NEWS: Holocaust Memorial Day event to be held on Erdington High Street, Friday 27 January

Words by Ed King

As the world remembers Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) on Friday 27 January, a special ceremony will be held on Erdington High Street at 1:30pm.

Taking place on the Village Green, opposite Erdington Library, the event is free to attend and open to people of all ages, religions, and cultures.

Organised by Everyone Erdington, the multi faith organisation set up to ‘celebrate diverse Erdington’, Friday’s event is the continuation of an annual remembrance on Holocaust Memorial Day – which looks back at the genocide and mass extermination of Jews and other communities in World War II, as well as reminding us of more modern atrocities in places like Rwanda, Darfur, Cambodia, and Bosnia.

The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2023 is ‘ordinary people’, recognising the day to day folk who are both responsible for and victims off human brutality. As the HMD website states: ‘Genocide is facilitated by ordinary people. Ordinary people turn a blind eye, believe propaganda, join murderous regimes.

‘And those who are persecuted, oppressed and murdered in genocide… simply because they are ordinary people who belong to a particular group.’

Everyone Erdington’s event will start by playing the theme music to Holocaust Memorial Day 2023 ‘Ordinary People’ – before a reading about the Veseli’s, a Muslim family who sheltered Jews during World War II in a small Albanian mountain village.

There will also be presentations from local schools St Edmund Campion and St Barnabas, with the later sharing stories about children who suffered during the Rwanda Civil War.

Music and moments of collective remembrance will also take place, with a final reading about Holocaust survivor Harry Spriro – who was separated from his family in his early teens, after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, and spent World War II in concentration and labour camps.

Harry Spriro’s family were murdered in the Poland based Trebilnka death camp, alongside an estimated 6,000,000 Jewish people across Europe during the Nazi’s Holocaust during World War II – including systematic pogroms and mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen).

Harry himself was one 270 people who survived the ‘death march’ to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, which began with 3000 prisoners.

The Nazi’s also massacred an estimated 5,000,000 people who were not specifically Jewish during the Holocaust – including Jehovah’s Witnesses, communists, Soviet prisoners of war, and Romani and Polish people.

Gerard Goshawk, minister at Six Ways Baptist Church and part of Everyone Erdington, told Erdington Local: “We are pleased once again to be marking Holocaust Memorial Day here in Erdington. What we offer is an intimate, accessible and meaningful event to mark this really significant occasion.

“Those of us organising it and those taking part recognise the importance of remembering the evil of genocide and making sure that our community here in Erdington remains strong and positive in celebrating diversity and challenging discrimination and hatred.”

Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton added: “As we mark Holocaust Memorial Day, we will honour those who were murdered during the Holocaust and pay tribute to those who survived.

“Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity for people Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale to reflect on one of the darkest periods in world history and ensure we always stand together against antisemitism, demonisation and hate.”

Erdington Ward Councillors Gareth Moore and Robert Alden have been attending the Holocaust Memorial Day events in Erdington since they began in 2017.

Cllr Gareth Moore told Erdington Local: “It has become a welcome tradition that here in Erdington we have a yearly event, organised by Everyone Erdington, paying our respects and remembering those who lives where stolen in such tragic acts.”

Cllr Robert Alden, who studied the Holocaust as part of his history education and has visited the infamous Aushwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, added: “It is vital that we remember genocide events such as the Holocaust, however we must also ensure that such events are never allowed to happen again.

“It would be a grave mistake if we were to assume that the horrific incidents of the past cannot happen again that is why it is on us all to be vigilant and to remind people of the things that we all have in common not the differences.

“This why programmes like British Values in our schools are so important, they remind everyone of the things we have in common, of the shared values that everyone can have regardless of race, wealth or sex.

“Once you have visited Aushwitz-Birkeneau the feeling it leaves in you doesn’t go away, it stays with you, it is important that people come together to remember but looking forward we must continue to ensure it can never happen again.”

Everyone Erdington will hold a free Holocaust Memorial Day event on Friday 27 January at 1:30pm, on the Village Green at the end of Erdington High Street – opposite Erdington Library.

For more from Everyone Erdington visit: www.facebook.com/EveryoneErdington

For more on Holocaust Memorial Day visit: www.hmd.org.uk

NEWS: Erdington Court Bowls Club receives grant to encourage locals to ‘Bowl for Health’

Pics supplied by Erdington Court Bowls Club

Erdington Court Bowls Club (ECBC) has been given a grant of £6,453 to offer bowls sessions to local individuals and groups as part of its ‘Bowl for Health’ programme – awarded through the Erdington Neighbourhood Network Scheme (ENNS)

Each session, held weekly, will last an hour, with participants paying only £2.50 which will also include a drink and biscuit at the clubhouse.

All equipment and training is supplied by ECBS, a registered charity, and no previous bowls experience is necessary to take part. The Erdington based bowls club are keen for ‘all ages and abilities’ to join in on the sport.

Club Marketing Officer and Trustee Ray Woods said: “The news of this grant was fantastic. It enables us to build on the experience of hosting a ‘Bowl for Health’ programme last year – and also hosting  groups of special needs school students and adults.

“Our ultimate goal is to provide 9-10 hours of fun bowls per week in our indoor arena.

“We have links with the North Birmingham Branch of Parkinson’s UK and they are already receiving their initial coaching. We also have other groups who are interested.

“We also plan to use the sessions to increase ethnic, disabled, and female involvement in bowls.

The grant has been awarded by the Erdington Neighbourhood Network Scheme and Birmingham City Council, in association with Witton Lodge Community Association.

EBCS launched their ‘Bowl for Health’ programme in 2022, using the sport to encourage both social engagement and a healthier lifestyle.

Sport is well known for helping to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as building team dynamics and a sense of community. Bowls in particular can improve eye and hand coordination, as well as offering company in a sociable setting through the Erdington based club.

Ray Woods added: “The sessions aim to address loneliness, isolation, and depression, and this complements our three Warm Welcome Space events each week.

“Already, the grant has enabled us to buy more bowls to enable us to run the sessions to larger groups.”

Erdington Court Bowls Club was founded as a youth club around 1900 by the Erdington Wesleyan Methodist Church, with tennis and cricket preceding bowls – which was introduced in 1925.

In 1976, Erdington Court Bowls Club built one of the first six rink artificial greens in the world. In addition, a full length four rink indoor arena was built, approximately 30 metres long, which hosts both flat and crown green bowlers from clubs in the area.

Erdington Court Bowls Club is part of the Erdington Recreational Trust (ERT) – a registered charity whose aims are to provide recreational and leisure facilities for the people of Erdington and the surrounding area.

Paulette Hamilton MP for Erdington said: “It’s absolutely terrific news that Erdington Neighbourhood Network Scheme has awarded Erdington Court Bowls Club £6,453 to deliver their ‘Bowl for Health’ programme.

“The club is doing some great work and during my recent visit, I learned about their amazing Warm Welcome Space events that are helping local people through the cost of living crisis this winter.”

For more on Erdington Court Bowls Club visit www.erdingtoncourtbowlsclub.org.uk or call 07967 686230

REVIEW: Eau da Funk’s debut gig at the first Evening of Creativity of 2023, alongside Elena Mylonas and Olivia Wilkes

Words & pics by Leni Remedios

“Music moves the world” is our motto, says Tony, guitarist of Eau da Funk, headliner of 2023’s first edition of the Evening of Creativity (EoC) – held at Oikos Café on Friday 20 January.

The world did move indeed, and so did everybody’s feet at the notes of this incredible band.

It was their very first gig, after having formed last year, and as a debut performance it was impressive – delivering a wide range of classics from James Brown to Lenny Kravitz and Kings of Leon.

Eau da Funk was founded soon after lockdown, when Tony was looking for other musicians to create a new project. Two of them are Erdington locals. “We got in touch online at first and we immediately understood that, beyond the different music tastes, we were united by a common ground,” explained Tony.

In fact, their range of music, as explained by their lead singer Sofire: “goes from funk to soul, to reggae and rock music, but also gospel, which is a big influence on our music. God is also very important to us.”

A diversity also reflected in the different backgrounds of the band members, each of them coming from English, Polish, or Caribbean heritage. Eau da Funk are also planning to compose their own songs.

In a packed Oikos Café, the Friday night crowd saw further performances from Elena Mylonas and Olivia Wilkes, both vocal coaches.

Elena performed songs by The Cranberries and Dolly Parton, but also her own song ‘Rose’ accompanied by some musicians from Eau da Funk (at the Evening of Creativity events, spontaneous collaboration between the artists is often involved). She started playing guitar at 11 years old in her native Greece, and after attending Birmingham University aged 23 she started teaching as a vocal coach.

Backstage, Elena revealed details about her song writing and approach to performing: “When I was younger, in Greece, for some reason everybody expected me to play only cheerful songs.

“Furthermore, people in the music industry were requiring from me to adhere to certain beauty standards, asking me to appear more sexy or girlish. I felt really uncomfortable with it, especially after the death of my brother about seven years ago.

“I needed to express my grief somehow, and music gave me the perfect opportunity to channel those feelings. I wasn’t fitting in the Greek scene of the time though, so I decided to move to the UK, where there is a long tradition of ballads and a broader variety of music genres.”

Elena regularly performs both original songs and covers with bands in small venues, with her debut album set for release in the coming months.

Olivia Wilkes was another big surprise. With her powerful voice, she offered her own rendition of classics from Nina Simone to Nirvana, but backstage further disclosed she is working on original material. Her upcoming gigs include Saturday 27 January at Deadwax and Friday 10 February at the Gunmakers Arms.

Olivia’s performance was followed by Josh, the guitarist and lead singer of the indie-rock band The Shore. He performed the original single ‘Left Alone’, and you can see him and his band on 28 January at The Victoria, in Birmingham City Centre.

The event also welcomed an extraordinary community activist and writer, Veronica ‘Judith’ Asare, who opened the evening talking about her book, The Healing Power of Grace – a journey about a terrible accident that changed her life.

Judith, a practicing Christian, never fell into the darkness thanks to her faith. On the contrary, she found motivation in helping others and funded the charity Judith Ark of Hope Foundation – through which, as a qualified counsellor, she helps people such as single parents, people in jail and their families, and refugees. She gives them hope, providing food, clothes, and psychological support.

“I met her about six years ago, in an outdoor event where she was promoting her charity,” says Michael – who was supporting Judith during her EoC performance. “I was going through a very dark phase in my life, she helped my family and me, and she adopted me as her child.”

Judith Ark of Hope operates in the Midlands but also offers help and support elsewhere, reaching London, Manchester, and other areas.

Another highlight of the night was the reading by Laura Liptrot – actress, poet, and playwright from Stourbridge – who started acting at just six years old. The Evening of Creativity audience was captivated by her lively performance and expressions.

Laura’s new poetry book, Cocktails, is about to be launched; already available on Kindle digital edition, the paperback will be available by the end of the month.

Finally, the event also saw the participation of some ‘regulars’ of the EoC, such as resident poet Simon, reading some of his poetry. Mitch Thomas also showed the audience a piece of her ceramic collection and talked about her artistic journey.

Then was a performance by the duo Stefan Stefanov and Nathan Czeszejko-Sochacki. Stefan is a guitarist and music teacher who is very active in the community, whilst the younger Nathan has been singing and playing ukulele, guitar, and piano at EoC events for about a year.

They performed ‘Hotel California’ and a gospel gypsy song. “All around the World Music,” so Stefan defines his style, and you can see him perform every Sunday at the Bulgaria Church by Six Ways from 5pm.

The Evening of Creativity is founded and hosted by the Erdington Arts Forum – who engages people with workshops, exhibitions, training programmes, exhibitions, and music performances.

Next month’s Evening of Creativity will be held at Oikos Café on Erdington High Street from 6:30pm on Friday 17 February, with advance tickets costing between £5-£6.13

For more on Erdington Arts forum visit: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

For more from Oikos Café visit www.oikoscafe.co.uk

BACK TO WORK: Jobs Fair to be held at St Barnabas Church on Tuesday 31 January

Words by Steve Sharma & Ed King / Pics supplied by WLCA & Ed King

On Tuesday 31 January, a Jobs Fair will be held at St Barnabas Church on Erdington High Street – giving local job seekers the chance to meet large employers in the area.

Organised by Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) in partnership with the Erdington Business Improvement District (BID) the event will also provide a chance to speak directly with training providers, as well as to apply for live vacancies.

A previous Jobs Fair, held at the Erdington High Street church in August, brought together a range of providers offering opportunities around digital skills.

With medical providers and disability support charities attending the January event, including the NHS and Mencap, there will be a range of employment opportunities for people interested in a career in healthcare.

More than 70 people attended the first Jobs Fair event, with most of the employment stands busy and lined with people waiting to speak to recruiters representing a range of different industries across North Birmingham.

Melissa Gayle, Employability Coordinator at WLCA, said: “We had a wonderful turnout at the last event and are confident this next one will be just as popular as Job Fairs are a very effective way of allowing people to connect with employers.

“They also provide job seekers with the opportunity to interview for vacancies.”

John Hodgkiss, Erdington Town Centre and BID Manager, added: “The name of the project is the Erdington Employment Charter.

“It’s being put into place to offer local Erdington job seekers the best chance of success, with local partners in both the public and private sectors working together to identify local job vacancies and expedite these through to local residents.

“Furthermore, candidates will be offered a bespoke employment service tailored to them, from application advice and help through to post interview support and guidance.

“There will be an expert team on hand to offer this support, and we urge any local employers in the Erdington area to contact us with open vacancies, so we can fill these with local Erdington talent with no expense to the employer.”

St Barnabas Church, the oldest church in Erdington, hold regular community events – including a stay and play called Barnie Babies, a youth café run in conjunction with local faith based support charity Urban Devotion, and a weekly Warm Space Café with free soup and refreshments.

Jane Smith, St Barnabas Parish Administrator and Communications Co-ordinator, told: “There have been several Jobs Fairs hosted at St Barnabas Church Centre over the years and we’re always delighted to work with local partners to help make them happen.

“The events provide a valuable opportunity for local people to meet employers and training providers and find useful information on organisations that can support those seeking work.

“It promises to be a busy day and we look forward to welcoming everyone.”

Organisations already confirmed for the WLCA and Erdington BID Jobs Fair at St Barnabas Church on Tuesday 31 January include the National Health Service (NHS), Acado, AM2PM, and Mencap.

Any employers who are looking to recruit in North Birmingham and who would like to be part of event, and the wider Erdington Employment Charter, are asked to email the Erdington BID at erdingtonhighstreet@hotmail.co.uk

For more from Witton Lodge Community Association visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

For more from the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk

For more from St Barnabas, including links to their social media and community events programme, visit www.stbarnabaserdington.org.uk

NEWS: “A kick in the teeth” as Erdington High Street loses out on millions from Levelling Up Fund

Words & pics by Ed King (image of Paulette Hamilton supplied)

Erdington has once again missed out on millions of pounds to regenerate the High Street, as the Government rejects the latest Levelling Up Fund (LUF) application.

In a surprise announcement made in the early hours of Thursday 19 January, with no warning given to unsuccessful applications, all five of Birmingham City Council’s applications to the LUF were turned down – including the £10.75m petitioned to deliver ‘a transformational scheme’ for Erdington High Street.

Top of the list of Birmingham City Council’s recent LUF applications, the Erdington High Street bid would ‘be used to transform the High Street into a thriving centre, with business incubation space, housing, cultural, leisure and social activities, improved urban realm and physical and social connectivity within the area.’

At the centre of the regeneration of Erdington High Street were plans to support the renovation of St Barnabas Churchyard and the development of a Community and Enterprise Hub at the old Erdington Swimming Baths site – being delivered by Witton Lodge Community Association.

With local politicians and stakeholders reeling from the LUF rejection this morning – which is the second time the ambitious plans for Erdington High Street have been turned down – elsewhere across the county 111 areas will be celebrating their share of the £2.1bn from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities.

Today’s shock announcement, and complete overstepping of all five Birmingham LUF bids, is the latest defeat in a long battle to secure regeneration funding for Erdington High Street from Westminster – which began with an application to the Future High Street Fund in 2020 and saw further disappointment in the first round of LUF allocations in October 2021.

Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton stated: “”I’m incredibly disappointed that, yet again, the Conservative Government have let Erdington down.

“Our funding bid would have brought investment into our community by creating jobs, skills, and infrastructure. The investment would have transformed Erdington High Street to make it a destination again.

“Sadly, Erdington did not receive a single penny from the Tory Government’s 2.1bn fund, despite ranking amongst the top 10% most deprived areas in the country.

“The Prime Minister’s own constituency – one of the most affluent – has received £19m.

“Tory failure and favouritism have been laid bare by this announcement. It’s just another kick in the teeth for our community in Erdington from this out of touch Government.”

Erdington Ward Councillor and Birmingham Conservative Leader, Robert Alden, told: “Over the last few years we have been putting in Future High Street Fund and Levelling up Fund bids and requests to the City Council, that is it is so disappointing that the Levelling Up Fund bid has not been approved.

“However, this is not the end of trying to get funding into the High Street here in Erdington.

“It is vital now that the Government and the City Council invest in our High Street to deliver the plans that residents want to see and we will continue to do all we can to secure further investment onto of the funding already provided by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street”.

Cllr Gareth Moore (Con, Erdington Ward) added: “West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has listened and the Combined Authority therefore put in over £2million to help turn the former Erdington Baths site, under Witton Lodge Community Association, into an Enterprise Hub to support local people into work and to set up businesses.

“Andy Street listened to the people of Erdington it is time that the City Council and the Government listen to the people of Erdington and invest to regenerate our High Street”.

Birmingham was one of three cities across the country that had all of it’s LUF applications turned down by Government, losing out on a total of £82.264m in potential citywide funding.

Elsewhere, Leeds lost out on a potential £120m through six LUF bids – whilst Nottingham had all three of its bids rejected, totalling £57m.

Birmingham City Council Leader Ian Ward told: “Today’s announcement is a kick in the teeth for Birmingham families who were already struggling to make ends meet after over a decade of Tory austerity – even before the Government crashed the UK economy.

“You cannot level up the UK economy without levelling up Birmingham, so today’s news brings into question the Government’s true commitment to hard-pressed households across this city. It’s now clear that levelling up is nothing more than a slogan.

“These bids would have delivered true change to communities across Birmingham, creating new jobs, improving life chances and restoring pride to our neighbourhoods.

“Instead, the Prime Minister’s constituency – one of the most affluent in the country – has received funding, while of the 80 successful bids in England, only half are in the 100 most deprived areas of the country. How is this levelling up?”

The Levelling Up Fund was first announced in the Government’s 2020 spending review, totalling £4.8bn in accessible funding for councils across the country.

Tranche One of LUF allocation saw £1.7bn distributed to 105 projects, including money for Moseley Road Swimming Baths in Balsall Heath and the Soho Loop development on Dudley Road.

Following today’s allocation of £2.1bn in Tranche Two – which saw 525 bids submitted to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities in August 2022 – there is now £1bn left in the LUF budget.

Erdington’s Town Centre Manger and head of the Business Improvement District (EBID), John Hodgkiss, who came into post in August 2022, is “remaining positive about the potential of Erdington High Street.”

Mr Hodgkiss told Erdington Local: “It’s incredibly disappointing to hear that the LUF has not been awarded to Erdington, especially in light of the hard work so many have contributed.

“In terms of Erdington High Street, I know that we have so many dedicated stakeholders with one aim, which is to see Erdington prosper and thrive in the future.

“Here at the EBID, we will continue to push on with projects and events to attract greater footfall into the town centre. We will also continue to work hard in attracting new independent and national retailers into Erdington High Street.

“We also commit to promoting the great retailers which we already have on board and further improve the local trading environment for them.”

NEWS: Erdington stakeholders told “officers are doing what they can” as crime and community policing discussed at local meeting

Words by Ed King / Pics by Mohammad Ashraf 

Crime and community policing were the main issues discussed at Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton’s Big Conversation last week, with a keynote speech from West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster.

Joining Mr Foster were Chief Inspector Kelly Monaghan, from the Birmingham East Local Command Team, and Erdington’s new Inspector Shameem Ahmed.

Organised by the Erdington MP, the Big Conversation events began soon after Paulette Hamilton was elected to Parliament in March 2022 – bringing senior Council officials and public servants to address local stakeholders and concerned Erdington constituents.

On Thursday 12 January the subject of focus was crime in the constituency, with CI Monaghan opening by identifying the “priorities” for police in the area – hosted at Perry Common Community Hall by Witton Lodge Community Association.

Top of the list was burglaries, with CI Monaghan reiterating the nationwide pledge made in October 2022 that “every single person who is a victim of burglary gets a visit from one of our officers.”

One concerned resident challenged the claim, citing a house on Harrison Road – off Erdington High Street – that has been repeatedly used for growing cannabis, with people breaking in to steal the illegal crops “leaving a trail of (cannabis) leaves through the car park” opposite the address.

Councillor Gareth Moore (Con, Erdington) was quick to suggest “could the police use closure orders” on properties that had repeated problems, as has been previously enforced to shut down unruly HMOs.

Vehicle crime was another “big business” high on the police agenda, with its “knock on effect” to burglary and other offences including the rampant trade in stolen catalytic convertors.

Successes by the Stockland Green police team were mentioned, with both Chief Inspector Kelly Monaghan and Inspector Shameem Ahmed advising the use of anti-theft aids such as steering wheel locks and tamper proof screws for licence plates.

Youth violence was also a paramount police concern on the agenda, discussed only hours before an Erdington based teenager would be charged with the Boxing Day murder of Cody Fisher.

“Gang violence” was raised by Paulette Hamilton as a growing concern amongst her constituents in places such as Wyrley Birch, with the Erdington MP quizzing the police if they were “working with local partners” to effectively tackle the issue.

Consistent crime and violence on Erdington High Street was also raised, with the Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) imposed in May 2022 making little impact despite the “40 fines” reported to have been issued.

As one resident commented: “there are street drinkers and dealers outside Boyles (betting shop)… if you are fining them then it’s not working.”

Paulette Hamilton underscored the issue, stating “people are saying the soul has left the High Street” and again calling for more “joined up work” with local partners and police.

Erdington’s new Inspector Shameem Ahmed, who took over the Neighbourhood Police Team several months after Rachel Derby left the post in October 2022, was candid about and committed to the problem facing her force.

“I’m not confident or happy the issue is being resolved as it could be,” told Inspector Ahmed, “and working with partners is something we (police) could do more about – my officers are doing what they can.”

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster then introduced himself to the room, giving a full background of his role and cementing his commitment to “productive, problem solving, and visible community policing.”

In an immediate challenge, the lack of any noticeable police presence was quick to be raised – with Paulette Hamilton MP stating “you never see police in open spaces” such as parks or children’s play areas, despite a number of violent attacks in areas such as Pype Hayes Park.

Inspector Ahmed informed of a “walkabout” with uniformed officers in Finchley Park, Kingstanding, organised for the end of January – with Ms Hamilton responding: “how is this supported locally and why are you not linking with local councillors?”

Inspector Amend replied “they should be”, despite Councillor Des Hughes (Lab, Kingstanding) unaware of any planned activity at Finchley Park by West Midlands Police. The Kingstanding councillor further suggested Birmingham Citry Council’s Parks Department “had a role to play” in safeguarding the public spaces within their portfolio.

Concerns over the increase of licenced premises and betting shops on Erdington High Street was fiercely debated, with several stakeholders in the room having worked to block the recent application by Boyles Sports to open a second Erdington site at the old HSBC building opposite The Swan pub.

A lack of communication between local police teams and the planning committee, who are ultimately responsible for allowing or blocking applications, was raised as a systemic problem – with one local resident suggesting campaigners and members of the public alike should contact the West Midlands Police Licensing Team directly if they wanted to challenge future plans for more betting shops.

Councillor Gareth Moore (Con, Erdington), who sits on Birmingham City Council’s Planning Committee, further addressed the need to “break down the silo mentality” when gathering evidence and responsible authority support to challenge contentious planning applications.

The recent ‘Pop Up Police Stations’ held on Castle Vale were praised, with Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer of The Pioneer Group – who took over the housing portfolio of the estate’s Housing Action Trust – suggesting “another model” could be adopted across Erdington, giving the public more access to local police teams.

Paulette Hamilton was quick to endorse anything that supports “a core level of service (from local police teams) that makes people feel safe,” further suggesting more police “pop ups across the constituency.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster confirmed there would be a new police station opened in Erdington by “summer 2025”, situated at the existing site on the corner of Sutton Road and Wilton Road – although there would be “no public desk”, with the nearest station open to members of the public based in Stechford.

Widely challenged by the room, the lack of a publicly accessible police station in Erdington “seems crazy” to Reverend Emma Sykes from St Barnabas Church, who implored the Police and Crime Commissioner to “consider” revising the plans.

Paulette Hamilton MP will be hosting another Big Conversation later in the spring. For more information visit www.paulettehamilton.org

NEWS: Eau da Funk and Olivia Wilkes to headline Evening of Creativity on Friday 20 January

Words by Leni Remedios / Pics supplied by Erdington Arts Forum

2023 starts with two extraordinary headline acts at this month’s Evening of Creativity, Eau Da Funk and Olivia Wilkes – to be held at Oikos Café on Friday 20 January, as organised by the Erdington Arts Forum.

Eau Da Funk is a six-piece covers/function band delivering an eclectic repertoire of funk, soul, pop, reggae, and RnB.

They only started playing together in 2022, formed in Birmingham, and Erdington Arts Forum is extremely excited to host this newly formed band.

January’s Evening of Creativity will also see the participation of outstanding singer and musician Olivia Wilkes. “My vocal tutoring journey started at a music school in my home town where I have taught 45+ students in face to face private lessons,” says Olivia, a singing coach who has a long experience in teaching different genres, from musical theatre to heavier tracks.

Since the age of 15, Wilkes has performed in festivals, weddings, and charity days, collaborated with a lot of musicians and featured on local radio stations, including BBC Radio Stoke.

But that’s not all for the first Evening of Creativity of 2023.

Greek singer and musician Elena Mylonas will be also featuring on the January line up, delighting the audience with her pop rock songs.

Also on the bill will be Mitch Thomas, a regular of the Evening of Creativity, introducing to the audience her ceramic artwork “influenced by love,” alongside a poetry reading by Laura Liptrot – a Stourbridge based actor and playwright.

Members of Arts All Over the Place, a local mental charity that has been active since 2007, will also speak about their community arts projects for adults with mental health problems.

Now a permanent fixture on the city’s cultural calendar, the family friendly Evening of Creativity events at Oikos often sell out – so organisers encourage people to buy advance tickets through a special Eventbrite page.

The Evening of Creativity was founded and hosted by Erdington Arts Forum, whose primary goal is to improve the status of artistic activity in the Erdington constituency. Erdington Arts Forum engages people with workshops, exhibitions, training programmes, exhibitions, and music performances.

This month’s Evening of Creativity will be held at Oikos Café on Erdington High Street from 6:30pm on Friday 20 January, with advance tickets around £5-6. Click here to book your ticket.

The event will also be broadcast live via the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

Follow Erdington Arts Forum on Facebook and Instagram
For more from Oikos Café visit: https://www.oikoscafe.co.uk/

NEWS: Castle Vale residents and councillor discuss ‘views and priorities’ for revised Ward Plan

Words & pics by Ed King

On Wednesday 11 January, Castle Vale residents met with Councillor Ray Goodwin (Lab, Castle Vale) to discuss the ‘priorities’ for a new Ward Plan.

Braving a bitterly cold January evening, active locals met with the recently elected Castle Vale councillor at Castle Vale Library – spending nearly two hours identifying key aims and objectives for the North Birmingham estate.

Cllr Goodwin was adamant to involve local residents in any amendments, allowing him to “review, analyse, and build on what I hear” to form a revised a Ward Plan “based on local resident’s views and priorities.”

Since being elected to office in May 2022 Cllr Goodwin has been spearheading local initiatives such as Bin Watch Wednesday and the Pop Up Police Station.

Cllr Goodwin organised Wednesday’s official Ward Forum meeting to revisit the ‘Ward Priorities’ set out in the estate’s 2018-30 Neighbourhood Plan, as presented by the previous Castle Vale councillor Suzzane Webb and the constituency’s late MP Jack Dromey.

Top of the list was ‘Ensuring Castle Vale is safe, clean and green’, with Cllr Goodwin identifying several pots of public sector money that could finance the estate’s parks and open spaces – such as the Future Parks Accelerator Fund and Future Parks Fund.

Plans for a new park by Filton Croft were also discussed, with alternative sites along Park Lane also identified.

Cllr Goodwin further  reiterated the “very loud and very clear” message from local residents that any park new or children play area must be “disability friendly… and accessible for children with additional needs.”

Other facilities were discussed, including Castle Pool – which was saved from closure by a community asset transfer and inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth II in November 1981.

Referring to the Castle Vale assets, including the library and football stadium, as the “crown jewels of the estate” Cllr Goodwin assured residents of a “commitment to Castle Pool, despite the (increasing) energy prices… what we want here is a pool for the next 40 years.”

Tackling fly tipping on the estate was also a high priority for residents, with special focus on “dumped shopping trolleys” left on the streets from supermarkets at the Castle Vale Retail Park.

Since being elected Cllr Goodwin has been regularly reporting abandoned trolleys for collection, estimating around “30 trolleys in the last three months” having been removed from residential areas.

Several options were discussed, including the reintroduction of trolley locks that seize the wheels if removed from a designate area.

The use of the Trolleywise initiative was also recommended, an online report and collection service from Wanzl – the world’s largest shopping trolley manufacturer, although this required buy in from the supermarkets chains in the area.

Of the two supermarkets on the Castle Vale Retail Park, Sainsbury’s were active members of the Trolleywise scheme, but B&M had reportedly refused to engage in either the Wanzl service or any constructive conversation about the problem.

Cllr Goodwin further suggested working with Birmingham City Council’s Regulation and Enforcement department to develop a “carrot and stick” approach to encourage local retailers to properly address the ongoing problem.

Housing on the estate was also a contentious issue, with many residents raising concerns over the properties managed by The Pioneer Group – including inadequate window insulation on some of the older dwellings.

Cllr Goodwin, who is also CEO of Spitfire Advice and Support Services (SASS) – a Castle Vale based charity who ‘provide free, confidential and impartial advice’ for local residents – confirmed a “significant amount of our (SASS) case work is about housing” and agreed “housing needs to be Ward Forum meetings moving forward”.

Praise was given for the Pop Up Police Station initiative, although some residents were keen for more “one to one time” with the attending officers.

Ongoing issues with dogs fouling the streets were aired by several people in the room, with a myriad of suggestions of how to police this on Castle Vale – ultimately ending in the need for culprits to be “held to account… fined” to help end the problem.

Plans to encourage job opportunities for Castle Vale residents were also discussed, citing Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) as one potential employer with whom to forge stronger vocational pathways – with Cllr Goodwin committing to ensure “Castle Vale gets its fair share” of employment opportunities.

Concerns over the potential closure for the JLR Castle Bromwich site – which neighbours the Castle Vale estate – were also raised. Cllr Goodwin committed to being “on the front foot, doing everything I can to stop the plant closing” and to “protect the jobs of people on this estate.”

Another issue discussed at the Ward Forum meeting was the continuation of heavy goods vehicles using Castle Vale as a thoroughfare, with one resident stating: “they should not be driving past school at 9am.”

The success of the Mobile Household Recycling Unit was also celebrated, with Castle Vale receiving collections “once every five weeks” – more in comparison to many areas of the city.

And the need for improved transport links, and the location of a new Castle Vale strain station scheduled for 2030, were also paramount in local people’s concerns – with access to and from Castle Vale for healthcare workers at Good Hope and Heartlands Hospitals referenced as a particular concern.

At the end of the Castle Vale Ward Forum meeting, which ran nearly 30minutes over time, Cllr Goodwin thanked those in attendance and reiterated his hope residents will continue to ask “…what about?” and be vocal about their issues and ambitions for the North Birmingham estate.

A revised Ward Plan for Castle Vale was submitted to Birmingham City Council on Thursday 12 January.

For more on Councillor Goodwin in Castle Vale visit  www.facebook.com/thisiscastlevale

NEWS: 18 year old from Erdington is charged with Cody Fisher Boxing Day murder

Words by Ed King

An 18 year old from Erdington has been charged with murder and affray, following a police investigation into the fatal stabbing of Cody Lee Fisher (23) at a city centre nightclub on Boxing Day.

Reegan Anderson (18) from Erdington was held by West Midlands Police on 12 January and has now been officially implicated in the violent attack – which took place at Crane nightclub on Adderly Street in Digbeth.

Two other men had previously been charged with the murder of Mr Fisher, Kami Carpenter (21) and Remy Gordon (22) both appeared at the city’s Birmingham Crown Court last week.

Another man was also arrested but released on bail, making Reegan Anderson from Erdington the fourth man to be arrested and third to be charged over the horrific killing.

Cody Fisher, a semi professional footballer from Redditch, was fatally stabbed the dancefloor of Crane nightclub on Boxing Day last year.

Police were called to the popular Digbeth venue just before midnight on 26 December 2022, but despites efforts to save Mr Fisher’s life at the scene he was pronounced dead around 30 minutes later.

Security at the nightclub was questioned following the attack, with an 18-year-old man from Wolverhampton reporting the killing was a “disaster waiting to happen” and that the venue security “…didn’t even touch me whilst searching me, they just followed the outline of my body with their hands then tapped me to say go on through.”

He continued: “Obviously you want everyone to have a good time and enjoy themselves (but) when we got in I said to my friend: ‘That’s the worst search I’ve ever seen’. Anyone could have brought anything in.”

Cody Fisher was had previously played for Stourbridge, Bromsgrove Sporting, and Stratford Town football clubs.

In the days following the fatal attack, Arron Forde from Erdington based Community Interest Company Foundations 4 Future – who use sport to engage with young people and keep them away from violent crime and gang culture – took to social media to decry the brutal killing.

Mr Forde stated on his personal Twitter feed: ‘Having a son who is 2 & a half I just don’t see how I can bring him up in this lawless cesspit of a country. 0 consequence for the most horrific crimes.’

Following the arrest of Reegan Anderson, West Midlands Police issued the following statement:

“We’ve arrested a fourth man on suspicion of the murder of Cody Fisher, who was stabbed to death in a Birmingham nightclub on Boxing Day.

“The 18-year-old was held in Erdington just before 7am and will be questioned over the death of Cody.

“Cody, 23, was stabbed on the dance floor of the Crane nightclub on Adderley Street in Digbeth just before midnight on Boxing Day. He died at the scene.

“Two men have already been charged with his murder, while a third has been released on police bail while our inquiry continues.”

Det Insp Michelle Thurgood, leading the investigation, added: “We know lots of people at The Crane were using their mobile phones to take pictures and video on the night.

“If anyone has images from the evening that shows what happened before, during or after the incident, we really need to see it. It could provide vital to our investigation.”

West Midlands Police have set up a dedicated webpage for people to anonymously share any information, images, or videos that could help them with the investigation: https://mipp.police.uk/operation/20HQ22L31-PO1

NEWS: Man arrested for midnight stabbing on Fern Road leaving victim with “potentially life changing injuries’

Words and pics by Ed King

A 35 year old man has been arrested for wounding, following an alleged stabbing on Fern Road at around 12am on Saturday 7 January.

As revellers on nearby Erdington High Street enjoyed the first weekend of the New Year, a man in his 40’s was fighting for his life following the vicious assault – with police cordoning off Fern Road in a midnight investigation.

Blocking off the suburban street from the entrances on Church Road and Moor End Lane, uniformed officers and sniffer dogs were deployed in the early hours to search for evidence.

Initially searching the undergrowth, bushes, and gardens surrounding the corner of Fern Road and Church Road, police then continued their search down Church Road towards Spring Lane – checking front gardens and knocking on the doors of house to near to the crime scene.

A Police Incident Support Unit was also in attendance, isolating two parts of Fern Road and covering potential evidence with small tents.

A vehicle recovery truck was also called to the scene, although it was unclear which vehicles it was removing from the investigation site.

One local resident, who lives on Church Road and saw the first squad car arrive, told Erdington Local: “You hear sirens and see blue lights all the time around here, being just off the High Street, but they don’t usually stop on Church Road. This time they did.

“I never heard any noise or fighting, and the first police car just sat on Fern Road for about quarter of an hour before anyone else turned up – it didn’t feel like a dangerous scene.

“But the roads were fully closed and the police were searching the front gardens nearby, so they must have been looking for something. Or someone.”

Another Church Road neighbour, who came out of her door opposite from the police cordon, told Erdington Local: “I’m was just coming to see what was going on, we were worried for our neighbours.”

Whilst a passer-by also quizzed police at the scene, asking: “how bad is it down there (Fern Road)?”

West Midlands Police issued a statement about the incident on Saturday 7 January.

A spokesperson for West Midlands Police told: “A man has been arrested after another man was stabbed in Fern Road, Erdington just before midnight.

“The victim, in his 40s, was taken to hospital with serious and potentially life-changing injuries. A 35-year-old man remains under arrest for wounding.

“Anyone who witnessed what happened and hasn’t spoken to us should contact us via Live Chat quoting log 4757 of 6/1.

Video of police at scene, blocking off Fern Road

 Video of small tents being erected on Fern Road