NEWS: Erdington UFC star cancels Vegas fight after testing positive for Covid

Words by Adam Smith

Erdington MMA star Leon Edwards has been fored to pull out from headlining UFC Fight Night 186 in Las Vegas after testing positive for COVID-19.

Fight fans across the world were looking forward to the 19th December clash between welterweight Edwards and the UFC’s new “global star” – Russian born Swede Khamzat Chimaev. 

Catching Covid caps off a dreadful year for Edwards who has unable to fight due to a string of pandemic related cancellations, match-up disputes, and injuries.

Edwards not only tested positive but was laid low by the disease losing 12Ibs in four days and being unable to train, meaning the best-case scenario is the two reschedule a fight in January.

Edwards tweeted: “Another setback, but when you come from the mud you learn to put everything in perspective.

“This virus has affected many lives and families much worse than mine.”

He said: “Looking forward to getting this rebooked soon, thank you all for the well wishes.”

Headlining UFC Fight Night 186 in Las Vegas against the much hyped Chimaev would have cemented Edwards‘ place on the global sports stage.

Edwards and Chimaev could not have had more contrasting years, Edwards not stepping in the octogen once – whereas Chimaev burst on the UFC scene winning three fights in the first round since July.

Crucially Chimaev has impressed UFC supremo Dana White, who needs another global superstar after the retirement of Khabib Nurmagomedov.

White said: “The guy is special. I’ve been in this game my whole life; I’ve never seen anything like him. I’m telling you the guy is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Never seen anything like this in my life. Special.”

The UFC temporarily removed Edwards from the welterweight rankings last month due to “inactivity” but reinstated him as world number three when the 29-year-old accepted the fight with Chimaev.

Edwards has been calling out competitors on social media, after refusing a short notice world title shot against Kamaru Usman in July led to him consistently being overlooked for big bouts.

Edwards told MMA Fighting beating Chimaev will guarantee him a world title shot due to the interest in the fight.

He said: “Outside a title shot, I believe he’s the biggest fight. Obviously, [Jorge] Masvidal would have been good as well, but he turned the fight down. This is the biggest fight to guarantee me what’s next.

“That was my thinking going into this. The UFC loves him. Dana [White] loves him. They all think he can’t be beat. When I go out there and take him out, I can’t see what they can say next to give me my title shot. I’d be on a nine-fight win streak. I believe this was the fight to make and now here we are.”

He added: “I know the UFC’s probably banking, Dana anyway, I know he’s praying that this kid wins, but I’ll be way too much for him in there, I’m telling you,”

This time last year the former Aston Hall Academy pupil was one of the hottest properties in the UFC with his signature post clinch elbow move making him a fan favourite.

Represented by the same management company as Irish superstar Conor MacGregor, Paradigm Sports, Edwards secured his financial future by penning a five-fight deal with UFC.

On an eight-fight winning streak, one of the longest current unbeaten runs in the sport, Edwards was rewarded by headlining UFC London on March 21 at Wembley Arena. A win against legendary fighter Tyron Woodley would have given him a world title shot against champion Karamu Usman, however, the event was cancelled to the first UK lock down.

Though not a title eliminator, a rearranged Las Vegas fight will give Edwards the platform to increase his fanbase in America and stop one of the most hyped new fighters in UFC in his tracks.

The last UK fighter to top the bill in Las Vegas was boxer Tyson Fury in February, who won the heavyweight championship of the world when he dismantled Deontay Wilder in one of the greatest British sporting performances of all time.

Fury described why headlining a major event in Las Vegas is so special for any British fighter.

He said: “I always dreamed of seeing my name up in lights on the Las Vegas strip and being the main attraction.

“There is nothing like fight week in Las Vegas and for a British fighter to come over here and win is always going to be special, because of how rare it is for our fighters to come over here and be recognised as the main man and actually win.”

To find out more about Leon Edwards, visit www.ufc.com/athlete/leon-edwards

For more from UFC, visit www.ufc.com

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NEWS: Erdington MP steps in to secure mass COVID-19 testing site on Orphanage Road

Words by Adam Smith / Pics by Ed King

Getting tested for Covid is a matter of life and death, this was the stark warning given by Erdington MP Jack Dromey at the site of a brand new mass testing facility – which could be open in Erdington as early as next week.

Construction of the testing facility began on Friday 26th November, after Mr Dromey brokered an 11th hour agreement between the Department of Health, Birmingham City Council, and the NHS.

The Erdington based facility was the last testing site signed off by the Government, but a licensing issue held up construction and put the entire project in danger.

Speaking at the old Colliers site, Orphanage Road, where the centre is being built, Mr Dromey told Erdington Local mass testing offers a route out of Tier 3 restrictions for Birmingham.

He said: “We needed a facility that enables thousands of local people to be tested in Erdington.

“Lives would be lost if there was not a testing facility in Erdington and lives will be saved because there is a testing facility in Erdington, it is as simple as that.

“There were delays concerning it being approved but thankfully they were sorted out, it should take two days to build and then a few days to get the facility ready and it could be open as quickly as the end of next week, when the national lockdown ends.”

The MP admitted getting all the relevant agencies and departments to work together on the project was not easy.

He said: “To begin with it was like pulling teeth but progressively it got better; I’d like to thank NHS Birmingham and Birmingham City Council for their hard work in delivering the facility.”

The Erdington MP is in no doubt how important mass testing will be in the fight against controlling COVID-19 and saving lives.

He said: “Here and now, as we don’t have a vaccine yet, the message is test, test, test. So I say to the citizens of Erdington come and get tested.

“And to those who doubt the wisdom of getting tested I say come and get tested – if you are not tested and get Covid you might end up dying, you might be responsible for members of your family dying, and you might be responsible for your friends and members of the community dying. So come and get tested.”

Erdington residents will be able to book a test either online or by using 119, walk to the testing facility, take a test, and then they will be notified of the results between 24 and 72 hours later. A recent trial of mass testing in Liverpool reduced the R-Rate and helped the city escape Tier 3 restrictions.

The MP added: “We discovered this week that Birmingham will enter into the highest level of restrictions, Tier 3, following the end of lockdown on Wednesday. The whole city must now pull together in order to drive down the spread of the virus and get us out of Tier 3 as quickly as possible.

“Tier 3 restrictions will be devastating for many businesses and workers across Birmingham. In particular the hospitality industry, and the tens of thousands of people it employs in the city, will be severely impacted.”

He added: “We have seen from the recent trial in Liverpool, that mass testing is an extremely effective way for us to reduce the R-rate and exit Tier 3.

“This testing facility will therefore play a crucial role in Birmingham’s response to COVID-19 this winter and I’m very happy Erdington residents will have the best possible access.”

Joining Mr Dromey at the site to see construction begin was Damien Siviter, Group Managing Director of Seven Capital who own the former Colliers site.

He said: “This has been a great example of how the public and private sectors can work together. We were approached about two weeks ago to see if the site could be used for a testing facility and we did everything we could to make it happen.”

The Covid testing centre could be on the site between three and six months and, if needed, could be turned into a vaccination station.

Mr Siviter confirmed the long-term plan for the site remains a new supermarket and housing estate to be built.

Jack Dromey MP for Erdington talking from Orphanage Road COVID-19 mass testing site

For daily updates on COVID-19 from Public Heath England, visit www.coronavirus.data.gov.uk

For the latest or NHS Test and Trace (England) and coronavirus testing (UK), visit www.gov.uk/government/collections/nhs-test-and-trace-statistics-england-weekly-reports

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NEWS: Erdington Local launches monthly newspaper

Words & pics by Ed King / Newspaper design by Michelle Martin

On Friday 27th November, Erdington Local launches its monthly newspaper – distributing 20,000 copies around all the constituency wards, from Kingstanding to Castle Vale.

Leading with a cover story titled ‘Are schools safe?’, the first Erdington Local newspaper has gone in-depth into the impact of the COVID-19 across our schools and nurseries.

Also on the front page is a LOCAL PROFILE on Inspector Haroon Chughtai – the top cop for both Erdington and Sutton Coldfield, and a full page OPINION piece from Desmon Jaddoo – the Kingstanding campaigner who is saving lives by bringing bleed control kits to hotspots across Erdington.

The centre spread, on pages 10 and 11, are a map of LOCAL SUPPORT ACROSS ERDINGTON – giving information on organisations and support groups that cover the area.

This database of essentail services and local support has been hosted on the Erdington Local website since April, with plans to publish a broader directory before the end of the year.

With further stories on LOCAL NEWS and COMMUNITY NEWS, the 20 page tabloid will be delivered under COVID-19 safe conditions, from printing press to promotional staff, under the guidance of an official COVID marshal.

First appearing online in April 2020, Erdington Local has been covering news and stories from the heart of North East Birmingham for eight months – as a partnership project between Active Arts Castle Vale and Review Publishing.

From the campaign to Save Short Heath Playing Fields to the sudden death of The Charlie Hall pub’s beloved barman Paul Ralph, Erdington Local has been giving the area its first dedicated news outlet and fairer representation across the wider city.

“Erdington gets an unfair amount of ‘bad press’,” said Ed King – Editor-in-Chief of Review Publishing, “with other news outlets often only reporting on violent crime or anti-social behaviour in the area.

“But there is a strong and vibrant community spirit across Erdington, something truly inspiring and humbling.

“And whilst Erdington Local will challenge the issues that have a negative impact on people, such as unscrupulous HMO providers and distorted Council planning agendas, we will also celebrate the amazing achievements and endeavours that make Erdington such a beautiful part of the city.”

Released earlier than planned to report during the coronavirus crisis, and to support the work and outreach activity from the Erdington COVID-19 Taskforce, Erdington Local has a growing online readership of 5-10,000 per week – reaching a further 20-30,000 through social media.

Now moving into a regular printed newspaper editions, the hyper-local title will expand its audience – reaching a further estimate 60,000 people each month through targeted distribution and residential door drops.

Erdington Local’s monthly newspaper will also allow the title to reach those without access to the Internet, including Erdington’s more elderly residents who often don’t live online.

Erdington Local is also expanding its news team, with paid freelance and voluntary positions available from December 20202.

Training can be provided, as well as space in the Erdington Local news room to work from – anyone interested in joining Erdington Local should email edking@erdingtonlocal.com

Ed King talking about Erdington Local at the Erdington Art Forum’s Evening of Creativity – Nov ‘20

For the Erdington Local Facebook page, visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonLocal
To follow Erdington Local on Twitter, visit www.twitter.com/erdingtonlocal

For more on Active Arts Castle Vale, visit www.activearts.wordpress.com
For more on Review Publishing, visit www.reviewpublishing.net

 

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NEWS: A rather ‘Nice’ Friday evening – Erdington’s Evening of Creativity hosted by celebrity guest, Mrs Barbara Nice 20.11.20

Words by Jobe Baker Sullivan / Pics courtesy of Sami Saunders, Janice Connolly, and Anne-Marie Allen

Erdington’s long running Evening of Creativity has never missed a month, even during COVID-19 pandemic.

Thriving on art, creativity, and giving creatives a chance to experiment, it is now being broadcast using a mix of high quality camera-work and editing along with locals being asked to submit their art from home.

Tonight’s Evening of Creativity broadcast will be hosted by actress and comedian Janice Connolly BEM, under the guise of her lovable alter-ego Mrs Barbara Nice. Janice is a comedienne who hosted the 2019 Erdington Lights switch on.

“Up the arts!” she says, with a wry smile, in support of the event. 

November’s Evening of Creativity will commence with a traditional Indian dance from Sahana Shrikaanth in celebration of Diwali, an annual ‘festival of lights’, celebrated by Sikhs, Hindus and Jains.

It will include performances from classical guitarist Mike Bethel – alongside original musical songs by Anne-Marie Allen, promoting her album on Spotify.

Centrala Art Gallery will feature as part of the EoC with their lockdown-special online exhibition – hosting an art collective from Finland called Valmed Ry, exploring ecology and nature through photography, projection and 3d printing.

The Evening of Creativity was founded and hosted by the Erdington Arts Forum, whose primary goal is to improve the status of artistic activity in the Erdington constituency.

The Arts Forum engages people with workshops, exhibitions, training programmes, exhibitions and music performances.

It acts as a conduit for people to explore all range of artistic activities, hosting regular ‘forum meetings’ and running a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook group, and mailing list to keep Erdingtonians and interested parties in the loop.

Ordinarily held at Oikos Café on Erdington High Street on the third Friday of each month, the Evening of Creativity had to adapt to an online format very quickly  due to the coronavirus lockdowns – embracing the chance to invest in new camera and sound recording equipment.

During the summer of 2020, as COVID-19 measures eased, the Evening of Creativity continued at Oikos Café with a small, live audience – using a table booking service to ensure social distancing and safety measures.

The regular showcase, however, continued to broadcast all their events – going out live using a multi-camera system.

Despite a new national lockdown coming into force 5th November, the Arts Forum once again continue to host their Evening of Creativity – following government guidelines – by using pre-recorded clips and editing them into a full length show.

You can watch this months’ Evening of Creativity online from the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page, from 6:30pm on Friday 20th November.

For a live stream of the event, and for more on the Erdington Arts Forum, visit www.facebook.com/groups/cafeartsforum

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NEWS: Erdington’s Red Lion pub rally round for their longest regular, after heartless thieves steal mobility scooter

Words by Adam Smith / Pics by Kevin Smith (Stav)

Big-hearted regulars at Erdington’s Red Lion have helped replace the pub’s longest-serving patron’s mobility scooter – after it was stolen from outside his home.

Alan May, who has been drinking John Smiths bitter at the pub for more than sixty years, was distraught when his mobility scooter was taken by heartless thieves.

Within 24 hours of the Red Lion landlord, Kevin Smith, finding out about the theft Alan was presented with a new scooter in the pub in front of cheering regulars.

Kevin, also known as Stav, told Erdington Local: “Every day Alan comes in and we make sure he has a cob and his pint of John Smith, he has been drinking in here for sixty years and is in his seventies, he is part of the place. He’s got dementia so we look after him the best we can.

“So when he said his scooter had been stolen from outside his house we wanted to do something. We put a sign with ‘some dirty lowlife has stolen Alan’s scooter, let’s buy him a new one’ on the bar and within an hour we had more than £100.

“It was no surprise how generous the regulars were because everyone knows Alan and everyone was upset to hear his scooter had been stolen.”

Kevin, who recently spent five years in a wheelchair, is vice chairman of Birmingham City Football Club’s disabled supporters club AccessiBlues – and got in touch with its founder Steve Portman about getting a new mobility scooter for Alan.

Kevin said: “I phoned Steve and that night he came down with a new scooter. When I offered him the money we had raised, he said we should use it to spend on security at Alan’s house so the new one does not get stolen.

“This is a Villa pub but I’m obviously a big Blues fan, so I was really proud AccessiBlues could come through for Alan – it was a great night when we surprised him with his new scooter.

“I’ve been involved in AccessiBlues for a couple of years now and am really proud of all the good work we do. And not just for Blues fans, we have been working with Brentford Football Club to ensure best practice for disabled supporters.”

AccessiBlues, which is sponsored by Stechford Mobility, were runners up in the 2018 Footballers Supporters Federation Awards #FansForDiversity award and have recently secured charity status.

Alan was overwhelmed with the gesture, he said: “I’m overwhelmed, I can’t believe I got a new scooter so quick, the Red Lion is the best pub around.”

Kevin has been in charge of the Red Lion, which has been serving Erdington locals since 1899, since the summer and is looking forward to the end of lockdown to get back to normal.

He said: “We have been here three months and the week before the latest lockdown was our best yet, the regulars have been brilliant.

“The Red Lion is everything a pub should be, it is part of the community and we are hoping to be serving locals drinks for many a year to come yet.”

To find out more about the Red Lion in Erdington, visit www.redlionerdington.co.uk

For more on AccessiBlues, visit www.stechfordmobility.co.uk/news/accessiblues

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NEWS: Erdington parents ‘threatened with fines’ for children not returning after half term

Words & pics by Ed King

Ed’s note… The images used in the article are archive pictures of schools in Erdington and ARE NOT RELATED to the people who have supplied quotes or their children.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, or have any updates or developments from a school in Erdington, please get in touch – you can send us a direct message via the Erdington Local Facebook page or email sue@erdingtonlocal.com

As schools reopen after the half term holidays, families across Erdington are being ‘threatened with fines’ if they still feel the classroom is not COVID-19 safe and keep their children at home.

Despite another national lockdown closing the country from 5th November, parents and carers are being told that all young people must go back to school this week – or literally pay the price for any absences.

Birmingham City Council had previously taken the stance to not impose the fixed penalty notices, which had been set by the Department of Education in July, electing to wave the fines for the first half term.

But as school gates open for the last few weeks of the Autumn term, families keeping their children at home could be charged up to £120 for every empty chair they now leave in the classroom.

With increased concerns over the rising cases of coronavirus, many Erdington parents and carers feel they should be allowed to choose what is best for their children – without facing even more debt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Natasha Court has two children at primary school in Erdington, she says: “I believe it is completely wrong that the City Council are threatening parents with fines for actively carrying out their duty of care to protect their children whilst still ensuring they are being educating them at home.

All children need an education, 100%, but a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not appropriate, particularly in the midst of a worsening health pandemic.”

She adds: “I have two children with health conditions who would both be at heightened risks of serious complications should they catch COVID-19. I have my own health conditions too. No matter what schools do, they cannot protect our children in a class of 30.

Fines will hit the financial and mental wellbeing of the families who are already struggling. So the ‘alternatives’ they are left with are to send them to school and be put at risk, or de-register and be let down by the system that is supposed to help ALL children get a strong start to life through education. This is not right nor fair.”

Another Erdington parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I have been threatened with fines from the Council if I now don’t send my child into school.

This is completely unfair. How can they tell me school is safe for my child when they have already had cases in the school?

With cases and deaths rising sharply now all I want to do is protect my whole family, yet I am unable to do that due to potentially being fined.

Attending school during a pandemic should be the parents’ choice to make.”

Schools across Birmingham open for the final weeks of the Autumn term from Monday 2nd November.

As set by the Department of Education in July this year, fixed penalties of £60 can be imposed for any absentee child – increasing to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

Minister for Education, Gavin Williams, announcing fines on LBC Radio (first broadcast on July 29th)

For the latest information on coronavirus restrictions in Birmingham, issued by Birmingham City Council, visit www.birmingham.gov.uk/coronavirus_advice

For the latest information on the lockdown starting from 5th November, issued by Government, visit www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november

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NEWS: New food bank and family support centre launched at Erdington’s Magnet Centre

Words & pics by Adam Smith

Families struggling to cope during the pandemic are being offered a range of new services at Erdington’s Magnet Centre after a cash injection from the National Lottery.

A new food bank, online culinary classes, and a family support hub will open to help those in need next week – coordinated by the Midlands Greek and Cypriot Association, which own the centre.

Due to the sharp rise of domestic violence across Erdington since the start of the lockdown, there will also be help on hand for those needing advice or just someone to talk to.

Several organisations are working together to deliver the new services, including This Is My City which will help organise online cookery tutorials – with Lakis Greek Kitchen (LGK) also running the food bank.

The project is also part of the Commonwealth Games 2022 series of events.

Chef Xena Weakes cooked chicken noodle soup for the first online cookery lesson. She said: “I wanted to show how easy it is to cook something nutritional for all the family, my dish is fast to make and really tasty.”

Founder of LGK, Panikos Panayiotou, told Erdington Local: “We are delighted to be able to help families in Erdington in this very difficult time. Since the lockdown we have seen unemployment rising, poverty and child hunger increase as well as a shocking amount of domestic abuse.

There are lot of local families who will really need our help, the first 35 families will get food from the food bank but most importantly we will teach them to cook healthy meals through digital cookery lessons.”

LGK community champion Leah Taylor is approaching companies throughout Erdington and Birmingham to donate to the new foodbank.

She said: “So far companies have been generous but we will always need lots of food because the demand is just so high at the moment.

We are always looking for donations of essential food stuffs and I am hoping the business community of Erdington will be very generous for a great cause.”
The Midlands Greek and Cypriot Association purchased the Magnet Centre from the G.E.C in 1984 and has transformed the electric board’s erstwhile sports and social club over the last 36 years.

The centre now boasts St Lukes Orthodox Church, a Greek shop and café, and a community school.

There are also snooker rooms, a gym, a banqueting suite, and places to watch Greek and Cypriot TV channels. Several sports clubs also run from the centre which further maintains football pitches.

Centre manager Fotoulla Lytras said: “We are delighted to be able to host the food bank and family hub.

We try and do as many activities for the Stockland Green and Brookvale community as we can at the Magnet Centre.”

She added: “We have all seen the problems caused by COVID and the lockdown and this new foodbank and support hub will really make a difference in people’s lives in Erdington.”

The new international flavoured cookery classes are already being filmed and will include dishes from across the world, all with two things in common – the dishes will be easy-to-make and cheap.

This Is My City is a United Community Activity Network (UCAN) project with backing from the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Community Programme – United By Birmingham 2022.

For more on the Midlands Greek and Cypriot Association,, visit www.midlandsgreek.org 

For more information about This Is My City Birmingham visit www.thisismycitybham.org 

To find out more about Lakis Greek Kitchen visit www.lgk.org.uk

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NEWS: Erdington healthcare expanded with Urgent Treatment Centre at Stockland Green Primary Care Centre

Ed’s note… Please contact NHS 111 (it’s free to call) before attending Erdington Urgent Treatment Centre at Stockland Green Primary Care Centre, as walk-in patients cannot been seen.

Words and pics by Ed King

The new Erdingon Urgent Treatment Centre at Stockland Green Primary Care Centre (EUTC) is now open and operational, boosting much needed healthcare across the Erdington constituency.

Established to replace the Health & Wellbeing Walk-In-Centre, that operated from a shopfront site on Erdington High Street, the EUTC can see up to 100 patients per day – taking over previously unused space at the Stockland Green Primary Care Centre (SGPCC).

Despite being a well-loved and well-used facility, the previously high street based practice was not without its challenges – such as opening hours , parking, and proximity to busy licensed premises. The site was further dogged by the constant threat of closure, once in 2013 then again in 2020.

Following several campaigns to save the facility, the Walk-in-Centre finally closed it’s doors during the coronavirus crisis – but with assurances from Birmingham healthcare bosses that such a facility would remain ‘at the heart’ of the community, as called for in an open letter by MP for Erdington Jack Dromey.

The new Stockland Green Primary Care Centre based EUTC will be operational 12hrs a day, seven days a week – with a significant capacity for parking and emergency vehicles, allowing drivers to get right to the front door in desperate situations.

Next to several major bus routes, the EUTC will also offer easier access for patients using public transport from Erdington wards such as Stockland Green, Perry Common, Kingstanding, and Short Heath.

Further facilities on hand at the EUTC are three GP services, a pharmacy, and ‘a range of NHS community services.’

The NHS Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group (BSCCG), who manage the city’s NHS healthcare provisions, are hoping that many of the issues surrounding the old high street centre will be solved with the new facility.

Paul Jennings, Chief Executive of NHS BSCCG, said: “We welcome the opening of the relocated Erdington Urgent Treatment Centre; which will provide crucial urgent care services to local people.

We are committed to ensuring there is suitable local healthcare provision across Birmingham and Solihull, which meets the needs of our diverse communities.”

Erdington’s Member of Parliament, Jack Dromey, is also hopeful that the new UTC will bring widespread benefits across the constituency.

Speaking to Erdington Local about the EUTC , Jack Dromey MP said: “I am delighted that the Erdington Urgent Treatment Centre has opened and is already providing a first-class service to the people of Erdington.”

The Erdington Walk-In Centre saved countless lives, and when it closed temporarily due to COVID, many constituents contacted me with concerns over the future of our local healthcare provision. Back in August, I sought reassurances from the Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group that Erdington would retain such a service, and I am pleased they have delivered on that promise.” 

The new site not only offers improved medical facilities, but the increased accessibility will hopefully mean many more Erdington residents will now access this invaluable local service.” 

It is important for those who wish to use the service to remember to call 111 in the first instance to be referred for an appointment. The threat of COVID-19 is still very real, and we should not risk the health of others by turning up at the new Urgent Treatment Centre without an appointment.”

Local residents looking to access the EUTC, during the coronavirus crisis, have been asked to initially contact NHS 111 – to make sure everyone at the new facility can be met with COVID-19 safe environment.

For more details on how to access the Urgent Treatment Centre, visit www.birminghamandsolihullccg.nhs.uk/your-health

For more information on NHS 11 online, visit www.111.nhs.uk

For more from Jack Dromey MP, or for contact details to his constituency office, visit www.jackdromey.org

For more on the NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG, visit www.birminghamandsolihullccg.nhs.uk

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NEWS: Inspiring photograph of St Luke’s wins thousands for Kingstanding church in national competition

Words by Adam Smith

A Kingstanding church has won £2,500 after a picture of fireworks above the parish came runner up in a national photography competition.

Sarah Farnan was inspired to pick up her camera after seeing the fireworks light up the night sky above St Luke’s Church, Cavendish Road.

She entered the picture into the Parish Pixels competition with the following description to help capture the character of the church: “The St Luke’s family has been sparkling like a diamond at the centre of the community of Kingstanding for over eighty years, shining out the love of God for all to see.”

Sarah’s snap won the West Midlands regional final of the competition which saw more than 600 Anglican churches enter pictures.

Parish Pixels was launched by insurance company, Ecclesiastical, which awarded the church £1,500 for winning the regional final.

Sarah and church representatives were due to attend a glittering national ceremony for the final in London last week, but due to COVID-19 restrictions the event was streamed online.

However, there were still celebrations after judges announced Sarah’s picture clinched the runner’s up spot winning the Kingstanding church another £1,000.

School administrator Sarah joined the congregation six years ago and was delighted her photo was recognised.

She said: “Situated at the heart of a deprived inner-city area, Kingstanding is often the focus of bad press. There’s quite a lot of unemployment and crime. But St Luke’s is like a shining light, a sparkling diamond, with the love of God at its heart.

As soon as you walk in, you notice an overwhelming sense of genuine warmth and welcome. Our mission is to meet people ‘where they are’, recognising the diversity within our community, embracing and building on the goodness and community spirit that exists here.”

She added: “The church is a real sanctuary – our parish brings people together and tries to unearth the hidden diamond within each of us.”

I don’t know yet how the money will be spent, but there are always things which need doing in any church and fundraising is difficult in an area such as ours, so it’s very welcome.”

She added: “So I want to give a huge thanks to everyone who supported my entry by voting for my picture.

The national final was going to be a trip to London, a presentation lunch and awards ceremony in Westminster. Very disappointingly that fell victim to COVID and instead the ceremony took place virtually online.”

The Parish Pixels Award 2020 ceremony is now available for anyone to watch online and can be seen here:

St Luke’s Church posted about the competition on its Facebook page: “Thanks to all of you who voted and shared our photo. It has been wonderful to see the enthusiasm and support for the competition despite the months of lockdown and lovely to experience the support and interest from our parishioners.”

Parish Pixels organisers, Ecclesiastical, revealed they were overwhelmed by the amount of entries and social media interest in the competition.

A spokesperson said: “We received more than 600 entries, from all corners of the United Kingdom, and together they formed a magnificent illustration of the astonishing diversity of our places of worship and the humbling faith and dedication of their congregations.

Whittling the 635 brilliant submissions down to nine regional winners was tough enough – but then our judges faced the almost impossible job of naming a winner.

We invited you to help them to choose by voting for your favourite on our website, and over 7000 of you responded.”

For more information about St Luke’s Church visit www.saintlukeskingstanding.co.uk

For more on Ecclesiastical, visit www.ecclesiastical.com

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NEWS: Community comes together to celebrate the completion of the Maplin site mural

Words by Jobe Baker-Sullivan / Pics by Ed King

Ed’s note… this is a community story; the Erdington mural is a community endeavour – many local groups and individuals played a part in this beautiful project. We are focusing on the community.

For this article, Erdington Local was invited to a group photo opportunity – as organised by the project’s steering group. Our aim was to follow up from our original story and document the spirit of unity that the project reflects – understanding the individuals featured in article (or group photo) are not the only people involved.

We appreciate there will have been those who were unable to attend, but we thank and recognise everyone who helped make Erdington that little bit brighter. 

The Erdington Mural project is complete. Having turned an “eyesore” of hoardings into a community-involved, professional art display, many of the artists and organisers gathered together for a celebratory (and socially distanced) photo for Erdington Local.

I think this is fantastic – it’s great!” praises Rob Gunnell, founder of Erdington Litter Busters [ELB], “it doesn’t just add colour, it supports a connection to the community – and it’s also saying, Erdington’s a good place.” Along with many other organisations, ELB assisted in ‘priming’ the site before the four commissioned artists set to work on painting on the boards.

Our contribution was to apply the white paint – the base,” explains Dawn Edwards, another ELB member, “then we cut down the overgrown branches and Birmingham City Council took away all the bags of greenery.”

The project was funded by Mercia Real Estate, the owners of the site, as well as Active Arts – via the Erdington Arts Forum.

Erdington Local covered the story of those involved with the project at its inception – and whilst the original impetus is somewhat contested, the final project is as vibrant a representation of community spirit as the artwork itself.

Erdington Local caught up with the four artists who were tasked with bringing the boards to life – each one taking a separate side for their original design. Whilst each artist is unique, each of them noted the positive feedback they received for their work.

I’ve seen a few pictures put up [on the internet] of kids standing in front of it,” notes Steve Allen, pleased with the social media pick up. Steve painted the ‘Welcome to Erdington’ side of the mural, which includes a big ‘thank you’ to the NHS and what is purported to be the coat of arms of Erdington.

I got a lot of positive feedback from when I was doing my painting,” echoes Abian Richards, responsible for the rather psychedelic take on Erdington’s Witton Lakes – featured on the small segment by York Road.

This was to celebrate Erdington’s many ‘green spaces’, with an interesting interpretation: “I chose to use blues, pinks and purples to get some vibrancy into the piece.”

The project proved to be an excellent incubator for local talent, with Keely Iqbal admitting “it was quite challenging because it was my biggest mural to date.”

She painted the striking ‘historical Erdington’ on Sutton New Road – complete with an image of a spitfire, a horse and carriage, Rookery House, and the esteemed Mothers nightclub.

Such a large undertaking was not without its challenges, as Keely continues: “I was painting and then it started pouring down with rain! All of the paint started running everywhere. It was so bad. I did all of this lettering – there was a delay, but I managed to catch up with it.”

It was even a learning curve for experienced artist Edward Thrush: “Fly posters are hellish – I hate them! I won’t use those again. There’s been a lot of maintenance!”

Edward created the eye-catching ‘It’s all Go, Go, Go in Erdington!’ piece on Summer Road, celebrating the various community groups in the local area. Edward especially praised how “the volunteers were amazing – they were really good help.”

Councillor Gareth Moore, who had been helping whitewash the boards – along with fellow Erdington Councillor Robert Alden – explains how the piece is “visually appealing and significantly improved the site in question given its prominent location.”

Likewise, Robert Alden tells how “it’s been a really great community project, pulling together people across Erdington. It’s celebrating our heritage, our history and the culture of Erdington.”

Erdington Local overheard Dawn Edwards from ELB prodding Sam Clark, a founder and current CEO of Mercia Real Estate, about some potential future projects on the land. Especially advocating for the intended retail space to have greenery.

This project is just an example of what the community can do in terms of improving the area,” Dawn reflects, “there was nothing on the boards and now there is that reflects Erdington. Watch out! More to come.”

Mercia Real Estate acquired the Maplin site following the closure, a spokesperson from the Birmingham based real estate and asset management company said:

Mercia Real Estate acquired the site in 2018 with a view to redeveloping the buildings into a terrace of convenience retail units.

Whilst this has been in planning we were approached by community leaders earlier this year who had expressed an interest in creating various murals on the site hoarding.

Wherever we invest we are always keen to engage with the community and in this case were happy to extend a donation to support the creativity of the various groups involved.”

For more on Steve Allen, visit www.nozzleandbrush.co.uk
For more on Abian Richards, visit www.facebook.com/faffabout
For more on Keely Iqbal, visit www.keelyiqbal.com
For more on Edward Thrush, visit www.elthrush.com

For more on Mercia Real Estate, visit www.merciarealestate.com
For more on Active Arts, visit www.activearts.wordpress.com

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