Alternative Tours Fly High with Flybe
Anna Gibson, Partner in Alternative Tours was featured in Flybe’s November flight magazine.
What’s your connection to Birmingham? How long have you been there?
I was born in south Birmingham and growing up I witnessed the city’s rebirth, both culturally and as a really vibrant place to live. Although for a period of time my studies and work took me away from the city, I returned over 30 years ago to the West Midlands, which I see as my home.
What inspires you about Birmingham?
Birmingham is steeped in history and creativity and, as a ‘creative’, the city never ceases to amaze me with just how much talent we have. The architectural landscape is forever changing, with such diverse iconic buildings as the City Library, the Cube, the Rotunda, stylish Selfridges and, of course, the amazing New Street Station’s rolling exterior landscape that envelops luxury stores such as the flagship John Lewis. The ‘electronic eye’ oozes the ‘creative’ visually to the city’s visitors, something that I am particularly proud to mention as my daughter, Sophie, was involved in the project during the very early stages of its conception.
Tell us about your company, Alternative Tours.
Having worked in many areas of the city, including Birmingham’s unique and historic Jewellery Quarter, I have naturally become a passionate ambassador for my city. I have always been involved with marketing its attractions, whether it was through my work for Marketing Birmingham or as Marketing Manager for the Jewellery Quarter. My business partner in Alternative Tours worked in the Jewellery Quarter as well as being involved with the Balti Triangle, so it was natural, given both our areas of knowledge, to set up Alternative Tours which has a focus on these two areas and the city centre generally.
What makes your tours different from other companies?
Alternative Tours focuses on the word ‘bespoke’. We usually cater for groups from eight upwards, and our visitors can choose from a menu of things that can be experienced behind the scenes, which are not always visible to the general public. This can range from heritage walks and going behind the scenes of a jeweller’s to watching a balti being cooked in a restaurant kitchen. We go to great lengths to provide a unique and entertaining experience that is remembered for years to come and which hopefully encourages people to return to the city.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Seeing the pleasure that people get from enjoying and learning about parts of Birmingham that ordinarily they might miss out on visiting.
What three things should visitors see or do on a trip to Birmingham?
Well (as you might expect me to say!), visiting the Jewellery Quarter and its museums and galleries, going for a balti in the place it all started, the Balti Triangle, and just enjoying some of the quirky buildings in the city centre; the retail offer is amazing.
Can you recommend somewhere to eat or drink in Birmingham?
The Button Factory in the Jewellery Quarter, with its rooftop terrace, is a great place for a drink. Lunch in Selfridges whilst having some retail therapy is atmospheric, but if you want to push the boat out a bit, then a meal at Michelin-starred Purnell’s in the city centre is a real culinary experience.
What’s your best-kept secret for Birmingham?
We still make an estimated 40% of UK jewellery.
Malvern Hills Decorative and Fine Arts Society enjoys Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter
“Thank you very much for all that you both did to make our visit last week to the Jewellery Quarter such a resounding success. Anna, all your detailed planning really paid off. I have had a number of e mails and comments from people about how much they enjoyed the day and how well they thought you had organised it.”
Adrian Buckmaster – Malvern Hills DFAS
Common Purpose – Independent International Leadership Development Organisation visits Birmingham’s Balti Triangle
Rave Review From Oracle
“I cannot thank you enough for the most fab evening; everything from Andy’s presentation, your fab photos, restaurant – food and staff, to the coach service was perfect”
Executive Assistant to Vice Presidents at Oracle
A SPARKLING NEW GUIDE
A new Visitor Guide has been launched, showcasing Birmingham’s famous Jewellery Quarter. It is packed full of information on the area’s Museums, Galleries, Historic Trails, and, of course, its unique Shopping Offer. With over 100 specialist jewellery shops, the Guide also has some useful tips on everything from choosing diamond jewellery to tips on horology.
Guide publisher, Anna Gibson said, ‘I’ve been involved with marketing the Jewellery Quarter for many years and have regularly shown people around the area. There’s lots to see and enjoy and I hope that this Guide will help visitors make the most of their visit.
This free Guide will be available from Information Centres, Libraries, Hotels, Chiltern Railway mainline stations and other attractions.’
The Jewellery Quarter’s very own bespoke tour operator ‘Alternative Tours’ hosted a visit from the ‘Merry Wives of Alcester’ (MWA) group.
This was a specially tailored and carefully planned evening event which started at the Pen Room, with Andy Munro giving an illustrated talk about the Quarter, Past and Present, liberally laced with some humorous anecdotes…..described by the MWA as ‘an extremely interesting talk’ The 40 strong party then enjoyed a tour of the Pen Museum which included activities from writing with a quill pen to making their own pen nib…the ladies were particularly entranced by Larry Hanks virtuoso performance in giving some stern instructions on the process of making the nibs.
With conducted stops along the Quarter’s unique pavement trail,the party made its way to Artfull Expression where tour organiser, Anna Gibson had arranged for designer makers to be on hand to explain how they both designed and made such unique jewellery. Described by the party as ‘fascinating’ this proved a compelling insight for all concerned.
The Evening ended with a convivial meal at Portofino with Eric Oglu, as usual,in top form to ensure a fitting end to an enjoyable evening. ‘Everyone loved the food’ was the after meal comment by the organiser of the trip. ‘Trip Adviser’ eat your heart out!
Anna said , ‘We have had some great feedback and the concluding comment on the feedback form was, ‘We enjoyed the evening very much and it was very good value.’ However more importantly for the Jewellery Quarter, the four hour visit was just a taster and many of the party have said that they will return to both shop for jewellery and visit the Pen Room.’
**Larry’s Got Talent**
Website visitors doubled when seeing our very own Britain’s Got More Talent Star, Larry Hanks performing in the Jewellery Quarter’s Pen Museum on Saturday 11th May.
A few mentions starting with 11 mins into the show.
CURRY ON UP THE AISLE
Alternative Tours recently hosted a stag party with a difference….travelling all the way from Leatherhead, they started off their Stag night in spicy style. A privileged visit into the kitchens to see how the Birmingham Balti was prepared, a three course Balti ‘Banquet’ was followed by a Curry Quiz as they geared up for a night on the town. The trip was organised in honour of a curry loving Groom ..whether baltibowls were tied to the bumper of the wedding car was never revealed.
‘A legendary experience…..a great time was had by all.’ – Ant Honeyball (Stag Party Organiser)