NEWS: Erdington loses out on Levelling Up millions as the only Birmingham bid to fail at the first round

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington High Street lost out on millions of pounds of investment today when its application for the Government’s Levelling Up Fund fell at the first round – as announced in the Chancellor’s Spending Review.

One of four applications made by Birmingham City Council, Erdington High Street’s bid was the only one to be denied at this stage – despite being for the lowest amount of money.

The Levelling Up Fund is a £4.8 billion national pot of money earmarked by Government for regional investment into local infrastructure.

The Levelling Up Fund application for Erdington High Street was at £12,700,000 – with further investment coming from the private sector, including the transformation of Central Square into a destination venue of shops, cafes, bars, and apartments.

Birmingham’s other bids, which have all made it through the first round, include £19,941,000 for the A457 Dudley Road Improvement Scheme, £17,145,000 for the Wheels site remediation, and £15,539,000 for Moseley Road Swimming Baths.

Erdington’s Levelling Up Fund bid was worked on by both Labour and Conservative politicians in the area – alongside key local stakeholders including Godwin Developments, Witton Lodge Community Association, and Erdington Business Improvement District.

Following the news, Erdington MP Jack Dromey (Lab) issued the following statement:

“Once again, the Government has failed to provide the investment Erdington High Street so desperately needs. This decision flies in the face of their ‘levelling up’ rhetoric and badly lets down one of the poorest communities in the country.

“This investment would have provided an invaluable economic, social and cultural boost to our community, as well as providing employment opportunities for Erdington, which has an unemployment rate that stands at twice the national average.

“But this is not the first time Government has let Erdington down. Following the rejection of the Future High Streets Fund bid on Boxing Day, we continued to seek investment in our High Street.

“Working together with Birmingham City Council, key local stakeholders, and the local community, we submitted this comprehensive and ambitious bid to the Levelling Up Fund complete with a solid business case and significant private investment.

“This makes the decision to deny Erdington of investment once again outrageous and inexplicable.”

Erdington ward Councillors Robert Alden and Gareth Moore (Con) made the following statements:

Cllr Robert Alden said: “This is a bitterly disappointing decision.

“When the Council took the four bids for Birmingham through cabinet, we warned that the Council providing £15m of match funding for the other three bids and nothing for Erdington would weaken the application and give the impression to civil servants that the Council clearly considered the bid to be less important than the other four.

“Sadly, that is exactly what seems to have happened”.

Cllr Gareth Moore added “The Council administration refusing to put match funding into the Erdington bid, was always a kick in the teeth for the hard work of local partners like the Erdington BID, Witton Lodge Community Association, regeneration officers who worked on the bid, businesses, developers and community and church groups.

“So, to now see that the three bids the Council did match fund were approved and that the Council refusal to match fund Erdington has potentially cost Erdington is disgraceful.

“However, a massive thank you to all the partners and officers involved who have been helping fight for Erdington”.

Erdington recently missed out the Future High Streets Fund, another cross party and local stakeholder application, which would have seen over £50m pumped into the town centre in a joint investment from Government and the private sector.

 

2 DAYS TO GO: Syrian refugee sisters to present friendship bracelet to Little Amal at Erdington visit

Words & images by Ed King

Two sisters who escaped the war in Syria five years ago will be presenting Little Amal with a handcrafted friendship bracelet, when the 12ft high ‘living puppet’ visits Erdington on Thursday 28 October.

Sheema (16) and Logeen (11) Aroob will be a central part of Little Amal’s visit to Erdington, gifting the friendship bracelet – a symbol of sanctuary and welcome – as part of the official welcoming ceremony.

Starting outside the Co-op on Erdington High Street at 1pm, the celebration will also include live music and street games from across the world – before Little Amal leads a procession of local children and adults to Central Square Shopping Centre.

Recommended through Refugee Action, Sheema will also be reading a specially selected poem which celebrates the beauty of Birmingham and welcomes people to the city.

A poet in her own right, Sheema recently performed one of her own works at the Erdington Arts Forum’s Evening of Creativity – at a special showcase event recently held during Refugee Week.

Sheema told Erdington Local: “I was asked by Refugee Action to present special friendship bracelet to Little Amal when she comes to visit Erdington.

“I am very excited to be part of the Little Amal event, and a little nervous. But I like to join in with these events as it helps bring out my confidence.

“We came from Syria to the UK five years ago, after leaving Lebanon because of the war – once a bomb dropped right outside the front of our house, it was a dangerous place, and our family were scared for their lives.

“Also, my father had injured himself and was unable to work; life was very difficult.

“The poem I am reading when Little Amal comes to Erdington was suggested to me by Johnny (Autin, choreographer) and is about Birmingham, how beautiful the city can be, and how people should come and visit Birmingham and see it with their own eyes.

“I like to write poetry as it is a good way to get my thoughts and feelings out, and I can be more honest in a poem. I have also written a story about our journey from Syria to the UK.”

Inspired by stories from the Calais refugee camp, and made by the production team behind Warhorse, Little Amal is based on a young Syrian girl who lost her family whilst out looking for food – with the ‘living puppet’ having travelled over 8,00 miles to reach the UK.

Little Amal has been travelling across the globe since July, starting on the Syria/Turkey border, to raise awareness on the plight for refugee children – who account for over 50% of the world’s displaced people, according to UNICEF.

Having travelled from Syria with her family five years ago, escaping the ongoing war, Sheema Aroob has a direct understanding of Little Amal’s journey, with members of her family still living amidst the violence.

“Little Amal began her walk in Jarabulus, on the border of Syria and Turkey, which is where my aunt – my mother’s sister – still lives. So, the journey Little Amal has made is very close to our hearts.

“My auntie still lives in Jarabulus but in a tent, with her children – she has two daughters and one son; one of the daughters is disabled.

“We are still in touch, but there is still trouble and violence there and it is going to be very hard for her and her family this winter.”

Local arts charity Active Arts is leading Erdington’s Little Amal event on behalf of Birmingham City Council and Birmingham 2022 Festival.

Further partners include Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham, Centrala, Open Theatre Company, Mama Dojo, Surge Forward Music & Arts, Vortex Creates, Autin Dance Theatre, Everyone Erdington, Oikos Café, Six Ways Baptist Church & Food Bank, Erdington BID and Godwin Development.

Active Arts Project Director Claire Marshall told Erdington Local: “We’re really pleased to have Sheema and her family as part of Little Amal’s visit to Erdington – they have experienced, first-hand, some of the issues faced by refugees this international art project is trying to shine a light on.

“Sheema and her family have been a huge part of the Kaleidoscope workshops and have been heavily involved in preparations for the event too. It’s been a joy working with and getting to know them, individually and as a family.”

Little Amal will visit Erdington on Thursday 28 October, with a one day carnival starting at 1pm outside the Co-op and Oikos Café on the High Street – before heading up to the Central Square Shopping Centre.

The final Kaleidoscope arts, craft, street games and dance workshop will be held between 1-3pm at the Secret Art Studio Space on Wednesday 27 October – at the Central Shopping Centre on Erdington High Street.

For more on the Kaleidoscope event and Little Amal’s visit to Erdington visit www.activearts.wordpress.com/little-amal or email activeartscv@gmail.com

For more on Little Amal and ‘The Walk’ visit www.walkwithamal.org

LOCAL OPINION: Community spirit is alive and well in Stockland Green

Words by Uzma Shaffiq / Pics by Ed King

“The beautiful thing is that they come from all walks of life and ages, from pensioners to school children – all dedicated to help.” 

Uzma Shaffiq, Community Developer Officer for The Pioneer Group, talks to Erdington Local about the community backbone and neighbourhood camaraderie that supported Stockland Green through the coronavirus crisis. 

Starting my new role at The Pioneer Group in February 2020, I had high hopes of building a strong network of organisations and people who wanted to make Stockland Green a great place to live and work. From these networks, I would be instrumental in creating several initiatives, and 2020 was going to be the best start to my working life.

Little did I realise, COVID-19 was waiting just around the corner, ready to turn everything on its head. The pandemic struck and suddenly residents needed support more than ever.

As for everyone, those first few weeks were a challenge. We needed to mobilise on a scale not seen since World War 2; but as a proud University of Birmingham History graduate, I understood the dedication behind communities in those tumultuous times and I knew our work would provide crucial support to residents during this modern crisis.

Our team works throughout a number of communities such as Stockland Green, Castle Vale and Falcon Lodge – and while each area may have a different programme of specific needs, we still come together to share ideas. Last year we faced the same challenge – we needed to support residents in all communities to ensure that no one was hungry, felt isolated or was left in a vulnerable situation.

With face-to-face interactions gone, the internet was suddenly our saviour and became critical as a tool to communicate in our quest to build a better community. It was no longer about boots on the ground, but rather fingers on keyboards and faces on video calls.

We started by meeting online with residents and community groups to understand their concerns and priorities. There were so many people that want to be actively involved in supporting the Stockland Green community, it was incredibly heart-warming to see how deeply people cared for their friends, family, and neighbours.

Food provision and mental health support was top of the list and once these areas had been outlined, we witnessed a huge mobilisation within the community. The beautiful thing is that they come from all walks of life and ages, from pensioners to school children – all dedicated to help.

Local organisations supplied food parcels and arranged prescription runs to support residents through the months of uncertainty, and an army of residents came forward to help with the deliveries. The whole initiative was so moving; without these wonderful volunteers giving their free time, we could never have helped so many people.

For those that were more isolated and may not have much use of the internet, such as some elderly, wellbeing activity packs were created and delivered to keep recipients busy during lockdowns. Fantastic at raising spirits, boosting morale, and giving those who are staying at home something exciting to do, the packs were also delivered by volunteers, the lifeblood of our community.

2020 also saw the birth of other voluntary organisations such as the Stockland Green Action Group with the aim of making the community a better place. I am always blown away with their efforts as they tackle fly-tipping, unsightly alleyways, and fight for a better tomorrow for Stockland Green. We are pleased to work closely with these members, supporting them with funding bids and various initiatives as they set a shining example of community spirit.

With a keen sense of keeping the Stockland Green passion alive, we also revived the Stockland Green Ward Forum where organisations such as the Local Regeneration Trust, Councillors, the local MP, and residents all come together to work towards a shared vision of a better Stockland Green.

For The Pioneer Group, the commitment to the area has never been stronger. We provide affordable housing and want our tenants and their neighbours to feel safe and secure in their homes which is why we are now working with Birmingham City Council to deliver the new Safer Streets programme; a £432,000 initiative in Stockland Green that will implement a range of measures including street lighting upgrades, six redeployable CCTV cameras, and a crime prevention assessment for all homes.

Over the last 18 months, our community has faced major hardships with a healthcare crisis, job losses and new way of living. We came together to survive. Today we are in a good place to build even stronger community spirit as we say goodbye to 2021, probably the hardest year many of us have faced.

I look forward to 2022 and everything we are doing to make Stockland Green a great place to live and work.

For more from The Pioneer Group, and the work they do across Stockland Green and North Birmingham, visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk

3 DAYS TO GO: Businesses boom as Central Square Shopping Centre is ‘transformed’ for Little Amal event

Words & images by Ed King

Businesses in Central Square are enjoying a boom in passing trade as the old shopping centre is “transformed” for the Little Amal event on Thursday 28 October.

As preparations continue for the one day carnival later this week, Central Square has seen a “significant spike” in trade as a team of local artists, event organisers, and cleaning companies give a facelift to the dilapidated shopping centre.

Little Amal is a 12ft ‘living puppet’ which has been on a worldwide ‘walk’ to raise awareness about the plight of refugee children – coming to Erdington at the end of her 8,000 mile journey from the Syria/Turkey border.

Local arts charity Active Arts is leading Erdington’s Little Amal event on behalf of Birmingham City Council and Birmingham 2022 Festival.

“When they (Active Arts) came down on Saturday it was driving more people down,” told Michelle Haynes, manager of the Global Educational Trust Charity Shop.

“As soon as they were putting things in the window people were coming to the counter and asking about prices.

“Last week was really slow, it was horrendous, but on Saturday, because everything was going on in the square, you’ve got the dancers and everything, it was drawing people down.”

“Thursday should bring even more people down; I really do hope so. We get people down here, but they don’t come to the back of the centre, they get halfway down and turn back.

“We put signs up all the way down, but they just tent to turn around. If there were more events happening here it would help – you saw it that Saturday, it was like a totally different feeling – it was brilliant. Even I was by the door watching, it was a different vibe. It was loads better.”

Anthony Daulphin has recently re-opened the Standing Ovation HUB, a large unit at the back of Central Square with a café, children’s play area, pool, table tennis, and a hairdressing salon, and has been keen to see trade return to the shopping centre.

“After all the lockdowns we have been keen to get our doors back open,” told Daulphin, “but it’s not been as busy as we would have hoped – we’ve been booking some great private parties but the day to day trade has really dropped off.

“But since Active Arts and the Little Amal team have been here we’ve seen a significant spike, it’s been great.

“They’ve cleaned up the old shop fronts, pulled down all broken signs, and made it feel like a place people want to walk into.

“Plus, we’ve been selling a few bacon and egg sandwiches to the team themselves… they’ve been working all hours and said our breakfast menu is the best on the High Street. We’ve thrown them a few free coffees to keep them going too.

“But it’s been a lot of fun having the team here; it’s built a real sense of comradery between all the shop owners and there’s a feeling something big happening here again.”

Erdington once boasted the busiest High Street in Birmingham but has suffered in recent years as retail increasingly moves online – with banks and nationally recognised outlets all shutting up shop, as lower end and bargain retail take their place.

In the last year, Peacocks and Santander closed their Erdington branches for good – with Poundstretcher moving into the former’s prominent shop front opposite Central Square.

Erdington’s businesses also missed out on a multi-million pound boost in January, following a failed bid for the Future High Street fund which would have seen around £52m invested in the High Street.

But as the Central Square Shopping Centre prepares for the Little Amal event, interest in the businesses there is growing again – with shop owners citing the simple fact it has been cleaned and decorated by Active Arts and the team behind the Little Amal project.

Active Arts Project Director Claire Marshall told Erdington Local: “I used to come to Central Square shopping with my mum as a child. I love the area and I’ve seen how vibrant the local businesses and community can be.

“Central Square is a fantastic space for events; it is a perfect little enclave if you have a creative eye, it just needs a bit of tender loving care… and a lot of elbow grease to clean the windows.

“Our team have working day and night; the place already feels brighter and more welcoming, and by the time Little Amal visits on Thursday (October 28) Central Square Shopping Centre will be transformed.

“We’ve got workshops happening every day this week too – there’s a real buzz around the place with new people coming in every day.

“It’s a really exciting thing to be a part of and the businesses have been incredibly supportive. I’m glad they’ve had a boost in trade, they deserve a bit of good fortune after the past couple of years and lockdowns.”

Central Square could see even more improvement in the next 12 months, as Godwin Developments – who own the shopping centre and land – have plans to turn the High Street site into a destination venue with shops, bars, cafes, and apartments.

Little Amal will visit Erdington on Thursday 28 October, with a one day carnival starting at 1pm outside the Co-op and Oikos Café on the High Street – before heading up to the Central Square Shopping Centre.

Kaleidoscope arts, craft, street games and dance workshops will be held between 1-3pm at the Secret Art Studio Space on Tuesday 26 and Wednesday 27 October – at the Central Shopping Centre on Erdington High Street.

For more on the Kaleidoscope event and Little Amal’s visit to Erdington visit www.activearts.wordpress.com/little-amal or email activeartscv@gmail.com

For more on Little Amal and ‘The Walk’ visit www.walkwithamal.org

For more on the Standing Ovation HUB visit www.facebook.com/StandingOvationHUB

NEWS: Erdington businesses to vote on future of Business Improvement District

Words & pics by Ed King

The future of the Erdington Business Improvement District (Erdington BID) hangs in the balance as local businesses vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for another five year term.

Local shop owners and businesses within the catchment area have until November 11 to cast their vote – which will decide future of the Erdington BID after June 2022.

Erdington BID represents businesses from Six Ways to Edwards Road, including all shops fronts on Erdington High Street and Sutton New Road.

Charging members 1.75% of the rateable value of their business, if re-elected the Erdington BID expects to generate £116,000 per year from 2022 to 2027 to help promote and support commerce in the area.

In Erdington BID’s five year forecast, if re-elected the organisation would allocate an annual sum of £26000 towards security, £20000 towards marketing, events and promotion, and £8000 to keeping the streets clean.

£42700 per annum would be spent on Erdington BID itself, paying for a ‘town centre manager, admin, finance, and business support’. A further £3000 each year would be used to pay back Birmingham City Council for loans to cover ‘renewal expenses’.

Terry Guest, Erdington BID and Town Centre Manager, told Erdington Local: “Priorities over the next five years will be to continue to make the town centre a safe and secure place to visit and shop.

“If successful, the BID will increase our warden presence in the area to six days from five, increase shops radio coverage for greater security, and to work with the local police and council to renew the Public Space Protection Order for the area, which empowers police to remove potentially threatening groups and troublemakers.

“We will also continue to press for town centre improvements to modernise the High Street and to work with the council, property owners and developers to that end – and to ensure that funding for such projects will be sought.

“We are also looking at increasing green areas in the town centre – a look at the garden next to the library – projected by the BID – which shows what can be done in small spaces.

“Above all, we will continue to work with ou business owners to ensure that Erdington town centre gets the best deal in creating a quality local High Street fit for the future.”

But opinion on the High Street is split, with business owners divided over whether Erdington BID warrants the annual six figure sum.

In a recent survey conducted by Erdington Local, nine out of 18 business confirmed they would vote ‘yes’ to grant Erdington BID another five year term – with the remaining nine unsure or voting ‘no’.

When the same businesses were asked if the Erdington BID ‘adds value to the High Street’ five answered ‘yes’. Six answered ‘yes’ when asked if Erdington BID was ‘helpful to business during the COVID lockdowns?’

Terry Guest added: “I think we maintained a good working relationship with businesses during the lockdown periods, not forgetting that a large number of our retailers were qualified to remain open and trading.

“The job of the BID during the lockdowns was to ensure that the town centre was a healthy place to visit, and with the help of the council, we were able to do that.

“We also worked with businesses in ensuring that all funding help was available to them – and we had a near 100% success rate with that.”

Further concerns were raised from local business about applications made for multi-million pound investment into Erdington, such as the failed Future High Street Fund and the pending Levelling Up Fund bids.

The Future High Street Fund would have seen up to £13m coming from Government and invested directly into Erdington High Steet.

But due to the final submission being deemed “not eligible” by the then Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Luke Hall, Erdington lost out on what many believed was a strong application.

More recently, an application has been made to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund which would see £12.7million coming into Erdington.

But some local businesses are wary, with one shop owner stating: “I’ve been here for years and heard countless promises about investment into the High Street… but I’m still looking at the same cracked windows and flaking paint.”

When asked about the pending application, Terry Guest said: “I have to be confident of us getting the Levelling Up award, because the original application contained factors which have been scrutinised and amended – so I am looking forward to a positive result.”

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk

4 DAYS TO GO: Johnny Autin runs free dance and street games workshops at Central Square Shopping Centre – ahead of Little Amal’s visit to Erdington

Words, images & video by Ed King / Images of Little Amal supplied by Good Chance Theatre and Active Arts

“You just become friends straight away because you play a game together.”

International choreographer and dance artist Johnny Autin will be running free dance and street games workshops at Central Square Shopping Centre on Monday 25, Tuesday 26, and Wednesday 27 October – between 1pm and 3pm each day.

Open to families, children, and adults of all ages, the workshops will be practicing a simple and specially devised dance routine – to be performed as part of the one day carnival welcoming Little Amal to Erdington on Thursday 28 October.

Little Amal is a 12ft ‘living puppet’ which has been on a worldwide ‘walk’ to raise awareness about the plight of refugee children, based on a young Syrian girl separated from her mother as her family try to find food.

Starting on the Turkey/Syria border in July, Little Amal will have travelled through countries including Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and France, before finishing her 8,000 mile journey in the UK.

According to UNICEF, the United Nations’ child support agency, 33 million children had been ‘forcibly displaced’ at the end of 2019 – accounting for over 50% of the world’s refugees and displaced people.

Johnny Autin is the Creative Director of Autin Dance Theatre, Artistic Director of Man Made Youth Company, and an Associate Artist of Midlands Arts Centre.

Autin has been commissioned across the world, including Dance Hub (Birmingham, UK), The Arden School of Acting (Manchester, UK), MUDA (Africa), IBUKA Dance (East Africa), and in Opera choreographing ‘Carmen’ (Macerata, Italy).

Johnny Autin’s dance and street games workshops are part of the Kaleidoscope events being organised to welcome Little Amal to Erdington, led by local arts charity Active Arts on behalf of Birmingham City Council and Birmingham 2022 Festival.

“My team is coming to play some games with people in Erdington, games that come from different parts of the Commonwealth countries,” explained Johnny Autin.

“Those games are then being used chorographically for a performance when Little Amal comes to Erdington (Thursday 28 October) – people will be able to come out onto the streets and play those games live, with a band, with music and some workshop facilitators.

“It’s really about just having fun, about play, and about having a sense of community.

“There will be a stylised performance of these games, as a way of saying thank you for coming, showing our love and respect for her journey, and wishing her well on the last part of her journey.

“We’ll play games because Little Amal is a young girl, so we want to bring back that sense of play that we all have when we’re children and that some people might have forgotten.

“I feel like the world needs more fun, and joy, and play, and that’s the message – because children are generally more welcoming and playful with others, than adults.

“You just become friends straight away because you play a game together.

“It’s fun, it’s physical, and it’s healthy. It’s good for yourself and it’s good for everybody.”

As part of the ongoing Kaleidoscope workshops there will also be arts and crafts sessions run by Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham – where people can learn to make friendship bracelets, to be gifted to members of the public on the day Little Amal comes to visit Erdington.

Johnny Autin added: “They can help make some friendship bracelets, that we’ll be offering to all the audience that come (on Thursday 28 October).

“We will be making things, painting things, decorating things.

“But also learning some street games, rhythms, and music, and being surrounded by beautiful musicians, dance, and movement.”

All the Little Amal events and Kaleidoscope workshops are open to children and adults of all ages, and are completely free to attend,

People are invited to simply drop into the workshops, being held at the Secret Art Studio Space downstairs at the Central Square Shopping Centre on Erdington High Street.

Or email activeartscv@gmail.com directly for more information.

Johnny Autin leads dance workshop at Central Square, Erdington

Images from previous Kaleidoscope arts and craft workshops

Kaleidoscope arts, craft, street games and dance workshops will be held between 1-3pm at the Secret Art Studio Space on Monday 25, Tuesday 26, and Wednesday 27 October – at the Central Shopping Centre on Erdington High Street.

Little Amal will visit Erdington on Thursday 28 October, with a one day event from 1pm.

For more on the Kaleidoscope event and Little Amal’s visit to Erdington visit www.activearts.wordpress.com/little-amal/ or email activeartscv@gmail.com

For more on Little Amal and ‘The Walk’ visit www.walkwithamal.org

6 DAYS TO GO: Arts, craft, and street games – free Little Amal workshops at Erdington’s Central Square 

Words by Ed King / Images supplied by Good Chance Theatre and Active Arts

Erdington’s Central Square will be hosting free arts, craft, and street games workshops this half term – running between 1pm and 3pm on Saturday 23 October, then at the same time on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday next week.

A creative and exciting way to kick start the half term holidays as a family – or to meet new people and make new friends – the Saturday 23 October workshop will be about making friendship brackets, in sessions run by Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham.

Also on Saturday, and then from Monday to Wednesday next week, Autin Dance Theatre will be teaching street games from countries and communities across the world.

People are invited to simply drop into the Secret Art Studio Space, based at the Central Square Shopping Centre on Erdington High Street, or email activeartscv@gmail.com for more information.

Part of the Kaleidoscope events, getting people ready for when Little Amal visits Erdington on Thursday 28 October, the workshops are free to attend and open to adults/children of all ages.

With only six days to go under her Erdington arrival, Little Amal will be welcomed by a carnival of street games, arts, craft, and live music – starting at 1pm on the High Street, by the Co-op, before making its way to Central Square.

Little Amal

Little Amal is a 12ft ‘living puppet’ that has been travelling the world to raise awareness about the plight of refugee children – based on a young Syrian girl, separated from her mother as her family try to find food.

According to UNICEF, the United Nations’ child support agency, 33 million children had been ‘forcibly displaced’ at the end of 2019 – accounting for over 50% of the world’s refugees and displaced people.

Travelling over 8000 miles before arriving in Erdington, Little Amal started ‘The Walk’ on the Syria/Turkey boarder in July – visiting countries including Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and France, before crossing the Channel to the UK.

A globetrotting symbol of peace and compassion, Little Amal even had an audience with Pope Francis in early September 2021.

Little Amal and her worldwide walk have been organised by Good Chance Theatre, inspired by stories from the Calais refugee camp. The 12ft high ‘living puppet’ was built by the Handspring Puppet Company, the creative team behind War Horse.

Local arts charity Active Arts is leading Erdington’s Little Amal event on behalf of Birmingham City Council and Birmingham 2022 Festival.

Further partners include Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham, Centrala, Open Theatre Company, Mama Dojo, Surge Forward Music & Arts, Vortex Creates, Autin Dance Theatre, Everyone Erdington, Oikos Café, Six Ways Baptist Church & Food Bank, Erdington BID and Godwin Development.

Active Arts Project Director Claire Marshall told Erdington Local: “Little Amal coming to Erdington is a once in a lifetime opportunity for local people to be part of a beautiful worldwide event.

“The Kaleidoscope workshops have been amazing so far, with lots of friendly faces coming together for an afternoon of art and conversation – it’s been a really joyful way to get involved in preparation for the Little Amal visit.

“As things get more and more exciting, with Little Amal’s visit only days away, we’d love to welcome even more local people to the Kaleidoscope workshops – running this Saturday, then again from Monday to Wednesday next week.

“Little Amal’s visit on the Thursday is going to be a fantastic event, with Central Square transformed for the occasion – a really special occasion that will show the world just how wonderful and welcoming Erdington can be.”

Adult volunteers are also being sought to help welcome Little Amal to Erdington and to support the build-up to the October 28 event.

Kaleidoscope arts, craft, and street games workshops will be held between 1-3pm at the Secret Art Studio Space on Saturday 23, Monday 25, Tuesday 26, and Wednesday 27 October – at the Central Shopping Centre on Erdington High Street.

Little Amal will visit Erdington on Thursday 28 October, with a one day event from 1pm.

For more on the Kaleidoscope event and Little Amal’s visit to Erdington visit www.activearts.wordpress.com/little-amal or email activeartscv@gmail.com

For more on Little Amal and ‘The Walk’ visit www.walkwithamal.org

NEWS: Woman arrested on ‘attempted murder’ following vehicle attack on Reservoir Road – man remains in critical condition

Words by Ed King / Pics by Jobe Baker Sullivan

Reservoir Road was shut down today following a disturbance late on Friday night, leading police to cordon off the Erdington/Stockland Green thoroughfare whilst searching for clues.

As confusion grew across the area, with traffic brought to a standstill, West Midlands Police were reticent to issue any information other than the situation “was not fatal.”

Later on, it emerged there had been an ‘attempted murder’ using a vehicle – a 44 year woman has been arrested, whilst a ‘man in his 40’s remain in hospital in critical condition.’

People across the area had seen police presence arrive on Friday night, one Stockland Green resident told Erdington Local: “I saw some flashing lights late last night… but I didn’t think anything of it, there are flashing lights around here all the time.”

Another local resident speculated it may be a hit and run, with someone having wandered into traffic whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

They said: “Most nights, all round the shops, the druggies come and hang out.”

Terry Bracher, who lives on nearby Bleak Hill Road, told Erdington Local: “Whilst walking the dog I saw police and taped off area, but didn’t know what it was.”

Local artist Jennette Hill said: “I saw the police last (Friday) night as I drove through on my way home, at about midnight. I thought it must have been bad.”

Following requests from Erdington Local and other concerned parties, West Midlands Police issued the following statement earlier today: “A woman has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after a man has been seriously injured after being hit by a car in Erdington.“

We were called to Reservoir Road at just after 10pm last night (8 October) and found a man with significant head injuries.

“The vehicle left the scene but has since been recovered and a 44-year-old woman has been arrested.

“The woman – who is known to the man – has also been detained on suspicion of driving while unfit through drink or drugs and remains in police custody for questioning. The man in his 40s remains in hospital in a critical condition.

“The road remains closed off while our enquiries continue and anyone with information is urged to get in contact.”

As investigations continue, West Midlands Police are calling to members of the public to come forward with any information that might help shed light on the case.

Stockland Green has just received £432,000 from the Government’s Safer Street initiative, which will be used to tackle street level crime, anti-social behaviour, and public disorder.

Stockland Green stakeholders are in the process of engaging with the community to formulate a Neighbourhood Plan.

The strategy will see local residents, police, strategic partners, and Birmingham City Counmcil join forces and work together to make positive changes in thre area.

West Midlands Police have stated anyone with information about the attack on Reservoir Road can get in touch via Live Chat at www.west-midlands.police.uk or call 101 and quote 20/1792022/21.

NEWS: Erdington MP calls on Government ‘to ensure a decision is made’ over £12.7million Levelling Up Fund

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington MP Jack Dromey has called on Government to ‘ensure a decision is made… as soon as possible’ over a £12.7million Levelling Up Fund investment into the High Street, Erdington Local can reveal.

In a letter issued to Michael Gove earlier today, Mr Dromey urged the recently appointed Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to respond to Erdington’s bid – allowing Birmingham City Council and local stakeholders to ‘get on with the job of delivering the improvements to infrastructure Erdington so desperately needs.’

An application for the Levelling Up Fund was submitted by Birmingham City Council in June, which if successful would see a multi-million pound injection into Erdington High Street, but has so far received no response from Government.

One of the criteria for the Levelling Up Fund, a £4.8 billion national pot of money for investment into local infrastructure, is for any successful bid to ‘begin delivery on the ground in the 2021-22 financial year’.

With only 6 months to go until April, concerns are growing if a decision is not reached soon the ambitious plans for the High Street could become impossible to deliver.

In his letter to Michael Gove, Mr Dromey continued: ‘I always say that Erdington may be one of the poorest constituencies in the country, but we are rich in talent.

‘The determination, innovation, and passion of local people, especially in the face of adversity as we have seen recently, never ceases to amaze and inspire me. However, without investment we will never realise this potential to its fullest.’

To read the full letter sent by Jack Dromey MP to Michael Gove click here.

Erdington’s Levelling Up Fund bid was worked on by both Labour and Conservative politicians in the area – alongside key local stakeholders including Godwin Developments, Witton Lodge Community Association, and Erdington Business Improvement District.

Included in the bid were plans for a major redevelopment of Central Square, transformation of St Barnabas’s churchyard, and seeing the listed Erdington Baths turned into a cutting edge business hub.

Erdington recently missed out the Future High Streets Fund, an application made that would have seen over £50m pumped into the town centre in a joint investment from Government and the private sector.

Now the hopes for the High Street are pinned to the Levelling Up Fund, which would again see a £12.7million investment from Government topped up by the private sector.

Godwin Developments, who are looking to develop Central Square into a Brindley Place style destination venue of restaurants, cafes, and stylish accommodation, are keen to help transform Erdington High Street.

Matt Chandler, Development Director at Godwin Developments, told Erdington Local: “Erdington, with its young population, has great potential and the Levelling Up Fund would ensure that it is unlocked with a major boost from well-thought through schemes breathing life into the high street, providing places to live and community assets for years to come.

“The Fund would prove transformational for the area, creating economic, employment and cultural opportunities for residents and encouraging further inward investment.

“With the Commonwealth Games arriving in Birmingham next year, all areas of the city should receive the investment they deserve.”

NEWS: Strike at GKN Chester Road factory ‘suspended’ until October

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Unite and Jack Dromey MP

The planned strike at the GKN Chester Road factory will be suspended until Monday 18 October, announced Unite the Union in a statement issued this week.

Scheduled to begin on Monday 27 September, industrial action will now be put on hold for at least three weeks whilst representatives of the 500 strong workforce finally begin talks with GKN owners Melrose PLC.

GKN workers, Unite the Union, and Erdington MP Jack Dromey have been calling for emergency talks with Melrose for several months, wanting to explore alternatives to closing the plant, but have been constantly rebuffed.

At the eleventh hour ahead of industrial action Melrose have now agreed to enter talks about the future of the plant, which provides essential drives lines for the automotive industry – including the nearby Jaguar Land Rover plant at Castle Vale.

A plan for the Chester Road factory had previously been put forward and hopes remain the Erdington site could play a key part in the electrification of the UK’s automotive sector, building the new propulsion units needed in electric vehicles.

Unite national officer Des Quinn said: “In the spirit of good will, the planned strike action has been suspended to allow for talks about the future of the factory with key stakeholders to take place.

“It is hoped that all sides can use this window of opportunity to secure a long term future for the factory.

“Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers’ living standards.”

Since the closure was announced at the start of the year, MP for Erdington Jack Dromey has been working with Unite the Union to negotiate a deal to save the Erdington factory.

Mr Dromey added: “The reopening of negotiations between the workers, their union, Unite, and GKN/Melrose presents a real opportunity to secure a settlement to save the GKN plant from closure.

“The GKN workers and Unite have always been clear that they stood ready to enter any discussions to save the GKN Chester Road plant from closure.

“In the spirit of that commitment they have suspended strike action to allow these talks to now take place. In return, the company have made clear their commitment to pause any movement of works and machinery out of the plant.

“It is vital that all those involved in these talks now do all they can to keep the plant open and to stop 519 well-paid, skilled jobs being lost in one of Britain’s most deprived communities.

“The role of Government will be key to prevent closure and the export of production to Poland and France. The British Automotive industry needs high-quality components made here in Britain.”

To find out more about GKN Automotive visit www.gknautomotive.com

For more from Unite the Union visit www.unitetheunion.org

For more from Jack Dromey MP for Erdington visit www.jackdromey.co.uk