NEWS: Local businesses invited to hear ‘10 point plan’ to tackle crime on Erdington High Street – meeting on Thursday 23 March

Words & pics by Ed King

On Thursday 23 March, local businesses and retailers are invited to a meeting with Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Police, to hear their combined ’10 point plan’ to tackle crime on Erdington High Street and in the Town Centre.

Crime and antisocial behaviour have become key concerns in the central Erdington shopping district, with High Street retailers losing thousands each week to shoplifters and many local residents feeling unsafe to visit the area.

Organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (BID) and Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton, the meeting is a continuation of consultations between the elected officials and the local business community – this month to be held at Oikos Café and Church at 6pm on Thursday 23 March.

Anyone wishing to attend should contact the EBID to register a place by emailing erdingtonhighstreet@hotmail.co.uk or sending a message through their Facebook page – click here.

Local businesses and retailers can also secure a place at the meeting by emailing Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton’s office at paulette.hamilton.mp@parliament.uk

Promoting the event, a message on the Erdington BID Facebook page said: “The next police and crime meeting, focusing on Erdington Town Centre will take place on Thursday March 23rd at Oikos Church, Erdington High Street at 6pm.

“West Midlands Police and Birmingham City Council will be talking through their 10 point plan to help improve the High Street moving forward.”

Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton added: “At my previous meeting in February, I heard many local traders talk about the problems they are facing on the High Street. There is no doubt that something needs to be done to improve the situation if we want to prevent more shops from closing.

“This week, I have called a follow-up meeting with local businesses and look forward to hearing about Birmingham City Council’s action plan for our High Street.

“I’m pleased that we are making progress and I hope to see as many local businesses as possible at the meeting.”

Erdington suffers with a higher than average crime rate across the city, with an already stretched local police force facing a huge challenge with limited resources.

Since 2010, police teams across the region have been decimated by budget cuts – losing around 50% of officers dedicated to neighbourhood and community policing.

But in a recent meeting Chief Constable Craig Guildford maintained his force’s commitment to “…providing the best service we can to the residents, business owners, and any visitors to the High Street in Erdington.”

He added: “I definitely need people to report (crimes), to ring 999, if there’s a shoplifter detained that kicking off or assaulting anybody.

“And at the same time, I’d also encourage you to engage the BID and encourage the local businesses to work with the BID as well.”

To secure a place at the crime strategy meeting at Oikos Café on Thursday 23 March, at 6pm, email erdingtonhighstreet@hotmail.co.uk or paulette.hamilton.mp@parliament.uk

For more on the Erdington BID visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk or www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID  
For more from Paulette Hamilton visit www.paulettehamilton.org

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

If you have been a victim of crime on Erdington High Street we want to hear your story – please get in touch with us at: mystory@erdingtonlocal.com

NEWS: WMP Chief Constable “determined to put more resources” into local policing and build “a higher level of visibility” in areas such as Erdington High Street

Words by Ed King / Pics by Ed King or taken from live feed of SPCB

West Midlands Police Chief Constable Craig Guildford is “determined to put more resources into local (policing)” and assures local retailers “when our operating model changes there will be a higher level of visibility” and police presence in areas such as Erdington High Street.

Following our feature last week titled ‘Erdington retailers are losing thousands on “lawless” High Street scourged by shoplifters’, Erdington Local met with the region’s most senior police officer to discuss crime in the once busy shopping district.

As part of the Strategic Policing and Crime Board’s (PSCB) monthly meeting, chaired by Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner Tom McNeil, the urgent plight of Erdington’s High Streeet retailers was presented directly to the WMP Chief Constable.

Issues including a lack of police presence on the High Street, the Public Space Protection Order, CCTV, and better support for the existing shop security and Erdington Street Warden were all raised – with a particular focus given to shops that report crimes and claim no effective police response.

According to many High Street retailers, repeat and violent offenders are also left unchallenged by local law enforcement – with some shoplifters let go by police who attend the scene, even after being caught on CCTV stealing hundreds of pounds worth of goods and detained by shop security.

(Click here to read more about the experiences of staff working at Peacocks and the Coop on Erdington High Street.)

WMP Chief Constable Craig Guildford responded: “(What) you’ve said about shoplifters being detained does cause me some trouble and I intend to have a deeper look into that.

“Because if a shopkeeper is ringing up, and there’s a shoplifter there to be arrested, that’s being a pain in the backside, we need to go and deal with it.”

He added: “But proportionately. Sometimes if that shoplifter is of a young age, or it’s a lower value item, we may… try and use restorative justice to prevent reoffending. And I also support the officers in doing that.

“But sometimes, from a business owners perspective, that might not be the best thing since sliced bread.”

Many High Street retailers have further told Erdington Local of the problems with using emergency numbers to report crimes to the police, spending “45mins to an hour trying to get through to 101.”

Alongside no immediate response to potentially dangerous situations, one store manager also previously explained:

“One person off that shop floor could allow three of four shoplifters in the shop. I physically can’t do it; I literally can’t leave the shop floor.”

The failings of the 999 and 101 numbers were also on the Strategic Policing and Crime Board agenda, with Chief Constable Craig Guildford “less content with our position on 101s” but looking to introduce “a raft of measures” to improve the service that the force is “moving forward with at pace.”

He also urged larger local retailers to “up their own security” and build a bigger “provision of security to deter some of these offences… to make sure the most resources can be applied to the problem.”

In a Valentines Day meeting with the Erdington Business Improvement District (BID) and local retailers, held at the request of Paulette Hamilton MP, Erdington’s then serving Sergeant Simon Wheeler also urged High Street businesses to use 101 to report crime – explaining the numbers of reports can affect how many officers are deployed in an area.

But despite “regular meetings” between the police and Erdington BID “to share concerns and agree approaches”, the 14 February event was the first time several retailers had met either Sergeant Wheeler or the BID’s new Town Centre Manager, John Hodgkiss – both of whom came into post around six to eight months ago.

When questioned if this was an appropriate amount of time for such representatives to have made contact with local retailers, especially under the shadow of constant complaints around crime on the High Street, Chief Constable Guildford responded:

“I concur with many of the points made. I do run the police force, and eight months does seem like a long time to me too. All I would say is that we’re committed to improving that.

“I definitely need people to report, to ring 999, if there’s a shoplifter detained that’s kicking off or assaulting anybody.

“And at the same time, I’d also encourage (people) to engage the BID and encourage the local businesses to work with the BID as well.

“It sounds like the new person may be able to facilitate more of that.”

FEATURE: Erdington retailers are losing thousands on “lawless” High Street scourged by shoplifters

Words by Ed King / Pics by Ed King and Studio Creativity

Erdington’s retailers are losing thousands every week as the “lawless” High Street is scourged by shoplifters, many of whom are repeat offenders known to local law enforcement.

“It’s every day,” tells Karen Leavy, store manager at Peacocks on Erdington High Street. “The ones that we know of it could be up to two or three times a day. Then there are one’s that we don’t know of, going to the back of the shop and detagging stock. They are an everyday occurrence as well.

“From 2019 up to last year it’s improved, but we’re still losing about £250 a day.”

Karen’s family have worked in retail for many years and are no strangers to shoplifters, or an underwhelming response from local police teams.

“I previously worked at the Peacocks in Stechford,” continued Karen, “and we had somebody who was shoplifting constantly. He went to court, got a slap on the hand, then he started coming into this store (Erdington) and doing it here.

“They can spit at us, they can kick out at us, they can call us all the names under the sun, but we can’t do anything to them. And he’s literally got away with thousands of pounds worth of stuff.

“I’d given the name to the police, and I’ve never heard anything about it since. My mum worked in the this store many years ago and she got punched full force in the face by a shoplifter, and nothing was done about that.”

Since 2010, policing budgets across the West Midlands have been slashed by Government cuts, with the region losing a reported £175m and 2000 police officers – around 25% of those in active service, and over 50% allocated to community policing.

In a recent meeting organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), at the request of the Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton, Sargeant Simon Wheeler encouraged local retailers to report every crime to get more officers allocated to the area.

But many local shops still struggle. Karen continues: “I’ve given the information to the police, but it means I’m off the shop floor… I can be on the phone for 45mins to an hour trying to get through.

“One person off that shop floor could allow three of four shoplifters in the shop. I physically can’t do it; I literally can’t leave the shop floor.”

Even for retailers with dedicated shop security the battle is still steeply uphill. At the other end of the High Street, the Coop supermarket is just as plagued by shoplifters as Peacocks, suffering the same pattern in repeat offenders.

Coop manager Ben Hall told Erdington Local: “We haven’t got police presence on the High Street and that’s just enticing criminal behaviour. We get a lot of shoplifters in here and I think it’s rather lawless on the High Street at the moment.

“There was a shoplifter who came in over the space of a week and a half, and stole about £500 worth of bottles of spirits.

“Finally, we caught the man in action, stealing, and we detained him and rang the police. Martin (security guard) went through all the correct procedures, logged it with the police and got a crime reference number, and burnt off all the CCTV footage.

“Then the policeman came and said there was nothing they could do.

“We understand how hard it is for the police, but my staff come in and work their socks off – they go above and beyond for the business. The police should be doing the same thing.”

Like the Coop and Peacocks, to many retailers more police presence on Erdington High Street seems to be the answer. But in the shadow of austerity and with a city to patrol, the argument continues over available resources.

And stuck in the middle is Erdington Street Warden, John Lynch – employed by the EBID, who also provide a radio system for local shops to warn each other of offenders. Having worked on Erdington High Street for years, John is a familiar faced deterrent to many shoplifters in the area.

“It’s got to the point where shops have stopped reporting thefts because they know nothing will come back from it,” tells John, who keeps receiving calls through his radio.

“Like with Peacocks, there was one guy who was robbing them every Sunday – they knew his name, they’ve got CCTV, they reported it, but they’ve never heard anything back to this day.

“Then we had a member of staff who was assaulted in Farmfoods, who was punched in the face. They knew the offender; they knew his name. The man who was assaulted has never heard anything back about that at all.

“The police say people aren’t reporting crime, but they are reporting crimes – they’re constantly reporting crimes, and all they get is a crime reference number, it’s logged, and they never hear anything after that.

“I know the police are busy, but they should focus on the more serious crimes on the High Street,” continues John. “I’m getting complaints on a daily basis about all the drug dealers outside Iceland, so that needs to get looked into.

“And when you’re talking about assault, large thefts, and continuous thefts, those people do need to be dealt with as they’re causing a major problem.”

John has also been the victim of assault, with one man breaking a restraining order to come back to Erdington High Street to steal – having only been out of prison for one week, after serving time for previously assaulting John and a police officer.

“I reported it to the police,” tells John, “the burglary offence and the breach of the restraining order… and to this day I’ve heard nothing back. The store’s heard nothing; I’ve heard nothing.

“They had CCTV footage. All the evidence was there, somebody said they would come and take a statement, but I heard nothing more about it. This was around October last year.”

But despite the imbalance of crime and punishment, there is still a communal desire to see significant change – with a ransacked police force and beleaguered community ultimately wanting the same thing. Law and order.

Plus, existing local legislation such as the Public Space Protection Order (PSBO) can be used to great effect.

Erdington Local recently witnessed officers PC Stiles and PC Bird deescalate a potentially violent clash, using the threat of a fine through the PSBO to remove an aggressive woman from the High Street.

As the offender stormed off, she shouted back at the officers who had successfully moved her on: “that’s why I don’t like coming here.”

Many feel regular communication and information sharing between police, the Street Warden, and the retail community would also go a long way – helping to send a message of ‘no tolerance’ to crime on the High Street.

As Ben at the Coop was quick to add, after highlighting the day to day issues that face his staff, his store, and the High Street at large: “I don’t want to seem like I’m just picking on the police.

“Albin (security) got assaulted by a shoplifter, and the police arrived within seconds and dealt with it fantastically. There also an officer called Dave, and he’s brilliant – I can’t sing his praises high enough.

“But if we can work together and get better police presence on the High Street… and it’s not just for the Coop, it’s for the whole High Street.

“We need to work together.”

NEWS: Local businesses invited to MP meeting about crime on Erdington High Street – to be held on Tuesday 14 February

Words & pics by Ed King

On Tuesday 14 February, local businesses and High Street retailers have been invited to attend a meeting to discuss crime and anti-social behaviour within the Erdington Shopping district.

Organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) and Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton, the meeting will be held at St Barnabas Church in the evening – with all local shop owners, workers, and businesses invited.

Anyone wishing to attend should contact the EBID to register a place by emailing erdingtonhighstreet@hotmail.co.uk or calling (0121) 306 4270.

Erdington Town Centre and EBID Manager, John Hodgkiss, told Erdington Local: “I organised the meeting on the request of Paulette (Hamilton), to discuss the current crime situation in the town centre.

“Initially, it was to focus on the 6 Ways end of the High Street which seems to be having more problems in general.

“I visited them all last week to invite, but as a result I’m expecting that retailers from all over will attend.

“It’s essentially as a result of Erdington losing out on the Levelling Up funding. Paulette (Hamilton) wanted to look at more focussed projects including crime, retail, and the local economy, and push on with these as soon as possible.”

Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton added: “I’ve called a meeting with local businesses along Erdington High Street to discuss how we can tackle the issues they are facing and work together to secure the investment our High Street desperately needs.

“Erdington High Street is the heart and soul of our community, but sadly it’s been in decline for many years.

“As more shops close, the area has become a magnet for antisocial behaviour that has resulted in the introduction of a Public Space Protection Order.

“The latest blow came from the Government after they recently rejected our Levelling Up Fund application that would have transformed our High Street, and we’re still fighting to stop the approval of an eighth betting shop.

“It’s important that we all work together to make Erdington a better place and I hope to see as many local businesses as possible at the meeting (on Tuesday 14 February).”

Once one of the busiest roads in Birmingham, the Erdington shopping district has been blighted with crime and antisocial behaviour in recent years – with many people now avoiding the area due to concerns over street drinking, drug dealing, and harassment on the High Street.

Retailers are under daily siege from shoplifters, with a lack of any firm police presence giving criminals a green light to keep offending – according to High Street shop staff and security.

Several key shops have further closed their doors for good after the Covid lockdowns, with even major banks pulling down their shutters and leaving Erdington Town Centre.

But despite two recent rejections for Levelling Up Fund (LUF) money, and a previous rejection from the Future High Streets Fund in December 2022, there are still locally led plans in place to help regenerate the High Street.

Even though the project was a key part of the recent LUF application, Witton Lodge Community Association remain committed to transforming the old swimming baths into an Enterprise Hub – with ambitious plans to create jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities at the currently disused site.

St Barnabas are continuing to explore alternative funding to renovate their churchyard, a regeneration project that again would have been significantly supported by the LUF bid.

Whilst Central Square is turning over a new leaf, with the old shopping centre owners investing in a significant makeover and letting new units.

The meeting on Tuesday 14 February will be a chance for local businesses and retailers to voice their concerns over High Street crime directly to the Erdington MP and Businesses Improvement District.

Erdington Local will be meeting with West Midlands Police Chief Constable Craig Guildford on 28 February, to further discuss crime on the High Street.

If you have been a victim of crime on Erdington High Street we want to hear your story – please get in touch with us at: mystory@erdingtonlocal.com

BACK TO WORK: Jobs Fair to be held at St Barnabas Church on Tuesday 31 January

Words by Steve Sharma & Ed King / Pics supplied by WLCA & Ed King

On Tuesday 31 January, a Jobs Fair will be held at St Barnabas Church on Erdington High Street – giving local job seekers the chance to meet large employers in the area.

Organised by Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) in partnership with the Erdington Business Improvement District (BID) the event will also provide a chance to speak directly with training providers, as well as to apply for live vacancies.

A previous Jobs Fair, held at the Erdington High Street church in August, brought together a range of providers offering opportunities around digital skills.

With medical providers and disability support charities attending the January event, including the NHS and Mencap, there will be a range of employment opportunities for people interested in a career in healthcare.

More than 70 people attended the first Jobs Fair event, with most of the employment stands busy and lined with people waiting to speak to recruiters representing a range of different industries across North Birmingham.

Melissa Gayle, Employability Coordinator at WLCA, said: “We had a wonderful turnout at the last event and are confident this next one will be just as popular as Job Fairs are a very effective way of allowing people to connect with employers.

“They also provide job seekers with the opportunity to interview for vacancies.”

John Hodgkiss, Erdington Town Centre and BID Manager, added: “The name of the project is the Erdington Employment Charter.

“It’s being put into place to offer local Erdington job seekers the best chance of success, with local partners in both the public and private sectors working together to identify local job vacancies and expedite these through to local residents.

“Furthermore, candidates will be offered a bespoke employment service tailored to them, from application advice and help through to post interview support and guidance.

“There will be an expert team on hand to offer this support, and we urge any local employers in the Erdington area to contact us with open vacancies, so we can fill these with local Erdington talent with no expense to the employer.”

St Barnabas Church, the oldest church in Erdington, hold regular community events – including a stay and play called Barnie Babies, a youth café run in conjunction with local faith based support charity Urban Devotion, and a weekly Warm Space Café with free soup and refreshments.

Jane Smith, St Barnabas Parish Administrator and Communications Co-ordinator, told: “There have been several Jobs Fairs hosted at St Barnabas Church Centre over the years and we’re always delighted to work with local partners to help make them happen.

“The events provide a valuable opportunity for local people to meet employers and training providers and find useful information on organisations that can support those seeking work.

“It promises to be a busy day and we look forward to welcoming everyone.”

Organisations already confirmed for the WLCA and Erdington BID Jobs Fair at St Barnabas Church on Tuesday 31 January include the National Health Service (NHS), Acado, AM2PM, and Mencap.

Any employers who are looking to recruit in North Birmingham and who would like to be part of event, and the wider Erdington Employment Charter, are asked to email the Erdington BID at erdingtonhighstreet@hotmail.co.uk

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

For more from the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk

For more from St Barnabas, including links to their social media and community events programme, visit www.stbarnabaserdington.org.uk

NEWS: “A kick in the teeth” as Erdington High Street loses out on millions from Levelling Up Fund

Words & pics by Ed King (image of Paulette Hamilton supplied)

Erdington has once again missed out on millions of pounds to regenerate the High Street, as the Government rejects the latest Levelling Up Fund (LUF) application.

In a surprise announcement made in the early hours of Thursday 19 January, with no warning given to unsuccessful applications, all five of Birmingham City Council’s applications to the LUF were turned down – including the £10.75m petitioned to deliver ‘a transformational scheme’ for Erdington High Street.

Top of the list of Birmingham City Council’s recent LUF applications, the Erdington High Street bid would ‘be used to transform the High Street into a thriving centre, with business incubation space, housing, cultural, leisure and social activities, improved urban realm and physical and social connectivity within the area.’

At the centre of the regeneration of Erdington High Street were plans to support the renovation of St Barnabas Churchyard and the development of a Community and Enterprise Hub at the old Erdington Swimming Baths site – being delivered by Witton Lodge Community Association.

With local politicians and stakeholders reeling from the LUF rejection this morning – which is the second time the ambitious plans for Erdington High Street have been turned down – elsewhere across the county 111 areas will be celebrating their share of the £2.1bn from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities.

Today’s shock announcement, and complete overstepping of all five Birmingham LUF bids, is the latest defeat in a long battle to secure regeneration funding for Erdington High Street from Westminster – which began with an application to the Future High Street Fund in 2020 and saw further disappointment in the first round of LUF allocations in October 2021.

Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton stated: “”I’m incredibly disappointed that, yet again, the Conservative Government have let Erdington down.

“Our funding bid would have brought investment into our community by creating jobs, skills, and infrastructure. The investment would have transformed Erdington High Street to make it a destination again.

“Sadly, Erdington did not receive a single penny from the Tory Government’s 2.1bn fund, despite ranking amongst the top 10% most deprived areas in the country.

“The Prime Minister’s own constituency – one of the most affluent – has received £19m.

“Tory failure and favouritism have been laid bare by this announcement. It’s just another kick in the teeth for our community in Erdington from this out of touch Government.”

Erdington Ward Councillor and Birmingham Conservative Leader, Robert Alden, told: “Over the last few years we have been putting in Future High Street Fund and Levelling up Fund bids and requests to the City Council, that is it is so disappointing that the Levelling Up Fund bid has not been approved.

“However, this is not the end of trying to get funding into the High Street here in Erdington.

“It is vital now that the Government and the City Council invest in our High Street to deliver the plans that residents want to see and we will continue to do all we can to secure further investment onto of the funding already provided by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street”.

Cllr Gareth Moore (Con, Erdington Ward) added: “West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has listened and the Combined Authority therefore put in over £2million to help turn the former Erdington Baths site, under Witton Lodge Community Association, into an Enterprise Hub to support local people into work and to set up businesses.

“Andy Street listened to the people of Erdington it is time that the City Council and the Government listen to the people of Erdington and invest to regenerate our High Street”.

Birmingham was one of three cities across the country that had all of it’s LUF applications turned down by Government, losing out on a total of £82.264m in potential citywide funding.

Elsewhere, Leeds lost out on a potential £120m through six LUF bids – whilst Nottingham had all three of its bids rejected, totalling £57m.

Birmingham City Council Leader Ian Ward told: “Today’s announcement is a kick in the teeth for Birmingham families who were already struggling to make ends meet after over a decade of Tory austerity – even before the Government crashed the UK economy.

“You cannot level up the UK economy without levelling up Birmingham, so today’s news brings into question the Government’s true commitment to hard-pressed households across this city. It’s now clear that levelling up is nothing more than a slogan.

“These bids would have delivered true change to communities across Birmingham, creating new jobs, improving life chances and restoring pride to our neighbourhoods.

“Instead, the Prime Minister’s constituency – one of the most affluent in the country – has received funding, while of the 80 successful bids in England, only half are in the 100 most deprived areas of the country. How is this levelling up?”

The Levelling Up Fund was first announced in the Government’s 2020 spending review, totalling £4.8bn in accessible funding for councils across the country.

Tranche One of LUF allocation saw £1.7bn distributed to 105 projects, including money for Moseley Road Swimming Baths in Balsall Heath and the Soho Loop development on Dudley Road.

Following today’s allocation of £2.1bn in Tranche Two – which saw 525 bids submitted to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities in August 2022 – there is now £1bn left in the LUF budget.

Erdington’s Town Centre Manger and head of the Business Improvement District (EBID), John Hodgkiss, who came into post in August 2022, is “remaining positive about the potential of Erdington High Street.”

Mr Hodgkiss told Erdington Local: “It’s incredibly disappointing to hear that the LUF has not been awarded to Erdington, especially in light of the hard work so many have contributed.

“In terms of Erdington High Street, I know that we have so many dedicated stakeholders with one aim, which is to see Erdington prosper and thrive in the future.

“Here at the EBID, we will continue to push on with projects and events to attract greater footfall into the town centre. We will also continue to work hard in attracting new independent and national retailers into Erdington High Street.

“We also commit to promoting the great retailers which we already have on board and further improve the local trading environment for them.”

CHRISTMAS STARTS TODAY… Christmas lights ‘switch on’ event kicks off the festive season on Erdington High Street – today, from 4pm to 7pm

Words by Ed King / Artwork supplied by Ceol Agency, profile pic by Ed King

The festive season starts in Erdington today, with a special event celebrating the Christmas lights ‘switch on’ – running from 4pm to 7pm, with more events and performances up and down the High Street.

All the Christmas activities are free to attend and suitable for all the family, big and small kids alike are welcome.

The main stage, outside the Co-op supermarket, will be hosted by Radio WM DJ and presenter Henry Liston – with a headline musical performance from local superstar singer Liam Price, who shot to fame after his debut on The Voice Kids UK (2019).

Also performing will be The Trouverers, a musical storytelling ensemble fronted by Katrina – alongside a troupe of Indian Drummers, playing rhythmic beats with traditional South Asian instruments and costume.

Abbey Primary School Choir will be singing the traditional Christmas carol ‘In dulci jubilo’, along with the Birmingham Irish Association. Whilst classically trained international duo Soreno will be closing the main stage after the Christmas lights have been officially ‘switched on’, with their modern medley of folk, pop, and light jazz.

Further up Erdington High Street, there will also be a community choir stage outside St Barnabas Church – with Christmas carols and traditional songs performed by choirs from across Erdington, accompanied by world touring guitarist and singer Stefan Stefanov.

There will also be a free Santa’s Grotto downstairs at Central Square – running from 4pm until around 5:30pm, where up to 1000 children can visit the winter wonderland, meet Santa, and get a free selection box treat.

Santa will then be making his way down to the main stage by the Co-op supermarket, to help turn on the Christmas lights and officially start the festive season in Erdington.

Organised by The Recovery Foundation and supported by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), the Santa’s Grotto at Central Square is also completely free – with children of any ages up to 14 welcome to come along.

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

Organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) and local partners, today’s Christmas lights ‘switch on’ event  will be surrounded by more free events for the family to enjoy on Erdington High Street – including a ‘Nutcracker Trail’ and ‘Best Dressed Window’ competition.

The month long programme of free festive fun, starting just over four weeks before Christmas Day, will bring some welcomed Christmas cheer to Erdington – after years of Covid restrictions and amidst the current cost of living crisis.

Supporting local businesses, the EBID also hope the free Christmas events will also encourage people to search for those special seasonal gifts on Erdington High Street.

Town Centre Manager John Hodgkiss told Erdington Local:

“This winter the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) wanted to bring some Christmas cheer firmly back to Erdington, with an exciting programme of family friendly fun that won’t cost you a penny.

“Join us for the official Christmas lights ‘switch on’ celebration and free Santa’s Grotto on Thursday 24 November, and check out the other fun events happening up and down the High Street.

“It’s been a tough couple of years, and this winter will be a difficult time for many of us.

“But EBID and our local partners have organised these free and fun events so Erdington can celebrate Christmas as a community again. We hope to see you all on the High Street.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SIX DAYS TO GO… Follow the ‘Nutcracker Trail’ on Erdington High Street and see the Christmas lights ‘switch on’ – Thursday 24 November

Words by Ed King / Images supplied by EBID, Ceol Agency, & UP Creative

Erdington’s festive season officially begins on Thursday 24 November, with the Christmas lights ‘switch on’ event taking place on Erdington High Street – running from 4pm to 7pm and completely free to attend.

But bringing extra Christmas cheer to the High Street this winter season, a special ‘Nutcracker Trail’ has been organised by the local UP Creative Community and supported by Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID)

Hiding across Erdington High Street this December will be eight Christmas Nutcracker Dolls, inviting you to find them as part of a Nutcracker Trail competition, with a special price donated by the Erdington Rotary Club.

But don’t worry, the Nutcrackers will be about 10ft tall – so even the smallest explorer can have fun trying to find them.

Made by the local Up Creative Community, a ‘collaborative of local artists who offer sustainable textile waste management’, the Nutcrackers are fashioned from recycled plastic and decorated in the traditional toy solider style.

Helen Waite from UP Creative Community told Erdington Local: “According to German folklore, Nutcrackers were given as keepsakes to bring luck to the family and protect the home.

“It is said that they represent strength and power and watch over the family keeping evil spirits and danger away.

“On our Nutcracker Trail, each guards a gift and the letters upon the gift spell out a winter themed word.

“Once you have completed the trail and work out the word, return your answers to the BID volunteers who will reward you with your own Christmas pressie.

“UP’s vision is to bring creative change for people and planet.

“We aim to normalise conscious consumption and showcase how with a little creativity and resourcefulness we can make items that are destined for landfill into beautiful pieces of art which can be celebrated.

“The Nutcrackers are an example of this, having been made from discarded bins and vinyl offcuts.

“The original four are lovingly named, John, Ringo, George, and Paul, we are looking for names for the new four.”

Gary Dancer from the Erdington Rotary Club added: “Rotary Club of Erdington are delighted to donate a prize for the Nutcracker Trail competition.

“This is a great community event, and we always seek support activities in our own community.”

The Nutcracker Trail competition is suitable for children of any age and completely free to enter.

For more on the Nutcracker Trail and all the Christmas events coming to the High Street visit www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID

For mor on UP Creative Community visit www.theupcreativecommunity.org

EIGHT DAYS TO GO… Countdown begins to Christmas lights ‘switch on’ event on Erdington High Street – Thursday 24 November

Words & profile pic by Ed King /  Artwork supplied by Ceol Agency

IT’S CHRIISSTTMMAASS… or at least it will be, soon.

Erdington’s festive season officially begins on Thursday 24 November, with the Christmas lights ‘switch on’ event taking place on Erdington High Street.

Running from 4pm to 7pm and completely free to attend, there will be a programme of family friendly music and celebration up and down the High Street – with a main stage outside the Co-op supermarket and second community choir stage outside St Barnabas Church.

There will also be a free Santa’s Grotto downstairs at Central Square, where up to 1000 children can visit the winter wonderland at the Secret Arts Studio Space, meet Santa, and get a free selection box treat – as organised by The Recovery Foundation, and supported by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID)

‘Switching on’ the Christmas lights will Birmingham born gymnast, Joe Fraser – coming to kickstart Erdington’s festive season after winning two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games 2022 and helping England retain their No1 spot.

Hosted by Radio WM DJ and presenter Henry Liston, the main stage will also welcome local superstar singer Liam Price, who shot to fame after his debut on The Voice Kids UK (2019).

More music will come from the storytelling ensemble The Trouverers, fronted by Katrina – alongside a troupe of Indian Drummers, playing rhythmic beats with traditional South Asian instruments and costume.

Abbey Primary School Choir will also be performing with the Birmingham Irish Association, singing the traditional Christmas carol, ‘In dulci jubilo’.

Closing the main stage celebration will be a special live performance from the international duo Soreno, bringing a classical twist to a modern medley of folk, pop, and light jazz.

The community choir stage outside St Barnabas will host choirs from across Erdington, including the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and Six Ways Baptist Church – joined by world touring guitarist and singer Stefan Stefanov.

Organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) and local partners, the Christmas lights ‘switch on’ event on 24 November will be surrounded by more free events for the family to enjoy on Erdington High Street – including a ‘Nutcracker Trail’ and ‘Best Dressed Window’ competition.

The month long programme of free festive fun, starting just over four weeks before Christmas Day, will bring some welcomed Christmas cheer to Erdington – after years of Covid restrictions and amidst the current cost of living crisis.

Supporting local businesses, the EBID also hope the free Christmas events will encourage people to search for those special seasonal gifts on Erdington High Street.

Town Centre Manager John Hodgkiss told Erdington Local: “This winter the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) wanted to bring some Christmas cheer firmly back to Erdington, with an exciting programme of family friendly fun that won’t cost you a penny.

“Join us for the official Christmas lights ‘switch on’ celebration and free Santa’s Grotto on Thursday 24 November, and check out the other fun events happening up and down the High Street.

“It’s been a tough couple of years, and this winter will be a difficult time for many of us.

“But EBID and our local partners have organised these free and fun events so Erdington can celebrate Christmas as a community again.

“We hope to see you all on the High Street.”

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