NEWS: Business is pawsitivley booming for Erdington Pet Centre

Words by Keat Moore / Pics by Keat Moore and Ed King

Erdington Pet Centre has been catering to the needs of Erdington’s pet lovers for the past 10 years and has continued to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic. Erdington Local went to find out more about the store and what affect the lockdown has had on their business.

Erdington Pet Centre / Ed King

We’ve actually got busier,” says owner Paul Beresford, “when it started, we had lots of people panic buying and we were really busy. But after a little while it quietened down, and we’ve managed to keep that busier pace.”  

On the list businesses exempt from lockdown restrictions, pet stores have been kept open across the UK – providing the food, medicine, and exercise essentials for thousands of furry friends. But at Erdington Pet Centre, the stay at home message has some seen some unexpected increases in sales.

We’ve sold an awful lot of fish tanks and we’ve seen an upturn in wild birdseed as well,” explains Mr Beresford, “which I think is due to people looking for new hobbies whilst at home and spending more time in their gardens.”

Paul Beresford - Erdington Pet Centre / Keat MooreCompared to most of the shops on the High Street, Erdington Pet Centre is one of the few without a queue – which Mr Beresford says has helped bring in new customers: “We’re seeing a lot of new faces, sometimes from out of the area, so we’ve got no complaints.”

He has also found the Government’s support for small businesses to be especially useful during the lockdown, “the Government has helped us tremendously, especially the reduction in business rates and the small business grants – they’ve been a big help.” 

But Mr Beresford says he’s been surprised at just how many people are still out shopping: “I have another shop in Wolverhampton, which I’ve actually closed as it was the opposite to here – there’s no one around in Wolves town centre, it’s dead.” 

Erdington Pet Centre / Ed KingThe busyness of Erdington High Street has been an area of concern for both the police and the community; Birmingham City Council recently implemented new road markings and erected barriers to widen the footpaths and help enforce physical distancing guidelines.

But at Erdington Pet Centre, Mr Beresford doesn’t see it being too much of a problem, “I think there’s possibly more people about in Erdington than needs to be. But on the whole, I think they’re being sensible and respecting social distancing.”   

Erdington Pet Centre can be found at 117 High Street, Erdington. Its trading hours, including during lockdown, are between 9.00 am to 5.00 pm – Monday to Saturday. To contact Erdington Pet Centre, telephone: (0121) 373 1323

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NEWS: Joshua’s Convenience Store offers free deliveries to ‘elderly and vulnerable’ local residents

Words by Jobe Baker-Sullivan / Pics by Ed King

Joshua’s Convenience Store, on Boldmere Road, are offering free deliveries for ‘the elderly and the vulnerable’ – helping people access food and provisions during the coronavirus crisis.

A sign in the front window states: ‘At Joshua’s, we are willing to deliver to the elderly and the vulnerable. Please contact us on any of the numbers below. We have enough supplies to cater for those most in need. We won’t charge for delivery. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.’

People can contact Joshua’s through both the shop’s landline number and a mobile: (0121) 373 0113 or 07513 712 083

Simple acts of kindness can go a long way, and across Erdington and Sutton Coldfield local businesses have been adapting to best serve their community and customers in the face of COVID-19.

We help deliver to about 10 vulnerable and elderly people per day,” explains Tariq Mahmood, whose family have owned and run Joshua’s Convenience Store since 2007, “it’s heart-warming. It’s good to do a service for the community.”

Tariq explains that whilst most of his customers are local to the Erdington/Sutton Coldfield area, the sign has been posted by some of the shop’s regulars across their own social media – leading to calls for deliveries to people self-isolating outside of the immediate area.

But Joshua’s is still widely used by the people of Boldmere – alongside the stacked shelves of food, drinks, and household essentials, the shop can also take bill payments, has a cash machine, and runs paper deliveries to local residents.

And whilst smaller convenience stores have historically struggled to compete with large supermarkets, especially in terms of price and popularity, being a family owned business allows Joshua’s to be more flexible to their customer’s needs.

All we want now is a post office,” tells Tariq heartily, “I now have to work an extra three hours a day; I visit multiple warehouses to find the goods my customers need. Flour, pasta, and toilet roll are all in short supply still, but you just have to get on with it and do your best.”

Joshua’s Convenience Store is located at 392 Boldmere Rd, B73 5EZ. To contact Joshua’s, you can call (0121) 373 0113 or 07513 712 083

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NEWS: Jump the queues (and language barriers) for Erdington essentials at Janosik

Words by Jobe Baker-Sullivan / Pics by Jobe Baker-Sullivan and Ed King

Queues on Erdington High Street are now an all too familiar sight, as shops encourage social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many Eastern European shops, however, remain accessible without too much queueing – stocking an abundance of the basic necessities that supermarkets now sometimes lack.

Janosik, situated at 203 High Street in Erdington, is a grocery store that caters for the Polish community. There is a queue outside, but not for this ‘polski sklep’ (polish shop): it’s for Lloyds bank next door.

Full of food, drink, and household essentials, Erdington Local explores the shelves at Janosik – one of Erdington’s many polish shops where a language barrier might be the only thing slowing down your shopping.

Bread (chleb) is found at the back of the store – fresh, sliced, and easy to spot. Polish people also like to make their own bread and pastries, and there’s a large selection of wheat flour (mąka, the ą gives it a sound more like ‘monka’) on the shelves at Janosik – a staple that’s been disappearing from supermarkets across the region, as many people have begun baking at home during lockdown.

Pasta is also in abundance – specialties, as well as simple ‘farfalle’ priced 400g for 99p.

For milk (mleko), the most common choice popular brand UHT Łaciate [pronounced ‘wa-chya-the’). But don’t get caught out by ‘kefir’ – it might look like normal milk from the packaging, but it’s more like a thin yoghurt that’s used in baking.

It’s good for a hangover!” chimes in Krystian, a helpful regular customer. Krystian visits the shop every couple of days for his basic amenities.

The beer is cheaper here than the Co-op,” he boasts, “and there’s a lovely selection of treats” pointing to the shelves of biscuits and chocolate.

Drworek is a brand of soup (zupa). “It’s like the Polish ready-meal,” says Krystian. Pomidorowa (tomato) and kapuśniak (cabbage) are easy to heat in the pan and serve 3-4 portions.

Most of the products in Janosik are Polish, with a small selection of Romanian items available at the back of the store – such as Zacuscă, a vegetable spread that goes nicely on that fresh chleb (bread).

But there are many basic household products that you can buy in Janosik, everyday essentials, that are all too familiar on shopping lists across Erdington. The shop also boasts a pharmacy, a fresh meat counter, and a variety of other foodstuffs.

Shopping at Janosik, and other Eastern European shops, in Erdington might be the perfect way to avoid those High Street queues – whilst supporting more of our local businesses during lockdown.

To find out more about Janosik, situated at 203 Erdington High Street, visit their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/JANOSIKSUPERSTORE/

For more about the Polish community across Birmingham, visit the Polish Expats Association at www.facebook.com/polish.expats

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NEWS: Serving up 25% discounts for NHS workers at Walter Smith Fine Foods

Words by Keat Moore / Pics by Keat Moore and Ed King

Walter Smith Fine Foods has always been a familiar sight on Erdington High Street and has been serving generations of families from the community for the last 80 years.

It’s also one of the few butcher shops in the area to remain open during the COVID-19 lockdown, continuing its commitment to its customers by offering a free delivery service and a 25% discount for all NHS staff.

Erdington Local caught up with Mark Healy, the store manager, to find out more about the butcher’s life during the lockdown.

The first week was chaos,” says Mark, “we had loads of panic buying and fighting, we had to put limits in place, in the end, to stop customers trying to buy 50lbs of mince!”

Things have, thankfully, calmed down since then. But Mark says they’re still busy and they’ve even seen a 40% increase in sales, “we’ve actually won a lot of friends in this climate and we’re serving customers we’ve never seen before.

The uptick has primarily come from the delivery service that Walter Smith have been offering since the lockdown began; customers can call the shop, place an order, pay over the phone, and have fresh produce delivered to their door the following Friday.

It’s been really popular” Mark explains, “I think it took off really well due to the 2-3 week wait for online orders through the big supermarkets,” which has been a real issue for many vulnerable people across Erdington, as well as staff feeding residents of local care homes.

Walter Smith is also offering a 25% discount to all NHS staff, as a way of showing support and appreciation for the work they’re doing in the fight against COVID-19 – a gesture which has been especially popular in Erdington, as many of the Walter Smith regular customers are NHS workers.

Walter Smith Fine Foods is currently open Monday – Saturday, 8.30 am until 4.30 pm. For more information, visit www.waltersmith.co.uk or call 0121 373 0457

To find Walter Smith Fne Foods on Facebook, visit www.facebook.com/waltersmithff

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NEWS: India Garden Restaurant gifts food parcels to over 60’s across Erdington

Words by Jobe Baker-Sullivan / Pics by Ed King

India Garden is a restaurant that prides itself on serving classic Indian dishes, specialties, and desserts.

Located at 992 Tyburn Road, India Garden Restaurant has been involved in catering for over 35 years – suppling large Council venues and supermarket chains, as well as operating their popular Erdington based restaurant.

But as the scare of COVID-19 was first hitting the country, the family run business began helping neighbours who were struggling to buy goods from supermarkets – using their own stock, alongside established links with their suppliers.

Now India Garden are delivering free food parcels to over 60’s in Erdington – packed with essential goods including hand sanitizer and loo rolls, as well as a hot meal from their own kitchens.

We’ve been here (in Erdington) for a long time and it’s the locals that have supported the business,” tells Shaan Deen, India Garden’s Operations Manager, “and we thought we’ve got to do something.

So, we thought, 60 plus, anybody, free of charge… we’re just going to give them food parcels with essential items – a hot meal, curry, rice, bread, and then all the hand sanitizers, loo rolls, baked beans… and whatever else we can. So that’s what we did.”

India Garden began telling existing customers about their ‘coronavirus campaign’ over the phone, but news of their good will soon gained a lot of attention on social media.

We threw it onto Facebook and it just blew up from there,” continues Shaan, “people started tagging, and we started getting lots of enquires. Genuinely they wanted to donate; I can give ₤100, I can give ₤50. And we said we don’t want your money, but we need the manpower – if you can come and help us deliver, then give us a shout.”

India Garden now have 72 volunteers helping them deliver care packages to around 211 people, with teams going out five days a week.

It wouldn’t be possible without the volunteers, from the local area,” continues Shaan. “People were saying ‘we only live up the road – we live in Castle Vale; we live on Paget Road…. And before we knew it, we’d gathered a lot of volunteers. I want to highlight that; the volunteers play a big part. They’re good people.”

The restaurant have also launched their ‘Tag a Hero’ campaign, encouraging social media followers to tag NHS workers – winning frontline staff a free, sumptuous, Indian meal, delivered to their door.

To find out more about India Garden Restaurant, who are still open for takeaway orders, visit www.indiagardenrestaurant.co.uk

Or visit the India Garden Facebook page, where you can ‘tag a hero’ and help NHS frontline workers win a free meal www.facebook.com/IndiaGardenBirmingham

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NEWS: Funding of up to £10000 now available for projects to support Erdington’s older residents during the coronavirus crisis

Words by Steve Sharma

Grants are now available to Erdington organisations delivering COVID-19 support services for older residents.

As the pandemic continues to impact life across the constituency, the Erdington Neighbourhood Network Scheme (NNS) is calling out to groups who could provide vital services for the over-50s.

To apply for funding, which can range from micro grants of up to £2000 and up to £10000 for larger projects, organisations are being asked to contact one of two local community service organisations – acting as gatekeepers for the wider Erdington NNS.

If based in Perry Common, Kingstanding, Erdington or Stockland Green, groups should contact Witton Lodge Community Association – based at Perry Common Community Hall.

Whilst groups working in Castle Vale, Pype Hayes, Gravelly Hill or again Stockland Green, should contact Compass Support – the charitable arm of The Pioneer Group, based in Castle Vale.

Since the launch of Erdington NNS in September 2019, more than a dozen groups have received funding to deliver activities and provision – helping reduce isolation and boost wellbeing among the district’s older generation.

But with the social distancing regulations imposed around coronavirus, as many venues that house social engagement and group activities close their doors due to the pandemic, there is concern that residents who are vulnerable and in need of help are not being reached.

Groups are invited to apply for funding to establish activities and support services which benefit the health and wellbeing of older people living in Erdington,” explains Debbie Bates, Health and Wellbeing Lead at Witton Lodge Community Association. “In addition to these services, gaps have been identified in activities and provision in a few specific areas where urgent support is needed. 

We are appealing for organisations who could deliver COVID-19 support services and invite organisations who are able to help, to get in contact and apply.”

Addressing a range of social and care concerns for older residents, the Erdington NNS funding wants to support groups who challenge issues including health, wellbeing, bereavement, and domestic violence – alongside anti-social behaviour and the effect it can have on the wider community.

People can become isolated in many ways,” explains Sarah Powers, Health & Wellbeing Team Leader at Compass Support, part of The Pioneer Group, “it could be through the loss of a spouse, declining health, illness, disability or caring responsibilities, discrimination, prejudice and cultural isolation. We understand that chronic loneliness is not only horrible to experience day in, day out, but left unaddressed it can have a devastating effect on a person’s health and wellbeing.

This grant is a fantastic opportunity to better connect people and deliver meaningful outcomes to older, local residents. Whether the project provides access to emotional support or community engagement, all bids are welcome to help people aged 50+ to lead independent, happy and healthy lives.”

To find out more about the Erdington Neighbourhood Network Scheme (NNS), visit https://wittonlodge.org.uk/new-network-scheme-boosts-erdington-residents/

If you run a group in Perry Common, Kingstanding, Erdington or Stockland Green, and want to apply for funding from the Erdington NNS, please email Debbie.bates@wittonlodge.org.uk

If you run a group in Castle Vale, Pype Hayes, Gravelly Hill or Stockland Green, please email: Donna.ebanks@compass-support.org.uk

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NEWS: Erdington’s John Taylor Hospice operates central support hub for regionwide palliative and end of life care

Words by Ed King / Pics courtesy of John Taylor Hospice Erdington

John Taylor Hospice, in Erdington, is housing a new centralised support hub for people across Birmingham and Solihull – helping deliver regionwide palliative and end of life care during the coronavirus crisis.

Comprised of approximately 40 specialists from John Taylor Hospice, Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, and the Marie Curie Hospice, the central hub has a rotating team of support staff available by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Named Hospices of Birmingham and Solihull (HoBS), the hub operates a live telephone bank and email service where people can reach a team of specialist nurses at any point, day or night – alongside palliative care consultants, healthcare assistants, social workers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and administrators.

Working with other healthcare providers across Birmingham and Solihull, the HoBS team are on hand for patients or family members who need advice, community support, or admittance to one of the three hospices’ Inpatient Units for round-the-clock care.

The HoBS team will then ensure, depending on individual needs, the required care can be provided – either at people’s homes or at the hospices themselves, providing a range of care options in line with guidelines from Public Heath England.

As huge demand is put on all NHS services due to the coronavirus pandemic, Hospices of Birmingham and Solihull is a collaborative approach to palliative and end of life care – with health care providers across the region pooling their resources to provide support for those facing life threatening and terminal illnesses.

With regular updates and specialist information coming directly from the Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group, staff at the HoBS hub are working from the most up to date medical advice and guidence – further supporting patients and families across the region, as hospitals and hospices are self-isolating to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Across Birmingham and Solihull we have hundreds of specialist hospice staff who will be on call for people, both day and night,” explains Rachel O’Connor, Assistant Chief Executive of Birmingham and Solihull Sustainability and Transformation Partnership. “Our three adult hospices have seen the current need and acted rapidly to meet that. Working together we can provide the very best of expert care for people at the end of their lives.

Our aim is to ensure that individuals, their families and professionals receive joined-up and easy to navigate advice, support and access to care across from our dedicated and compassionate hospice teams when they need it the most.”

To reach the Hospices of Birmingham and Solihull helpline, available 24hrs a day and seven days a week, you can telephone (0121) 809 1900 or email hobs.referral@nhs.net

St Giles Hospice’s existing advice and referral centre will continue to operate, including its referral pathway – accessible by calling 0330 330 9410

For more on John Taylor Hospice in Erdington, visit www.johntaylorhospice.org.uk

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NEWS: Witton Lodge Community Association delivers key support services online

Words by Steve Sharma / Pics by Ed King

To counter the impact of the lockdown imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) is now delivering its key support services online.

People who need help, advice, and guidance around employment and health & wellbeing can now access a range of WLCA’s services, tools, and resources via platforms like Facebook, Zoom, and WhatsApp.

Employment and Engagement Officer, Dellano Lewis, launched the new era with a Facebook Live session.

This has now been complemented by regular WhatsApp group employment support sessions, Employment Support workshops on Zoom, and Health & Wellbeing Zoom Support Group meetings.

Full details about the online resources and services Witton Lodge Community Association are delivering can be found via a dedicated COVID-19 page on the WLCA website, alongside details of the Erdington Emergency Assets Register – a wider list of businesses and volunteer groups offering support during the coronavirus crisis.

Iram Fardus, Business Development and Performance Manager for Witton Lodge Community Association, said it is vital people still have access to services and provisions.

“The circumstances we find ourselves in make it even more important that we reach and connect with people to give them the support and information they need,” explains Fardus.

“While these are unprecedented times people’s needs remain a priority for us and we know from the conversations we’re having with clients that having access to support services is absolutely critical right now.

“Knowing there is someone out there you can talk to, who can help you, is a massive boost for people who would otherwise be cut off from the support they are dependent on.

“And while the focus is on service delivery around employment and wellbeing, it’s just as important – in the current climate – to offer people the chance to connect and engage with others.”

For details of all online workshops, sessions and group meetings being delivered by Witton Lodge Community Association – and how to access them – please visit the organisation’s COVID-19 web page at www.wittonlodge.org.uk/covid19-news-information-and-resources

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NEWS: Erdington Arts Forum presents an online Evening of Creativity

Words by Ed King / Pics courtesy of Erdington Arts Forum

On Friday 17th April, Erdington Arts Forum will be hosting their monthly Evening of Creativity online – edited for a special broadcast through the Erdington Arts Forum/Café Arts Facebook Page, from 7:30pm.

This month sees a rich and diverse line up including live music, performance poetry, and visual art – presenting a series of special sets that have been recorded and sent from the artist’s own houses and studios.

Appearing at this month’s Evening of Creativity will be the ever popular Barbara Nice, who will be using her own twinkle in the eye storytelling for a riotous set of comedy and tall tales – delivered directly from her home to yours.

Also performing will be saxophonist George Northall, who has previously toured with rock legends Black Sabbath and will be presenting his own special solo set.

Families make up the rest of the musical line up, with father and son duo The Shearers playing their own brand of indie folk – alongside some tried and tested feel good classics. Whilst The Hendersons, father and daughter, complete the live music line up with their own brand of ‘floral jazz’.

Perfomance poet Empress P will also be recording a special set of spoken word and verse, adding exra flavour to the night’s artistic melting pot.

Alongside the live music and poetry, the event will feature presentations throughout the evening from local visual artists, including pieces from Jennette Hill, Ramona Petrescu, Andy Spencer, and Simon Walker.

Having run since 2017, Erdington Arts Forum’s Evening of Creativity has become a regular fixture in Erdington – hosted every month by its founder, Jobe Baker-Sullivan.

Committed to supporting artists across the constituency, as well as introducing new performers and acts to the area, each Evening of Creativity is a unique showcase event – curated with care for the people of North East Birmingham and beyond.

Usually hosted by the OIKOS Café on Erdington High Street, the regular musical and performance evenings have been held every month since their inception – even during the coronavirus crisis.

But due to the social distancing restrictions put in place by Public Health England, last month’s event was streamed from a special Secret Arts Space on Erdington High Street – as featured in the video below.

This month’s Evening of Creativity has expanded the line up with pre-recorded sets from artists across the city – to be broadcast via the Erdington Arts Forum/Café Arts Facebook page from 7:30pm on Friday 17th April.

Erdington Arts Forum’s Evening of Creativity – Friday 20th March

Evening of Creativity – SASS

We're livestreaming from the SASS [Secret art space studios] in Erdington to bring you the Evening of Creativity – as planned – although with the slight interruption of Covid-19… Thank you to Ship of Fools and Ire-ish who were still able to make the gig! All public gigs are cancelled, but we hope to continue to support our musicians & artists with opprotunities – and most importantly – funds, when time allows. Please donate to Active Arts as normal. Your donation means a lot!:Active Arts Castle ValeLLoyd's Bankaccount: 00543207sort code: 30-00-03

Posted by CAFE Arts Forum on Friday, 20 March 2020

To find out more about and Erdington Arts Forum and their regular Evening of Creativity events, and to watch this month’s event at 7:30pm on Friday 17th April, visit www.facebook.com/CAFEartsforum

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NEWS: Erdington Local launches online newspaper – reporting ‘real life news’ from the heart of North East Birmingham

On Monday 5th April, Erdington Local launches its new online newspaper – covering the ‘real life news’ that affects residents and businesses across North East Birmingham.

Originally planned for June this year, both online and as a printed newspaper, Erdington Local has brought forward its web based news to report on the coronavirus crisis – with a special Erdington Local film crew covering the community’s response to the global pandemic.

Erdington Local’s first stories will be following the Erdington COVID-19 Taskforce, with a special report published on Tuesday 7th April about the work delivered by Witton Lodge Community Association to support the most vulnerable residents in their community. More features will continue to look at the impact coronavirus has had on Erdington – highlighting the support services being provided by organisations and community groups across the area, as part of the Erdington Assets Register and the huge surge in volunteer led initiatives.

Based in the heart of the constituency, Erdington Local will be sending their news team out across all the Erdington wards – reporting on stories from Erdington, Castle Vale, Stockland Green, Gravelly Hill, Pype Hayes, Perry Common, and Kingstanding.

Fully independent, Erdington Local will be shining a light on what truly matters to the people of Erdington – featuring unbiased and reliable local news on schools, shops, sport, arts, music, community groups, crime and social disorder.

Erdington Local will also have a special news team dedicated to celebrating all the unsung achievements from everyday people across Erdington – as well as following the proud regeneration and developments that will build a bigger, brighter, and better future for the people of North East Birmingham.

A partnership between Active Arts and Review Publishing, organisations with over 20 years of experience celebrating communities and delivering trusted regional news, Erdington Local is 100% independent. But having already worked at the heart of North East Birmingham for over two decades, the new team have strong links to the organisations on the ground and leading the way – allowing Erdington Local to report from the frontline of major developments affecting the constituency.

Claire Marshall, Active Arts Project Director, says: “Erdington Local is a full independent newspaper, allowing us to report the real life news that matters to the people of Erdington – without any political spin or business bluff. There have been too many biased or negative news reports about the area, especially in the mainstream media, and Erdington Local is committed to putting the truth back at the centre of this community.

We want it to be a platform for everyone across Erdington, across all the wards; a place local people can find their voice and be heard across the city.”

Erdington Local has also be endorsed by the major political figures in the constituency, despite the newspaper having no political allegiance and remaining firmly independent.

On the launch of Erdington Local, Jack Dromey MP says: “I warmly welcome Erdington Local because it will provide a platform for the people of Erdington – to learn from one another, to celebrate all that is best in our community, and to stand together through these heart breaking times.”

And from the other side of the house, Councillor Robert Alden says: Erdington is a great place with a proud history. Having featured in the Doomsday book, Erdington has grown from an ancient Hamlet to a thriving urban suburb over the years.

There is so much positive that happens in our local area, residents going the extra mile, that sadly many people never hear about. So, it is wonderful to support this launch of Erdington Local. In the coming weeks and months, it will be great for some of the great work happening across Erdington to be given a platform so that more people can hear and engage with our home.”

Erdington Local is looking for stories from the heart of the community – if you know something you want to tell us about, or think we should send our reporters to investigate, then email mystory@erdingtonlocal.com

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