VOX POP: Remembering Jack – “He was a Birmingham man; he was a local man. And he cared.”

VOX POP quotes & pics taken by Claire Taylor / Intro words & pics by Ed King

Soon after the announcement of Jack Dromey’s death on Friday 7 January, flowers and messages of remembrance started to appear outside his constituency office on Mason Road. – with further tributes flooding social media.

Many were in shock at the sudden and unexpected news, sharing their stories and grief both online and off.

Erdington Local took to the High Street he fiercely championed and asked for comment from some of his constituents – for our weekly VOX POP.

(Ed’s note… we used the headline quote to show how Jack Dromey was perceived, by many, as a ‘local man’ – despite being born in Middlesex. The full quote is the last in the VOX POP, which we felt was a testament to the fervour with which Jack represented his Birmingham constituency.)

Holding a position where concerns and complaints were part of the day to day, Jack Dromey heard first hand about the issues affecting people across Erdington – with many looking to his office for answers.

From large scale employment strategies to supporting school fundraisers and independent retailers, the ‘to-do-list’ in the local MPs office was often as varied as it was unending. But as Erdington’s elected voice in Parliament, it was down to Jack Dromey and his colleagues to work through it with tireless dedication.

When Erdington Local asked for comments on Jack Dromey’s death, and life, many people had many things to say – but not all were comfortable having their condolences captured on camera.

Thank you to everyone who stopped to share thier thoughts and stories with us, and to all who agreed to be featured in the article.

Remembering Jack memorial service on Sunday 16 January

A wider public memorial service is being organised by the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce on Sunday 16 January, to be held outside the Co-op supermarket on Erdington High Street from 1:30/2pm.

Speakers will include colleagues from Jack’s constituency office, alongside figureheads from local organisations and community support groups such as Witton Lodge Community Association, Urban Devotion, Erdington Street Pastors, and Spitfire Advice and Support Services.

Jack Dromey’s political peers will also be attending, with further public condolences and remembrance coming from Liam Byrne MP (Hodge Hill), Jess Phillips MP (Yardley), Cllr Paulette Hamilton (Lab, Hollyhead, Birmingham Conservatives Leader Cllr Robert Alden (Con, Erdington), and Birmingham City Council Leader Cllr Ian Ward (Lab, Shard End).

The memorial for Jack Dromey is open to all members of the public – with the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce inviting people to gather by the Co-op from 1:30pm, with the service scheduled to begin at 2pm.

A spokesperson for the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce told Erdington Local:

“On behalf of the people of Erdington, partners of the Erdington Covid-19 Task Force have come together to organise this tribute event for Jack.

“His legacy went beyond politics. His tireless campaigning on behalf of constituents touched so many lives so we wanted to create a fitting tribute to a man who was progressive and impactful in positively changing lives and communities.

“It’s a chance for the people of Erdington to pay their respects to Jack, to reflect on his work and to share memories of him.

“It should be a great occasion, celebrating the life of a man whose commitment to improving lives made him a hero for the community he served with such passion and honesty.”

Here are a few more memories and messages of condolences from people on Erdington High Street.

Harriet Spencer, Oikos Café, Erdington High Street

“He used to come relatively frequently into Oikos and he would always order a strawberry milkshake, which we used to love.

“He was such a champion of the café and enjoyed that we were hear and all the things we did, especially the music event. It’s really a shock to the area and all of us.”

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Christine Scarl, Pype Hayes

“I heard that he had died… its such a shame. He was really good at letting us know what was going on in the area, we would always be getting the leaflets through the door and everything. It’s such a shame.”

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Pat Wandby, Stockland Green

“I’m sad that Jack Dromey died… it was a shock, he was a nice chap and he always seemed to be fighting for the workers – to help them keep their jobs.

“Like with the HP Sauce factory, which should never have been closed. And he was always fighting for the Jag (Jaguar Land Rover, Castle Bromwich) and other industries.

“He came to our house once over an issue with some garages at the back… I did have a moan at him about Stockland Green and the potholes on the road, by the chip shop. But since then it’s been done.”

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Vera, Holly Lane, Erdington

“He passed away, bless him. He did a lot for Erdington, as out local MP. He did a lot for Jaguar and everything else.

“He was a Birmingham man; he was a local man. And he cared.”

If you have something to say about any of the issues raised in this VOX POP (or anything else you want to tell us about) please email: mystory@erdingotnlocal.com

For more on Jack Dromey visit www.jackdromey.co.uk

NEWS: Kingstanding’s CLOC Musical Theatre Company restart rehearsals – looking for new members ahead of their summer production

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by CLOC Musical Theatre Company

From 10 January, Kingstanding’s long running CLOC Musical Theatre Company (CLOC MTC) are restarting their weekly rehearsals – hoping to find more local people with a penchant for the performing arts.

Meeting every Monday evening at St Mark’s Church, Bandywood Crescent, Kingstanding, CLOC are on the hunt for new members ahead of their summer production – offering an open invitation to anyone who wants to check out the company ahead of the upcoming auditions, regardless of previous stage experience or ability.

Having been unable to tread the boards due to Covid and lockdown restrictions, Monday 10 January marks the long awaited return of CLOC’s weekly workshops – with rehearsals running from 7:30pm.

But the Kingstanding company pride themselves on being “a family”, hosting many social events outside of their Monday rehearsals – including a regular curry club, Christmas meals, and trips to places of interest around the UK.

Anyone interested in finding out more about CLOC MTC can drop in to one of the weekly Monday evening sessions – or contact the company directly by calling Stacey on 07990 727355 or emailing info@cloc.org.uk

All ages are welcomed, although children under 14 must be chaperoned by a responsible adult – with production roles available both onstage and backstage.

Established as an operatic ensemble back in 1937, the company’s first production was Clementine Ward’s three act operetta Peal the Fisher Maiden.

Producing a variety of annual musicals, stage shows, and concerts, including special variety shows for active servicemen from 1942-4, CLOC now present two productions each year – a regular pantomime in February, followed by the company’s “main show” later in the year.

CLOC are now working towards their summer production of Godspell – Stephen Schwartz’s renowned musical that retells the Gospels of Matthew – with a performance set for July this year.

The company will then look towards their 2023 pantomime, Beauty and the Beast.

Previous productions have included Tom Jones (1940), Annie Get Your Gun (1966), South Pacific (1984), and Fiddler on the Roof (2005) – alongside firm panto favourites including Aladdin, Jack and the Beanstalk, Dick Whittington, and Cinderella.

CLOC have performed shows in a variety of theatre spaces across Birmingham, including Sutton Coldfield Town Hall, Highbury Theatre Centre, The Crescent Theatre, and The Old REP.

Celebrating it’s 85th year in 2022, CLOC have staged over 158 productions throughout the years – making it one of North Birmingham’s longest running musical theatre companies.

Now able to meet up and rehearse for the first time since Covid, the near century old company is looking for more tireless thespians, confident crooners, and dedicated dancers to get involved – welcoming any ages and stages.

Ben Neville from CLOC MTC told Erdington Local: “The last two years have been pretty miserable, but CLOC are starting rehearsals again and we’d love to welcome some new members to the group.

“We are very much a warm welcoming company; we welcome anyone who wants to tread the boards, who wants to come and be part of something. We’re like a family. We welcome all ages and talents… we make everyone feel at home when they come through the doors.

“With our company, there are roles both on stage and working backstage – we have some members who might not want to be in a certain show but want to help backstage, and we welcome that.

“We want everyone to take part and there are many opportunities to do different things and to learn new skills.

“We’ve had two years of misery; we’ve not been able to do much. And this is an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and to try something new. So, if you’re a lover of the theatre and you’ve always wanted to get on stage, this is the place to do it.

“Don’t be shy, we’re all in it together, and we will support and cheer everyone on with every performance.”

For more on CLOC Musical Theatre Company visit www.cloc.org.uk

NEWS: ‘There’s nothing you cannot achieve,’ Jack Dromey’s inspirational final words to friend and colleague

Words & original pics by Ed King – initial image supplied by Naz Rasheed

In a phone call made on the morning he died, Jack Dromey’s final words to a friend and colleague were a last shot of his trademark inspiration.

Speaking to each other early on Friday 7 January, Mr Dromey ended the conversation with words of encouragement for Birmingham Labour’s BAME Officer, telling Naziah Rasheed: “…there’s nothing you cannot do. There’s nothing you cannot achieve.”

An inspiration to many across both the pollical spectrum and his own constituency, with tributes pouring in since the announcement of his death, Jack Dromey’s final words to his close party ally stand as a fitting epitaph to his dedication to help and support others.

Talking exclusively to Erdington Local, Naziah remembered her final phone call with Jack Dromey, where she was seeking help with party business on the upcoming local elections.

She told: “He was at home (Highcroft Villas, Erdington) and was saying he had to jump in the shower as he was running late, because he had to go to Castle Vale to meet Ray Goodwin (Spitfire Services).

“I needed help and advice on Birmingham May 2022 local elections and Jack was my go-to guy if things got tough, I’m on the executive board and there’s a lot of work with selections coming up. My confidence was low, and I was saying: ‘Jack, I’m just not sure I can do this.’

“He listened and just calmly said to me: ‘Naz, there is nothing you cannot do. There is nothing you cannot achieve.’ And that was it. Those were the last words he spoke to me.

“This is something that he always used to tell me. ‘I’ve seen you doing things, I’ve seen you speaking to people. I can see what you can do… and there is nothing you can’t do.’ He used to say that to me all the time.

“There were so many times I thought I won’t be able to do something, but by having him by my side I actually did it. And did it well.

“This is what he was repeating (in our phone call), he was telling me ‘Naz there is nothing you cannot do.’

“It made me feel there was somebody who believed in me, somebody who thought I had the capacity and the ability to achieve things.”

Naziah Rasheed had been appointed Birmingham Labour’s BAME Officer following her work supporting Labour’s West Midlands mayoral candidate, Liam Byrne MP.

One of her first community projects was a belated Eid Fair in Stockland Green, bringing multi-faith communities together at a safe time to celebrate following Covid lockdown restrictions.

Held at Highcroft Community Centre, the Eid Fair was attended by hundreds of people and families from all religious and cultural backgrounds – with Jack Dromey supporting Naziah in her first major outreach event.

Naziah added: “The Eid Fair was a good opportunity to bring the communities together, to celebrate something together. I asked Jack, you know what are your thoughts on this? And he said this is a brilliant idea, something we’ve never done in the past, and I’ll support you.

“We had a really good turnout. And Jack was taking tables in and out of the (Highcroft Community) centre. He helped with the cleaning afterwards, with me, my husband, and the kids.

“He was there until we were done at the centre, even the night before he came to see how the preparations were going. His support was always there for me.

“He was not one of those MPs who just not come back to you, who would just listen to you then forget about it. He would act upon it.

“He was a role model to me. He was a very good friend at the same time. I will miss him tremendously.”

Following Jack Dromey’s sudden death on Friday 7 January, tributes from across the community have flooded in – with people who knew and worked with him laying flowers outside his constituency office on Mason Road.

The first bouquet was laid by Short Heath Fields Trust, a local campaign group who have been fighting Birmingham City Council plans to build house on Short Heath Playing Fields (SHFT) – with Jack Dromey brokering often heated meetings between the Council Leader’s office and SHFT.

Often at professional loggerheads with each other, a healthy respect was fostered between Jack Dromey and the SHFT campaigners – with the long standing union man often celebrating their tenacity and achievements.

Featuring a red rose and a ribbon emblazoned with ‘JACK’, the card accompanying the flowers form SHFT states: ‘Jack, you kept your word. Promised & delivered us a seat at the table’ – reiterating a commitment the MP had once made to the campaigners.

More flowers began to appear outside the constituency office from Friday evening onward.

Further messages thanked Mr Dromey for ‘…listening to us, supporting us, and fighting to make Erdington, Birmingham and the rest of the UK a better place to live and work.’

Another bouquet carried the message: ‘Rest in peace Mr Dromey., You were a legend and legends will live forever.’

Jack Dromey was found dead at his constituency on Friday 7 January, after police were alerted following a missed meeting scheduled for 11:30am.

He is survived by his wife, Labour MP Harriet Harman, and his three children.

For more on Jack Dromey visit www.jackdromey.co.uk

NEWS: Shock as Erdington MP Jack Dromey found dead at constituency residence

Words & pics by Ed King

Shock spread across Erdington and Westminster as Jack Dromey MP was found dead at his constituency flat earlier today.

Police were alerted after the Erdington MP had not attended scheduled meetings, gaining entry to his flat when concerns were raised by colleagues in his constituency office.

Born on 29 September 1948, the long standing “true Labour man” had held the Erdington seat since being first elected in 2010, following a career on the front line of worker disputes – serving as the Deputy General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union and Unite the Union.

Jack Dromey also became Treasurer of the Labour Party and was called to the front benches as shadow Minister for Housing under the then Labour leader Ed Milliband.

Most recently, Jack Dromey was appointed shadow Immigration Minister by Sir Keir Starmer, working tirelessly with support organisations in the UK and aboard to support people fleeing Afghanistan as the Taliban took over control of the country.

Jack Dromey is survived by his wife, Labour MP Harriet Harman, and his three children. His son, Joe Dromey, posted the following statement on Twitter earlier today: “Our dad – Jack – died suddenly today. We loved him so, so much. Rest in peace big man x”

Current Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer also paid tribute to Jack Dromey today.

He stated: “The proud son of Irish parents, Jack Dromey dedicated his life to standing up for working people through the Labour movement, becoming Deputy General Secretary of the UK’s largest trade union then a Labour MP.

“From supporting the strike at the Grunwick film processing laboratory, when he met Harriet, through to being elected to represent Birmingham Erdington in 2010, Jack lived his commitment to social justice every day.

“Jack was recognised for his determination to stand up for his constituents and he was highly respected and warmly regarded across Parliament.

“My thoughts and those of the whole Labour movement are with Harriet, their children and all those who knew and loved Jack.”

A close friend of Jack Dromey, Birmingham City Council Leader Ian Ward further added: “”I’m absolutely devastated at the death of my friend and colleague Jack Dromey.

“A true Labour man who served the people of Erdington with passion and dedication, Jack devoted his life to the service of others. He will be sorely missed and my thoughts are with his family at this time.”

In Erdington, Jack Dromey had recently fought alongside workers at the ill-fated GKN factory on Chester Road, voicing their plight in Parliament and brokering meetings between the international owners Melrose PLC and Unite the Union.

Mr Dromey had also been involved in the campaign to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’, brokering meetings between Birmingham City Council and local campaigners fighting to stop the proposed housing development on the green space.

He had also been fighting to get more police officers on patrol in Erdington, following the widespread cuts in law enforcement and community policing.

Just before Christmas, Jack Dromey organised for the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster, to walk Erdington High Street with the new Street Pastors to see first hand the problems they faced.

A champion of the arts in Erdington, Jack Dromey was a firm supporter of local creative industries and the impact they made across the constituency – supporting the monthly Evening of Creativity events at Oikos Café and joining hundreds of people at the recent Little Amal event in October last year.

Jack Dromey was also heavily involved in the North Birmingham Economic Recovery Plan, working with regional stakeholders such as Witton Lodge Community Association and The Pioneer Groups to kickstart employment and encourage economic stability following Covid.

On Friday 7 January, the day he was found dead, Jack Dromey was scheduled to work on the Castle Vale estate – meeting with local support agencies and residents to address impact of spiralling fuel and living costs in one of the most affected areas of his constituency.

Ray Goodwin, CEO of Spitfire Services, had planned to spend the morning with the Erdington MP and local Castle Vale residents. He told Erdington Local:

“Jack was the best MP I have worked with; he became a good friend and was a thoroughly decent man.

“What you saw was what you got, there were no angles there. He was a remarkable and honourable man.

“He was at the centre of many community projects; he believed in the strength of people and community, that they were the answer to many things, and he fought for them. I’m heartbroken. I’m going to miss him terribly.”

For more on Jack Dromey visit www.jackdromey.co.uk

NEWS: Local support worker ‘braves the shave’ to raise hundreds for Macmillan Cancer Support

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Debbie Bates

As many people got glammed up ahead of a last minute New Year’s Eve reprieve, one local support worker was shaving herself bald – raising well over a thousand pounds for Macmillan Cancer Support.

On 28 December, Debbie Bates decided to ‘Brave the Shave’ and have her long flowing locks lopped off for charity, generating over £1300 in sponsorship and donations for the national cancer support organisation.

Debbie’s long brown hair, which reached far down her back, was further donated to The Little Princess Trust – a UK based charity providing free real hair wigs to young people who have lost their hair after cancer treatment or other illnesses.

Click here to make an online donation to Debbie Bates’s Brave the Shave campaign, accepting contributions until the end of January 2022.

Debbie, who is a qualified social worker and the Health and Wellbeing Development Manager for Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA), was spurned to shave off her hair in respect of family members who have died of cancer – including her own mother, Shirley Reynolds, who passed away tragically young aged only 38.

Shirley Reynolds would have celebrated her seventieth birthday on 28 December, the day that Debbie decided to ‘brave the shave’ and have her hair cut off for the cancer charity – surrounded by friends and family at The Royal Oak pub in Kingsbury, Tamworth.

Debbie told: “Brave the Shave was a very personal and emotional experience for me as my mum had beautiful long hair which ‘fell out’ due to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

“The most humbling thing about the experience was listening to stories from so many friends and colleagues who have also lost loved ones to cancer.

“Having them share their memories and listening to their experiences is something that will stay with me forever.”

Shirley Reynolds

At the time of writing, Debbie Bates had raised over £1380 for Macmillan Cancer Support – smashing her original target of £500, with people from across the community donating and showing support via Debbie’s official Brave the Shave page on the Macmillan website.

Debbie O’Connor posted: “Such a fabulous thing to do Debbie and for such a worthy cause! You’re mom would be so proud. Hope you’ve got your woolly hat ready! Sending heavenly birthday wishes.”

Chantelle Holmes added: “It’s exactly what is says on the tin ‘Brave’, not many people could or would do it. You really are one truly inspiring woman.”

Brave the Shave is an annual fundraising initiative organised by Macmillan Cancer Support, one of the UK’s leading cancer charities.

Launched in 2015, the yearly shear has generated over £22.7 million in sponsorship and donations – a fantastic fundraising figure that could pay for 140 Macmillan nurses for three years.

Like many cancer charities, Macmillan is heavily reliant on  sponsorship and  donations to fund its staff and services.

Debbie Bates’s Brave the Shave campaign will be taking donations until the end of January 2022.

To make on online contribution to Debbie’s Brave the Save campaign visit www.bravetheshave.macmillan.org.uk/shavers/debbie-bates

For more information on Brave the Shave visit www.bravetheshave.macmillan.org.uk

VOX POP: Would you like more art, music, and events on Erdington High Street?

Pics & quotes taken by Claire Taylor / Intro by Ed King

Erdington High Street was once one of the busiest in Birmingham. But even before Covid closed shops and businesses across the country, Erdington’s central vein of commerce was already getting clogged – with many local shoppers put off by an increase in antisocial behaviour and street crime.

Recently, there have been more hopes dashed as Erdington missed out on two multi million pound pots of Government funding that would have kickstarted major regeneration of the High Street – being rejected for the Future High Street Fund on Boxing Day 2020, then the Levelling Up Fund in October last year.

And whilst more banks move out and budget shops move in, those responsible for promoting Erdington’s business community continue to try and turn an increasingly troubling tide – with the recently reinstated Erdington Business Improvement District (Erdington BID) allotting ‘£20000 towards marketing, events and promotion’ from their annual budget.

But whilst Westminster side steps Erdington’s ambitions and recognised national chains hover on the side lines, the local arts community has been making an impact – with creative events and community projects bringing crowds and attention to the waning High Street.

In October 2021, the global phenomenal and ‘living puppet’ Little Amal visited Erdington High Street, as she came through selected places in the UK at the end of her 8,000m walk across the world – raising awareness for the plight of child refugees and displaced people.

Hundreds of people gathered on Erdington High Street in celebration and solidarity, joining Little Amal as she walked from the Co-op supermarket to Central Square Shopping Centre.

To read/see more about Little Amal’s visit to Erdington click here.

So, can art and creative activity help breath life back into Erdington High Street? Are the creative industries picking up the slack from a distant Government and nervous national brands?

Or do these events bring more problems to an already strained shopping hub, distracting people’s attention from the shelves and taking footfall out of the shops and onto the pavement?

Erdington Local’s VOX POP reporter, Claire Taylor, went onto the High Street to ask local shops and shoppers alike… would you like more art, music, and events on Erdington High Street?

Pete and Pat Ferrans, Erdington

“We came to the puppet one (Little Amal), the big walking puppet one, and thought that was great. Anything that would bring people to the High Street. If its that, or a food fair, or a farmer’s market.”

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Raven Dixon, Erdington

“I’m a creative person; I’d love to see more arts and events on the High Street.

“I can’t think off hand of any specific events, but what was really great is when the big puppet (Little Amal) came – everybody was talking about it, including people who don’t normally come to Erdington. More high-profile stuff like that.”

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Daniel Byrne, Erdington

“I think they’re a good idea. You know when there was the big doll (Little Amal) here, I saw that. I was up there (car park above Wilton Market) watching it, I’d love to see more things like that.

“But anything that livens it (High Street) up is good, like music – I love seeing people playing, I give them a bit of money every now and again. I love to see it.”

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Nancy Singh, clothing stall – Wilton Market

“I would like to see more events; it encourages people to come here when they see things happening on the High Street. Music, or whatever people like and will bring them here.”

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Kevin Boustead, The Wilton Cobbler – Wilton Market

“I like having the events, but it just takes everyone out of the (Wilton) market. I’ve been here for 30 years next month; we want to bring people into the market.

“What you’ve got to do is to get the people, the general public, not to be frightened to come into Erdington. They can still be scare stiff of the High Street.”

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Sohrab Hesari, Aster Alterations

“I like the events on the High Street. I think music events would be better, and food events, for the High Street. Better for the public.

“Better for me too, when she came (Little Amal) it brought more people into the shop.”

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Aparna Binoop, New Oscott

“More events would benefit the High Street, for sure. I would like to see some areas made specially for people, so they can gather around and play.”

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Caitlin Wood, Erdington

“Definitely. It would be really nice if there were more live music events, I always thought that would be good. But it would be good if there was a venue for 18-30 year olds.”

If you have something to say about any of the issues raised in this VOX POP (or anything else you want to tell us about) please email: mystory@erdingtonlocal.com

NEWS: West Midlands Mayor urges campaigners to ‘keep lobbying’ to save Short Heath Playing Fields

Words & pics Ed King

During a visit to Short Heath Playing Fields on Saturday 11 December, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street urged campaigners to “keep lobbying, to keep making their voice heard” – as the battle to save the beloved parkland continues.

Short Heath Playing Fields had been earmarked for a new housing estate of potentially over 84 three to five bedroom homes, to help support the city’s social housing agenda.

But in a recent surprise U-turn, Birmingham City Council deemed the site unviable and gave the green space back to the Education Department.

Andy Street had previously visited local residents fighting to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’ in April this year, returning on Saturday to congratulate the campaigners – but also to warn against a possible private sale.

Despite a welcome win for Short Heath Fields Trust (SHFT), the formalised group fighting save the playing fields, the Council’s shift could mean the parkland is now sold on the commercial market.

A previous statement from Birmingham City Council explained if the land was not developed by the city: “the options are limited and stark…

“With the current demand for land by house developers, it is anticipated that the land would be sold relatively soon to a private developer.”

An advocate of building on brownfield over greenfield sites, Mr Street explained:

“The first thing to say is that it’s really good news that their (Council) own plans for development are not going ahead, and the campaigners deserve huge credit for getting a change of heart there. But then I would say there is still another campaign to be run to make sure it doesn’t get sold off for development.

“So, what I hope will happen is that it moves into the Parks Department and can then be developed, as the team on the ground here have said, as a facility for the community. I hope that the Council will still see that is the right thing to do.

“(Now campaigners should) keep lobbying, to keep making their voice heard – particularly as this is the year of elections in Birmingham so it’s really important. I think we’ve already seen the power; the power of a community voice is really symbolic.

“Very clearly, we’ve got a huge housing challenge in the West Midlands. We all know that. But the good news is that we’re steadily choosing individual brownfield sites to be developed one after another and the policy remains absolutely to win Government funding we can use to close the viability gaps on individual brownfield sites.”

Erdington Ward councillor Robert Alden opposed the development on Short Heath Playing Fields when it was first identified in the Birmingham Development Plan.

Joining Andy Street on the playing fields, he told Erdington Local:

“This is a great first victory, but it is very much only the beginning, not the end.

“There’s a long battle ahead – residents have been brilliant at coming together and now it’s really clear the Council need to move this into the Parks Department rather than the Education Department, guarantee it won’t be sold, and allow the residents here to take ownership of this site and put it into use just like the local community wants.

“It’s been absolutely brilliant to see the way people have come together; you look at some of the events, like the Halloween Trail they had, the Sports Day in the summer, the clean ups being organised by the local community.

“This is exactly what Erdington and North Birmingham are about – a community coming together to stand up for what they believe in.”

Having grown from a Facebook campaign to an official lobbying body, the local residents that make up Short Heath Fields Trust (SHFT) are celebratory of the Council’s recent decision – but mirror the concern of the West Midlands Mayor and Erdington Ward Councillor.

Stephen Hughes from SHFT told: “(I am) extremely proud of my community, to see them today… it’s emotional, it’s always emotional. But it’s important that they’re still behind us, they’re still 100% backing everything we do.

“And moving forward that’s going to be crucial, because we want to make sure this (the playing fields) remain a green space and doesn’t become anything other than that.”

Also from SHFT, Estelle Murphy added: “I’m nervously hopeful; nervous that the Council won’t listen to us and give us the time to explore the opportunity for sport here, hopeful that they will.

“(The community are) very pleased we’ve got though the first part of the battle. They’re hoping that we’re going to keep on, which we will. We won’t back down. We’ll be there until the bitter end.

“There are no houses on here yet.”

Short Heath Fields Trust are continuing to explore uses for the playing fields, following on from previous community events organised there – alongside a focus on sport, health and wellbeing.

For more on Short Heath Fields Trust visit www.shortheathfieldstrust.godaddysites.com

Andy Street, Robert Alden, Short Heath Fields Trust, Stephen Hughes, Estelle Murphy, Birmingham City Council, Short Heath Playing Fields, Active Arts Castle Vale, Review Publishing, Erdington, Erdington High Street, Ed King, Ed King 2210, Erdington, Birmingham, Erdington Local, newspaper, feature, Sutton Coldfield Local, Local Newspapers, showcase, news

NEWS: Memorial Christmas tree planted outside EF Edwards on Gravelly Hill

Words & pics by Ed King

A memorial Christmas tree has been planed in the front garden of EF Edwards on Gravelly Hill, in an act of remembrance for local people who have lost loved ones.

The long serving Erdington funeral directors, which has been helping local families through difficult times since 1966, are inviting people to decorate the tree with special silver star decorations – each carrying the names of departed friends and family members.

There is no charge, and the person being remembered with a star on the memorial tree did not need to be laid to rest by EF Edwards.

“We’d like to support the whole community and everyone who may be dealing with grief,” explained EF Edwards Funeral Manger, Lisa Hodge.

“The stars on the tree can help people, especially at this time of year, remember their loved ones and do something a bit more proactive. It can give people who are grieving something to focus on.

“It’s important to acknowledge that grief is a natural process and people have different ways in which they greave and how they get through that process – if we can do something that makes that a little bit easier then that’s what we’re here to do.”

Before Covid, EF Edwards would hold an annual memorial service at St Michael’s Church in Boldmere and display a memorial tree inside their Erdington based funeral home.

But due to the widespread impact of coronavirus and other illnesses, this year EF Edwards are reaching out to the wider community and planting a permanent memorial tree in their front garden.

“We always did a yearly memorial service around this time of year,” continued Lisa, “where we invited people to send in stars with the names of their loved ones which we would place on a tree within the branch.

“This year we want to extend that to the wider community and offer more people the chance to remember their loved ones, by putting stars on a tree outside at the front.

“The fact that it’s a tree that will remain here permanently will give back to both the community and the environment. It gives people the opportunity to pay their respects to friends, family, and loved ones they have lost – no matter how long ago it was.

“We’d like people to come back year after year in remembrance too, as the tree will keep growing and be a permanent fixture on our front garden.”

The perennial winter fir was donated by Short Heath Fields Trust, who are themselves in the process of building a Covid memorial woodland on Bleak Hill Park.

Estelle Murphy from Short Heath Trust delivered and planted the tree at EF Edwards on Thursday 9 December.

Outside of her role with the Trust, Estelle also works in palliative and end of life care and helps people come to terms with grief in her professional world.

Estelle told Erdington Local: “We were contacted by Lisa at EF Edwards and given the fact we’re in the process of building a living memorial for Covid we were more than happy to jump in and help.

“It’s important that people have time to heal, and everybody does it differently.

“The impact on a community from organisations like EF Edwards is vastly important; it’s where the community come when they need help in finding somewhere for their loved ones to be.

“It’s about finding somewhere they can remember their loved ones; funeral homes like EF Edwards are the bridge between the two.”

If you would like to have a loved on remembered on the memorial tree, contact EF Edwards on 0121 373 0300 or click here to visit their website.

NEWS: High Street Health and Wellbeing Hub sees ‘huge response and demand’ from local residents

Words & pics by Ed King

Launched at the beginning of December, the new Health and Wellbeing Hub on Erdington High Street has already seen a “huge response and demand” from local residents.

Operated by Witton Lodge Community Centre (WLCA), in partnership with NHS Property Services, the Health and Wellbeing Hub offers social support over issues from employment and finance to healthy eating and general wellbeing.

Opening its doors on 1 December, the Health and Wellbeing Hub took over 196 Erdington High St – a building left empty after the Walk-In Centre moved to Northcroft Hospital early this year.

With services running from Monday to Friday, the Erdington Health and Wellbeing Hub offers a range of free to access support – through both drop in and pre-booked sessions with trained advisors.

Debbie Bates, Health & Wellbeing Development Manager at WLCA, told Erdington Local:

“This opportunity; in partnership with NHS Property Services has enabled us to reach and support more local members of our community.

“Since we opened the doors we’ve seen a huge response and demand for non-clinical Social Prescribing services, with a constant stream of people coming in for advice and support.

“Having an additional accessible Hub in the heart of the community; on the high street, will enable us to continue our work with NHS, GP’s, Adult Social Care and our partners to go some way in meeting demand.

“Money, housing and employment are still big concerns, with our benefits advice sessions and housing drop in services on Mondays, Job Club on Tuesdays, and Employment and Skills workshops on Thursdays seeing a lot of interest.

“But often people are looking for more emotional help and a room of friendly faces, which is where our Wellbeing Support, Domestic Violence Support Group and Carers Support sessions on Mondays come in, with additional services being offered around healthy lifestyles in the coming months.”

Primarily based in Perry Common, Witton Lodge Community Association has been delivering social and housing support since being established in 1994.

WLCA also have a proven track record of taking over Council assets the city could no longer run, such as Perry Common Library.

WLCA are also close to completing a new ‘Eco Hub’ at the former park-keepers cottage at Witton Lakes, turning the century old building into ‘a venue which supports, educates and promotes sustainable living… to enhance and encourage the potential for environmentally sustainable lifestyles.’

After successfully launching the Erdington Health and Wellbeing Hub, WLCA have further plans to convert the disused Erdington Swimming Baths into an Enterprise Hub.

Speaking to Erdington Local at the Health and Wellbeing Hub launch, WLCA Chief Officer, Afzal Hussain, told:

“We’re delighted to be in the building and working with the NHS Property Services team, they’ve been excellent.

“They’ve helped to refurbish the facility which means we can come in and start to provide the services – services that are needed now and will be needed in the coming months as people feel some of those pressures associated with the cost of living.

“We’re approaching winter, and the difficulties associated with the pandemic, but also helping people with advice and training, upskilling, and finding work. So, there’ll be a range of services we’ll be providing from here.

“We’re really pleased to bring this building back into use for the community and for local residents, having a Hub right on the High Street is really important. And also, I think it’s a sign of our commitment moving forward to Erdington Town Centre.”

Charlotte Jarvis, Senior Portfolio Optimisation Manager, NHS Property Services, added: “It has been a complete pleasure to work with Witton Lodge in delivering this space.

“Through our social prescribing programme here at NHSPS, we provided the space and then refurbished it to fit the needs of Witton Lodge.

“I was delighted to be invited to the opening today and see not only the space in real life, but also the colleagues and volunteers who deliver the services and most importantly the residents of Erdington who will benefit from this space. I look forward to coming back to see how it develops to continue to support local PCN’s and its patients.”

Also attending the opening were Erdington Ward councillors Robert Alden and Gareth Moore.

Councillor Alden said: “It’s great to be here at the Erdington Wellbeing Centre opening, and Witton Lodge have done a brilliant job at setting this up and running.

“I think we’ve all seen with Covid how important it is to be supporting people’s social and mental health, as well as their physical health.

“In terms of the future, going forward, with the building being empty this (Health & Wellbeing Hub) is the solution to getting it used.

“And it’s really good that once again Witton Lodge have stepped in to help support Erdington and the surrounding area when perhaps other public services have stepped back.”

Councillor Gareth Moore added: “This will be a valuable lifeline for the local community who, sadly, like many people, have suffered through the pandemic.

“So, hopefully the great work what Witton Lodge has been doing in the area will be amplified through this Hub.”

The Erdington Health and Wellbeing Hub is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. For details on available support please call 0121 827 6295.

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

NEWS: MP Jack Dromey seeks reselection to contest General Election as Labour candidate

Words by Ed King

Jack Dromey is officially seeking reselection from local Labour Party members to contest the next General Election as Erdington’s Labour candidate.

Currently scheduled for Thursday 2 May 2024, the next General Election could be called early if the sitting government change their plans – prompting the Labour Party HQ to push MPs to declare their intentions.

Whenever it’s called, the next General Election will be Jack Dromey’s fifth campaign for the Erdington constituency – having won by over 3,500 votes ahead of Robert Alden (Con) in 2019.

Jack Dromey was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Erdington in 2010, and has since won re-election in 2015, 2017 and 2019. He became an MP after a long career as a Trade Union official in which he rose to the position of Deputy General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, which later became Unite.

Still with strong links to Unite, Jack Dromey has been a central figure in the fight to save the ill-fated GKN Chester Road factory – acting as an intermediary between the Government, Unite the Union, and GKN owners Melrose PLC.

In an outline of his decade plus achievements as MP, to Erdington Labour Party members, Mr Dromey also cites his work in ‘saving the JLR plant and thousands of jobs who work there and in the supply chain.’

Mr Dromey also references ‘securing funding for two new build schools, Greenwood Academy and North Birmingham Academy’ and ‘ensuring that all of Erdington’s libraries remain open while we see libraries closing nationwide’ – alongside his work supporting local healthcare, employment, sports and leisure facilities.

The reselection process will take place over the next few months and Mr Dromey must receive over 50% support from Erdington Labour Party members and affiliated unions combined – allowing him to once again stand as MP for Erdington.

Jack Dromey MP said:

“Now, more than ever, our community needs to retain a strong champion in Parliament. A decade of Tory austerity has stripped back vital services and we are feeling the effects locally. Unemployment stands at twice the national average and, despite their ‘levelling up’ rhetoric, the Government has no plan to improve areas like ours.

“I am determined to help Erdington bounce back from Covid and realise the vast potential we have locally by building on the work that has already been started by the North Birmingham Economic Recovery Board, of which I’m Chair.

“I am determined to secure the funding that our High Street desperately needs in order to make it somewhere out community can be proud of once again. And I am determined to continue standing up for Erdington residents in Parliament.

“It would be an honour to continue as the Member of Parliament for Erdington.”

For more on Jack Dromey MP for Erdington visit www.jackdromey.co.uk