NEWS: New Town Centre Manager John Hodgkiss sees “massive potential” in Erdington

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington’s new Town Centre Manager, John Hodgkiss, sees “massive potential” in the once busy North Birmingham High Street and shopping district.

Taking over from Terry Guest this August, Mr Hodgkiss will run the Erdington Business Improvement District for at least the next five year term.

Mr Guest is stepping down after successfully taking the BID to another ballot in November last year – returning nearly 74% in favour for renewing the Erdington business partnership, with 45 of the 61 votes cast by local businesses saying ‘yes’.

Mr Hodgkiss has a longstanding record as a Town Centre Manger, having launched business improvement districts in both the Midlands and London.

Having worked on the Victoria BID in London, his portfolio included many high profile businesses and entrepreneurs – including the Royal Family’s most recognised home, Buckingham Place.

Having launched one on the UK’s first industrial site BIDs in London, and successfully establishing and managing one of the Midlands largest BIDs in West Bromwich, Hodgkiss has a proven track record of building business communities and town centre partnerships.

Now focused on Erdington, with a clear vision to transform the High Street and promote local commerce, the experience Town Centre Manager has high hopes for the once bustling North Birmingham thoroughfare.

John Hodgkiss told Erdington Local: “My job is to make Erdington one of Birmingham’s most enjoyable and exciting satellite centres to be in. I want to make it a safer place, a greener place, and a place that crucially well marketed.

“So, one of my initial aspirations would be to go out and start doing some business visits ASAP – and that will be a good mix between national retailers, independents, as well as other major stakeholders such as the police, emergency services, market traders, and all kinds of people who have a vested interest in making Erdington even better.”

Despite the series of high profile shops and banks leaving Erdington High Street, including Boots – which closed its Erdington store the week he came into post, John Hodgkiss remains optimistic the area’s future.

When asked what attracted him the Erdington, which also has recently missed out two multi million pounds of Government investment to regenerate the High Street, Hodgkiss was keen to focus on the positives.

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

“In the past roles I’ve been successful at looking at things like match funding, so although it’s not a never-ending pot of money by any means there is leverage to look at getting money for small projects – but also to keep banging away with money that should still be available through the Conservative government’s Levelling Up agenda. And with a change in leadership might be bigger and more important than ever.

“I feel passionate about making a change in the current economic climate, and I don’t see anywhere with the potential that Erdington has.

“It’s a great place to be, the community is great, there is a retail offer here already – particularly in making day to day living a lot easier.

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

Erdington Ward Councillor Robert Alden, who ultimately oversees the Edington BID, was positive about the fresh approach.

He told Erdington Local: “It is great to welcome John as our new town centre manager for Erdington. He comes with previous experience of working in town centres and delivering regeneration in urban areas.

“This is going to be key as we look to work with the Town Centre Manager, BID, and local partners to deliver our plans for transformation of Erdington High Street. We very much look forward to working with John in the years ahead.”

Cllr Gareth Moore was also quick to praise the work of Terry Guest, who has steered the Erdington BID since 2011 – including through the Covid pandemic.

Cllr Moore added: “We would also like to thank Terry Guest, the outgoing town centre manager, who has been a brilliant servant for our area.

“During his time as manager, he has helped support businesses through Covid and been the rock at the heart of Erdington High Street for a decade. We wish him all the best in his retirement.”

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit https://erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk/

Kingstanding boxer Niall Farrell out of Commonwealth Games after controversial referee decision

By Erdington Local news team

There was heartbreak and confusion in Kingstanding as local hero and boxer Niall Farrell’s gold medal dreams ended in a controversial defeat last night.

Coachloads of friends and family left Kingstanding Circle for the NEC to watch an international sporting spectacle where their star was expected to shine.

At Second City Bar & Lounge, Kingstanding Road, the red and white balloons had been blown up and the cross of St George laid across every available table in anticipation of a night to remember.

Despite being Monday evening, Second City had the packed out feeling of a Saturday; rounds of sour vodka shots were being shared around whether people ordered them or not.

The smokers outside stood underneath the old sign of the Kingstanding pub, which stands derelict across the Circle, happily knowing they had already claimed the best seats in front of the big screen.

Red ‘Team Farrell’ t-shits were the most popular item of clothing in the 100 plus crowd, and everyone had a tale to tell about their local boy done good.

There was a stampede inside when the boxing began, eagle-eyed punters spotted friends and family ringside on TV, and shouted hello to them.

The cheers reverberated around the club when Niall entered the ring following his Northern Irish opponent.

Though his crowd wore red, Niall wore blue, his hair pulled up into a ponytail and his tattoos looking perfect beneath a sheen of glistening sweat.

The action got underway and there was immediate flurry of punches between the fighters; there was no feeling each other out, it was instant action.

There were winces as Niall took the first shot and swearing to the roof when a looping right hand landed flush on the Kingstanding fighter’s head. A minute later and another punch landed, forcing the referee to give Niall a standing eight count.

This wasn’t good.

Niall was showing flashes of brilliance, his class was there to see, but his opponent did not pay any attention to reputations.

Another punch landed, Niall’s leg slightly buckled but he was standing tall and ready to go, to power through to the next round.

However, the ref thought different – as the amateur rules are different to professional boxing, when even an armchair fan knows someone has to be knocked to the ground and fail to get up in ten seconds to lose.

The ref spoke to Niall, and his opponent ran to his team in celebration. One man in the Second City crowd spotted it first: “That’s it, he’s done, lost.”

It took about 30 seconds for everyone to realise the dream was over, the Sunday night watching Niall fighting for gold would not happen, nor the parade when the victorious hero brought the gold back to Kingstanding.

He had lost.

The finality of it was etched in his face as he refused to shake the ref’s hand; someone had let the air out of the room.

There was no anger, just a profound sadness a young man who dedicated his life to sport would not be one of the stars of his hometown Games.

One woman demanded to be interviewed so she could call it “a fix”, and a chippy whose shift tomorrow was looking more unlikely with every round added: “He could have carried on, he was not hurt, this is a rubbish way to end a boxing match.”

Francis Heeney spoke for everyone when he said: “Niall is a winner. He will not come back here a loser, he is our winner, who else here is fighting for their country in the Commonwealth Games? No-one.

“Niall loves Kingstanding, and we love him, whether he loses or wins.”

For more on Niall Farrell visit www.teamengland.org/news/generation-22-niall-farrell

For more on Second City Bar and Lounge visit www.facebook.com/secondcitybar.lounge

NEWS: “It made me proud to be a Brummie,” hundreds welcome the Queens Baton Relay to Pype Hayes Park

Words by Ed King / Pics by Angela Chapman

Hundreds of people turned out on Pype Hayes Park today to welcome the Queen’s Baton Relay to Erdington.

Over the last 269 days the Baton Relay has travelled through all 72 countries of the Commonwealth, covering 90,000 miles, before coming to the Games 2022 host city of Birmingham for the final leg of its globetrotting journey.

Over 7500 people have handed the Baton to each other, bringing the Queen’s message bearing icon to Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games 2022 Opening Ceremony on Thursday, 28 July.

Having travelled through 180 communities across England over the last 25 days, the Baton ended up in Pype Hayes Park just after midday – with a backdrop of free games and activities to keep the celebration going.

Soft archery, karate demonstrations, a gaming van, and a special army inflatable for young people to test their strength and endurance were all set up on the green space by the Chester Road entrance.

Flags, frisbees, and footballs were given out, branded with the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 colours and logo, for people to play with during the Baton Relay and take home as a special souvenir of the day.

There was also a giant screen where people could challenge each other to a live basketball computer game, hosted by Ed James.

People of all ages spent hours in the park before and after the Baton Relay had come through Erdington, after making its way down to Pype Hayes from Sutton Coldfield.

Local mum, Angela Chapman, told Erdington Local: “We were probably there for about an hour and a half, we had a picnic and met family and friends there.

“It was a really lovely community atmosphere; it was lovely to see that many people out in Pype Hayes Park, there was a really good turn out – a real buzz as well.

“One of the highlights was when Perry (the bull – official Games 2022 mascot) appeared and was high fiving all the children, he got the crowd going before the Baton bearers came through. Everyone was waving their flags; it was a really lovely moment.

“For me it made me proud to be a Brummie, the whole build up over the last few days has been amazing, bringing colour to the city everywhere you go.

“When the baton bearers came through everyone was just cheering and clapping, it was just a lovely thing to see.

“It sparked that excitement for the Opening Ceremony tonight, and because the event and activities were free it was really open to everyone, which was great to see.”

Angela’s daughters, Florrie (10) and Violet (7), were also getting in on the fun and festivities.

They told: “It was really exciting; the park was full of games and people. We got to play on this big inflatable army assault course and do a karate class.

“Seeing Perry was amazing; he gave us all high fives before the runners with the Baton came through the park. It was a really happy day.”

Local resident, Alan Thomson, added: “Today was a great day for the people of B23/24. So many good things are happening not only in Birmingham but in Erdington too.

“So nice to see so many people turn up of all ages and cultures to welcome the baton.

“And the cherry on the cake, we got the betting shop proposal stopped on the High Street. Peace and love.”

The Commonwealth Games 2022 launched in Birmingham with the official Opening Ceremony on Thursday, 28 July – with 11 subsequent days of sporting competition and activity.

Fighting for England, Kingstanding boxer Nial Farrell will be competing in the Games – with bouts scheduled at the NEC.

For more on the Commonwealth Games 2022 visit www.birmingham2022.com

NEWS: Betting shop blocked on Erdington High Street after campaigners get unanimous support from planning committee

Words & pics by Ed King

A new betting shop for Erdington High Street has been blocked after local campaigners “rallied” and recieved unanimous support from the Council’s  planning committee.

At a meeting on Thursday, 28 July, all members present voted against the proposed application to turn the once HSBC bank at 56 Erdington High Street into a ‘a betting office… with associated external alterations.’

There were no votes to support the proposed application.

Originally presented to Birmingham City Council in March this year, BoyleSports UK had been looking for consent to open another gambling outlet on the High Street – which would have seen eight on the Erdington thoroughfare.

Local campaigners officially objected to the plans in the initial planning committee meeting on 7 July, with the officer’s report citing an increase in litter, anti-social behaviour, and crime as the driving factors.

Objections were also noted in relation to the ‘impact on application for Levelling Up funding’ another betting shop may have, as Erdington looks forward to another LUF bid for High Street regeneration being submitted to Government.

Item 11 on the planning committee’s agenda for Thursday, 28 July,  the issue was brought forward after the Chair recognised “members of the public are here in numbers” – as scores of campaigners had been protesting outside before the meeting began.

Speaking as a member of the planning committee, Cllr Jack Deakin (Allens Cross, Lab) voiced his objection to the proposed gambling outlet due to “potential risk to health”.

Cllr Jane Jones (Stockland Green, Lab) was worried “as a local resident” another betting shop could “exacerbate” issues such as street drinking and anti social behaviour on the already High Street hotspot.

Cllr Gareth Moore (Erdington, Con) and Cllr David Barrie (Sutton Warmley & Minworth) respectively called on the committee to “stick to planning reasons” as there “was ample evidence” to deny the application on these grounds.

With a right to appeal still on the table, BoyleSports could potentially sidestep more emotive issues to eventually push the application through.

After the planning committee returned a resounding decision of 11-0 against the application, Rob Gunnell from the group campaigning against the proposed betting shop told Erdington Local:

“I think it’s great, we’re very pleased. I think it’s a reflection of how people in Erdington care about the area – they care so much they’ve come out of their houses today and demonstrated together.

“Particularly since the last meeting, we’ve rallied and got the necessary evidence through the police and the local MP (Paulette Hamilton) to support our case.

“I think it’s a little bit of a triumph for the people of Erdington… it gives a message that people in the area will stick together on any future issues – not just around planning – but any factors that would undermine the regeneration of the area.”

Erdington Ward Councillor, Robert Alden (Con), had voiced his objections in the initial planning meeting held on 7 July. Following the 11-0 verdict again, he added:

“We were seriously concerned about this planning application, and today the committee has listened to residents’ views and the really strong representation that’s been from community groups, from myself as the local councillor, and from the large petition we handed in objecting to this application.

“What we want to see in Erdington is a vibrant High Street and this kind of development is potentially going to being in more anti-social behaviour and more issues that we’re trying tackle.

“We’ve got the Levelling Up Fund bid going in, which is such an important thing for Erdington; we don’t want to see more of these establishments we want to see vibrant businesses that bring in people to the High Street and bring in improvements and regeneration.”

Despite the matter coming to the planning committee in July, local residents have been challenging the proposed development of the old HSBC bank into a betting shop since the initial application went to planning in March.

Whilst canvassing in his local election campaign earlier in the year, standing for Labour in the Erdington Ward, Basharat Dad stared a petition against the proposals on 19 April 2022, gaining 147 signitures supporting the block.

Joining the protesters at the planning committee meeting on Thursday, 28 July, and hearing the committee’s unanimous decision to block the betting shop, he told Erdington Local:

“Really pleased with the decision, the committee have listened to the Erdington community.

“I am proud, I was able to lead on a petition and it was a pleasure to work with residents, community organisations and businesses to object to this application and get the right result.

“Looking forward to in working together for the betterment of our High Street and Erdington as a whole.”

NEWS: Local volunteer Marie Deane looks forward to Commonwealth Games 2022

Words & pics of Marie Deane by Steve Sharma

Local resident and Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) volunteer Marie Deane is on her marks for the experience of a lifetime, working at the Commonwealth Games 2022.

The 50-year-old, who has actively supported WLCA for more than five years, will be helping facilitate the hockey and squash tournaments – two of the most popular sports in the Games, with athletes battling it out every day after the opening ceremony.

Recruited as part of the Stand Out project, which opened up volunteer roles for people across the city, Marie will spend the 11 days of the Games’ competitions helping organisers prepare the venues for spectators.

In total, the Commonwealth Games 2022 enlisted over 10,000 volunteers to help deliver and support the prestigious sporting event – with about 30,000 people expected to attend.

Marie will also assist stadium staff with catering and cleaning duties, as well as getting rooms prepared for the athletes coming to compete in Birmingham.

Throughout the Games, over 5000 athletes will be taking part in 280 events across 23 sporting categories.

“It is so exciting and I can’t wait to get started, I just want to get stuck in,” said Marie.

“On a personal level, the experience will help to boost my confidence and make me feel more self-assured. The training I have received has been very positive and brought the Games to life for me. I know a lot more about it now than I did before.

“I feel energised just by the idea of playing a part in this historic event,” she added.

“I really believe I will thrive. I am a people person and there will be so much going on around the whole event, it will be dynamic.”

The Commonwealth Games 2022 begins in Birmingham on Thursday, 28 July and runs until Monday, 8 August. It will be the third time the international sporting competition has been held in England since its inaugural event in 1930.

The main venue for the Games is the Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr, but sites across the city are also being utilised – such as Sutton Park for the Triathlon and Para Triathlon events, with Powell’s Pool, the park itself, and surrounding roads ‘providing the ideal topography required to host the three triathlon disciplines.’

Further sporting events will be held outside Birmingham, such as cycling in Warwick, Wolverhampton and London, lawn bowls in Leamington Spa, and rugby sevens in Coventry.

Ahead of the Games’ opening ceremony, The Queen’s Baton Relay will be coming through Pype Hayes Park on Thursday, 28 July – with a celebration event held near the tennis courts by the Chester Road entrance at 12:25pm.

For more on the Commonwealth Games 2022 visit www.birmingham2022.com

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

NEWS: Jaguar Land Rover workers win back 12.2% pay rise after landslide vote against Company alternative

Words & pics by Ed King

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) workers have won back a previously agreed 12.2% pay rise after a ‘workplace ballot’ took place last week.

In a landslide result, workers at the motoring giant “rejected” the alternative pay deal of 6% pay rise, about half of the rate of consumer inflation, and a one off and taxable £5000 pay out to help ‘combat the immediate cost of living challenges.’

Following weeks of negotiations between Unite the Union and the JLR bosses, with workers calling for the original agreement to be held, the decision was eventually put to a vote – with Unite telling its members they had been “obliged to listen” to JLR bosses but “you, the most important people, will have to be balloted.”

After JLR workers voted on Monday 11 July, a resounding message was sent to JLR bosses with over 84% saying ‘no’ to the alternative pay package.

And despite the new 6% increase being cited as JLR’s ‘final offer and there is no negotiation’, in a surprise U-turn an internal message from the car giant bosses stated:

‘Following the workplace ballot, the Jaguar Land Rover Trade Unions JNC has reported that the proposed offer of changes to pay and conditions of employment has been rejected.

‘However, as a result of the ballot outcome, the company can confirm that all Jaguar Land Rover hourly, A-D salaried and Business Protection colleagues will receive a pay increase of RPI+0.5%, in line with the original pay agreement.’

The reinstated pay deal will come in to affect for JLR workers from 1 October 2022 and is secured for two year.

Despite a strong victory for JLR workers, many at the Castle Bromwich plant are still uncertain about the car giant’s future – with around 3200 jobs in the balance if the Erdington assembly is shut down.

Workers report that internal notices for relocation or voluntary redundancy are “sent out regularly” with key top level management making surprise exits form the company, such as Grant McPherson – who acted as JLR Castle Bromwich’s Director of Operations for over seven years, Executive Director Manufacturing for over 3 ½ years, and helped sign off the ill-fated Merlin Agreement.

Grant McPherson left JLR in February 2022 to become Chief Operating Officer for Royal Mail.

Following the pay rise dispute, there are reports of many JLR workers also now losing faith in Unite, believing the worker’s union should have fought harder to keep the agreed package and had neglected their role by handing it over a worker’s vote.

One JLR worker, who wished to remain anonymous, previously told Erdington Local:

“People are fed up with the company pleading poverty all the time. The unions are so out of touch with their members it’s got to the point where we are cancelling our membership.

“We were promised and inflation based pay rise so the agreement made previously should be honoured.

“If I was a representative of the union, I would be asking the company why they can afford to make numerous managerial positions available and also paying agency workers £30 plus per hour to get customers cars ‘out of the door’.”

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

NEWS: Kaleidoscope fun day on Erdington High Street, outside Oikos Café – TODAY

By Erdington Local editorial team

Local families and residents are invited to a Kaleidoscope Fun Day (Saturday 16 July), being held TODAY outside Oikos Café on Erdington High Street from 1pm until 6pm.

Completely free to attend, the afternoon will see an exciting programme of live music, street games and sport, arts and craft, and food and drink available from Oikos Café – as delivered by the Kaleidoscope events team.

Kaleidoscope is the shared identity created for the recent Little Amal visit to Erdington, led by Active Arts, where the globetrotting 12m high ‘living statue’ visited the High Street in a special event to highlight the plight of child refugees and displaced people across the world.

The Kaleidoscope Fun Day is another chance for local families and residents to come together to enjoy street games, sport, music, arts and craft, and make new friends through a fun afternoon of family friendly activity.

Local arts and craft organisations will be making fantastic pictures and patterns to decorate the High Street, with UP Creative Community CIC showing us how to ‘upcycle’ old clothes and turn ‘someone else’s discarded items… into something incredibly beautiful.’

Craft workshops will held inside Oikos Café.

Live music will come from a programme of artists, including Jo Baldwin, Collective Sleep, Forro Temp, and Erdington own Cloud 9 – who will be performing a specially written track in celebration of the Commonwealth Games.

And helping to burn off some Saturday afternoon steam, whilst building your knowledge and confidence around foreign languages, the fantastic Liguasport will be hosting special sporting and language activity throughout the afternoon.

Headed up by an elite athlete who represented England in the high jump, Linguasport run sports camps and school clubs – combining sport and athletics with learning foreign languages.

An effective and fun way to learn, as well as exercise, Linguasport will be hosting inclusive sports and language games across the afternoon – with something for all ages to enjoy.

Active Arts Projects Director, Claire Marshall, told Erdington Local: “Saturday (16 July) is going to be a really exciting and special event, with lots for children of all ages to enjoy – it’s a real community celebration.

“There will be lots to keep the children entertained, from street games and sport to lots of hands-on arts and craft. We also have a brilliant afternoon of live music form local bands and musicians from across the city and beyond.

“And it’s 100% free for everyone, with lots going on throughout the afternoon. We hope people can come down to Erdington High Street on Saturday and join us for a fantastic event of fun for the whole family.”

Kaleidoscope Fun Day take place on Erdington High Street, outside Oikos Café, TODAY (Saturday 16 July), running from 1pm to 6pm – 100% free to attend and open to people of all ages.

Kaleidoscope Fun Day is funded by Birmingham City Council’s Celebrating Communities Fund – as part of celebrating the Commonwealth Games coming to Birmingham this summer.

For more on Active Arts and Kaleidoscope visit www.activearts.wordpress.com

NEWS: Evening of Creativity to headline Artume String Quartet on Friday 15 July

Words by Ed King

Artume String Quartet will be headlining this month’s Evening of Creativity event, to be held at Oikos Café on Friday 15 July – as organised by the Erdington Arts Forum.

Made up of classically trained musicians, the Artume String Quartet have been performing together for nearly seven years – since they first met and began playing together whilst studying at the prestigious Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Now touring across the UK, playing classical concerts, weddings, and high profile corporate events, Artume String Quartet’s line up consists of Leonie Plummer and Lucy Armstrong on violin, Holly Coombes on viola, and Jo Rottenbury on cello.

Coming to headline the Evening of Creativity, the quartet will be playing music from their favourite folk repertoire; a series of original arrangements based on Nordic folk tunes.

Cello player, Jo Rottenbury, told: “We are really looking forward to performing tracks from the Danish String Quartet: ‘Wood Works’ and ‘Last Leaf’. It’s not often we get the opportunity to play folk music together amid our busy schedule.

“There’s a bit of everything in this set – some calmer pieces that build up and then just outright crazy ones. They’re so much fun to play, and we hope we can get some of you stamping along and dancing.

“We’re really excited to bring these beautiful and exciting pieces to the Oikos Evening of Creativity. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.”

The Evening of Creativity is Erdington’s long running monthly music and Art showcase, which has scene acts form all across the world come to play in Erdington.

Launched in 2017, the Evening of Creativity has never missed a month – making it one of the longest running music and arts promotions in the city.

Even during lockdown, organisers established a live streaming service and filmed the events on a closed set the Secret Art Studio Space on Erdington High Street.

Now a permanent fixture on the city’s cultural calendar, the family friendly events at Oikos often sell out – with organisers encouraging people to buy advance tickets through a special Eventbrite page: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/evening-of-creativity-july-2022-tickets-377819808217

This month’s Evening of Creativity will be held at Oikos Café on Erdington High Street from 6:30pm on Friday 15 July, with advance tickets costing £4.90 to £5.98

The event will also be broadcast live via the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page.

Artume String Quartet showreel 2022

Evening of Creativity – promotional video

For more on the Evening of Creativity and Erdington Arts Forum visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

NEWS: Kingstanding boxer Niall Farrell to represent England at Commonwealth Games 2022

By Erdington Local news team

Kingstanding boxer Niall Farrell has been chosen for the England boxing team for the Commonwealth Games 2022.

The boxer only found out last week he was included in the team for the Games which start on July 28.

Niall will be boxing in front of a home crowd at the NEC’s LG Arena and could be one of the stars of the Games as a local athlete with real medal ambitions.

Niall told Erdington Local: “I am so pleased to be included in the team for the Commonwealth Games.

“Boxing always leaves it late when it comes to selecting a team and though lots of people were telling me I was a certainty for the squad it just does not work like that in this sport, anything can happen.”

Niall has fought all around the world in amateur boxing but rarely fights on home soil, so is looking forward to having friends and family around him when he steps into the Commonwealth Games ring.

The 24-year-old said: “I have not fought in England for years now so to have the Commonwealth Games in my own city will be something I will never forget.

“I am still waiting for the schedule to come out and then I will know who I am fighting and what time and day I will be at the NEC. It’s so exciting.”

Niall, who fought back from two injuries which kept him out of the ring for nearly three years, has had a successful run up to the Games. He won gold for Great Britain at the prestigious Gee Bee Championships in the spring and won silver at the European Amateur Championships.

Niall regularly mixes with boxing stars after training for seven years at Team GB Boxing’s headquarters in Sheffield, but always calls Kingstanding’s Second City Boxing Club his home.

His dad runs the club and the place will be packed for Niall’s fights in the Games.

Niall has plenty of causes he will give publicity too if his profile raises due to a successful run.

Farrell is an ambassador of a homeless charity and chairman of Support Futures which rehabilitates and educate young people across West Midlands.

He said: “Boxing moulds you. I see people come into the gym at home and they’ve changed their lives through boxing and that’s what I’m trying to push.

“There’s so much more to it that training and fighting. It’s a chess match. It’s not how hard or how many times I can punch you – it’s about how many times I can hit and not get hit.

“I’m hoping with the Commonwealth (Games) in England people can actually see there’s a lot more to it.”

Niall is aiming to turn professional one day and a Commonwealth Games gold medal etched in the memories of millions who watch it would be the perfect platform.

He said: “I always get a lot support from Kingstanding, 50 people once travelled to Croatia to watch me so being down the road will be great for everyone.

“My sponsors Absolute Scaffolding, Four Roads Construction, Spanclad Construction, and Luke Roper (Luke 1977) have helped massively.”

He added: “It is a dream come true to be boxing in my hometown of Birmingham, I remember watching the Commonwealths before I was on GB and now my dreams come to reality.”

For more on Niall Farrell visit www.teamengland.org/news/generation-22-niall-farrell

For more on Second City Boxing visit www.facebook.com/Second-City-Boxing-Club

EXCLUSIVE: Real to Real – stories of how music shaped the lives of local residents / Invite to exclusive live recording with a free drink for Erdington Local readers

“If music was removed from the world, I would feel empty, bereft, and devoid of anything.”

Erdington Local readers are being invited to an exclusive recording of Real to Real – an eclectic living history of how music inspired and shaped the lives of local residents, being performed as monologues at The Highbury Theatre on Wednesday 13 July from 7:30pm to 9pm.

From the soca and reggae of Trinidad and Jamaica, to the prog rock of Birmingham’s biker bars and the city’s legendary soundsystems and blues parties – all the stories are real life, recorded on to audio reals and video for digital archive.

Suitable for all ages, to get your free ticket to Real to Real visit: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/real-to-reel-tickets-379007560817

For the first Erdington Local readers to book their tickets, there will be a free drink on arrival at The Highbury Theatre Bar – alcoholic or soft drinks are available.

To get your free drink, simply book your ticket via the Eventbrite link above and email the confirmation to: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

Held at The Highbury Theatre on Wednesday 13 July, Real to Real was going to be a closed set recording – but organisers are now opening the theatre doors to allow members of the public to hear these amazing and inspiring stories for the first time.

Hear how Pete and Linda fell in lust over their love of vinyl (and Pete looking like David Cassidy), found friends and escaped the school bullies by bonding over music, played progressive rock to the notorious Birmingham biker gangs of the 80’s, and make a modern living out of music running Boldmere’s own Psychotron Records.

Listen to Dionee and Janet tell you about growing up around the ‘old time’ soca and reggae of Jamaica and Trinidad – embracing the music of their family’s roots in kitchens and churches, to start hosting their own soundsystems and blues parties across Birmingham in the 80’s and 90’s.

And Phil, who grew up with an Irish, Scottish, Yorkshire, and Liverpool family tree – embracing the political call to arms from Public Enemy and Dead Kennedy’s, as he travelled across Europe juggling fire (and knocking down speaker stacks) with bands on the booming free party and squatter scene of the early 90’s.

Or Henry Robert Hayes, the self professed “music nutcase”, who DJed his way through pubs and clubs before maxing out his credit cards and launching a £350,000 radio station – which he later sold for £5million.

Real to Real is directed by Tonia Dáley-Campbell, a Midlands actress, award-winning writer, published author, director, and now casting director for heart casting.

Tonia has been working in the creative industries for over 21 years, is the annual host for Tedx Wolverhampton, and the new Audience Development consultant for The Grand Theatre Wolverhampton.

The live monologues with be accompanied by Birmingham based punk/reggae band Lobster.

Joe Cook from Lobster said: “I’m really interested when different art forms meet – so having music and monologues in the same space such as the theatre pushes the band out of its comfort zone and allows us to create in a different way.

“The gig should be a great mix of different art forms coming together, as well as inspiration coming from stories from local people.”

For more from Blackstory Partnership visit www.blackstorypartnership.com 

For more on The Highbury Theatre, including details on how to get there, visit www.highburytheatre.co.uk