WOWs 2018

The WOWs (Wonders of Westside) awards salute the great work of individuals, teams and the Business Improvement District in making the district safe, welcoming and party central. Jas Sansi was there and he has the pictures to prove it. 


The WOWs has firmly established itself on Birmingham’s social calendar since its inception as the BOBs (Best of Broad Street) many moons ago. Those who work in the hospitality, food and drinks industry are at their busiest over Christmas and New Years, at a time when most people are on a break.


The WOWs is more than an awards ceremony, its an opportunity for the businesses in the BID to raise their glasses in an annual celebration of what they bring to the city, region and economy. And for that, we are immensely grateful. 


Westside BID incorporates the stretch of real estate along Broad Street, Brindleyplace and the Canals. The Wonders of Westside (WOWs) celebrated the best of Brum’s night time economy and beyond.


What a night; glamorous dresses, slick dinner suits, the world’s largest spirit producer as sponsor, internationally renowned DJ and pea shooters. Yes, the 2018 WOWs kicking off a fabulous year of awards in Birmingham did not disappoint. 


The great and the good were there. I bumped into Anita Champaneri, the PR Supremo from Delicious PR and Gov Singh from sponsor ODC drinks. 


The Governor of Westside, Mike Olley welcomed everyone to the evening announcing LoveBrum as the chosen charity of the night.


I then dashed on to stage, unhooked my camera harness, camera and battery pack, basically a Nikon Strip tease and took a couple of minutes explaining LoveBrum.


LoveBrum is the charity for a better Birmingham, casting a spotlight on projects across all communities in the city region, and asking members, who pay £20 a year to join, to vote for the causes they want their money to go.  


The awards began with acknowledging those who work in the BID (Business Improvement District) including the City Pastors who are on hand to ensure those visiting the area have assistance if necessary. 

106 City Pastors - Pride In Work Award

The City Pastors introduce an element of calm in situations where previously uniformed officers would be the only port of call. The City Pastors demonstrated the power of faith later that evening winning two of the raffle prizes. 


Here’s a listing of all the winners at WOWs18. Congratulations to those who are waking up today with a trophy on their bedside tables. Well done to the organisers who smashed another event out of the stadium and on a night when New York hosted the Grammys, and Piers Morgan interviewed Trump, the WOWs trended nationally in 6th place. Great job team. 

Debbie Gooding – Outstanding Achievement Award

101 Debbie Gooding - Outstanding Achievement Award.JPG

WOWs18 salute the Westside BID Wardens 

111 The Wardens

Sergeant David Gregory and Zoe Bishop – Pride In Work Award

118 Sergeant David Gregory and Zoe Jo - Pride In Work Award

Sean Wright – Pride in Work Award

126 Sean Wright - Pride in Work Award

Amy Langham – Best Arts/Entertainment Manager Award

137 Amy Langham - Best Arts:Entertainment Manager Award

SACO Apartments won Best Hotel/Serviced Apartments

145 SACO Apartments - Best Hotel:Serviced Apartments

Hampton By Hilton were awarded Best Front Of House

151 Hampton By Hilton - Best Front Of House

Cafe Rouge in Brindleyplace picked up the first of two awards winning best Bistro/Cafe 

154 Café Rouge - Best Bistro:Café

Rosanna Meyer won Promotions Team Leader

159 Rosanna Meyer - Promotions Team Leader.JPG

Vinod Pandey & Rajendra Kandel from Varanasi shared the award for Best Chef – Fine Dining

163 Vinod Pandey & Rajendra Kandel Best Chef - Fine Dining

Best Pub at WOWs 2018 was The Brasshouse

227 Best Pub Brasshouse

Best Pub Manager was awarded to Pip White from O’Neills who as co-host should also have won a prize for best wind up of the night telling guests there was an envelope with £1000 taped to the bottom of a chair in the hall. 400 people stand up and invert their chairs to check. ‘Just kidding’ quips Pip. Hilarious. 


231 Best Pub Manager Award Pip White

Jurys Inn win Best Hotel Team

254 Jurys Inn for winning Best Hotel Team

Djazi Riouzi was awarded Best Chef, Casual at Del Villagio. Del Villagio were one of the star twitter users on the night. Give them a follow on @del_villaggio 

263 Djazi Riouzi Best Chef - Casual

New to Westside and winning Best Restaurant (casual) was The Canal House

274 The Canal House for winning Best Restaurant - Casual

Hyatt Regency General Manager is applauded by his team collecting the award for Best Hotel/Serviced Apartments, the first of three awards for the hotel which sees the return of their Sales & Marketing Director Joanne Brain this week.

288 Mario Flanagan, Hyatt Regency, Best Hotel:Serviced Apartments Manager 

Here’s one with Mario who invited his team on stage to collect the award

290 Mario Flanagan, Hyatt Regency, Best Hotel:Serviced Apartments Manager

Thamir Abdul, Café Rouge, Best Manager – Bistro/Café

306 Thamir Abdul, Café Rouge, Best Manager - Bistro:Café

Relentless – Best Promotions Team

311 Relentless - Best Promotions Team

Jade Wilkes, Aria at Hyatt Regency for winning Best Manager – Restaurant

316 Jade Wilkes, Aria for winning Best Manager - Restaurant

Cineworld Broad Street Best Arts/Entertainment venue

322 Cineworld Broad Street Best Arts:Entertainment venue

Paul Millington – Contribution to Westside and Birmingham

328 Paul Millington - Contribution to Westside and Birmingham

Gin Vault win Best Bar at WOWs18

334 Gin Vault for winning Best Bar

Jas Binning for winning Best Bar Manager, Mooch Bar

341 Jas Binning for winning Best Bar Manager

Lewis Verne, Players Best Manager (Club) papped by his team

386 Lewis Verne, Players Best Manager - Club

And one of Lewis and the team from Players

392 Lewis Verne, Players Best Manager - Club

PRYZM win Best Club

400 PRYZM for winning Best Club

Best Bar Team, O Bar

405 Best Bar Team, O Bar

Sunny and Gov from ODC Drinks present the next set of awards


Popworld, Best Team – Club

428 Popworld, Best Team - Club

The ever popular Pushkar win Best Restaurant in the Fine Dining category

439 Pushkar, Best Restaurant - Fine Dining

Velvet Music Rooms & Sugar Suite, Best Door Team

453 Velvet Music Rooms & Sugar Suite, Best Door Team

Best Newcomer Felsons

461 Best Newcomer Felsons.JPG

Salman Rashid, Hyatt Regency for winning Outstanding Achievement makes it a hat trick for the Broad Street hotel 

467 Salman Rashid for winning Outstanding Achievement

Robert Lee, Lee Longlands wins The Outstanding Achievement Award

477 Robert Lee, Lee Longlands Outstanding Achievement.JPG

Jo at Reflex wins Best New Manager Award

498 Jo, Reflex Best New Manager Award

Barajees win Best Value at WOWs18 

502 Barajees, Best Value.JPG

Zara’s Best Interior Character

515 Zara_s Best Interior Character

Rosie’s win Best Transformation

530 Rosie_s for winning Best Transformation

That’s it for another year at the WOWs. Thank you to all sponsors without who, events like this just wouldn’t be possible. 

A huge thank you on behalf of the Trustees, Ambassadors and LoveBrum community for supporting the charity for a better Birmingham on the night. £888 was raised and will go towards helping projects across the city region making a real difference to Brum. 


Full set of images can be seen at:

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

@jassansi 07930 837 505

A Place in the Midlands

An open blog from Jas Sansi to Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Matt Hancock on why Birmingham is perfect for Channel 4.


Matt Hancock MP at The Library of Birmingham during Party Conference 2016. Picture: Jas Sansi

Dear Mr Hancock 

The drama of Channel 4 relocating relocating relocating can be summarised like this; the Government is adamant Channel 4 leaves London. West Midlands Mayor Andy Street is very keen for Birmingham to be the broadcaster’s new home.  Many people from the creative industries and beyond are supporting Mayor Street’s campaign under the hashtag #WMGeneration. The decision has yet to be finalised.

Ever since the release of ‘Look Back in Anger’ by John Osborne in 1956, it has been clear, the future of Art and Culture can not depend on the middle classes alone. The ticket stubs and bums on seats may be dominated by the relatively affluent but stories, in the form of art, find their greatest authors from the working class.  

A bold statement, but those lucky enough to be born into comfortable, stable and wealthy homes are sheltered from many of life’s cruel and harsh realities. Though fortunate in so many respects, privilege isolates from an acute understanding, the struggle many face. 

London has become a hornet of excess and magnet for the global rich. For those, who’s calling in life is the Creative Arts, England’s capital is unaffordable for all but the wealthiest. The future of ideas, creativity and culture cannot depend on the capital. 

It is for this reason, Channel 4 should welcome the Government’s demand for a future outside of the capital and embrace the opportunities of moving to a young, diverse city like Birmingham. 

A city like Birmingham is saturated with untold stories. A million citizens is a million stories, many of which are denied a platform for expression. It is these blank canvases that offer an infinite supply for film makers, story tellers, authors and animators who produce content for Channel 4. 

Birmingham and the West Midlands is a fertile womb of ideas ready to be harvested by a media infrastructure. Looking beyond the city limits, its central location in the UK, makes it accessible to many millions of other voices and their stories. 

The near impossible cost of London as a home to young creative minds will shut off the tap to film makers very soon. If the only stories pitched to studio heads are sourced from those who can afford to live in London, future audiences will drift away. If stories are not inclusive, they cease to be stories, simply narratives of a small privileged world. 

This isn’t the politics of envy, rather the harsh realities of a country where a North South divide has morphed into London and the rest. 

Many will be surprised to learn Channel 4 is overseen by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It is funded by tax payers. A channel funded by the people, needs to exist among those people. 

To guarantee its future relevance, Channel 4 must understand London is no longer Britain, London stories rarely British stories. If Channel 4 wants to be a privately funded London channel serving the viewing habits of the capital’s citizens, it would be advised to remain where they are. But it is unfair for them to rely on the generosity of the UK. 

If Channel 4 is to reflect the stories of all the UK, they can only do so by moving to a city like Birmingham. This isn’t just a geographical shift, it’s a shift in the broadcaster’s mindset.  

The story of British media will acknowledge the move of Channel 4 to Birmingham as an intelligent decision. A decision that re-energised the broadcaster and sharpened it’s cutting edge output. 

Arguments around London being only 48 minutes from Birmingham with the advent of HS2 are accurate but do an injustice to our beloved city. They seek to reassure Channel 4 executives, such a move is not as seismic as it appears. The move will be the most seismic the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have ever made. 

Mr Hancock, as a new Secretary of State, the decision to relocate Channel 4 in Birmingham will be remembered in history as a bold but ultimately wise one. Be brave. Come to Brum. 


Jas Sansi 


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

@jassansi 07930 837 505

Cyrille Regis


I noticed Cyrille Regis trending on social media this morning. I assumed an announcement about a statue being raised in his honour or confirmation of a Knighthood. I never dared to think it would be news of his untimely death. 

Radio 4 and 5 Live weren’t broadcasting the story so perhaps it wasn’t true. An error maybe, but with each passing hour, as news rippled out, it became clear the worst possible news was true. 

It’s dreadful to wake up to this, Cyrille’s family will be distraught and numb. I’m sitting here thinking about him, and thinking about them. 


I drove my son, a Baggies fan, to school and sharing the news with him, we sat in silence for the entire journey. I’m usually nagging him to work hard, to spend less time on-line and more time in his books. It was hard to fight back tears. They came later, when I was alone.

Cyrille Regis was a beacon of light and a hero to many of us. Imagine how few local heroes, a working class kid growing up in West Brom could have in the 1970s and 80s? If you were lucky enough to not come from a broken home, you could count those heroes on one hand; parents, a teacher, a relative and footballer Cyrille Regis.  

1 The 1979 West Bromwich Albion Team.JPG

We were exposed to casual racism on television across all three channels. Political correctness was not yet a thing. Thankfully racism wasn’t rife in the streets and back alleys of West Bromwich where we played.

2 Cyrille Regis (WBA), Frank Skinner and Brendon Batson (WBA)

Every hue of skin colour lived in a community where we learned together in the local school and played footie in the local park. No one was rich, we just didn’t know we were poor. 

Cyrille Regis was a beacon of light and a hero to many of us.

And we had Cyrille Regis. West Bromwich Albion’s enigmatic and elegant young striker. He gave our town a voice. And with him, that voice roared across the entire country. He put us on the map. He gave us everything to be proud of. He was our brother, our hero, our icon. He was our friend. 


I bumped into him many times in recent years at events. I always shook his hand, I always called him Mr Regis. I photographed him many times, I once asked him to sign a program which he happily did. I never had the guts to ask him for a photograph of us together. Who was I to stand next to him? I don’t regret this, seeing him and exchanging pleasantries was more than enough. 

Cyrille Regis, Lord Mayor and Tom Ross.JPG

They say its never a good idea to meet your heroes, they may let you down in person. Cyrille Regis never once let me down. He became more of a hero each time I met him. I didn’t want to embarrass him by telling him that, he always came across as so humble, so normal, I imagined it would make him feel uncomfortable. 

I photographed Cyrille Regis’s grand daughter, Jayda Regis last month at the announcement of Birmingham winning the Commonwealth Games bid. His legacy will forever run through the blood of this region; in personal memories, in WBA history and in his family. 

4 Darren Cooper (Sandwell Council), Cyrille Regis (WBA), Frank Skinner and Brendon Batson (WBA) and Tom Watson MP

I thank God for sending Cyrille Regis MBE to us and I pray for his family and friends at this most difficult time. 

Thank you Mr Regis, for everything. 


Jas Sansi

Engage or Go

There’s no secret to success; hard work and dedication are the foundation but how about the importance of engagement? Jas Sansi suggests in a city like Birmingham, the option is often ‘Engage or Go.’


I spotted a headline the other day about a city centre gourmet burger company, Byron at risk of closing with the inevitable loss of jobs. January is a challenging time for businesses, Christmas and the boost it injects into retail is a distant memory.

The Byron headline made me think. I’ve seen a few branches of Byron in London’s West End where no doubt the huge footfall and prosperity of the capital keeps those burgers flipping and the tills ringing. Birmingham isn’t London. 

52 lob

Rocking up in Brum, opening a upscale burger joint and offering ‘proper burgers’ on the back of the company’s success in London is wishful thinking at best. I don’t think business has operated like that since Henry Ford exclaimed ‘Any colour as long as it’s black.’

The key to success in Birmingham is engagement. I can’t recall seeing a representative from Byron out on the networking circuit nor  anyone from Byron HQ comment on the city. 


This blog is not a dig against corporate chains owned by venture capitalists and pension funds, rolling out a generic formula with staff plucked from the gig economy. It’s a criticism of those who fail to engage. 

Without engagement, customers do not know who you are. Customers want to know your values. What do you bring to their home city? Why should they part with hard earned cash to support you? Where is that money going? 


For independents, engagement is easier. The owner works in the business, your custom keeps her or his children in shoes, your money pays for their daughter’s swimming lessons and their son’s music lessons, to paraphrase a comment I saw on social media the other day. 

For corporate chains, engagement is harder but it isn’t difficult. Hotel du Vin is a national chain, but their General Manager here in Brum, Tony Elvin is probably the most engaged person I know. Everyone knows him, everyone likes him. He brings something to the city. He’s so engaged, he’s been poached by Touchwood in Solihull. 



Ted Baker is another example. When they opened their store in Bullring a couple of years ago, they didn’t roll out a generic Ted Baker shop, they thought about it. The interior is a nod to the region’s industrial past. The purple curtains of the changing rooms shout about the iconic Cadbury company founded here many chocolate advent calendars ago. 

Engage or Go is the mantra for success in Greater Birmingham and the West Midlands. Engagement pays the sort of dividends shareholders and pension fund managers dream about as they recline on pool side loungers in faraway places.



The easiest way to engage is by networking. Reach out to organisations like the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce who can boast an invigorated team led by one of the city’s key business leaders, Paul Faulkner. 

The Chamber is an umbrella organisation for several other brands, all of which welcome new members. The Asian Business Chamber, Future Faces and British American Business Council are just three to choose from. 

Library of Birmingham

If local heritage is one of your values as a company, contact the Birmingham Civic Society. If you like talking shop, join a professional association like the Birmingham Law Society. 

Professionals in law, accounting, finance and fields which attract graduate and apprentices would do well to speak to Birmingham Professional Services. BPS include Birmingham Future who host the annual Birmingham Young Professional of the Year (BYPY.) Birmingham Future Chair Victoria Ball and BYPY Chair Sophie Carlile are both champions for the city region. 


Engage with local charities. LoveBrum are the charity for a better Birmingham. Casting a spotlight on local projects to bring tangible and lasting change to the city. Membership is twenty pounds a year. This gives you an opportunity to vote for the project you want to support each month and access to the ‘Members Mingle’ events. Join LoveBrum. As a trustee, of course I’m biased but join anyway if you haven’t already. 

Much of the city is managed by Business Improvement Districts. A headline this morning was the announcement of new directors at Colmore BID including Jaimon George from Zen Metro, Tara Tomes from East Village PR and Richard Guy from SimkissGuy Recruitment. These are individuals shaping the districts in which they operate. Its a win win. 

St Patricks Parade 2014 2

Westside BID who manage the area around Broad Street host their annual awards ceremony, ‘The Wows’ later this month at Birmingham ICC. I would recommend buying tickets for this event which kicks off a busy year of Awards and Conferences for the region. 

Look out also for The Signature Awards in February, Ticketing Professionals in March, Chamber Awards in April, BYPY in May, Midlands Food Drink & Hospitality Awards in June, ABCC, Curry King of Birmingham and Birmingham Awards in November. These are invaluable opportunities to plug yourself into the business circuit. 

Canal 2.JPG

Engage or Go may be a little harsh, how about Engage and Fly. Those who reach out to their communities, contribute to change, lobby the decision makers and create real value are the ones who rarely feature in January’s gloomy headlines. 

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

Contact @jassansi 07930 838 505 

Black & Blue

I was asked to photograph The Blue Man Group on their opening night at ICC Birmingham. It was also a Press Night where Media are invited to review the performance. 

066 Sameena Ali-Khan and Anita Bhalla

I was instructed to photograph the Media drinks reception and the first twenty minutes,  capturing images made available to press to promote the show. 


Press Night is also an opportunity to invite VIPs from the region who help raise awareness of the show. 

034 Becky Weaver, Ellie McPherson, Richard Brown and Andrew Riley

The Blue Man Group show is uplifting, entertaining and very funny with a tongue in cheek look at modern life.



Me and Anji dropped in to enjoy the show a few days later. The effects are fabulous and the band who support the Blue Men are incredibly talented. 


The reviews from Press Night were all positive and the advertised strap line ‘More Colourful than Life’ was on the money. 


I got called back for the final show. Black Sabbath co-founder and legendary guitarist Tony Iommi was expected to be in attendance and invited to meet Blue Man Group after the show. I was asked to photograph the last twenty minutes; a grand finale of streamers and inflatable balls, followed by Tony Iommi meeting the performers.  


I gave this photograph a little thought. A picture of Tony and the Blue Men standing together would have been enough, the performers with vividly painted blue faces and the presence of a rock star is always going to make for a strong image, but I wanted to do something a little special. 


I sketched out a shot of Tony Iommi signing a stack of Black Sabbath albums with two of the Blue Men looking at him, whilst the third one oblivious to what a vinyl album is, tries to eat it. The bite is a nod to one of the infamous moments of Rock history when Tony’s band mate Ozzy Osbourne bit off a bat’s head live on stage. 


I don’t own any Black Sabbath vinyl albums, so I popped along to The Diskery, a famous record shop in Birmingham Southside. They had enjoyed a Christmas rush on Black Sabbath records and only had one in stock. Unfortunately it wasn’t suitable so I ended up using half a dozen vinyl albums I do own, none of which were Black Sabbath. 

The Albums

It would have been awkward asking Tony to sign another artist’s album. In the image captured, he is signing the George Harrison memorial concert program.


As always, there wasn’t much time to capture the image so the sketch was a quick method of communicating what I was trying to achieve. 

Tony Iommi and The Blue Men group adopted the positions sketched out and a dozen frames later, mission accomplished. 


The images were sent across to THSH (Town Hall Symphony Hall)  who tweeted them out immediately. 

A few days later, Tony Iommi tweeted one of the images sending the image viral with 180 ReTweets and 1600 Likes. The power of having 330,000 followers on twitter. 


Here’s a couple of images that were not released; the first is Tony Iommi’s autograph on the concert program. 


The second is the imprint of the bite mark made by the third blue man, I’m guessing those tracks will never be heard again. 


So there you are, a little insight of an eventful evening in the company of exceptional individuals. 

A link to the full set of images:

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

Contact: @jassansi 07930 837 505