REVIEW: Erdington Arts Forum’s Evening of Creativity at Oikos Café, Friday 17 February

Words by Leni Remedios / Pics by Studio Creativity

Another stunning night at the last Evening of Creativity (EoC) at Oikos Café, Friday 17 February.

The theme of the night was the triangle, and the mesmerising instrument was indeed accompanying all the artists throughout the night, from music performances to poetry readings.

Opening the night was a brilliant young star of Erdington, Zach. The 16 year old musician delighted the room with two jazz piano pieces, a cover of a Bill Evans’s piece of music, and Zach’s own composition, inspired by his favourite jazz musicians. The young pianist said he also likes to explore other genres, such as samba and fusion. Mitch Thomas, a member of Erdington Arts Forum, accompanied him on the triangle.

Headliners of the evening were Forrό Tempo, who blend Brazilian music with European folk influences.

“We formed about 10 years ago,” Recardo, lead singer, disclosed after their gig, “thanks to an influential teacher and musician, Brian Parsons, who set up the ‘Bongo Go’ events at the Moseley Dance Centre and other venues, promoting world, afro, and Latin music.

“Forrό Tempo means ‘time for Forrό’, which is the name of a vibrant traditional music from the North countryside in Brazil. After my trip in Brazil, I shared the Forrό experience with Brian. He encouraged me as frontman singing in Portuguese and always supported the band.”

(Fun fact: Forrό Tempo keep losing their triangle player. Interesting, considering the theme of the evening.)

“Yes, for some reason we have to find a new triangle player every single time,” says Terry, the band’s charismatic double bass player, “but, on the other hand, the four of us have always been there since the start of it and we are still together.”

If you like Forrό Tempo, see them every last Sunday of the month at The Station Pub in King’s Heath and follow them on their Facebook page.

Forrό Tempo brought dancing vibes into the February Evening of Creativity, and so did the Ukulele Allsorts: a seven piece band from Sutton Coldfield, consisting of all types of ukulele and a rather slick, clandestine contrabass. They played a mix of ‘60s classics, and one of the members, Sue, even shared her own song about being on the road, travelling, and finding somewhere to call home.

The triangle notes, this time played by Terry Hall (from Birmingham band Terry and Gerry – not the Coventry namesake), also highlighted the poems recited by the five members of Writers Without Borders: Femi, Barrington, Fiona, Viv, and Hamida. “We thought it was, weird, exciting, excellent,” the group explained.

Writers Without Boarders has been in existence for more than 20 years, meeting at the Hippodrome once a month to discuss, perform and write together.

“Oftentimes, when people do a reading, people might pass on comments – but feedback is always positive, encouraging, and constructive,’ said Femi. “Writers without Borders is a diverse group – one of the most dynamic of its kind. I’ve visited some other groups and this one is so diverse,” added Hamida.

Writers Without Boarders will be performing as part of Refugee Week and have workshops coming up. Members can also join via Microsoft Teams – sometimes, writers tune in from Morocco, Greece and The Netherlands – a truly international group.

The evening also saw performances by EoC regulars Stefan Stefanov, a guitar player who performed together with three of his young student, and John Stachula, who played classical guitar and violin.

John also played the violin with The Erdington Monkeys, an all-local band. In their very first gig, they performed ‘John Belly Mama’, a traditional Barbadian children’s folk song coming out of the post-slavery period – alongside their own rendition of Gotye’s well known pop song ‘Someboby That I Used to Know’, featuring Kimbra.

The Erdington Monkeys consists of John on violin, Mignon on cello, Nathan on ukulele, and Leni on bass guitar, but is keen to welcome new members. The band derive their name from a song by The Arctic Monkeys and love to explore different genres with their own twist.

The Evening of Creativity is founded and hosted by the Erdington Arts Forum – who engages people with workshops, exhibitions, training programmes, exhibitions, and music performances.

Next month’s Evening of Creativity will be held at Oikos Café, on Erdington High Street, from 6:30pm on Friday 17 March, with advance tickets costing between £5-£6.13

For more on Erdington Arts Forum visit: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

For more from Oikos Café visit: www.oikoscafe.co.uk

NEWS: Forrό Tempo and Writers Without Boarders at Evening of Creativity tonight – Friday 17 Feb

Words by Leni Remedios / Pics supplied by Erdington Arts Forum 

Forrό Tempo will be the headliners of the next Evening of Creativity (EoC), to be held on Friday 17 February at Oikos Café, Erdington High Street.

Formed in Birmingham, Forrό Tempo defines itself as: “A Eurofusion of Brazilian folk dance music.”

Known by their Erdington’s audience after the bans 2022 performances both at Oikos and an outdoor festival held on the High Street, people are looking forward to listening to them again and dancing to their notes.

But the musicians have a long history of performances across the Midlands and beyond, from pubs and festivals to big venues such as the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre.

The theme of February’s Evening of Creativity will be the triangle – the three sided musical instrument will be accompanying all acts on the EoC bill, including the evening’s non-music performances, such as the reading from Writers Without Borders, a Birmingham based group founded in 2000.

Originally, Writers Without Borders started to meet up at the Central Library, then from 2021 they moved to the Hippodrome.

“The initial idea was for it to be a mouthpiece for refugee writers,” explains Fiona, one of the group’s members, “this was soon extended to writers from a variety of backgrounds, such as the Caribbean, Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria, and India, to name but a few.

“We meet every month, sharing our writing and giving constructive feedback. Several times a year we invite guest speakers. Sometimes one of our members will organise a workshop for us. Until lockdown we often participated in local events.”

The triangle will also accompany The Ukulele Allsorts. “We are a group of friends who met through a ukulele class in Sutton,” the band told us, “we have different musical backgrounds and experiences, but we all enjoy making music and sharing it with others.

“We are called The Ukulele Allsorts because we play all sorts of music on all sorts of Ukuleles, although on Friday night our bassist is playing an upright bass not a uke bass.”

Last but not least, The Erdington Monkeys, an all-local brand new project, will be joined by Recardo from Forrò Tempo… playing the triangle.

The Erdington Monkeys consists of four people at the moment but, like in the case of the EoC, it is ready to extend to new members and/or collaborations. It all started last month at the Musical Hub – an event hosted every Wednesday evening by the RCCG Church on Orphanage Road, Erdington, where people learn to play their favourite instruments and socialise.

The Erdington Monkeys formed spontaneously, sharing a common passion for music exploration, from folk to pop to indie rock.

Mignon and Nathan from the band explain, “we love exploring the richness that different genres have to offer us. We are quite flexible, especially considering the variety of instruments we play: ukulele, cello, violin and bass guitar, occasionally joined by other instruments.”

February’s EoC will also feature visual arts from Benny Semp, alongside more music from solo artists Zach at the piano, John Stachula playing classic guitar, and Stefan Stefanov again playing the guitar.

The evening won’t lack visual arts, with Benny Semp and his artwork. Other artists might join the event last minute, so for any updates visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

The event will also be broadcast live via the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

The Evening of Creativity is founded and hosted by the Erdington Arts Forum – who engages people with workshops, exhibitions, training programmes, and music performances.

This month’s Evening of Creativity will be held at Oikos Café, on Erdington High Street, from 6:30pm on Friday 17 February, with advance tickets costing between £5-£6.13.To book your advance tickets, click here.

For more from Oikos Café visit www.oikoscafe.co.uk

REVIEW: Eau da Funk’s debut gig at the first Evening of Creativity of 2023, alongside Elena Mylonas and Olivia Wilkes

Words & pics by Leni Remedios

“Music moves the world” is our motto, says Tony, guitarist of Eau da Funk, headliner of 2023’s first edition of the Evening of Creativity (EoC) – held at Oikos Café on Friday 20 January.

The world did move indeed, and so did everybody’s feet at the notes of this incredible band.

It was their very first gig, after having formed last year, and as a debut performance it was impressive – delivering a wide range of classics from James Brown to Lenny Kravitz and Kings of Leon.

Eau da Funk was founded soon after lockdown, when Tony was looking for other musicians to create a new project. Two of them are Erdington locals. “We got in touch online at first and we immediately understood that, beyond the different music tastes, we were united by a common ground,” explained Tony.

In fact, their range of music, as explained by their lead singer Sofire: “goes from funk to soul, to reggae and rock music, but also gospel, which is a big influence on our music. God is also very important to us.”

A diversity also reflected in the different backgrounds of the band members, each of them coming from English, Polish, or Caribbean heritage. Eau da Funk are also planning to compose their own songs.

In a packed Oikos Café, the Friday night crowd saw further performances from Elena Mylonas and Olivia Wilkes, both vocal coaches.

Elena performed songs by The Cranberries and Dolly Parton, but also her own song ‘Rose’ accompanied by some musicians from Eau da Funk (at the Evening of Creativity events, spontaneous collaboration between the artists is often involved). She started playing guitar at 11 years old in her native Greece, and after attending Birmingham University aged 23 she started teaching as a vocal coach.

Backstage, Elena revealed details about her song writing and approach to performing: “When I was younger, in Greece, for some reason everybody expected me to play only cheerful songs.

“Furthermore, people in the music industry were requiring from me to adhere to certain beauty standards, asking me to appear more sexy or girlish. I felt really uncomfortable with it, especially after the death of my brother about seven years ago.

“I needed to express my grief somehow, and music gave me the perfect opportunity to channel those feelings. I wasn’t fitting in the Greek scene of the time though, so I decided to move to the UK, where there is a long tradition of ballads and a broader variety of music genres.”

Elena regularly performs both original songs and covers with bands in small venues, with her debut album set for release in the coming months.

Olivia Wilkes was another big surprise. With her powerful voice, she offered her own rendition of classics from Nina Simone to Nirvana, but backstage further disclosed she is working on original material. Her upcoming gigs include Saturday 27 January at Deadwax and Friday 10 February at the Gunmakers Arms.

Olivia’s performance was followed by Josh, the guitarist and lead singer of the indie-rock band The Shore. He performed the original single ‘Left Alone’, and you can see him and his band on 28 January at The Victoria, in Birmingham City Centre.

The event also welcomed an extraordinary community activist and writer, Veronica ‘Judith’ Asare, who opened the evening talking about her book, The Healing Power of Grace – a journey about a terrible accident that changed her life.

Judith, a practicing Christian, never fell into the darkness thanks to her faith. On the contrary, she found motivation in helping others and funded the charity Judith Ark of Hope Foundation – through which, as a qualified counsellor, she helps people such as single parents, people in jail and their families, and refugees. She gives them hope, providing food, clothes, and psychological support.

“I met her about six years ago, in an outdoor event where she was promoting her charity,” says Michael – who was supporting Judith during her EoC performance. “I was going through a very dark phase in my life, she helped my family and me, and she adopted me as her child.”

Judith Ark of Hope operates in the Midlands but also offers help and support elsewhere, reaching London, Manchester, and other areas.

Another highlight of the night was the reading by Laura Liptrot – actress, poet, and playwright from Stourbridge – who started acting at just six years old. The Evening of Creativity audience was captivated by her lively performance and expressions.

Laura’s new poetry book, Cocktails, is about to be launched; already available on Kindle digital edition, the paperback will be available by the end of the month.

Finally, the event also saw the participation of some ‘regulars’ of the EoC, such as resident poet Simon, reading some of his poetry. Mitch Thomas also showed the audience a piece of her ceramic collection and talked about her artistic journey.

Then was a performance by the duo Stefan Stefanov and Nathan Czeszejko-Sochacki. Stefan is a guitarist and music teacher who is very active in the community, whilst the younger Nathan has been singing and playing ukulele, guitar, and piano at EoC events for about a year.

They performed ‘Hotel California’ and a gospel gypsy song. “All around the World Music,” so Stefan defines his style, and you can see him perform every Sunday at the Bulgaria Church by Six Ways from 5pm.

The Evening of Creativity is founded and hosted by the Erdington Arts Forum – who engages people with workshops, exhibitions, training programmes, exhibitions, and music performances.

Next month’s Evening of Creativity will be held at Oikos Café on Erdington High Street from 6:30pm on Friday 17 February, with advance tickets costing between £5-£6.13

For more on Erdington Arts forum visit: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

For more from Oikos Café visit www.oikoscafe.co.uk

NEWS: Eau da Funk and Olivia Wilkes to headline Evening of Creativity on Friday 20 January

Words by Leni Remedios / Pics supplied by Erdington Arts Forum

2023 starts with two extraordinary headline acts at this month’s Evening of Creativity, Eau Da Funk and Olivia Wilkes – to be held at Oikos Café on Friday 20 January, as organised by the Erdington Arts Forum.

Eau Da Funk is a six-piece covers/function band delivering an eclectic repertoire of funk, soul, pop, reggae, and RnB.

They only started playing together in 2022, formed in Birmingham, and Erdington Arts Forum is extremely excited to host this newly formed band.

January’s Evening of Creativity will also see the participation of outstanding singer and musician Olivia Wilkes. “My vocal tutoring journey started at a music school in my home town where I have taught 45+ students in face to face private lessons,” says Olivia, a singing coach who has a long experience in teaching different genres, from musical theatre to heavier tracks.

Since the age of 15, Wilkes has performed in festivals, weddings, and charity days, collaborated with a lot of musicians and featured on local radio stations, including BBC Radio Stoke.

But that’s not all for the first Evening of Creativity of 2023.

Greek singer and musician Elena Mylonas will be also featuring on the January line up, delighting the audience with her pop rock songs.

Also on the bill will be Mitch Thomas, a regular of the Evening of Creativity, introducing to the audience her ceramic artwork “influenced by love,” alongside a poetry reading by Laura Liptrot – a Stourbridge based actor and playwright.

Members of Arts All Over the Place, a local mental charity that has been active since 2007, will also speak about their community arts projects for adults with mental health problems.

Now a permanent fixture on the city’s cultural calendar, the family friendly Evening of Creativity events at Oikos often sell out – so organisers encourage people to buy advance tickets through a special Eventbrite page.

The Evening of Creativity was founded and hosted by Erdington Arts Forum, whose primary goal is to improve the status of artistic activity in the Erdington constituency. Erdington Arts Forum engages people with workshops, exhibitions, training programmes, exhibitions, and music performances.

This month’s Evening of Creativity will be held at Oikos Café on Erdington High Street from 6:30pm on Friday 20 January, with advance tickets around £5-6. Click here to book your ticket.

The event will also be broadcast live via the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

Follow Erdington Arts Forum on Facebook and Instagram
For more from Oikos Café visit: https://www.oikoscafe.co.uk/

NEWS: John’s 12 days of Christmas – sign up for ‘Treecycling’ and make Christmas extra special at John Taylor Hospice

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by The Hospice Charity Partnership

Erdington’s John Taylor Hospice are bringing back their Christmas ‘Treecycling’ initiative this winter, to help make the festive season extra special for the patients in their care.

As many of us rush around looking for Christmas presents and Cranberry sauce, staff at the Grange Road hospice are busy granting wishes for their patients – made possible by the money raised through projects such as the Treecycling initiative.

In exchange for an affordable donation, the Treecyling volunteers will collect your old Christmas tree from your home on Saturday 14 or Sunday 15 of January ’23.

Having run for over ten years, the Treecycling initiative has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to help support John Taylor Hospice – which relies on charity fundraising and donations to generate 40% of the money needed to stay open.

To sign up for the Treecycling initiative visit: www.birminghamhospice.org.uk/Treecycling

John Rastall, a patient cared for by John Taylor Hospice’s Inpatient Unit (IPU), wanted nothing more than to celebrate Christmas in style this year.

To make sure John was able to celebrate his favourite time of year, staff at the Erdington-based hospice decided to make Christmas come early and kicked off 12 days of festivities from 14 September.

The wonderful Inpatient Unit (IPU) Team decorated John’s room top to bottom in Christmas spirit – with a Christmas tree, his own advent calendar, and wall to wall Christmas decorations.

For the next 12 days, staff helped John celebrate Christmas with special gifts and festive treats – until ‘Christmas Day’ arrived on Monday 26 September.

After waking up in his festive duvet covers, covered in pictures of Santa and his reindeer, John was treated to his very own Christmas dinner – made specially by the hospice catering team.

After a second helping of turkey, John headed outside for another Christmas surprise – where the hospice staff had dressed up as Santa, an elf, a snowman, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

There was even ‘snow’ on the ground, courtesy of a snow making machine, that helped decorate the autumn lawn at John Taylor hospice in Christmas cheer.

John spent the rest of his ‘Christmas Day’ relaxing in his newly bought Christmas onesie and opening presents from people from across the hospice.

As an artist, John was especially excited with the beautiful art sets – with pencils, pens and drawing equipment – and wants to design his own Christmas cards for John Taylor Hospice to sell and raise money to help others.

John told staff: “I feel really lucky, everyone has been really kind. All my presents are amazing, thank you.”

John’s ‘12 days of Christmas’ was just one of the special activities and events that staff at John Taylor Hospice have organised for patients in their care, made possible by the funds raised by projects such as the Treecycling initiative.

While the care provided by John Taylor Hospice is free for all, to cover this, 40% of its costs need to be covered through fundraised income. This is why the hospice relies on donations and money raised through charity fundraising initiatives, delivered by a team of supporters and volunteers.

Mary Moorehouse, Discharge Coordinator at John Taylor Hospice, said the staff just wanted to make John’s time at the hospice as special as possible.

“John mentioned it to someone that he wanted to make sure he celebrated Christmas this year,” told Mary. “So, we discussed it as a team and decided to bring his Christmas forward.

“Our whole team have gotten really involved and we have had gifts donated from our IPU colleagues, their partners, and families and from teams across the hospice.

“John is a fantastic artist and will even be designing some Christmas cards for us which is wonderful.

“Thank you to everyone who got involved and helped us pull it off. We love to make dreams come true here.

“It has all been worth it to see John’s face and see him enjoying himself.”

John Taylor Hospice is located at 76 Grange Road, Erdington.

Now part of The Hospice Charity Partnership, alongside Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, John Taylor Hospice first opened in 1910 and has been providing free end of life and palliative care for over a century.

To sign up for the ‘Treecycling’ charity fundraiser and support John Taylor Hospice visit: www.birminghamhospice.org.uk/Treecycling

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

NEWS: Sign up for Christmas ‘Treecycling’ and support Erdington’s John Taylor Hospice this winter

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by The Hospice Charity Partnership

Sign up to get your Christmas Tree ‘Treecylced’ this year and help raise money for John Taylor Hospice in Erdington.

In exchange for an affordable donation, the Treecyling volunteers will collect your old Christmas tree from your home on Saturday 14 or Sunday 15 of January ’23 – taking the hassle out of getting rid of your tree once Christmas is over, whilst at the same time supporting the local hospice.

Situated on Grange Road in Erdington, John Taylor Hospice first opened in 1910 and has been providing free end of life and palliative care for over a century.

Now part of The Hospice Charity Partnership, John Taylor Hospice was awarded an ‘Outstanding’ rating by the Care Quality Commission following its last inspection in 2022.

Having run for over ten years, the Treecycling initiative has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to help support John Taylor Hospice – which relies on charity fundraising and donations to generate 40% of the money needed to stay open.

Plus, all the Treecycling trees will be turned into biomass fuel – a renewable energy source generated from burning wood, plants, and other organic matter that is much better for the environment.

To take part in the Treecycling initiative, simply sign up before Monday 9 January via an online registration form and make an affordable donation, with all proceeds going directly to the hospice charity: www.birminghamhospice.org.uk/Treecycling

Jess Bolton, Community Campaigns and Digital Fundraising Manager at The Hospice Charity Partnership said:

“We are so excited to welcome back Treecycling, our flagship campaign. Not only is it a great service, it’s also a hugely important fundraiser for us, having raised over £500,000 since 2011 for palliative and end of life care.

“By booking your collection and making a donation, you will make a difference to local people living with life-limiting illness, whilst making your life easier and being kinder to the environment – what’s not to love?”

According to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA), between 6-8 million Christmas tress are sold in the UK every year.

A citywide initiative organised by The Hospice Charity partnership, who run both John Taylor Hospice and St Mary’s Hospice in Birmingham, the Treecycling initiative has become a vital part of the charity’s annual fundraising.

Whilst the end of life and palliative care given at John Taylor Hospice and St Mary’s Hospice is free, hospices across the UK receive only 33% of the money they need to operate from the Government – relying on donations and money raised through charity fundraising initiatives, delivered by a team of supporters and volunteers.

Jess Bolton added: “Volunteers are vital in making Treecycling happen. The charity is on the lookout for incredible people to volunteer on the collection weekend (14 or 15 January 2023) picking up trees and dropping them at disposal sites.

“If you have your own van or flat-bed truck, fantastic! If not, the charity can provide vehicles for you to drive. Please contact treecycling@birminghamhospice.org.uk if you are interested in volunteering.

“A huge thank you to all of our wonderful supporters that have or will make their Treecycling booking in 2023 – we couldn’t do what we do without you!”

To sign up for the ‘Treecycling’ charity fundraiser and support John Taylor Hospice visit: www.birminghamhospice.org.uk/Treecycling

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

NEWS: Watch world première of Taking Flight from The Festival of Flying on Castle Vale – ONLINE TODAY AT 7PM

Words by Ed King / Pics by Claire Taylor – with additional images of Taking Flight by Andrew Moore

On Saturday 17 September, The Festival of Flying came to a close on Castle Vale – following months of community engagement, creative workshops, and inspiring sessions encouraging people on the North Birmingham estate to realise their ambitions and reach for the skies.

The grand finale, a world première of a specially commissioned aerial theatre performance called Taking Flight, will be streamed online today at 7pm – simply click here to visit the Active Arts YouTube channel, or stream directly via the window.

Told through high energy dance, music, smoke, fire, and aerial movement, Taking Flight tells the tale of the evil ‘destroyers’, a wild bunch of greedy wrongdoers who are stealing all the natural resources from the planet. But just as a butterfly emerges from its cocoon, destruction never truly wins where hope lies…

For a sneak peak of the Taking Flight, check out the PICTURE GALLERY below for images from the spectacular show that closed The Festival of Flying on Saturday 17 September.

Led by Active Arts, The Festival of Flying was a continuous programme of community engagement on Castle Vale – encouraging people across the estate to explore exciting new ideas and creative adventures, combining arts and engineering.

The Festival of Flying followed the foundations stones laid by The Butterfly Effect project in 2015, where Active Arts Castle Vale explored how small actions on the estate can lead to big changes

Ending on a day of family fun and spectacle, The Festival of Flying closed with a one day event on the grounds on Greenwood Academy – starting with an afternoon Community Showcase with local talent performing on stage, including Castle Vale dance groups Centre Stage and Mini Movers.

Then at 7pm, hundreds of people gathered for the world première of Taking Flight – produced by critically acclaimed performance company Highly Sprung, in partnership with Active Arts Castle Vale and commissioned and written as part of The Festival of Flying project.

Taking Flight featured a cast of trained acrobatic performance theatre professionals from Highly Sprung, alongside local dancers and performers – including Castle Vales’s own Charlotte Dodds, who has travelled the world performing in theatre, film, and TV shows from the UK to New Zealand.

Charlotte Dodd told Erdington Local: “I have lived on Castle Vale most of life, and when I worked with Highly Sprung I gained a lot of confidence in myself and my work as a performer.

“They showed me that it is possible to have a career in the arts, and at the time that was a big thing for me. They believed in me.

“Coming back to perform on Castle Vale (at The Festival of Flying) and give something back to the community with feels very rounded. It feels like a journey has been complete.”

Check out the PICTURE GALLERIES below for a look at The Festival of Flying Community Showcase, and the live debut performance of Taking Flight.

Watch Taking Flight online today at 7pm:

PICTURE GALLERY (1): The Festival of Flying – Community Showcase / Claire Taylor

 

PICTURE GALLERY (2): The Festival of Flying – Taking Flight / Claire Taylor and Andrew Moore

To know more about The Festival of Flying and other projects from Active Arts, email Active Arts Project Director Claire Marshall on www.activearts.wordpress.com

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pics supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

It was sad to say farewell to our greatest and longest serving monarch last month. Queen Elizabeth II was loved by the people of our country and the Commonwealth, with her incredible reign lasting more than 70 years.

In my tribute speech in Parliament, I praised her devotion, integrity and service that should be an inspiration to us all. On behalf of the people of Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale, I extended our deepest condolences to the King and the Royal Family. As the Elizabethan era ends, the dawn breaks on the reign of King Charles III. God save the King.

Now that the period of National mourning has ended, politics is back on the agenda. The rising cost of everyday household goods and energy bills is being felt across our community, and more increases are expected.

The impact is already being felt. I’ve been hearing some heart-breaking stories as local families struggle to cope with soaring costs. A father told me how he keeps his gas and electricity off so that he can save the money to keep his daughter and grandchildren warm.

Recently I delivered food parcels to someone who had been forced to choose between heating and eating. The challenges our community is facing are echoed across the country, and we desperately need real leadership to steer us through this crisis.

In early September, Conservative Party members chose Liz Truss to become our new Prime Minister. Hard working families across Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale will be looking to her new Government for help.

But the Tories’ ‘trickle-down economics’ does nothing for our local community and it is scandalous that our new PM has chosen to prioritise tax cuts for the richest.

The Government’s recent mini budget completely fails struggling families who are trying to cope with the cost-of-living crisis.

The cost of their decision to cut taxes and borrow more, instead of raising money by taxing the huge profits that are being made by energy companies, will be felt for generations to come.

For more on Paulette Hamilton MP for Erdington visit www.paulettehamilton.org

NEWS: Campaign to give Leon Edwards ‘historic figure of Birmingham’ blue plaque in Erdington

Words by Erdington Local news team

A campaign is underway to give local MMA fighter Leon Edwards a ‘historic figure of Birmingham’ blue plaque and official key to the city – after the Erdington raised and trained athlete became UFC World Welterweight Champion earlier this year.

Since winning the world crowing fight in August ’22, a portrait of Edwards has been painted onto the old Maplin site mural by Six Ways Island – which identifies all the aspects of Erdington people can be proud of.

But now an online petition wants to further recognise the athlete’s local ties and global achievements and see the ‘real life Rocky’ and ‘inspiration to everyone’ honoured in his adopted hometown with a key to the city and a blue plaque installed in Erdington.

Leon Edwards was born in Kingston, Jamaica, but moved with his brother Fabian to Birmingham when he was a teenager – training at the now closed MMA gym on Erdington High Street.

In the early hours of Sunday 12 August, Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards created sporting history by beating Kamaru Usman to win the coveted UFC world title in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

Previously Edwards had suffered set back on his was to become World Champion, with four key fights cancelled due to the athlete testing positive for Covid-19.

His last fight with Belal Muhammad in March 2021 was also halted after Edwards accidentally poked his opponent in the eye in the second round – with the injury causing the fight to be stopped and declared ‘no contest’.

But after beating Californian Nate Diaz in June 2021, the UFC announced Edwards would be in line for a title fight with Kamaru Usman. The pair had met in the Octagon before, with Edwards eventually being outwrestled by Usman – but after the August fight the Brummie brawler left with the coveted champion’s belt.

The UFC Welterweight Championship is one of the most keenly contested belts in combat sports, with Leon Edwards the only UK champion and the second UK fighter ever to win a UFC belt.

A campaign page on the change.org website, started by Tye Forde, states: ‘Leon Edwards local Erdington, Birmingham lad is an inspiration to everyone. A real life Rocky who should be recognised as a Birmingham Hero & legend.

‘Leon is a role model for the younger generation to show dedication, being respectful and hard work determination pays off.

‘I propose that Birmingham City Council install a historic figure of Birmingham blue plaque for Leon Edwards only the 2nd ever British World UFC Champion. Also Leon should be given a key to the City of Birmingham.’

Commenting on the petition page feed, Rachel Walker states: “I’m Erdington born and bred, this Gentleman is an inspiration”. Whilst John Howard adds: “Hats off to the world champion from Erdington.”

There are over 100 blue plaques dedicated to people and places across Birmingham, awarded by The Birmingham Civic Society. Other blue plaques in Erdington have been presented in recognition of GP and physician George Boddington, and the world renowned Mothers rock and live music venue.

The blue plaque scheme, which runs nationally, has also come under recent criticism in Birmingham for its significant of lack of people with Black or Asian heritage being recognised.

To see more about the campaign visit www.change.org/p/honourary-historic-blue-plaque-installed-key-to-city-birmingham-leon-edwards     

For more on Leon Edwards visit www.ufc.com/athlete/leon-edwards

NEWS: ‘I walked it… you share it’ – messages of hope hidden across Erdington on World Mental Health Day

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by The Recovery Foundation

On Monday 10 October, people across Erdington will be finding special shoe shaped keyrings –attached to a postcard telling someone’s real life mental health story, with a message of hope from them to others.

Organised by The Recovery Foundation, an Erdington based mental health charity, the ‘I walked it… you share it’ campaign was launched on World Mental Health Day 2022 – marking the international awareness day with 50 colourful packages of hope hidden in accessible public places.

According to the World Health Organisation, ‘close to 1 billion people have a mental health disorder’ – with limited accessibility to resources, support, and ‘quality mental health services’.

Using first-hand stories, The Recovery Foundation’s ‘I walked it… you share it’ campaign aims to encourage an open discussion on mental health – and show people dealing with mental health issues there is always ‘hope’ and ‘living well’ with mental illness is a possibility.

The shoe shaped key rings are a nod to the journey people go on when facing mental health challenges, with the postcards containing personal and inspiring accounts of how they can be overcome.

Anyone who finds a keyring and postcard will be invited to take a picture of their discovery and share it online, tagging in the social media information for both The Recovery Foundation and Erdington Local – alongside the campaign hashtag #trfwalkedit

Janelle Smith, The Recovery Foundation Youth & Community Director, previously told Erdington Local: “I had this idea about six months ago, and now with World Mental Health Day around the corner it’s a great time to help people share their stories with the world.

“I’d love this to encourage people to share their stories and find hope.”

Registered with the charity commission in 2020, The Recovery Foundation was set up after founder Emma Sitole overcame her own mental health challenges following a diagnosis for Schizo-Affective Disorder in 2007.

With the charity’s key message being one of ‘hope’, Emma Sitole explains on The Recovery Foundation’s website: ‘…if I was able to find hope and use it to grow my recovery, maybe others could too?’

The Recovery Foundation recently ran a series of successful art workshops in both Sorrell Park and at the Secret Art Studio Space (SASS) – led by the charity’s Creative Arts Director, Angela Chapman.

With their art showcase still on display at SASS, located downstairs at the Central Square Shopping Centre on Erdington High Street and displaying over 100 pieces of original artwork, The Recovery Foundation are looking to continue their engagement and art programmes.

Speaking to Erdington Local at the launch of the exhibition, Emma Sitole told: “We trialled Art in Parks last year, which was really successful, and off the back of that people were saying they’d love something that explored different techniques and looked into different things.

“Angela (Chapman), our Creative Arts Director, put together a programme and we’ve seen about 50 people come through our doors with these workshops.

“It’s a privilege to walk alongside people and see them discover they’re really creative.”

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

For more on World Mental Health Day 2022 visit www.who.int/campaigns/world-mental-health-day/2022