NEWS: New Year Erdington bus passengers set to save 30% as part of Get Around for £2 campaign

Words by Ed King

This New Year, passengers on Erdington bus routes will be set to save nearly 30% on all single journeys – as the Government introduces it’s Get Around for £2 campaign.

Launched on Sunday 1 January and running until Friday 31 March, the public transport project will see over 130 bus operators slash their single fare prices on over 4600 routes across the county

With bus companies across the UK taking part in the New Year money saving scheme, all but two running through Erdington are taking part in the national initiative.

An average single fare on buses across the UK normally costs around £2.80. But the New Year prices are now capped at £2 until the end of March, following a £60 million Government investment to encourage people to use public transport.

Passengers using the following bus routes through Erdington, operated by West Midlands Travel and Arriva Midlands West, will benefit from the Get Around for £2 initiative:

96 (Chelmsley Wood – Kingstanding), 11A/11C (Birmingham Outer Circle), 28 (Small Heath – Great Barr), 66 (Birmingham – Sutton Coldfield), 77/77A (Walsall – Erdington), X3/X4/X5/X14/X15 (Birmingham – Sutton Coldfield), 110 (Birmingham – Tamworth)

Operators Diamond Bus and The Green Bus, who run the routes 600 (Brookvale Park – Erdington Circular) and 842 (Aldridge – King Edwards Handsworth Boys School) respectively, are not listed as taking part in the Get Around for £2 campaign.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “By helping passengers outside London save almost a third off the average single bus ticket and taking two million cars off the road, the £2 bus fare cap is a fantastic way to start the new year.

“Buses are a key part of our vision for a clean, efficient and modern transport network that is affordable for everyone. That’s why we’re investing £60 million to encourage everyone to hop on the bus and ‘Get Around for £2’.”

As part of the National Bus Strategy, published in 2021, the New Year public transport initiative also forms part of the Government’s Help for Households campaign, supporting people affected by the rising cost of living.

A press release from the Department for Transport further stated: ‘The Government will continue to work closely with bus operators and local authorities and consider future support to help passengers continue accessing reliable and affordable bus services after March.’

Norman Baker, Head of External Affairs at Campaign for Better Transport, added: “Affordable bus travel really is a win-win.

“Capping bus fares in this way will help struggling households, cut traffic congestion and carbon emissions, and inject new life into dwindling bus services.”

To see the full list of bus services you can save on in Birmingham as part of the Get Around for £2 campaign, visit www.gov.uk/guidance/2-bus-fare-cap

NEWS: Erdington poet Paulette Francis Green to stage manage world première of She’s Royal

Words by Ed King / Images supplied by Paulette Francis Green & Blackstory Partnership

“I’m pleased someone from Erdington can be part of this fantastic play, but the important thing about She’s Royal is the hidden history that many people did not know about.”

Erdington poet and spoken word artist Paulette Francis Green (Empress P) is set to stage manage the world première of She’s Royal, launching at the Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio on Tuesday 18 October.

Written by Tonia Daley-Campbell and directed by Lorna Laidlaw, who plays series character Aggie Bailey in Coronation Street, She’s Royal explores the stories of two women of colour who were prominent members of the royal household under Queen Victoria – Sarah Forbes Bonetta and Sophia Duleep Singh, both goddaughters to the monarch.

A child slave in the court of King Ghezo of Dahomey (today southern western Nigeria), Sarah Forbes Bonetta was gifted to Queen Victoria via Captain Forbes – with the monarch impressed by her intellect and encouraging her to enter Victorian high society.

Sophia Duleep Singh was the British born third daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh, who became a key part of the rising Suffragette movement and getting royal consent for the Equal Franchise Act in 1928, enabling women over age 21 to vote on a par with men. Singh would go on to establish the Suffragette Fellowship in 1930.

Paulette Francis Green, who has worked with Birmingham Opera Company and Erdington Arts Forum, told Erdington Local: “I think the story is important because we are made aware that there were people of colour in the household of the monarchy, in this example Queen Victoria.

“Because of what happened in India (colonial rule) she decided that she would have Sophia Duleep Singh as her goddaughter, along with Sarah Forbes Bonette. To me it’s’ a hidden story that needs to be told.

“Also, Queen Victoria’s relationship with Abdul Karim – who was initially one of her servants but became her cook, and we mention that in the play. So, you can see in the household of Queen Victoria she did have people of colour around her and in positions that were close to her.

“There are diaries by Queen Victoria… there is a part in the play that mentions her saying ‘regardless of people’s race, yes I will promote someone who is of colour.’

“So, it’s a good lesson – but it’s also saying stop being naive, stop thinking there weren’t people of colour around the monarchy.”

Throughout the rise and fall of the British Empire, which at its height counted over 412 million people as it’s subjects – 23% of the world’s population at the time, people from countries and dominions across the globe made England their home.

But the impact and presence of people of colour in the UK spans back throughout history, even to the times of the Roman Empire.

“I’m tired and also pleased we’re still having the conversation,” added Paulette. “But what people have to realise is that we (people of colour) didn’t just come to the UK in 1948 on the SS Windrush – we have been here since the Roman times, with Lucias Septimius Severus (Rome’s first African Emperor) who conquered Caledonia.

“There’s been a black presence in the UK going back centuries, just look at John Blanke – one of the key trumpeters Henry VIII’s court. And what is frustrating is that it is history, it is our history, and it should be told – it should be told in schools.

“There are so many things people of colour have contributed to British history, but why don’t people want to talk about it, why don’t people want to accept it. It happened, it happened, it happened…”

She’s Royal opens with its world première at Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio on Tuesday 18 October, with a performance at 7:30pm. There will also be performances of She’s Royal on Wednesday 19 October at both 1pm and 7:30pm.

Tickets start from £15 by calling the box office on 0844 338 5000 or online via: www.birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/shes-royal/

She’s Royal will also be performed at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre on Tuesday 1 November at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

She’s Royal – official trailer

She’s Royal is an original production from Blackstory Partnership. For more on Blackstory Partnership visit www.blackstorypartnership.com

For more on the Birmingham Hippodrome visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com

For more on Paulette Francis Green (Empress P) visit www.instagram.com/empressppoet

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

NEWS: WLCA Enterprise Hub development to get £795,000 from Birmingham City Council

Words by Ed King

Witton Lodge Community Association’s (WLCA) plans to redevelop the old Erdington Baths into a vibrant ‘Enterprise Hub’ are set to receive £795,000 from Birmingham City Council.

Announced today, the City will be allocating over three quarters of a million pounds from its Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) fund – to help repair the old public bath’s roof and allow WLCA to manage operations from the site.

The significant investment from Birmingham City Council follows a recent £2m commitment from the West Midlands Combined Authority, who pledged the money as part of its 2018 brownfield and housing delivery programme.

With further support from Birmingham City Council, the ambitious project – which would create jobs and opportunities for new business in the heart of Erdington – will be part a key of the revised Levelling Up Fund application which could bring millions to Erdington High Street.

As he approved today’s grant, Birmingham City Council Leader Cllr Ian Ward said: “For generations, the baths were a much-loved facility for the people of Erdington, and this is an important step in the efforts to give this historic building a new lease of life right at the heart of the community.

“I’m delighted we are working alongside Witton Lodge Community Association to transform the old baths building on Mason Road and this exciting project is a key part of the overall Levelling Up Fund bid for Erdington High Street, which will bring the community together, support local businesses and improve accessibility to wider employment opportunities for the residents of Erdington.”

Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton, who has worked with the City Council to develop the Erdington High Street Levelling Up Fund bid, added: “This funding is fantastic news. I hope it will kick start our plans for a brand new community and enterprise hub in Erdington run by Witton Lodge Community Association, who do amazing work locally.

“The new hub would bring enormous benefits for local people by providing employment opportunities, helping to develop skills and offering space for small businesses to develop and grow.

“The Council’s decision to help fund this project should send a message to Ministers about how committed we are to transforming Erdington High Street. We want to make the area a destination again, and now we need the Government to back our Levelling Up bid to make that a reality.”

Witton Lodge Community Association Chief Officer Afzal Hussain told Erdington Local: “We’re deeply grateful to the Council for its support and funding to kickstart Phase 1 works on the Erdington Enterprise Hub.

“The funding will enable us to refurbish the roof and entrance area and actively engage local residents, entrepreneurs and businesses to showcase and shape plans on the ambitious project.

“We have already secured funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority and with planning approval also in place, we’re now only waiting on the Government to approve Erdington’s Levelling Up bid. Fingers crossed!”

For more on the new Enterprise Hub visit www.erdingtonbaths.webflow.io

“We just want her home and safe” – Wolverhampton family appeal to Erdington residents for help finding teenage daughter

Words by Erdington Local news team / Pics supplied by family

Erdington residents have been asked to help find a missing teenager who has been seen multiple times in the area.

The parents of 15-year-old Shannon Hyde have been driving around Erdington since she went missing 21 days ago.

Shannon’s father Shaun Hyde, from Wolverhampton, has been frantically following up tip offs from people on Facebook.

He told Erdington Local: “She has been missing for 21 days now and her phone has been switched off since last Friday.

“She was last seen meeting an older man in Erdington.

“People are commenting on Facebook that they have seen her in Erdington, Birmingham, but the police don’t seem to be following the sightings up until it is too late.

“We’ve been told she was seen outside an HMO in Erdington, by Old Square, and approached several people in pubs in Erdington.”

He added: “We just want her home and safe, she is vulnerable and I’m asking anyone who has seen her to get in touch with the police.”

Shannon’s disappearance has been shared across social media and Shaun has even been getting messages from Americans who are trying to locate her via the Internet.

He said: “I’ve had Americans on Snapchat getting in touch about where she could be, I really hope she contacts us soon.

“I am really worried about her being groomed by gangs and her mother and I are going out of our minds with worry about what could happen to her if she is not found soon.”

West Midlands Police have now put out two appeals for information about the whereabouts of Shannon.

Police first posted about Shannon on 13 September and again this week posting a more recent picture of the teenager.

A police spokesman said: “Shannon is 5ft 3ins tall, with shoulder length brown hair and was last seen wearing blue jeans, a cream T-shirt, chequered jacket and blue and pink trainers.

“We still need to find Shannon. Can you help? Please contact us with any information.

“We’re still searching for Shannon. The 15-year-old is missing from Wolverhampton. She was last seen wearing grey bottoms, white trainers and a beige check jacket.”

If you have information on Shannon’s whereabouts call 101, quote PID390949.

BACK TO SCHOOL: Children at Abbey Primary ‘Fill the Skies with Hope’ and send a messge to PM Liz Truss over UK refugee policies

Words by Ed King / Pics by Ed King & Abbey Catholic Primary School

“If there is a refugee, we are all going to welcome him or her in our school – because we support refugees and we want more refugees to join our safe and caring and loving country.”

On Friday 23 September, children at Abbey Catholic Primary School in Erdington took part in a nationwide campaign to ‘Fill the Skies with Hope’ and send a message to the newly appointed Prime Minister, Liz Truss, over the UK’s policies on refugees.

The whole school engaged in the special event, making orange paper aeroplanes carrying messages of support and solidarity and sending them into the skies at the same time.

Led by Abbey Principal, Mr McTernan, all children and classes gathered together in the school playground at 2:30pm – launching 420 paper aeroplanes in unison to show the school’s support for refugees and displaced people.

The ‘Fill the Skies with Hope’ campaign – coordinated by the national coalition Together with Refugees – saw schools, community groups, and local organisations across the country make their own paper aeroplanes and launch them in a ‘Day of Action’ on Friday 23 September.

Together with Refugees organised the ‘Fill the Skies with Hope’ campaign to directly challenge the British Government about the colloquially called Rwanda Plan, where people identified by the UK as illegal immigrants or asylum seekers are relocated to Rwanda.

The Rwanda Plan was signed into law by the then Home Secretary Priti Patel, and Rwandan foreign minister Vincent Biruta on 13 April 2022 – with the current Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, now overseeing the scheme.

Together with Refugees was founded by Asylum Matters, British Red Cross, Freedom from Torture, Rainbow Migration, Refugee Action, Refugee Council, and Scottish Refugee Council.

Abbey Catholic Primary School is part of the Birmingham School of Sanctuary Network, committed to ‘promoting welcome, inclusion and awareness of the problems faced by people seeking sanctuary.’ – with the school’s curriculum embracing the issues around refugees and displaced people.

Ahead of the paper aeroplane launch, children from Year 4 had been involved in lessons and learning around refugees all day – including reading Kate Milner’s illustrated children’s book, My Name is Not Refugee.

“It (My Name is Not Refugee) was about a boy who had to flee his country because of war and his mum was saying they will call you refugee,” explained Henry Bradington (4LD).

“At the start we learned what our names mean, so we could not call refugees refugees, but to call them by their name,” told Benedict Abraham (4LD). “I learnt not to label people but to call them by their own names,” added Ava White (4CC)

“We also learnt how people in India, 5 million people, had to flee because of natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and droughts,” told Victoria Gabriella (4LD).

Year 4 Teacher and Year 3/4 Pastoral Lead, Miss Doyle, added: “We’re a school of sanctuary and they’ve (the children) have been immersed in that entire journey.

“I think it’s so important in this multicultural society not only do they understand refugees and their position, but that they are embracing it and they are welcoming… that they don’t have those stereotypes and are not afraid of it.”

Children at Abbey Catholic Primary ‘Fill the Skies with Hope’ – Friday 23 September

For more on Abbey Catholic Primary School visit www.abbeyrc.bham.sch.uk

For more on Together with Refugees visit www.togetherwithrefugees.org.uk

NEWS: St Barnabas to hold public consultation over churchyard renovation – Thursday 29 September

Words & pics by Ed King

St Barnabas Church in Erdington are inviting members of the public to attend a public consultation to discuss plans to renovate the churchyard.

Held at St Barnabas on Thursday 29 September, the drop in session will be free to attend – with the Erdington High Street based church keen to hear from as many local residents as possible.

Plans to renovate the churchyard have been discussed internally at St Barnabas for several months, with ambitious ideas on how to turn the dilapidated areas into vibrant public spaces that better serve the local community.

A poster advertising the public consolation explains how St Barnabas want to create ‘a safe and beautiful place that benefits people and wildlife’.

St Barnabas’s churchyard has been known as a hot spot for street drinkers, drug taking, and anti-social behaviour, with the plans for renovation hoping an ‘improved churchyard means better links for local people to use and visit it.’

Current plans include a special memorial tree, a stone ‘labyrinth’ and ‘focal space’, art murals, and areas for the public to sit and reflect.

Reverend Emma Sykes at St Barnabas told Erdington Local: “Our church sits at the heart of the High Street and we want the churchyard to be a place of peaceful reflection as well as a safe and green space that benefits all those who use it.

“We know there are challenges ahead as it’s going to be a long and costly project to restore the currently unsafe parts and reform the whole area, but we are excited that we’re already making positive steps and there are reachable goals in sight.

“We’ve engaged with specialist consultants and with help from our support partners, ideas for the future plans include living memorials, wildlife areas, education trails for children, historical insights, improved lighting, benches and a community space which could be used for outdoor church services, activities and other events.

“All this is against the backdrop of respecting all those who are at rest in the churchyard and their families and loved ones.”

First built as a chapel of ease in 1823, St Barnabas is a Grade II listed building designed by Thomas Rickman – a self taught architect who was a major figure in the 19th century Gothic Revival movement.

Badly damaged in a suspected arson attack in 2007, which destroyed the roof and all but one of its famed stained glass windows, St Barnabas underwent major renovation work to its building in 2011-12.

The churchyard is no longer available for public burial and contains 66 graves to service men and women from both the Great War and World War II.

Reverend Emma Sykes added: “The public consultation will be an important opportunity for people to come along and tell us what they think of the plans and we can answer questions.

“We continue to be grateful to all those who have supported us so far and we want to bring on board more people from the local community as we move forward as together, we can make very positive changes.”

For more on St Barnabas visit www.stbarnabaserdington.org.uk