The bank’s Tamworth Branch in 1920

The bank’s Tamworth Branch in 1920

Leading bank HSBC UK – overall sponsor of Birmingham Press Club – is celebrating the 125th anniversary of its branch in Tamworth.

The branch, currently situated at 10 Market Street, formally opened on 1st December 1893 at 35 Market Street and was established within the Birmingham and Midland Banking Corporation, more commonly known as Midland Bank.

Jacqui Sutton, branch manager of HSBC UK Tamworth, said: “I am proud to be leading the branch team at such a momentous time. Celebrating 125 years of the branch being open in this great town has given us the opportunity to appreciate how our branch has adapted to rapidly changing consumer habits and technology over the years.”

The branch relocated to its existing premises in 1969.

Jacqui added: “During the early 1890’s in-branch services and the customer experience would have been significantly different to what it is like today. Opening hours coincided with local market days and the services available would be limited to business advice and small loans, receiving deposits, withdrawals authorisations and cashing cheques in, with all records paper-based and recorded in large ledgers.

“While today, the majority of our banking is done with a click of a button, where customers can keep a very close eye on their finances with our Connected Money app, they are still able to discuss our mortgage and savings options here in the branch. We are very proud to be part of a branch which has been at the centre of change in banking in the 21st century, but even more proud to continue be providing a first class service for the people of Tamworth.”

In 1992 HSBC Holdings plc acquired full ownership of Midland Bank, in one of the largest acquisitions in banking history. Midland was renamed HSBC Bank plc in 1999. In 2015 a new brand – HSBC UK – was announced and the bank celebrated the groundbreaking ceremony for a new headquarters to be built in Birmingham.

Another editorial re-structure at MNA

  Final farewells: From left, Simon Penfold, Keith Harrison, Lisa Harrison, Diane Davies and Karen Baker

Final farewells: From left, Simon Penfold, Keith Harrison, Lisa Harrison, Diane Davies and Karen Baker

More changes at the Express & Star’s editorial team have been revealed following the departure of editor Keith Harrison and business editor Simon Penfold.

Midland News Association (MNA) has now announced that deputy editor Diane Davies has left along with its Weekend supplement deputy editor Lisa Harrison and editor’s secretary Karen Baker. 

MNA has also announced that former Shropshire Star deputy editor Mark Drew will become deputy editor for the group, while John Corser will take over from Simon on the business desk.

As previously reported, Shropshire Star editor Martin Wright has been appointed to the role of editor of the Express & Star and editor-in-chief of the Midland News Association as a result of Keith’s departure.

“I’m looking forward to starting my new role, shaping the editorial content for the MNA. I have spoken to editorial staff in a series of meetings and one-to-one discussions and I am relishing the opportunity of working with such a talented team of journalists.

“The Express & Star and Shropshire Star have a superb heritage for reporting on local life and leading the way in making a positive difference in the communities we serve. I want to build on our reputation as the leading newspaper brands in our areas,” said Martin, who added: “The five colleagues who departed last week leave with our best wishes for the future.”


A journalism course run by City of Wolverhampton College has been named the best in the country – for the eighth year in a row!

The college was named as the top further education provider of the academic year National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) Diploma in Journalism at the annual NCTJ Awards for Excellence at Quendon hall in Essex.

The feat was described as ‘staggering’ when it was presented and BBC apprentice Yusaf Akbar was also commended as a shortlist for the apprentice of the year award.

Dani Wozencroft, course leader for the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism, said: “To win this award for the eighth consecutive year is an amazing achievement, particularly as the college was up against tough competition from other training providers. It is particularly pleasing to note that we have not only been presented with this award again, but this year we posted our best every exam results and every single student who graduated in July is now working in the industry.

“This shows we are not resting on our laurels and are still determined to improve and be the best we can be – providing the best trainee journalists we can do – by improving every year.

“The NCTJ diploma is an intense course and this accolade is well-deserved recognition of our students’ dedication to learning and our tutors’ commitment to helping them to develop the skills and knowledge they need for successful careers in the industry,” she added.

The one-year full-time Level 3 course combines studying at college with work placements at local newspapers, magazines, radio stations, online platforms and in public relations companies and gives aspiring journalists the qualification editors look for when appointing reporters.

The latest award comes after a host of former students were recognised at the Birmingham Press Club’s annual Midlands Media Awards.

Former NCTJ students of the college Tim Spiers, from the Express & Star, and Caroline Lowbridge, from BBC East Midlands, were named Sports Journalist of the Year and Online/Digital Journalist of the Year respectively.

In addition, Ross Hawkes of Lichfield Live was shortlisted in the Blog/Columnist of the Year category, Nicholas Reid, who now works at the Derby Telegraph, was shortlisted as Features Journalist of the Year and James Iles, from the Bromsgrove & Droitwich Standard was shortlisted for Headline of the Year.

Other former students Jenny Moody, who works at the Burton Mail, and Bev Holder, of the Stourbridge News, were shortlisted for News Reporter of the Year in the daily and weekly categories.

End of Era for Black Country duo

  Keith Harrison receives his signed shirt from Express & Star sports writer Tim Spiers.

Keith Harrison receives his signed shirt from Express & Star sports writer Tim Spiers.

Two stalwarts of England’s biggest-selling regional daily have left the newspaper after a combined 49 years’ service.

Bowing out with Express & Star editor Keith Harrison is business editor Simon Penfold (pictured), who first joined 24 years ago.

Express & Star editor Keith Harrison is stepping down after five years in charge and 25 years at the Wolverhampton-based title.

Simon, who was business editor for the last seven years, first joined the paper as a reporter in 1994 and has worked on its business desk since 1997. He began his career in journalism at the East Anglian Daily Times in 1980 and also had a six-year stint at the Hull Daily Mail before joining the E&S.

Paying tribute to the duo, Corin Crane, chief executive of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, said in a post on LinkedIn: “They have both been brilliant partners to the Chamber of Commerce and to the wider business community, championing local business issues, raising the profile of our local success stories and holding decision makers to account.

“They were a huge part of the success of last year’s Business Festival and I imagine there are businesses across the Black Country who have worked with them in a similar way over the last 25 years.”

Dudley MP Ian Austin also tweeted that he was “very sorry” to see Keith go and described him as “a brilliant editor and great champion of the Black Country.”

Premier League football team Wolverhampton Wanderers marked Keith’s departure by presenting him with a special signed football shirt yesterday.

Preston North End supporter Keith tweeted: “Many thanks to @tim_spiers_Star @Wolves and @rubendsneves_ for this brilliant memento. I’m PNE to the core . . . but proud to be an honorary Wulfrunian.”

Solihull News to be axed

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A continued decline in local print advertising is one of the factors blamed for the closure of the Solihull News – with its final edition being published on 21 December.

According to ABC figures published earlier this year, the weekly, which began 88 years ago as the Warwickshire News, had a free distribution of 44,786.

From 2 January, it will be replaced with a new Solihull edition of the daily Birmingham Mail which will feature up to four pages of news from the borough from Monday to Saturday.

Reach  has confimed that no jobs are to be lost as a result of the News’s closure. Its Midlands editor-in-chief Marc Reeves said: “Clearly closing the Solihull News isn’t a decision we’ve taken lightly, but with such a strong stable of print and online titles that are already immensely popular across the borough, we know we can continue to serve readers and advertisers with the best local news and exciting new ways to reach customers.”

In a statement announcing the closure of the Solihull News, the company called into question the future of the free door-to-door distribution model.“A continued decline in local print advertising, particularly in the key property platform, means that the free distribution door-to-door model is no longer sustainable,” it said.

The new Solihull Mail will feature up to four pages of borough news, views, features and sport each day, in addition to extensive online coverage on BirminghamLive and community news platform InYourArea. According to Reach, BirminghamLive and its sister online titles have a monthly audience in Solihull of more than 194,000 – more than three times the circulation of the News.

Up for a Laugh at Christmas

Comedians have been known to “die a death” at Birmingham Press Club’s annual Christmas lunch. But that won’t worry this year’s guest speaker – he’s already hosted the Good Funeral Awards!

Former journalist Jeremy Nicholas is an award-winning TV and radio broadcaster, well known for his quirky ‘and finally’ and sports reports for BBC TV and radio.  Earlier this year his comedy show ‘After Dinner Stories From My Disastrous Broadcasting Career’ enjoyed a successful 27-show run at the Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh Fringe.

He presented The World Today on the BBC World Service as well as winning a Sony Award for his BBC London breakfast show. He’s a well-known voice on news and sports broadcasts, winning A New York Academy Award for his live commentary at the Hillsborough Disaster.

Jeremy lives in London where he runs Talking Toolbox, which teaches advanced presentation skills and media training using techniques from over 30 years on TV and radio.

Jeremy’s an accomplished after-dinner speaker, especially when they want someone funny, but can’t afford someone really famous. In 2014 his career peaked when he hosted The Good Funeral Awards.

He’s much in demand as an MC at events. He’s compered hundreds of business events for the likes of IBM, Samsung and Boots. His background as a sports broadcaster is a perfect fit for awards shows.

On television he’s reported on the face of Elvis appearing on a piece of Stilton cheese, the Moscow State Circus husband and wife crossbow act who were getting divorced but still had eighteen months left on their contract and Speedy the tortoise having an artificial leg fitted. Tragically pigeonholed as an end-of-bulletin man, he never gets the lead story.

He devised the TV sports quiz Sick as a Parrot, which he presented on Channel 5 and also on BBC Radio 5 Live.

In October 2015 he was awarded the highest award in UK speaking, the PSAE - Professional Speaking Award of Excellence, only the fifteenth person in history to receive it. He’s a past president of the Professional Speaking Association, London.

Kids of all ages are more impressed that he’s the voice of the announcer on 11 global best-selling football video games FIFA 06 to FIFA 16. If your children have this game, you will know this man’s voice, perhaps a little too well. In real life he served sixteen years as the stadium announcer at West Ham United FC, announcing West Ham’s goals very loudly and the opposition’s very quietly.

TV sports fans will recognise him as the early face of live football on Channel 5, back in the days when the picture was a bit fuzzy. When the signal improved he was replaced by someone better looking.

Jeremy’s career highlights include being punched by legendary Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough during an interview and being ambushed live on air by an armed man claiming to be Jesus.

He’s a published author and his third book ‘A Million Tips on Public Speaking - Volume One’ is available as a free download on his website

He enjoys sea-salted caramels made by multi-award-winning chocolatier Bianca Marton. In fact, he likes them so much that in 2014 he did a Dragon’s Den style investment and now co-owns Bianca Marton Chocolates, the west London chocolate maker.

Jeremy likes to think that his friends refer to him as Willy Wonka, but he may have misheard.

  • Enquiries regarding this year’s Christmas Lunch, which is on 14 December, to

Star is in ascendancy at media awards

Express & Star, the Wolverhampton-based daily newspaper, ITV Central and BBC ran out the big winners at the annual Midlands Media Awards, held at Edgbaston Stadium, to acknowledge the achievements of the region’s journalists, photographers, broadcasters and bloggers.

Not only did the Express & Star capture the Newspaper of the Year accolade from last year’s winner, the Burton Mail, but journalist Alex Ross won News Reporter of the Year (Daily), while Tim Spiers and Tim Thursfield carried off the Sports Reporter of the Year and Photographer of the Year categories, respectively.

An investigation into Asian grooming by ITV’s Balvinder Sidhu took the honours in the Story of the Year category, while colleagues Mark Gough (Business Journalist), Andy Bevan (Features Journalist)), Stacey Foster (Television Journalist) and Awo Tarabi (Newcomer of the Year) were also winners.

BBC captured four of the top honours – Online/Digital (Caroline Lowbridge), Campaign (BBC WM), Radio (Adrian Goldberg) and The President’s Award (Jonathan Gibson).

The awards, sponsored by HSBC UK, Birmingham City University and creative agency Bareface, were organised by event management company 7Loco on behalf of Birmingham Press Club. Hosts for the evening were ITV Central presenter Bob Warman and BBC WM presenter Llewela Bailey.

One of the most fiercely contested categories was Newcomer of the Year, which attracted 20 entries from television, radio, websites and newspapers, all of which impressed the judges by the quality of their submissions. Commenting on the winning entry from Awo Tarabi, the chairman of the judging panel, Laurie Upshon, said: “She produced an impressive portfolio, including an exclusive interview with the victim of a race-hate hit and run, which showed true empathy with the interviewee. “

He told guests: “What came through, when we were judging entries, was the great diversity of style and content, reflecting the special – and unique – characteristics of the different cities, towns and villages in our patch. Our newspapers, in particular, highlight those differences.

“It is localness that makes them such a vital part of their communities and, despite economic pressures, they still must play a vital role in the democratic process to ensure those with power are subject to essential scrutiny. And so it was particularly pleasing to see, this year, the prominent contribution in many of the papers of the local democracy reporters.

The President’s Award went to Jonathan Gibson, of BBC West Midlands, who demonstrated consistently high levels of professionalism with a portfolio of investigative reports, while debut entrant Gabrielle Miller took the Blogger/Columnist category with her “Cool as Leicester” contribution.

The winners were:  

Blogger/Columnist of the Year (including hyper locals):  Winner - Gabrielle Miller, Cool as Leicester.  Highly recommended: Anton Rippon, Derby Telegraph. Nigel Hastilow, Express & Star.

The judges said Gabrielle’s offering – now the largest online magazine in Leicestershire – was a fresh, fun source of news and entertainment providing website and social media audiences with all there is to know about leisure, entertainment, events and food & drink in Leicestershire. Visually engaging, user-friendly and a trusted source of information

Business Journalist of the Year:  Winner – Mark Gough, ITV Central. Highly commended – Jonathan Gibson, BBC West Midlands and Justine Halifax, Leicester Mercury. The judges said the year was dominated by the collapse of Carillion and the story featured heavily in the entries with reports chronicling the aftershock that hit related industries. The judges would have liked to have seen more investigative work that went beyond the headlines. But the winner’s portfolio featured exclusive reports, including the first early warnings about the risk to jobs post-Brexit at one of the region’s largest and most iconic companies.  

Campaign of the Year:  Winner - BBC WM. “Make A Difference.”  Highly commended – Emma Ray, Coventry Live. “Help the Homeless.” The Sentinel Newsroom. “Ryan Evans Tragedy & Swimsafe.” The judges said that the winning entry was a wide-ranging campaign that engaged with difference communities to make a difference to lives through a diverse range of activities. Clearly demonstrated that lives can be changed – and enhanced – through everyday activities.

Features Journalist of the Year: Winner – Andy Bevan, ITV Central. Highly commended, Graham Young, Birmingham Live and Peter Bearne, ITV Central. The judges said Andy’s portfolio of contrasting reports – a tribute to Bruce Forsyth; the transplant games in Birmingham and a background on the terrorists who became known as the three musketeers - illustrated his versatility and marked him out as a top TV journalist.

Headline of the Year: Winner – Mike Lockley, Sunday Mercury.

The judges described his entry as typical of the wit and creativity of one of the region’s best-read and talented journalists.  A pun-tastic contribution: Crust Married (pork pie wedding cake is love at first bite).

Magazine/Supplement of the Year: Joint winners – Shropshire Business and Birmingham Mail’s supplement Tribute to Cyrille Regis. Highly commended – Midlands Business Insider and Taste The Seasons.  The judges found that many of the lifestyle magazines were so heavy on adverts – in some cases, they were far more glossy than the content that it was difficult to find anything to read! Shropshire Business had targeted content – a creditable mix of hard news, interviews and background information. The Mail’s coverage of footballer Cyrille Regis’s funeral, combined with a balanced mix of archive material, tributes and pictures, is a well-produced tribute that many readers will keep as a souvenir

Newcomer of the Year: Winner -  Awo Tarabi, ITV Central. Highly commended – Paige Oldfield, Burton Mail and Charlotte Winfield, Global’s Newsroom Midlands. This category attracted an impressive array of candidates – of all ages and disciplines. But the winner produced an outstanding portfolio, which included an exclusive interview with the victim of a race-hate hit-and-run, which showed true empathy with the interviewee. Her report on the scandal of forced marriages looked at the horrific violence faced by victims and detailed the extent of a crime many would like to keep hidden.

News Reporter of the Year (Daily):  Winner – Alex Ross, Express & Star.  Highly commended – Martin Naylor, Derby Telegraph. The judges said Alex demonstrates quality regional journalism, which does not follow the traditional news agenda. With people at the heart of his work, he is not afraid to tackle a big challenge facing communities, such as the plague of zombie knives.

News Reporter of the Year (Weekly):  Winner – Rebecca Miles, Hereford Times. Highly commended – Mike Lockley, Sunday Mercury. The judges said Rebecca’s portfolio highlighted her undoubted skills as an all-round reporter – making an MP squirm under intense scrutiny of his financial affairs; telling the real story of what it is like to be a Syrian refugee and countering deep-seated suspicions about immigration. And, finally, producing a belter of an interview with a former Herefordshire schoolboy who revealed himself to be the son of notorious Columbian drugs baron Pablo Escobar.

Newspaper of the Year: Winner – Express & Star.

Highly commended – Sunday Mercury.

There was very strong competition in this category from papers covering vastly different patches with their unique issues. But the judges noted the impressive story count, both in news and sport in the Express and Star. There was in-depth coverage - particularly their analysis of the West Midland crime survey - plus diverse, very readable features and good, informative listings, pages. So, if content is king, then the Express and Star takes this year’s crown as Newspaper of the Year.

 Online/Digital Journalist of the Year:  Winner – Caroline Lowbridge, BBC East Midlands.  Highly commended – Katy Hallam, Coventry Telegraph and Nathan Judah, Express & Star. The judges said that Caroline had delivered exceptional original stories, in particular focusing on subjects affecting young women and other audiences traditionally under-served by the BBC   A skilled writer and video journalist, she also excels technically, demonstrating drone work and editing skills, which showcase her undoubted versatility. A deserved winner of the award for the second year in succession.

Radio Journalist of the Year: Winner – Adrian Goldberg, BBC. Highly commended – Lindsey Alder, Touch fm.  The judges said that Adrian has produced an outstanding piece of narrative. You just want to keep on listening to his long form story on a return to his childhood home of Druid’s Heath and how it has changed. An example of radio reporting at its best – hitting upon hard economic facts, embellished with familiar warmth and pride.

Sports Journalist of the Year:  Winner: Tim Spiers, Express & Star. Highly commended – Mark Edwards, Oxford Mail. Michael Sibert, ITV Central. The judges praised him for a series of reports on newly-promoted Wolves, including several exclusives. In particular, the judges were impressed that he managed to reveal the name of the club’s new manager ahead of the opposition and they praised him for originality in his tribute to goalkeeper Carl Ikeme’s fight against acute leukaemia.

Story of the Year: Winner – Balvinder Sidhu, ITV Central, “Asian Grooming.” Highly commended – Matt Maddren, Free Radio, “Alfie Dingley’s Journey.” The judges said that this category produced a strong mix of stories across all formats, covering breaking news, campaigns, consumer journalism and major social issues. They chose as the winner a report that went beyond the headlines to reveal the heartache of a young girl, betrayed and blackmailed by her boyfriend and forced into having sex with older men. Many such victims are reluctant to come forward but Balvinder managed to win the confidence of one young girl and tell her harrowing story. An excellent example of reporting, which highlights a key issue of today

Television Journalist of the Year: Winner – Stacey Foster, ITV Central. Highly commended  - Jonathan Gibson, BBC West Midlands and Navtej Johal, BBC East Midlands.  The judges said Stacey had produced a formidable piece of work in delivering a highly polished backgrounder on the Ian Paterson cancer scandal, which harmed so many women. She created a stand out piece of TV journalism through dogged and admirable professionalism by telling the story through the voices of those effected by medical malpractice.

Tony Flanagan Photographer of the Year Award: Winner – Tim Thursfield, Express & Star. Highly commended – Richard T Harris, of Richard T Harris Photography and Tim Sturgess, Express & Star.  So many talented snappers, and the judges said this was a real photo-finish. But winner Tim Thursfield edged out his rivals with an eye-catching portfolio that featured dejection after England’s World Cup exit, an irresistible photo of ex-Express & Star reporter Boris Johnson and a poignant shot at a Walsall Remembrance Parade.

The President’s Award went to Jonathan Gibson, of BBC West Midlands, who demonstrated consistently high levels of professionalism with a portfolio of investigative reports looking at the recruitment of postal workers to steal bank cards, the exposure of the biggest distributors of nuisance text messages in Britain and how a classified advertisements website was hijacked by criminals to trade in illegal goods and services. The latter being one of the most ambitious projects ever carried out by a BBC English Regions current affairs journalist single-handed.

Pippa’s On Song

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Providing the entertainment at the Midlands Media Awards, to be held at Edgbaston Stadium on 23 November, is Worcester-born Pippa Langhorne (pictured).

Pippa set out on her career after studying performing arts at college in her home city and training with the South Wales Opera Society.

At the age of 18, Pippa discovered
 her operatic voice  -and then rose to stardom after her performance on the popular TV show Britain’s Got Talent.

BGT saw Pippa singing with
 her dog Buddy, and she sailed through to the final, receiving
 a standing ovation from Simon Cowell.

She recently opened 
the prestigious BAFTA Awards Ceremony and has a number of  TV accolades to her name.

Elegant and glamorous, with an angelic yet powerful voice, Pippa is an exceptional Classical vocalist – and she has also created a great party show which consists of a mix of songs from the 60’s to current day, rock ‘n’ roll, pop, dance and motown.

BCU is redefining media landscapes


Birmingham City University’s Birmingham School of Media, which is a major sponsor of this year’s Midlands Media Awards, is a recognised centre of excellence in providing media education in the UK.

It offers media training of the highest quality and is committed to producing professionals who can lead the UK’s creative industries to the forefront of productivity and innovation on a global scale. As a result many of its courses have been accredited by Creative Skillset, the government's skills sector council for audio, visual and creative industries.

Sarah Jones, who is head of the School of Media, said: “Here we #DoMediaDifferently. Our staff and students are innovative, creative and curious, pushing the boundaries of media practice and research. Through a range of courses, we are redefining media landscapes. Students come to the Birmingham School of Media to study journalism, film, media production, media communication, PR and music industries. They graduate with core media skills, but with an edge and flair allowing them to adapt in an ever-changing media landscape.”

The School offers a range of courses designed to equip undergraduates, postgraduates and professionals with the key skills and recognised qualifications that are in demand across industry, from marketing and PR to communications, new media and journalism.

And because the School is located a city that is brimming with creative energy, it is able to tap into the wealth of knowledge provided by the creative companies and enterprises that are based here.

It also places a strong emphasis on collaborating with businesses and other universities, and part of the “student experience” includes the opportunity to gain workplace experience within creative companies.

Students benefit from a full range of industry-standard facilities, which are based at the university’s city centre campus and at a purpose-built centre.

Teaching staff comprise of specialists in their respective fields, including academics and industry professionals, all of whom are perfectly placed to offer a wealth of experience and knowledge. Birmingham School of Media students also benefit from access to high-profile guest speakers from across the industry.

A dynamic community that is responsive to the changing face of the media industry, Birmingham School of Media is the perfect starting point to your media career.

Martin’s At The Helm

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Shropshire Star editor Martin Wright has been appointed to the role of editor of the Express & Star and Midland News Association editor-in-chief following the company’s announcement that Keith Harrison is set to leave after a 25-year career with MNA.

Martin (pictured) will take overall responsibility for MNA’s daily newspapers - Express & Star and Shropshire Star - as well as its weekly portfolio and the monthly magazines. He will also lead on digital editorial content moving forward.

Graeme Clifford, MNA Print managing director, said: “Martin’s new role will see him lead a refocused editorial department to ensure greater collaboration takes place while our journalists continue to deliver the high standard of news coverage which readers expect from our titles.”

Martin worked for the Shropshire Star as a reporter before moving to be deputy editor at the County Times in Mid Wales. He edited the Oswestry and Border Counties Advertiser and the County Times before becoming deputy editor for NWN’s Leader and Cheshire Publications

Martin took up his current role in 2013, where he took over from Keith after his move to Wolverhampton. Keith is standing down after five years in charge of the E&S and 25 years with the MNA.

Missing you…….Sarah exits the Beeb

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TV personality Sarah Bishop, who has just left the BBC following a 25-year career, looks back on her experiences as a long-standing  journalist and newsreader on regional flagship programme Midlands Today – and reveals how she acted as a “make-up” lady to take the shine of a Prime Minister

It WAS a strangely exciting night: striding out into the cool summer breeze, the thrill of the unexpected at every corner. I was dressed like I was going to the front line (bullet proof vest, First Aid kit) But this wasn’t a war zone, this was Birmingham during the riots.

Reporting on them was an experience I’ll never forget. Only last week, I came across the rushes.  As looters scrambled through shards of glass, you can just make out my voice off mic. “Bloody hell, they’re nicking the tellies!”

And they were. Huge, sleek 55-inch flat screeners from Richer Sounds. I caught sight of a young woman trying to lug one down the road. It was a moment of comedy but also mild horror. Such blatant lawlessness – here in Birmingham?

It’s been a career of surprises to be honest.  Getting the only TV interview with former Aston Villa boss Randy Lerner, that was unexpected. Admittedly, I did have to fly to Ohio to get it. His American PR team said all along, “It’ll be a wasted journey he doesn’t do interviews” and at the Cleveland Brown’s super stadium, his young daughter cheerfully confided in me “Daddy doesn’t speak to people like you”

This was how it played out;

Randy: “Why won’t you take No for an answer, Miss Falkland”

Me: “Why are you so fixed Mr Lerner? “

In that instant it could have gone the other way of course, but as the emotion welled up in my eyes - as much out of sheer exhaustion as anything else, he must have changed his mind.  A few moments later, his PR man said “Five minutes at half time.” Randy didn’t want the camera anywhere near him, so it all looked a bit odd, and he didn’t say anything ground-breaking, other than his hopes for the Villa and his love of olde English football clubs. But it was an interview. I called my boss to tell him the good news. He didn’t mind that it was 3am.

And then there was Tony Blair. As a reporter on BBC CWR, I’d interviewed him briefly on the hoof in Coventry – as he and Alistair dashed for a helicopter to get back to London.

But I’d never been up close now he was PM and he was coming into the Mailbox to be interviewed by Nick (Owen).  I’d already edited for the programme that night, so was a loose end, the studio was getting set up and all his security team were hovering. I don’t know why but I suddenly thought I’d assume the role make-up lady (we haven’t had a make-up lady since the days of Pebble Mill by the way.) So I walked in and said “Hello Prime Minister, would you like some powder to take the shine off?”

“Oh gosh yes, thanks” he said, turning around and fixing me with smiling blue eyes.

Off I went with the foundation brush and the powder puff. It was quite an intimate moment really. Scrutinising every pore, every line on the Prime Ministerial face.

“Do you think that’s err, enough now?” he asked after a moment

“Maybe just a bit more” I quickly replied. “The camera lights get really hot you know”

Poor man was caked in it by the end. I did feel a bit naughty. Nothing worse than a shiny forehead on the telly though, hey!

It’s the ordinary folk who’ve made the most impact though. Families who’ve been torn apart by tragedy who bare their souls. I hope I’ve been true to them and true to their stories. I’ve been in such a position of privilege to report their lives.

I know it’s unprofessional, but even after all these years I still get upset for them.

I’m going to miss that contact with people. Miss walking up to people in the street and asking their opinion on everything from potholes to Prince Harry’s wedding.
And of course, I’m going to miss the team. I’ve worked with some of them for nearly 25 years. It IS a bit like a big family. We’re all there to support each other through thick and thin. But the time is right to go. So, I’m swapping on the day TV reporting with a smorgasbord of other stuff.  As I’m a performer at heart, there’ll be an element of events hosting (I don’t think I’ll be able to go too long without a mic in my hand) I’m also going to be passing on some of the things I’ve learnt along the way - so media training in the corporate world and working with future talent at some of our fantastic universities in the Midlands.

I’m sure I’ll miss the buzz of live broadcasting but it’ll be nice to work without a 150-mile round trip, impossible deadlines and that insistent voice in my ear counting down from ten, nine, eight….

Editor of England’s top selling regional daily calls it a day

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Midlands News Association has announced that Keith Harrison, editor of England’s biggest selling regional daily, is leaving the Express & Star newspaper after five years in charge and 25 years with its parent company.

Keith (pictured) first joined MNA as a senior reporter in 1993, and edited the Shropshire Star for two years prior to taking on the top job in Wolverhampton.

A decision on his successor will be made in due course.

In a statement, Keith said he was leaving the company “with great sadness”, but added he felt it was “now time for a new challenge.”

He added: “It has been a privilege to serve the company in numerous roles, particularly in 2011 when I had the honour of editing the Shropshire Star, and since 2013 as Editor of the Express & Star. In that time, it has been great to see our efforts as a team rewarded with various awards for our campaigning, our website and the overall quality of our work.

“It has been fantastic to work with so many talented journalists down the years and to have learned from some of the best in the industry. I would like to thank my colleagues past and present for their help and pay particular tribute to the Graham family for their unstinting support.

“The Express & Star is a special title in a special part of the country. It will always have a huge place in my heart and I wish it every success in the future.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to be part of this fantastic organisation and I’ve loved every minute. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

In August 2018’s ABC results, the Express & Star recorded a circulation of 42,208, the highest of any English regional newspaper.

MNA print managing director Graeme Clifford said: “On behalf of the MNA, I would like to thank Keith for his contribution during one of the most challenging periods in the history of our industry.

“Amid significant upheaval for regional news publishing, Keith has proved to be first a formidable journalist and then a highly capable editor. Keith has led the editorial team with great energy and leadership, building upon the MNA’s heritage for first rate local news coverage.”

Facebook finds way back for “lost” reporters

Joanne Butcher, NCTJ (1).jpeg

Leading UK regional publishers and the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) are to partner with Facebook by funding 80 new community journalists for towns which have lost their local newspapers.

Reach plc, Newsquest, Midland News Association and Archant are all involved in the two-year pilot project, with recruitment of the new journalists expected to begin early next year.

The Community News Project, which will also aim to improve diversity in UK newsrooms, will be funded by a $6m charitable donation from Facebook to the NCTJ. Its aim is to encourage more reporting from areas of the UK, which are currently underserved, such as towns, which have lost their local newspaper and beat reporters.

The project will operate in a similar way to the BBC-funded Local Democracy Partnership, with the publishers employing the new reporters although they will be funded by Facebook via the NCTJ.

David Higgerson, chief audience officer at Reach, who has led discussions about the scope of the project on behalf of the publishers, said: “This project is a fantastic way of increasing the number of stories published that would otherwise not be covered. The funding will help us pioneer new ways of local news gathering and distributing stories to underserved communities. It will help us increase newsroom diversity and inclusion and the publishers are pleased to be working with the NCTJ to recruit, train and qualify the community journalists.”

Joanne Butcher, (pictured) chief executive of the NCTJ added: “The NCTJ cares deeply about the number, quality and diversity of journalists working in our local communities. We are very proud to support the sustainability of quality local journalism by overseeing the recruitment of additional local news journalists from diverse and inclusive backgrounds and by ensuring they are properly trained and qualified.”

The involvement of Facebook in funding the project will be seen by some as a response to the ongoing Cairncross Review of the newspaper industry, which is looking into whether the tech giants should be forced to recompense publishers for the content they use on their platforms.

Facebook said today that it is committed to doing more to support publishers.

Sian Cox-Brooker, strategic partner manager at Facebook, said: “Having started my career at my local paper, I understand how local news really helps to inform and strengthen communities. Together with the NCTJ and regional news publishers, we want to help encourage more reporting in underserved areas of the UK. Our hope is that, ultimately, the Community News Project helps more people access the news that matters to them most.”

Trainees without the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism will receive training to achieve the qualification, while those who have passed the diploma will work towards a new National Qualification in Journalism for community journalists.

He’s done it again. And in time for Christmas too!

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Ex-Birmingham Post business editor John Duckers has just published his third children’s story book – and among the first to have the opportunity of buying “Santa’s Story Sack” will be those attending Birmingham Press Club’s annual Christmas lunch on 14 December.

John says his latest creation is “the definitive compilation of short stories to get the kiddies excited for the big day.” He said: “Featuring a cast of adventurous kids and devoted animals who enjoy festive frolics to excite and delight, it contains wondrous moments of fun and laughter alongside mystery, suspense and really scary bits.”

So you can all read about Big Bad Al, the alligator who snaps into action to ensure kids around the world get their presents in time, the daring duo who catch up with toy thieves Gobber and Smudger, plus the frantic search for Coco the Clown.

Exciting, or what?  “There’s something for everyone who loves surprises,” said John.

“Santa’s Story Sack” is published by Grosvenor House Publishing and available through Amazon and most main bookshops, priced £7.99. And it varies from John’s previous works, as this one is a collection of ten different short stories with Christmas as the backdrop.

“Some of the short stories were written years ago, some are entirely new, and I thought it would be fun to pull them all together in book form. Hopefully people will like them – I certainly enjoyed dreaming them up,” added John. He said: “For me, book-writing is more a hobby than a money-earner. The first raised significant sums for charities Cure Leukaemia and Symphony Hall. The latest one is not specifically committed but depending on the circumstances the intention is to gift £1 a book.”

John, who is happy to do readings for local schools, started his career on The Press and Journal in Aberdeen, a major regional daily across the north of Scotland.

If you are local to Birmingham then there is a discount for collecting the book in person. Or for bulk purchases, John will endeavour to deliver.

“Santa’s Story Sack” follows on from The Amazing Adventures of the Silly Six and The Crazy Adventures of the Silly Six.  But parents had better make sure they don’t buy John’s proposed next offering. He’s promising a “steamy” novel.

  • To reserve a place at the Press Club’s Christmas lunch, to be held at Birmingham Hippodrome on 14 December, please email

Merger of production operations at regional publisher

 Marc Reeves

Marc Reeves

Up to six jobs are set to be lost in a move that sees the merger of print production operations of seven daily newspapers across the Midlands.

Reach plc announced the proposal to staff at its East and West Midlands dailies just 48 hours after the company revealed both regions would now come under a single editor-in-chief in Marc Reeves.

Marc, who is taking on the expanded role after Derby Telegraph editor and East Midlands editor-in-chief Steve Hall decided to step down, announced the move to staff yesterday.  In a memo, seen by media website HTFP, he said he hoped the cuts - understood to mainly affect sub-editing roles - can be achieved entirely through voluntary redundancies.

Reach’s seven daily tiles in the Midlands are the Birmingham MailBurton MailCoventry Telegraph, Derby Telegraph, Leicester MercuryNottingham Post and Stoke-on-Trent daily The Sentinel.

Marc (pictured) said:  “The proven success of regionalised print production, along with the investment in a common system across the Regionals division, has enabled us to further refine our workflows. We propose to take advantage of the new opportunities created by these changes to introduce one production model across Regionals editorial.

“Specifically, we are today proposing to combine the print production operations of our seven daily titles in the West and East Midlands into a single operation to make the most efficient use of our resources. This move will not necessarily require anybody to relocate.”

He added: “The proposed changes are expected to lead to the loss of six full-time equivalent roles in total across both regions.

“We hope to achieve these savings entirely through voluntary redundancies and have therefore invited print production colleagues who may be interested to come forward.”

Earlier this year Reach merged the print operations of the Manchester Evening News and Huddersfield Daily Examiner, in a restructure, which the company said, would involve a net loss of seven roles at the latter.