NEWS: Evening of Creativity’s Black History Month special at Oikos Café on Friday 16th October

Words by Jobe Baker-Sullivan / Pics supplied by Erdington Arts Forum

On Friday 16th October, running between 6-8pm at Oikos Café on Erdington High Street, the Erdington Arts Forum is hosting a special Evening of Creativity – in celebration of Black History Month (BHM).

Set to be another exciting evening of poetry, music, and visual art, the long running event has been given the coronavirus all clear to allow a limited, ticketed physical audience in to enjoy the show.

A popular showcase of art and endeavour, the Evening of Creativity is expected to sell out – anybody wanting tickets should click here to check availability. All tickets must be purchased in advance.

Anyone who cannot join the live event at Oikos Café will be able to watch online via the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page, with behind the scenes interviews also being broadcast. Donations to help support the event and local Arts Forum can also be made online.

A specially programmed showcase in support of Black History Month (BHM), Friday’s guest producer, Samiir Saunders, who also lives in Erdington, talks more about the importance of the event: “For the past 3 and a half years, the Evenings of Creativity have been an important staple of Erdington’s performance arts scene.” 

He goes onto to say that, “as an artist and poet who is very early on in my career, I have personally gained a lot from being given the platform to share my work with my local community, as well as the opportunity to meet other artists like me.

On producing the special BHM event, Samiir is “incredibly excited this month to be part of the team creating that same platform for others!”

Friday’s BHM special Evening of Creativity is set to welcome the powerful words of published poet Ryan Sinclair, musical musings of singer songwriters Xolo and Philippa Zawe, and a speech from Adrian Anderson from the mental health charity, Black Minds Matter UK.  

There will also be a special celebrity guest live performance from 2018 BBC Young Musician of the year Xhosa Cole and his trio.

The Evening of Creativity’s ‘online gallery’ this month features another Erdington resident, Oliver Hassell, who says: “I’m proud to be exhibiting my work in my hometown, and helping the growth of the local art community.”

Talking about what BHM means to him, Oliver continues: “I believe that Black history should be told every month of the year. It’s just as important as the rest of history and I don’t think that it should only be focused on for just one month. Black history is British history, American history, and world history.”

With Birmingham now in the Tier 2 list of new lockdown restrictions, as announced on Wednesday, it is fortunate that the Evening of Creativity live event at Oikos Café can continue – the event has taken place every month for nearly four years without missing a show.

Oikos Café have been required to make only a few changes to the venue, including only allowing ‘household bubbles’ to sit at a table together.

Ensuring Oikos Café operates COVID-19 safe, venue manager Ben Jeffery has an official statement for Erdington Local:

In light of the Government restrictions to combat the growing risk of COVID-19, Oikos Café continues to operate cleanliness, social distancing and crowd limitations in accordance with government guidelines.

We are proud to welcome people and continue operating legally as a business in this difficult time, and look forward to welcoming patrons and local people for our monthly extravaganza with the Arts Forum”.

To book your advance tickets for the Evening of Creativity, visit online ticket outlet Eventbrite: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/evening-of-creativity-16102020-black-history-month-tickets-122386670827

To watch the Evening of Creativity live stream, including exclusive backstage interviews and other videos, visit the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

For more on Oikos Café, including contact details and information on the venue’s COVID-19 safe regulations, visit www.oikoscafe.co.uk

For more on Birmingham’s Black History Month, visit www.birminghamblackhistorymonth.co.uk

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NEWS: Erdington police have “changed the tone” with public over COVID-19 restrictions, including fines from £100 to £3,200

Words by Adam Smith

Erdington’s top cop has warned his police officers will be more assertive with people flouting COVID-19 restriction rules.

Inspector Haroon Chughtai explained the new tougher stance as Birmingham was placed under the Government’s new Tier 2 restrictions today – including on the spot fines and fixed penalty notices of £100, increasing up to £3200 for repeat offenders.

In an email to Erdington residents, Inspector Haroon Chughtai explained people should by now understand the pandemic and its consequences – so his officers will spend less time explaining rules and more time enforcing them.

He said: “We have changed the tone of our policing of COVID. It could be argued that we have all had enough time to live with and understand what and why restrictions exist, so while we are still using the 4 E approach (Engage, Explain, Encourage and then Enforce) which I have mentioned previously, we will move to enforcement quicker then we have previously.

Thankfully this remains a rare occurrence with most people being very sensible and responsible in their behaviour. To give you some context in the last month, we have issued two fines, one to an individual who refused to wear a mask without a valid exemption and the second was only yesterday to a business in Sutton who have little or no social distancing measures in place.”

The Tier 2 COVID-19 restrictions which come into force today (Wednesday  14th October 2020) in Erdington, Kingstanding, and across Birmingham are:

  • People must not socialise with anybody outside of their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
  • The rule of six will now apply to private gardens, alongside other spaces like beaches or parks (other than where specific exemptions apply in law)
  • Weddings can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees
  • Funerals can only have 30 attendees, with a maximum of 15 at wakes and commemorations
  • Team sports can only be played where officially organised by a club or organisation
  • People are advised to minimise the number of journeys they make
  • While you can still go on holiday, it can only be with people you live with, or your support bubble
  • Businesses and venues can continue to operate until 10pm, in a COVID-secure manner – although customers must sit at a table when eating and drinking
  • Schools, universities and places of worship will remain open

As well as the latest COVID-19 policing issues, Inspector Chughtai revealed overall crime has risen again in Erdington compared to last year’s figures with domestic violence again worryingly high.

Inspector Chughtai said: “Erdington is showing a 10% increase in overall crime, that is around 600 extra victims of crime, like I said last month domestic abuse plays a large part in this increase with 450 extra victims of domestic abuse so far this year compared to the same period last year.

Domestic abuse continues to show increases with a 40% rise, which is 450 extra victims – this remains my biggest concern and the one of the main priorities of my teams.”

He added: “Robbery and burglary continue to show good reductions, with robbery showing a 16% reduction with 33 less victims of robbery, house burglaries show a 5% reduction with18 less victims of burglary, like Sutton we have seen an increase in burglary offences recently which is taking away the good reductions made earlier in the year.”

He added: “Under 25 violence shows a 6% reduction, which has increased compared to last month – largely down to an increase is low level fights between school children and some robbery offences with young people being both victims and offenders. We are working very closely with the schools around this.”

For more information from West Midlands Police about the latest COVID-19 restrictions, visit www.west-midlands.police.uk/coronavirus

For more information from Government on the latest COVID-19 restrictions in Birmingham, Sandwell, and Solihull, visit www.gov.uk/guidance/birmingham-sandwell-and-solihull-local-restrictions

If you believe you are a victim of domestic abuse, you can seek help and advice via the freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline is 0808 2000 247

For more information visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk

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NEWS: Kingstanding gets its lifesaving first bleed control kit on the Hawthorn

Words by Adam Smith / Pics by Ed King

The first bleed control kit has been installed in Kingstanding to save lives if stabbings and shootings continue to happen in the area.

The Grapevine off licence, Hawthorn Road, now has the medical equipment needed to stop bleeding immediately if someone gets injured nearby.

After a wave in deaths in inner city Birmingham, Bishop Desmond Jaddoo from Yes2Life put the kits in Lozells, Aston, and Handsworth – and has now set his sights on Kingstanding and Erdington.

He told Erdington Local: “We have wanted to get a bleed control kit in Kingstanding for a while.

The recent spark in violence has made it essential, it is about being prepared, just in case, many times things happen and we do not know what to do.

We started in Lozells, Handsworth and Newtown but our target has been North Birmingham, Kingstanding, Erdington, Oscott etc.”

He added: “We want to get bleed control kits in these areas but also provide training too, however, due to COVID training sessions have been hampered.

When there was a shooting in Great Hampton Street, Hockley, a woman got a bleed kit and saved his life, she had not had training but had seen some of our Facebook videos, so we are looking to produce more training videos.

The violence has not stopped because of COVID, in fact it has gone up.”

The bleed control kit includes items such as a tourniquet, bandages, and a foil blanket, and has been created with the help of Bunzl Healthcare, Purple Pharma, and Blue Kit Medical.

Bishop Jaddoo is delighted to have got a lifesaving foothold in Kingstanding.

He said: “This is the first bleed control kit in Kingstanding, we would have been in Kingstanding before but we are not funded. We have to fund these ourselves, so every time we get some donations we install more kits.

Our aim is to get bleed control kits on the College Road, Witton Lodge, Kingstanding Circle, here on the Hawthorn and up Kingstanding Road.

What we try to do is cover an area completely with kits and educate people how they can be used and then move on, we will go to Erdington next. But as we are not funded we need to build it slowly.

When people talk about issues proportionality, poverty and violence, a lot of people think because Kingstanding is in North Birmingham, which is seen as more affluent than inner city Birmingham. it’s OK but there is a lot of social housing in this area, and with that there is a lot of working class white people, and they are totally forgotten about and that is so wrong.

We need to think how society rates us, they lump in the black and Asian communities in with the working class communities. So, we have to class ourselves as one group.”

He added: “We picked The Grapevine because the shopkeeper understands the importance of bleed control kits and why they need to be in the community.

If someone is hurt, and we are not just talking about stabbings and shootings, if there is a car crash, the kit is for the zero responder, the person who sees the incident and can help immediately before the emergency services get there. These kits have tourniquets and bleed pressure bandages, those first minutes are vital.”

Owner of The Grapevine off licence on Hawthorn Road, Paul Bradford, wanted to have a bleed control kit in his shop to foster a sense of community in Kingstanding.

He said: “I have followed the work (Bishop) Desmond has done over the years and he told me how these bleed control kits can save lives so I wanted to get involved.

It is not just about the rising crime; we witnessed a really bad car crash outside the shop not long ago and we could have really done with a bleed control kit to help those injured.

If something happens on the Hawthorn we will be prepared, and anything can happen, we are a community on the Hawthorn. There is a defibrillator in the Co-op as well in case anyone has a heart attack, we are all in this together.

I’m glad that The Grapevine is the first of hopefully many businesses in Kingstanding to have a bleed control kit, I wish there was no need for them but there is.”

Bishop Desmond Jaddoo – outside The Grapevine off licence on Hawthon Road, Kingstanding

For more on Yes2Life, including the work they do challenging knife and gun crime, visit www.yes2life.co.uk

For more information about Bishop Desmond Jaddoo visit www.desjaddoo.org.uk

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NEWS: Erdington Rugby Club wins ‘Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season’ national award

Words by Adam Smith / Pics supplied by Erdington RFC (all team pics wrere taken before coronavirus and social distancing regulations)

Erdington Rugby Club (RFC)’s work combatting knife crime, through working with local youngsters, has gained national recognition – after winning the first ever ‘Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season’ award.

Erdington RFC beat over 100 rival clubs to win the award, which was decided following a public vote and panel selection, after the success of its Changing Lives Through Rugby scheme – which saw volunteers offer free coaching to youngsters in danger of entering a life of crime and gang related violence.

The award, devised by Gallagher Insurance – which sponsors Premiership Rugby, is all the more impressive as the club had to start from scratch in 2016 after the club house was burned to the ground in 2003.

The England & British & Irish Lion, Harlequins legend, and Gallagher ambassador, Ugo Monye, paid a surprise visit to Erdington RFC this week to speak to club representatives about what winning means to them and the wider community.

The international rugby star said: “There was only one winner for me for this competition. Erdington RFC shone amongst the rest of the shortlisted finalists due to their profound commitment to their community, and most notably youth participants, both on and off the pitch.

To overcome such adversity in 2003 and get to the point they are at now is quite astounding and proves Erdington RFC is a fantastic winner of the Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season award.”

For winning the inaugural ‘Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season’ award, Erdington RFC – which plays at Spring Lane Playing Fields – were given £2,000 worth of Gilbert training kit.

Andy Trueman, community officer at Erdington RFC, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be crowned winner of the Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season. Our club means everything to us and the surrounding community, and we are very grateful to have been recognised for our work in using rugby to make a positive impact in North Birmingham.

As well as having the honour of winning this award, we’re also delighted with our enhanced training kit prize, which will allow us to touch the lives of even more people within the community.” 

Changing Lives Through Rugby got volunteers to take part in coaching rugby in local schools, as well as providing outreach support in North Birmingham in partnership with the local police.

An after-school club, targeting pupils with known behavioural issues, the scheme helped youngsters build their teamwork skills, control aggression, respect authority, as well as providing them with a hot meal afterwards. All membership, kit, and match fees are waived for club participants as part of the sessions, and transport costs are covered for those who need it.

Sarah Griffiths, Director of Communications for Gallagher in the UK, commented: “Giving back to our local communities is incredibly important to everyone at Gallagher and so we created this award to recognise the often life-changing work that is being carried out by grassroots rugby clubs across the country.

We are thrilled to be presenting the Gallagher Rugby Club of the Season award to Erdington RFC who were voted the unanimous winner by all our judges.

The club does so much in their local community, despite having such little resources, and it really is not just the lifeblood of their community but also offers a potential life-line for young people by providing them with support, coaching and opportunities to thrive. A truly deserving winner.”

Erdington RFC also offers free dinners, alongside international and national league tickets to at risk youngsters – and in partnership with Birmingham City Council, further provides rugby tackle demonstrations at after-school violence hotspots in the city. 

The club also is planning to engage more mothers and daughters to take part in rugby, through their development of a separate touch rugby coaching session.

The original Erdington Rugby Club was forced to close in 2003 after its clubhouse was burnt down; Erdington RFC was reformed in 2016 with no facilities or players.

Now the club has grown to include over 100 U18 players, a squad of over 50 senior males, and a mixed gender touch rugby team.

Ugo Monye visits Erdington RFC

For more information about Erdington RFC, visit www.erfc.uk   

For more on Gallagher Premiership Rugby, visit www.premiershiprugby.com/gallagher-premiership-rugby

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NEWS: Highcroft Community Centre gets cash injection from electricity giant Western Power

Words by Adam Smith

Staff at the former Highcroft Sports and Social Club, which reopened as a community centre last year after being closed for two years, are celebrating after being given a grant to help its resurgence.

Highcroft Community Centre, Slade Road, was forced to close in October, 2017, due to financial problems and then again earlier this year, just months after reopening, due to the pandemic.

However, now the centre is back open, thriving and hosts a variety of groups and outreach community projects in Stockland Green.

Electricity company Western Power Distribution has given the club a £750 community grant to be spent on a new games room which will be available for the Stockland Green community to use.

Pauline Wright runs the bar at the centre and is delighted with the cash injection.

She told Erdington Local: “The grant is fantastic news. I’m Erdington born and bred and was delighted when the club reopened, the place means so much to so many people.

From my experience running the bar at the Highcroft Community Centre and the people who support us are some of the nicest I have met. It’s like one big family and this grant can only bring more happiness to many by enabling the use of the games room.”

Centre manager Maxine McNair also welcomed the grant.

She said: “The funding has been gratefully received. The money is also being used to help upgrade the lighting on the car park and signage, therefore making sure that the building is safe for all that use the centre now and those that will hopefully use it in the future.

Thank you very much Western Power Distribution.”

The centre also boasts a bar, function rooms, a cricket pitch, darts, snooker and a host of other facilities.

Erdington MP Jack Dromey nominated Highcroft Community Centre for the grant from Western Power Distribution and is delighted the club is up and running again.

He said: “Highcroft Community Centre has been at the heart of the local community for many years. It is not only a social hub, but also has excellent sports facilities and plays hosts to many local and charitable organisations.

I have attended countless events at the Community Centre myself over the years.”

Dromey added: “When I heard the centre was experiencing financial difficulties and was forced to close, I felt deeply saddened as it was a huge blow to the local community.

However, I’m delighted that they were eventually able to reopen and once again be an invaluable community and social hub. I’d like to pay tribute to everyone involved with getting Highcroft Community Centre back on its feet, and I hope this grant from Western Power will help them to continue that process.”

Highcroft Sports and Social Club was a firm favourite of Erdingtonians for decades, however, dwindling membership numbers meant the club was not viable, however, now running as a community centre the place is appealing for local people and groups to use its facilities.

Western Power Distribution’s donated the money to the community centre from its In This Together – Community Matters Fund which was set up at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown to support grass root organisations in delivering care to vulnerable people and families.

The fund supported 300 organisations with £500,000 funding and asked MPs to nominate deserving community projects, another £250,000 has now being allocated to good causes across the country.  

Alison Sleightholm, Western Power Distribution’s Resources and External Affairs Director, said: “Highcroft Community Centre is a multi-function community hub offering space for local groups to run activities from wellbeing, recreation, community development including cricket.

The funding will be used as a contribution to refurbishing the games room in the centre which will enable greater usage of this vibrant hub in a challenged ward.”

She added: “Throughout this crisis we have worked tirelessly to support our local communities and keep the energy flowing to our 7.9 million customers.

The crisis is far from over and as we enter the next phase of the UK’s response to the pandemic, we’re delighted that 92 MPs in our regions have nominated deserving causes for up to £1,500 of funding.” 

For more information on Highcroft Community Centre, visit www.highcroftcommunitycentre.co.uk

For more on Western Power Distribution, visit www.westernpower.co.uk

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NEWS: Save Short Heath Playing Fields ‘grass cutting protest’ rained off, but local residents still brave bad weather to challenge Council’s development plans

Words, pics & video by Ed King

On Saturday 3rd October, the campaign to Save Short Heath Playing Fields had planned a ‘grass cutting protest’ on Short Heath Playing Fields – an innovative show of community spirit, that would both tidy up the overgrown parkland and once again show Birmingham City Council just how important the green space is to local residents.

The idea was simple: if Birmingham City Council won’t cut the long grass, then the community will – armed with hand held gardening equipment and household scissors.

Organised by Short Heath Fields Trust, the whole event was planned within coronavirus safety criteria – with an official COVID-19 Marshall, Estelle Murphy, overseeing the event.

Sadly, horrendous rain and bitter winds forced the campaigners to cut short the event – worrying about the health and wellbeing of people spending an afternoon outside in the early Winter weather.

But despite the dark skies and freezing cold, over 50 local residents still made their way to Short Heath Playing Fields – to stand alongside their community and continue their fight to save the beloved parkland from property developers.

Today, our community humbled me,” tells Estelle Murphy. “From toddlers to pensioners, they showed up in the pouring rain – soaked through and sinking in mud. It was unsafe to continue with the protest, but had we asked it of them they would have been on their hands and knees cutting the grass.

Our community has the heart of a lion, ready to protect each other and not afraid to stand up and speak out. If I could ask on question of Birmingham City Council today it would be ‘Can you hear us now?’”

Organised by the Short Heath Fields Trust (a recently formed community action group, dedicated to protecting the 26,912 square metres of cherished green space) the grass cutting protest is the latest series of local resident led endeavours to save Short Heath Playing Fields.

Once earmarked for the use of local schools, and left in the Department of Education’s portfolio, Birmingham City Council is now planning to move the land into housing – allowing for the development of potentially 84 new buildings on the beloved green space.

But the message coming from campaigners and the wider community is clear, with over 1500 people signing a petition against the proposed developments – handed to the Council on 15th September.  

Please Birmingham City Council, listen to the people in this area,” asks Steve Hughes – a representative for Short Heath Fields Trust and one of the coordinators for the ‘grass cutting protest’, “and understand that there is a real need for a green space here.

It’s desperately wanted, it’s desperately loved, and we want it to be here for ever… not lost forever.”

Erdington Councillor Robert Alden has also been challenging the proposed sale and development of Short Heath Playing Fields – contesting the lack of public consultation and appropriate use of public land.

We’re here today to show the need to get these grounds maintained, to get the grass cut, so people during COVID can come out and use them,” tells Councillor Alden – speaking from Short Heath Playing Fields, during the storm that forced the grass cutting protest to be cancelled. “But also, to stop the Council form building on them (Short heath Playing Fields)

We’ve had dozens of people here despite the weather, and it’s great to see how much support there is form the community. We’re right behind the (Short Heath Fields) Trust and we hope the Council will finally listen to what they’re putting forward.”

Despite the setback on Saturday 3rd October, with the grass cutting protest being cancelled, campaigners continue to challenge Birmingham City Council’s plans to develop a housing estate on Short Heath Playing Fields.

Short Heath Fields Trust are looking to host a COVID safe Halloween event on the playing fields later in the month, giving children in the local area a chance to enjoy the spooky celebration whilst staying socially distanced.

‘Grass cutting protest’ rained off, but community spirits undampened to Save Short Heath Playing Fields

For more information about the campaign to Save Short Heath Playing Fields, visit the group’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/groups/1007069176404521

To further support the Save Short Heath Playing Fields campaign, you can donate through the official GoFundMe fundraising platform: www.gofundme.com/f/save-short-heath-playing-fields

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NEWS: Erdington Academy given green light for £6.8m expansion to cater for 300 more pupils

Words by Adam Smith

Erdington Academy has been given the go-ahead to increase the number of its pupils from 900 to 1,200 after Birmingham City Council agreed to inject nearly £6.8 million into the school.

The Kingsbury Road secondary school will be refurbished and a brand new two story teaching block will be built on site – with work beginning next month and completed by Christmas 2021.

The new teaching block will include science labs and prep rooms, a drama teaching space, staff work rooms, office space and new staff and pupil toilets.

Birmingham City Council’s cabinet approved the £6,825,463 capital investment after a report from Dr Tim O’Neill, Director for Education and Skills, which said the authority had “a statutory duty to ensure that there are sufficient pupil places.”

The near £7m bill will be paid for from the Department for Education (DfE) Basic Need Grant and School Condition Grant.

However, consequential revenue costs arising from additional places including additional staffing, utility costs and any on-going day to day repair and maintenance will be the responsibility of Erdington Academy.

Balfour Beatty has been chosen as the construction partner for the scheme and ground is set to be broken at the school on November 23.

Councillor Jayne Francis, cabinet member for education, skills and culture, backed the new investment into Erdington Academy.

She said: “We have a duty to ensure that sufficient school places are available in our city.

Erdington Academy currently has 900 pupils, and the proposal is to expand two forms of entry to 1,200 places for pupils aged 11 to 16 years old.

There’s been a slight delay with planning, so it will be heard toward the end of September and once secured we will be able to carry on with completion of the work.”

Erdington Academy (formerly Kingsbury School and Sports College) converted to an Academy within the Fairfax Multi Academy Trust (FMAT) in 2016.

To find out more about Erdington Academy visit www.erdingtonacademy.bham.sch.uk

For more on Fairfax Multi Academy Trust (FMAT), visit www.fmat.co.uk

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NEWS: Socially distanced ‘grass cutting protest’ to be held on Short Heath Playing Fields

Words & pics by Ed King

On Saturday 3rd October, around 50 local residents are holding a socially distanced ‘grass cutting protest’ on Short Heath Playing Fields in Erdington – continuing their fight to save the ‘beloved parkland’ from property developers.

Meeting at 2pm, friends and families from the local community will organise themselves on Short Heath Playing Fields – cutting the overgrown grass with handheld gardening tools and scissors.

The ‘grass cutting protest’ is being organised after Birmingham City Council’s refusal to cut the long grass, or to allow privately owned motorised equipment onto the land – such as lawn mowers.

Organised by the Short Heath Fields Trust (a recently formed community action group, dedicated to protecting the 26,912 square metres of cherished green space) the demonstration will be following all the coronavirus crisis guidelines – ensuring the community endeavour is fully COVID-19 safe.

Campaigners are wanting to help make the area more accessible for local children and elderly residents, by stripping back the long grass and thistles to encourage healthy outdoor activities for people of all ages.

In a statement from Short Heath Fields Trust, representing the wider community, protest organisers Estelle Murphy and Stephen Hughes say:

We have asked Birmingham City Council to cut the grass on Short Heath Playing Fields, so that whilst our community cannot meet in their homes and gardens (due to coronavirus restrictions) they have a space to be outside and safe.

There is a fight going on to save Short Heath playing fields, as Birmingham city Council want to build a housing estate on the beloved park land. But in the interim we can see no reason why the green space cannot be used to help keep local residents healthy and happy during this global pandemic.

As the Council have refused to help make the playing fields safer and more accessible, and won’t allow any third party to help with the appropriate motorised equipment, we have organised this grass cutting protest to help everyone in our community.”

The ‘grass cutting protest’ is the latest challenge to Birmingham City Council, following outrage across the community about the proposed housing development on the park land.

There have been further concerns about the lack of community consultation, with many local residents not being informed about the huge housing development that would take place on their doorstep.

In July 2019, Birmingham City Council sought approval to ‘dispose’ of the park land from the Department of Education’s portfolio – where it had been held as playing fields for local schools, including Court Farm Primary and St Mary Margaret Primary.

So far, the campaign to Save Short Heath Playing Fields has attracted thousands of supporters across the Erdington constituency – including a petition signed by 1500 local residents, that was presented to Birmingham City Council on Tuesday 15th September.

Erdington Councillor and leader of the Birmingham Conservatives, Robert Alden, has also been challenging the proposed developments in Council meetings for months.

Short Heath Playing Fields are vital to the local area,” says Councillor Alden. “They are a green lung – that helps clean our air, helps provide residents with an area to go to help exercise, and improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing.

In the post Covid-19 world even the Council admits that it is vital to provide green space yet despite us making it clear to them at numerous Council meetings and in petitions presented to Council that Erdington and Perry Common have a shortage the Council refuse to scrap their crazy plans to build on this valuable green space.”

Erdington’s Labour MP, Jack Dromey, has also called on the Council to listen to the concerns of local residents.

It is clear the Council have not done a good enough job of consulting with concerned residents,” states Jack Dromey, “and local people understandably feel that they have been ignored and the sense of anger is palpable.

Going forward, I will continue to argue that it would be wrong to go ahead with these proposals without proper consultation that involves local voices at every stage.”

Campaigners continue to challenge Birmingham City Council’s plans to develop a housing estate on Short Heath Playing Fields.

For more information about the campaign to Save Short Heath Playing Fields, visit the group’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/groups/1007069176404521

To further support the Save Short Heath Playing Fields campaign, you can donate through the official GoFundMe fundraising platform: www.gofundme.com/f/save-short-heath-playing-fields

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NEWS: Dying Castle Vale schoolgirl’s EuroDisney wish sparks massive community fundraising effort

Words by Adam Smith / Pics supplied by Keena Cespedes

A dying Castle Vale schoolgirl’s wish to see EuroDisney is a step closer after £4,600 was raised in a month by big-hearted friends, family, and the community.

Six-year-old Kionne Holding, who has an incurable rare form of epilepsy, wants to go meet the Little Mermaid with the rest of her family – but due the specialist disability travel arrangements the holiday could cost £10,000.

However, when her mother Keena Cespedes, who has been at her daughter’s side for the last 93 days at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, launched a GoFundMe page (Kionne’s Fund) in August there was an overwhelming response.

Click here or on the hyperlink above to visit the GoFundMe page – Kionne’s Fund

Kionne’s Fund has inspired online music festival fundraisers, reggae brunches, and raffles. Family friend Lee Crofts is also undertaking a sponsored ‘Castle Vale to Paris Triathlon’ which has so far raised £1,600.

Keena, aged 37, told Erdington Local: “I can’t even begin to say how amazing people have been since I told people about Kionne, friends, family, and strangers have sent me messages of support and my daughter presents.

I put up the GoFundMe page without thinking anything would happen, I would have been happy with £50 but it feels like the whole of Castle Vale has got involved, as well as people across Birmingham.

We have now raised more than £4,600. I know times are hard for people, so it really means a lot people are donating.”

Keena remembers Kionne as a bubbly, funny, lovable child before last November when she suddenly began having seizures and headaches. Two months later she was diagnosed with small tumor on her brain and a rare form of epilepsy called Lennox Gasture Syndrome.

Her condition deteriorated and she in the last nine months she’s lost the ability to walk, talk and eat. Doctors have given her various drugs, treatments, and alternative remedies but all to no avail.

Keena said: “Due to all the drugs she is on she does not understand what is being done for her and all the love people have for her, but we still are hoping to take her to EuroDisney with her sisters.”

Tragically Keena has already had to have a conversation with specialists about Kionne’s end of life care.

She said: “This syndrome has taken everything away from her and is slowly killing my baby. She is unable to walk, eat for herself, and now her speech is going. She now speaks like a three-year-old not a six-year-old. She cannot be treated and there is no cure. I’m coming to terms with my baby dying and the little time we have left with her.

All I want to do now is make her life as amazing as possible and one way is to get her on holiday with her sisters who she loves so much.”

And due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kionne has been unable to get visits and cuddles from her three sisters.

Keena added: “Only I can go and visit her because of COVID-19, Kionne misses her sisters and they miss her but there is nothing that can be done about that – that is why it would be wonderful if we could all go away together. We would need specialist care when we are there and have to stay in adapted hotels, but it can be done and we are hoping to go early next year now.”

Castle Vale fundraiser Lee Crofts has now cycled the distance from “The Ressies to Dover” and also organised a reggae brunch at Minworth Social Club.

He said: “We’ve had amazing gestures of support with events, raffles set up, prize donations, and raised £500 in a day.

The little superhero is fighting the hardest fight of all, so let’s make the dark days a little brighter and give her. Her wish of a holiday with her sisters to make some priceless memories.”

To sponsor Lee as he continues his bid to cycle, run and walk the distance to Paris, click here to visit the Kionne’s Wish PayPal page.

The Chivenor Primary School pupil has touched the hearts of the nurses at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where she has been for the last three months.

Nurse Victoria Mulligan posted on the GoFundMe page: ‘I have had the pleasure of looking after Kionne and every shift she brightened my day with a massive smile and huge hug.

‘She holds on to you so that you can’t leave her side, she sings to you, she makes you laugh, she is super brave and absolutely deserves to go on holiday which will never make up for all she has gone through but will give her and her family an experience of happiness to remember forever.’

For more information or to donate to Kionne’s Fund visit: www.gofundme.com/f/kionnes-fund

To sponsor Lee Crofts – as he cycles, runs and walks the distance to Paris – visit the Kionne’s Wish PayPal page here: www.tiny.cc/qpaysz   

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NEWS: Mystery surrounds two near drownings in two days in Pype Hayes Park “after 40 years without incident”

Words & pics by Adam Smith

Mystery surrounds the bizarre near double drowning of two people in two days in Pype Hayes Park lake – despite no one reportedly being fished out the water for “more than forty years.”

Last Friday week, a man was rescued from the water by emergency services and flown by air ambulance to hospital. Then, merely 24hrs later, a woman had to be saved from the lake and was rushed to hospital on the Saturday.

Witnesses claimed the woman had stripped off by the side of the lake, then ran naked into the two metre deep water – during one of the hottest days of the year, as the park was packed with families enjoying an unexpected heatwave.

During both incidents, crowds gathered at the Erdington park to watch the incidents play out as emergency services descended en masse.

Malcolm Moore, who runs the popular Pype Hayes Park Information, News and Views Facebook page, saw the woman being taken away to hospital by an ambulance with a police escort.

He told Erdington Local: “It has been years since anyone was pulled out the pool. For two in two days was really strange, after forty years without an incident like this.

People claimed to have seen the woman run into the water naked and there are some people who think the water should be fenced off, but I cannot see how this would be done.

In the 1974 the body of a care worker who worked at the children’s home was found in the grounds of the park.”

The police diverted the unusually large amount of resources to the park after posts on social media mistakenly claimed one of the incidents was ‘a stabbing.’

Tyburn Police Sergeant, Richard Edkins, wrote to Pype Hayes residents on Monday 21st September to explain the massive amount of police cars and vans at the park over the weekend.

He said: ‘On Friday, the police and the ambulance service were called to the lake in Pype Hayes Park to reports of a person in the lake. The person in question was dealt with by the police and the ambulance service and taken to hospital accordingly.

‘Then, on Saturday, in what appeared to be a very similar incident, the police, fire and ambulance service attended the same lake in Pype Hayes to reports of another person in the lake.

‘The air ambulance attended and landed in the park and the person was again taken to hospital.’

He added: ‘Police have investigated both incidents, speaking to witnesses and to family members of those involved and we are satisfied at this stage that there is no criminal element to either of the incidents and there are no suspicions of foul play. Both the people involved are being treated accordingly at hospital.

‘There is nothing to suggest a link between the two incidents other than that they both happened at the same lake area in the park.’

On Monday Sgt Edkins sent two PCSOs to Pype Hayes to ‘provide reassurance to those who frequent the park.’

He added: ‘On behalf of the police service I would like to thank all of those who called us about the incidents and those who helped the two persons involved as well as those who helped provide witness statements to help our investigation.  

‘The fire and ambulance service also asked us to pass on their thanks to the members of the public and the residents that helped.’

Pype Hayes Councillor Mike Sharpe added: “The emergency services did a great job over the weekend. Two people being rescued in two days is very rare, Pype Hayes Park is really popular and a lot of people use it.”

On average 400 people drown every year in the UK and a further 200 people take their own lives in lakes, canals, and rivers.

Local contacted West Midlands Police and Good Hope Hospital for an update on the condition of the two people rescued from the lake on Thursday and Friday but both organisations refused to give an update.

For more on Pype Hayes Park, visit https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/directory_record/9143/pype_hayes_park

To join the Pype Hayes Park Information, News and Views Facebook page, visit www.facebook.com/PypeHayesPark

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