BACK TO SCHOOL: Caligo – a short story by Daniel Selwood

Daniel Selwood is a student at The Hive College who has been involved in our LOCAL AMBASSADORS programme, as well as contributing to our BACK TO SCHOOL pages for his college.

A gifted prose writer and a veracious reader, Erdington Local is proud to help support and develop Daniel’s writing.

She was beautiful. She had long dark hair, a dress of midnight blue, and high heels that added inches onto her already formidable height.

Domnic Darkly felt underdressed, even in his best shirt. He hadn’t combed his hair in weeks and as a result it looked like something left in a spin dryer too long. His glasses were round, and he was becoming more and more aware of how dirty they were.

“Domnic?” she asked. Her accent was unplaceable, like every voice in the world stewed up and served.

“Yes,” said Domnic, in his West Country drawl, marred and bitten at for living in Birmingham for so long.

She stepped back. Domnic stepped in. The hall smelt familiar – like childhoods and happiness. As Domnic admired the collection of leather-bound books, her soft but strong hands grabbed his cheekbones with their death-pale fingers.

“You look just like your photos, darling, like a tough ‘n’ teak mountain man…” she whispered, and ran her tongue like a red slug over her purple lips.

“You didn’t send any pictures,” said Domnic, nervous then calm. “And I don’t know why – because you’re…” his eyes lingered on her chest, “you’re beautiful…”

“Thank you, my liebchen,” she said, and walked like a film star into her cavernous kitchen. “Would you like water, or wine?” she asked.

“Erm, water,” said Domnic. Stone statues of unrecognised Greek gods were visible through the kitchen window – dressed in real cowls. He thought he recognised some of them from a news report, something to do with back packers who were acting stupid and vanished.

“Erm, Caligo?” he asked – her name, an unusual name, one that sounded like a wine. “Where did you say you were from, again, sorry?”

She winced, then slid back into herself. “All o’fer, really mois fleur,” she said. “I, er, ‘ow-dja-say, treaded the boards…”

“You were an actress?” asked Domnic.

Water thundered into a glass. Caligo looked at him, “Pardon? Oh yes – actress, yes…” She put the glass of water into Domnic’s hand, and whilst he wasn’t looking mixed a fine line of powder into his drink.

“You look good for fifty,” said Domnic, feeling more assured. He was forty-five and obvious with it; a mix of alcohol in the ‘80s, ciggies and drugs in the ‘90s, and an attempt to settle down in the ‘00s. Caligo was charismatic. Caligo was cool. All he had was the look of a humanised gorilla, a twenty something daughter who ran off to Malaga with her girlfriend, and a wife who set fire to his clothes before chucking him out. The words, “you can stay with Calligraphy or whatever her name is…” echoed round his memories, that, and the smell of charred cotton.

“I have the kiss of life,” she laughed. “Now drink up my love… and we’ll see my garden.” She smiled without out showing teeth.

It was the last thing he remembered.

Domnic woke up outside. Cold. Naked. He couldn’t place where he was or when he’d arrived… just a jump, like a dream. But he’d seen those statues before – the one with chiselled cheekbones, the thin seedy one, the round one, too.

“Nice, isn’t it?” she asked. It was. Wherever it was. He couldn’t remember his name.

“I love this place,” she drooled. “I bought it in 1920…”

“19… but it’s 2024!” cried Domnic.

“Oh, mon chéri. I have long life. I am – er, ‘ow you say it? Vampire,” cackled Caligo, as Domnic placed his hand over his neck.

Caligo looked at him and laughed so hard a dog barked a few streets away, then went quiet. “I don’t suck blood, I kiss… and drain the life from my darling, wunderbar boyfriends.”

She leaned in and placed her lips firmly on his. It felt dangerous, yet pleasant. He didn’t fight. Her breath tasted sweet, and rich, like the zest of orange on a dense, dark cake.

Domnic turned to stone. His face was wonderfully wistful. Caligo lifted Domnic and placed him in line. She draped him in a toga before going inside – the sun was rising…

For more on The Hive College visit: www.hivecollege.org.uk

The Hive College is part of the Erdington Local BACK TO SCHOOL programme, working together to celebrate school life from staffroom to classroom.

To find out more about going BACK TO SCHOOL WITH Erdington Local please email: edking@erdingtonlocal.com

LOCAL AMBASSADORS: It’s not you, it’s the system – navigating the NHS

Words by Jo Bull

My name is Jo, and I dare to exist while disabled. I am under the mental health team and I’m diabetic. I have experience on both sides of the desk in public services.

I don’t think it’s news to anyone that the NHS system is broken. Even before Covid-19 there have been areas of lack in terms of understanding and awareness with chronic illness, sensory issues, trauma informed practice, and hidden disability.

I write this because I need reminding of the following on a daily basis when I am ill. Because the system conditions us to feel like we are a burden, we are often left to manage our own illness – or treated as if we know nothing about our own brains and bodies after a lifetime of living and working within them.

And we can frequently experience unsafe treatment, in terms of both attitude and medication when practitioners are making assumptions or not paying attention.

The system is now so fragmented, overloaded, and traumatised, half the workers within the NHS are in states of fight or flight – and as no one has supported them to self-care, patients and service users often bear the brunt of that.

Sometimes they literally do not have enough bodies to do their job. Sometimes they are not feeling safe and grounded enough in their own selves to listen, absorb information, or keep us safe.

Two overloaded traumatised people meeting in these circumstances often don’t do well together. This is dangerous and distressing for people without complex needs, and even harder for those of us who do not fit the norm. If the system no longer works for the typical and abled it is now a massive hurdle for those of us who aren’t.

We need to pause, breathe, and meet each other – medic and patient – as two humans navigating impossible waters together. We need to have empathy for each other, without compromising needs or safeguarding, and without blaming, shaming, or being dismissive. Negotiating and navigating together, as a team.

As service users, we can tell ourselves the following things: they may not be able to meet our needs, they may not have empathy for us, they may not understand. This is not within our control. However, we do not have to accept or absorb arrogance, ignorance, abuse, or stigma.

We are not to blame for the gaps or lack within the system we keep falling through. The system’s lack is not the user’s fault; we do not need to hate ourselves. We are not a burden.

What we can have control over is how we view ourselves, and learning more about ourselves so we can continue to identify and ask for what we need.

Jo is part of the LOCAL AMBASADORS project, using community journalism to give local people a louder voice – including adults living with disabilities. For more stories from our LOCAL AMBASSADORS visit www.erdingtonlocal.com/category/la-news-features

If you would like to know more about the LOCAL AMBASSADORS project and join the team for free, fun, and friendly workshops on journalism and creative writing then email la@erdingtonlocal.com

LA FEATURE: Compassionate Communities – living through bereavement with Compass Support

Words by Estelle Murphy / Project pics supplied by Compass Support

Few things in life are definite. But we will be born, we will face changes, and at the end we will pass away. Before birth parents have had nine months to prepare, and as we grow life teaches us how to live with change, but what prepares us for death?

Whilst death is a subject many still find hard to talk about, Birmingham has been recognised as the UK’s first ‘Compassionate City’ – awarded the accolade by Compassionate Communities UK in acknowledgement of how organisations across the city work collaboratively ‘to provide support, space, togetherness and understanding for those undergoing the experiences of death, dying, loss and caregiving.’

Building on those friendships and foundations, Castle Vale based Compass Support are launching their Compassionate Communities project this May – teaching people practical and emotional skills to help them support those facing bereavement in their own community.

Compassionate Communities will be delivered through a series of free workshops and awareness sessions, helping to educate people about dealing with bereavement and to ensure more in our community know where to go for help, advice, and support when someone is passing away.

The project will work with local groups and individuals to help break down the walls surrounding death, so people can talk more openly and constructively about dying.

LOCAL AMBASSADORS spoke to Isobel Hayward, Health and Wellbeing Project Organiser from Compass Support.

She explained: “The (Compassionate Communities) scheme was bought to us through Birmingham City Council, as facilitators of compassion, to bring it to anyone in the community that works with people.

“We run workshops on how to approach death and end of life, and going forward people will know who to call for help with bereavement, end of life, and financial support.

“Our awareness sessions on end of life are completely free and open to community groups and individuals.”

LOCAL AMBASSADORS further asked Isobel why she thought this scheme is so needed: “I think it’s because when you are dealing with loss and death, you are consumed by what’s going to happen and your grief.

“Easing that with the knowledge of who to call and what to do, or who can offer support for families is important. It’s about tailoring the process for individual needs.”

As the those who work in palliative and end of life care know all too well, there is no handbook for the general public on what to do and where to go when someone is dying, and often these families are left isolated, grieving and alone.

Any scheme giving people more help, support, and knowledge around dealing with bereavement will ultimately help people spend their last few days or weeks with their loved ones, instead of chasing information and adding more worry to an already stressful and heart-breaking time.

The more people who can offer support the better, and it’s never too early to have the knowledge you need to support yourself, loved ones, or friends. Who will be there with compassion, when you need them, at the end?

To find out more about the Compassionate Communities project being delivered through Compass  Support please email: contactus@compass-support.org.uk 

**For free community journalism and creative writing workshops, come and join our LOCAL AMBASSADORS team – click on the link below and email us for more information**

FEATURE: Remembering Erdington’s fallen, lest we forget

Words by Estelle Murphy (LOCAL AMBASSADORS) / Pics by Ed King

On Remembrance Day, held every year on 11 November, people across the country and Commonwealth remember the fallen service men and women who died in the line of duty. LOCAL AMBASSADORS explores the war graves at St Barnabas, Erdington’s parish church and oldest building of worship.

The parish church of St Barnabas Erdington was first consecrated on 23 July 1823 and has proudly stood watch over the constituency’s comings and goings for nearly 200 years. Badly damaged in a fire on 4 October 2007, St Barnabas was repaired and reopened in 2012 – with further renovations currently being planned for the churchyard.

A key part of the Erdington community, St Barnabas has been the final resting place for countless local loved ones and family members. Amidst its sprawling churchyard, with some areas significantly overgrown and dilapidated, St Barnabas has 66 War graves – maintained by The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Honouring those fallen in combat, there are 29 graves from the Great War (WWI) and 37 from the Second World War (WWII), including a memorial for eight service men ‘who lie buried in this churchyard in unmarked graves.’ There are a further 20 war graves with private headstones erected by loved ones.

The Erdington Historical Society produced a book on the Great War graves at St Barnabas, assisted by the Heritage Fund and National Lottery.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission also maintain war graves in two other Erdington churchyards – St Thomas and Edmund of Canterbury Roman Catholic Church, and the Erdington Greek Orthodox churchyard (formerly Erdington Congregational Church).

There is also a memorial to the postmen who fell during war time inside the Post Office on Sutton New Road, detailing nine postal workers killed in action during WWI and WWII.

At the outbreak of war in 1914, the regular British Army was made up of skilled soldiers. However, between 14 October and 30 November that year, Britian’s forces lost over 53,000 men with an additional 4,500 Indian casualties. So, ‘Kitchener’s New Army’ was recruited – with 90 different posters and leaflets made, the most commonly remembered motif being ‘Your Country Needs You’.

Over two and a half million recruitment posters were put up around the UK, and within two months of war being declared over three quarters of a million volunteers had been signed up. Many of Erdington’s young men became part of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment which saw action at Ypres in 1914 and the Somme in 1916.

The first bomb of WWI to fall on Birmingham landed on Enstone Road, Erdington, on the night of 8-9 August, which was later confirmed to be a mistake. At that time the German air force, who would be coined the Luftwaffe in 1935, were only bombing factories and industrial sites

The first two Erdington ‘serving deaths’ of WWI were Able Seaman Arthur Hands, of Slade Road, and Royal Navy Colour Serjeant Royal Marine Light Infantry John Mason, of Clarence Road. Both of whom were lost on the sinking of HMS Cressey on 22 September 1914.

Between 1914 and 1922 Erdington families lost a further 373 servicemen, after Arthur and John, many of whom were buried where they fell by their comrades and fellow servicemen – left in no man’s land or buried at sea, making the graves at St Barnabas more poignant.

One of the biggest losses in one day came on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, when Erdington reportedly lost 41 servicemen.

After WWI, the people of Erdington funded a memorial to their fallen at a cost of £1000 – nearly £50,000 in today’s money. The memorial was registered in the Imperial War Museum (© WMR-38612) and placed in a dedicated chapel within St Barnabas Church. Sadly, the WWI memorial bought by the people of Erdington was lost to the 2007 fire and has never been replaced – making Erdington one of the few places without a permanent memorial to its lost WWI servicemen and women.

Of the 37 WWII graves maintained by The Commonwealth War Graves Commission in St Barnabas’ churchyard, only one belongs to a woman – Aircraft Woman 1st Class Patricia Marie Parry, who died 8 October 1947. Although sadly, very little else is known about her story.

Of the remaining WWII graves, 14 are from the Royal Air Force, seven from the Royal Navy, and 16 from the British Army. One of the youngest servicemen buried at St Barnabas is 18 year old Ordinary Seaman Henry George Gallett, from Pype Hayes, who was one of 15 men killed aboard HMS Mohawk when the Luftwaffe made its first attack on British territory on 16 October 1939.

The oldest is 54 year old Stoker Petty Officer Herbert Ernest Hughes, also from Pype Hayes, who also served in WWI – surviving the sinking of HMS Queen Mary in 1916 at the Battle of Jutland, to end up serving in WWII in Greenock Scotland with HMS Orlando.

After major restoration work following the fire in 2007, the church building at St Barnabas is now a vibrant community hub – with a well used café and meeting area. There are also plans, currently being discussed, for significant renovation to the existing churchyard, to further extend the church as a community asset.

LOCAL AMBASSADORS asked St Barnabas what would be done during any developments to protect the war graves.

St Barnabas vicar, Emma Sykes, told: “We will make every effort to make sure the war graves are protected during the renovation as they will continue to be an important feature in the newly designed churchyard.”

LOCAL AMBASSADORS would like to extend a special thanks to Robert Brown of Erdington Historical Society, for access to their book detailing WWI war graves at St Barnabas’ Church.

For more on The Commonwealth War Graves Commission visit: www.cwgc.org

For more on St Barnabas Church visit: www.stbarnabaserdington.org.uk

The Erdington Historical Society meet on the second Tuesday of each month, 7pm, at St Barnabas Church. For more information please email: erdingtonhistory@gmail.com

NEWS: Dulwich Road house explosion “most likely” caused by faulty pipework

By Erdington Local editorial team

The gas explosion which destroyed a house in Kingstanding and damaged six other properties, leaving a grandmother dead and a man fighting for his life in hospital, was “most likely” caused by faulty pipework West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) have stated.

West Midlands Fire Service came to the conclusion after four days investigating the cause of the devastating explosion on Dulwich Road on Sunday 26 June.

A WMFS spokesman said: “We would like to take this opportunity to again extend our sympathies to everyone affected by Sunday night’s events in which, tragically, a woman lost her life.

“The man who was rescued remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital.”

The spokesman added: “Extensive investigations at the scene of the explosion are now complete.

“Demolition work on Tuesday enabled investigators to safely access and test sections of the property’s internal gas piping.

“They have concluded that the explosion was most likely caused by the accidental and inadvertent ignition of a large escape of gas from a joint in the pipework.”

West Midlands Police officers are also gathering evidence for HM Coroner and family liaison officers continue to support those most directly affected.

The Health and Safety Executive will continue to make enquiries as to whether any work-related activities contributed towards the incident.

The WMFS spokesman added: “We are extremely grateful to the families involved, and to the local community, for their understanding and patience throughout the initial emergency response and the subsequent investigation.

“The community has been fantastic in the aftermath of this tragedy, offering support and shelter to those affected, and we would like to thank everyone involved in that effort.”

The Kingstanding Inn has stopped accepting donations of items for those affected by the blast after being deluged by people bringing clothes and food.

Kingstanding Councillor Rick Payne said: “On behalf of those who have done a stellar job of collecting items for the Dulwich Road relief I just want to make everybody aware they there has been an overwhelming response.

“Thank you everyone that has donated for your generosity, The Kingstanding Inn has been absolutely inundated and has asked me to inform residents that they are no longer taking any donations.

“There was a massive surplus and as a result, following a meeting of the charities who have been working within the community over the past few days, a decision has been made to donate the surplus items to local schools and charities.”

A GoFundMe campaign was also set up by Kingstanding resident Sam Wellings, who lives on Birdbrook Road. At the time of writing £2,365 had been raised in donations.

For more on the GoFundMe ‘Kingstanding house explosion’ campaign visit: www.gofundme.com/f/kingstanding-house-explosion

NEWS: Community vigil to be held one week after Dulwich Road house explosion

By Erdington Local editorial team

A vigil is being held on Dulwich Road on Sunday 3 July, marking a week after the tragic gas explosion.

At 7pm the community will come together to mark the moment the blast ripped through the Kingstanding home, killing Doreen Rees-Bibb and seriously injuring a man who remains in hospital.

Several people were made also homeless from the incident, and the Kingstanding community rallied round this week by raising money, giving donations, and offering support.

Sunday’s 7pm vigil will be to remember Doreen, age 79, who was killed in the blast, and to show solidarity for the man still fighting for his life. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Kingstanding resident Cassie Harker said:  “Everyone is going at 7pm we are all lighting the candles at the time the explosion happened.

“I’m looking forward to seeing everyone represent our community and come together as one.”

There has been a massive outpouring of grief for “fun-loving grandmother” Doreen, who died at the scene.

Her daughter Karen led the tributes to her mother saying: “We are so devastated that me and my sister have loss our mother Doreen in a fire, it’s the most terrible way to die. We miss her so much.”

Doreen was a popular figure around Erdington and Kingstanding and friends who remember her enjoying nights in The Acorn and the former HQ, now the Pheasant Plucker, on High Street, flooded social media with fond memories.

Former karaoke DJ at HQ Gary Neale said: “She was my friend, and a lovely lady.”

Several people who she had helped in the past by giving sage advice and support also mourned her loss.

Maureen Harwood said: “I’m so sorry, she was such a good friend to me, and helped me.”

Alex Stanley said: “I can’t believe it is true, Doreen was such an angel, I am absolutely heartbroken. She was always asking about me, telling me to get out of Birmingham saying “Alex you are better than this place”. RIP and party hard up there.”

Eight families were forced out of their damaged houses and there have been several fundraising drives to help them, with the Kingstanding Inn, Second City Bar and Lounge, and the Beggars Bush all accepting donations.

Kingstanding resident Sam Wellings, Birdbrook Road, also set up a Go Fund Me which has so far received over £2000 in donations.

Rachael Pike-Franklin said last night (Tuesday):  “We are working alongside some of the families in our community at the Kingstanding Inn the clothes donations have been phenomenal and we are truly grateful for everyone who has been a part of collecting and donating .

“For now we have been asked to not accept anymore clothes donations but are looking for fresh food products to help feed the families in our community at this tragic time.”

Investigations into the cause of the explosion are still ongoing. However, gas suppliers Cadent have confirmed their role in the investigation is over.

Elliott Nelson, Cadent network director for the West Midlands said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those impacted and everyone in this close-knit community.

“Since the incident, our engineers have been on site working with the emergency services.

“Following a thorough investigation, we can confirm that the gas mains and service pipes in the area are sound and were not the cause of the incident in Kingstanding. The matter now lies with other agencies for further investigation.”

A for sale advert for the house posted two months ago included information about the boiler, which “needed replacing”.

West Midlands Fire Service investigators remain at the scene trying to find the exact cause of the explosion.

In a recent public update, WMFS told: “Wed 29 June, it is likely that demolition work will be needed at the scene, following which the next stage of investigations can be planned.”

For more on the GoFundMe ‘Kingstanding house explosion’ campaign visit: www.gofundme.com/f/kingstanding-house-explosion

NEWS: ‘Bravery and generosity’ – Kingstanding community rally round to support victims of Dulwich Road explosion

Words by Erdington Local editorial team – pics from West Midlands Fire Service

The bravery and generosity of the Kingstanding community has shone through following the tragic house explosion last night.

In the minutes after the blast, 15 local residents tried to save those trapped in the rubble of the burning Dulwich Road house.

And within hours, donations for the families in the houses destroyed or damaged began pouring in and a JustGiving page fundraising page started.

One woman died during the gas explosion; she is believed to be a pensioner who lived in the destroyed house. A man is being treated in Queen Elizabeth Hospital for serious injuries and another four people were treated for minor injuries at the scene.

One house was totally destroyed, three were seriously damaged, and several cars were hit by flying debris. West Midlands Fire Service confirmed 21 people were evacuated from their homes, some stayed with family members and others were found emergency accommodation.

Several people were taken to the Kingstanding Inn, Warren Farm Road.

Kathy, the landlady, said: “After the tragic events of last night, we want the community to know we are happy to help.

“We currently have TCI with us which is a local community charity, and have housed those in need overnight.

“Should anyone need clothing, food, or just somewhere safe to chat, please pop in anytime. One thing this has shown is how our community can pull together.”

Young father Callum Attwood raced into the home to save a stricken resident, but after being praised as a hero by the national media wanted to set the record straight this afternoon.

He said: “I don’t want no credit for any of this there was another 10-15 lads in the garden helping and doing much more. I don’t want no credit for this.”

However, despite his modesty Callum and his fellow rescuers have been hailed heroes by thousands of people of social media.

Kiara Parkinson said: “People can say what they like about Kingstanding but when it comes to it we’re some bloody good people, Callum Attwood and anybody else who put themselves at risk running into a house that’s literally burning to help others in these horrific circumstances should be so proud of themselves.”

Kingstanding resident Sam Wellings, who lives on Birdbrook Road, set up a Go Fund Me page to help the ‘immediate victims of the Kingstanding house explosion.’ At the time of writing the page had received nearly £800 in donations.

He said: “Such an unpredicted accident which will leave many temporarily homeless.

“The money will be donated directly to the immediate victims to cover costs of temporary accommodation, clothing, food and anything else needed in such a tragic time.

“I don’t personally know those affected by the tragedy but as a resident of Kingstanding also I feel the community can support those affected.

Two young girls have been left “with just the clothes on their back” and Claire Deleon is also collecting donations for those in need and has already organised a charity night at Second City, Kingstanding Circle.

She said: “We are doing a collection of anything you have or can donate food, baby supplies, blankets, anything you can think of that can help the family’s out effected from the fire.

“Come on people let’s all pull together as a community, anybody can drop stuff into Second City and just let a member of staff know it’s for the collection, we will also be doing a charity day/night Friday with a live singer, there will be a collection pot, football cards etc on the day and night so please come and join us.”

The club are also donating 50p of every drink sold on Friday 1 July to help support that affected by the blast.

For more on Second City Sports Bar and Lounge visit www.facebook.com/secondcitybar.lounge

For more on the GoFundMe ‘Kingstanding house explosion’ campaign visit: www.gofundme.com/f/kingstanding-house-explosion

NEWS: Suspected gas explosion on Dulwich Road destroys house – leaving one woman dead and man with “life threatening” injuries

By Erdington Local editorial team – with images from WMFS and local residents

A woman was killed and a man is left fighting for his life after a believed gas explosion destroyed a house on Dulwich Road, Kingstanding, early evening yesterday.

Three other houses and surround vehicles suffered “significant damage” from the blast, which tore a hole through the quiet suburban street at around 8:38pm on Sunday 26 June.

A statement released by West Midlands Fire Service at 9:23am on Monday, 27 June, confirmed:

“We’re saddened to confirm that a woman has been found dead at the scene of the explosion.

“The man who was taken to hospital informed us there may have been another person in the property where the explosion happened.

“The woman’s body was recovered overnight. Our thoughts and sympathies are with everyone affected.

“We would like to thank members of the local community for their continued support, understanding and patience.”

The woman’s body was not immediately recovered, but following the explosion people at the scene were able to rescure a man trapped in the wreckage, who was then taken “on blue lights” to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital after sustaining “life threatening” injuries.

Four further men were assessed by ambulance crews at the scene and discharged with “minor conditions”.

Following multiple reports of an explosion, with reports of it being heard over miles away from the scene, emergency services and utility companies were immediately called to the scene – including West Midlands Fire and Ambulance Services, the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART), the MERIT trauma doctor and critical care paramedic, West Midlands CARE team, and an emergency planner.

A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said: “One property has been completely destroyed with three others badly damaged. Cars have also been damaged.

“A man was helped from the property by people at the scene but had suffered very serious injuries.

“After assessment and treatment at the scene, he was taken on blue lights to the major trauma centre at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham with the MERIT team travelling with the ambulance.  His condition on arrival at hospital was described as life threatening.

“Four further men have been assessed by ambulance crews for minor conditions but have been discharged at the scene.

“Members of the Hazardous Area Response Team continue to work with specialist firefighters at the scene.”

Once emergency services arrived at the scene, the affected and surrounding properties were evacuated, with a search and rescue dog and handler mobilised at the scene – with an additional search and rescue dog from Lancashire requested to assist.

West Midlands Fire Service eventually took over command of the incident, reporting “good progress is being made by crews at the scene” by the early hours of Monday morning.

Drones were in operation to identify any possible “hot spots” with Fire Investigation teams deployed “during daylight hours” to further explore the scene.

After appealing for witnesses online, West Midlands Police had fielded responses from hundreds of concerned residents – many extending thoughts and prayers to anyone affected, offering help and support.

Some people also reached out looking for loved ones who lived on Dulwich Road, near the site of the explosion, with West Midlands Police helping them track down friends and relatives.

Others claimed they could hear the blast all across Erdington, with one local resident, Cheryl Meehan, stating: “I’ve never heard an explosion so loud & I’m about a mile away. Hope everyone involved from emergency services find the actual cause.

“Can’t be easy on a sunny evening when many people were outside. Thoughts are with injured parties & those living nearby in shock.”

Lesley Anne Slim said: “Hope everyone is OK our house shook were like 3 miles away.”

Emma Harrop added: “I heard and felt this in the centre of Sutton. My goodness it was strong, I just thought it was a particularly weird thunder clap. That’s so awful.”

Kingstanding Councillor Rick Payne was at the scene following the explosion. He told Erdington Local:

“One house has been destroyed whilst the adjoining houses have been seriously damaged, additionally houses close to the blast have sustained damage to windows and structures.

“I am here to work with the City Council haven spoken to the Chief Exec to ensure that the City Council can work towards accommodating those who have been evacuated either as a direct result of the explosion or as a precaution whilst the Emergency Services work.

I hope that there are no serious casualties and that all those affected by this incident can be returned to their homes as soon as possible.”

A statement issued by West Midlands Police later confirmed: “All emergency services and utility companies are that the scene of a house explosion on Dulwich Road, Kingstanding, Birmingham.

“One house is destroyed with others significantly damaged. Cars have also been damaged. Evacuations are taking place. Those evacuated will be told where to meet. People in the area must immediately follow the instructions of first responders.

“Dulwich Road and surround roads are closed and will be for a very long time. Please help us by avoiding the area.”

Watch live footage from the scene after suspected gas explosion on Dulwich Road