NEWS: Hundreds welcome Little Amal to Erdington as a ‘community of sanctuary’

Words, images & video by Ed King

Erdington High Street saw hundreds of people welcome the world famous ‘living puppet’ Little Amal on Thursday 28 October – as part of the Kaleidoscope events, organised by the Erdington based charity Active Arts.

Gathering outside Oikos Café from 1pm, people started the day’s celebration by playing traditional street games from countries around the world and dancing to live music – building the carnival atmosphere before Little Amal arrived at 3pm.

Members of Birmingham’s refugee community were joined by hundreds of local families, support agencies, churches, and schools.

After saying hello to several children and meeting the crowds, Little Amal then walked up the High Street, accompanied by children and dancers – to a welcome ceremony held in the Central Square Shopping Centre.

Central Square had been specially decorated and transformed into a one day festival venue, with stages and a canvas roof over the main concourse.

At the welcome ceremony Little Amal continued to meet the hundreds of people who had come out in support of her journey, and her message of sanctuary and community, before being greeted by the Birmingham Lord Mayor.

A special poem celebrating Birmingham as a city of sanctuary was then read to Little Amal by two sisters, Sheema and Logeen Aroob, who had themselves fled from Syria to the UK with their family five years ago.

Writer Stephanie Neville joined Sheema and Logeen in delivering the poem, which had been selected from Stories of Home Hope and Home – ‘a story-telling project offering Asylum Seekers and Refugees a space to share their stories and others a space to hear them.’

Sheema and Logeen also presented Little Amal with a friendship bracelet specially crafted for the giant puppet, as event organisers handed out further bracelets to the audience.

In the weeks running up to Little Amal’s Erdington visit, a series of Kaleidoscope arts and craft workshops had been held at the Secret Arts Studio Space in Central Square – where local children and families had been making the friendship bracelets out of colourful twine and materials, working with Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham.

Little Amal is a 12ft high ‘living puppet’ who has been walking across the world since July, to raise awareness about the plight of refugee children.

Starting on the Turkey/Syrian border, Little Amal has travelled over 8000km through Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and France, before coming across the Channel to the UK – even meeting with Pope Francis in early September 2021.

Visiting only a handful of locations in the UK, Little Amal had been in Coventry the day before her visit to Erdington, before ending her global walk in Manchester on 3 November.

Attending the event and joining the team escorting Little Amal to the Central Square welcoming ceremony, Erdington MP Jack Dromey told Erdington Local: “I am deeply proud that Erdington is the Birmingham home that Little Amal will come to.

“All throughout the last 10, 20, 30 years we’ve had war after war and famine after famine – people have therefore fled for their lives, wanting a new start for them and their families and looking for sanctuary and safety. We have a moral duty to say those who come to our shores desperate for refuge, you’re welcome here.

“I’m proud that Amal is coming to Erdington because it sends the message that we are a constituency and community of sanctuary – that we are there to give home and support to those who desperately need it.”

Also attending the Little Amal event were Erdington ward councillors Robert Alden and Gareth Moore.

“It’s absolutely brilliant to see so many people here in Erdington, on our High Street – it really emphasises the possibilities of how we can regenerate Erdington High Street and what the long term attraction to the area can be.

“I think this exactly the thing that people have been talking about – we need to ensure that actually all countries are safe for people, so that people don’t have to go through the horrific things that you hear refugees have had to go through.”

Local arts charity Active Arts was leading Erdington’s Little Amal visit and the Kaleidoscope events on behalf of Birmingham City Council and Birmingham 2022 Festival.

Further partners include Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham, Centrala, Open Theatre Company, Mama Dojo, Surge Forward Music & Arts, Vortex Creates, Autin Dance Theatre, Everyone Erdington, Oikos Café, Six Ways Baptist Church & Food Bank, Erdington BID and Godwin Development.

Active Arts Project Director Claire Marshall told Erdington Local: “Little Amal’s message is one of sanctuary, about showing refugees and displaced people that they can find a place to call home if they have been forced to leave theirs.

“Erdington is a welcoming and diverse community, one with a history of embracing people from many different countries and cultures – and a place that continues to do so.

“This event is about celebrating that sanctuary, it’s about showing people they can find a new home here if they have had to leave theirs.

“The atmosphere here, today, as we welcome Little Amal, has been something wonderful – it’s been a truly special day and I couldn’t be prouder of the people around us.

“Little Amal’s message, highlighting the plight of refugee children, is one born from desperation and sorrow.

“But the kindness and compassion you can feel from people in Erdington here today, the simple sense of love and community in the air, gives us all a feeling of hope to hold on to.”

Watch Little Amal as she walks down Erdington High Street and into Central Square Shopping Centre

For more on Little Amal and ‘The Walk’ visit www.walkwithamal.org

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

ON THURSDAY: A sneak peek – check out the celebrations at Central Square ahead of Little Amal visit

Words & images by Ed King

**LITTLE AMAL CELEBRATIONS FROM 12:30PM/1PM OUTSIDE CO-OP ON ERDINTGON HIGH STREET ON THURS 28 OCTOBER – FREE**

Central Square Shopping Centre has been bursting with colour, music, and dance as people get ready for Little Amal’s’ visit to Erdington on Thursday 28 October.

Little Amal is a 12ft high ‘living puppet’ that has been travelling the world to raise awareness about the plight of refugee children – travelling over 8,000km before arriving in Erdington for a special one day celebration of sanctuary.

The festivities will begin outside the Co-op supermarket on Erdington High Street at 12:30/1pm – with live music, dance, and street games – before Little Amal will walk up the High Street to a special welcoming ceremony at Central Square.

The entire day is free to attend and open to children and adults of all ages – led by local arts charity Active Arts on behalf of Birmingham City Council and Birmingham 2022 Festival.

Transforming the old Central Square Shopping Centre, Active Arts and the creative team behind the Little Amal Erdington event have been busy decorating the High Street retail hub.

A team of dancers, local children, and families spent the week practicing a special routine to welcome Little Amal – whilst a creative team transformed the High Street retail hub into a festival venue with bright colours and decorations.

A special stage has been constructed at Central Square for the event, which will see everyone from Birmingham’s Lord Mayor to local school children welcome Little Amal to Erdington.

A large canvas roof has also been installed over the Central Square concourse – ensuring the day will be a truly special occasion that all ages can enjoy, come rain or shine.

The event is Covid safe and stewarded by official security and event safety staff.

Have a sneak peek below of what’s happening when Little Amal visits Erdington on Thursday 28 October.

Central Square gets ready for Little Amal Erdington visit

Little Amal will visit Erdington on Thursday 28 October, with a one day carnival starting at 1pm outside the Co-op and Oikos Café on the High Street – before heading up to the Central Square Shopping Centre.

For more on the Kaleidoscope event and Little Amal’s visit to Erdington visit www.activearts.wordpress.com/little-amal or email activeartscv@gmail.com

For more on Little Amal and ‘The Walk’ visit www.walkwithamal.org

2 DAYS TO GO: Syrian refugee sisters to present friendship bracelet to Little Amal at Erdington visit

Words & images by Ed King

Two sisters who escaped the war in Syria five years ago will be presenting Little Amal with a handcrafted friendship bracelet, when the 12ft high ‘living puppet’ visits Erdington on Thursday 28 October.

Sheema (16) and Logeen (11) Aroob will be a central part of Little Amal’s visit to Erdington, gifting the friendship bracelet – a symbol of sanctuary and welcome – as part of the official welcoming ceremony.

Starting outside the Co-op on Erdington High Street at 1pm, the celebration will also include live music and street games from across the world – before Little Amal leads a procession of local children and adults to Central Square Shopping Centre.

Recommended through Refugee Action, Sheema will also be reading a specially selected poem which celebrates the beauty of Birmingham and welcomes people to the city.

A poet in her own right, Sheema recently performed one of her own works at the Erdington Arts Forum’s Evening of Creativity – at a special showcase event recently held during Refugee Week.

Sheema told Erdington Local: “I was asked by Refugee Action to present special friendship bracelet to Little Amal when she comes to visit Erdington.

“I am very excited to be part of the Little Amal event, and a little nervous. But I like to join in with these events as it helps bring out my confidence.

“We came from Syria to the UK five years ago, after leaving Lebanon because of the war – once a bomb dropped right outside the front of our house, it was a dangerous place, and our family were scared for their lives.

“Also, my father had injured himself and was unable to work; life was very difficult.

“The poem I am reading when Little Amal comes to Erdington was suggested to me by Johnny (Autin, choreographer) and is about Birmingham, how beautiful the city can be, and how people should come and visit Birmingham and see it with their own eyes.

“I like to write poetry as it is a good way to get my thoughts and feelings out, and I can be more honest in a poem. I have also written a story about our journey from Syria to the UK.”

Inspired by stories from the Calais refugee camp, and made by the production team behind Warhorse, Little Amal is based on a young Syrian girl who lost her family whilst out looking for food – with the ‘living puppet’ having travelled over 8,000km to reach the UK.

Little Amal has been travelling across the globe since July, starting on the Syria/Turkey border, to raise awareness on the plight for refugee children – who account for over 50% of the world’s displaced people, according to UNICEF.

Having travelled from Syria with her family five years ago, escaping the ongoing war, Sheema Aroob has a direct understanding of Little Amal’s journey, with members of her family still living amidst the violence.

“Little Amal began her walk in Jarabulus, on the border of Syria and Turkey, which is where my aunt – my mother’s sister – still lives. So, the journey Little Amal has made is very close to our hearts.

“My auntie still lives in Jarabulus but in a tent, with her children – she has two daughters and one son; one of the daughters is disabled.

“We are still in touch, but there is still trouble and violence there and it is going to be very hard for her and her family this winter.”

Local arts charity Active Arts is leading Erdington’s Little Amal event on behalf of Birmingham City Council and Birmingham 2022 Festival.

Further partners include Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham, Centrala, Open Theatre Company, Mama Dojo, Surge Forward Music & Arts, Vortex Creates, Autin Dance Theatre, Everyone Erdington, Oikos Café, Six Ways Baptist Church & Food Bank, Erdington BID and Godwin Development.

Active Arts Project Director Claire Marshall told Erdington Local: “We’re really pleased to have Sheema and her family as part of Little Amal’s visit to Erdington – they have experienced, first-hand, some of the issues faced by refugees this international art project is trying to shine a light on.

“Sheema and her family have been a huge part of the Kaleidoscope workshops and have been heavily involved in preparations for the event too. It’s been a joy working with and getting to know them, individually and as a family.”

Little Amal will visit Erdington on Thursday 28 October, with a one day carnival starting at 1pm outside the Co-op and Oikos Café on the High Street – before heading up to the Central Square Shopping Centre.

The final Kaleidoscope arts, craft, street games and dance workshop will be held between 1-3pm at the Secret Art Studio Space on Wednesday 27 October – at the Central Shopping Centre on Erdington High Street.

For more on the Kaleidoscope event and Little Amal’s visit to Erdington visit www.activearts.wordpress.com/little-amal or email activeartscv@gmail.com

For more on Little Amal and ‘The Walk’ visit www.walkwithamal.org

3 DAYS TO GO: Businesses boom as Central Square Shopping Centre is ‘transformed’ for Little Amal event

Words & images by Ed King

Businesses in Central Square are enjoying a boom in passing trade as the old shopping centre is “transformed” for the Little Amal event on Thursday 28 October.

As preparations continue for the one day carnival later this week, Central Square has seen a “significant spike” in trade as a team of local artists, event organisers, and cleaning companies give a facelift to the dilapidated shopping centre.

Little Amal is a 12ft ‘living puppet’ which has been on a worldwide ‘walk’ to raise awareness about the plight of refugee children – coming to Erdington at the end of her 8,000km journey from the Syria/Turkey border.

Local arts charity Active Arts is leading Erdington’s Little Amal event on behalf of Birmingham City Council and Birmingham 2022 Festival.

“When they (Active Arts) came down on Saturday it was driving more people down,” told Michelle Haynes, manager of the Global Educational Trust Charity Shop.

“As soon as they were putting things in the window people were coming to the counter and asking about prices.

“Last week was really slow, it was horrendous, but on Saturday, because everything was going on in the square, you’ve got the dancers and everything, it was drawing people down.”

“Thursday should bring even more people down; I really do hope so. We get people down here, but they don’t come to the back of the centre, they get halfway down and turn back.

“We put signs up all the way down, but they just tent to turn around. If there were more events happening here it would help – you saw it that Saturday, it was like a totally different feeling – it was brilliant. Even I was by the door watching, it was a different vibe. It was loads better.”

Anthony Daulphin has recently re-opened the Standing Ovation HUB, a large unit at the back of Central Square with a café, children’s play area, pool, table tennis, and a hairdressing salon, and has been keen to see trade return to the shopping centre.

“After all the lockdowns we have been keen to get our doors back open,” told Daulphin, “but it’s not been as busy as we would have hoped – we’ve been booking some great private parties but the day to day trade has really dropped off.

“But since Active Arts and the Little Amal team have been here we’ve seen a significant spike, it’s been great.

“They’ve cleaned up the old shop fronts, pulled down all broken signs, and made it feel like a place people want to walk into.

“Plus, we’ve been selling a few bacon and egg sandwiches to the team themselves… they’ve been working all hours and said our breakfast menu is the best on the High Street. We’ve thrown them a few free coffees to keep them going too.

“But it’s been a lot of fun having the team here; it’s built a real sense of comradery between all the shop owners and there’s a feeling something big happening here again.”

Erdington once boasted the busiest High Street in Birmingham but has suffered in recent years as retail increasingly moves online – with banks and nationally recognised outlets all shutting up shop, as lower end and bargain retail take their place.

In the last year, Peacocks and Santander closed their Erdington branches for good – with Poundstretcher moving into the former’s prominent shop front opposite Central Square.

Erdington’s businesses also missed out on a multi-million pound boost in January, following a failed bid for the Future High Street fund which would have seen around £52m invested in the High Street.

But as the Central Square Shopping Centre prepares for the Little Amal event, interest in the businesses there is growing again – with shop owners citing the simple fact it has been cleaned and decorated by Active Arts and the team behind the Little Amal project.

Active Arts Project Director Claire Marshall told Erdington Local: “I used to come to Central Square shopping with my mum as a child. I love the area and I’ve seen how vibrant the local businesses and community can be.

“Central Square is a fantastic space for events; it is a perfect little enclave if you have a creative eye, it just needs a bit of tender loving care… and a lot of elbow grease to clean the windows.

“Our team have working day and night; the place already feels brighter and more welcoming, and by the time Little Amal visits on Thursday (October 28) Central Square Shopping Centre will be transformed.

“We’ve got workshops happening every day this week too – there’s a real buzz around the place with new people coming in every day.

“It’s a really exciting thing to be a part of and the businesses have been incredibly supportive. I’m glad they’ve had a boost in trade, they deserve a bit of good fortune after the past couple of years and lockdowns.”

Central Square could see even more improvement in the next 12 months, as Godwin Developments – who own the shopping centre and land – have plans to turn the High Street site into a destination venue with shops, bars, cafes, and apartments.

Little Amal will visit Erdington on Thursday 28 October, with a one day carnival starting at 1pm outside the Co-op and Oikos Café on the High Street – before heading up to the Central Square Shopping Centre.

Kaleidoscope arts, craft, street games and dance workshops will be held between 1-3pm at the Secret Art Studio Space on Tuesday 26 and Wednesday 27 October – at the Central Shopping Centre on Erdington High Street.

For more on the Kaleidoscope event and Little Amal’s visit to Erdington visit www.activearts.wordpress.com/little-amal or email activeartscv@gmail.com

For more on Little Amal and ‘The Walk’ visit www.walkwithamal.org

For more on the Standing Ovation HUB visit www.facebook.com/StandingOvationHUB

4 DAYS TO GO: Johnny Autin runs free dance and street games workshops at Central Square Shopping Centre – ahead of Little Amal’s visit to Erdington

Words, images & video by Ed King / Images of Little Amal supplied by Good Chance Theatre and Active Arts

“You just become friends straight away because you play a game together.”

International choreographer and dance artist Johnny Autin will be running free dance and street games workshops at Central Square Shopping Centre on Monday 25, Tuesday 26, and Wednesday 27 October – between 1pm and 3pm each day.

Open to families, children, and adults of all ages, the workshops will be practicing a simple and specially devised dance routine – to be performed as part of the one day carnival welcoming Little Amal to Erdington on Thursday 28 October.

Little Amal is a 12ft ‘living puppet’ which has been on a worldwide ‘walk’ to raise awareness about the plight of refugee children, based on a young Syrian girl separated from her mother as her family try to find food.

Starting on the Turkey/Syria border in July, Little Amal will have travelled through countries including Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and France, before finishing her 8,000km journey in the UK.

According to UNICEF, the United Nations’ child support agency, 33 million children had been ‘forcibly displaced’ at the end of 2019 – accounting for over 50% of the world’s refugees and displaced people.

Johnny Autin is the Creative Director of Autin Dance Theatre, Artistic Director of Man Made Youth Company, and an Associate Artist of Midlands Arts Centre.

Autin has been commissioned across the world, including Dance Hub (Birmingham, UK), The Arden School of Acting (Manchester, UK), MUDA (Africa), IBUKA Dance (East Africa), and in Opera choreographing ‘Carmen’ (Macerata, Italy).

Johnny Autin’s dance and street games workshops are part of the Kaleidoscope events being organised to welcome Little Amal to Erdington, led by local arts charity Active Arts on behalf of Birmingham City Council and Birmingham 2022 Festival.

“My team is coming to play some games with people in Erdington, games that come from different parts of the Commonwealth countries,” explained Johnny Autin.

“Those games are then being used chorographically for a performance when Little Amal comes to Erdington (Thursday 28 October) – people will be able to come out onto the streets and play those games live, with a band, with music and some workshop facilitators.

“It’s really about just having fun, about play, and about having a sense of community.

“There will be a stylised performance of these games, as a way of saying thank you for coming, showing our love and respect for her journey, and wishing her well on the last part of her journey.

“We’ll play games because Little Amal is a young girl, so we want to bring back that sense of play that we all have when we’re children and that some people might have forgotten.

“I feel like the world needs more fun, and joy, and play, and that’s the message – because children are generally more welcoming and playful with others, than adults.

“You just become friends straight away because you play a game together.

“It’s fun, it’s physical, and it’s healthy. It’s good for yourself and it’s good for everybody.”

As part of the ongoing Kaleidoscope workshops there will also be arts and crafts sessions run by Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham – where people can learn to make friendship bracelets, to be gifted to members of the public on the day Little Amal comes to visit Erdington.

Johnny Autin added: “They can help make some friendship bracelets, that we’ll be offering to all the audience that come (on Thursday 28 October).

“We will be making things, painting things, decorating things.

“But also learning some street games, rhythms, and music, and being surrounded by beautiful musicians, dance, and movement.”

All the Little Amal events and Kaleidoscope workshops are open to children and adults of all ages, and are completely free to attend,

People are invited to simply drop into the workshops, being held at the Secret Art Studio Space downstairs at the Central Square Shopping Centre on Erdington High Street.

Or email activeartscv@gmail.com directly for more information.

Johnny Autin leads dance workshop at Central Square, Erdington

Images from previous Kaleidoscope arts and craft workshops

Kaleidoscope arts, craft, street games and dance workshops will be held between 1-3pm at the Secret Art Studio Space on Monday 25, Tuesday 26, and Wednesday 27 October – at the Central Shopping Centre on Erdington High Street.

Little Amal will visit Erdington on Thursday 28 October, with a one day event from 1pm.

For more on the Kaleidoscope event and Little Amal’s visit to Erdington visit www.activearts.wordpress.com/little-amal/ or email activeartscv@gmail.com

For more on Little Amal and ‘The Walk’ visit www.walkwithamal.org

6 DAYS TO GO: Arts, craft, and street games – free Little Amal workshops at Erdington’s Central Square 

Words by Ed King / Images supplied by Good Chance Theatre and Active Arts

Erdington’s Central Square will be hosting free arts, craft, and street games workshops this half term – running between 1pm and 3pm on Saturday 23 October, then at the same time on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday next week.

A creative and exciting way to kick start the half term holidays as a family – or to meet new people and make new friends – the Saturday 23 October workshop will be about making friendship brackets, in sessions run by Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham.

Also on Saturday, and then from Monday to Wednesday next week, Autin Dance Theatre will be teaching street games from countries and communities across the world.

People are invited to simply drop into the Secret Art Studio Space, based at the Central Square Shopping Centre on Erdington High Street, or email activeartscv@gmail.com for more information.

Part of the Kaleidoscope events, getting people ready for when Little Amal visits Erdington on Thursday 28 October, the workshops are free to attend and open to adults/children of all ages.

With only six days to go under her Erdington arrival, Little Amal will be welcomed by a carnival of street games, arts, craft, and live music – starting at 1pm on the High Street, by the Co-op, before making its way to Central Square.

Little Amal

Little Amal is a 12ft ‘living puppet’ that has been travelling the world to raise awareness about the plight of refugee children – based on a young Syrian girl, separated from her mother as her family try to find food.

According to UNICEF, the United Nations’ child support agency, 33 million children had been ‘forcibly displaced’ at the end of 2019 – accounting for over 50% of the world’s refugees and displaced people.

Travelling over 8000km before arriving in Erdington, Little Amal started ‘The Walk’ on the Syria/Turkey boarder in July – visiting countries including Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and France, before crossing the Channel to the UK.

A globetrotting symbol of peace and compassion, Little Amal even had an audience with Pope Francis in early September 2021.

Little Amal and her worldwide walk have been organised by Good Chance Theatre, inspired by stories from the Calais refugee camp. The 12ft high ‘living puppet’ was built by the Handspring Puppet Company, the creative team behind War Horse.

Local arts charity Active Arts is leading Erdington’s Little Amal event on behalf of Birmingham City Council and Birmingham 2022 Festival.

Further partners include Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham, Centrala, Open Theatre Company, Mama Dojo, Surge Forward Music & Arts, Vortex Creates, Autin Dance Theatre, Everyone Erdington, Oikos Café, Six Ways Baptist Church & Food Bank, Erdington BID and Godwin Development.

Active Arts Project Director Claire Marshall told Erdington Local: “Little Amal coming to Erdington is a once in a lifetime opportunity for local people to be part of a beautiful worldwide event.

“The Kaleidoscope workshops have been amazing so far, with lots of friendly faces coming together for an afternoon of art and conversation – it’s been a really joyful way to get involved in preparation for the Little Amal visit.

“As things get more and more exciting, with Little Amal’s visit only days away, we’d love to welcome even more local people to the Kaleidoscope workshops – running this Saturday, then again from Monday to Wednesday next week.

“Little Amal’s visit on the Thursday is going to be a fantastic event, with Central Square transformed for the occasion – a really special occasion that will show the world just how wonderful and welcoming Erdington can be.”

Adult volunteers are also being sought to help welcome Little Amal to Erdington and to support the build-up to the October 28 event.

Kaleidoscope arts, craft, and street games workshops will be held between 1-3pm at the Secret Art Studio Space on Saturday 23, Monday 25, Tuesday 26, and Wednesday 27 October – at the Central Shopping Centre on Erdington High Street.

Little Amal will visit Erdington on Thursday 28 October, with a one day event from 1pm.

For more on the Kaleidoscope event and Little Amal’s visit to Erdington visit www.activearts.wordpress.com/little-amal or email activeartscv@gmail.com

For more on Little Amal and ‘The Walk’ visit www.walkwithamal.org

NEWS: A rather ‘Nice’ Friday evening – Erdington’s Evening of Creativity hosted by celebrity guest, Mrs Barbara Nice 20.11.20

Words by Jobe Baker Sullivan / Pics courtesy of Sami Saunders, Janice Connolly, and Anne-Marie Allen

Erdington’s long running Evening of Creativity has never missed a month, even during COVID-19 pandemic.

Thriving on art, creativity, and giving creatives a chance to experiment, it is now being broadcast using a mix of high quality camera-work and editing along with locals being asked to submit their art from home.

Tonight’s Evening of Creativity broadcast will be hosted by actress and comedian Janice Connolly BEM, under the guise of her lovable alter-ego Mrs Barbara Nice. Janice is a comedienne who hosted the 2019 Erdington Lights switch on.

“Up the arts!” she says, with a wry smile, in support of the event. 

November’s Evening of Creativity will commence with a traditional Indian dance from Sahana Shrikaanth in celebration of Diwali, an annual ‘festival of lights’, celebrated by Sikhs, Hindus and Jains.

It will include performances from classical guitarist Mike Bethel – alongside original musical songs by Anne-Marie Allen, promoting her album on Spotify.

Centrala Art Gallery will feature as part of the EoC with their lockdown-special online exhibition – hosting an art collective from Finland called Valmed Ry, exploring ecology and nature through photography, projection and 3d printing.

The Evening of Creativity was founded and hosted by the Erdington Arts Forum, whose primary goal is to improve the status of artistic activity in the Erdington constituency.

The Arts Forum engages people with workshops, exhibitions, training programmes, exhibitions and music performances.

It acts as a conduit for people to explore all range of artistic activities, hosting regular ‘forum meetings’ and running a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook group, and mailing list to keep Erdingtonians and interested parties in the loop.

Ordinarily held at Oikos Café on Erdington High Street on the third Friday of each month, the Evening of Creativity had to adapt to an online format very quickly  due to the coronavirus lockdowns – embracing the chance to invest in new camera and sound recording equipment.

During the summer of 2020, as COVID-19 measures eased, the Evening of Creativity continued at Oikos Café with a small, live audience – using a table booking service to ensure social distancing and safety measures.

The regular showcase, however, continued to broadcast all their events – going out live using a multi-camera system.

Despite a new national lockdown coming into force 5th November, the Arts Forum once again continue to host their Evening of Creativity – following government guidelines – by using pre-recorded clips and editing them into a full length show.

You can watch this months’ Evening of Creativity online from the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page, from 6:30pm on Friday 20th November.

For a live stream of the event, and for more on the Erdington Arts Forum, visit www.facebook.com/groups/cafeartsforum

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

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