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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words Ed King / Pics by Ewan Williamson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on Eco Together visit www.ecotogether.info

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

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

As your MP and a local resident, I am often told of your concerns about crime and antisocial behaviour in the area, particularly knife crime.

Worryingly, the B23 postcode had the highest number of reported knife crime incidences in Birmingham last year, according to the latest figures. This is not a coincidence, but it is the direct result of the Tory Government’s failure to tackle the root causes of knife crime.

Under the Tories, knife crime has gone up by 77% since 2015. Ministers have slashed funding for vital public services, such as education, health, and youth work. They have cut 21,000 police officers since the last Labour Government, leaving our streets less safe and less protected.

However, this can change. Labour has a plan to invest in our communities and give our young people their future back. Labour will:

  • Extend the ban on zombie knives to ninja swords.
  • Establish an end-to-end review of online knife sales.
  • Close the loophole that allows online marketplaces to sell dangerous knives.
  • Introduce a new Young Futures programme to establish new youth hubs, with both mental health workers and youth workers.

For too long, the Tories have been soft on knife crime and soft on the causes of knife crime. Labour would put the safety and security of our community at the heart of its government.

Together, we can end the knife crime epidemic and build a better future for Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale.

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

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

Words & pics by Ed King


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEATURE: Erdington renters facing millions in extra energy costs as the government scraps efficiency plans

Words by Ed King and Josh Neicho

People renting private accommodation in Erdington could have paid out over £1.1million in extra energy costs this winter, after the Government scrapped plans to force landlords to up their energy efficiency standards – according to research by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).

The legislative U-turn was announced in a press release issued by Downing Street before Christmas, outlining several points where the Prime Minister has “revised plans” previously set for the UK to challenge climate change and to reach net zero by 2050.

According to the United Nations, whose member states made collective promises on environmental issues in the 2015 Paris Agreement, net zero means “cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible” – and to a level where any remaining emissions can be naturally “re-absorbed from the atmosphere”.

Amongst these commitments, the UK pledged to introduce new legislation that would force all privately rented tenancies to carry an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of C or above by 2028 – bringing their properties in line with the most energy efficient systems and reducing bills for renters.

However, under new plans announced by the Prime Minister in late 2023, the Government has now stated it will: “Scrap policies to force landlords to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties” but would “instead continue to encourage households to do so where they can.”

In new analysis, published by the ECIU, it was found that 73% of private rented homes in Erdington currently carry an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of D or lower – meaning the new laws would have forced an upgrade in thousands of homes across the constituency and made their energy consumption cost less.

With improved energy systems, and based on figures from energy ombudsman Ofgem and net zero consultants Cornwall Insight, the ECIU estimate Erdington renters could save up to £26million in energy costs by 2050 if all homes carried an EPC rating between A-C.

The ECIU further calculated private renters across the constituency missed out on £1.1million in potential savings over the 2023/24 winter months alone.

Other policy shifts made in the Government’s statement include pulling back on their proposed ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, and extending the deadline for homeowners to install more energy efficient boilers.

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calls the new plans a “fairer” approach to the UK’s commitment to becoming net zero by 2050, insisting the UK will still meet its targets for 2030 and 2035 and the revised agenda is “a pragmatic, proportionate and realistic path”.

Organisations representing private landlords have also welcomed the changes, with Ben Thompson, Deputy CEO at Mortgage Advice Bureau, highlighting the “pressing timelines” many were under to retrofit new energy systems. 

Environmental and social activists, however, have challenged the Government’s revised plans – arguing they renege on the UK’s previous promises to effectively challenge climate change, and leave individual households paying hundreds more in their annual energy bills.

Paul Barnes, regional organiser for community union ACORN West Midlands, believes private households will bear the brunt of the Government’s shift in policy.

He said: “Tenants in the UK are facing an impossible challenge of rising costs and stagnant wages. The government’s decision to row back on its commitments for landlords to increase the energy efficiency of homes will push renters and our members further into poverty.

“With growing issues of rent increase linked with increasing energy costs, many of our members are already having to make impossible choices. We demand that the UK Government brings back its commitments to increased energy efficiency.”

Jess Ralston, Energy Analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, added: “Private renters include some of the most vulnerable people in society, such as those with a long-term illness or disability and low-income families. There’s no two ways about it, they will be made colder and poorer by scrapping these standards.

“The Prime Minister has essentially picked the landlord over the renter with his U-turn, in a move that makes no sense to fuel poverty charities or to energy companies alike.”

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, or want more information about your rights and responsibilities over domestic energy use, contact Ofgem via www.ofgem.gov.uk

for more from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit visit www.eciu.net

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

I hope everyone in Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale had a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful new year.

I’d like to congratulate Renata from SS Mary and John Catholic Primary School for winning my Christmas Card competition. And well done to the runners-up, Valentina and Burham, whose cards were fantastic.

2024 is both a year of opportunity and challenge. For more than 13 years, the Tory government has let down people in our communities, failing to address the key issues that affect us, such as the rising cost of living, the lack of GP and dental appointments, the surge in crime, the proliferation of HMOs and the decline of Erdington High Street. They ignored our repeated applications to the Levelling Up Fund, which would have revitalised our High Street.

Making matters worse, the Tories’ shameful Rwanda plan is in tatters, and they have no clear plan to fix the broken system they created. They have squandered billions of pounds on vanity projects and crony contracts, while cutting vital public services and support for the most vulnerable.

This year, our country will face a crucial choice: more neglect and chaos with the Tories, or credible leadership with Labour. Labour has a plan to rebuild Britain, invest in our NHS, create good jobs, make our communities safer and stronger, and get Britan’s future back.

As your local MP and a proud resident of this area, I will always stand up for you and our community.

Together, we can make 2024 a year of hope and change.

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

NEWS: Pype Hayes resident launches petition to ‘Stop Birmingham City Council’s Unfair Council Tax Increase’

Words by Ed King

Pype Hayes resident, Daniel Edge, has started an online petition to ‘Stop Birmingham City Council’s Unfair Council Tax Increase’ – amassing hundreds of signatures a day from people across the city.

Launched on 10 January, the petition set a target of 1500 signatures which it is well on course to reach.

At the time of writing, only five days after the petition went live on the recognised campaigning website Change.org, 1358 people had put their name down in support – with 228 recorded in a single day.

To access the petition to ‘Stop Birmingham City Council’s Unfair Council Tax Increase’ on Change.org, click here.

Birmingham City Council (BCC) has recently come under question after they wrote to the government last year, to get Westminster to allow the beleaguered local authority to increase Council Tax above the legal limit of 4.99% without holding a referendum.

Current laws limit the amount a local council can increase their yearly Council Tax charge to residents without a public vote on the matter.

But following BCC’s financial crisis, after the city issued a Section 114 notice in September 2023 – effectively declaring itself bankrupt – the drastic step has been taken to get government approval to jump those restrictions, meaning Birmingham residents could face an increase of up to 21% on their Council Tax bills over the next two years.

The decision to approach central government to allow such a significant hike in Council Tax, without the legally required public consultation or vote, was approved by BCC in a full Cabinet meeting in December 2023 – with Council Leader John Cotton stating it would only be implemented “if necessary”.

Cllr Cotton added: “It’s clear that we’ll need to seek exceptional financial support from the government in order to bring the council’s budget back into balance.

“These are obviously very tough times, we’ve got some difficult and challenging decision ahead of us in shaping this budget.”

On 5 September 2023, Birmingham City Council issued a Section 114 notice after facing a budget shortfall of around £84m for their next accounting year.  

There were also reported debts over equal pay liabilities amounting to an estimated £760m and costs surrounding the Oracle IT system of up to a further £100m – although these figures have been questioned by some sources in the city.

With a team of commissioners now overseeing Birmingham’s bank balance, local residents are worried they will end up footing the bill for BCC’s mistakes – seeing “unfair” increases in Council Tax and losing services.

Speaking to Erdington Local about his decision to start a petition to ‘Stop Birmingham City Council’s Unfair Council Tax Increase’, Daniel Edge explained: “I was moved to create the petition because of the unfairness and injustice of the proposed council tax hikes.

“Birmingham has 1.1M citizens of various socio-economic groups and a large proportion of those will be significantly impacted by these above inflation increases.

“It is simply not fair that the council tax payers are picking up the pieces of over 10 years of financial mismanagement. I’m happy for a 4.99% increase, the most the council can do without seeking government approval, but not a penny more.”

One signee of the petition comments: “I’m a resident of Birmingham and the councillors should be held to account for their mismanagement of finances over the years as opposed to this ridiculous increase in council tax.”

Another adds: “Daylight robbery! Stealing from the poor full stop for mis-management of public funds.”

Whist a further supporter of the petition ends their comment by saying: ”… I am being penalised for being a good resident and paying my way. I am not prepared to be a cash cow.”

To read more on the petition to ‘Stop Birmingham City Council’s Unfair Council Tax Increase’ visit: www.change.org/p/stop-birmingham-city-council-s-unfair-council-tax-increase

LOCAL Q&A: Andy Harper – author of Knitted Swimming Trunks

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Andy Harper and Brewin Books

Just before Christmas, local author Andy Harper released his tell all autobiography – Knitted Swimming Trunks, published by Brewin Books. Click here for our first news story about the book and its author.

A searingly honest portrayal of school life in the 50s and 60s, told through the eyes of a self-confessed “massive target for bullies”, the 252 page paperback begins as the Erdington based author is born.

Knitted Swimming Trunks then takes the reader through his childhood growing up in the back to backs in Birmingham and continues across his troubled school years, until the day he received his City and Guild certificate after leaving education.

An intrinsically Brummie journey of hope and humility, hear more about Knitted Swimming Trunks as Erdington Local caught up with Andy Harper just before his debut book hit the shelves.

______

Congratulations on you first book, what compelled you to write about your life?

“Lockdown came along and I was bored to tears. I help out with a charity called Dogs for Good (based in Banbury), socialising assistance dogs, and that gave me an excuse to go out. But everywhere was closed down and it was weird, it was a bit like a horror film. And there’s only so many repeats of Bargain Hunt you can stay indoors and watch.

“So, I started to write things down about those very early years as a legacy for my children and grandchildren – and then it seemed to grow and grow, and my wife said you’ve got a book here.”

 

The narrative focuses on your difficult school years, but what made them so challenging for you?

“It wasn’t until the back to backs were being knocked down, and we ended up moving to Rubery, that I was enrolled for any length of time into a school. And when I started at Colmers Farm I was very weak, very frail – emotionally and educationally I was well, well down. I was a massive target for bullies. And I was put on the ‘thick table’ which didn’t help.

“Then I went into senior school, and I remember sitting in reception and the headmaster coming onto the stage and telling us: ‘there are two types of people in this world, there are the chefs and they’ve passed the Eleven Plus and gone onto Grammer School. You lot are destined to stir the pot.’

“Now if you say that to a frail young lad who is very emotionally damaged because of the bullying and everything, what’s going to happen…? I went into a little bubble, sat at the back of the classroom, and just looked out of the window. And I did that for the majority of my school years.”

 

That must have been difficult as a younger child.

“I did feel let down by my schooling. But it isn’t a ‘woe is me’ book because it wasn’t just happening to me, it was happening the thousands of other children at that time. And all the teachers seemed to be interested in were the bright ones at front who keep putting their hands up and answering questions.

“But really they should be concentrating on those ones at the back who just sit there – those are the ones who need the teacher’s attention. But it wasn’t given, that’s just the way education was back in the 50’s.”

 

And where did the title, Knitted Swimming Trunks, come from?

“Back in the 50’s mothers used to kit you everything: hats, gloves, jumpers, everything. Because it was cheaper. My mother, bless her, decided to knit me swimming trunks… it didn’t work out. I didn’t notice the flaw in the design until I got into the sea at Westen Super Mare; I got a very strange feeling in the material around the groin, then they just billowed out and became very saggy.

“And it was a hell of a long walk back to where my mum and dad were, at the far end of Weston beach, holding on for dear life to these soggy knitted swimming trunks.”

 

That sounds embarrassing…

“All through the book it’s the rather embarrassing, rather bizarre things that happened to me. And that just typified what might have started out as a wonderful idea but ended up in complete disaster. So, the ridicule of that walk back sums up a lot of what was happening to me in those years.

“But It’s not just about knitted swimming trunks, it’s about my personal story of growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, seeing how the world and Birmingham was changing through my eyes. It’s very nostalgic.

“There are lots of tears in the book but also lots of laugh out loud moments; I experienced the whole lot across those twenty odd years.”

 

And for someone learning about your life today, through this book, what would you want them to take away from reading Knitted Swimming Trunks?

“This book is about making sure you’re not defined by the bullies and doing the best you can. It’s about making the most of yourself and not allowing it to be a bad experience. It’ll make you cry on one page, then loud out loud on the next.

“Hopefully some teachers will read it and think, let’s see what’s happening at the back of the class…”

Knitted Swimming Trunks by Andy Harper is out now, available through Brewin Books. For more information and links to online sales visit: www.brewinbooks.com/knitted_swimming_trunks

To contact Andy Harper directly please email: Andyharper74@btinternet.com

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pic supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

As 2023 comes to an end, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on my work as your Member of Parliament for Erdington, Kingstanding, and Castle Vale over the past year.

As your representative in Parliament, I have spoken 39 times to raise a variety of issues that matter to you. I have spoken six different times about the problems on Erdington High Street, which is the beating heart of our community.

I have raised concerns about the lack of GP appointments, along with mental health services, the mortgage crisis, knife crime, antisocial behaviour, HMOs, the cost of living crisis, levelling up, and much more. I have always done my best to be your voice in Westminster and to hold the government to account, and I will continue to do so.

As your local MP, I have also been working hard to help you with your individual problems and concerns. I have responded to 1,975 pieces of policy casework and sent out over 9,000 emails to assist you with various local issues.

I have also visited local schools, businesses, charities, and community groups to hear your views and support your ambitions.

As someone who lives locally, I am proud to represent our community in Parliament and in our constituency. I will continue to work hard for you and to fight for a better future for all.

Finally, I want to wish everyone in Erdington, Kingstanding, and Castle Vale a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

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