So, I’ve been in touch with Mike Dowse who is a director of Heritage Narrow Boats Ltd which will redevelop and then operate the F&B site. Among other activities, the company runs Sherborne Wharf, boat trips around our local canals and boat hire from a marina in Scholar Green just north of Kidsgrove in Staffs.
At the companies public consultation in July last year Mike said the plan was to complete the project in April 2014. This seems highly unlikely now.
In an email to me this week Mike said:
“The project to reopen the Fiddle & Bone is still very much on the cards and we are very enthusiastic to get things moving very soon!
However with all these things, it’s all the final arrangements that take up the time!
Our plans have been agreed by the City. So we are just waiting to finalise negotiations with C&RT.
I will let you know as soon as we have some certain dates for opening.”
I have no further news about why there appears to be a delay. All I can say is that in my experience, the C&RT (Canal & River Trust) and its predecessor Inland Waterways move in very slow and mysterious ways, especially true in the recent past of the Fiddle & Bone premises which they own.
I’m personally disappointed that we, and visiting boaters, will have to wait longer (just a little, I hope!) before there is a pub and food facility in the area which non Saturday-night-revelers can enjoy in peace.
While we wait for things to happen I noticed the old blackboard posters on the front of the building. These date back to 2002 and before. Now quite artistic in a historic and scruffy kind of way. What is even more interesting is the billing names of some well known bands still visible amidst other information on charges etc.
Click on image to open a larger view in a separate window.
Clearly visible are the names of:
- Roy Forbes Quartet – Still a regular at the Birmingham International Jazz Festival.
- Big Joe Pleasure – now renamed King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys – still a wonderful act of jazz and stage craft of international repute.
- 3 Manjam – Beatles cover band.
- Time Enough – not known.
- Bryan Garbett – unknown.
- Doctors of Jazz – a trad jazz band from Richmond, Virginia and still performing.
- New World Explosion – From Birmingham, in the same vein as the Brand New Heavies, or a funked up M-People, featuring soul diva Patricia Panton.
Tour of the NIA Redevelopment
Another tour for local residents of the works taking place at the NIA was organised on Thursday 6 February. Unfortunately for the 6 organisers present only 8 residents turned up even though pre-registering was needed and by the number of cakes and biscuits laid on many more were expected. Probably the horrid weather made staying indoors more attractive.
The tour was conducted by representatives of The National Exhibition Centre Limited and BAM the main building contractors. The people doing the talking failed to introduce themselves, but wore company identities. Why, I wonder?
Barclaycard are partners in the revamped venue and their influence on hospitality offerings is very evident.
Apparently the redevelopment is going to plan and the target completion date is December 2014, in time for the main festive events.
Other key dates in 2014 are:
- 15 February completion of external steelwork (the main extension fronting the canal)
- Early April roof and concrete floors added to external steelwork
- Glass curtaining (ie external cladding) added to steelwork
- Total venue shutdown 2 June to 2 September for major works to the arena inside
A big launch series of events is planned during January 2015.
The changes to the central arena (performance area) are to both the technical infrastructure and customer comfort. The structures for holding the stage lights are to be improved as is the ease of erecting stages.
I was surprised to learn that some major artists travel with their own stage and lighting and these are constructed on site by their own production staff before being moved into the infrastructure ready for the concert.
For added customer comfort all the seating will be replaced with higher backed types with greater leg room and enabling removal of the current somewhat unfriendly bars behind each seat. The new seats will be black instead of the current red ones, which I personally think is a mistake!
We were shown the enhanced Corporate Hospitality Cubes, each self-contained with social seating, bar and catering behind a large window overlooking the arena. These are located way above the normal seating and have their own rows of seats outside the window to fully experience the atmosphere of the events.
The cubes will provide a superb and privileged experience aimed at attracting more hospitality business.
Also new, we were shown a completed example of a Sponsor Room set above, and overlooking, the main concourse ring around the outside of the arena. Such facilities include a presentation room, social seating, bar and catering.
Finally, we were shown the old artists dressing rooms. These are poorly decorated non too comfortable rooms which visiting artists occupy for up to 16 hours on the day of their concert! These unimpressive rooms have been occupied by many world famous artists – the likes of Madonna and Michael Bublé.
By contrast, we were then shown the new star dressing rooms designed to offer visiting artists a more comfortable stay in the venue. They feature colour changing mood lighting, luxury shower rooms, larger social spaces and “Hollywood-style” mirrors with multiple lights around the periphery of the mirror. I was surprised that they do not have day beds.
Black Sabbath were the first artists to use the new dressing rooms. We were shown the new artist and performer wall in the dressing room corridor, which they had signed.
So, both the new exterior extension and inside changes are happening as planned and should provide a new lease of life for what is currently a tired venue.
The future of the remaining trees on the towpath in front of the extension was not known by our guides – as usual!
Some photos taken today…
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