OPINION: Why I am Green – Siobhan Harper-Nunes

Local resident, local campaigner, founder of Shakti Women, and Green Party candidate in both the recent Erdington by election and local elections, Siobhan Haper-Nunes talks to Erdington Local about her belief in social justice and how the Green Party are ‘not just about green spaces’.

“I am the proud daughter of two exceptional people. My parents met when my father left Guyana and came to England to further his education. My grandmother then ran a boarding house in Wheelers Road, they met and married and returned to Guyana with my brother.

“My father schooled himself as a boy, studying by candlelight to become the youngest pupil teacher at 9 years old. Over the course of 20 years, he went on to become the youngest headteacher and later was appointed Minister for Education.

“My father could recite all the great English poets and birthed my love of this country. My mother was the only daughter of an exceptional Irish woman, the 21st of 21 children, determined to give my mum a better life. Mum was a campaigning white woman who in Guyana became a journalist, writing about local community issues. She gave me my love of life, my eye for beauty and majesty, and together they birthed my interest in social justice.

“As a young woman all I cared about was fun. It was only after I had my son and returned to school, that my interest in society began to take shape. I studied social administration and took courses in comparative social policy, where I saw by looking at how things were done in other places, that there were sometimes more effective ways.

“I became addicted to research and landed two research fellowships, one at Birmingham and the other at Keele University. My first job at Birmingham City Council (BCC) was in the Crime and Community Safety team, looking at different ways to bring down crime in places like Handsworth, Aston, and Kingstanding. My role was to help community groups work up their bids for funding projects to make an impact.

“I was then transferred to BCC central and became the New Opportunities Fund (now Big Lottery) Officer. My role was to attract and manage external funding, I was also responsible for the Neighbourhood Renewal Budget and worked closely with local councillors to ensure these funds went to local groups.

“I saw more opportunities to empower local groups, so I wrote the blueprint for the External Funding Unit and was given £250k to set it up. My job was to bring all the national funders to the communities of Birmingham. I trained bid writers who were bringing in an average £3million in external funds to each ward we worked in, but many councillors did not see the benefits of money going to community groups, not ward budgets, and this small thinking frustrated me. After all my hard work I eventually experienced burnt out.

“I found myself attracted to green open spaces as they calmed my soul. I realised that life was not just about work, it was about quality of life, about the quality of our relationships, being connected to our community and feeling a sense of responsibility for the quality of our environment.

“I joined the Green Party because it epitomises my values. It’s not just about climate change and sustainability. It’s about a vision for a better way of life where social goods are valued more than consumer goods and people who provide them are rewarded. Where decisions are made not on traditional economics but on the principles of social and ecological justice.

“Yes, it worries me that we are doing things to the planet that are causing fatal climate change, but at a local level we are sometimes operating as if all people need is material goods. Our quality of life must be central to our decision making and that’s what the Greens stand for, that’s why we’re not just about green spaces but services such as health, education, social care.

“I am continually in awe of the beauty and majesty of the world. Injustice hurts my soul, the problems we as a society have created hurt me to the core. But no one can do this alone.

“I want to see a stronger community fabric and have started working with a number of local groups to help them deliver on the projects which are important to them. I also want to help local people to strengthen their sense of community by setting up or growing their own local neighbourhood groups.

“The Green Party isn’t just another political party. Green politics is a new and radical kind of thinking where society is transformed for the benefit of all”.

To see the Green Party’s Core Values, visit www.policy.greenparty.org.uk/core-values

NEWS: Memorial Christmas tree planted outside EF Edwards on Gravelly Hill

Words & pics by Ed King

A memorial Christmas tree has been planed in the front garden of EF Edwards on Gravelly Hill, in an act of remembrance for local people who have lost loved ones.

The long serving Erdington funeral directors, which has been helping local families through difficult times since 1966, are inviting people to decorate the tree with special silver star decorations – each carrying the names of departed friends and family members.

There is no charge, and the person being remembered with a star on the memorial tree did not need to be laid to rest by EF Edwards.

“We’d like to support the whole community and everyone who may be dealing with grief,” explained EF Edwards Funeral Manger, Lisa Hodge.

“The stars on the tree can help people, especially at this time of year, remember their loved ones and do something a bit more proactive. It can give people who are grieving something to focus on.

“It’s important to acknowledge that grief is a natural process and people have different ways in which they greave and how they get through that process – if we can do something that makes that a little bit easier then that’s what we’re here to do.”

Before Covid, EF Edwards would hold an annual memorial service at St Michael’s Church in Boldmere and display a memorial tree inside their Erdington based funeral home.

But due to the widespread impact of coronavirus and other illnesses, this year EF Edwards are reaching out to the wider community and planting a permanent memorial tree in their front garden.

“We always did a yearly memorial service around this time of year,” continued Lisa, “where we invited people to send in stars with the names of their loved ones which we would place on a tree within the branch.

“This year we want to extend that to the wider community and offer more people the chance to remember their loved ones, by putting stars on a tree outside at the front.

“The fact that it’s a tree that will remain here permanently will give back to both the community and the environment. It gives people the opportunity to pay their respects to friends, family, and loved ones they have lost – no matter how long ago it was.

“We’d like people to come back year after year in remembrance too, as the tree will keep growing and be a permanent fixture on our front garden.”

The perennial winter fir was donated by Short Heath Fields Trust, who are themselves in the process of building a Covid memorial woodland on Bleak Hill Park.

Estelle Murphy from Short Heath Trust delivered and planted the tree at EF Edwards on Thursday 9 December.

Outside of her role with the Trust, Estelle also works in palliative and end of life care and helps people come to terms with grief in her professional world.

Estelle told Erdington Local: “We were contacted by Lisa at EF Edwards and given the fact we’re in the process of building a living memorial for Covid we were more than happy to jump in and help.

“It’s important that people have time to heal, and everybody does it differently.

“The impact on a community from organisations like EF Edwards is vastly important; it’s where the community come when they need help in finding somewhere for their loved ones to be.

“It’s about finding somewhere they can remember their loved ones; funeral homes like EF Edwards are the bridge between the two.”

If you would like to have a loved on remembered on the memorial tree, contact EF Edwards on 0121 373 0300 or click here to visit their website.

NEWS: Man rushed to QE Hospital with ‘serious injuries’ after being struck by lorry on Gravelly Hill

Words & pics by Ed King

A man was rushed to QE hospital after suffering ‘serious injuries’ following an accident with on Gravelly Hill this morning.

West Midlands Ambulance Service confirmed:

“We were called at 6.44am today to reports of a lorry and a pedestrian that had collided at the junction of Hillaries Road and Gravelly Hill in Erdington.

“One ambulance, a paramedic officer and a MERIT trauma doctor and critical care paramedic attended the scene.

“On arrival, we found one patient, a man, who was the pedestrian, he was assessed at the scene and had sustained injuries believed to be serious.

“He was conveyed to Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, with the MERIT trauma doctor and critical care paramedic travelling to continue treatment throughout the journey.”

Police also arrived at the scene early this morning, closing of the busy thoroughfare and redirecting the rush hour traffic coming over the Aston Expressway up Kingsbury Road – with drivers urged to find alternative routes to the A5217.

Uniformed officers were instruction traffic coming from Six Ways Island to u-turn back up Gravelly Hill North – or to turn off down Wheelright Road to find again find alternative routes via Kingsbury Road.

Police at the scene confirmed there had been a traffic accident, but reassured local residents there wasn’t any further danger.

A Kingsmill bread lorry was seen behind the police tape, surrounded by uniformed officers, parked up by the turning to Hillaries Road.

One nearby neighbour told Erdington Local: “I noticed all the traffic coming up the (Kingsbury) road since about 7:30am.

“When I opened my curtains I though, there’s seems to be a lot of traffic… but I didn’t know what happened – I wondered if it was an accident.

“My brother loves just down the road form me and he saw the same, wondering what’s with all the buses. I also saw some ambulances this morning… about three or four, but a slightly different times. But they could have been coming up here as the roads were closed.”

All roads have been reopened now and traffic is returning to normal.

West Midlands Police have also issued a statement appealing for witnesses:

“A man in his 40s has been taken to hospital to be treated for serious injuries.

“The driver of the lorry stopped at the scene and is assisting with our enquiries. The road is currently closed between Hunton Hill and Kingsbury Road.

“Anyone who witnessed the collision, or has any information can contact us via Live Chat on our website or by calling 101. Please quote log number 477 of 10/11.”

For more updates and information from West Midlands Police visit www.west-midlands.police.uk

NEWS: Funding of up to £10000 now available for projects to support Erdington’s older residents during the coronavirus crisis

Words by Steve Sharma

Grants are now available to Erdington organisations delivering COVID-19 support services for older residents.

As the pandemic continues to impact life across the constituency, the Erdington Neighbourhood Network Scheme (NNS) is calling out to groups who could provide vital services for the over-50s.

To apply for funding, which can range from micro grants of up to £2000 and up to £10000 for larger projects, organisations are being asked to contact one of two local community service organisations – acting as gatekeepers for the wider Erdington NNS.

If based in Perry Common, Kingstanding, Erdington or Stockland Green, groups should contact Witton Lodge Community Association – based at Perry Common Community Hall.

Whilst groups working in Castle Vale, Pype Hayes, Gravelly Hill or again Stockland Green, should contact Compass Support – the charitable arm of The Pioneer Group, based in Castle Vale.

Since the launch of Erdington NNS in September 2019, more than a dozen groups have received funding to deliver activities and provision – helping reduce isolation and boost wellbeing among the district’s older generation.

But with the social distancing regulations imposed around coronavirus, as many venues that house social engagement and group activities close their doors due to the pandemic, there is concern that residents who are vulnerable and in need of help are not being reached.

Groups are invited to apply for funding to establish activities and support services which benefit the health and wellbeing of older people living in Erdington,” explains Debbie Bates, Health and Wellbeing Lead at Witton Lodge Community Association. “In addition to these services, gaps have been identified in activities and provision in a few specific areas where urgent support is needed. 

We are appealing for organisations who could deliver COVID-19 support services and invite organisations who are able to help, to get in contact and apply.”

Addressing a range of social and care concerns for older residents, the Erdington NNS funding wants to support groups who challenge issues including health, wellbeing, bereavement, and domestic violence – alongside anti-social behaviour and the effect it can have on the wider community.

People can become isolated in many ways,” explains Sarah Powers, Health & Wellbeing Team Leader at Compass Support, part of The Pioneer Group, “it could be through the loss of a spouse, declining health, illness, disability or caring responsibilities, discrimination, prejudice and cultural isolation. We understand that chronic loneliness is not only horrible to experience day in, day out, but left unaddressed it can have a devastating effect on a person’s health and wellbeing.

This grant is a fantastic opportunity to better connect people and deliver meaningful outcomes to older, local residents. Whether the project provides access to emotional support or community engagement, all bids are welcome to help people aged 50+ to lead independent, happy and healthy lives.”

To find out more about the Erdington Neighbourhood Network Scheme (NNS), visit https://wittonlodge.org.uk/new-network-scheme-boosts-erdington-residents/

If you run a group in Perry Common, Kingstanding, Erdington or Stockland Green, and want to apply for funding from the Erdington NNS, please email Debbie.bates@wittonlodge.org.uk

If you run a group in Castle Vale, Pype Hayes, Gravelly Hill or Stockland Green, please email: Donna.ebanks@compass-support.org.uk