Hello Louise, I understand you have recently completed a wing walk for charity which involved being tossed around attached to the outside of a light aircraft hundreds of feet above Britain. Before we go any further, please could you give me a brief background on who you are, your involvement with Birmingham’s music scene and your reasons for doing the wing walk.
My late Dad, Colin Woodley, was a publican all his life. He ran some of Birmingham’s most popular pubs and live music venues including the Railway, Curzon Street and The Actress & Bishop where I grew up. I grew up around live music and bands and loved it so I slid quite easily into various job roles within the Birmingham music scene such as promoting, radio, presenting and DJing.
It’s been incredible working with and alongside the great people working in the Birmingham music industry. I’ve gained so many awesome experiences, met some of my bestest friends, seen the most amazing bands and even met my partner a long the way.
Having lost my awesome Dad to Lung cancer three years ago, the wing walk was in his memory and to raise money for Roy Castle Lung Cancer foundation, the work they do for those suffering from this horrible disease is outstanding and so important. Of course they’ve been struggling due to our current situation with covid so it means the world to be able to help them at this time.
Aside from the Actress & Bishop, what are your interests and passions?
I love adventure and travelling to new places, I’m looking forward to the time we can all roam freely again. I also love cooking, love food and getting creative in the kitchen. I like to think it’s a hidden talent but you’d have to ask my boyfriend ha. I’m still partial to a vino or 5 as you know but most of the time now I’ve swap belinis for books – love science, history and self help books. A bit of stigma against a good old self help book but I can’t recommend some of them enough, great to aid a good mindset. Atomic habits & subtle art of not giving a f*ck were my top lockdown self-help reads!
How has Coronavirus effected your trade in St Paul’s Square and what steps did you take to re-open?
It’s been a journey. There were weeks and weeks of planning before we even opened, so much to think about behind the scenes. The staff at The Actress have worked so hard, adapted well and kept their spirits up, as have the regulars and customers we’ve been very lucky in that respect. However, the challenges are constant and ever-changing. Coronavirus has had a huge effect on our trade, I can’t stress enough how important it is to support your pubs and venues right now. We are doing everything we can to keep Covid safe including track and trace, socially distancing , temperature checks, regular sanitising and so on.
Have you found the same regulars still coming in or is it a different clientele?
We still have a lot of our regulars who come in, they’ve been ace! The early finish has affected us dramatically and our capacity is very limited due to our new Covid-19 safe set up so we are missing a lot of our Actress family! We can’t wait to have people back dancing, singing & mingling again. We’re rolling with the ‘temporarily tame’ for now and have some really exciting things coming up, improvisation is key at the moment. Keep an eye on our page, we may surprise you!
What can people expect to find going on these days at the Actress, events etc?
We have just introduced live music back to The Actress and it feels so good! Every Wednesday is Wednesday night live, different acts each week. Every Friday we’re joined by Sean Reeves, who is just incredible, from 17:00. We’ve got new shows coming up such as Ash Sheehan, Open Mic, Ruth Kokumo, High Horses, Jack Cattell & more. Plus of course our popular Quiz night (every Monday) and Dirty Bingo (every first Thursday of the month). Keep an eye on our Facebook page or website for listings, info and how to book.
Do you think the Actress can sustain viability if these lockdowns continue?
It’s really out of our hands now. Like other venues, we really are doing everything we can to stay above water but no body knows what’s around the corner. We’re staying hopeful and urging people to support, not just The Actress, but all local venues and pubs right now.
Where else do you drink and eat when not at work?
One of my favourite spots in Birmingham is The Big Bull’s head, Digbeth High Street. It’s a little hidden gem for me, I’m a sucker for a traditional ‘proper pub’ and the food is great, make sure you pop in if you’re in the area! St Paul’s house on The Square is also a favourite of mine, I’m slowly working my way through their menu at the moment, cocktails are pretty tidy too!
Can I ask which local bands you are digging right now, and what is on your current playlist generally?
Bluenation were my first post lockdown gig recently at Deadwaxx and they were incredible! Meme Detroit & Wood and Nails are always on my playlist. Charlotte Young’s new release is just wonderful too. Having just checked my recently played I’m also listing to System of the down, Queens of the Stone age, The Strokes, Elton John & Pulp – how’s that for a mixed bag! ha ha!
Was great chatting and will see you for a drink soon.
You can still support Louise for her completed Wing Walk here:
And download the Actress App here:
Interview by Nick Byng for Grapevine Birmingham