FREE SANTA’S GROTTO at Erdington Library, Erdington High Street – Saturday 2 December

Words by Ed King / Pics by Connor Pope

On Saturday 2 December, the big man in red and white will be setting up a FREE SANTA’S GROTTO at Erdington Library at the end of Erdington High Street – inviting local children and families to meet him and his elves as they prepare all the presents for Christmas Day.

Open from 10am until 3pm, no booking is required for the FREE SANTA’S GROTTO – families and children are invited to just come down to Erdington Library and join the fun.

A queue system will be in place, getting people in to meet Santa first come first served, with Santa’s elves on hand to help keep the younger ones occupied with special Christmas crafts and fun.

Plus, the main library will be open with all it’s fantastic books and resources. And if the FREE SANATA’S GROTTO is especially busy there are a host of cafes and shops near to the library where you can grab a quick drink or bite to eat, or make a last dash for those special gifts ahead of the big day.

Organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) and supported by local businesses and retailers, the FREE SANTA’S GROTTO will help take the financial sting out of the festive season – offering Erdington families a free way to meet Santa and join in on the winter celebrations.

Erdington Town Centre Mangere, John Hodgkiss, told: “With the challenging year which we have all had, it’s that time again when we focus on Christmas and maximising on footfall in Erdington Town Centre throughout late November and December.”

He added: “Everything is totally free to attend, paid for by the BID and supported by the local shops and businesses. In these difficult times we still want people to be able to together and celebrate our wonderful Erdington community.

“Winter brings the longer nights and colder weather, but we look forward to welcoming local families, residents (and even the occasional reindeer who might fly by) for a bit a festive fun to brighten up the darker days. See you all on the High Street.”

On Saturday 25 November, Erdington High Street celebrated the official Christmas Lights Switch On event – where local Councillor Robert Alden (Erdington Ward, Conservative) and BBC WM Breakfast presenter Rakeem Omar kicked off the festive season and High Street illuminations, joined by a host of other familiar faces and family fun.

All EBID Christmas activities in Erdington Town Centre are supported by local retailers and businesses, who pay a yearly levy for bring services and activities to encourage people to use Erdington Town Centre.

Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), for example, pay for the Street Wardens who patrol the High Street and act as an immediate line of defence against shoplifters – often in the absence of any effective police presence, and with community police resources having been significantly stripped back over recent years.

Erdington once had one of the busiest High Street’s in Birmingham, with a thriving market community and a bustling variety of independent traders and shops.

But the Covid pandemic, rising cost of living, rising energy prices, and increase in online retail hass seen shops across the country pull down their shutters and the culture of High Street shopping and community diminish.

Crime and anti-social behaviour have also affected Erdington High Street, with some local residents and shoppers becoming increasingly concerned about aggression and criminality in the Town Centre.

Organised activities such as the FREE SANTA’S GROTTO and Christmas Light Switch On event hope to encourage more people to visit Erdington High Street and support the local shops and businesses there.

Erdington Town Centre Manager, John Hodgkiss, added: “The festive period is a crucial time for retail in general, so once again, we want to focus on showing Erdington in its best light and provide family entertainment to increase footfall from the end of November through until New Year.”

For more from the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk or follow the on Facebook at www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS & SANTA’S GROTTO: Celebrate the festive season on Erdington High Street – free Christmas Lights Switch On (Sat 25 Nov) and Santa’s Grotto (Sat 2 Dec)

Words by Ed King / Pics by Connor Pope

The festive season kicks off on Erdington High Street from Saturday 25 November, with an afternoon of free and family fun to celebrate the official Christmas Lights Switch On and welcome winter to the Town Centre.

Come and enjoy an afternoon of music, dance, markets, food, drinks, and all the winter warming shopping you can squeeze into a Saturday – hosted by BBC WM Breakfast presenter Rakeem Omar.

Plus, there will be some very special guests arriving from the world of Pokemon to have their pictures taken with anyone, big or small, who wants to take home a special Christmas memory.

Starting at 12noon and running until the sun and shop shutters go down at 6pm, all activities are completely free of charge and open to children and adults of all ages – even the ‘big kids’ who still get excited when they know Christmas is in the air and a special someone is coming to town.

Then on the following weekend, on Saturday 2 December, Santa will be flying back into Erdington Town Centre coming back to Erdington High Street – inviting children and families to visit his free Santa’s Grotto at Erdington Library between 10am and 3pm.

Completely free, with no advance booking required, Santa hopes you can come and say hello before he flies off around the world delivering presents for Christmas Day.

There will also be free festive craft workshops at Santa’s Grotto, making sure everyone is entertained whilst waiting to see Santa – with his elves on hand to help people of all ages.

Organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) and supported by local shops and businesses, the annual Christmas Lights Switch On not only illuminates the High Street as the nights draw in but helps celebrate all the fantastic shops and destination venues in Erdington Town Centre.

Need to catch up on some Christmas shopping? Why not check out all the bargains at Wilton Market, dazzle a loved one with a special something from Goldbar Jewellers, or get the kids excited with toys and games from Griffins Gaming.

Or if you just want to catch up with friends and family you can grab something delicious to eat and drink up and down the High Street – from pancakes and smoothies at Oikos Café, to the main meals and fully stocked bar at The Charlie Hall (children welcome if accompanied).

Erdington BID and Town Centre Manager, John Hodgkiss, tells: “Erdington High Street invites everyone to come and celebrate the festive season with a fantastic, and free, afternoon of music, dance, markets, food, and drink, on Saturday 25 November – building up to the official Christmas Light Switch on that evening.

“Everything is totally free to attend, paid for by the BID and supported by the local shops and businesses. In these difficult times we still want people to be able to together and celebrate our wonderful Erdington community.

“Winter brings the longer nights and colder weather, but we look forward to welcoming local families, residents (and even the occasional reindeer who might fly by) for a bit a festive fun to brighten up the darker days. See you all on the High Street.”

A quick guide to the Christmas Lights Switch On – Saturday 25 November:

  • Completely free and open to all ages
  • Live music and dance on the High Street from midday – hosted by BBC WM Breakfast presenter Rakeem Omar
  • Salvation Army Band – playing your favourite Christmas carols and traditional winter songs
  • The Nitecrawlers playing live rhythm and blues – following on from the success of the Birmingham Jazz and Blues Festival
  • Bangra dance for children and adults – from award winning performer and CBeebies presenter, Sohan Kailey
  • Come and meet larger than life Pokemon characters – have your picture taken with Pikachu and Alakazam
  • A special winter market by the Village Green – outside Oikos Café and The Swan

Check out some of the pictures from last year’s Christmas Lights Switch On and Santa’s Grotto in our special PICTURE GALLERY below.

25 NOVEMBER: Christmas Lights Switch On – 12noon to 6pm, Erdington High Street (free)
2 DECEMBER: Santa’s Grotto – 10 am to 3pm, Erdington Library (free)

Watch out for more about the festive fun on Erdington High Street on the Erdington Business Improvement District Facebook page: www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID

 

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

As your local MP representing Erdington, Kingstanding, and Castle Vale, I care about the issues that affect you and our community. Here are some of the things I have done in the past month:

I recently hosted a meeting with Simon Foster, the Police and Crime Commissioner, Chief Superintendent Richard North, local traders, and officials from Birmingham City Council. 

We discussed the ongoing issues of crime and antisocial behaviour on Erdington High Street.

Importantly, they heard concerns from our traders, recognising the need for more robust measures to enhance security and enforcement, and the need to work more closely to combat crime in the area.

I was also approached by traders on Slade Road who raised concerns about issues they were experiencing, including theft, antisocial behaviour, and the presence of sex workers. I empathised with the challenges facing local traders and will be following up on their concerns and working towards a constructive solution. 

I recently participated in a National Day of Action for Safer Streets to prevent road accidents, injuries, and deaths. As part of this effort, I’m backing the campaign to reduce speeds to 30mph on local roads. I would urge everyone to have their say by taking part in the consultation – please do get in touch if you want to know more. 

Despite 13 years of Conservative cuts to policing, I will not give up on fighting crime and antisocial behaviour in our area. I will keep working to secure the resources we need to keep our community safe. 

For more on Paulette Hamilton MP for Erdington visit www.paulettehamilton.org

NEWS: Meeting held to tackle “endemic” crime and anti-social behaviour in Erdington Town Centre

Words & pics by Ed King

A meeting was held last week between West Midlands Police and High Street retailers, looking at ways to tackle the “endemic” crime and anti-social behaviour in Erdington Town Centre.

In attendance from West Midlands Police were the region’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster, and Chief Superintendent Richard North – alongside Inspector Shameem Ahmed and Seargent Nicola Hooper, who oversee the Erdington police teams.

The meeting was held at St Barnabas Church, Erdington High Street, and was closed off to members of the public.

Representing the local retail community were managers and staff from a handful of High Street businesses including Superdrug, Card Factory, Erdington Pet Centre, The Church Tavern, and BoyleSports UK – the latter petitioning the local police to tackle alleged drug dealing outside their outlet at 210A High Street.

“Why can’t we have a dispersal order?” questioned a senior staff member from BoyleSports UK, asking the police directly what they are doing to challenge the alleged dealers.

“I don’t want these people outside my shop…” she continued, “they need to be gone, they’re a blight on the High Street. It’s relentless, they start dealing from 8am.”

Organised by the Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton and Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), last week’s meeting was the continuation of conversations between the High Street business community and law enforcement representatives that began in February this year.

But whilst many retailers welcome any attempts at addressing the issues affecting the High Street, many others have pulled back from the meetings – telling Erdington Local they have stopped engaging with local police or politicians, who they feel are failing to get to grips with the problems or offer any effective solutions.

When the lack of local businesses in attendance was raised at the recent meeting, one longstanding High Street retailer explained: “The shop keepers have been at the first and fourth meetings, and they don’t see any change. What’s the point of calling the police when it takes them over one hour to respond.”

Another retailer supported the frustrations reportedly felt by many High Street businesses, telling the group: “There are no consequences to what they (the shoplifters) do. And there’s a lot of apathy from (High Street) retailers… nothing seems to get done.”

However, Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton, who’s office invited local business to attend the meeting last week, was resolute that local businesses had been given adequate chance to be involved. She told: “We went to virtually every shop on the High Street… the people who aren’t here don’t want to be here. We can only work with what we’ve got.”

Further addressing the local businesses, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster – who has visited Erdington High Street several times – told: “It’s (crime and anti-social behaviour) endemic… we’re hearing about problems again and again. The issue is not being gripped… for a variety of different explanations.”

He continued: “A big part of the answer is making sure we rebuild community policing… visible policing helps keep families and communities safe,” before warning retailers “don’t underestimate the task” the police had in front of them to tackle crime on Erdington High Street.

Chief Superintendent Richard North also confirmed he had “seen some of the challenges and appreciate the frustrations”, and that he would “defend the officers here who are dealing with crimes across the constituency”.

He further told how West Midlands Police were recruiting new officers, but it would take time to train any incoming staff “up to independent control status”. Although Chief Superintendent Richard North did confirm that “going forward” there should be “more officers” deployed into Erdington.

He added: “As recruitment settles down, we should be in a better position.”

Outside of recruiting and training new police officers, there is also a ’10 Point Plan’ currently being worked through by Birmingham City Council to address issues on the High Street from street lighting to police presence.

Ending the meeting everyone in attendance was invited to comment, with Erdington Ward Councillor Gareth Moore telling: “It’s great that we met today but there needs to be more progression… I don’t want to meet again in a couple of months and be talking about the same things.”

Paulette Hamilton MP added: “I want to be able to walk up and down that High Street and feel as safe as I used to.”

The next meeting, which is open to all retailers in Erdington Town Centre, is scheduled for February 2024.

NEWS: Erdington MP calls on Police Chief to “walk along Erdington High Street” over fears of “concerning levels of crime”

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton has called on the West Midlands Police Chief Constable to “walk along Erdington High Street” with her, to see firsthand the “concerning levels of crime and anti-social behaviour” that blight Erdington Town Centre.

In an open letter sent earlier this week to the region’s most senior police officer, Ms Hamilton MP raised the alarm over policing in the retail district – stating crime on the High Street was one of the “main reasons constituents contact my office” and that “despite considerable efforts” from both the police and local officials, the MP has “not seen a clear improvement in over a year”.

The letter, addressed to West Midlands Police (WMP) Chief Constable Craig Guildford and dated 21 September, goes on to challenge one of the key promises made by the regional police force – namely that WMP are committed to ‘Providing a service that works for local people’.

In response to this commitment, which is the first of the three ‘strategic pillars’ WMP outline in their official strategy for policing in the region, Ms Hamilton states this promise is “simply not being met when it comes to Erdington High Street”.

The letter concludes with a request for the Chief Constable to “reassure” the Erdington MP “the High Street is a priority” and an invitation to join Ms Hamilton “on a walk along Erdington High Street to discuss the next steps we can take together”.

At the time of writing, the Erdington MP’s office had received not yet received a response from Chief Constable Craig Guildford or WMP about the letter.

Crime and anti-social behaviour on Erdington High Street have long been a concern for local businesses, shoppers, and residents alike – with stores reportedly losing out on thousands a week from aggressive shoplifters, and members of the public telling Erdington Local they are increasing afraid to shop there.

Recently, the Erdington Business Improvement District employed a second Street Warden to help support local businesses and shoppers.

But a perceived lack of uniformed presence on the High Street has left both the private security and retail staff feeling dangerously unsupported, with members of the public also questioning where the police foot patrols have gone.

In West Midlands Police’s official strategy document, published on their website, the regional force declares a ‘new local policing model’ which will present ‘a local, visible police service, delivered in the heart of our diverse communities.’

Under the first heading of ‘Providing a service that works for local people’ – as referenced in the letter from Ms Hamilton MP – West Midlands Police say: ‘People can expect to see more officers spending more time in their local community, understanding and preventing local problems’.

Regarding crime on Erdington High Street specifically, Chief Constable Craig Guildford has previously told Erdington Local: “First and foremost we’re (WMP) absolutely committed to providing the best service we can to the residents, business owners, and any visitors to the High Street in Erdington.”

A meeting to discuss crime on the High Street alongside the local police teams, with local retailers and residents also invited to attend, has been scheduled for 19 October – as arranged by the Erdington MP’s office.

For more from Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton visit www.paulettehamilton.org

To read more about West Midlands Police’s ‘Mission, Vision, Values, Behaviours and Strategy’ visit www.west-midlands.police.uk/about-us/vision-values-strategy

LOCAL Q&A: John Hodgkiss, Erdington Town Centre Manager

Pics by Connor Pope & Ed King

John Hodgkiss was appointed Erdington Town Centre Manager in August 2022, after his longstanding predecessor, Terry Guest, left the role. Responsible for delivering the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) agenda, and supporting the businesses that finance the EBID, the position stands between the retail community and local stakeholders and blue light services.

Now a year in post, Erdington Local caught up with John Hodgkiss to look back at the last 12 months and sneak a peek at the next.

___________

What have been the biggest challenges facing Erdington High Street?

Like every town centre in the county, the cost of living crisis has continued to cause uncertainty for retailers and shoppers on the High Street.

This all comes at a time when town centres are moving in a new direction in the Post Covid era, such as becoming a home for community projects and charities able to connect more widely with those who need help.

The biggest challenge facing Erdington High Street has proven to be the raising level of crime and anti-social behaviour. To really be able to continue growing footfall and attract inward investment, it is vital that we work hard to reduce crime which will in turn change people’s perception of Erdington High Street, enabling us to do so much more when marketing the town centre in the future.

 

And what have been the main highlights and achievements from your time as Town Centre Manager?

The main highlight has been working with some of Erdington’s great charity projects. I haven’t worked in a town before with such a strong community as in Erdington. There is so much great work going on out there. Erdington is most certainly a leader in this field, but more work needs to be done here in getting the word out about these organisations, not only to Erdington residents, but Birmingham-wide.

The Christmas, Easter, and Jazz & Blues Festival events were great fun, and they were opportunities to welcome visitors from outside Erdington and showcase the town.

Another highlight has been applying for and securing funds over and above what we receive via BID levy in order to pay for extra events this winter and to employ a second Street Warden to patrol the High Street.

 

We agree, especially the Jazz & Blues Festival gigs at Oikos – any more events like this planned?

We’re really pleased with how the Birmingham Jazz and Blues gigs turned out. Despite the awful weather, the town pulled together to make sure the show went on.

It was the first time that Erdington had taken part in the city-wide festival. The feedback was extremely positive with great attendance. We have already been asked to take part again next year, so let’s hope we can make it even bigger and better in 2024 and attract people from all over Birmingham to attend.

 

As we head out of summer and into autumn and winter, are there any seasonal events in the pipeline – over Halloween or Christmas for example?

Believe it or not, we have been working on Christmas for a few weeks now, recruiting community members and volunteers to help make Christmas in Erdington even bigger and better this year.

We were really pleased with the turnout for the switch-on last year, but we aim to improve in 2023 and put on a great switch-on as well as other events throughout December.

November and December are crucial times for retail, so we want to work alongside retailers to bring in as many shoppers possible, reminding local residents and shoppers further afield that they can get so much of their Christmas shopping in Erdington.

 

The EBID was reinstated for its next five year tenure a few months before you took over, do you feel it is making headway on its campaign promises – to tackle crime, encourage higher footfall, and promote Erdington to a wider audience?

These issues are still those that are the most important to deliver for Erdington during the lifetime of this EBID tenure and it’s very evident how these goals are ultimately linked, with a ‘knock-on’ effect on each other.

As mentioned, crime is still the biggest issue facing Erdington at the moment. By recently employing a new Street Warden, we hope to see a decrease in anti-social behaviour and crime, making full use of the Public Space Protection Order.

Through getting to grips with crime, we would expect greater footfall, bringing back those shoppers who have been concerned to visit the High Street more recently. At this time, it is vital that we continue communicating the positives about Erdington far and wide and encourage shoppers to revisit and enjoy Erdington Town Centre. Therefore, it’s essential that these three promises stay at the top of the list for delivery.

 

The EBID recently helped set up meetings between the retail community, local police teams, and elected officials, to draft a 10 point plan for the High Street – can you update our readers on this?

The formation of this 10 point plan dates back to February this year with a public meeting to discuss a way forward with the crime situation in Erdington. The latest meeting took place in May and the next I believe is to go ahead in October (later confirmed to be scheduled for 19 October).

The EBID has been involved by offering to take details of crime from retailers on the High Street due to the wide-spread observation that they are unable to get though the 101 non-emergency number to report crime.

We were also very keen to help with the provision of a ‘pop-up’ police surgery, providing an essential point of contact for those affected by or concerned about crime on the High Street.

We are still waiting on updates on progression with these projects, which is why we felt it necessary to do what we could in the private sector, by seeking extra funding to employ another Street Warden to help alleviate the worsening situation right now.

We will continue to apply for extra funding where we can ‘step-up’ what the EBID is able to do in order to achieve lower crime rates in Erdington.

 

You have a strong history of working with BIDs in London and the West Midlands, do you feel they work well with other local stakeholders – such as the Council and police?

BIDs can certainly work well and closely with other stakeholders, but it is important to clarify that BIDs are here to provide services over and above what public sector organisations are funded to provide.

The EBID brings in just over 100k per year, so we’re working hard at the moment to apply for as much extra funding as possible to deal with the crime situation and make sure that we also deliver the projects outlined and voted for in the business plan. Unfortunately, we are unable to ‘pick up’ funding shortages of others.

 

You mentioned to Erdington Local before that you were keen to establish Erdington High Street as and LGBTQ+ ‘safe space’, can you tell us any more about this ambition?

This came up in response to the report that there was a lack of grass roots LGBTQ+ support in North Birmingham and the fact the team at the Recovery Foundation had launched an LGBTQ+ support programme, ‘Rainbow Minds Matter’.

Together, we want to highlight the fact that Erdington is safe and supportive of the LGBTQ+ community by highlighting the safe spaces throughout the High Street. This is a project we will be working on in the near future to get the message of diversity and inclusivity across.

 

Are there any other aims for the EBID in the next twelve months?

Looking at the next 12 months, tackling crime will continue as a priority, evaluating the improvement on the High Street over this time.

We will continue reporting on the many positives regarding Erdington Town Centre, enhance our events programme, and increase a higher percentage of shoppers from outside Birmingham.

Another important aim is to attract new retailers, both national and independent into Erdington Town Centre.

 

If you could wave a magic wand and change any aspect of Erdington High Street overnight, what would you want to see when you woke up in the morning?

I would love to see Erdington as leading the way in what a quickly evolving British town centre looks like. So many town centres are in a transition period at the moment due to many external and economic pressures not experienced to this extent before.

The exemplary community projects are here in Erdington already, so an ambition would be to have an Erdington Community Hub with a home on the High Street, to bring together as many opportunities and assistance together for the community together in one place and the perfect way to shout about everything Erdington!

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk or visit the EBID Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ErdingtonTownCentre

(Ed’s note: This LOCAL Q&A was first submitted to Erdington Local before the announcement of any Section 114 notice issued by Birmingham City Council.)

NEWS: Police issue appeal to find man after York Road cash point robbery

Words & pics by Ed King / Pic from CCTV supplied by West Midlands Police

West Midlands Police (WMP) have released an image of a man they want to talk to following a cash point robbery on York Road near Erdington High Street last month.

Earlier today, WMP posted an appeal on their Twitter feed showing the blurry image of a man – presumably taken from CCTV footage – under the heading: “#APPEAL | Do you recognise this man?”

The post continued to state: “We want to speak to him after a man was robbed outside a bank in #Erdington last month.

“At 12.45pm on Wed 2 August, a man was withdrawing money from the ATM (near Erdington) High Street when another man approached and pushed him to the ground, causing injury, before taking the money that had just been withdrawn and making off.

Members of the public are then encouraged to contact West Midlands Police with any information they have, calling the force on 101 or messaging them via their website’s Live Chat facility: www.west-midlands.police.uk/contact-us/live-chat

Anyone contacting police with information about the man in the picture issued by WMP, or the robbery itself, has been asked to quote crime reference number: 20/673861/23

Erdington Local contacted West Midlands Police for any further information about the robbery, who confirmed it took place outside an ATM on York Road ‘near to the High Street’.

The only ATMs Erdington Local could find on York Road belong to Lloyds Bank. A sign fixed to the wall next to the side street cash machines states: ‘Please be vigilant… Thieves operate in this area’.

Erdington High Street was once one of the busiest throughfares in Birmingham, with a vibrant market and retail community, but has been blighted in recent years by street violence, anti-social behaviour, and endemic shoplifting.

Calls for extra police presence have often been made by local businesses and shoppers alike, many of whom are increasingly concerned over safety in the Town Centre.

John Hodgkiss from the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) has been involved in trying to tackle crime in the Town Centre since being appointed as Town Centre Manager in August 2022.

Alongside local elected officials, Mr Hodgkiss instigated meetings earlier this year with local police and stakeholders to draft a 10 point plan to address criminality in the area.

Mr Hodgkiss recently told Erdington Local: “The formation of this 10 point plan dates back to February this year with a public meeting to discuss a way forward with the crime situation in Erdington. The next (meeting) I believe is to go ahead in October.

“The EBID has been involved by offering to take details of crime from retailers on the High Street due to the wide-spread observation that they are unable to get though the 101 non-emergency number to report crime.

“We were also very keen to help with the provision of a ‘pop-up’ police surgery, providing an essential point of contact for those affected by or concerned about crime on the High Street.

“We are still waiting on updates on progression with these projects, which is why we felt it necessary to do what we could in the private sector, by seeking extra funding to employ another Street Warden to help alleviate the worsening situation right now.”

Anyone with information regarding the man in the picture issued by West Midlands Police have been asked to contact the force by calling 101 or via the Live Chat on their website quoting the crime number: 20/673861/23

OPINION: Making Erdington High Street a safer and more exciting place to visit

Words by John Hodgkiss, Erdington BID & Town Centre Manager

Our focus this summer has been to tackle both retail crime and anti-social behaviour in Erdington Town Centre.

We are delighted to welcome a new Street Warden to Erdington. They will be working closely with the existing Warden, John, patrolling the BID area to improve the current crime situation in Erdington which in turn will allow us to attract future inward investment into the Town Centre.

By concentrating on safety and security in Erdington and tackling this problem now will enable us to welcome new visitors to the High Street, as well as welcome back those who have not visited for some time.

By putting the fundamentals such as crime reduction in place, we can actively try and attract both new independent and national retailers on to Erdington High Street. It will also mean that footfall will increase as a result, making Erdington a far more positive economic prospect for investment.

With £19,000 extra funding secured this month, we will use this effectively to promote and market Erdington over the winter and festive season, with events to attract regular and new visitors alike.

If you have any suggestions on what events you would like to see hosted by the BID this winter, then please contact the BID on erdingtonhighstreet@hotmail.co.uk

We look forward to hearing from you! 

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk or visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID

(Ed’s note: This column was first submitted to the Erdington Local newspaper on 4 September, before the announcement of a Section 114 notice issued by Birmingham City Council.)

NEWS: Erdington BID enlists second Street Warden to tackle crime on High Street

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID) has enlisted a second Street Warden to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour on Erdington High Street.

Camran Montgomery-Ashiq is already getting on with the job, patrolling the retail district alongside existing Street Warden, John Lynch – with both men managed by longstanding local firm, Euro Guard Security.

Familiar with the problems facing Erdington’s retailers, Camran has family directly affected by the shoplifters and anti-social behaviour turning so many shoppers away.

“My brother is one of the managers on the High Street,” told Camran. “He introduced me to John (Lynch) who told me about the role and the company (Euro Guard Security) and I was interested.

“It’s life, people are going to shoplift and we’re here to stop them. But hopefully we’ll get the High Street back to how it used to be.”

Seeing two Street Wardens on Erdington High Street will be a welcome sight to many local retailers and residents. It also gives long needed support to John Lynch, who many regard as the only real defence against crime on the High Street.

“It makes me feel safer,” admits Lynch, “because I don’t get any support from the police. Now when it does get into a situation, I’ve got someone to back me up.”

Fulfilling part of the mandate that got the EBID re-elected in November 2021, the extra Street Warden is one step both the Erdington BID and Euro Guard Security are taking to turn the tide of criminality in the area.

Euro Guard Security Operations Manager, William Byrne, told Erdington Local: “First and foremost it was important to get another Street Warden along with John, due to the high risk in Erdington with things that are going on.

“The whole point of brining the wardens onto the (High) street is to make everybody’s environment a safer place to work, and a safer place to be in. Hopefully, if we can bring some of that to the High Street we may then increase the footfall which will in turn benefit the shops.”

And with many of retailers relying on them in the absence of more police presence, Byrne recognises “having the Street Wardens is an integral part of keeping Erdington safe.”

John Hodgkiss, Erdington BID and Town Centre Manager, added: “From the beginning of this year the (EBID) board recognised that crime and anti-social behaviour was one of the biggest – if the not biggest – issues facing Erdington Town Centre. So, back in February we started consulting with BID levy payers and the public, and we realised that we really needed to do something to tackle these major issues.

“It’s great to now have Cam on board to enhance all the great work that John (Lynch – original Street Warden) does, and to have support and help for him.”

“It’s (crime on the High Street) basically one of our biggest problems; we want to improve inward investment into Erdington Town Centre, we want to increase footfall, we want to bring new retailers in, and one of the only ways that we’re actually going to do this is if we tackle the crime issue and start getting the positives in.

“The BID essentially a private sector organisation, and our levy payers are paying over and above on their business rates to pay for these enhanced services (Street Wardens).

“But it would be nice to have some extra help from the public sector.”

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID

NEWS: New York’s The Hitman Blues Band pack out Oikos Café as citywide Jazz & Blues Festival comes to Erdington

Words by Ed King / Pics by Connor Pope

Last weekend, hundreds of music lovers packed out Oikos Cafe in July to watch homegrown and international acts perform as part of the citywide Jazz & Blues Festival.

Organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), the main Saturday stage was set for New York based The Hitman Blues Band, playing two sets of modern/alt blues, including originals ‘Bad, Bad Man’, ‘Not My Circus Not My Monkey’ and “the track that got us touring in the UK” – ‘Angel in the Shadows’.

Classic covers were also on the set list, Including Dylan’s folk anthem ‘Time They Are A-Changing’ and Willie Dixon’s blues standard ‘Hoot Koochy Man’ – all given a firm Hitman twist. The UK’s Honeyman Hickling Blues Band were also on the afternoon bill.

Originally planned to be held outside on and around the Village Green, the bad weather forced the live gigs into the upstairs room at Oikos café. But in a space usually reserved for church services and community groups, the musicianship, comradery, and comedy made it feel like Saturday night at Ronnie Scotts.

Regaling stories of broken hearts, relationship battles, and pet tortoises who might survive the tour due to poor merchandise sales, Russell ‘Hitman’ Alexander had the room devouring every word and chord change – with superb support from keys, a horn section, percussion, and vocal harmonies.

“Thank you all for coming out, we really appreciate it,” exclaimed charismatic front man at the end of the final set, with many sticking around for signed CDs and photos with the band.

After a short break, Oikos then welcomed the UK’s own Honeyman Hickling Blues Band, serving up a second slice of the Blue & Jazz Festival pie.

Earlier in the weekend, local trombonist Clive the Slide headlined the Erdington Arts Forum run Evening of Creativity – bringing another rafter packing crowd to Oikos Café, as part of the citywide annual event.

Erdington Town Centre Manager, John Hodgkiss, who brought the Saturday Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival to Oikos, told: “Today has been fantastic, hundreds of people came out to welcome international musicians and a citywide music festival into Erdington.

“The Hitman Blues Band travelled all the way from New York to play in Erdington, delivering two incredible sets – alongside the UK’s amazing Honeyman Hickling Blues Band. Erdington High Street can be a vibrant and exciting place with a generous and supporting community, and we (EBID) want to keep bringing acts and events here to celebrate that.”

Erdington Ward Councillors Gareth Moore and Robert Alden (Conservative) were also in the crowd on Saturday afternoon.

Cllr Moore said “it was great to have the Jazz festival here on Erdington High Street and to see so many people enjoying the events. Thank you to the Jazz Festival, volunteers, the Erdington BID manager and Oikos for all their hard work.”

Cllr Alden said: “We will be working with the Erdington Town Centre Manager to try and bring the festival back and expand the shows in future years.”

Pastor Dan Mandley from Oikos Café and Church added: “Wonderful to have such a wonderful event come to Erdington. Great bands and great atmosphere. I am already looking forward to next year’s festival.”

Look out for a special PICTURE GALLERY feature on the gigs with The HItman Blues Band and Honeyman Hickling Blues Band at Oikos Cafe – in the next print edition of Erdington Local, out from 1 August.

For more on The Hitman Blues Band visit www.hitmanbluesband.com

For more form the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID
For more from Oikos Café and Church visit www.oikoschurch.co.uk

For more details on Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival visit www.birminghamjazzfestival.com