COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Exams and young people’s wellbeing

Words & pics supplied by Urban Devotion Birmingham

Exam season has begun, and it can be a stressful time to be a young person. Whether as a year 6 pupil, feeling nervous about the big move to secondary, or preparing for GCSE’s or A-Levels, it can be a pressure filled time of year.

The problem is that this pressure can become a negative and crippling force in many young people’s lives, impacting their mental wellbeing in small or significant ways.

For some this can look like overworking and getting stuck in revision. For others it may be complete avoidance or an inability to sit and revise.

As adults we can all play a significant role in helping make this time less stressful and mentally taxing for young people by encouraging and role modelling what it looks like to find a healthy balance between focus, rest and play is essential.

The reality is succeeding during exams does require times of focus, and revision cannot be ignored.

But it also needn’t be all consuming. We all need time to rest our minds and our bodies, and making sure young people know ways to rest and relax is important.

Play can be a great way to do this. This will look different for different ages and for different people, but includes elements of exploration, creativity, and fun.

Perhaps it’s playing a sport, or painting, or jumping on a trampoline – the possibilities are endless! This is as essential for our mental wellbeing, and performance, as getting a good night’s sleep.

For more on Urban Devotion Birmingham visit

Urban Devotion Birmingham is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: The importance of play, free drop-in sessions for young people with Urban Devotion Birmingham

Words & pic supplied by Emma Winmill, Co-Director at UDB / Artwork by Ash Porter

For the last 20 years Urban Devotion Birmingham have hosted spaces for young people, children, and families to connect, have fun, and play.

Since the Pandemic we have intentionally sought to provide new play experiences for young people to develop new skills and hobbies to help address the significant challenges young people experienced during Covid-19. This includes everything from water sports to sewing, singing to board games, rock climbing to graffiti art, football to photography.

We have had a lot of fun trying new things, getting wet and getting creative! There are some very talented young people who have tried their hand at such things as songwriting, painting and paddleboarding and found joy in doing so. 

There is a bedrock of evidence linking play with an array of positive benefits, including improved learning, enhanced wellbeing and social skills. Play at all ages brings joy and excitement, reduces stress, improves problem solving skills and increases our ability to overcome low self-esteem and feel comfortable in our own skin.

Click on the QR code to see more information about the open access drop-ins we run for young people, children and families across Erdington where you will find some of these play opportunities, as well as free snacks and time to connect with others in a safe space.

The QR code will also give you links to our Instagram and Facebook accounts, which we update frequently with updates and any last-minute changes.   

For more on Urban Devotion Birmingham visit

Urban Devotion Birmingham is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Come and say hello – a message from Urban Devotion Birmingham

Words by Amy Heyes, Co-director at UDB / Artwork by Ash Porter

For the last 20 years we have been engaging with young people, children, and families in Erdington.

You may see our team out walking the streets in our blue coats and hoodies, or with our Mobile Youth Venue (MYV) – come and say hi if you do! In addition to this we work with local primary and secondary schools and run weekly free, open access drop-ins for children, families, and young people in partnership with the churches that host us. Snacks are included and if you’re a child or young person we’d love to see you there.

Between Monday and Tuesday, we run a children’s and two youth drop-ins from the basement of St Martins Church on Witton Lodge Road.

On a Tuesday we also host a youth cafe from St Barnabas’ Café on Erdington High Street.

We have a Wyrley Birch family drop-in on a Wednesday. In the summer this is on Witton Lakes, through the winter Lakeside have hosted us.

On Thursdays we take our MYV to Erdington Oaks Play Park on Topcroft, and we also run both a family and youth drop in at Lighthouse Church in Pype Hayes.

Every Friday we finish the week with a children’s and a youth drop-in from St Chads Church on Stoneyhurst Road, Erdington Hall.

Please scan our QR code to see more information including sign up forms and a link to our Instagram and Facebook accounts where we share updates and last minute changes – please check before attending, especially in school holidays.

For more on Urban Devotion Birmingham visit

Urban Devotion Birmingham is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

NEWS: Erdington Task Force sets a new manifesto of constituency wide support as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted

Words & pics by Ed King

Established in response to coronavirus, the Erdington Covid-19 Task Force was set up to support people during the pandemic – reaching thousands of vulnerable and isolated residents with food, essential supplies, financial advice, health and wellbeing activities, and further support services.

Now as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and communities across the world are looking at life beyond the pandemic, so is the Taskforce – dropping the coronavirus moniker and exploring how it can continue to support people across Erdington.

Renamed the Erdington Task Force, the collective of local stakeholders has issued a new manifesto, with housing, education, employment, and regeneration at its core.

Continuing their duty of care for the vulnerable, isolated, and elderly, the Erdington Task Force want to carry on providing what many have found to be essential support services – finding whilst Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted, people across Erdington are still suffering from the impact of the virus.

To help deliver this programme of support, Erdington Task Force mobilises a squad of almost 250 volunteers to carry out tasks and activities across the constituency.

Chair of the Erdington Task Force is Afzal Hussain, Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA). Mr Hussain told Erdington Local:

“The Erdington (Covid-19) Task Force provided a crucial and rapid response to the pandemic.

“Members repurposed existing and developed new services to support our communities by mobilising hundreds of volunteers and co-ordinating vital food distribution and support activities to thousands of vulnerable residents across the constituency.

“The pandemic highlighted and exacerbated deep-seated inequalities, especially poverty and economic hardship, health inequalities and digital exclusion.

“So now is the right time to refresh our partnerships and create a new settlement, which recognises and celebrates the central role of the refreshed Erdington Task Force in the life, prosperity and future of the constituency.”

Comprised of local charities, support organisations, community champions, and politicians, the Erdington Task Force is a collective of local stakeholders who have deep rooted relationships within the constituency.

Facilitated by WLCA, the Erdington Task Force also has organisations including Active Arts, Spitfire Service, The Pioneer Groups, Bethany Foodbank, Erdington Community Volunteers, Urban Devotion, West Midlands Police, and The Active Wellbeing Society as members – establishing a network of support from Castle Vale to Kingstanding.

The Erdington (Covid-19) Task Force was established in April 2020, to support the constituency during the coronavirus pandemic.

To read the new Erdington Task Force manifesto in full visit

OPINION: What can we learn from Finding Nemo? Andy Winmill – Urban Devotion Birmingham

Words & pics by Andy Winmill – Urban Devotion Birmingham

Outreach and support groups are an important way of shouldering the burdens of any community, at any time. But when does the helping hand hold too tight a grip?

Andy Winmill, Director of Urban Devotion Birmingham (UDB), talks about the precarious balance between ‘heroes’ and ‘victims’.

In the popular animated movie Finding Nemo, Marlin, the dad clownfish, copes with the grief of losing his wife by adopting the role of the over-protective parent, seeking to prevent Nemo from meeting the same fate.

This role of protector becomes Marlin’s primary identity and gives him something to live for, but he inadvertently restricts Nemo’s freedom and pushes Nemo away.

“What on earth does this have to do with Erdington?” I hear you ask. It’s a fair question but stay with me.

Every week I spend an hour on a call with a bunch of brilliant people that make up the Erdington COVID-19 Task Force. They represent so much of what is good about Erdington. They lead organisations that provide housing support, financial advice, food provision and cultural enrichment. They reflect all shades of the political spectrum yet come together for the good of all of us.

Over the past year each and every one of them has gone the extra mile, worked that bit harder and put the good of Erdington ahead of their own reputations or standing.

I have huge respect for them and – full disclaimer – I am one of them. I first came to Erdington in 2004 and began doing volunteer youthwork in Perry Common as part of Urban Devotion Birmingham (UDB). I have lived in Erdington since 2005 and now lead UDB and our staff team of 10 as we seek to serve children, young people, and families in five neighbourhoods across the district.

UDB, like every one of the organisations in the Task Force, exists for the good of the people of Erdington. Most of them – UDB included – are led by local people who serve the communities we live in. Over the past year we have collectively helped source and deliver nearly 18,000 food and essentials supplies packs and enabled almost 21,000 wellbeing activities. Sounds good right?

It sounds good because it is good, but what if we inadvertently become like Marlin? What if we end up finding our identity as the protectors? What if we accidentally contribute to restricting the very sense of community that we are seeking to serve?

Last year I read a fantastic article in this very newspaper that described the great work that one of the organisations was doing but I’ll be honest the headline troubled me. It described the organisation connecting an ‘isolated community’.

The headline focused on the strength of one party and the weakness of the other. I probably overthink these things, but it conjured up images of heroes and victims, co-dependent relationships, Marlin and Nemo.

The mistake Marlin made was to have a deficit perspective. He saw tiny Nemo’s weakness and sought to protect him from being exposed to the dangers of the ocean. When Nemo protested, he shut him down. What if he had instead listened to Nemo, looked at his strength – his bravery, his curiosity, his relational skills – and helped to prepare him to take on the ocean?

The coming months are, just like the ocean, uncharted territory. Just as Marlin didn’t know the depths of the ocean nor do any of us quite know what is around the corner. Perhaps the best response therefore is not to focus on the challenges that Erdington faces but the strengths.

As organisations we are participants in the story of Erdington but we are not heroes and the community of Erdington is not the victim. Most of the organisations that we work alongside will remain deeply committed to Erdington, but it is important that we don’t fall into the Marlin trap.

We do this by focusing on all that is great about Erdington. We focus on the story of Erdington Community Volunteers that exemplifies the community spirit that makes Erdington strong.

We look to Erdington Litter Busters that shows the community care that makes Erdington kind. And yes, we think about the Erdington COVID-19 Task Force that shows the collaboration and ingenuity that makes Erdington effective.

Whisper it quietly, but we seem to be leaving the worst of the pandemic behind. Restrictions are easing, businesses are reopening. Nobody quite knows what ‘normal’ will look and feel like, but change is definitely in the air.

People will still face crises. We need to combat food poverty, stand against the challenges of exempt accommodation, rail against the scourge of youth violence.

Organisations have important parts to play in this, but greater impact comes when we all rise up as one. This is not a time for Marlin and Nemo, for heroes and victims. This is a time for community. Let’s do this together.

For more on Urban Devotion Birmingham visit