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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words by Ed King / Pics by Angela Chapman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEWS: Erdington open art gallery on Gravelly Hill North – a call out for local creatives

A group of local artists are calling out for Erdington creatives to get involved in a new ‘open art gallery’, which will take over the forgotten fencing at the top of Gravelly Hill North – opposite the petrol station by Six Ways Island.

Wanting to bring bright inspiration to some of Erdington’s neglected spaces, the art collective hope to hang a series of original pieces along the hoarding – creating an outdoor exhibition for everyone to enjoy.

Still at the ideas stage, and working on themes around the four seasons, project coordinators are inviting any local creatives to come to the Secret Art Studio Space (SASS) and get involved.

The group will be meeting at SASS, downstairs at the Central Square Shopping Centre on Erdington High Street, from 7pm to 9:30pm on Wednesday, 6 April.

Everyone is welcome – regardless of age stage, or art experience – and refreshments will be provided.

The group have been running series of ‘artist conversations’ at SASS, meeting on weekly basis with anyone who has a passion and interest in art.

The Gravelly Hill North ‘open art gallery’ is another chance for likeminded creatives to come together and bring a glorious splash of colour to Erdington’s streets and public spaces.

One of the local artists behind the project, Rob Gunnell, told Erdington Local:

“A few months ago, a group of artists in our area (myself, Angie, Jin, and Kaz) got together to identify any residents who have a flair/interest in the visual arts – to give Erdington a lift in terms of colour, vision, and in communicating something about the characteristics and heart of where we live.

“Calling the initiative ‘artists conversations’, we have now met several times and what is emerging are ideas around how we can support existing art projects and at some point organise exhibitions using shop fronts in Erdington, and in the longer term having an ‘art trail’.

“There is now an exciting opportunity for those of you who are creative (note you don’t need to be artists) to get involved in painting a large fence on Gravelly Hill North which lends itself to the concept of an ‘open gallery’.

“Based on the four seasons, we would like this space in the first place to reflect the beauty of the changing landscapes, and to promote opportunities for people to share how they feel about living in Erdington.”

For more information please email robert.gunnell55@gmail.com

NEWS: Lights, Camera, Action: Erdington Arts Forum bring ‘BBC broadcast quality production’ to their Evening of Creativity events

Words by Jobe Baker-Sullivan / Pics by Ed King

The Evening of Creativity (EoC) is a fixture in Erdington’s cultural diary that brings artists from many different backgrounds to the fore, all in the name of encouraging local talent.

The event, organised by the Erdington Arts Forum, moved exclusively online during lockdown – with thousands of regular viewers tuning in each month.

One silver-lining about the shift was that the production quality of the filmed EoC events increased drastically, thanks to the input of technician Paul Withers.

Regular live streaming has further encouraged a new audience for EoC events, bringing even more positive attention to Erdington’s lively art scene.

On the 17th July, at 7:30pm, the Evening of Creativity will be broadcast from the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page – to watch the event’s live stream, visit: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

Acts will include live music performances from Tarju Le’Sano and Chris Tye, as presented by Birmingham Review, as well as music from EoC regular Ilias Lintzos. There will also be spoken word by Sami Saunders, artwork by Angela Chapman and Rob Gunnell, and animation from Andy Spencer.

Paul Withers has an impressive pedigree of working in television as a camera operator, sound recordist, editor, and broadcast engineer. His credits include BBC, ITV, Channel Four, Sky Sports, and the History Channel to name but a few: ”I love helping great ideas come to life. I’ve worked in theatre, television, radio, and corporate communications for all of my working life – in the UK, Europe, Africa and Australia.”

Paul joined the collective at SASS (Secret Arts Space Studios) earlier this year, using the Erdington based creative hub as his Midlands base of operations. However, his association with the area goes back further: “I have a strong affinity with Erdington, working on films and plays based around the prestigious Rookery House back in the early noughties. To work with the Erdington Arts Forum is a great joy.”

Paul was first involved with the Evening of Creativity by editing the April show, initially consisting of pre-recorded content including music, art, poetry, and interviews. At many regular gig nights around the country, musicians and artists have had to ‘make do’ with live streaming to social media via mobile phones as a way of keeping their content relevant during COVID-19’s lockdown.

The first ‘live’ broadcast EoC show was held at the Oikos Café in June, in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown – using the venue’s in house production unit to film live, alongside broadcasting pre-recorded material.

I’ve been incredibly impressed with the high standards of programming at the Evening of Creativity,” comments James Kennedy, a regular EoC viewer and co-ordinator for Selly Oak Arts Forum. “It brings a diverse range of communities together in a celebration of arts, music and performance.”

Paul now commands an impressive, portable broadcast unit consisting three professional cameras, monitors, vision mixers, and sound engineering equipment – allowing the Erdington Arts Forum to regularly add BBC broadcast quality production to their EoC events.

From selfie-mode using a Samsung to a multi-camera, high quality production studio – Paul has added significant value to the Evening of Creativity events,” says Jobe Sullivan, coordinator of the Erdington Arts Forum. “He brings everything you need, and, spares – allowing us to give the musicians and artists involved a fully professional showreel. It’s been a huge step forward for the events.”

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 1tth June, visit www.facebook.com/CAFEartsforum