CHRISTMAS STARTS TODAY… Christmas lights ‘switch on’ event kicks off the festive season on Erdington High Street – today, from 4pm to 7pm

Words by Ed King / Artwork supplied by Ceol Agency, profile pic by Ed King

The festive season starts in Erdington today, with a special event celebrating the Christmas lights ‘switch on’ – running from 4pm to 7pm, with more events and performances up and down the High Street.

All the Christmas activities are free to attend and suitable for all the family, big and small kids alike are welcome.

The main stage, outside the Co-op supermarket, will be hosted by Radio WM DJ and presenter Henry Liston – with a headline musical performance from local superstar singer Liam Price, who shot to fame after his debut on The Voice Kids UK (2019).

Also performing will be The Trouverers, a musical storytelling ensemble fronted by Katrina – alongside a troupe of Indian Drummers, playing rhythmic beats with traditional South Asian instruments and costume.

Abbey Primary School Choir will be singing the traditional Christmas carol ‘In dulci jubilo’, along with the Birmingham Irish Association. Whilst classically trained international duo Soreno will be closing the main stage after the Christmas lights have been officially ‘switched on’, with their modern medley of folk, pop, and light jazz.

Further up Erdington High Street, there will also be a community choir stage outside St Barnabas Church – with Christmas carols and traditional songs performed by choirs from across Erdington, accompanied by world touring guitarist and singer Stefan Stefanov.

There will also be a free Santa’s Grotto downstairs at Central Square – running from 4pm until around 5:30pm, where up to 1000 children can visit the winter wonderland, meet Santa, and get a free selection box treat.

Santa will then be making his way down to the main stage by the Co-op supermarket, to help turn on the Christmas lights and officially start the festive season in Erdington.

Organised by The Recovery Foundation and supported by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), the Santa’s Grotto at Central Square is also completely free – with children of any ages up to 14 welcome to come along.

To secure your place on the day, simply head to the Christmas lights ‘switch on’ event outside the Co-op supermarket, from 4pm, where you can a pick up a free ticket for Santa’s Grotto – one per child, allocated on a first come first served basis.

Organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) and local partners, today’s Christmas lights ‘switch on’ event  will be surrounded by more free events for the family to enjoy on Erdington High Street – including a ‘Nutcracker Trail’ and ‘Best Dressed Window’ competition.

The month long programme of free festive fun, starting just over four weeks before Christmas Day, will bring some welcomed Christmas cheer to Erdington – after years of Covid restrictions and amidst the current cost of living crisis.

Supporting local businesses, the EBID also hope the free Christmas events will also encourage people to search for those special seasonal gifts on Erdington High Street.

Town Centre Manager John Hodgkiss told Erdington Local:

“This winter the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) wanted to bring some Christmas cheer firmly back to Erdington, with an exciting programme of family friendly fun that won’t cost you a penny.

“Join us for the official Christmas lights ‘switch on’ celebration and free Santa’s Grotto on Thursday 24 November, and check out the other fun events happening up and down the High Street.

“It’s been a tough couple of years, and this winter will be a difficult time for many of us.

“But EBID and our local partners have organised these free and fun events so Erdington can celebrate Christmas as a community again. We hope to see you all on the High Street.”

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District and all the Christmas events coming to the High Street visit www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID

NEWS: Erdington’s Star Cars win national award for community support during Covid and Commonwealth Games

Pics supplied by Star Cars

Erdington taxi firm Star Cars have won a national award for their work helping the community and the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic and Commonwealth Games.

On 15 November, Star Cars beat taxi firms across the UK and Ireland to win the Community Award at the annual Dotted Taxi Summit UK and Ireland Industry Awards – held in Liverpool.

The Chester Road based company were also shortlisted for UK Taxi Company of the Year.

Martin Walker, Operations Manager for Star Cars, said: “We were thrilled to be nominated and shortlisted in two categories: UK Taxi Company of the Year, and the Community Award.

“We won the Community Award for our Covid response, NHS support, our support for charities, and the work we did on the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

“We were very proud of Umar, one of our executive drivers, who personally took care of Ozzy Osbourne’s transport during the (CWG) closing ceremony.”

He added: “We took staff, drivers, and owners to the awards in Liverpool where we shared the celebration. It was a great night for us and for Erdington and Birmingham.”

The celebrations were all the more poignant with the widow of late Star Cars boss Grahame Markham joining the team at the November awards ceremony.

Martin told: “We were delighted to have Jaqueline Markham, one of our directors with us.

“She is the wife of the late Grahame Markham, who always wanted Star to be a community focussed family business – always innovating for the benefit of customers, passengers, drivers, and staff.”

Founded in the 1960’s, Grahame Markham took over the firm in the 1980’s – which is now run by his widow Jaqueline, and daughter Emma. Star Cars’ community based ethos still carries on in the company to this day.

Even with the current cost of living crisis and spike in fuel costs, Star Cars provide a fixed-price service for elderly and disabled people.

During the height of the Covid pandemic, the Erdington firm ran errands for regular customers free of charge and were even known to have delivered a portion of fish and chips or two.

They support local charities, the nearby Erdington Court Bowls Club, junior league football teams, food banks, supported living homes, and disabled groups.

Star Cars also have a special association with The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

Martin Walker added: “We decided to sponsor our very own seeing-eye dog, ‘Star’, and visited the Association’s national breeding centre to meet him.

“While at the centre, we learnt of the problems that blind people face when trying to use taxis.

“After our trip, we decided to find a way to better serve visually impaired people in the taxi industry. We now offer braille ID in all of our vehicles and on driver ID cards.

“We also organised training for our drivers, in an effort to make blind people feel as comfortable as possible using our services.”

For more on Star Cars and Coaches visit www.starcarsbirmingham.com or call 0800 622 6611

TWO DAYS TO GO… 1000 Free tickets to a special Santa’s Grotto at Central Square – Thursday 24 November

Words by Ed King / Pics and images supplied by Ceol Agency & The Recovery Foundation

As Erdington prepares to kickstart the festive season with the official Christmas lights ‘switch on’ event on Thursday 24 November, further up the High Street someone in a big red suit is also coming to town…

Come and meet Santa for free on Thursday 24 November, at a special winter wonderland and Santa’s Grotto in the Secret Art Studio Space (SASS) – downstairs at Central Square Shopping Centre on Erdington High Street, running from 4pm until 6/7pm.

Organised by The Recovery Foundation and supported by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), the totally free Santa’s Grotto is open to children 16 years old and under.

Up to 1000 children can get free tickets for the Santa’s Grotto.

To secure your place on the day, simply head to the Christmas lights ‘switch on’ event outside the Co-op supermarket, running between 4pm and 7pm, where you can a pick up a free ticket – one per child, allocated on a first come first served basis.

As well as getting to meet Santa and explore the magical winter wonderland, designed by The Recovery Foundation’s Creative Art Director Angela Chapman, every child will be given a free selection box as a special treat – again, free of charge.

Angela Chapman told Erdington Local: “On entering SASS there will be paper snowflakes overhead, decorative candy canes, and a wintery forest with fairy houses and lots of other Christmassy characters dotted around as you walk to Santa’s Grotto.

“I get to put my theatre design and set making skills to good use. Local people have contributed materials or their time to help put it together and it has been a real community effort.

“We wanted to make the grotto as magical as possible for the children of Erdington, as it is going to be financially difficult for some families this Christmas.”

The Recovery Foundation are a local mental health charity and community outreach organisation who have been running art workshops from SASS throughout the summer.

With the cost of living crisis putting extra pressures on families this winter, The Recovery Foundation wanted to give children in Erdington a special day out – and a visit to Santa’s Grotto – without adding extra financial burdens to their families.

The Recovery Foundation founder, Emma Sitole, added: “Christmas and the winter holiday season can be a wonderful time of the year, but it can also bring extra pressure on families – especially those with young children.

“Our Santa’s Grotto is completely free to attend, with 1000 tickets available, which will give children across Erdington a chance to have some festive fun without costing their family a penny. Angela (Chapman) has done an amazing job and it will be a really exciting day out.

“From everyone at The Recovery Foundation have a wonderful Christmas and festive season.”

The Santa’s Grotto at SASS will be open on Thursday 24 November, organised as part of the High Street festivities around the official Christmas lights ‘switch on’ event – running between 4pm and 7pm.

Tickets for the Santa’s Grotto are available from the Christmas light ‘switch on’ event main stage – limited and allocated on a first come first served basis.

For more on all the Christmas events coming to the High Street, organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District, visit www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID

For more on The Recovery Foundation visit www.therecoveryfoundation.org.uk

SIX DAYS TO GO… Follow the ‘Nutcracker Trail’ on Erdington High Street and see the Christmas lights ‘switch on’ – Thursday 24 November

Words by Ed King / Images supplied by EBID, Ceol Agency, & UP Creative

Erdington’s festive season officially begins on Thursday 24 November, with the Christmas lights ‘switch on’ event taking place on Erdington High Street – running from 4pm to 7pm and completely free to attend.

But bringing extra Christmas cheer to the High Street this winter season, a special ‘Nutcracker Trail’ has been organised by the local UP Creative Community and supported by Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID)

Hiding across Erdington High Street this December will be eight Christmas Nutcracker Dolls, inviting you to find them as part of a Nutcracker Trail competition, with a special price donated by the Erdington Rotary Club.

But don’t worry, the Nutcrackers will be about 10ft tall – so even the smallest explorer can have fun trying to find them.

Made by the local Up Creative Community, a ‘collaborative of local artists who offer sustainable textile waste management’, the Nutcrackers are fashioned from recycled plastic and decorated in the traditional toy solider style.

Helen Waite from UP Creative Community told Erdington Local: “According to German folklore, Nutcrackers were given as keepsakes to bring luck to the family and protect the home.

“It is said that they represent strength and power and watch over the family keeping evil spirits and danger away.

“On our Nutcracker Trail, each guards a gift and the letters upon the gift spell out a winter themed word.

“Once you have completed the trail and work out the word, return your answers to the BID volunteers who will reward you with your own Christmas pressie.

“UP’s vision is to bring creative change for people and planet.

“We aim to normalise conscious consumption and showcase how with a little creativity and resourcefulness we can make items that are destined for landfill into beautiful pieces of art which can be celebrated.

“The Nutcrackers are an example of this, having been made from discarded bins and vinyl offcuts.

“The original four are lovingly named, John, Ringo, George, and Paul, we are looking for names for the new four.”

Gary Dancer from the Erdington Rotary Club added: “Rotary Club of Erdington are delighted to donate a prize for the Nutcracker Trail competition.

“This is a great community event, and we always seek support activities in our own community.”

The Nutcracker Trail competition is suitable for children of any age and completely free to enter.

For more on the Nutcracker Trail and all the Christmas events coming to the High Street visit www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID

For mor on UP Creative Community visit www.theupcreativecommunity.org

NEWS: “A glimmer of hope” at Castle Bromwich plant as JLR boss Thierry Bolloré resigns

Words & pics by Ed King

Workers at the Castle Bromwich Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) plant have expressed a “glimmer of hope” after the shock resignation of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Thierry Bolloré.

An announcement made by the JLR Executive Board, issued to workers and staff on Wednesday 16 November, told the car manufacturing giant boss ‘has today announced his resignation from the company for personal reasons’ and will be leaving on 31 December 2022.

Mr Bolloré further said how he was “immensely proud of what we have achieved at Jaguar Land Rover over the last two years” and that the “company’s transformation and acceleration towards a sustainable, profitable future as a modern luxury business is at great pace.”

It was also announced Adrian Mardell, JLR’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), would be taking over as interim CEO.

Mr Mardell has worked at JLR for over 30 years, including over a decade in post as Deputy CFO and Group Operations Controller, and has been a member of the company’s Executive Board for three years.

But despite years of uncertainly and U-turns at JLR Castle Bromwich – including a fiercely fought battle to win back a previously agreed 12.2% pay rise – on hearing the news of Mr Bolloré’s resignation, workers at the North Birmingham plant remained optimistic.

One JLR staff member, who wished to remain anonymous, told Erdington Local: “the feeling on the shop floor is… well, this might mean car production at Castle Bromwich can continue. We don’t know, but there’s a glimmer of hope now.”

Thierry Bolloré, who has worked in the automotive industry his entire career and was previously CEO of the French car brand Renault, took over as CEO of JLR on 10 September 2020.

In February 2021, Mr Bolloré presented his ‘Reimagine’ strategy for JLR – embracing the electric car market and aiming to ‘reinvent the concept of modern luxury’ for the beleaguered British car brand.

But less than two years later and the six pure electric car models outlined in the strategy are nowhere to be seen, despite initial production scheduled for 2024 and a full roll out planned for a year later.

Initiatives that were reportedly announced at JLR included the renovation of old lease vehicles for second hand sale, and the recycling of old car parts – including batteries.

Whilst CEO of Renault, Thierry Bolloré oversaw an increase in the French car brand’s ‘circular economy’ and recycling of old Renault trucks.

However, at a series of recent ‘townhall’ meetings – where JLR senior leadership teams met with workers in groups of up to 200 – these plans were underwhelmingly presented to staff.

A JLR source continued: “It just wasn’t convincing… it felt they (senior management) were just reading from a script. The buzz word around here now is ‘rethink’.”

If you work at Jaguar Land Rover or have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this article and want to tell us your side of the story, please email: jlr@erdingtonlocal.com

For more on Jaguar Land Rover visit www.jaguarlandrover.com

EIGHT DAYS TO GO… Countdown begins to Christmas lights ‘switch on’ event on Erdington High Street – Thursday 24 November

Words & profile pic by Ed King /  Artwork supplied by Ceol Agency

IT’S CHRIISSTTMMAASS… or at least it will be, soon.

Erdington’s festive season officially begins on Thursday 24 November, with the Christmas lights ‘switch on’ event taking place on Erdington High Street.

Running from 4pm to 7pm and completely free to attend, there will be a programme of family friendly music and celebration up and down the High Street – with a main stage outside the Co-op supermarket and second community choir stage outside St Barnabas Church.

There will also be a free Santa’s Grotto downstairs at Central Square, where up to 1000 children can visit the winter wonderland at the Secret Arts Studio Space, meet Santa, and get a free selection box treat – as organised by The Recovery Foundation, and supported by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID)

‘Switching on’ the Christmas lights will Birmingham born gymnast, Joe Fraser – coming to kickstart Erdington’s festive season after winning two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games 2022 and helping England retain their No1 spot.

Hosted by Radio WM DJ and presenter Henry Liston, the main stage will also welcome local superstar singer Liam Price, who shot to fame after his debut on The Voice Kids UK (2019).

More music will come from the storytelling ensemble The Trouverers, fronted by Katrina – alongside a troupe of Indian Drummers, playing rhythmic beats with traditional South Asian instruments and costume.

Abbey Primary School Choir will also be performing with the Birmingham Irish Association, singing the traditional Christmas carol, ‘In dulci jubilo’.

Closing the main stage celebration will be a special live performance from the international duo Soreno, bringing a classical twist to a modern medley of folk, pop, and light jazz.

The community choir stage outside St Barnabas will host choirs from across Erdington, including the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and Six Ways Baptist Church – joined by world touring guitarist and singer Stefan Stefanov.

Organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) and local partners, the Christmas lights ‘switch on’ event on 24 November will be surrounded by more free events for the family to enjoy on Erdington High Street – including a ‘Nutcracker Trail’ and ‘Best Dressed Window’ competition.

The month long programme of free festive fun, starting just over four weeks before Christmas Day, will bring some welcomed Christmas cheer to Erdington – after years of Covid restrictions and amidst the current cost of living crisis.

Supporting local businesses, the EBID also hope the free Christmas events will encourage people to search for those special seasonal gifts on Erdington High Street.

Town Centre Manager John Hodgkiss told Erdington Local: “This winter the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) wanted to bring some Christmas cheer firmly back to Erdington, with an exciting programme of family friendly fun that won’t cost you a penny.

“Join us for the official Christmas lights ‘switch on’ celebration and free Santa’s Grotto on Thursday 24 November, and check out the other fun events happening up and down the High Street.

“It’s been a tough couple of years, and this winter will be a difficult time for many of us.

“But EBID and our local partners have organised these free and fun events so Erdington can celebrate Christmas as a community again.

“We hope to see you all on the High Street.”

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District and all the Christmas events coming to the High Street visit www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID

NEWS: Church Road almshouses to be sold and residents given orders to vacate by March ‘23

Words & pics by Erdington Local editorial staff

Church Road’s distinctive almshouses, which were built in 1930 to give the needy a place to live, have been put on sale for £1.6 million. Residents who thought they had a home for life have been told they have to vacate the premises by March 2023.

The ten almshouses were built by The Sir Thomas Holte Trust in 1930 but ownership switched to the Sir Josiah Mason Trust in 2019.

Tommy Swaine, aged 71, has lived in his almshouse for 13 years.

He told Erdington Local: “I thought I had a house for life but then get a letter telling me I have to be out by March. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve not even had anyone round to talk about it. There are about seven of us here who are in the same position.”

He added: “These lot (Josiah Mason Trust) have only had the almshouses for three years and now they are selling them from beneath us, it’s shocking.”

Paul Cunningham, aged 77, has lived in his almshouse for 17 years. He said: “I could not believe what I was reading. Everywhere we have been offered is way more expensive and as far away as Solihull.

“I pay £128 a week and do not have to pay bills, but the places they have offered me are over £160 and will have to pay bills. I don’t know what I am going to do; I don’t want to move to Solihull.

“I’ve been here for 17 years and thought I was here for life, we all did. These houses were built to give people a safe and secure home.”

He added: “They are trying to say the almshouses are not up to their standard, but I am perfectly happy with my home.

“As they are listed, I cannot see what their plan is because they cannot build on the gardens or mess with the front of the houses – and there is no space in the back. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are just left to rot and then demolished. It’s such a shame as they were built for a reason, to give people a home.”

Almshouses date back to the 10th Century when churches and local landowners began building homes for needy parishioners to live in. Many of the 1,600 almshouses in the UK now date back to the Victorian era when prominent industrialists began building them for the poor of rapidly growing cities like Birmingham and Bristol.

The Church Road almshouses, just of Erdington High Street and near St Barnabas Church, were built in 1930 by the Bracebridge and Holte Trust, to replace almshouses built from the proceeds of the will of Sir Thomas Holte, who built Aston Hall, in 1650. Sir Holte, who lived on Church Road, was the former Sheriff of Warwickshire wanted to provide homes for ‘ten poor, old people, including five men and five women’ in the then Aston parish.

Ownership of the almshouses changed in July 2019 when the Sir Josiah Mason Trust took over the Bracebridge and Holte Trust. Sir Josiah Mason was a prominent Victorian industrialist who built further almshouses and an orphanage in Erdington, with a trust founded in his name in 1868.

After taking over the Church Road almshouses three years ago, the new owners Sir Josiah Mason Trust posted on Facebook when the deal was done.

They said: “The Trust is delighted to welcome Holte and Bracebridge Charity in Erdington to our family today. The charity was founded in 1650 as instructed by the will of Sir Thomas Holte, the founder of Aston Hall. The charity provides 10 almshouses, just half a mile from our original site and one mile from Mason Cottages and our former orphanage and is also a relief in need charity.

“We look forward to supporting residents and to continuing the valuable work of this very old charity.”

Estate agents Knight Frank is selling the ten Church Road almshouses on behalf of the Sir Josiah Mason Trust together as one sale, for £1.6 million.

The online listing said: “The development comprises 10 individual Almshouses set within communal gardens, erected circa 1930. Constructed of brick with Flemish detail to the end gables and single glazed windows. Locally listed Grade B.”

Still listed on the Sir Josiah Mason Trust website, the Church Road almshouses are referred to being ‘a short walk away from the High Street and set in attractive grounds.’

There is also a Wellbeing Support Worker ‘offering individual personal support’, with residents given access to the ‘communal facilities and meetings at Mason Cottages’ on Orphanage Road.

Chief Executive David Healey told Erdington Local: “The Trust are committed to providing quality housing and as people live longer, we want to provide homes that enable older people to age and remain living in the comfort of their own home.

“The current Holte and Bracebridge Almshouse are not suited to the needs of older people.”

He added: “Sir Josiah Mason Trust, which was founded in Erdington, is currently in the process of identifying a site to build new purpose-built Almshouses.

“The charity said that it is required to relocate the site to a location within the ancient Parish of Aston.”

For more on Sir Josiah Mason Trust visit www.sjmt.org.uk

NEWS: Castle Vale opens ‘warm welcome spaces’ to support people across winter

Words by Ed King / Pics by Bianca Parvuceanu

As the cost-of-living crisis makes the coming cold months even harder for people, Spitfire House and Castle Vale Library have become part of the city’s official ‘warm welcome spaces’ – providing free to access heated facilities across winter.

Open between 9am to 9pm on weekdays, and 10am to 4pm on Saturdays, the indoor ‘warm banks’ not only offer a heated place for families to come to, but also work stations, computer access, hot drinks, baby changing areas, and ‘children’s play equipment’.

One of 26 current official outlets across Birmingham, the citywide initiative has commandeered libraries, community hubs, and sports centres, to provide a warm support network over winter – spearheaded by Cllr John Cotton, Cabinet Member for Social Justice, Community Safety and Equalities.

As energy prices reach record highs, and people across the country are forced to decide between basic essentials – often represented by the choice between ‘food or heat’ – the Council led support programme has committed to providing ‘places you can use and visit during the winter period and beyond.’

Spitfire House and Castle Vale Library are run by Spitfire Advice and Support Service (SASS), whose Chief Officer, Ray Goodwin, is also the elected Labour Party Councillor for Castle Vale.

SASS have always had publicly accessible ‘warm spaces’ at both Spitfire House and Castle Vale Library, alongside their other community support programmes – such as food distribution and financial advice services.

Now part of the citywide initiative, Cllr Goodwin hopes to reach more people across the Vale and offer a more robust support service – whist ensuring the growing post-Covid problems and those caused by the cost of living crisis are not ‘normalised’.

Cllr Goodwin told Erdington Local: “The ‘welcome warm spaces’ initiative is probably one of the most important initiatives in this city.

“It’s not only going to provide a space for people to stay warm, and make sure they can meet their friends and socially interact – and combat social isolation, but quite frankly it’s going to stop people dying.

“For us this is a really important step to help during the cost of living crisis, which will protect both people and communities.”

Spearheaded by Cllr John Cotton (Glebe Farm and Tile Cross, Labour), Birmingham’s ‘warm welcome spaces’ initiative is a Council led answer to the nationwide dangers many will face during the cold months.

In a recent article in the Guardian, announcing the introduction of the scheme and published the day after Liz Truss took over as Prime Minister, Cllr Cotton was quick to put the onus of responsibility squarely on the steps of No10.

In the final paragraph, Cllr Cotton warns the erstwhile PM: “unless you tackle this crisis with the same urgency and focus that we approached the pandemic, you will see people dying in their own homes this winter. The choice, Prime Minister, is yours. For all our sakes, make the right one.”

Now Rishi Sunak is Prime Minister, Cllr Cotton has an equally unflinching message for the country’s new Conservative Leader and top politician.

He told Erdington Local: “Mr Sunak and his party have been in power for 12 years.  The fact that we are now having to build a network of ‘warm welcome spaces’ to keep Brummies warm and safe this winter is a damning indictment of their decade of economic failure and mismanagement.

“People in our city need help now with meeting the rocketing costs of heating their homes, putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head.  What they don’t need are more cuts to public services, or a refusal to ensure their pensions and benefits keep up with spiralling inflation.

“Birmingham’s Labour Council will do everything in its power to keep people warm and safe this winter.  But the Government needs to act – and act fast – to avoid their cost of living crisis turning into a disaster for many people in our city.”

At the time of writing, Birmingham has 26 ‘warm welcome spaces’ recognised by the Council, growing from an initial eight when launched – with more businesses and organisations being invited to join the scheme.

St Mark’s Community Hub, Brandywood Crescent, Kingstanding, is also part of the Council’s official ‘warm welcome spaces’ – although it is only open to over 50’s on Thursdays between 1:30pm to 4pm.

St Martin’s Social Care Project at St Martin’s Church are also part of the initiative, but again only open to over 50’s on Tuesdays between 10am to 1pm.

The new community hub from Foundations 4 the Future, opening in Central Square later this month, has also pledged to offer a warm open space for local families, alongside the outreach work they do to support young people and challenge youth violence.

For more on the ‘warm welcome space’ at Spitfire House and Castle Vale Library visit www.birmingham.gov.uk/directory_record/418843/spitfire_advice_and_support_service

For more on Spitfire Advice and Support Services visit www.spitfireservices.org.uk

NEWS: Halloween Pumpkin Hunt returns to Short Heath Playing Fields on Saturday 29 October

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by SHFT

On Saturday 29 October, Short Heath Playing Fields will see the return of the annual Halloween Pumkin Hunt event – as organised by Short Heath Fields Trust (SHFT).

Completely free to attend and open to children (and big kids) of all ages, the SHFT Pumpkin Hunt has become a firm,  fun, and frightening fixture on the local community calendar.

Running from 5m to 8pm, people are invited to take part in the park wide ‘hunt’ – looking for the handmade ‘pumpkins’ hidden across Short Heath Playing Fields.

Handcrafted by SFHT Chair Estelle Murphy and hidden across the playing fields by the committee members and local volunteers that make up SHFT, the illuminated pumpkins each have different Halloween based motifs – such as bats, ghouls, and grinning Jack-o’-lanterns.

People entering the playing fields from Short Heath Road will be asked to find and draw the ten pumpkins hidden across site, which can be exchanged with SHFT event volunteers for a special surprise treat at the end.

Alongside the Pumpkin Hunt, there will be fancy dress competitions for ‘Best Dressed Under Five’, ‘Best Dressed Boy’, ‘Best Dressed Girl’, and ‘Best Dressed Adult’ – as well a pound entry raffle, and an array of stalls selling hot chocolate, sweets, bath bombs, scents, and other fancy goods.

There will also be a mystery haunted tunnel, where those that dare can enter and face the ghoulish surprises inside… suitable for all ages, but with adult supervision advised for younger children.

Organisers also suggest people attending should bring their own torch and a sturdy pair of shoes suitable for walking across parkland in the dark.

Following on from the success of the past two years, the SHFT Halloween Pumkin Hunt on Short Heath playing fields has welcomed hundreds of families – with people coming from Kingstanding to Castle Vale to take park in the now annual event. Situated right on the No28 bus route, Short Heath Playing Fields is accessible across the constituency.

Organised and managed by Short Heath Fields Trust, the popular Pumpkin Hunt is one of the first regular events to be held on the parkland – following a fiercely fought battle to save the green space from development.

In August 2020, a campaign to ‘Save Short Heath Playing Fields’ was launched by local residents to challenge Birmingham City Council’s plans to build an 84 strong housing estate on the parkland.

Following over two years years of fierce negotiations, the housing development plans were finally scrapped by Birmingham City Council, and SHFT – which became a formally constituted groups from the original campaign group – are currently in talks with the Council about a lease to take over the official management of the site.

Organisers of the Pumpkin Hunt and other events on the playing fields, SHFT have long stated the area should be preserved as a community asset – used for health, wellbeing, community sports, activities, and events.

SHFT Chair Estelle Murphy told Erdington Local: “After the amazing success of the last few years the Pumpkin Hunt is back again. We have seen visitors from Castle Vale all the way through to Kingstanding.

“It’s a great opportunity for families to have some fun outdoors together. We always look forward to seeing friends we have made through previous events and making new ones.

“We have had some amazing fancy dress costumes over the last couple of years and we are looking forward to all the monsters, goblins, and witches we will meet this year.

“Bring a torch if you are coming after dark, but turn it off in the mystery haunted tunnel, if you dare…”

For more on the Short Heath Fields Trust Halloween Pumpkin Hunt visit www.facebook.com/events/607795361128944

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

NEWS: Erdington to get permanent police Inspector as Rachel Derby leaves Birmingham force

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington is set to get a permanent police Inspector, as the constituency’s temporary ‘top cop’ Rachel Derby will be leaving Birmingham to join the Staffordshire force.

After Erdington’s previous Inspector, Haroon Chughtai, left the constituency in January 2022 – being promoted to Chief Inspector to work in Counter Terrorism – Rachel Derby was the police’s trusted pair of hands who took over whilst a long-term placement was being found.

Nearly a year later and following a “robust HR process” from West Midlands Police, Erdington is about to welcome a full time Inspector to take over the Neighbourhood Police Unit (NPU) and deliver the on-street strategy for combatting crime in the area.

In the final recruitment stages, West Midlands Police will be announcing the name of the new Erdington Inspector “imminently”.

Currently on annual leave, Temporary Inspector Rachel Derby worked her last shift in Erdington on Friday 14 October – handing over to Police Sargeant Frances Clark, who stands as the coordinator for the local NPUs and has a proven track record in community policing.

A spokesperson from West Midlands Police told Erdington Local: “Temporary Inspector Rachel Darby developed excellent relationships with communities in Erdington during her time policing the constituency.

“Rachel is going to Staffordshire Police on promotion next month and is currently on a two-week period of annual leave before she officially transfers.

“In the meantime, Sergeant Fran Clark has oversight of Sutton & Erdington constituency as the coordinator supported by the senior leadership team which is not unusual when Inspectors are on leave.

“This includes a dedicated local policing Chief Inspector and Superintendent who have ownership and responsibility for Birmingham East Neighbourhood Policing Unit.

“We have robust HR processes in place to fill Rachel’s post. This work is currently being done and Rachel’s successor will be starting imminently.”

Since 2010, the West Midlands has seen £175m pulled from its policing budget – losing around 2000 officers, 25% in active service and over 50% allocated to community policing.

Erdington suffers from one of the highest crime rates in the city, with regular calls for more police presence from Erdington residents, community groups, and constituency stakeholders.

In December last year, a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) was reinstated around Erdington High Street – giving local police the power to forcibly remove anyone from the ‘Restricted Area’ they suspect to be intoxicated or causing anti-social behaviour.

Despite being widely welcomed by many who live and work in the Erdington ward, since the PSPO came back into being – having previously operated until 2018 – some local residents feel the extended police authority has made minimal impact.

One Church Road resident, who lives a short walk form Erdington High Street, told: “I thought the idea of the PSPO was great, but it doesn’t seem to have made a difference.

“Earlier this year a man was nearly beaten to death outside Greggs. Things like that shouldn’t be allowed to happen on a busy High Street with a police station five minutes away.

“I can see the High Street from my kitchen window and I hear fights and drunken arguments nearly every night.

“We need more police on the street, plain and simple – at the moment the High Street is basically policed by the Street Warden and some very dedicated Community Support Officers.”

Paulette Hamilton MP has had tackling crime in the constituency high on her agenda since taking office in May this year.

The Erdington Member of Parliament will be bringing the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster, to discuss issues over crime with local partners in January 2023 – at her regular ‘Big Conversation’ event.

Simon Foster previously came to Erdington for a tour of the High Street with the late Jack Dromey MP in November 2021, and to meet with the newly formed Street Pastors.

During the visit he told Erdington Local: “My key campaign pledge is to rebuild community policing in the West Midlands because I think dismantling it was a big mistake; it was counterproductive, it’s a false economy.

“It’s really important that we have community initiatives like the Street Pastors, like Neighbourhood Watch, like Street Watch, Speed Watch, Street Wardens,.

“All of those different projects play a really important role in providing that help, reassurance, and support to local communities.”