NEWS: Holocaust Memorial Day event to be held on Erdington High Street, Friday 27 January

Words by Ed King

As the world remembers Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) on Friday 27 January, a special ceremony will be held on Erdington High Street at 1:30pm.

Taking place on the Village Green, opposite Erdington Library, the event is free to attend and open to people of all ages, religions, and cultures.

Organised by Everyone Erdington, the multi faith organisation set up to ‘celebrate diverse Erdington’, Friday’s event is the continuation of an annual remembrance on Holocaust Memorial Day – which looks back at the genocide and mass extermination of Jews and other communities in World War II, as well as reminding us of more modern atrocities in places like Rwanda, Darfur, Cambodia, and Bosnia.

The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2023 is ‘ordinary people’, recognising the day to day folk who are both responsible for and victims off human brutality. As the HMD website states: ‘Genocide is facilitated by ordinary people. Ordinary people turn a blind eye, believe propaganda, join murderous regimes.

‘And those who are persecuted, oppressed and murdered in genocide… simply because they are ordinary people who belong to a particular group.’

Everyone Erdington’s event will start by playing the theme music to Holocaust Memorial Day 2023 ‘Ordinary People’ – before a reading about the Veseli’s, a Muslim family who sheltered Jews during World War II in a small Albanian mountain village.

There will also be presentations from local schools St Edmund Campion and St Barnabas, with the later sharing stories about children who suffered during the Rwanda Civil War.

Music and moments of collective remembrance will also take place, with a final reading about Holocaust survivor Harry Spriro – who was separated from his family in his early teens, after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, and spent World War II in concentration and labour camps.

Harry Spriro’s family were murdered in the Poland based Trebilnka death camp, alongside an estimated 6,000,000 Jewish people across Europe during the Nazi’s Holocaust during World War II – including systematic pogroms and mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen).

Harry himself was one 270 people who survived the ‘death march’ to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, which began with 3000 prisoners.

The Nazi’s also massacred an estimated 5,000,000 people who were not specifically Jewish during the Holocaust – including Jehovah’s Witnesses, communists, Soviet prisoners of war, and Romani and Polish people.

Gerard Goshawk, minister at Six Ways Baptist Church and part of Everyone Erdington, told Erdington Local: “We are pleased once again to be marking Holocaust Memorial Day here in Erdington. What we offer is an intimate, accessible and meaningful event to mark this really significant occasion.

“Those of us organising it and those taking part recognise the importance of remembering the evil of genocide and making sure that our community here in Erdington remains strong and positive in celebrating diversity and challenging discrimination and hatred.”

Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton added: “As we mark Holocaust Memorial Day, we will honour those who were murdered during the Holocaust and pay tribute to those who survived.

“Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity for people Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale to reflect on one of the darkest periods in world history and ensure we always stand together against antisemitism, demonisation and hate.”

Erdington Ward Councillors Gareth Moore and Robert Alden have been attending the Holocaust Memorial Day events in Erdington since they began in 2017.

Cllr Gareth Moore told Erdington Local: “It has become a welcome tradition that here in Erdington we have a yearly event, organised by Everyone Erdington, paying our respects and remembering those who lives where stolen in such tragic acts.”

Cllr Robert Alden, who studied the Holocaust as part of his history education and has visited the infamous Aushwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, added: “It is vital that we remember genocide events such as the Holocaust, however we must also ensure that such events are never allowed to happen again.

“It would be a grave mistake if we were to assume that the horrific incidents of the past cannot happen again that is why it is on us all to be vigilant and to remind people of the things that we all have in common not the differences.

“This why programmes like British Values in our schools are so important, they remind everyone of the things we have in common, of the shared values that everyone can have regardless of race, wealth or sex.

“Once you have visited Aushwitz-Birkeneau the feeling it leaves in you doesn’t go away, it stays with you, it is important that people come together to remember but looking forward we must continue to ensure it can never happen again.”

Everyone Erdington will hold a free Holocaust Memorial Day event on Friday 27 January at 1:30pm, on the Village Green at the end of Erdington High Street – opposite Erdington Library.

For more from Everyone Erdington visit: www.facebook.com/EveryoneErdington

For more on Holocaust Memorial Day visit: www.hmd.org.uk

REVIEW: Eau da Funk’s debut gig at the first Evening of Creativity of 2023, alongside Elena Mylonas and Olivia Wilkes

Words & pics by Leni Remedios

“Music moves the world” is our motto, says Tony, guitarist of Eau da Funk, headliner of 2023’s first edition of the Evening of Creativity (EoC) – held at Oikos Café on Friday 20 January.

The world did move indeed, and so did everybody’s feet at the notes of this incredible band.

It was their very first gig, after having formed last year, and as a debut performance it was impressive – delivering a wide range of classics from James Brown to Lenny Kravitz and Kings of Leon.

Eau da Funk was founded soon after lockdown, when Tony was looking for other musicians to create a new project. Two of them are Erdington locals. “We got in touch online at first and we immediately understood that, beyond the different music tastes, we were united by a common ground,” explained Tony.

In fact, their range of music, as explained by their lead singer Sofire: “goes from funk to soul, to reggae and rock music, but also gospel, which is a big influence on our music. God is also very important to us.”

A diversity also reflected in the different backgrounds of the band members, each of them coming from English, Polish, or Caribbean heritage. Eau da Funk are also planning to compose their own songs.

In a packed Oikos Café, the Friday night crowd saw further performances from Elena Mylonas and Olivia Wilkes, both vocal coaches.

Elena performed songs by The Cranberries and Dolly Parton, but also her own song ‘Rose’ accompanied by some musicians from Eau da Funk (at the Evening of Creativity events, spontaneous collaboration between the artists is often involved). She started playing guitar at 11 years old in her native Greece, and after attending Birmingham University aged 23 she started teaching as a vocal coach.

Backstage, Elena revealed details about her song writing and approach to performing: “When I was younger, in Greece, for some reason everybody expected me to play only cheerful songs.

“Furthermore, people in the music industry were requiring from me to adhere to certain beauty standards, asking me to appear more sexy or girlish. I felt really uncomfortable with it, especially after the death of my brother about seven years ago.

“I needed to express my grief somehow, and music gave me the perfect opportunity to channel those feelings. I wasn’t fitting in the Greek scene of the time though, so I decided to move to the UK, where there is a long tradition of ballads and a broader variety of music genres.”

Elena regularly performs both original songs and covers with bands in small venues, with her debut album set for release in the coming months.

Olivia Wilkes was another big surprise. With her powerful voice, she offered her own rendition of classics from Nina Simone to Nirvana, but backstage further disclosed she is working on original material. Her upcoming gigs include Saturday 27 January at Deadwax and Friday 10 February at the Gunmakers Arms.

Olivia’s performance was followed by Josh, the guitarist and lead singer of the indie-rock band The Shore. He performed the original single ‘Left Alone’, and you can see him and his band on 28 January at The Victoria, in Birmingham City Centre.

The event also welcomed an extraordinary community activist and writer, Veronica ‘Judith’ Asare, who opened the evening talking about her book, The Healing Power of Grace – a journey about a terrible accident that changed her life.

Judith, a practicing Christian, never fell into the darkness thanks to her faith. On the contrary, she found motivation in helping others and funded the charity Judith Ark of Hope Foundation – through which, as a qualified counsellor, she helps people such as single parents, people in jail and their families, and refugees. She gives them hope, providing food, clothes, and psychological support.

“I met her about six years ago, in an outdoor event where she was promoting her charity,” says Michael – who was supporting Judith during her EoC performance. “I was going through a very dark phase in my life, she helped my family and me, and she adopted me as her child.”

Judith Ark of Hope operates in the Midlands but also offers help and support elsewhere, reaching London, Manchester, and other areas.

Another highlight of the night was the reading by Laura Liptrot – actress, poet, and playwright from Stourbridge – who started acting at just six years old. The Evening of Creativity audience was captivated by her lively performance and expressions.

Laura’s new poetry book, Cocktails, is about to be launched; already available on Kindle digital edition, the paperback will be available by the end of the month.

Finally, the event also saw the participation of some ‘regulars’ of the EoC, such as resident poet Simon, reading some of his poetry. Mitch Thomas also showed the audience a piece of her ceramic collection and talked about her artistic journey.

Then was a performance by the duo Stefan Stefanov and Nathan Czeszejko-Sochacki. Stefan is a guitarist and music teacher who is very active in the community, whilst the younger Nathan has been singing and playing ukulele, guitar, and piano at EoC events for about a year.

They performed ‘Hotel California’ and a gospel gypsy song. “All around the World Music,” so Stefan defines his style, and you can see him perform every Sunday at the Bulgaria Church by Six Ways from 5pm.

The Evening of Creativity is founded and hosted by the Erdington Arts Forum – who engages people with workshops, exhibitions, training programmes, exhibitions, and music performances.

Next month’s Evening of Creativity will be held at Oikos Café on Erdington High Street from 6:30pm on Friday 17 February, with advance tickets costing between £5-£6.13

For more on Erdington Arts forum visit: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

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

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.”

NEWS: Erdington stakeholders told “officers are doing what they can” as crime and community policing discussed at local meeting

Words by Ed King / Pics by Mohammad Ashraf 

Crime and community policing were the main issues discussed at Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton’s Big Conversation last week, with a keynote speech from West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster.

Joining Mr Foster were Chief Inspector Kelly Monaghan, from the Birmingham East Local Command Team, and Erdington’s new Inspector Shameem Ahmed.

Organised by the Erdington MP, the Big Conversation events began soon after Paulette Hamilton was elected to Parliament in March 2022 – bringing senior Council officials and public servants to address local stakeholders and concerned Erdington constituents.

On Thursday 12 January the subject of focus was crime in the constituency, with CI Monaghan opening by identifying the “priorities” for police in the area – hosted at Perry Common Community Hall by Witton Lodge Community Association.

Top of the list was burglaries, with CI Monaghan reiterating the nationwide pledge made in October 2022 that “every single person who is a victim of burglary gets a visit from one of our officers.”

One concerned resident challenged the claim, citing a house on Harrison Road – off Erdington High Street – that has been repeatedly used for growing cannabis, with people breaking in to steal the illegal crops “leaving a trail of (cannabis) leaves through the car park” opposite the address.

Councillor Gareth Moore (Con, Erdington) was quick to suggest “could the police use closure orders” on properties that had repeated problems, as has been previously enforced to shut down unruly HMOs.

Vehicle crime was another “big business” high on the police agenda, with its “knock on effect” to burglary and other offences including the rampant trade in stolen catalytic convertors.

Successes by the Stockland Green police team were mentioned, with both Chief Inspector Kelly Monaghan and Inspector Shameem Ahmed advising the use of anti-theft aids such as steering wheel locks and tamper proof screws for licence plates.

Youth violence was also a paramount police concern on the agenda, discussed only hours before an Erdington based teenager would be charged with the Boxing Day murder of Cody Fisher.

“Gang violence” was raised by Paulette Hamilton as a growing concern amongst her constituents in places such as Wyrley Birch, with the Erdington MP quizzing the police if they were “working with local partners” to effectively tackle the issue.

Consistent crime and violence on Erdington High Street was also raised, with the Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) imposed in May 2022 making little impact despite the “40 fines” reported to have been issued.

As one resident commented: “there are street drinkers and dealers outside Boyles (betting shop)… if you are fining them then it’s not working.”

Paulette Hamilton underscored the issue, stating “people are saying the soul has left the High Street” and again calling for more “joined up work” with local partners and police.

Erdington’s new Inspector Shameem Ahmed, who took over the Neighbourhood Police Team several months after Rachel Derby left the post in October 2022, was candid about and committed to the problem facing her force.

“I’m not confident or happy the issue is being resolved as it could be,” told Inspector Ahmed, “and working with partners is something we (police) could do more about – my officers are doing what they can.”

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster then introduced himself to the room, giving a full background of his role and cementing his commitment to “productive, problem solving, and visible community policing.”

In an immediate challenge, the lack of any noticeable police presence was quick to be raised – with Paulette Hamilton MP stating “you never see police in open spaces” such as parks or children’s play areas, despite a number of violent attacks in areas such as Pype Hayes Park.

Inspector Ahmed informed of a “walkabout” with uniformed officers in Finchley Park, Kingstanding, organised for the end of January – with Ms Hamilton responding: “how is this supported locally and why are you not linking with local councillors?”

Inspector Amend replied “they should be”, despite Councillor Des Hughes (Lab, Kingstanding) unaware of any planned activity at Finchley Park by West Midlands Police. The Kingstanding councillor further suggested Birmingham Citry Council’s Parks Department “had a role to play” in safeguarding the public spaces within their portfolio.

Concerns over the increase of licenced premises and betting shops on Erdington High Street was fiercely debated, with several stakeholders in the room having worked to block the recent application by Boyles Sports to open a second Erdington site at the old HSBC building opposite The Swan pub.

A lack of communication between local police teams and the planning committee, who are ultimately responsible for allowing or blocking applications, was raised as a systemic problem – with one local resident suggesting campaigners and members of the public alike should contact the West Midlands Police Licensing Team directly if they wanted to challenge future plans for more betting shops.

Councillor Gareth Moore (Con, Erdington), who sits on Birmingham City Council’s Planning Committee, further addressed the need to “break down the silo mentality” when gathering evidence and responsible authority support to challenge contentious planning applications.

The recent ‘Pop Up Police Stations’ held on Castle Vale were praised, with Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer of The Pioneer Group – who took over the housing portfolio of the estate’s Housing Action Trust – suggesting “another model” could be adopted across Erdington, giving the public more access to local police teams.

Paulette Hamilton was quick to endorse anything that supports “a core level of service (from local police teams) that makes people feel safe,” further suggesting more police “pop ups across the constituency.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster confirmed there would be a new police station opened in Erdington by “summer 2025”, situated at the existing site on the corner of Sutton Road and Wilton Road – although there would be “no public desk”, with the nearest station open to members of the public based in Stechford.

Widely challenged by the room, the lack of a publicly accessible police station in Erdington “seems crazy” to Reverend Emma Sykes from St Barnabas Church, who implored the Police and Crime Commissioner to “consider” revising the plans.

Paulette Hamilton MP will be hosting another Big Conversation later in the spring. For more information visit www.paulettehamilton.org

NEWS: Eau da Funk and Olivia Wilkes to headline Evening of Creativity on Friday 20 January

Words by Leni Remedios / Pics supplied by Erdington Arts Forum

2023 starts with two extraordinary headline acts at this month’s Evening of Creativity, Eau Da Funk and Olivia Wilkes – to be held at Oikos Café on Friday 20 January, as organised by the Erdington Arts Forum.

Eau Da Funk is a six-piece covers/function band delivering an eclectic repertoire of funk, soul, pop, reggae, and RnB.

They only started playing together in 2022, formed in Birmingham, and Erdington Arts Forum is extremely excited to host this newly formed band.

January’s Evening of Creativity will also see the participation of outstanding singer and musician Olivia Wilkes. “My vocal tutoring journey started at a music school in my home town where I have taught 45+ students in face to face private lessons,” says Olivia, a singing coach who has a long experience in teaching different genres, from musical theatre to heavier tracks.

Since the age of 15, Wilkes has performed in festivals, weddings, and charity days, collaborated with a lot of musicians and featured on local radio stations, including BBC Radio Stoke.

But that’s not all for the first Evening of Creativity of 2023.

Greek singer and musician Elena Mylonas will be also featuring on the January line up, delighting the audience with her pop rock songs.

Also on the bill will be Mitch Thomas, a regular of the Evening of Creativity, introducing to the audience her ceramic artwork “influenced by love,” alongside a poetry reading by Laura Liptrot – a Stourbridge based actor and playwright.

Members of Arts All Over the Place, a local mental charity that has been active since 2007, will also speak about their community arts projects for adults with mental health problems.

Now a permanent fixture on the city’s cultural calendar, the family friendly Evening of Creativity events at Oikos often sell out – so organisers encourage people to buy advance tickets through a special Eventbrite page.

The Evening of Creativity was founded and hosted by Erdington Arts Forum, whose primary goal is to improve the status of artistic activity in the Erdington constituency. Erdington Arts Forum engages people with workshops, exhibitions, training programmes, exhibitions, and music performances.

This month’s Evening of Creativity will be held at Oikos Café on Erdington High Street from 6:30pm on Friday 20 January, with advance tickets around £5-6. Click here to book your ticket.

The event will also be broadcast live via the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

Follow Erdington Arts Forum on Facebook and Instagram
For more from Oikos Café visit: https://www.oikoscafe.co.uk/

NEWS: Man arrested for midnight stabbing on Fern Road leaving victim with “potentially life changing injuries’

Words and pics by Ed King

A 35 year old man has been arrested for wounding, following an alleged stabbing on Fern Road at around 12am on Saturday 7 January.

As revellers on nearby Erdington High Street enjoyed the first weekend of the New Year, a man in his 40’s was fighting for his life following the vicious assault – with police cordoning off Fern Road in a midnight investigation.

Blocking off the suburban street from the entrances on Church Road and Moor End Lane, uniformed officers and sniffer dogs were deployed in the early hours to search for evidence.

Initially searching the undergrowth, bushes, and gardens surrounding the corner of Fern Road and Church Road, police then continued their search down Church Road towards Spring Lane – checking front gardens and knocking on the doors of house to near to the crime scene.

A Police Incident Support Unit was also in attendance, isolating two parts of Fern Road and covering potential evidence with small tents.

A vehicle recovery truck was also called to the scene, although it was unclear which vehicles it was removing from the investigation site.

One local resident, who lives on Church Road and saw the first squad car arrive, told Erdington Local: “You hear sirens and see blue lights all the time around here, being just off the High Street, but they don’t usually stop on Church Road. This time they did.

“I never heard any noise or fighting, and the first police car just sat on Fern Road for about quarter of an hour before anyone else turned up – it didn’t feel like a dangerous scene.

“But the roads were fully closed and the police were searching the front gardens nearby, so they must have been looking for something. Or someone.”

Another Church Road neighbour, who came out of her door opposite from the police cordon, told Erdington Local: “I’m was just coming to see what was going on, we were worried for our neighbours.”

Whilst a passer-by also quizzed police at the scene, asking: “how bad is it down there (Fern Road)?”

West Midlands Police issued a statement about the incident on Saturday 7 January.

A spokesperson for West Midlands Police told: “A man has been arrested after another man was stabbed in Fern Road, Erdington just before midnight.

“The victim, in his 40s, was taken to hospital with serious and potentially life-changing injuries. A 35-year-old man remains under arrest for wounding.

“Anyone who witnessed what happened and hasn’t spoken to us should contact us via Live Chat quoting log 4757 of 6/1.

Video of police at scene, blocking off Fern Road

 Video of small tents being erected on Fern Road

 

NEWS: Police tape off Fern Road in midnight investigation on first weekend of New Year

Words & pics by Ed King

Police responded to an incident near Erdington High Street at around midnight on Friday 6 January – cordoning off Fern Road from the corner of Church Road to Moor End Lane.

On the first weekend of the New Year, the first squad car was seen arriving by local residents at around 12am on Friday night/Saturday morning – parking on the corner of Church Road and Fern Road.

One officer was seen searching the surrounding bushes by flashlight, whilst another established police tape blocking off Fern Road to pedestrians and traffic from the entrances on Church Road and Moor End Lane.

A further two more squad cars were parked to prevent traffic from entering from Moor End Lane, with officers advising pedestrians on Church Road to cross over and walk on the opposite side of the street.

One local resident, who lives on Church Road and saw the first squad car arrive, told Erdington Local:

“You hear sirens and see blue lights all the time around here, being just off the High Street, but they don’t usually stop on Church Road. This time they did.

“I never heard any noise or fighting, and the first police car just sat on Fern Road for about quarter of an hour before anyone else turned up – it didn’t feel like a dangerous scene.

“But the roads were fully closed and the police were searching the front gardens nearby, so they must have been looking for something. Or someone.”

A police sniffer dog and handler were later seen coming out of one of the neighbouring gardens, then preceding to search more gardens down Church Road towards Spring Lane.

Officers were also seen knocking on doors of houses next to the crime scene. A further two squad cars were also positioned on the corner of Church Road and Deakin Road but were not preventing vehicle access.

One local resident, who had just come back from the Charlie Hall pub, was surprised to see blue lights flashing near his home.

Whist another Church Road neighbour, who came out of her door opposite from the police cordon, told Erdington Local:

“I’m was just coming to see what was going on, we were worried for our neighbours.”

After nearly two hours of the road closure and ongoing investigation, a police incident van arrived and small triangular tents were erected in the middle of Fern Road, although it was confirmed to Erdington Local: “they are not for bodies.”

A passer-by also quizzed police at the scene, asking: “how bad is it down there (Fern Road)?”

A recovery vehicle arrived at the scene some minutes later, seemingly to remove at least one of the vehicles that appeared parked on Fern Road.

Police at the scene were not able to comment further on the incient or identify if there was any threat to public safety.

Erdington Local has contacted West Midlands Police for an official statement.

Video of police at scene, blocking off Fern Road

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

Words by Ed King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEATURE: Artists Conversations (part two) – Queens of the Commonwealth with Waheeda Rahman-Mair

Words by Ed King / Pics and images supplied by Myah Barrah and Waheeda Rahman-Mair

Last month, Erdington Local ran the first in a series of articles inspired by the monthly Artists Conversations group – where local artists come together at the Secret Art Studio Space in Central square, every third Wednesday.

In part one, we heard what happened when Bunny met Louvinia, and the mural so many have enjoyed brightening up the walls of Coton Lane.

In part two, Erdington Local talks to Waheeda Rahman-Mair – a Birmingham-Bangladeshi artist commissioned through the Queens of the Commonwealth project, finding out more on the subjects she chose to depict and the double-edged sword of such a royal appointment.

“I saw how attached she was to the painting, and that’s what I love – I love that people actually do see themselves and that they do connect.”

Waheeda Rahman-Mair is a multi-disciplinary artist, working with a range of mediums from traditional oils on canvas to digital animation and graphics – with a BA (Hons) in Visual Communication: Animation and Moving Image and an impressive portfolio. A respected portrait artist, Waheeda has seen private commissions across the city, country, and even Atlantic Ocean.

Inspired by her ‘childhood fascination for cartoons and video games’, Waheeda grew up interested in art – moving from Handsworth Wood to Erdington about four years ago. She was referred to the Artists Conversations monthly meetings by a friend, after leaving her job as a visual and motion graphics designer with the Ember Regis Group.

“I was already working in Digbeth, from an office,” tells Waheeda, “but when the pandemic hit, I started working from home more often. I quit my job back in April to pursue being a full-time artist, and someone recommended I go to the Erdington Artists Conversations group meeting.

“I did, and it was really nice to meet local artists from Erdington and to explore the other side of the creative industry which is more about local communities – as opposed to being in an agency that works for larger clients. It was more like ‘what can we do as a community for the people locally and the people we live next door to.’

“I’m also part of another group which is to do with South Asian art creatives within the UK, which networks across the world.”

As Birmingham prepared to host the Commonwealth Games, a series of projects were commissioned as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival – including the LGK Productions documentary Queens of the Commonwealth, where local filmmaker Panikos Panayiotou explored the ‘unique journey of 22 women from various Commonwealth nations’ after migrating to Birmingham.

Needing local artists for a supporting exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery – depicting the women featured in Panayiotou’s documentary in their own mediums and styles – a representative from the Birmingham 2022 Festival came to the Artists Conversations group offering commissions.

This is how Bunny met Louvina Moses. And this is how Waheeda would meet Darshan Bhumba and Pastor Yvonne Brooks, two more women featured in the LGK documentary.

Whaeed explains: “I started with conceptual designs (using Procreate) of how I wanted to draw them, based off the interviews and the photos I was looking through. Just a general vibe of who they are, if they angle their face in a certain way when they laugh or smile – and from these mannerisms I worked out how they should look, and I started sketching that out.

“Then I went on to Photoshop, where I can draw on screen, and then started to do the paintings whilst I was listening to the interviews.

“Hearing them, more of their mannerisms and the way they talk, was helping me pick out extra bits. Like when they were laughing, I could see the dimples come out, or that they do this extra gesture with their hands.”

But from 22 women to choose from, each with a unique and inspiring story to tell, it was Darshan and Yvonne that stood out for Waheeda.

“They were really strong resilient women,” she tells. “This came across from all the interviews, but especially with the two women I chose to paint. They both migrated from areas that were tough on them or the lifestyle was very different, and migrated to have a better life or to be reunited with family members.

“I thought that was such a meaningful and touching part of their lives that they exposed through the interviews. The fact that they shared such vulnerability in front of a camera, with people they didn’t know, just showed me how strong they are.”

The final digital drawings are similar in style, but strongly unique with the colours and iconography Waheed felt brought her subjects to life – such as the hydrangea engulfing Dashan, and the amber jewellery and background that adorns and surrounds Yvonne.

Deeply engaged with the women she was vicariously coming to know, Waheeda admits it was instinct that prompted some of her artistic choices – but on a chance meeting with Yvonne, her gut turned out to be right.

“I wanted to show that amber was part of her (Yvonne), that she is so warm, and glowing, and inviting to people. The circles also show how she connects people, and how (though her outreach work) she has made these circles of unified women.

“She told me ‘I’m so happy you put in the amber jewellery’, when she was in Jamaica she used to play with sap, which is where amber comes from. It’s part of her childhood… everything I guessed in her painting was solidified when I met her.”

Although Waheed was unable to meet Darshan, she was introduced to some of her close family members and reached more who know her muse through the Internet.

Waheeda continues: “Art is subjective, and I do worry sometimes… especially when I do portrait paintings, because people see themselves differently to how people see them from the exterior, they notice things about their face or their bodies that strangers wouldn’t see.

“I met one of her (Darshan) daughters and her husband, and they both said how I’d really captured her. And once I posted the painting on Instagram I had so many of her relatives say, ‘that’s my aunt; that’s my grandma… you’ve really captured her.’ It was reassuring to hear how many people had recognised in her in the painting.”

From Bunny’s widely embraced mural of Louvina Moses on Coton Lane, to Waheeda’s deeply personal depictions of Darshan Bhumba and Pastor Yvonne Brooks exhibited at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Queens of the Commonwealth project has been a significant showcase for these Erdington artists.

But the history of the British Empire, the foundation blocks to the Commonwealth, is still the elephant in the room– with the Commonwealth Games Chief Creative Officer, Martin Green, publicly criticised for having ‘sidestepped’ Birmingham’s ‘Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities’ when allocating Birmingham Festival 2022 funding.

“I made sure the projects I contributed to were addressing the racial aspects (of the Commonwealth),” tells Waheeda, whose family’s heritage is Bangladeshi.

“With the Queens of the Commonwealth, it was more about the women; these strong resilient women who’ve done things for the community, who are still doing things for the community.

“And I thought in that sense it was empowering to uplift other women, and that’s where I stood with the Queens of the Commonwealth project.

“In the interviews they did shed light that when they moved to England… it shocked them, and they weren’t afraid to say what they were truly feeling about migrating to England. I found that a reassuring aspect of this, and the fact it was more about the women really helped me find peace in this.

“There was another project I worked on which was about the opinions of the South Asian community about the Commonwealth, that I also did a painting about. That’s going to be posted on my Instagram and on my website… it’s called ‘The Golden Mask’.”

For more on Waheeda Rahman-Mair visit www.waheeda.co.uk or follow @waheeda_art on Instagram.

Erdington Artists Conversations are held every on the third Wednesday of each month, from 7pm to 9pm, at the Secret Art Studio Space in Central Square – on Erdington High Street.

Free to attend, for more information call 07966 699 894 or email: erdingtonartists@gmail.com