next to Hyatt Regency. 

049

Street food in India and across Asia is a reality of every day living rather than a dining concept. It exists to feed workers inexpensively and quickly feeding the growth of the economy one sheesh kebab and aloo tikka at a time. 

123

Street food offered a gateway into business for sole traders in India with little capital to establish a permanent premises. The partition of India after World War Two created displacement of millions of men, women and children who found themselves on the wrong side of the line when a border was established across Punjab. Chaos created opportunity. 

012

Gateway to India has a slick kitchen visible from the dining room. It is here dishes familiar on the streets of Jallandhar, Delhi and Mumbai transform diners to the oil lamp illuminated bazaars of the India I experienced five decades ago. 

217

The dish above is my personal favourite and has been ever since I was young. Chole Bhatura is a dish of chick peas in a spicy sauce served with fried bread. There’s a serving of chutney if you want to add dynamite to the fireworks party in your mouth. It’s a signature dish in India which remains a predominantly vegetarian country. Vegans can also enjoy this iconic offering. It is probably the best £6.50 you can spend in Brum.  

050

For those of you who consider vegetarian food to be a side show, you will be delighted with the options to satisfy the carnivore in you. Chicken tikka and prawns fresh from the tandoori oven are stunning in presentation, texture and taste. 

088

The sheer array of choice means a single visit only allows a fraction of the menu to be experienced. Going as a large group will certainly bring greater choice to the table, just don’t assume everyone is happy to share their preferred item. 

315

Subsequent visits to India have unveiled change. The age where oil lamp illuminated street food vendors enjoyed a monopoly in feeding the masses is slowly being extinguished. The emerging middle class want their own fine dining options.

Having breakfast recently in the Shangri La, New Delhi, a server walked around the dining floor distributing tea in replica clay cups. I remember drinking from the real thing during that train journey so many years ago. The cups back then were smashed after drinking the tea. A five star hotel with a environmental commitment offers no such unsustainable choice.

The great chef, Anton Mossiman once said the first bite is always with the eye. As a photographer, I salute his words. Contact details and further images from Gateway to India’s menu below. Hail a rickshaw and enjoy. 

149

254

325

370.JPG

395.JPG

Gateway to India – http://www.thegatewaytoindia.co.uk

6a Regency Wharf, Broad Street, Birmingham, B1 2DS

0121 643 8000 

 

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer in Birmingham, a trustee of LoveBrum, columnist for The Asian Today and blogger for Downtown in Birmingham.

@jassansi      07930 837 505      sansi1@btinternet.com

 

Siamais Thai Restaurant, Brindleyplace

048.JPG

As a child, I recall watching ‘The King & I’ on television. The story follows the relationship between a Thai King and an English Teacher. It’s a mesmerising film and one of the first to convey the power of colour television. The film remains banned in Thailand. Thai Monarchy are revered across the Asian Kingdom.

091.JPG

If you’ve never seen ‘The King & I‘ or visited Thailand, other opportunities to experience a little bit of South East Asia exist in Brum, namely the food. My favourites include Zen at Metro Bar and The Barton Arms. This offering has been increased with the recent introduction of Siamais (pronounced Siamese as in Twins), Thai restaurant in Brindleyplace.

073.JPG

One of Brum’s top chefs recently tweeted the absence of a decent Thai Restaurant in Brum. It made me wince. His comments about Thai food in Birmingham were unfair. We are spoilt for choice.

030.JPG

Siamais in Oozells Square is one worth visiting. It’s in the space previously occupied by Thai Edge, one of the leaders in the renaissance of Birmingham food. For 17 years, Thai Edge helped put the city on the culinary map and I would like to thank Harish and Nancy Nathwani for all they have done for Brum.

004.JPG

Siamais takes the Thai concept to another level. A drinks area is separated from a dining space where the attention to detail is second to none. Suspended bird cages housing skulls in the bar give way to traditional fishing baskets above the dining tables. It’s a bewildering detail and one that made me smile.

031

Enjoy the illuminated tables with Thai words spelling ‘food for the eyes, food for the mouth and food for the soul.’  It’s the perfect review for the food we ordered. A seafood platter fit for the Captain of a Royal Liner. If you order it, eat the Salmon first, it’s cooked to perfection and should be enjoyed as soon as it arrives at your table.

005.JPG

I ordered the Chicken Massaman Curry as a main, it comes with Jasmine steamed rice and again beautifully cooked, flavoured and presented. For drinks I started with a Singha, Thailand’s signature beer. I then considered the option of ordering a glass of Shiraz or a bottle and compromised by ordering a large glass.

040.JPG

Quick note on the cutlery, plates and glassware; all superb and enhanced the experience of dining in a contemporary Thai Restaurant. The sun sets later this time of year. The lighting in Siamais adjusted as the light outside changed. It was good to see both the bar and restaurant area busy on a Monday evening, especially during Easter when families take advantage of the bank holidays and fly off to distant shores.

146.JPG

Siamais is a fabulous addition to Brindleyplace. As we headed back to the car across Oozells Square, I remembered what this part of the city was like before it was transformed. A landscaped square illuminated by Cielo, Piccolino, Yorks Cafe IKON and Siamais would have been unimaginable. This place would inspire a Thai King and English teacher to dance, just like that film, a long time ago.

Siamais Thai Restaurant 

www.siamais.co.uk

Six Brindleyplace, 7 Oozells St, Birmingham B1 2HS

0121 643 3993

birmingham@siamais.co.uk

Images from the Press Night: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jassansi/albums/72157679742680542

Biggest Ever Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce Gathering

1217 members of the region’s business community gathered to celebrate the success stories of the West Midlands. Jas Sansi had his Nikon camera and the password to the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce Twitter account. The annual awards dinner saw the first ever Business of the Year category. An evening of meeting, seating, eating and tweeting. Read on.

003.JPG

‘You’re not here to network, you are friends enjoying each other’s company’ roared compere and host Gyles Brandreth. The 2017 Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) Awards Dinner packed Hall 3 at Birmingham ICC to enjoy a great night out.

051.JPG

The Chamber has re-branded under the leadership of Paul Faulkner who enjoys universal support and praise across the region. This was clearly illustrated by the record number of guests who joined the CEO in raising a glass at #GBCCAwards17.

077.JPG

Paul was joined on stage by Chamber President and Birmingham Airport CEO Paul Kehoe. Birmingham Airport is officially the most punctual airport in the world. A stunning achievement when you consider there are over 5000 airports on earth.

209

CEO of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHSFT, Sarah Jane-Marsh was the evening’s first recipient of a prize. Sarah was described by Paul Faulkner as ‘Outstanding and Inspirational’ picking up The President’s Award (pictured below with Paul Kehoe)

247.JPG

The winner of the Contribution to the Community Award was Muslim Women’s Network UK.

461.JPG

The winner of the Customer Service Award was A-Plant.

475.JPG

The winner of the Excellence in International Business award was Burton and South Derbyshire College.

478.JPG

The winner of the Excellence in Sales & Marketing Award was Great Escape Cars.

483.JPG

The winner of the Manufacturing Award was Oldbury UK & Boughton Engineering Ltd.

485

The winner of the Excellence in Retail Award was Loki Wine.

487.JPG

The winner of the Excellence in People Development was The NEC Group.

494.JPG

And the winner of the inaugural Business of the Year was Loki Wine. Great work Phil.

539.JPG

Congratulations to all finalists and winners. Over £5000 was raised for the Lord Mayor’s Charity. Lord Mayor of Birmingham Cllr Carl Rice thanked everyone for their support on behalf of the Charity and Trustees. Here’s some of the images from the night.

116.JPG152.JPG123.JPG127.JPG134.JPG154.JPG160.JPG171.JPG178.JPG192.JPG180.JPG217.JPG260.JPG270.JPG276.JPG278.JPG294.JPG347.JPG408.JPG425.JPG434.JPG

Full write up of the event from the Chamber Press Team: https://www.greaterbirminghamchambers.com/latest-news/news/2017/3/31/outstanding-sarah-jane-is-chamber-president-s-choice/

Full set of images from #GBCCAwards17: https://www.flickr.com/photos/92331272@N06/sets/72157678645802144

Follow Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce on Twitter@GrBhamChambers

Membership details at: https://www.greaterbirminghamchambers.com/membership/packages-prices/

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Greater Birmingham, a trustee of @LoveBrumUK, columnist for @TheAsianToday and blogger for @DIBBirmingham

@jassansi    07930 837 505   sansi1@btinternet.com

 

 

Downtown in Birmingham: What’s in a Name?

Jas Sansi enjoyed breakfast ahead of a roundtable discussion at Park Regis Hotel. The conversation focused on the significance of what we, as a region of 5 Million people call ourselves. Invited guests also addressed the notion of Birmingham presenting itself as a second city. Opinion unlike coffee is rarely served black or white.

 

0.JPG

The American comic actor Robin Williams delivered a very funny  line in the 1987 film ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ Playing a military radio station disc jockey, he answered a request for a weather forecast as ‘you got a window? open it!’

2.JPG

It’s good advice if you are trying to measure economic activity in Birmingham. Sitting here in the Sky Bar on the 16th floor of Park Regis Hotel, you only have to look out the window to appreciate the level of transformation across the city’s skyline. It’s a good time to be in Brum. 

3.JPG

The roundtable discussion ‘What’s in a Name?’ invited opinion from members of the business community. There was a general consensus that Birmingham was too powerful a brand to not leverage in attracting inward investment. This was tempered with an appreciation the regions making up the Midlands have strong pride in their local identities. 

4

Establishing the collective identity of the Midlands as a devolved area will be challenging. Devolved regions such as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have the advantage of being countries. They can align their identity with national flags, political independence, regional languages, national anthems and teams etc.

1

Here in the Midlands, the Black Country has a flag, the closest we have to a First Minister is a regional Mayor to be elected on 4th May but we don’t have a regional anthem. There are regional accents, but English is a language we share with half the world. Identifying a name we can get behind is key to establishing collective identity. 

5

Birmingham has hard wired the label ‘Second City’ into it’s DNA. Both Manchester and Glasgow can equally justify the tag. It’s a badge no one around the table afforded much value in. Devolution under the leadership of a regional Mayor will hopefully shift the narrative away from being a second city to a much more positive ‘Midlands Engine.’

6.JPG

The creation of a Regional Mayor is an opportunity to bring the Midlands together under a single identifier. Whoever wins on May 4th, they will be responsible for, and accountable to 5 Million people. The language and words they use to represent the devolved region will be crucial from day one in office. How media report the Regional Mayor’s progress will help shape the name we will be known as in Westminster and in trade shows around the world. When Trump tweets ‘words don’t matter,’ he is wrong, they always matter. 

7.JPG

The campaign to come up with a better name than The West Midlands Combined Authority of Birmingham, Coventry, Solihull and The Black Country starts on May 5th 2017. I’ll be lobbying for ‘Greater Birmingham’ should there be a Referendum. I’ll be happy to trigger the Article 50 of poor descriptive words. 

4f.JPG

 

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Greater Birmingham and blogger for Downtown in Business.

@jassansi

 

Nothing Artificial in the Intelligence of attending #TPC2017

Jas Sansi photographed the thought leaders in the Ticketing Industry’s key annual conference in Birmingham. He looks at the future of how we embrace the live experience.

20 copy.jpg

The Ticketing Professionals Conference has left the building after 48 hours of insight and networking in Birmingham. The closing words from Co-founder of Ticketing Professionals, Peter Monks called to the Sports Industry and Venues to attend the next conference in 2018. I would certainly recommend it.

187.JPG

The Ticketing Professionals Conference (TPC) is an opportunity to meet others in the industry and build your professional network. Powerful channels of communication across social media platforms empower you to tap into advice and best practice around the world.

258.JPG

There is no better way to ignite such a relationship than with a face to face meeting at Conference such as this.

53 copy.JPG

The Conference attracted delegates from 28 different countries allowing organisers to tweet a ‘SOLD OUT’ sign ahead of the gathering at ICC Birmingham.

200

If you are a Business Development Manager or responsible for getting bums on seats for a Stadium, Venue, Gallery or Museum, ensure the Conference dates for 2018 are in your diary. It is often that single golden nugget of information that delivers a return on your investment in attending.

8 TPC.JPG

The opening plenary was delivered by Craig Sullivan (@OptimiseOrDie) His fast paced and illuminating speech suggested the future of ticket purchasing was a whole new game. Craig shared with a packed Hall 11 the notion that in the future, Artificial Intelligence built into your home would manage the process of ticket buying. I’ve been thinking about that.

45.JPG

We all live busy lives. We often hear about events on social media when friends or colleagues post a picture. It may even be an event you wanted to attend, but a social media post means that boat has sailed.

50.JPG

But consider Craig’s vision for Artificial Intelligence (AI). It would know who and what you like. It would have a record of your internet search history, mine for example would reveal I often play U2 songs on YouTube whilst working.

267.JPG

Big Data and the Internet of things would feed into my home’s Artificial Intelligence. Imagine this scenario; U2 announce a European Tour. Artificial Intelligence knows I enjoy their music, AI knows it’s my wife’s birthday, AI knows the balance of my bank account, AI knows Birmingham Airport has daily flights to Paris, which hotel rooms are available, AI knows I speak French because of the online lessons I have taken.

105.JPG

It collates this data and welcomes me home with a suggestion I take my wife on a weekend trip to the French Capital and see Monsieur Bono and the band . All I have to do is confirm, and the entire purchasing process is carried out. Tickets for; an Uber cab to the train station, HS2 train to the airport, flight, hotel and concert in one simple instruction.

206.JPG

The future can be a scary place, its also terrifyingly exciting. Especially if my bank balance allows me to do all those things.

Dates for The Ticketing Professionals Conference 2018 will be announced on ticketingprofessionals.co.uk. Follow on Twitter @ticketingprofs. Hope to see you there.

Full set of images from #TPC2017 can be seen at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jassansi/albums/72157678026526854

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham, a trustee of LoveBrum, columnist for the Asian Today Newspaper and blogger for Downtown in Business.

@jassansi      07930 837 505      sansi1@btinternet.com

Downtown in Business blog on TPC2017: http://www.downtowninbusiness.com/citys-ticket-success/?utm_content=buffer70468&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Blog on Birmingham for TPC2017: https://jassansi.wordpress.com/2017/03/15/ticketing-professionals-conference-2017/

 

 

 

 

Ticketing Professionals Conference 2017

A very warm welcome to Birmingham to all delegates attending the Ticketing Professionals Conference 2017. The two day gathering opened yesterday at Birmingham ICC  and will build on last year’s successful inaugural year. 

Birmingham by Night.JPG

Delegates flying into Birmingham will be landing at the world’s most punctual airport which recently enticed British Airways to return after a prolonged absence. It’s also the only airport in Europe which will have it’s own High Speed Train Station due to open in 2026. 

087.JPG

The catering at the venue, ICC Birmingham will be provided by Amadeus who delivered the food and drinks for London 2012. Enjoy the food from the award winning team who fuelled Usain Bolt in his 100 metre dash on what is remembered as Super Saturday. 

BT Tower 4.jpg

If you fancy a coffee before the Conference kicks off, there is a new Starbucks at the ICC. This is a concept store with table service if you want it, a community area you can book for meetings and a tasting counter for new products. 

Canal 2.JPG

Should you wish to enjoy dinner in the city, there have been 26 new restaurant openings since last year’s conference. Time is short but one of my favourites is Zen at Metro Bar. It’s a Thai Restaurant. If you love Thai food, you will be delighted with this gem. Give the manager Jaimom a call on 0121 200 1911 and tell him Jas Sansi sent ya.

Council House 1.JPG

St Patrick’s Day is huge in Birmingham. Last Sunday saw the third biggest St Patrick’s Day Parade in the world after Dublin and New York. Enjoy a pint of Guinness at O’Niells on Broad Street. They are raising funds for Birmingham Children’s Hospital as part of their celebrations. Say hi to General Manager Pip White. 

Gold.JPG

If you’re staying at Hyatt Regency, their pub The Gentleman & Scholar was recently voted Best Bar. General Manager Mario Flanagan is one of the sharpest dressers in Brum  (On Twitter @FlanaganMario) and will ensure your stay is one you will remember fondly. 

Symphony Hall 2.JPG

If you’re staying at Jurys Inn, their restaurant Pushkar was recently voted Best Fine Dining Restaurant. Both Rai Singh and Ivan Panayotov head up a superb team delivering world class Indian Cuisine (on twitter @PushkarBham)

Victoria Sq 279.JPG

If you opted to stay in the Colmore Business District and booked in at Hotel du Vin, you are in for a treat. General Manager Tony Elvin (@TonyElv) is one of the nicest guys you can meet. He leads a team that can boast almost as many awards as great wines. Simon Cowell is a regular. 

The View from the Hyatt.JPG

There’s a new hotel near the ICC Birmingham. Park Regis have chosen Brum as their first European operation. They have a roof top Japanese restaurant called ROFUTO. Speak to Lara @RofutoTweets and she will assist you with the menu and the view across Brum’s skyline. 

2.JPG

Brum’s skyline is peppered with cranes as the city undergoes a dazzling transformation. There’s a real buzz to the place and one I have no doubt you will experience during your time here. 

Vic.jpg

I’ll be tweeting live images from the conference across both days. The hashtag is #TPC2017. If hoping for an awesome Conference City,  you’ll find Birmingham is just the ticket. See you there. 

Jas Sansi (@jassansi)