NEWS: Erdington’s top politicians push for Brexit deal in support of local industry

Words by Ed King

As MPs across the country prepare to vote on the Brexit trade deal, Erdington’s top politicians both agree that a no-deal exit from the European Union (EU) would be disastrous for local industry.

Crossing the aisle in support of the UK’s business community, MP for Erdington Jack Dromey (Labour) and Erdington ward Councillor Robert Alden (Conservative) agree that the current deal, recently secured by Boris Johnson, is the best way to see in the New Year.

Although still divided by party lines, Erdington’s red and blue leaders have come out in public support of the offer negotiated from Brussels – urging the potential rebels in Westminster to push forward and vote ‘yes’ in the House of Commons on 30th December.

Jack Dromey MP for Erdington said: “We are now left with a very clear choice – the deal that has been agreed or a no deal Brexit.

“Throughout the Brexit process, I have been in intensive dialogue with leading figures from across the world of work. On the eve of the historic Brexit vote, their message is clear – vote for the deal or risk plunging British manufacturing into an unprecedented crisis.”

Quick to recognise the Prime Minister’s role in securing a deal, a diplomatic achievement many thought impossible, Cllr Alden – who is also leader of the Birmingham Conservatives – told Erdington Local:

“With Boris Johnson securing the deal others said he could not and Keir Starmer announcing Labour would vote for the deal without having seen it, Brexit is finally set to be delivered.

“All the wards in Erdington voted to leave the EU and Boris Johnson has delivered the wishes of Erdington constituency, despite repeated attempts by Labour MP’s and others to prevent the will of the people being enacted.

“What is vital now is to maximise the opportunities Brexit can offer the country and our region: the chance to strike trade deals across the world, to control our borders, to deliver world leading environmental protections, and locally the opportunity to use trade deals to regenerate our economy and deliver well paid jobs for local residents, lifting the average wage of Birmingham residents. 

Cllr Alden, who holds the Erdington ward office along with Cllr Gareth Moore, further recognised the potential growth on the horizon if the trade agreement successfully passes.

He added: “The freedoms the deal provides the country need to be used to provide investment into a gigafactory and the car industry, to support jobs in Jaguar/Land Rover and the supply chain, allowing them to modernise and grow.

“I urge the Government to ignore the City Council, who voted for gigafactories to be built in other regions instead, and to invest in Birmingham.”

MP for an area that voted to leave the EU in the June 2016 referendum, Jack Dromey has perhaps more friction within his party than in his constituency – with many Labour MPs urging Sir Keir Starmer to stymy the Johnson secured deal.

He added: “Since the British people decided that we were to leave the European Union in 2016, I have been unequivocal that a no deal Brexit would be a betrayal of the British national interest.

“This deal is far from perfect, and there are many aspects that we need to build upon at the next stages. But the alternative, a no deal and trading on WTO terms, would be a disaster for Britain’s manufacturing industry.

“So, I would urge all Members of Parliament to listen to the workers voice and vote for the Brexit deal. British manufacturing is counting on it.”

MPs will gather in the House of Commons to vote on the Brexit deal on 30th December, having been recalled from their winter break for the historic trade agreement.

Debates will start at 9:30am and are expected to continue until the afternoon, after which the bill will be moved to the House of Lords.

If successful, the Brexit trade deal could receive royal assent by morning on New Year’s Eve 2020.

For more on Brexit/Britain’s exit from the European Union, visit www.gov.uk/transition

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NEWS: Coton Lane Boxing Day death could be deliberate hit and run

Words and pics by Ed King

A man was killed in a what is believed to be a deliberate hit and run in the early hours of Boxing Day morning, on Coton Lane off Erdington High street.

The victim, who is unidentified at the time of writing, is believed to be from outside of Erdington according to sources from the crime scene.

Attending police could not issue too much information as the investigation is underway but were able to assure local residents that they were not expecting more violence.

When Erdington Local asked officers on the scene about public safety, our reporter was told: “there is no concern of that nature.”

Officers from across the city were called in to help protect the crime scene, many who have been on site since 6am on Boxing Day.

Police cordoned off the High Street entrance from Six Way down to the corner of Harrison Road, with forensics concentrating on the murder scene on Coton Lane.

A blue tent had been erected around the victim’s body whilst forensic teams and investigating officers combed the area for clues – with the victim’s body eventually moved by coroners at around 3:30pm on Boxing Day.

One local shop owner, who wished to remain anonymous, told Erdington Local: “I closed up and left the shop at half two in the morning and nothing had happened. People are saying it happened at 3am; my neighbours live up the road and they could see some of what was going on.”

Detective Sergeant Nick Barnes, from West Midlands Police homicide team, said: “My thoughts are with the family of the man who tragically died this morning.

“We’re in the early stages of our investigation and I’d urge anyone who witnesses anything who hasn’t yet spoken to us, or anyone with any information or dash cam footage to get in touch as soon as they can.

“A family have lost a loved one and we need to find out what took place and who is responsible.”

If you have any information please contact West Midlands Police via live chat on our website or call 101 quoting log number 688 of 26 December.

 

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NEWS: New police figures show 49% increasing in Erdington hate crimes during Covid

Words by Adam Smith

Hate crimes in Erdington have increased by 49% during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inspector Haroon Chughtai revealed 130 more people were victims of hate crimes between April and December, compared with the same period last year.

In his December email to Erdington locals, Inspector Chughtai said: “Around hate crime, there has been an increase of 49% which is around 130 extra victims of crime.

“There are no clear patterns or highly concentrated geographies – rather it is a real mixture of neighbour disputes, road rage incidents, abuse of retail staff and police officers.”

He added: “Hate crime is deplorable and something I will talk about in more detail in future messages.”

Hate crimes are those incidents in which the victims feel their race, sexuality, disability, or religion were the motivating factor for the preparators.

The shocking increase coincides with the COVID-19 pandemic and two lockdowns.

Inspector Chughtai has previously outlined the sharp increase of domestic abuse and violecne as relationships were put under extra strain due to lockdowns and coronavirus restrictions. As the year draws to a close, the shocking amount of victims of domestic abuse in Erdington proves another the human cost of Covid.

He said: “Domestic abuse has seen the most significant increase this year, around 45% – which is an extra 600 victims of crime and equates for just under one quarter of all the crime in Erdington.”

There has been a 17% increase in overall crime which equates to 1,400 more victims of crime in the area compared to last year. 

However, 2020 will be remembered for how the pandemic affected everyone and how police officers have had new challenges to face.

Inspector Chughtai said: “2020 has been a year I guess none of us will ever forget or truly get over, we have all had our lives changed and suffered in different ways and like all major events it has brought both the best and worst out in people.

“When I think of the best, I draw out people like the Erdington Task Force who have been extraordinary in how they have stepped up, the Stockland Green Action Group who have come together and in a short space of time played a big part in holding us and our partners to account and making the community safer.

“Places of worship who have stepped up and started food banks and other services to support their congregations and the wider community to get through this.”

Erdington’s top cop had a further message for offenders who have used the coronavirus lockdowns as cover for their violence and bullying.

He said: ”For me, the worst is the perpetrators of domestic abuse – who have taken advantage of the restrictions and made life unbearable for their victims, we will continue to everything to bring them to justice.”

 

If you believe you are a victim of domestic abuse or violence, call the freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 – for help online, visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk or www.refuge.org.uk

To make an anonymous report about any crime, effecting yourself or others, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org

To receive updates from the Neighbourhood Policing Teams in your area, visit www.neighbourhoodalert.co.uk  

To find out more about Erdington’s police force, visit www.west-midlands.police.uk/node/2710

For a list of support services, as compiled by members of the Erdington Task Force, visit www.erdingtonlocal.com/covid-19-local-support

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Q&A: Ruby Begum – Employment & Skills Tutor at Witton Lodge Community Association

Unemployment is one of the most damaging footprints left by the coronavirus crisis, with thousands of people losing their jobs and employers across the country having to sack staff or even close down their businesses for good.

In response, local organisations agencies such as Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) are offering support services and employment training – initiatives that will help people get back to work, such as improved IT skills and access to digital technology.

Erdington Local caught up with Ruby Begum, Employment & Skills Tutor at WLCA, to find out how they can help people looking for a new job.

___________________

EL: Can you tell us a bit more about your role and responsibilities at WLCA?

RB: My role at Witton Lodge is to support and help people who are looking for work, and that’s where I provide one to one support and within a group setting.

Here at Witton lodge, we do a range of courses to help people back into work – for example, we offer customer services, CV writing, preparation for interview techniques and digital skills training.

 

EL:  WLCA launched a training and support program to get people more confident with digital skills back in October, can you tell us more about these classes?

RB: The IT classes were introduced as we had identified – especially during lockdown – how people were struggling to keep in touch with their loved ones on digital apps like Zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook etc., because they didn’t have the digital skills to do so.

There were also a lot of services that had started to offer sessions via these apps, which meant that for those people who did not have the skills to use them they would be missing out on them. This was also a barrier for many people in the community in the job market where they were not confident to type up CVs, or to look for jobs on the Internet.

 

EL:  Is it face to face; can people access the sessions remotely such as through Zoom or social media platforms?

RB: The face-to-face delivery is available on Mondays and Tuesdays in the mornings and via zoom or WhatsApp in the afternoon on the same days. My lessons are tailor made according to the learners needs, so it’s a very flexible program to access for them.

 

EL:  How many people are currently engaged on the program at WLCA – and what age ranges have you found are using the service?

RB: We have had a very good response from delivering the IT Sessions and we are receiving new referrals every week – the majority of learners have been older adults, however recently we had referrals from people younger who want to take up basic IT training.

 

EL: Talk us through your approach to teaching IT skills, what would be the standard introduction at the WLCA IT support sessions?

RB: I like to apply the VARK model of teaching. As a teacher, I develop the sessions in different learning styles of visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic styles to adapt to the learners needs.

An example of an introduction to my sessions would be an icebreaker of an activity to get the learners comfortable and give them a chance to get to know each other. I will also guide my learners through the aims and objectives of the program – what to do and what to expect – and discuss any concerns or expectations from the learners.

 

EL: What are you trying to achieve with the sessions, what would be a ‘win’ for those attending?

RB: My aim is to support people in the community to become more aware of modern technology, which is much required now especially with the continuous lockdowns that take place. It is to help people become confident in using IT skills so they can become more independent in their daily lives.

For example, there is so much that they can do if they know how to use a laptop or a modern device: online banking, booking GP appointments online, learning new skills, and much more.

We have already witnessed success stories from some of the learners that have attended as they have now progressed on to attending our Internal wellbeing classes via Zoom.

 

EL: Do people need to have any previous experiences with technology to attend?

RB: No, absolutely not… the course is open to all ages and is completely free of charge. All we require is the learner’s motivation to learn.

 

EL: In your role as Employment and Skills Tutor at WLCA, how important is it for people to be IT literate when looking for work?

RB: I think it’s very important for people to become IT literate especially now. This is due to a lot of companies having interviews via Zoom, training for jobs is mostly conducted via Zoom also.

I have recently had a lot of referrals for people who have become unemployed due to this pandemic and who did not have to use any IT in their previous roles – for them the IT sessions will help to break barriers in finding employment.

 

EL: How about in their personal lives, especially during the recent lockdown and social distancing restrictions?

RB: The IT sessions were also developed to help people during lockdown to stay connected with their friends and families by learning how to use smart devices and connecting with others.

Most of my learners are very isolated with limited or no families. For them it’s been really tough in the last few months and the IT sessions have helped to connect to other support services online. For example, we have had success stories of people getting into volunteering, attending wellbeing sessions on Zoom and making new friends.

 

EL: Do you think new technology can come with its downside, are there negatives to the increasing reliance and use of IT when looking for work?

RB: No, I don’t feel there is any downside if I’m honest. I think we are living in modern times and everything is moving forward to digital, so now is the right time to learn IT skills that will benefit the community to become independent and more confident around digital skills when looking for work.

 

EL: The term “digital poverty” is often mentioned, relating to people who may not be able to afford or access the relevant IT.  Can you tell us about the Digital -All services at WLCA?

RB: At Witton Lodge we have a great service called the digital lending library, this is a service where we have secured funding for tablets and laptops to help break barriers for people in the community around IT skills. The service is available for people either wanting to learn IT skills for work or to help develop IT skills to be able to use other services.

We offer tablets and laptops on a loan basis to help people get back into work. For example, we have identified that in the community there are a lot of people who cannot afford to buy laptops or tablets in order to do job search or apply for jobs. To help break this barrier, we offer the IT sessions and the devices on a loan agreement between the client and WLCA.

 

EL: What could be done on a larger scale, not just by WLCA, to address the deficit in access to IT and digital platforms?

RB: I would like to hope that most of the community organisations out there have noticed the gap for IT skills. It would be a good idea if community organisations could focus on securing funding around re-skilling the people of the community to develop IT skills.

This will help to break so many barriers for people – for example, improving confidence building and becoming more independent, accessing other services, being able to do things for themselves rather than relying on others. We are fortunate here at WLCA, that we are able to provide these services to the community.

For more information on the IT training at Witton Lodge Community Association, which is funded through the Erdington Neighbourhood Network Scheme, please call Ruby Begum on 0121 382 1930 or email her at Ruby.Begum@wittonlodge.org.uk

To find out more about the services and support offered at Witton Lodge Community Association, visit  www.wittonlodge.org.uk

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LOCAL PROFILE: Inspector Haroon Chughtai

Words by Jobe Baker Sullivan / Pics supplied by West Midlands Police

(First published in Erdington Local’s Nov/Dec ’20 newspaper)

Haroon Chughtai is the West Midlands Police Inspector responsible for Erdington and Sutton Coldfield, overseeing both constituencies. Erdington Local caught up with the area’s top cop, to find out more about the man behind the badge.

Now 41 years old, Haroon Chughtai joined the police force in 2003 – straight after completing his degree in Business and Computer Science at Birmingham University. Being made Police Inspector for Erdington and Sutton Coldfield in January 2020, Haroon manages the neighbourhood teams and police staff across the two constituencies.

He cites his reasons for joining the police as “wanting to give back to the community,” as well as wanting to be an example of diversity in the force.

“I knew nobody who was a copper, I had no family members who were police officers. At that time, there was more of a drive to get the police force more representative – more black and Asian people.”

This literal ‘bobbie on his bike’ cycles to work regularly, operating out of Erdington Police Station, and bemoans the fact that he rarely gets out the office. Instead, Inspector Chughtai spends much of his time in the office overseeing “70-80” cops.

“I’m lucky if I get out once a month,” Haroon says, but thinks that “sometimes it’s important that I go out and see something for myself.”

When asked about changes in his career during his 17 years in the force, Haroon says that he is impressed with the “technological changes” the police have embraced and in the way it helps them operates. And in the days of cyber-crime and Internet criminality, the police now have to “operate online more, with social media.”

Inspector Chughtai also believes that huge government cuts during his time have caused the police to make “difficult decisions” such as being unable to deal immediately with “petty theft and crime.” Police departments across the country have been pushed to make substantial changes over recent years, with 16% of spending declining between 2010-2019 nationally.  

On the other hand, Haroon says that “The police force is much better at prioritizing things – based on risk and vulnerability. We deal with what needs to be dealt with immediately.”

During 2020, one of the biggest challenges for the local police force and for Haroon has been “the rise in domestic abuse”, with the Erdington Inspector estimating that domestic abuse accounts for “approximately a quarter of all Erdington’s crime.”

Victims are “predominantly women” with most offenders being male. This is also reflected in the rise of domestic abuse across the entire country since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many violent relationships exacerbated during the national lockdowns. 

Inspector Chughtai found policing during the first lockdown “really challenging”, noting the “really poor understanding of what the restrictions were. The compliance wasn’t as good as it is now [to the rules].” This included non-essential businesses remaining open illegally.

When asked by Erdington Local to predict the immediate future of his role in the area, Haroon said that “Sadly, I think COVID is here to stay – the enforcement around COVID will have to continue”.

Haroon is also committed to reducing “under 25 violence”, especially referring to young people leaving school, hanging around streets and bus stops, and causing violent crime.  “In the past these sort of things might not have been recorded as crimes. Behind the bike-sheds a couple of lads have had a fight, nobody would remember – but nowadays, it’s officially reported.” Haroon and his officers work with parents and teachers to keep track of these crimes.

“I’m using all the overtime I have to tackle under 25 violence. We don’t want to criminalize kids, but we want to put some interventions in really early on.”

Asking Inspector Chughtai what he’d like to see changed in Erdington, he responds “a rebalance of housing market, especially with the sheer number of HMOs and hostels. It’s got more than anywhere else in the city – over 1000 in one concentration”. He wants HMOs to be “spread across the city, rather than being concentrated in small areas.”

Haroon’s regular monthly updates on the West Midlands Police website often report crime in neighbouring Sutton Coldfield as decreasing, whilst general crime rates increase across Erdington. But when asked about his own personal impressions of Erdington, he says that “Erdington’s got a real strong community spirit. You can see with the Erdington Task Force, and the Stockland Green Action Group.”

He says that Erdington is “unique” and that other inspectors from other parts of the city are surprised at hear how active the community is.

“During COVID there’s been a load of people that have stepped up to help people that are needy, that are vulnerable,” explains the Erdington Inspector. “It’s volunteers that do that work – it’s really selfless.”

To receive updates from the Neighbourhood Policing Teams in your area, visit www.neighbourhoodalert.co.uk

To find out more about Erdington’s police force, visit www.west-midlands.police.uk/node/2710

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NEWS: Story Wood School help Witton Lodge break world record for largest holly wreath

Words & pics by Ed King

On Friday 11th December, children from Story Wood School helped break the world record for the largest holly wreath – building the giant decoration around The Ring in Perry Common.

Organised by Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA), the festive feat took three days to complete – with over 60 local residents and community volunteers joining the Year 5 pupils in the world record breaking Christmas celebration.

Measuring a staggering 358.3m in circumference and 136.1m in diameter, the giant wreath was made of holly branches from Sutton Park and Christmas decorations donated Birmingham City Council.

Circling the public playing area and green space that sits between Rosedale Road and Branford Road, the mammoth task was operated under social distancing and Covid safe conditions – with people working in bubbles along separate sections of the fencing.

Measured by independent adjudicators and Erdington Councillor Robert Alden, the final count was filmed live – with the evidence now being sent to the Guinness Word Record organisation for its official endorsement.

To date, the record for the largest Christmas wreath has been held by D Presmec Dolge Njive from Volicina, Slovenia.

Completed on 1st December 2013, the pine, cypress, and grape vine wreath measured 316.82m in circumference and 100.85m in diameter – over 35m smaller than the Perry Common record breaker.

Bringing together people of all ages, from 9 to 99 years old, the Perry Common endeavour was a loud and proud community celebration – putting a positive full stop at the end of a year that has kept many friends, neighbours, and loved ones apart due to the coronavirus crisis.

Across Erdington, people are mirroring the spirit of Witton Lodge’s record-breaking wreath – with initiatives such as the Light Up Christmas campaign, by local charity Active Arts, encouraging people to end the year with a bright smile.

Debbie Bates, Heath and Wellbeing Lead at Witton Lodge Community Association, said: “We’ve been thinking about lots of things to help celebrate Christmas and bring some Christmas spirit to everyone in the community. It’s been a horrendous year… but it was important that we still did something to bring the community together.

“We came up with the idea to put a Christmas tree in the centre of The Ring and inviting members of the community to decorate the tree with messages, wishes, and hopes.

“From that idea sparked a conversation with John Porter from Sutton Park, who was cutting down holly, and we came up with the idea between us all to decorate The Ring.  

“We’ve had volunteers, children from the local schools… we’ve had so many people come out.

“People walking their dogs, just wanting to take part and have a little conversation. They’ve said how pretty it looks; how lovely it is. How fabulous it is to have The Ring decorated and how nice it is to be part pf Perry Common.

“Isolation has been so difficult for so many people. The lovely thing is people have come back out (of their houses) to have a look and be part of this, to do some of the weaving. So, it’s been building people’s confidence to come back out into the community.”

Part of the independent adjudicating team, Erdington Councillor Robert Alden joined the festive feat to mark off segments and calculate the final size of the record-breaking wreath.

“It’s almost been like taking part in a Christmas movie, you’ve had the community come together all behind this idea that Witton Lodge come up with – it’s been brilliant,” Councillor Alden told Erdington Local.

“It’s been incredible to see the children come out and take part too – they have been here all week giving up their spare time to come and take part in this record-breaking attempt. You’ve seen the whole community come together. It’s what Christmas is about, particularly in this year.

“What this is showing is the community in Perry Common; you’ve got this wonderful community who want to come together. 

“We’ve seen people who haven’t been willing to come out of their houses for months take part, because they felt they could be part of the community again in a safe way.”

With one week left until they break for the winter holidays, the children from Story Wood School were excited to bring back some festive cheer to the community.

“It’s been amazing,” said the Year 5 pupils who were putting the final branches on the world-record breaking wreath. “It’s been fun watching the whole Ring turn into a massive holly wreath.”

And whilst the year has been a challenging one for the local school children, when asked if they were feeling more festive after decorating This Ring the answer was a resounding “YEEEEAAAAHHHH.”

Central News also tuned up to film the record-breaking wreath in Perry Common, talking to local residents who helped build the giant decoration – watch the video below:

Witton Lodge Community Association organise record breaking holly wreath in Perry Common – Central News 11.12.20

For more on Story Wood School, visit www.storywood.bham.sch.uk

To find out more about Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

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NEWS: Erdington UFC star cancels Vegas fight after testing positive for Covid

Words by Adam Smith

Erdington MMA star Leon Edwards has been fored to pull out from headlining UFC Fight Night 186 in Las Vegas after testing positive for COVID-19.

Fight fans across the world were looking forward to the 19th December clash between welterweight Edwards and the UFC’s new “global star” – Russian born Swede Khamzat Chimaev. 

Catching Covid caps off a dreadful year for Edwards who has unable to fight due to a string of pandemic related cancellations, match-up disputes, and injuries.

Edwards not only tested positive but was laid low by the disease losing 12Ibs in four days and being unable to train, meaning the best-case scenario is the two reschedule a fight in January.

Edwards tweeted: “Another setback, but when you come from the mud you learn to put everything in perspective.

“This virus has affected many lives and families much worse than mine.”

He said: “Looking forward to getting this rebooked soon, thank you all for the well wishes.”

Headlining UFC Fight Night 186 in Las Vegas against the much hyped Chimaev would have cemented Edwards‘ place on the global sports stage.

Edwards and Chimaev could not have had more contrasting years, Edwards not stepping in the octogen once – whereas Chimaev burst on the UFC scene winning three fights in the first round since July.

Crucially Chimaev has impressed UFC supremo Dana White, who needs another global superstar after the retirement of Khabib Nurmagomedov.

White said: “The guy is special. I’ve been in this game my whole life; I’ve never seen anything like him. I’m telling you the guy is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Never seen anything like this in my life. Special.”

The UFC temporarily removed Edwards from the welterweight rankings last month due to “inactivity” but reinstated him as world number three when the 29-year-old accepted the fight with Chimaev.

Edwards has been calling out competitors on social media, after refusing a short notice world title shot against Kamaru Usman in July led to him consistently being overlooked for big bouts.

Edwards told MMA Fighting beating Chimaev will guarantee him a world title shot due to the interest in the fight.

He said: “Outside a title shot, I believe he’s the biggest fight. Obviously, [Jorge] Masvidal would have been good as well, but he turned the fight down. This is the biggest fight to guarantee me what’s next.

“That was my thinking going into this. The UFC loves him. Dana [White] loves him. They all think he can’t be beat. When I go out there and take him out, I can’t see what they can say next to give me my title shot. I’d be on a nine-fight win streak. I believe this was the fight to make and now here we are.”

He added: “I know the UFC’s probably banking, Dana anyway, I know he’s praying that this kid wins, but I’ll be way too much for him in there, I’m telling you,”

This time last year the former Aston Hall Academy pupil was one of the hottest properties in the UFC with his signature post clinch elbow move making him a fan favourite.

Represented by the same management company as Irish superstar Conor MacGregor, Paradigm Sports, Edwards secured his financial future by penning a five-fight deal with UFC.

On an eight-fight winning streak, one of the longest current unbeaten runs in the sport, Edwards was rewarded by headlining UFC London on March 21 at Wembley Arena. A win against legendary fighter Tyron Woodley would have given him a world title shot against champion Karamu Usman, however, the event was cancelled to the first UK lock down.

Though not a title eliminator, a rearranged Las Vegas fight will give Edwards the platform to increase his fanbase in America and stop one of the most hyped new fighters in UFC in his tracks.

The last UK fighter to top the bill in Las Vegas was boxer Tyson Fury in February, who won the heavyweight championship of the world when he dismantled Deontay Wilder in one of the greatest British sporting performances of all time.

Fury described why headlining a major event in Las Vegas is so special for any British fighter.

He said: “I always dreamed of seeing my name up in lights on the Las Vegas strip and being the main attraction.

“There is nothing like fight week in Las Vegas and for a British fighter to come over here and win is always going to be special, because of how rare it is for our fighters to come over here and be recognised as the main man and actually win.”

To find out more about Leon Edwards, visit www.ufc.com/athlete/leon-edwards

For more from UFC, visit www.ufc.com

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NEWS: Erdington MP steps in to secure mass COVID-19 testing site on Orphanage Road

Words by Adam Smith / Pics by Ed King

Getting tested for Covid is a matter of life and death, this was the stark warning given by Erdington MP Jack Dromey at the site of a brand new mass testing facility – which could be open in Erdington as early as next week.

Construction of the testing facility began on Friday 26th November, after Mr Dromey brokered an 11th hour agreement between the Department of Health, Birmingham City Council, and the NHS.

The Erdington based facility was the last testing site signed off by the Government, but a licensing issue held up construction and put the entire project in danger.

Speaking at the old Colliers site, Orphanage Road, where the centre is being built, Mr Dromey told Erdington Local mass testing offers a route out of Tier 3 restrictions for Birmingham.

He said: “We needed a facility that enables thousands of local people to be tested in Erdington.

“Lives would be lost if there was not a testing facility in Erdington and lives will be saved because there is a testing facility in Erdington, it is as simple as that.

“There were delays concerning it being approved but thankfully they were sorted out, it should take two days to build and then a few days to get the facility ready and it could be open as quickly as the end of next week, when the national lockdown ends.”

The MP admitted getting all the relevant agencies and departments to work together on the project was not easy.

He said: “To begin with it was like pulling teeth but progressively it got better; I’d like to thank NHS Birmingham and Birmingham City Council for their hard work in delivering the facility.”

The Erdington MP is in no doubt how important mass testing will be in the fight against controlling COVID-19 and saving lives.

He said: “Here and now, as we don’t have a vaccine yet, the message is test, test, test. So I say to the citizens of Erdington come and get tested.

“And to those who doubt the wisdom of getting tested I say come and get tested – if you are not tested and get Covid you might end up dying, you might be responsible for members of your family dying, and you might be responsible for your friends and members of the community dying. So come and get tested.”

Erdington residents will be able to book a test either online or by using 119, walk to the testing facility, take a test, and then they will be notified of the results between 24 and 72 hours later. A recent trial of mass testing in Liverpool reduced the R-Rate and helped the city escape Tier 3 restrictions.

The MP added: “We discovered this week that Birmingham will enter into the highest level of restrictions, Tier 3, following the end of lockdown on Wednesday. The whole city must now pull together in order to drive down the spread of the virus and get us out of Tier 3 as quickly as possible.

“Tier 3 restrictions will be devastating for many businesses and workers across Birmingham. In particular the hospitality industry, and the tens of thousands of people it employs in the city, will be severely impacted.”

He added: “We have seen from the recent trial in Liverpool, that mass testing is an extremely effective way for us to reduce the R-rate and exit Tier 3.

“This testing facility will therefore play a crucial role in Birmingham’s response to COVID-19 this winter and I’m very happy Erdington residents will have the best possible access.”

Joining Mr Dromey at the site to see construction begin was Damien Siviter, Group Managing Director of Seven Capital who own the former Colliers site.

He said: “This has been a great example of how the public and private sectors can work together. We were approached about two weeks ago to see if the site could be used for a testing facility and we did everything we could to make it happen.”

The Covid testing centre could be on the site between three and six months and, if needed, could be turned into a vaccination station.

Mr Siviter confirmed the long-term plan for the site remains a new supermarket and housing estate to be built.

Jack Dromey MP for Erdington talking from Orphanage Road COVID-19 mass testing site

For daily updates on COVID-19 from Public Heath England, visit www.coronavirus.data.gov.uk

For the latest or NHS Test and Trace (England) and coronavirus testing (UK), visit www.gov.uk/government/collections/nhs-test-and-trace-statistics-england-weekly-reports

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NEWS: Erdington Local launches monthly newspaper

Words & pics by Ed King / Newspaper design by Michelle Martin

On Friday 27th November, Erdington Local launches its monthly newspaper – distributing 20,000 copies around all the constituency wards, from Kingstanding to Castle Vale.

Leading with a cover story titled ‘Are schools safe?’, the first Erdington Local newspaper has gone in-depth into the impact of the COVID-19 across our schools and nurseries.

Also on the front page is a LOCAL PROFILE on Inspector Haroon Chughtai – the top cop for both Erdington and Sutton Coldfield, and a full page OPINION piece from Desmon Jaddoo – the Kingstanding campaigner who is saving lives by bringing bleed control kits to hotspots across Erdington.

The centre spread, on pages 10 and 11, are a map of LOCAL SUPPORT ACROSS ERDINGTON – giving information on organisations and support groups that cover the area.

This database of essentail services and local support has been hosted on the Erdington Local website since April, with plans to publish a broader directory before the end of the year.

With further stories on LOCAL NEWS and COMMUNITY NEWS, the 20 page tabloid will be delivered under COVID-19 safe conditions, from printing press to promotional staff, under the guidance of an official COVID marshal.

First appearing online in April 2020, Erdington Local has been covering news and stories from the heart of North East Birmingham for eight months – as a partnership project between Active Arts Castle Vale and Review Publishing.

From the campaign to Save Short Heath Playing Fields to the sudden death of The Charlie Hall pub’s beloved barman Paul Ralph, Erdington Local has been giving the area its first dedicated news outlet and fairer representation across the wider city.

“Erdington gets an unfair amount of ‘bad press’,” said Ed King – Editor-in-Chief of Review Publishing, “with other news outlets often only reporting on violent crime or anti-social behaviour in the area.

“But there is a strong and vibrant community spirit across Erdington, something truly inspiring and humbling.

“And whilst Erdington Local will challenge the issues that have a negative impact on people, such as unscrupulous HMO providers and distorted Council planning agendas, we will also celebrate the amazing achievements and endeavours that make Erdington such a beautiful part of the city.”

Released earlier than planned to report during the coronavirus crisis, and to support the work and outreach activity from the Erdington COVID-19 Taskforce, Erdington Local has a growing online readership of 5-10,000 per week – reaching a further 20-30,000 through social media.

Now moving into a regular printed newspaper editions, the hyper-local title will expand its audience – reaching a further estimate 60,000 people each month through targeted distribution and residential door drops.

Erdington Local’s monthly newspaper will also allow the title to reach those without access to the Internet, including Erdington’s more elderly residents who often don’t live online.

Erdington Local is also expanding its news team, with paid freelance and voluntary positions available from December 20202.

Training can be provided, as well as space in the Erdington Local news room to work from – anyone interested in joining Erdington Local should email edking@erdingtonlocal.com

Ed King talking about Erdington Local at the Erdington Art Forum’s Evening of Creativity – Nov ‘20

For the Erdington Local Facebook page, visit www.facebook.com/ErdingtonLocal
To follow Erdington Local on Twitter, visit www.twitter.com/erdingtonlocal

For more on Active Arts Castle Vale, visit www.activearts.wordpress.com
For more on Review Publishing, visit www.reviewpublishing.net

 

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NEWS: A rather ‘Nice’ Friday evening – Erdington’s Evening of Creativity hosted by celebrity guest, Mrs Barbara Nice 20.11.20

Words by Jobe Baker Sullivan / Pics courtesy of Sami Saunders, Janice Connolly, and Anne-Marie Allen

Erdington’s long running Evening of Creativity has never missed a month, even during COVID-19 pandemic.

Thriving on art, creativity, and giving creatives a chance to experiment, it is now being broadcast using a mix of high quality camera-work and editing along with locals being asked to submit their art from home.

Tonight’s Evening of Creativity broadcast will be hosted by actress and comedian Janice Connolly BEM, under the guise of her lovable alter-ego Mrs Barbara Nice. Janice is a comedienne who hosted the 2019 Erdington Lights switch on.

“Up the arts!” she says, with a wry smile, in support of the event. 

November’s Evening of Creativity will commence with a traditional Indian dance from Sahana Shrikaanth in celebration of Diwali, an annual ‘festival of lights’, celebrated by Sikhs, Hindus and Jains.

It will include performances from classical guitarist Mike Bethel – alongside original musical songs by Anne-Marie Allen, promoting her album on Spotify.

Centrala Art Gallery will feature as part of the EoC with their lockdown-special online exhibition – hosting an art collective from Finland called Valmed Ry, exploring ecology and nature through photography, projection and 3d printing.

The Evening of Creativity was founded and hosted by the Erdington Arts Forum, whose primary goal is to improve the status of artistic activity in the Erdington constituency.

The Arts Forum engages people with workshops, exhibitions, training programmes, exhibitions and music performances.

It acts as a conduit for people to explore all range of artistic activities, hosting regular ‘forum meetings’ and running a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook group, and mailing list to keep Erdingtonians and interested parties in the loop.

Ordinarily held at Oikos Café on Erdington High Street on the third Friday of each month, the Evening of Creativity had to adapt to an online format very quickly  due to the coronavirus lockdowns – embracing the chance to invest in new camera and sound recording equipment.

During the summer of 2020, as COVID-19 measures eased, the Evening of Creativity continued at Oikos Café with a small, live audience – using a table booking service to ensure social distancing and safety measures.

The regular showcase, however, continued to broadcast all their events – going out live using a multi-camera system.

Despite a new national lockdown coming into force 5th November, the Arts Forum once again continue to host their Evening of Creativity – following government guidelines – by using pre-recorded clips and editing them into a full length show.

You can watch this months’ Evening of Creativity online from the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page, from 6:30pm on Friday 20th November.

For a live stream of the event, and for more on the Erdington Arts Forum, visit www.facebook.com/groups/cafeartsforum

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