OPINION: Coronavirus crisis, in crisis – do we have the strength for another lockdown?

Words by Ed King

Christmas is cancelled.

Or being split into three, to be exact.

The parasites of paranoia have carved our turkey into socially distanced servings this year, with support bubbles now dictating the one day my family always did well. And always did together.

It’s breaking my heart. It’s broken my family. The childhood joy I feel around Yuletide has been replaced by limitations and fear – with parlour games and presents being pushed into the cold by social isolation and shielding.

Whilst I understand why… be warned, if someone suggests a Zoom meeting on Christmas Day I’m going to start throwing sprouts (or maybe coals off the fire).

And that was all before Saturday’s announcement.

In case you’ve been living under a rock (not a bad place to be right now), on 5th November England is moving into another national lockdown – lasting four weeks or longer, we’re back to where we were in March and until at least the start of December.

Coronavirus has spiked over summer, and the precarious but pragmatic locally enforced ‘tier system’ hasn’t had the desired effect.

People are still getting sick. People are still dying. Potentially more than we can manage – 661 new ‘lab confirmed’ cases per day (Government, 1st Nov) are being reported in Birmingham, with over a million people across the UK having caught the virus since we started taking count, leading to nearly 50,000 deaths. That we know of.

But whether you’re the Office of National Statistics or Chris Whitty’s pocket calculator, the invisible beast is rampant once again. It’s a worrying and sharp upward curve – the trajectory of positive cases looks like an alpine skier’s Christmas wish.

So, it’s back to the short, sharp, circuit breaker approach to stem the contagion – a method already adopted by both our British Isle counter parts and most of mainland Europe. Lockdown, across the country. Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. Game, set, match. God help us all.

I’ll be honest, I’m not happy about it. I’m not a lot of things about it. There are other words I could use to flesh out my feelings but I’m trying to stay on the right side of righteousness.

But I get it; I get the need for it. I support it, in my way. If it needs to be done, then it must be done. So, let’s do it as quickly as possible. And do it right.

And whilst the voice of reason rolls around my head, ‘coronavirus fatigue’ is spreading across the country in a way that ironically reminds me of the virus itself. I feel that too.

When we were first told to ‘duck and cover’ back in March, people responded. They shut their doors, they covered their mouths, and we all walked forward together in a show of unity that I never imagined I’d see. It was, despite all the horror, a beautiful sight – the innate goodness and kindness reaffirmed my sometimes ailing faith in the human endeavour.

It was not without its cost, however. To put it into a personal context, I lost £8000 as soon as the first lockdown was announced – by time it took me to drive from Stourbridge to Kings Heath. By the end of the week, I’d lost anther £2000. And I’m not a rich man.

Over the months that followed the goal post shifting cost me more that I can calculate – financially and emotionally, along with most of the country I started circling the drain. And I have not lost as much as many, many, MANY more people I both know and work with. I am one of the lucky ones.

But we did it. We did what needed to be done. And like the end of December dinner I hold so close to my heart, we did it together. It was quite an incredible sight to see too, the sheer fortitude that swept from bus stops to boardrooms was nothing short of miraculous. People showed their true colours and those colours shone bright.

Over the past, ghastly, few months, I’ve been amazed and made proud by people’s resilience during this pandemic – at their deep rooted kindness and adaptability. It’s been incredible and uplifting. It’s been inspiring. It’s almost been worth it just to see such compassion. It makes me want to cry a bit every time I really, truly, think about it. But it’s been awful, a waking nightmare. It’s destroyed lives…

…and now we have to do it all again.

I’m sitting in a pub writing this, my local, squeezing out the last drops of my Sunday and licensed premise camaraderie I’ll be able to enjoy for a while. It’s one of those pubs where they know your name and you can walk in alone. Where you’re always amongst friends.

All around me – amidst the conversations of armchair eugenics and headline politics, despite the sharp end of the stick breaking the ribs of the hospitality industry – I am getting a sense of that end-of-March solidarity. People are preparing for Thursday, for the lockdown, and their doing it with the honesty and humour that I saw back in spring.

So, again, I feel proud. Again, I feel fear. But if we can call on the inner core kindness that we found eight months ago… then again, I feel we’ll get through this.

And next Christmas I’m hiring a marquee, everyone’s welcome.

Ed King is a Birmingham born writer and editor-in-chief of Review Publishing, which publishes Erdington Local  – alongside Active Arts Castle Vale. To follow him (and his stories) on Twitter, visit www.twitter.com/edking2210

For more on Review Publishing, visit www.reviewpublishing.net/

NEWS: Erdington parents ‘threatened with fines’ for children not returning after half term

Words & pics by Ed King

Ed’s note… The images used in the article are archive pictures of schools in Erdington and ARE NOT RELATED to the people who have supplied quotes or their children.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, or have any updates or developments from a school in Erdington, please get in touch – you can send us a direct message via the Erdington Local Facebook page or email sue@erdingtonlocal.com

As schools reopen after the half term holidays, families across Erdington are being ‘threatened with fines’ if they still feel the classroom is not COVID-19 safe and keep their children at home.

Despite another national lockdown closing the country from 5th November, parents and carers are being told that all young people must go back to school this week – or literally pay the price for any absences.

Birmingham City Council had previously taken the stance to not impose the fixed penalty notices, which had been set by the Department of Education in July, electing to wave the fines for the first half term.

But as school gates open for the last few weeks of the Autumn term, families keeping their children at home could be charged up to £120 for every empty chair they now leave in the classroom.

With increased concerns over the rising cases of coronavirus, many Erdington parents and carers feel they should be allowed to choose what is best for their children – without facing even more debt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Natasha Court has two children at primary school in Erdington, she says: “I believe it is completely wrong that the City Council are threatening parents with fines for actively carrying out their duty of care to protect their children whilst still ensuring they are being educating them at home.

All children need an education, 100%, but a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not appropriate, particularly in the midst of a worsening health pandemic.”

She adds: “I have two children with health conditions who would both be at heightened risks of serious complications should they catch COVID-19. I have my own health conditions too. No matter what schools do, they cannot protect our children in a class of 30.

Fines will hit the financial and mental wellbeing of the families who are already struggling. So the ‘alternatives’ they are left with are to send them to school and be put at risk, or de-register and be let down by the system that is supposed to help ALL children get a strong start to life through education. This is not right nor fair.”

Another Erdington parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I have been threatened with fines from the Council if I now don’t send my child into school.

This is completely unfair. How can they tell me school is safe for my child when they have already had cases in the school?

With cases and deaths rising sharply now all I want to do is protect my whole family, yet I am unable to do that due to potentially being fined.

Attending school during a pandemic should be the parents’ choice to make.”

Schools across Birmingham open for the final weeks of the Autumn term from Monday 2nd November.

As set by the Department of Education in July this year, fixed penalties of £60 can be imposed for any absentee child – increasing to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

Minister for Education, Gavin Williams, announcing fines on LBC Radio (first broadcast on July 29th)

For the latest information on coronavirus restrictions in Birmingham, issued by Birmingham City Council, visit www.birmingham.gov.uk/coronavirus_advice

For the latest information on the lockdown starting from 5th November, issued by Government, visit www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november

NEWS: New food bank and family support centre launched at Erdington’s Magnet Centre

Words & pics by Adam Smith

Families struggling to cope during the pandemic are being offered a range of new services at Erdington’s Magnet Centre after a cash injection from the National Lottery.

A new food bank, online culinary classes, and a family support hub will open to help those in need next week – coordinated by the Midlands Greek and Cypriot Association, which own the centre.

Due to the sharp rise of domestic violence across Erdington since the start of the lockdown, there will also be help on hand for those needing advice or just someone to talk to.

Several organisations are working together to deliver the new services, including This Is My City which will help organise online cookery tutorials – with Lakis Greek Kitchen (LGK) also running the food bank.

The project is also part of the Commonwealth Games 2022 series of events.

Chef Xena Weakes cooked chicken noodle soup for the first online cookery lesson. She said: “I wanted to show how easy it is to cook something nutritional for all the family, my dish is fast to make and really tasty.”

Founder of LGK, Panikos Panayiotou, told Erdington Local: “We are delighted to be able to help families in Erdington in this very difficult time. Since the lockdown we have seen unemployment rising, poverty and child hunger increase as well as a shocking amount of domestic abuse.

There are lot of local families who will really need our help, the first 35 families will get food from the food bank but most importantly we will teach them to cook healthy meals through digital cookery lessons.”

LGK community champion Leah Taylor is approaching companies throughout Erdington and Birmingham to donate to the new foodbank.

She said: “So far companies have been generous but we will always need lots of food because the demand is just so high at the moment.

We are always looking for donations of essential food stuffs and I am hoping the business community of Erdington will be very generous for a great cause.”
The Midlands Greek and Cypriot Association purchased the Magnet Centre from the G.E.C in 1984 and has transformed the electric board’s erstwhile sports and social club over the last 36 years.

The centre now boasts St Lukes Orthodox Church, a Greek shop and café, and a community school.

There are also snooker rooms, a gym, a banqueting suite, and places to watch Greek and Cypriot TV channels. Several sports clubs also run from the centre which further maintains football pitches.

Centre manager Fotoulla Lytras said: “We are delighted to be able to host the food bank and family hub.

We try and do as many activities for the Stockland Green and Brookvale community as we can at the Magnet Centre.”

She added: “We have all seen the problems caused by COVID and the lockdown and this new foodbank and support hub will really make a difference in people’s lives in Erdington.”

The new international flavoured cookery classes are already being filmed and will include dishes from across the world, all with two things in common – the dishes will be easy-to-make and cheap.

This Is My City is a United Community Activity Network (UCAN) project with backing from the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Community Programme – United By Birmingham 2022.

For more on the Midlands Greek and Cypriot Association,, visit www.midlandsgreek.org 

For more information about This Is My City Birmingham visit www.thisismycitybham.org 

To find out more about Lakis Greek Kitchen visit www.lgk.org.uk

LOCAL PROFILE: Oliver Hassell

Words by Jobe Baker-Sullivan / Pics supplier by Oliver Hassell

Artist Oliver Hassell took Erdington by storm with his striking, colourful, and darkly-inspired pieces displayed for Black History Month. Erdington Local catches up with him to find out what makes him tick.

Born in Erdington and living here his whole life, Oliver started to enjoy art “as a toddler.”

I’d draw what I’d see on TV – things like Harry Potter,” although he admitted, with a smile, that at this age they were “stickmen, and I’d just label them ‘Harry Potter’.” He sees these early years of drawing “cartoons and action figures” as an important sign he had a calling for visual art.

Oliver says that he “didn’t get into making proper art until I was about 16.” He studied illustration at Birmingham City University (BCU), saying that “Uni was fun, I had a good time” – spending that time developing new skills, professing that he learned a lot “by himself” as opposed to part of the university course.

Oliver creates colourful, eye-catching pieces with dark figures, foreboding smiles, and references to social media, religion, sex, death, and his latest piece regarding coronavirus (with the virus literally coming out of a Corona bottle of beer).

Oliver explains his general working method when creating his artwork. Commencing with a sketch, then “mainly drawing in pens, adding small details in with paints for “mouths and eyes.”

To give the art an extra layer of otherworldliness, Oliver then scans his piece onto the computer and edits slightly to “step it up from a drawing to something to look at.”

Oliver has various inspirations, saying the “past year or so I’ve been concentrating on the concept of the shadow self.”

He goes onto say that “Everyone’s got their dark-side that they don’t really want to look at – It’s up to you to figure out and understand that [dark] side of yourself so you can become a complete person.” He explored these themes in his debut exhibition in January 2020 at The Gap Arts in Balsall Heath.

Oliver worked in a collective setting as part of Gallery 37 which is a ‘creative residency programme where young people can rediscover themselves as artists’. The joint exhibition of 5 artists was called ‘Karma-Utopia’ hosted at Centrala in Digbeth.

Oliver created an art piece which was a colourful, illustrated “stack of blocks, with different values on it like love – creativity.” The words were written backwards, placed next to a mirror.

Viewers could participate with the piece, ordering the blocks in the order of values which they found most important to them. “It puts you with what you think is important,” and the fact it is next to a mirror represents that the values are a “reflection of yourself.”

Erdington Local asks Oliver his opinions regarding Black History Month [BHM]. Oliver is “mixed – Black Caribbean and white British.”

He feels like “We’ve come so far with it now,” thinking that 2020 BHM should be the “start of something that goes on forever.”

Oliver sees the murder of George Floyd in May as a great “injustice” and that it’s important to “support the fight.”

He says he personally “hasn’t felt oppressed by the government,”but was aware of racist language when he was growing up. “It’s a joke when we were kids, but that’s still a problem,” Oliver says.

Oliver was featured as part of October’s Evening of Creativity at Oikos Café and is happy that “stuff like this is happening now in Erdington,” bemoaning that there isn’t much for visual arts in the area.

He transformed lockdown into a chance to concentrate on his own business, ‘Death in Colour’, which is his own clothing line featuring his art work: “Upcycled, vintage clothing with my art work – all customized.”

Starting the business in March, Oliver says he’s been “doing quite well during COVID” with some of his stock now sold out.

He did have intentions for a pop up shop-come-exhibition space, although this was not possible due to the pandemic. “A couple things have been scrapped, but it hasn’t stopped the train,” says Oliver, positively.

Oliver is now learning more about animation, 3D, and digital art forms. He’s interested in “Wallace and Gromit-style,” plasticine 3D animation.

I’m just trying to evolve – build up my skills as much as possible. Good stuff will happen.”

To find out more about Oliver Hassell, visit www.oliverhassell.com

To find out more about Birmingham Black History Month, visit wwwb.irminghamblackhistorymonth.co.uk

NEWS: Inspiring photograph of St Luke’s wins thousands for Kingstanding church in national competition

Words by Adam Smith

A Kingstanding church has won £2,500 after a picture of fireworks above the parish came runner up in a national photography competition.

Sarah Farnan was inspired to pick up her camera after seeing the fireworks light up the night sky above St Luke’s Church, Cavendish Road.

She entered the picture into the Parish Pixels competition with the following description to help capture the character of the church: “The St Luke’s family has been sparkling like a diamond at the centre of the community of Kingstanding for over eighty years, shining out the love of God for all to see.”

Sarah’s snap won the West Midlands regional final of the competition which saw more than 600 Anglican churches enter pictures.

Parish Pixels was launched by insurance company, Ecclesiastical, which awarded the church £1,500 for winning the regional final.

Sarah and church representatives were due to attend a glittering national ceremony for the final in London last week, but due to COVID-19 restrictions the event was streamed online.

However, there were still celebrations after judges announced Sarah’s picture clinched the runner’s up spot winning the Kingstanding church another £1,000.

School administrator Sarah joined the congregation six years ago and was delighted her photo was recognised.

She said: “Situated at the heart of a deprived inner-city area, Kingstanding is often the focus of bad press. There’s quite a lot of unemployment and crime. But St Luke’s is like a shining light, a sparkling diamond, with the love of God at its heart.

As soon as you walk in, you notice an overwhelming sense of genuine warmth and welcome. Our mission is to meet people ‘where they are’, recognising the diversity within our community, embracing and building on the goodness and community spirit that exists here.”

She added: “The church is a real sanctuary – our parish brings people together and tries to unearth the hidden diamond within each of us.”

I don’t know yet how the money will be spent, but there are always things which need doing in any church and fundraising is difficult in an area such as ours, so it’s very welcome.”

She added: “So I want to give a huge thanks to everyone who supported my entry by voting for my picture.

The national final was going to be a trip to London, a presentation lunch and awards ceremony in Westminster. Very disappointingly that fell victim to COVID and instead the ceremony took place virtually online.”

The Parish Pixels Award 2020 ceremony is now available for anyone to watch online and can be seen here:

St Luke’s Church posted about the competition on its Facebook page: “Thanks to all of you who voted and shared our photo. It has been wonderful to see the enthusiasm and support for the competition despite the months of lockdown and lovely to experience the support and interest from our parishioners.”

Parish Pixels organisers, Ecclesiastical, revealed they were overwhelmed by the amount of entries and social media interest in the competition.

A spokesperson said: “We received more than 600 entries, from all corners of the United Kingdom, and together they formed a magnificent illustration of the astonishing diversity of our places of worship and the humbling faith and dedication of their congregations.

Whittling the 635 brilliant submissions down to nine regional winners was tough enough – but then our judges faced the almost impossible job of naming a winner.

We invited you to help them to choose by voting for your favourite on our website, and over 7000 of you responded.”

For more information about St Luke’s Church visit www.saintlukeskingstanding.co.uk

For more on Ecclesiastical, visit www.ecclesiastical.com

OPINON: I love the Villa (more than my dinner) but I’ll NEVER pay £14.95 to watch a game on TV

Words by and pics by Adam Smith

On 18th October history was made in British football, and for my club Aston Villa.

Not the good type of history, like winning the league with a record number of goals, but the bad kind of history. The kind of history people will remember in the ‘that’s where it all went wrong’ kind of history. Like when an alcoholic remembers the first time they drank hand sanitiser

The Villa‘s game against Leicester was the club’s first ever to be shown on Pay Per View (PPV), at an eye-wateringly price of £14.95. It was not long ago when you could actually go to Villa Park for £15.

The Premier League Ripper-Offer-in-Chief, Richard Maters, justified the price saying: “we believe we have a good product.”

But it’s not, is it?

Football without fans is awful, it’s like watching park football. It’s like decaf coffee, like sex in a spacesuit, like listening to music with only one earphone working. Without fans, football cannot be fantastic.

No matter how many times everyone involved with the English Premier League (EPL) say “it’s the best league in the world”, it does not make it true. The Premier League is not even the best league in England, the Championship is way more exciting. And fair.

As a fan, the EPL is awful, we get ripped off at every turn and turnstile. Tickets are way cheaper in Germany, France, and Spain, and fans abroad can watch their teams play on terrestrial TV. We can’t, not since Sky made us pay for top flight football. In fact, our international counterparts can even watch English football teams on their TV for free… but in the UK, we cannot.

Champions League games used to be broadcast for free on ITV, but then because BT wanted more Internet customers they bought the rights – now, instead of a generation of youngsters watching inspiring English teams’ exploits for free, the Champions League now is the preserve of a tiny amount of people compared to ten years ago.

Even the term ‘product’ turns my stomach, like when football clubs began calling fans ‘customers’.

Calling someone a customer implies there is a choice to be made, but a real fan cannot swap teams. I did not choose to be a Villa fan; I didn’t have a choice. My great grandad preordained it, or maybe my great great granddad – by the time my nan and granddad were queuing for tickets in the 1930s they were both already from Villa families.

And even if I was an orphan, I grew up in Perry Barr, where the club started, and most my friends are Villa. My funniest memories are shared experiences with all them going to, or coming back from, watching the Villa – sometimes even what happened on the pitch is included in my mind’s mosaic of being Villa.

That’s why when a glory hunter tries to wind me up, I don’t care. I feel sorry for them. Yeah, you have your memories of watching a league win on TV… I’d rather have mine of not sleeping for two days after Villa got to the FA Cup Final for the first time since 1957 (when my granddad died two days before the cup final) in 2000, thank you very much.

My point is, I don’t have the choice to watch the Villa or not. But I do have the choice how to watch them, and where to watch them. And I choose never ever to pay £14.95 to watch them in an empty stadium. Or a full stadium, because when life returns to normal the FA are not suddenly going to stop PPV are they? Their Trojan horse/cash cow hybrid is here to stay. 

I would rather choose to stream the game for free via one of the multitude of Middle Eastern based websites, that have sprung up to allow us just this option. I have plenty of friends who do.

The fact that these websites (and somewhat more dodgy streams) exist is part down to the geo-political spat between Qatar and Saudi Arabia makes it even funnier when the ‘global game’ is shoved in our face.

Who usually clinches the top spots in the Premier League? Usually the club whose owners own the most fossil fuels, that’s who. Human rights violators have earnt a seat at the top table of our game. So, if the other side of the ‘global coin’ is easy-to-find streaming sites then it shows the football money men can’t have it both ways.

But now, I can’t even watch games that kick off after 8pm in a pub because I’d miss the end of the match – thanks to video assistant referees (another nail in coffin of football, along with tackling being banned and drop balls mysteriously disappearing) the games last too long and will not finish before the 10pm curfew.

It cannot be a coincidence when pubs had to close at 10pm, and households were forbidden to mix that, PPV was suddenly announced. The beautiful game’s bean counters have been itching to do this for years.

And what better than a national crisis to take advantage of?

When an NHS nurse is risking life and limb to fight COVID-19 and wants to watch their team after a hard shift, the Premier League decides this is the time not let them watch their team for free. This pandemic has shown the true colours of so many people, organisations, and companies. The Premier League have shown theirs.

The Premier League now can be added to the list of wrong ‘uns – along with bog roll hoarders, bog roll price hikers, and that Facebook friend with mush for brains who keeps on sharing those generic “I’m not wearing a mask” statuses.

My friend pays good money for his Sky Sports subscription, and generously gives me his password. (I’m enraged on behalf of his wallet he is now expected to stump up even more money to watch games he would expect for free.) The broadcasters obviously did not mention their plan to charge per games when he or any other customers signed up for a year or 18 months.

So, I don’t blame anyone for streaming Premiership games online ‘illegally’ – part of me thinks those people who show a match on their Facebook Live are cyber freedom fighters.

If a skint dad wanted his Villa mad kids to see the last day relegation decider against West Ham, but could not afford Sky or a trip to the pub, then I will lose no sleep if he finds a way, anyway, to have that bonding experience with his kids.

Personally, I don’t use the streaming sites – I’ve got a works laptop and don’t want it riddled with viruses. The editor might presume I got them through watching porn.

But one thing is for sure, £14.95 to watch a game of football on TV is more disgusting than anything in my search history.

I won’t degrade myself. And the Premier League should have more respect for all of us football fans.

For more on Aston Villa, visit www.avfc.co.uk

To find out more about the Premier League, visit www.premierleague.com

NEWS: Evening of Creativity’s Black History Month special at Oikos Café on Friday 16th October

Words by Jobe Baker-Sullivan / Pics supplied by Erdington Arts Forum

On Friday 16th October, running between 6-8pm at Oikos Café on Erdington High Street, the Erdington Arts Forum is hosting a special Evening of Creativity – in celebration of Black History Month (BHM).

Set to be another exciting evening of poetry, music, and visual art, the long running event has been given the coronavirus all clear to allow a limited, ticketed physical audience in to enjoy the show.

A popular showcase of art and endeavour, the Evening of Creativity is expected to sell out – anybody wanting tickets should click here to check availability. All tickets must be purchased in advance.

Anyone who cannot join the live event at Oikos Café will be able to watch online via the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page, with behind the scenes interviews also being broadcast. Donations to help support the event and local Arts Forum can also be made online.

A specially programmed showcase in support of Black History Month (BHM), Friday’s guest producer, Samiir Saunders, who also lives in Erdington, talks more about the importance of the event: “For the past 3 and a half years, the Evenings of Creativity have been an important staple of Erdington’s performance arts scene.” 

He goes onto to say that, “as an artist and poet who is very early on in my career, I have personally gained a lot from being given the platform to share my work with my local community, as well as the opportunity to meet other artists like me.

On producing the special BHM event, Samiir is “incredibly excited this month to be part of the team creating that same platform for others!”

Friday’s BHM special Evening of Creativity is set to welcome the powerful words of published poet Ryan Sinclair, musical musings of singer songwriters Xolo and Philippa Zawe, and a speech from Adrian Anderson from the mental health charity, Black Minds Matter UK.  

There will also be a special celebrity guest live performance from 2018 BBC Young Musician of the year Xhosa Cole and his trio.

The Evening of Creativity’s ‘online gallery’ this month features another Erdington resident, Oliver Hassell, who says: “I’m proud to be exhibiting my work in my hometown, and helping the growth of the local art community.”

Talking about what BHM means to him, Oliver continues: “I believe that Black history should be told every month of the year. It’s just as important as the rest of history and I don’t think that it should only be focused on for just one month. Black history is British history, American history, and world history.”

With Birmingham now in the Tier 2 list of new lockdown restrictions, as announced on Wednesday, it is fortunate that the Evening of Creativity live event at Oikos Café can continue – the event has taken place every month for nearly four years without missing a show.

Oikos Café have been required to make only a few changes to the venue, including only allowing ‘household bubbles’ to sit at a table together.

Ensuring Oikos Café operates COVID-19 safe, venue manager Ben Jeffery has an official statement for Erdington Local:

In light of the Government restrictions to combat the growing risk of COVID-19, Oikos Café continues to operate cleanliness, social distancing and crowd limitations in accordance with government guidelines.

We are proud to welcome people and continue operating legally as a business in this difficult time, and look forward to welcoming patrons and local people for our monthly extravaganza with the Arts Forum”.

To book your advance tickets for the Evening of Creativity, visit online ticket outlet Eventbrite: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/evening-of-creativity-16102020-black-history-month-tickets-122386670827

To watch the Evening of Creativity live stream, including exclusive backstage interviews and other videos, visit the Erdington Arts Forum Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

For more on Oikos Café, including contact details and information on the venue’s COVID-19 safe regulations, visit www.oikoscafe.co.uk

For more on Birmingham’s Black History Month, visit www.birminghamblackhistorymonth.co.uk

NEWS: Erdington police have “changed the tone” with public over COVID-19 restrictions, including fines from £100 to £3,200

Words by Adam Smith

Erdington’s top cop has warned his police officers will be more assertive with people flouting COVID-19 restriction rules.

Inspector Haroon Chughtai explained the new tougher stance as Birmingham was placed under the Government’s new Tier 2 restrictions today – including on the spot fines and fixed penalty notices of £100, increasing up to £3200 for repeat offenders.

In an email to Erdington residents, Inspector Haroon Chughtai explained people should by now understand the pandemic and its consequences – so his officers will spend less time explaining rules and more time enforcing them.

He said: “We have changed the tone of our policing of COVID. It could be argued that we have all had enough time to live with and understand what and why restrictions exist, so while we are still using the 4 E approach (Engage, Explain, Encourage and then Enforce) which I have mentioned previously, we will move to enforcement quicker then we have previously.

Thankfully this remains a rare occurrence with most people being very sensible and responsible in their behaviour. To give you some context in the last month, we have issued two fines, one to an individual who refused to wear a mask without a valid exemption and the second was only yesterday to a business in Sutton who have little or no social distancing measures in place.”

The Tier 2 COVID-19 restrictions which come into force today (Wednesday  14th October 2020) in Erdington, Kingstanding, and across Birmingham are:

  • People must not socialise with anybody outside of their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
  • The rule of six will now apply to private gardens, alongside other spaces like beaches or parks (other than where specific exemptions apply in law)
  • Weddings can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees
  • Funerals can only have 30 attendees, with a maximum of 15 at wakes and commemorations
  • Team sports can only be played where officially organised by a club or organisation
  • People are advised to minimise the number of journeys they make
  • While you can still go on holiday, it can only be with people you live with, or your support bubble
  • Businesses and venues can continue to operate until 10pm, in a COVID-secure manner – although customers must sit at a table when eating and drinking
  • Schools, universities and places of worship will remain open

As well as the latest COVID-19 policing issues, Inspector Chughtai revealed overall crime has risen again in Erdington compared to last year’s figures with domestic violence again worryingly high.

Inspector Chughtai said: “Erdington is showing a 10% increase in overall crime, that is around 600 extra victims of crime, like I said last month domestic abuse plays a large part in this increase with 450 extra victims of domestic abuse so far this year compared to the same period last year.

Domestic abuse continues to show increases with a 40% rise, which is 450 extra victims – this remains my biggest concern and the one of the main priorities of my teams.”

He added: “Robbery and burglary continue to show good reductions, with robbery showing a 16% reduction with 33 less victims of robbery, house burglaries show a 5% reduction with18 less victims of burglary, like Sutton we have seen an increase in burglary offences recently which is taking away the good reductions made earlier in the year.”

He added: “Under 25 violence shows a 6% reduction, which has increased compared to last month – largely down to an increase is low level fights between school children and some robbery offences with young people being both victims and offenders. We are working very closely with the schools around this.”

For more information from West Midlands Police about the latest COVID-19 restrictions, visit www.west-midlands.police.uk/coronavirus

For more information from Government on the latest COVID-19 restrictions in Birmingham, Sandwell, and Solihull, visit www.gov.uk/guidance/birmingham-sandwell-and-solihull-local-restrictions

If you believe you are a victim of domestic abuse, you can seek help and advice via the freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline is 0808 2000 247

For more information visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk

NEWS: Kingstanding gets its lifesaving first bleed control kit on the Hawthorn

Words by Adam Smith / Pics by Ed King

The first bleed control kit has been installed in Kingstanding to save lives if stabbings and shootings continue to happen in the area.

The Grapevine off licence, Hawthorn Road, now has the medical equipment needed to stop bleeding immediately if someone gets injured nearby.

After a wave in deaths in inner city Birmingham, Bishop Desmond Jaddoo from Yes2Life put the kits in Lozells, Aston, and Handsworth – and has now set his sights on Kingstanding and Erdington.

He told Erdington Local: “We have wanted to get a bleed control kit in Kingstanding for a while.

The recent spark in violence has made it essential, it is about being prepared, just in case, many times things happen and we do not know what to do.

We started in Lozells, Handsworth and Newtown but our target has been North Birmingham, Kingstanding, Erdington, Oscott etc.”

He added: “We want to get bleed control kits in these areas but also provide training too, however, due to COVID training sessions have been hampered.

When there was a shooting in Great Hampton Street, Hockley, a woman got a bleed kit and saved his life, she had not had training but had seen some of our Facebook videos, so we are looking to produce more training videos.

The violence has not stopped because of COVID, in fact it has gone up.”

The bleed control kit includes items such as a tourniquet, bandages, and a foil blanket, and has been created with the help of Bunzl Healthcare, Purple Pharma, and Blue Kit Medical.

Bishop Jaddoo is delighted to have got a lifesaving foothold in Kingstanding.

He said: “This is the first bleed control kit in Kingstanding, we would have been in Kingstanding before but we are not funded. We have to fund these ourselves, so every time we get some donations we install more kits.

Our aim is to get bleed control kits on the College Road, Witton Lodge, Kingstanding Circle, here on the Hawthorn and up Kingstanding Road.

What we try to do is cover an area completely with kits and educate people how they can be used and then move on, we will go to Erdington next. But as we are not funded we need to build it slowly.

When people talk about issues proportionality, poverty and violence, a lot of people think because Kingstanding is in North Birmingham, which is seen as more affluent than inner city Birmingham. it’s OK but there is a lot of social housing in this area, and with that there is a lot of working class white people, and they are totally forgotten about and that is so wrong.

We need to think how society rates us, they lump in the black and Asian communities in with the working class communities. So, we have to class ourselves as one group.”

He added: “We picked The Grapevine because the shopkeeper understands the importance of bleed control kits and why they need to be in the community.

If someone is hurt, and we are not just talking about stabbings and shootings, if there is a car crash, the kit is for the zero responder, the person who sees the incident and can help immediately before the emergency services get there. These kits have tourniquets and bleed pressure bandages, those first minutes are vital.”

Owner of The Grapevine off licence on Hawthorn Road, Paul Bradford, wanted to have a bleed control kit in his shop to foster a sense of community in Kingstanding.

He said: “I have followed the work (Bishop) Desmond has done over the years and he told me how these bleed control kits can save lives so I wanted to get involved.

It is not just about the rising crime; we witnessed a really bad car crash outside the shop not long ago and we could have really done with a bleed control kit to help those injured.

If something happens on the Hawthorn we will be prepared, and anything can happen, we are a community on the Hawthorn. There is a defibrillator in the Co-op as well in case anyone has a heart attack, we are all in this together.

I’m glad that The Grapevine is the first of hopefully many businesses in Kingstanding to have a bleed control kit, I wish there was no need for them but there is.”

Bishop Desmond Jaddoo – outside The Grapevine off licence on Hawthon Road, Kingstanding

For more on Yes2Life, including the work they do challenging knife and gun crime, visit www.yes2life.co.uk

For more information about Bishop Desmond Jaddoo visit www.desjaddoo.org.uk

OPINION: Invest in live music, not the pub

Words by Jobe Baker-Sullivan / Profile pics by Chris Neophytou

Imagine if the government invested in the soul of the nation.

‘If music be the food of love, play on,’ wrote Shakespeare.

I’m talking about music. From the point of view of a musician and gigaholic.

Music makes the world go round,” sang the Hamilton Brothers.

What I’ve witnessed over the past few months is a series of missed opportunities. ‘Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but foresight is better,’ taught William Blake.

Can we move forward from now, into the festive season, and reengage musicians? We can’t lose this precious part of our culture – live music. A lack of opportunities in the past few months has meant that brass players lips crumble, violinist fingers are stiff. All musicians – the well-behaved ones at least – are struggling.

It’s apparently too dangerous for musicians to be doing what they do, entertaining us all, bringing us all to a higher state of consciousness with harmonious sounds and that. Especially singers (yes, singers are musicians). Singing in groups is considered a ‘higher risk activity’ by the government, because of the potential for aerosol production. Don’t get me started on those pesky woodwind instruments. Ignore the hundreds of people protesting on the streets, Dominic Cummings on his roadshow of potential infection, or the big queue in Lidl – “there’s a flute player in this place! Shoot them! Or open a window for better circulation!”

At least I’ve had some gigs, I guess. I can’t complain, but I think I’m allowed to be somewhat sardonic. I’ve had a few livestreams, a handful of small outdoor gigs paid by the magic Arts Council England money tree of ‘please don’t forget us next year, we’re doing our best.’ Grateful. Honestly, very grateful. Here comes the cold now, where do we go?

Well, pubs are open. Great. And musicians are able to play in them, following some volume-related rules.  But that’s not really the investment in the soul I had in mind. Pubs are a chance for this full time musician to go out with his band ‘Jobe and the Spotify Playlists’ – doing requests for the ‘loud drunk guy at the front’, who shouldn’t be raising his voice anyway, but he’s bigger than me and the bouncer hasn’t spotted him yet/this pub forgot to hire security.

My experience in the pubs has been stressed landlords trying to tame insatiable extroverts and more covid-19 deniers than you can shake a Piers-Corbyn-branded stick at (I could have chosen any number of Covid-19 deniers). It’s a place for extroverts to get their fix, and the amount of antisocial behaviour I’ve seen at 21:55 because it’s kicking out time has been rather laughable. I proudly nurse my pint knowing I can stay past 22:00 curfew – I’m working!

I can see my musician mates disappearing off to ‘retrain’ under the reign of Rishi Sunak. Whether he did or did not say that people in the arts need to go and find a proper job, we’re just generally hot and bothered about the whole malaise of the situation.

Goodbye fellow musicians. Part of me wants to say ‘yey, more work for me’, but losing my band and playing to backing tracks actually makes my skin crawl. “Please!” I plea to my drummer (percussionists also considered musicians), “don’t become an itinerant electrician in Bedfordshire! You’ll be too tired by to gig on a Friday when you get back to Brum. Oh, and I need this amplifier pat tested.”

We’re quite harmless, actually, us musicians. We might complain about not being paid enough, and, no matter how much you’ve paid us, if we don’t get a free drink from the bar your name is besmirched for life. We all keep a spreadsheet of scrooge-oriented venue managers…

Anyway, we’re harmless.

On the 6th of October, there was a protest gathering of over 400 musicians in Parliament Square. They formed an impressive orchestra and blasted Gustav Holst’s ‘Mars’ from The Planets, Op.32 at the politicians, who must have enjoyed a rather delightful evening concert for free. See? We can’t even protest, right! Lorry drivers strike by not driving. Teachers strike by their absence, shutting down a school. Us musicians strike by “ooh come on let’s have a ruddy good jam session, that’ll learn ‘em!”

Just imagine if the government invested in venues over this period, ready for the world to return to normal. Clean, socially distanced, even folk-club style. All people welcome. This could be a chance for people to listen to new music, or old music in a new way. You can actually pay attention to the lyrics for once! Dancing from our seats, doing the sit-down shuffle, and practicing to become the best ‘hummers’ in the world. May I suggest Puccini’s ‘Cora a bocca chiusa’. Or be inspired by the vocal acrobatics Bobby McFerrin.

I guess the only profound quote we can be left with now is that of Jim Bowen, the host of the 80s darts-themed TV gameshow Bullseye. After the players had lost, the curtains would draw back to reveal a speedboat, a car, or a “beautifully crafted Wedgwood Dinner Service set.” “Let’s see what you could have won,” Jim would say.

We’ve invested in health. We’re investing in economy. Let’s not forget the soul.

Let’s see what we could have won.”

To find out more about Jobe Baker-Sullivan, visit www.facebook.com/jobesullivanmusic