NEWS: St Thomas’ Association raise £400 to support brain injury rehabilitation centre

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by St Thomas’ Association and Google Maps)

Earlier this year, members of the St Thomas’ Association handed over a cheque of £400 to West Heath House – a Birmingham based rehabilitation centre that provides care and support for people recovering from brain injury.

The money was raised after kind hearted people at the Erdington social club, situated on Station Road, held fundraising raffles over six weeks and generated a total of £1000 for charity.

Donations were also made to Birmingham Hospice Partnership – who operate John Taylor Hospice on Grange Road, the Alzheimer’s Society – and Guide Dogs for the Blind. 

West Heath House, based in West Heath, is run by the national charity Brainkind and is and is one of the only places in the city that can offer ‘innovative rehabilitation and ongoing support to enable people to thrive after a brain injury.’

The South Birmingham facility was chosen by people from St Thomas’ Association after one of their longstanding members – Colin Anderson, who has played dominoes at the club for over 30 years – became a resident at West Heath House.

Staff from the centre took time from their own personal life to escort Colin to a special dominoes league presentation night at St Thomas’ Association in October last year, traveling across Birmingham and back again, and won the hearts of the people who use the club and know Colin.

After receiving the generous donation from St Thomas’ Association, West Heath House Service Manager, Paul Higgins, responded in writing by saying: ‘I would like to thank all members of the St Thomas Association for their amazingly kind donation. The money will be used for the people we support in a way of their choosing.’

St Thomas’ Association has been part of the Erdington community for nearly 130 years, having first opened its doors in 1895. The club recently had an upgrade worth £200k and offers a vibrant social and events calendar – alongside top of the range facilities for private parties, functions, and corporate bookings.

For more on St Thomas’ Association visit www.saint-toms.co.uk or call (0121) 373 4144

For more on West Heath House visit www.brainkind.org/services/west-heath-house

BACK TO SCHOOL: Wilson Stuart School hosts sensory music experience for students

Words & pic supplied by Wilson Stuart School

In an effort to enhance the musical experiences of students across all age groups, Wilson Stuart School recently welcomed Mike Dryburgh from SENSE, a leading organisation in promoting inclusive activities for individuals with complex needs. The event aimed to broaden students’ access to music through innovative technologies.

Mike Dryburgh’s captivating music performance showcased the integration of music technology, featuring loop pedals and vibrating sound packs. Students not only enjoyed the immersive musical journey but also actively engaged in creating their own compositions using the cutting-edge technology.

Associate Head Tom Elmes, emphasised the profound impact of music on learners, providing sensory input and fostering a sense of joy and wellbeing.

Mr Elmes highlighted the significance of offering students new and enriching experiences, stating: “To have a new experiences from SENSE is a great opportunity for our students and one in which we will look to repeat in the future.”

Executive Head Simon Harris also joined the action by conducting a student-led performance, offering a unique interpretation of Nirvana’s classic ‘Molly’s Lips.’ The event successfully brought together the school community, promoting inclusivity and showcasing the transformative power of music for students with complex physical and medical needs.

Wilson Stuart School continues its commitment to providing a holistic and diverse education, ensuring that students have access to a wide range of experiences that contribute to their overall development and wellbeing.

For more on Wilson Stuart School visit www.wilsonstuart.co.uk  

Wilson Stuart School is part of the Erdington Local BACK TO SCHOOL programme, working together to celebrate school life from staffroom to classroom.

To find out more about going BACK TO SCHOOL please email: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

BACK TO SCHOOL: Staying safe online at Queensbury School

Words & pics by supplied by Queensbury School

Queensbury School in Erdington marked Safer Internet Day on 6 February. This global day of internet safety awareness is now in its 20th year.

The school had Safer Internet Day assemblies, complete with interactive quizzes where the form groups faced off against each other in a test of their internet safety knowledge – happily there were a huge number of correct answers.

Throughout the week, students have talked about cyberbullying in particular and how to be a conscientious user of the internet community.

One Year 9 student pointed out that, “the internet is meant to be helpful, to make things better and easier.” It is this attitude that Queensbury aims to instil in its students.

The school was also supported by Birmingham East’s School Liaison Police Officer, who led sessions with individual classes highlighting the risks of internet use presented in the context the local area and schools.

This followed on from a parent workshop on internet safety that took place at the school a week prior.

The main outcome desired is that all children know how to behave online, and that if they have any concerns at all not to hesitate to simply ask a responsible adult.

For more Queensbury School visit www.queensburysch.com

Queensbury School is part of the Erdington Local BACK TO SCHOOL programme, working together to celebrate school life from staffroom to classroom.

To find out more about going BACK TO SCHOOL please email: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

BACK TO SCHOOL: Marsh Hill children swap Christmas cards with Polish school pen pals

Words and pics by Marsh Hill Primary School

At Marsh Hill, we are constantly striving to enrich our pupil’s lives by giving them a range of opportunities and experiences.

One exciting new initiative we have started this academic year is for Year 4 to make international links with a Polish school, Mlodziezowy Osrodek Socjoterapii in Pomorska Wies.

Year 4 were extremely busy before Christmas making festive cards to post to the children at Mlodziezowy Osrodek Socjoterapii. Our pupils were thrilled when they returned to school in January to see that they had received a special delivery from Poland!

Shown above are the Christmas cards they have received from the children in Poland. Our Marsh Hill children were very impressed with how their Polish pen pals had written the cards in English and are going to now learn how to write back in Polish with the help of Miss Matylda.

Over the year, Year 4 will continue to communicate and have links with the school children in Poland.

A huge thank you to Miss Matylda for giving our pupils this wonderful opportunity.

For more on Marsh Hill Primary School visit www.marshill.bham.sch.uk

Marsh Hill Primary School is part of the Erdington Local BACK TO SCHOOL programme, working together to celebrate school life from staffroom to classroom.

To find out more about going BACK TO SCHOOL please email: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

BACK TO SCHOOL: Chinese New Year at Kings Rise Academy

Words and pics by KRA editorial team

Here at Kings Rise Academy, we love to experience lots of different cultures and traditions! On 10 February, people all around the world welcomed in the Chinese New Year in many different ways.

At Kings Rise Academy, we celebrated the day by eating Chinese food, creating lots of different crafts, learning about Chinese New Year, and dressing in red, yellow, and gold.

The day was organised by our amazing Miss Woo who said: “Chinese New Year is about family getting together and celebrating good health and a year of joy.”

Miss Woo spoke to all of the children in assembly and sent everyone home with a fortune cookie to celebrate the holiday. This year also marks the year of the dragon which symbolises power, wisdom, strength, and knowledge.

The children all agreed that their favourite part of the day was creating their own dragon stencils, learning all about Chinese New Year traditions, and seeing the dinner hall so wonderfully decorated thanks to our amazing staff. 

As the celebrations landed on the day of half term, all the children and staff at Kings Rise Academy wish everyone a Happy Lunar New Year from us and we hope you have a relaxing half term.

For more on Kings Rise Academy visit www.kingsrise.org

The Kings Rise Editorial Team are: Sienna Mills Y5, Zaneta Onojah Y5, Liyana Walters Y5, Riley Mortiboys Y5, Hiba Ahmed Y4, Ehichoya Jason Obor, Y5.

Kings Rise Academy is part of the Erdington Local BACK TO SCHOOL programme, working together to celebrate school life from staffroom to classroom.

To find out more about going BACK TO SCHOOL please email: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

BACK TO SCHOOL: Problem Solving Challenge Day at Kingsthorne Primary School

Words and pics by Kingsthorne Primary School

The end of term always means the same thing at Kingsthorne, House Challenge Day. Pupils come off the normal timetable and split into their four houses, Earth, Fire, Ice, and Water.

Previous challenges have included an art competition inspired by influential female artists, a talent show, and a construction day where the children built items for the rejuvenation of Finchley Park.

This time, it was the Problem Solving Challenge Day. The children had to solve mind-bending puzzles including a scavenger hunt linked to the Kingsthorne values, devious domino maths, and thought twisting tangrams.

The scores will be added to the running total and at the end of the year the winning house will be revealed and awarded the trophy.

Organiser, Mr Ricketts, commented: “The House Challenge Days are a good way to encourage friendly competition and for the pupils to work with people they don’t usually get the chance to.

“It helps build resilience and friendships.”

For more on Kingsthorne Primary School visit www.kingsthorneprimary.co.uk

Kingsthorne Primary School is part of the Erdington Local BACK TO SCHOOL programme, working together to celebrate school life from staffroom to classroom. 

To find out more about going BACK TO SCHOOL please email: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

 

FEATURE: Eco Together in Erdington, inspiring environmental action across the city at Witton Lakes Eco Hub

Words Ed King / Pics by Ewan Williamson

On 27 January 2024, the Bath born and Birmingham adopted Eco Together project celebrated a year of inspiring independent environmental action in and around Erdington – including a specially designed ten week course at the Eco Hub with Witton Lodge Community Association.

Erdington Local went to watch Eco Together cut the cake at the Witton Lakes ecological and community hub – and to hear how the Erdington held course has started a ripple effect of change across the city.

“…people have the power to create the change. It’s just the law of numbers; there’s way more of us.”

The room is full – of both people and passion. But also hope and ambition. Eco Together has been running courses across Birmingham for a year, brought to the second city by Stephanie Boyle – a retired clinical psychologist who found Eco Together whilst researching climate change online.

Starting in Bath, Eco Together works on a micro effecting macro approach, encouraging ‘small groups of friends, neighbours or colleagues’ to come together and realise the ‘powers’ they have in tackling climate change and environmental issues. And at this special anniversary celebration the energy in the room is palpable.

The Eco Hub, located at Witton Lakes, a converted century old gatekeeper’s cottage with ecological issues literally at its foundations, hosted the longest running Birmingham based Eco Together course – evolving the standard five week open platform programme into a special ten week series of workshops and group discussions.

Developed by Stephanie Boyle from the open source material offered by Eco Together, the extended course was commissioned at the request of Witton Lodge Community Association, who also built the Eco Hub. A group of about nine local residents met up every week to discuss environmental issues and to look beyond the bigger picture and ask what they, as individuals, could do to make change.

“It made me feel confident that I could do something,” explains Pauline Brown, who attended the Eco Together course earlier in the year. “As an individual you care about the climate and pollution, and you try and do your best, but you feel like you’re just a little isolated person trying.”

Campaigners worldwide, especially when dealing with worldwide problems, often cite those first few steps as the most daunting.

“But when it came to the (Eco Together) course I was with others who were interested,” adds Pauline, “and those ‘powers’, that’s what really got me – how you can communicate, your advocacy, and talk about it (environmental issues) to other people fires you up with ideas… you bounce of each other.”

“It was useful as a way of discussing what options are available to you as an individual,” adds Nettes Derbyshire – who attended a five week programme run with Shakti Women in Birmingham City Centre.

“I mean, there are things that I knew. But it really challenges you to say ‘well what are you going to do about that?’ and look at what little difference you can make – and to actually go away with something each week and say ‘I’m going to try and do that’.

“(The course) really opened my eyes to my own advocacy, and how you really can shout at the people to do things and really encourage the Local Authority, or whomever it is, and just keep on picking at it until they get it… and hope that they do.”

The ‘powers’ are the main tenet of Eco Together, and like every good collection of cornerstones there are four of them: lifestyle, communication, community, and advocacy.

Started by Sarah Grimes – who graduated with Distinction from Oxford University after reading Environmental Policy and who has worked in, around, and against local government for over 25 years – Eco Together uses these ‘powers’ to galvanise the strength of the individual and to show the simple steps one person can take to chip away at worldwide wall of ignorance and inertia.

Cleaning behind your fridge, for example, saves significant home energy use. It’s hard to think of anything more immediate and simple, but also exponential. Eco Together came from the Transition Bath project that saw around 500 households ‘cut an average of £570 from their annual bills and 1.3 tonnes from their carbon footprint,’ – and that figure of 500 households started with one.

Not bad for a community led charity, and one that proved so effective it started to grab the attention of Councils and Local Authorities across the county.

“It’s amazing, absolutely amazing,” tells Sarah Grimes – after thanking the Birmingham crowd for their involvement over the past twelve months and their ambitions for the next. “And what it shows to me is that the format can adapt to lots of different circumstance and lots of different ways of working.”

Sarah continues: “Initially it was thought of being just a neighbourhood group, but here (Birmingham – Eco Hub) it’s been run as a course, it’s been run by community groups, by organisations, with staff.

“And that shows that the main tenant of Eco Together is the ‘powers’. So, this is a slightly different framing to how we’re used to thinking about environmental issues, and thinking my powers go beyond the ability to choose one product over another product – they actually go into what do I do with the communities I’m in. What do I do, as a citizen, to represent to politicians and businesses. And whether or not I talk about climate change.

 “All of those things are things you can do to make an impact, and that principle can really be used with any issue and with any group of people. And that’s what happening here, which is so exciting.”

It’s a simple premise, but it works. In Birmingham, for example, Eco Together is now being looked at to help support the city’s Net Zero agenda and cut its emissions down to ‘zero or as close as possible to prevent further temperature increases’ – beating the Government benchmark by two decades.

In less than twelve months a handful of people, attending free to access workshops in and around Erdington, have shown the city how it can be done. And the city took note.

“We were invited to a specific session about community action, I think it was about week five,” tells Stockland Green Councillor Jane Jones (Labour), who attended one of the workshops where the power of ‘advocacy’ was on the table – alongside her Perry Common counterpart, Councillor Jilly Bermingham.

“But we were really impressed,” Cllr Jones continues. “We saw the training manual and it was really thorough. I learnt loads just reading one part of it. It was excellent, and the turnout… there were so many people there as well, and they were really interested in the environment.

“It didn’t matter where you were on the scale of knowledge, it really opened people’s eyes. Some people knew absolutely nothing (about environmental issues) and started from scratch, then there were people with more experience and still got something out if it. I certainly did.”

Bringing truth to power can be notoriously tricky, especially when the problem at hand is such a worldwide issue and local government is, well, local. But can the approach from groups like Eco Together actually have an impact, can an individual’s advocacy on an issue tun the relevant responsible authority heads?

“We encourage (local advocacy) that’s why we have open advice bureau,” tells Cllr Bermingham, “because we’re encouraging people to come and talk to us and tell us their issues. I’ve had people come and talk to me about community garden and women’s groups… everything. And they’re the advocates coming to me and pushing their groups, and that’s important.

“It’s all the things joining up. None of us can do it on our own.”

Cllr Jones, never one to duck a tough question, adds: “Whatever the policies the Council have, we’re not always very good at following them through. So, we need keeping on our toes.”

Eco Together in Erdington, anniversary celebration at Witton Lakes Eco Hub / Ewan Williamson

For more on Eco Together visit www.ecotogether.info

For more on the Eco Hub and other projects delivered by Witton Lodge Community Association visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Building community scaffolding with Witton Lodge Community Association

Words by Afzal Hussain – Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association


 
The first weeks of 2024 seem to have passed in a blur. Although still early in the New Year, there have already been some notable highlights.

First, we are thrilled to welcome a number of new volunteers who have joined our existing colleagues and are already making incredible contributions. We were also delighted to support 31 local groups and organisations with grant funding to deliver a wide range of services, which we are confident will make a huge difference across Erdington. We will shortly be publishing details of these projects, so do look out for them.

Off the back of this success, we are seeking to work with trusted local groups to establish Digital Hubs across Erdington, where residents can access computers and online services, as well as support to gain new skills.

As many of you will know, Witton Lodge Community Association was setup in response to a housing crisis, and over the past 30 years worked hard to transform Perry Common. But we know there is more to do, and in recent years we have been purchasing empty properties, refurbishing, and making them available to local families.

Many of our residents are still struggling with cost-of-living pressures, which is why our Advice Services, Health and Wellbeing projects, and Job search are so vital, and in demand. We believe this ‘community scaffolding’ will hold us in better stead for the inevitable tough times ahead.

Our approach, at its heart, remains as it did all those years ago… working with and alongside our communities, listening, and harnessing their knowledge and experience to develop services that deliver results.

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

NEWS: Eden Café to be taken over by new management from March

Words & pics by Ed King


 
Eden Café, on Reservoir Rd, just off Six Ways roundabout, is to be taken over by new management from March this year – with the official launch scheduled for April.

2 Much Passion, a local Community Interest Company (CIC) ‘committed to teaching and creating mouthwatering projects’ and encouraging ‘real life cooking that will impact (on people’s) health and well being’ has been using the Eden Café kitchen for their community food solution projects.

But the CIC made the decision to move permanently into the YMCA owned site this spring, to extend their community support and breathe new life into the beleaguered café.


 
Already running a Warm Space facility from Eden Café on Wednesdays and Fridays between 12:30pm and 4:30pm, and a Community Pantry on Thursdays between 10am and 2pm, 2 Much Passion are looking forward to getting the once popular hub back open to the general public.

The hardworking CIC also have ambitious plans to extend their community outreach and support programmes, which currently provide lunches to the Northcroft Hospital “on a daily basis” and saw them use Eden’s kitchen to make meals to feed up to a thousand people a day during the summer.


 
There are also plans to bring live music and entertainment to the site, mirroring the current Eden Café strapline that declares the venue offers ‘more than coffee’.

Managing Director of 2 Much Passion, Vanessa Kelly, told Erdington Local: “We are looking forward to being the go to community café, providing the community led food solutions that Erdington really needs.

“We operate the Warm Welcome and Community Pantry, but for people using the café they will know that by buying a coffee or a meal with us that is being reinvested back into the community.

“We want people to know that Eden is there for benefit of the community, and with the cost of living crisis and everything that’s happening we don’t want anyone to go to bed hungry. So, if you can afford to – you can buy. But if you can’t we will feed you.

“By eating with us you support us to feed somebody else.”


 
For more on 2 Much Passion CIC visit www.2muchpassioncic.co.uk

For more on Eden Café visit www.facebook.com/eden.coffee.erdington/

NEWS: Man appears before Birmingham Crown Court for murder and fraud charges after body found at Baldmoor Lake Road address

Words by Ed King / Pic of Wallis Webb supplied by WMP – pics of Baldmoor Lake Rd from Google Maps

A man has appeared before Birmingham Crown Court, charged with murder and fraud by false representation after a body was found at a Baldmoor Lake Road address last week.

On Tuesday 6 February, Mr Wallis Webb, aged 65, was discovered dead at the Erdington address – sparking a murder investigation by local police.

Days later and Sakander Hussain, aged 25, was arrested and subsequently charged with the murder of Mr Wallis and fraud by false representation – after police found the deceased’s bank card had been used posthumously.

Mr Hussain, from Ingleton Road, Ward End, first appeared before magistrates and has now been processed through to Birmingham’s Crown Court, where he appeared via video link from HMP Hewell to confirm his name.

Judge Simon Drew KC, presiding, set a plea and trial preparation hearing for 22 April – where the accused will be asked to enter a plea against the charges brought before him. A provisional trail date has also been set for 5 August 2024.

Addressing Mr Hussain, Judge Simon Drew KC said: “I am going to adjourn your case.

“The next hearing will be on April 22, that is the hearing at which you will be expected to enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty.”

He added: “I am fixing your case for trial on August 5. You must attend the trial and if you fail to do so, you could face a separate offence.”

A spokesperson for West Midlands Police further confirmed: “A 51-year-old man, who was arrested on suspicion of fraud, has been bailed with conditions while enquiries continue.”

They added: “We’re doing all we can to support (Mr Webb’s) family during this terrible time.

“We remain keen to hear from anyone with information which could help our investigation.”

Mr Webb, who served briefly as a local councillor, was found dead at the scene by emergency services on Tuesday 6 February.

His family released a statement through West Midlands Police: “To try to compress a life into short sentences does not do anybody justice. This is by far the hardest of them all.

“Wallis was a Councillor for a short period of time, because he really believed in trying to help others and felt strongly about the hardships people now have to endure without the help so many need.

“This is yet another life taken in a shocking and senseless manner.”

Anyone with any information that might prove useful to the investigation have been asked to contact West Midlands Police via Live Chat on their website at: www.west-midlands.police.uk/contact-us/live-chat  

Alternatively, people can call 101 and quote Log No. 631 of 6/2 – or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111