“We just want her home and safe” – Wolverhampton family appeal to Erdington residents for help finding teenage daughter

Words by Erdington Local news team / Pics supplied by family

Erdington residents have been asked to help find a missing teenager who has been seen multiple times in the area.

The parents of 15-year-old Shannon Hyde have been driving around Erdington since she went missing 21 days ago.

Shannon’s father Shaun Hyde, from Wolverhampton, has been frantically following up tip offs from people on Facebook.

He told Erdington Local: “She has been missing for 21 days now and her phone has been switched off since last Friday.

“She was last seen meeting an older man in Erdington.

“People are commenting on Facebook that they have seen her in Erdington, Birmingham, but the police don’t seem to be following the sightings up until it is too late.

“We’ve been told she was seen outside an HMO in Erdington, by Old Square, and approached several people in pubs in Erdington.”

He added: “We just want her home and safe, she is vulnerable and I’m asking anyone who has seen her to get in touch with the police.”

Shannon’s disappearance has been shared across social media and Shaun has even been getting messages from Americans who are trying to locate her via the Internet.

He said: “I’ve had Americans on Snapchat getting in touch about where she could be, I really hope she contacts us soon.

“I am really worried about her being groomed by gangs and her mother and I are going out of our minds with worry about what could happen to her if she is not found soon.”

West Midlands Police have now put out two appeals for information about the whereabouts of Shannon.

Police first posted about Shannon on 13 September and again this week posting a more recent picture of the teenager.

A police spokesman said: “Shannon is 5ft 3ins tall, with shoulder length brown hair and was last seen wearing blue jeans, a cream T-shirt, chequered jacket and blue and pink trainers.

“We still need to find Shannon. Can you help? Please contact us with any information.

“We’re still searching for Shannon. The 15-year-old is missing from Wolverhampton. She was last seen wearing grey bottoms, white trainers and a beige check jacket.”

If you have information on Shannon’s whereabouts call 101, quote PID390949.

BACK TO SCHOOL: Children at Abbey Primary ‘Fill the Skies with Hope’ and send a messge to PM Liz Truss over UK refugee policies

Words by Ed King / Pics by Ed King & Abbey Catholic Primary School

“If there is a refugee, we are all going to welcome him or her in our school – because we support refugees and we want more refugees to join our safe and caring and loving country.”

On Friday 23 September, children at Abbey Catholic Primary School in Erdington took part in a nationwide campaign to ‘Fill the Skies with Hope’ and send a message to the newly appointed Prime Minister, Liz Truss, over the UK’s policies on refugees.

The whole school engaged in the special event, making orange paper aeroplanes carrying messages of support and solidarity and sending them into the skies at the same time.

Led by Abbey Principal, Mr McTernan, all children and classes gathered together in the school playground at 2:30pm – launching 420 paper aeroplanes in unison to show the school’s support for refugees and displaced people.

The ‘Fill the Skies with Hope’ campaign – coordinated by the national coalition Together with Refugees – saw schools, community groups, and local organisations across the country make their own paper aeroplanes and launch them in a ‘Day of Action’ on Friday 23 September.

Together with Refugees organised the ‘Fill the Skies with Hope’ campaign to directly challenge the British Government about the colloquially called Rwanda Plan, where people identified by the UK as illegal immigrants or asylum seekers are relocated to Rwanda.

The Rwanda Plan was signed into law by the then Home Secretary Priti Patel, and Rwandan foreign minister Vincent Biruta on 13 April 2022 – with the current Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, now overseeing the scheme.

Together with Refugees was founded by Asylum Matters, British Red Cross, Freedom from Torture, Rainbow Migration, Refugee Action, Refugee Council, and Scottish Refugee Council.

Abbey Catholic Primary School is part of the Birmingham School of Sanctuary Network, committed to ‘promoting welcome, inclusion and awareness of the problems faced by people seeking sanctuary.’ – with the school’s curriculum embracing the issues around refugees and displaced people.

Ahead of the paper aeroplane launch, children from Year 4 had been involved in lessons and learning around refugees all day – including reading Kate Milner’s illustrated children’s book, My Name is Not Refugee.

“It (My Name is Not Refugee) was about a boy who had to flee his country because of war and his mum was saying they will call you refugee,” explained Henry Bradington (4LD).

“At the start we learned what our names mean, so we could not call refugees refugees, but to call them by their name,” told Benedict Abraham (4LD). “I learnt not to label people but to call them by their own names,” added Ava White (4CC)

“We also learnt how people in India, 5 million people, had to flee because of natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and droughts,” told Victoria Gabriella (4LD).

Year 4 Teacher and Year 3/4 Pastoral Lead, Miss Doyle, added: “We’re a school of sanctuary and they’ve (the children) have been immersed in that entire journey.

“I think it’s so important in this multicultural society not only do they understand refugees and their position, but that they are embracing it and they are welcoming… that they don’t have those stereotypes and are not afraid of it.”

Children at Abbey Catholic Primary ‘Fill the Skies with Hope’ – Friday 23 September

For more on Abbey Catholic Primary School visit www.abbeyrc.bham.sch.uk

For more on Together with Refugees visit www.togetherwithrefugees.org.uk

NEWS: St Barnabas to hold public consultation over churchyard renovation – Thursday 29 September

Words & pics by Ed King

St Barnabas Church in Erdington are inviting members of the public to attend a public consultation to discuss plans to renovate the churchyard.

Held at St Barnabas on Thursday 29 September, the drop in session will be free to attend – with the Erdington High Street based church keen to hear from as many local residents as possible.

Plans to renovate the churchyard have been discussed internally at St Barnabas for several months, with ambitious ideas on how to turn the dilapidated areas into vibrant public spaces that better serve the local community.

A poster advertising the public consolation explains how St Barnabas want to create ‘a safe and beautiful place that benefits people and wildlife’.

St Barnabas’s churchyard has been known as a hot spot for street drinkers, drug taking, and anti-social behaviour, with the plans for renovation hoping an ‘improved churchyard means better links for local people to use and visit it.’

Current plans include a special memorial tree, a stone ‘labyrinth’ and ‘focal space’, art murals, and areas for the public to sit and reflect.

Reverend Emma Sykes at St Barnabas told Erdington Local: “Our church sits at the heart of the High Street and we want the churchyard to be a place of peaceful reflection as well as a safe and green space that benefits all those who use it.

“We know there are challenges ahead as it’s going to be a long and costly project to restore the currently unsafe parts and reform the whole area, but we are excited that we’re already making positive steps and there are reachable goals in sight.

“We’ve engaged with specialist consultants and with help from our support partners, ideas for the future plans include living memorials, wildlife areas, education trails for children, historical insights, improved lighting, benches and a community space which could be used for outdoor church services, activities and other events.

“All this is against the backdrop of respecting all those who are at rest in the churchyard and their families and loved ones.”

First built as a chapel of ease in 1823, St Barnabas is a Grade II listed building designed by Thomas Rickman – a self taught architect who was a major figure in the 19th century Gothic Revival movement.

Badly damaged in a suspected arson attack in 2007, which destroyed the roof and all but one of its famed stained glass windows, St Barnabas underwent major renovation work to its building in 2011-12.

The churchyard is no longer available for public burial and contains 66 graves to service men and women from both the Great War and World War II.

Reverend Emma Sykes added: “The public consultation will be an important opportunity for people to come along and tell us what they think of the plans and we can answer questions.

“We continue to be grateful to all those who have supported us so far and we want to bring on board more people from the local community as we move forward as together, we can make very positive changes.”

For more on St Barnabas visit www.stbarnabaserdington.org.uk

NEWS: Castle Vale development honours ATA women and girls at launch of 123 new homes

Words by Ed King / Pics by Christine Kitaka & Ed King

123 new homes have been officially launched on Castle Vale this week, at an event honouring the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) women and girls that supported the WWII war effort at Castle Bromwich Aerodrome.

The Point, a new housing estate built on the old Greenwood Academy site, has been delivered through a partnership with Birmingham City Council, The Pioneer Group, and commercial property developers Lovell Homes.

Selected roads on the new estate have been named after the ATA women and girls who bravely flew the Spitfires, bombers, and fighter planes from Castle Brom during the Second World War – often learning to fly each new plane from basic training and pilot notes handed to them on the way to the aircraft.

Those honoured include Mary Ellis – one of the last surviving British women pilots from the Second World War, who flew over 1,000 planes of 76 different types, including Harvards, Hurricanes, Spitfires, and Wellington bombers.

Eleanor Wadsworth – one of the RAF’s ‘Spitfire women’, who became a member of ATA at 25 and flew 22 different types of aircraft, including the Hawker Hurricane and Spitfire, amassing 590 flying hours, 430 of which were solo.

Also remembered was Joy Lofthouse – who flew Spitfires and bombers for the Air Transport Auxiliary and learnt to fly 38 different types of aircraft after joining ATA in December 1943.

In honour of these brave women, whose long unrecognised role in the WWII war effort changed the face of the UK’s modern military, roads on The Point estate have been named: Ellis Crescent, Wadsworth Knoll, and Lofthouse Vale.

The late Robin Corbett, Baron Corbett of Castle Vale, was also remembered with Corbett Boulevard named in his honour.

Friends and families attended a special event at The Point’s marketing office, on School Close, off Farnborough Road, Castle Vale – joined by Squadron Leader Chris Wilson (RAF Cosford), and representatives of the Air Cadets, Royal Airforce Association, and the partnership organisations responsible for delivering the development.

Opening the launch event, Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust Principal Housing Officer Gill Beveridge was joined by Castle Vale Cllr Ray Goodwin (Lab) – handing flowers to the first BCC and Pioneer Group residents, Antoinette Thompson and Aston Russell, and celebrating the “heroes” of WWII and “what they did to bring peace to this world.”

Speaking on behalf of Mary Ellis, who “started to learn to fly whilst she was still a schoolgirl”, her family further recalled how: “The Spitfire was Mary’s favourite plane, it was beautiful for her to fly and she had wonderful memories.

“She used river and roads for navigation, and it’s wonderful that we’ve used roads (named after the ATA women and girls) to come here and see this development.”

In a message from Joy Lofthouse’s daughter, read by a family friend and representative of the Fly to Help charity, people at the launch event heard how the 18 year old Lofthouse answered a call out for female pilots despite having “never been near an aeroplane in her life.”

Her daughter’s message continued: “Joy was an inspiration to me; her motto was ‘I can, I must, I will’ – and into her mid 90’s she did just that.

“I hope that if a young gild sees the street name, she might be curious as to who Joy Lofthouse was, and when she reads the story she might look up into the skies, see an aeroplane, and think – I can do that.”

Squadron Leader Chris Wilson, whose base at RAF Cosford would have fitted many of the planes coming off the Castle Bromwich Aerodrome, told the crowd:

“During the Battle of Britain we were always short of pilots, so what we needed to do is find other people who could fly the aircraft but who maybe couldn’t fight on the front line.

“So, the Air Transport Auxiliary came into being… and these amazing women would get in these aircrafts and fly them wherever they were told to fly them.

“They would walk to that aircraft with the pilots notes for that aircraft type – telling them things like stall speed, handling characteristics, what did it tended to like to do on take off. How would it bite you… and potentially kill you.

“So, to be here today and to know that you are taking the steps to keep recognising these people, is really, really, really good and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

The Point is a partnership development of 123 new homes on Castle Vale, with over 50% of the houses allocated to address the city’s growing social housing crisis.

Out of the 123 new homes at The Point, 64 will be made available for social housing – addressing the waiting lists held by both Birmingham City Council (BCC) and The Pioneer Group. The remaining 59 will be sold on the commercial market.

The Pioneer Group Chief Executive Officer, Simon Wilson, told Erdington Local: “We all know social housing is in huge demand – Birmingham City Council’s waiting list is mirrored by our own – so to provide beautiful new build homes in the heart of Castle Vale feels fantastic.

“We’ve got an allocation policy which does prioritise local people; we recognise people on Castle Vale want to stay on Castle Vale.

“But equally we know there’s a huge demand and need, and we’re really happy to get this development over the line.”

Squadron Leader Chris Wilson at launch of The Point, Castle Vale

For more information on The Point from Lovell Homes visit www.lovell.co.uk/developments/the-point

For more information on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk

For advice and guidance around housing from Birmingham City Council visit www.birmingham.gov.uk/housing

FEATURE: The Skatepark Initiative – a campaign to give an Erdington home to the Olympic urban sport

Words by Erdington Local editorial team

A campaign has been launched to give Erdington its very own skateboarding park. With Birmingham still basking in the success of the Commonwealth Games, a lasting sporting legacy could be created where the Queen’s Baton brought so much joy to residents.

Erdington skateboarder Rick Swift, aged 32, is spearheading The Skatepark Initiative which if successful will see a £200,000 facility for the Olympic urban sport built in Pype Hayes Park.

He told Erdington Local: “I’ve been skating since I was ten and there has never been anywhere in Erdington to go, we always have to travel to Sutton Coldfield, Yardley, or Perry Barr. So, after looking into the feasibility of getting our own skatepark we’ve decided to go for it.

“I thought it is about time the youngsters in Erdington were given somewhere to go, they get a lot of bad press but there is nothing for them to do locally.

“Skateparks are proven to help young people’s physical and mental health, just half an hour a day at a skatepark will make a huge difference to the overall health of our residents.”

Rick has been working on the plans for more than five years and slowly started overcoming the practical hurdles needed to make his and the Erdington skateboarding community’s dream a reality.

He said: “There is everything from noise pollution to ensuring access for ambulances…. but the most important is there ‘where’. Erdington has a lot of parks, but they are all quite small and do not have space for a skatepark like the size of Sutton Coldfield’s one.

“However, when we approached Erdington Councillor Robert Alden he told us it was pretty much Pype Hayes Park or nowhere, so we have decided to go with Pype Hayes Park.”

The next step for Rick is to register the fundraising committee for the skatepark as a charitable organisation.

He said: “We are beginning the process of becoming a registered charity because then we can go for all kinds of funding. There are lots of pots of money if you know where to look, whether it be Sport England or the National Lottery. Skateboarding is an Olympic sport now, which in itself seemed an impossibility ten years ago.”

Rick is determined from the outset to ensure wheelchair skaters are welcome in Erdington.

He said: “The Commonwealth Games success was merging able bodied and disabled sports so we are determined for our park is to be diverse as possible and most importantly wheelchair friendly.

“Wheelchair skateboarding is a big thing, and there is a big push for the sport to be included in the Paralympics – and when you see the tricks that are done in Wheelchair Motocross then we would be mad not to want to be inclusive as possible.”

Las Vegas native Aaron ‘Wheelz’ Fotheringham, who coined the term WMCX (wheelchair and BMX), began entering BMX competitions and his tricks and videos have inspired a generation of disabled athletes.

Rick added: “We will not compromise on making our skatepark wheelchair friendly, we already have had professional skatepark designers get in touch.”

The Skateboard Initiative launched a petition to Birmingham City Council to show the depth of support for a new facility in Erdington.

So far 710 people have signed the petition at Change.org with residents echoing the complaint there is nothing to do in Erdington for youngsters.

Jade Morgan said: “I’m signing because the youth of today have absolutely nothing to do. Outside of school, children cause trouble and get up to no good because there’s nothing to do.

“It’s about time we make changes for this so that the kids of today have more space and safe places to socialise and creatively express themselves without turning to a life of crime and alcoholism.”

Erdington has got a dearth of facilities for youngsters in comparison to other constituencies. A recent internal Birmingham’s City Council report recommended Erdington should be the home of any new youth centre if funding to be secured, such was the lack of activities locally.

Mark Preston, who founded iconic skateboard Birmingham shop Ideal in 1991, has been at the forefront of the skating scene in Birmingham since the 1980s believes it is the perfect time to get the public and political support to build new skatepark.

He told Erdingotn Local: “Skateboarding is on an upcycle now, it is cyclical, but it is becoming more popular. It is in a good place, there is a lot of people skating at the moment. The Olympics has helped.

“Skateboarding is a lot more diverse now, the ethnic diversity is better than ever before and there are also a lot more women and girls skating too, which is great to see.

“The pandemic was really good for skating, a lot of people got involved then. So, numbers are high.”

The second city has been at the bottom of the league when it comes to official organised parks, but skaters had their own paradise of a sprawling 1960s urban landscape which has now all but disappeared.

Mark said: “Birmingham has always been very poorly serviced by skateparks, for a big city it has been a joke basically down the years. But what we had in Birmingham was great streetskating.

“Birmingham had places like the Central Library and other places which were brilliant. The 1960s designed Birmingham was fantastic, it was made for skating. It was like a fantastic playground for skaters in the 1980s and early 1990s, I’m 53 so I was lucky to be around at that time.

“However, when as the city gets developed we have lost these places and architecture these days is very aggressive against skaters. So skateparks now are the future.”

In the last 20 years skateparks have sprung up in Yardley, Selly Park, Perry Barr, and Sutton Coldield and remain popular.

And Mark, also known as Zippy, backs the proposed Pype Hayes skatepark, even offering to advise its design.

He added: “Skateparks are always a good thing because people can congregate there and they know they will not get kicked off. Families can go down there and have fun.

“However, the design is important, they have to be brave, there is no point having a beginner’s area because after a few weeks people are no longer beginners.

“A new skatepark has to be adventurous, and we are more than happy to poke our noses in at the design stage.”

One skateboarder familiar with the streets of Erdington, who will find any design easier than most, is Team GB Olympian Bombette Martin.

The 16-year-old was born in New York but her grandfather is Paddy Martin who has run the Rose and Crown Boxing Club in Erdington for decades.

Her brother Kayo is also following in his sister’s footsteps and despite being American born will jump and skate for England.

Bombette said: “I like to make the joke that I’m half a New Yorker, and 3/4ths a Brummie! I spent so much of my childhood in Erdington because my dad is British, so I guess it didn’t really cross my mind, or my family’s mind, to even try and compete for America.

Bombette has spoken fondly of Birmingham and Erdington, and Rick is planning to enlist her for his campaign.

He said: “Imagine if Bombette came to our park after winning medals, imagine how that would inspire a generation of Erdington skaters?”


 
For more on The Skatepark Initiative visit www.facebook.com/TheSkateparkInitiative

To sign The Skatepark Initiative petition visit www.change.org/p/birmingham-city-council-theskateparkinitiative

LOCAL PROFILE: “The key words for Erdington are ‘massive potential’ – John Hodgkiss, Erdington’s new Town Centre Manager

Words & pics by Ed King

Last month, John Hodgkiss became Erdington’s new Town Centre Manager – taking over from the longstanding Terry Guest. With nearly two decades of experience running Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and delivering commercial strategies across the country, John has ambitious plans to rejuvenate the once thriving High Street

Erdington Local caught up with him in his first few days, as he set about meeting local business owners and entrepreneurs.

“I was excited when I saw the opportunity for Erdington.

“I know Erdington, when I first moved back to Birmingham I spent time here as I have friends here, so I knew the potential.”

John Hodgkiss is not new to the game, having set up the UKs second ever Business Improvement District (BID) in 2007 – Argall Avenue, transforming a North East London industrial estate into a thriving hub of enterprise and commerce, housing over 400 businesses today.

“I started working with BIDs in 2005, when the first ballots were going through,” every BID is voted in by a majority of business operators and rateable value in the selected area, “and at the time I was working for Business Link who had most of the national contacts for regeneration projects.

“It was an industrial estate that I found called Argyll Avenue, just outside Walthamstow. I took that to ballot and it was successful. I still check in every now and again, and it’s still in operation. It’s always been voted for and it still exists today.”

But Birmingham is not London, and Erdington has its own community and concerns – often forgotten or lost in the civic corridors of power. What makes John Hodgkiss the right man for this Midlands job?

“I’m from the Midlands, I grew up in Shropshire,” tells John. “But like a lot of twenty somethings I went and experienced London.

“Then I came back to Walsall in 2007 to set up a Town Centre Partnership – we had remit over establishing a new radio link in the town centre, street furniture, all the regeneration projects, supporting local businesses, marketing, and publicity to give a positive glow on Walsall. And to defend it if it is portrayed negatively, as most town centres sometimes are.

“Then I went to West Bromwich in 2013, as an employee of Sandwell Council – with a remit to take the BID to successful ballot within twelve months.

“We did it within eight months. It’s quite a big area, there was just in excess of 500 businesses.”

John Hodgkiss has also been a Marketing Manager for a Telford engineering company and understands the power of publicity, with a firm focus on making Erdington an attractive place to both visit and shop.

“When BIDs first came into being they were always set around the ‘cleaner projects’, making the place litter free, making the place look better.

“But on the economic side, how do we help businesses, which in 2022 is more essential than ever, there’s a role of the BID to help with advertising and marketing. To really shout about these local independent stores.”

And what would you shout about in Erdington?

“What I see to be the unique selling point of Erdington (Town Centre) is it’s a great place to get a bargain, to shop within your means,” explains John.

“You’ve got healthy greengrocers on the doorstep; you’ve got independents selling necessities at great prices… and the cost of living crisis isn’t going to be over in five minutes.”

But the word ‘bargain’ can be a blessing and a curse, as the lopsided balance on Erdington High Street is often cited as a weight dragging it down – with the old Maplin site and Central Square Shopping Centre standing as local epitaphs to the ghosts of national retail.

The week John Hodgkiss became the new Town Centre Manager, Boots shut down its Erdington store.

“We’re not moving away from the High Street brands at all,” continues John. “I would passionately argue and liaise with any national retainer to bring them in (to Erdington) and I would feel confident we can put a case together as say ‘this is why you should be in Erdington’.

“The key words for Erdington are ‘massive potential’, and the BID is going to be here for the next five years at least.

“I feel passionate about making a change in the current economic climate, and I don’t see anywhere with the potential that Erdington has. It’s a great place to be, the community is great, there is a retail offer here already – particularly in making day to day living a lot easier.

“And there is scope to bring in new blood to the town, new retailers to the town, new small businesses, and really drive the local economy forward.”

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk or search for ‘Erdington BID’ on Facebook

Kingstanding FoodCycle on ‘pause’ with a call out for new volunteers

Words by Adam Khan

For the past year in Kingstanding, the local community has been helping to run FoodCycle – a charitable initiative which seeks to tackle food poverty, loneliness, and food waste.

However, in order to recruit new volunteers the social support programme has been put on ‘pause’ as they look to build their bank of helping hands – serving up to 100 meals a week, with people needed to help both cook and host the drop in sessions.

To get involved in Kingstanding FoodCycle as an official volunteer, sign up online at: www.volunteer.foodcycle.org.uk/volunteer-sign-up

Organisers are also looking for more senior volunteers, to help keep the project sustainable and comply with the relevant health and safety criteria.

More urgent needs are for team leaders, especially for those with community outreach and leadership experience, to work with volunteers to ensure every meal is served to high standards, both in hygiene and customer service.

Kingstanding’s FoodCycle is held every Saturday in Birmingham Settlement, 610 Kingstanding Road, where a group of volunteers would prepare a vegetarian three-course meal from food that would otherwise have been thrown away.

Serving the local community in Kingstanding, guests are warmly welcomed at 1pm into a friendly, safe space, to enjoy a meal with other local residents. FoodCycle often also provided bags of food for people to take away.

The impact community initiatives like FoodCycle have is to enable people to come together, with comments coming from guests including “it feels like an open, non-judgemental free space” and “in the post pandemic world it is important for us to come out and socialise with others, and this space provides just that”.

Many individuals have come to rely on FoodCycle, with one guest adding: “many people like me don’t have the facilities to have a home cooked meal, so it helps me keep my energy up”.

A national organisation, with nine sites in the West Midlands and six in Birmingham, FoodCycle is not only a support network to help keep people physically healthy and fed but also brings communities together and challenges isolation.

Statistics show that 82% of people attending FoodCycle ‘made friends’ from the drop in sessions, with 86% saying it ‘makes them feel part of their community’. A further 85% said it gave them ‘a reason to leave the house.

With a commitment to health eating, FoodCycle has also had a positive impact on people’s diet – with 81% of people saying it helped them to ‘eat more fruit and vegetables’ and 91% saying they felt ‘well fed’ by the service.

Plus, as the food used would otherwise go to waste, FoodCycle helps lower the community’s carbon footprint, which benefits the environment too.

To register as an official FoodCycle volunteer visit www.volunteer.foodcycle.org.uk/volunteer-sign-up

To find out more about Kingstanding FoodCycle visit www.foodcycle.org.uk and if you are interested in volunteering, please email kingstanding@foodcycle.org.uk

NEWS: Erdington Skills Centre to review security after “targeted attack” on first day of term

Words by Erdington Local news team / Pics by Ed King

Erdington Skills Centre is reviewing its security measures after a student was stabbed with a machete in the college on the first day of term.

The attack happened inside the college at 3.30pm on Wednesday, 7 September with the victim sustaining a serious hand injury in what the police called “a targeted attack”.

The latest knife crime incident in Erdinton led the Vice Principal of the Edwards Road college to offer staff and students counselling due to its traumatic nature.

Vice Principal of Erdington Skills Centre, Ben Gamble, told Erdington Local the college is now looking to increase security and safety measures.

He said: “We do have security staff based at the centre and they will continue to work from the site.  We are looking to introduce other safety measures and will also be inviting police to come into the centre to talk to students.

“Each year we have a range of support for students and awareness of the impact of knife crime is part of this.”

He added: “Erdington Skills Centre is a thriving and welcoming community on Edwards Road, and we were shocked and saddened by what happened earlier this week.

“We are offering support to any of our staff and students who may have been shaken by the incident and our thoughts are with the person taken to hospital.

“We do have security staff based at the centre and they will continue to work from the site.  We are looking to introduce other safety measures and will also be inviting police to come into the centre to talk to students.”

A West Midlands Police spokesman said: “We were called to Edwards Road in Erdington just after 3.30pm on Wednesday to reports of a stabbing. A 16-year-old boy suffered a serious hand injury when he was attacked with a machete in what is believed to have been a targeted incident.

“He was taken to hospital. One man has been arrested on suspicion of wounding.

The spokesman added: “A weapon has been recovered and will be forensically examined. Witnesses have been spoken to and we are recovering CCTV.

“Anyone with information has been asked to contact us quoting log 2518 of 7 September. Get in touch via Live Chat at west-midlands.police.uk, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555.”

A second suspect was arrested in concerning with the stabbing and both appeared at Walsall Magistrates Court on Friday.

Parents took to social media to voice their concerns about safety at college.

One father posted on the Facebook page of Birmingham Metropolitan College, which runs Erdington Skills Centre, claiming his son was too scared to return to college.

Responding to the parent BMet said: “Police have confirmed that it was a targeted attack and two arrests have been made.

“We have security based at all our colleges as a general safety precaution and the actions of those staff, as well as teaching and support staff at the centre, have been praised by police.

“Security staff will continue to work from Erdington Skills Centre. We are also offering all students 1:1 counselling.”

For more on Erdington Skills Centre visit www.bmet.ac.uk/our-locations/james-watt/erdington-skills-centre or call 0121 446 4545

NEWS: Community event and world première of aerial theatre show Taking Flight at Greenwood Academy – TODAY, FREE TO ATTEND

Words by Ed King / Production pics supplied by Highly Sprung

On Saturday 10 September, Greenwood Academy will host the world première of Taking Flight – an exciting and daring new aerial theatre show written especially for Castle Vale, as part of the Festival of Flying project.

For a sneak peak of Taking Flight, look through the special photo gallery below.

Free to attend, and suitable for families and children of all ages, Taking Flight will be performed on the grounds of Greenwood Academy between 8-9pm today (Saturday, 10 September). No advance tickets are needed.

There will also be a community showcase afternoon at Greenwood, running between 4-7:30pm, where local creatives will show off their on-stage talents with singing, dancing, and live music.

Castle Vale dance groups Centre Stage and Mini Movers will be performing a special routine titled Aim High, which was choregraphed to a medley of inspiring music.

Centre Stage and Mini Movers group leader, Tezlin Newell-Harding, prides herself on creating a ‘dance family’ – teaching her dancers the importance of teamwork, resilience, and contributing to their community, whilst challenging their performance skills and building on their confidence and self-esteem.

Tezlin told Erdington Local: “Aim High is about encouraging young people to push their limits and achieve great things – it’s an inspirational dance routine, performed by both Centre Stage and our younger group Mini Movers.

“Our children work really hard to be the best they can be, on stage and off, and Aim High is a celebration of that spirit – one we hope will inspire other young people to believe in themselves and work hard to achieve their dreams.”

There are also free craft workshops for all ages.

Commissioned as part of the Festival of Flying Project, Taking Flight tells the tale of the evil ‘destroyers’, a wild bunch of greedy wrongdoers who are stealing all the natural resources from the planet. But just as a butterfly emerges from its cocoon, destruction never truly wins where hope lies…

Told through high energy dance, music, smoke, fire, and aerial movement, let Taking Flight steal an hour of your day and take you on a journey, to a performance of raw emotion and exciting circus style creativity.

Produced by critically acclaimed performance company Highly Sprung, in partnership with Active Arts Castle Vale, Taking Flight was commissioned and written as part of the Festival of Flying project.

Following on from The Butterfly Effect project in 2015, where Active Arts Castle Vale explored how small actions on the estate can lead to big changes, The Festival of Flying is a programme of new ideas combining arts and engineering.

Performing in Taking Flight is Castle Vale born Charlotte Dodd, who will take centre stage in the world première of this exciting new show.

Growing up on the North Birmingham estate, Ms Dodd has travelled the world performing in theatre, film, and TV shows from the UK to New Zealand – after following her childhood dreams to build a career in the performing arts.

Having worked with Highly Sprung on their show Millennials, after training with them during Active Art’s The Butterfly Effect in 2015, Ms Dodd is coming back to join the company for the world premiere of Taking Flight – once again performing in Castle Vale.

Charlotte Dodd told Erdington Local: “I have lived on Castle Vale most of life, although I went to university in Wales and spent four years living and working in New Zealand.

“When I worked with Highly Sprung, I gained a lot of confidence in myself and my work as a performer.

“They showed me that it is possible to have a career in the arts, and at the time that was a big thing for me. They believed in me.

“They basically kept encouraging me to apply to audition for them and put me into some training to be able to run workshops in schools.

“In doing that I was able to get more work as a facilitator with other companies. Working with them gave me professional industry experience.

“Coming back to perform on Castle Vale and give something back to the community with Highly Sprung feels very rounded. It feels like a journey has been complete.

“I’m coming back in at a very different point in my professional career; it’s good to share the skills that I’ve gained over the last few years. It feels great to be working with them again, and I have loved the creative process.”

Taking Flight will be performed at Greenwood Academy between 8-9pm, following an afternoon community showcase from 4-7:30pm – all are free to attend and suitable for families and children of all ages.

The Festival of Flying is led by Active Arts, funded by Birmingham City Council and presented as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival.

Having been planned for three years, organisers of The Festival of Flying decided to continue with the world première of Taking Flight and the community showcase at Greenwood Academy in respect of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – mirroring the hope and inspiration the monarch brought to the country and celebrating the coming together of community.

Castle Vale Councillor Ray Goodwin will pay tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in a special address at Greenwood Academy during the event.

Taking Flight – photo gallery

To know more about The Festival of Flying and other projects from Active Arts, email Active Arts Project Director Claire Marshall on activeartscv@gmail.com

NEWS: £2m investment into new Enterprise Hub on old Erdington Swimming Baths site

Words by Steve Sharma

Bosses at the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) have pledged £2million of financial support to help Witton Lodge Community Association transform the former Erdington Swimming Baths, Mason Road, into an Enterprise Hub for social entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Planning approval has now been granted by Birmingham City Council, who have submitted a revised Levelling Up Fund application to Central Government for regenerating Erdington High Street.

It is hoped the proposed new state-of-the-art facility will be the catalyst for economic growth and investment in the constituency.

The WMCA has now revealed that funds secured as part of its nationally acclaimed 2018 brownfield and housing delivery programme, have also been earmarked for the scheme.

Afzal Hussain, Chief Officer at Witton Lodge, said: “I’m delighted that we have achieved these important milestones in the creation of this exciting new hub.

“A first for North Birmingham, it will create jobs, promote enterprise and entrepreneurship, and offer relocation opportunities for existing businesses.

“Combined with other local facilities in the area we will create a Learning and Enterprise Quarter that will act as a catalyst for the wider transformation of Erdington Town Centre.”

The ambitious project is the latest in a series of WMCA housing and land investments using Government funds to provide new homes, jobs, and commercial spaces on brownfield sites, helping to support the region’s economic recovery from Covid-19 and to unlock private investment while reducing pressure on the green belt.

Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, added: “Transforming this site into a thriving enterprise hub will breathe new life into the heart of Erdington.

“It will create opportunity with brand new jobs that will regenerate the local community.

“It will also give local entrepreneurs and SME’s the chance to develop and grow, fuelling the reach and impact of social enterprise in the city.

“This is an example of how, across the West Midlands, the Combined Authority is committed to working in partnership with public, private and third sector organisations to unlock the potential of neglected buildings and locations to restore pride and aspiration.”

Both the High Street and old swimming baths regeneration plans also have the backing of MP for Erdington, Paulette Hamilton, who has worked with Witton Lodge and other constituency stakeholders since being elected in May.

Paulette Hamilton MP reiterated how vital it is that Erdington finally gets the financial recognition it needs to help fulfil its potential, to provide local residents and businesses with economic stability and success.

Sahe told: “These amazing plans have the potential to transform Erdington High Street and make it a destination again.

“The proposal to turn the former swimming baths site into a thriving business hub is exactly the sort of forward-thinking innovation we need in our area.

“Witton Lodge Community Association already do so much fantastic work in our community and I’m sure the new hub would bring enormous benefits for local people looking to develop their skills.

“Our High Street desperately needs this boost, and I’m crossing my fingers that Ministers will give it the green light.”

For more on the new Enterprise Hub visit www.erdingtonbaths.webflow.io