FEATURE: “Our very own field of dreams,” FC Elite Academy to deliver football sessions on Short Heath Playing Fields

Words by Ed King & Estelle Murphy / Pics by Ed King & FC Elite Academy

Sport is set to return to Short Heath Playing Fields, as Kingstanding based FC Elite Academy have teamed up with Short Heath Fields Trust (SHFT) to deliver a programme of youth football coaching on the beloved green space.

Having secured planning permission to develop their existing home at Twickenham Park into a permanent sports facility and community hub, FC Elite Academy are now looking at Short Heath Playing Fields to train up some of their younger squad members.

The ambitious Kingstanding club are looking to develop their current College Road ground and are currently fundraising for the £70-80k they expect the project to cost – including building a 3G pitch, clubhouse, changing areas, café, on site office, and parking facilities.

Plans for Short Heath Playing Fields, revealed to Erdington Local, show the establishment of four football pitches, five training ‘grids’, a ‘runner’s route’ around the parkland, and an ‘event zone’ at the top end near Short Heath Road.

FC Elite Club Chairman, Mario Gerroni, told: “Football sessions will be taking place on Short Heath Playing Fields in May. FC Elite Academy and Short Heath Fields Trust are forming a new partnership.

“It’s a positive move for everyone involved and I am excited to see the growth of sports from Short Heath Playing Fields, bringing something back to the community.”

Short Heath Road resident, Ifan Stretkesia, added: “This is a good thing, it’s good that we are finally listened to and our children have something they can now do.

“We go to all the events at the (playing) field and my daughter wants to play football. There is nothing for children now, just Xbox. They need to grow strong.”

FC Elite Academy was set up in 2013 by Mr Gerroni, an experienced football coach who previously worked with Aston Villa and trained ‘soccer’ in North America. The club’s website describes its ambitions to ‘continue growing grass roots football in the North of Birmingham.’

SHFT was formed in 2020 to protect Short Heath Playing Fields from development, after Birmingham City Council tried to push through plans for an 84 strong housing estate on the urban parkland – amidst widespread local objections.

But following years of fiercely fought campaigning by concerned residents, a recent letter from the Leader of Birmingham City Council, Councillor Ian Ward, confirmed the site will now only be sold as a ‘sports field’. The letter also confirmed SHFT would be give a 12-month license to manage the site and ‘establish themselves’ as effective landlords.

A report conducted by Birmingham City Council into the viability of using the playing fields for residential development further identified acid grass on the green space, making it harder to continue with their plans for housing. Further environmental concerns were raised by about the wildlife and plant life that would be affected by building on the parkland.

SHFT began talking to FC Elite Academy back in August 2020 about providing football on Short Heath Playing Fields, who were busy working on their planning application for the Twickenham Park site.

Plans to bring sport back to Short Heath Playing Fields, a parkland once used by several local schools for Physical Education, are now moving forward – with the club offering to both set up and maintain the football pitches and start sessions this May.

As part of the deal, all community events organised by SHFT will continue on the playing fields – including the annual Halloween event and Easter Egg Hunt. A special dog walking circuit will also be established, allowing the many local pet owners who use the green space to continue unheeded.

A spokesperson for SHFT told Erdington Local: “Mario from FC Elite becoming SHFT’s sporting partner and bringing football for 4 to 12 years olds back to Short Heath Fields is a community dream true, you might say our very own field of dreams.

“And with a guaranteed one year license from Education (at Birmingham City Council) you know those dreams will become a reality.”

SHFT added: “It’s been a hard fight to save the playing fields. Now it’s the people of Erdington’s chance to get involved and use the playing fields as a sports field again, this is a great opportunity for boys and girls of all ages 4 and up to come and train and take part.

“FC Elite have a proven track record and we are all looking forward to working together in the future.”

For more on FC Elite Academy visit www.fcelite.co.uk and for more on Short Heath Fields Trust visit www.shortheathfieldstrust.godaddysites.com

FEATURE: Erdington retailers are losing thousands on “lawless” High Street scourged by shoplifters

Words by Ed King / Pics by Ed King and Studio Creativity

Erdington’s retailers are losing thousands every week as the “lawless” High Street is scourged by shoplifters, many of whom are repeat offenders known to local law enforcement.

“It’s every day,” tells Karen Leavy, store manager at Peacocks on Erdington High Street. “The ones that we know of it could be up to two or three times a day. Then there are one’s that we don’t know of, going to the back of the shop and detagging stock. They are an everyday occurrence as well.

“From 2019 up to last year it’s improved, but we’re still losing about £250 a day.”

Karen’s family have worked in retail for many years and are no strangers to shoplifters, or an underwhelming response from local police teams.

“I previously worked at the Peacocks in Stechford,” continued Karen, “and we had somebody who was shoplifting constantly. He went to court, got a slap on the hand, then he started coming into this store (Erdington) and doing it here.

“They can spit at us, they can kick out at us, they can call us all the names under the sun, but we can’t do anything to them. And he’s literally got away with thousands of pounds worth of stuff.

“I’d given the name to the police, and I’ve never heard anything about it since. My mum worked in the this store many years ago and she got punched full force in the face by a shoplifter, and nothing was done about that.”

Since 2010, policing budgets across the West Midlands have been slashed by Government cuts, with the region losing a reported £175m and 2000 police officers – around 25% of those in active service, and over 50% allocated to community policing.

In a recent meeting organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), at the request of the Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton, Sargeant Simon Wheeler encouraged local retailers to report every crime to get more officers allocated to the area.

But many local shops still struggle. Karen continues: “I’ve given the information to the police, but it means I’m off the shop floor… I can be on the phone for 45mins to an hour trying to get through.

“One person off that shop floor could allow three of four shoplifters in the shop. I physically can’t do it; I literally can’t leave the shop floor.”

Even for retailers with dedicated shop security the battle is still steeply uphill. At the other end of the High Street, the Coop supermarket is just as plagued by shoplifters as Peacocks, suffering the same pattern in repeat offenders.

Coop manager Ben Hall told Erdington Local: “We haven’t got police presence on the High Street and that’s just enticing criminal behaviour. We get a lot of shoplifters in here and I think it’s rather lawless on the High Street at the moment.

“There was a shoplifter who came in over the space of a week and a half, and stole about £500 worth of bottles of spirits.

“Finally, we caught the man in action, stealing, and we detained him and rang the police. Martin (security guard) went through all the correct procedures, logged it with the police and got a crime reference number, and burnt off all the CCTV footage.

“Then the policeman came and said there was nothing they could do.

“We understand how hard it is for the police, but my staff come in and work their socks off – they go above and beyond for the business. The police should be doing the same thing.”

Like the Coop and Peacocks, to many retailers more police presence on Erdington High Street seems to be the answer. But in the shadow of austerity and with a city to patrol, the argument continues over available resources.

And stuck in the middle is Erdington Street Warden, John Lynch – employed by the EBID, who also provide a radio system for local shops to warn each other of offenders. Having worked on Erdington High Street for years, John is a familiar faced deterrent to many shoplifters in the area.

“It’s got to the point where shops have stopped reporting thefts because they know nothing will come back from it,” tells John, who keeps receiving calls through his radio.

“Like with Peacocks, there was one guy who was robbing them every Sunday – they knew his name, they’ve got CCTV, they reported it, but they’ve never heard anything back to this day.

“Then we had a member of staff who was assaulted in Farmfoods, who was punched in the face. They knew the offender; they knew his name. The man who was assaulted has never heard anything back about that at all.

“The police say people aren’t reporting crime, but they are reporting crimes – they’re constantly reporting crimes, and all they get is a crime reference number, it’s logged, and they never hear anything after that.

“I know the police are busy, but they should focus on the more serious crimes on the High Street,” continues John. “I’m getting complaints on a daily basis about all the drug dealers outside Iceland, so that needs to get looked into.

“And when you’re talking about assault, large thefts, and continuous thefts, those people do need to be dealt with as they’re causing a major problem.”

John has also been the victim of assault, with one man breaking a restraining order to come back to Erdington High Street to steal – having only been out of prison for one week, after serving time for previously assaulting John and a police officer.

“I reported it to the police,” tells John, “the burglary offence and the breach of the restraining order… and to this day I’ve heard nothing back. The store’s heard nothing; I’ve heard nothing.

“They had CCTV footage. All the evidence was there, somebody said they would come and take a statement, but I heard nothing more about it. This was around October last year.”

But despite the imbalance of crime and punishment, there is still a communal desire to see significant change – with a ransacked police force and beleaguered community ultimately wanting the same thing. Law and order.

Plus, existing local legislation such as the Public Space Protection Order (PSBO) can be used to great effect.

Erdington Local recently witnessed officers PC Stiles and PC Bird deescalate a potentially violent clash, using the threat of a fine through the PSBO to remove an aggressive woman from the High Street.

As the offender stormed off, she shouted back at the officers who had successfully moved her on: “that’s why I don’t like coming here.”

Many feel regular communication and information sharing between police, the Street Warden, and the retail community would also go a long way – helping to send a message of ‘no tolerance’ to crime on the High Street.

As Ben at the Coop was quick to add, after highlighting the day to day issues that face his staff, his store, and the High Street at large: “I don’t want to seem like I’m just picking on the police.

“Albin (security) got assaulted by a shoplifter, and the police arrived within seconds and dealt with it fantastically. There also an officer called Dave, and he’s brilliant – I can’t sing his praises high enough.

“But if we can work together and get better police presence on the High Street… and it’s not just for the Coop, it’s for the whole High Street.

“We need to work together.”

FEATURE: Memorial service for late Erdington MP Jack Dromey and Stockland Green Councillor Penny Holbrook

Words by Ed King / Pics by Mohammad Ashraf, Ed King, and WLCA

On Saturday 14 January, a memorial service for Erdington’s late MP Jack Dromey and Stockland Green Councillor Penny Holbrook was held at Six Ways Baptist Church.

Organised one year and one week after Jack Dromey death, the remembrance event was attended by community representatives, political peers, and members of the public – alongside friends and family of the two “titans” of local politics.

Hosted by Reverend Gerard Goshawk, minister at Six Ways Baptist Church, the first tribute was spoken by Erdington’s current MP Paulette Hamilton, who began by saying: “Before you go forward you have to look back and give honour.”

Ms Hamilton was a long standing friend and political colleague of both Penny Holbrook and Jack Dromey, recanting the last time she spent with the former – walking dogs around Brookvale Park, an area in the late councillor’s Ward of Stockland Green she had championed and helped regenerate.

“I told her, look at all you’ve done here – look at the swans, the trees, the bushes,” continued Hamilton. “Our last conversation was so positive. As we go forward, she (Penny Holbrook) has left her own footprints for us to follow.”

Ms Hamilton continued to celebrate the life of Jack Dromey, a man she “absolutely adored” and would not “pretend to say I can walk in that man’s shoes. Jack was a doer, he brought people together. You could not tell Jack ‘you can’t do that’.”

Her final words were “honouring” both Penny Holbrook and Jack Dromey, saying: “thank you for your hard work and rest in peace.”

Ifor Jones, Head of Partnerships for The Pioneer Group, was next up to speak – praising the “strong champion” he had first “crossed paths” with whilst fighting to save the Jaguar Land Rover Castle Bromwich plant.

Mr Jones continued to celebrate the once union man turned politician, using an aphorism those that knew Jack Dromey would have heard him say many times before: “nothing short of remarkable.”

Celebrating the life and work of the well loved and long serving Stockland Green Councillor, Jones surmised the “privilege” of working with Penny Holbrook by stating: “Penny was a force to be reckoned with.” A sentiment echoed throughout the service and by many who knew her.

Recently elected Castle Vale Councillor Ray Goodwin, who had a “good and firm friendship” with the “double act” of Penny Holbrook and Jack Dromey, humoured about the first time he met the former and how “she put the fear of the man upstairs in me… she absolutely knew what she wanted.”

Then erstwhile Stockland Green Councillor Josh Jones, who represented the Ward alongside Penny Holbrook and worked closely with Jack Dromey, talked about the loss of “two people very close to me,” recanting stories from the campaign trail and how both would “go out of their way to help you.”

Next was a tribute from Abdul Latifin, who was rescued from Afghanistan by Jack Dromey and his office after the Taliban took control back of the war torn the country in 2021.

Mr Latifin paid his respects to his “close friend” and “global figure”, before celebrating the impact made by the “two great personalities” being remembered.

Local virtuoso Jobe Baker Sullivan, who runs Erdington Arts Forum, then performed the specially written ‘Jack Dromey Jig’ which had been penned for the MP’s memorial a year ago – joined by an ensemble of musicians.

Next to speak was Andy Winmill, current Director of Urban Devotion – a local faith based charity who work with young people across Perry Common and the Erdington constituency.

Mr Winmill joked that whilst “politicians aren’t always the most popular people”, over a year later there was still the desire and support to celebrate Cllr Penny Holbrook and Jack Dromey MP.

He continued by praising the “tender-hearted” Holbrook and how neither prominent political figure were “defined by their politics.”

In one of the most touching moments in the service, Mr Winmill reminded those present how Jack Dromey would call truce on the political battle and “collaborate to get things done” – possibly best represented by his de facto leadership of the the Covid 19 Task Force during the coronavirus pandemic.

“How we are going to honour their (Penny Holbrook and Jack Dromey) legacy,” continued Winmill, “is to build something together for Erdington,” ending his tribute to a heartfelt applause from the mixed faith congregation.

In an almost perfect representation of this bi-partisan sentiment, Birmingham Conservative Leader and Erdington Councillor Robert Alden stood up next to speak – a man who was often at the opposing end of the political spectrum to both Penny Holbrook and Jack Dromey but vocalised how “tragic” it was to “lose two titans of local politics.”

Mr Alden then celebrated the “passion Penny felt” which “came across in every conversation” he had with the late councillor, who was one vote away from becoming Council Leader in 2015.

“It was always about ‘what can we do to help’,” continued Alden, “what was best for local residents. Politics never came into it… she is so sorely missed.”

Turning his attention to Jack Dromey, perhaps Alden’s most immediate political rival for many years, the Birmingham Conservative Leader praised “his passion, fighting for worker’s rights” and how “Jack always put solidarity of workers first.”

Mr Alden, who had politically walked into the lion’s den to pay his respects – alongside his fellow Erdington Councillor Garth Moore – ended by saying: “to the family and friends (of Penny Holbrook and Jack Dromey), God bless you and God bless Erdington.”

Crossing back over the aisle, further respects were paid by current Stockland Green Councillors Amar Khan and Jane Jones – with the former remembering how Penny Holbrook would often “pop in” to his home and became “a good family friend.”

“It is a great honour and privilege to say a few words,” continued Cllr Khan. “Both will be forever missed and I know they are both watching from heaven. God bless their souls.”

Cllr Jane Jones then remembered how “Jack never, ever stopped”, even checking in with his constituency office whilst sunbathing on holiday in Sicily, and how “Penny was totally dedicated… so kind and generous.”

The final words of remembrance came from Linda Hines and Afzal Hussain, respectively Resident Director and Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) – a Perry Common born organisation with a longstanding relationship with both Penny Holbrook and Jack Dromey.

After an anecdote about the first time she met Jack Dromey, whilst standing in for a sick Father Christmas at Perry Common Community Hall, Linda Hines – who had not scripted or prepared her tribute – told: “I’m five foot, but I loved standing next to them (Penny Holbrook and Jack Dromey) because they made me feel 6 foot tall.”

Hines continued to remember “my friend” Penny Holbrook and the dog walks they too would go on around Brookvale Park. “We put the world to rights,” told Hines, “and everyone we passed would say ‘hello Penny.”

Recognition was then given to the late and well loved Perry Common resident and community activist Mary Harvey, who passed away in 2022 aged 100 years old and who knew both local politicians well. “She’s with them now,” quipped Hines, “telling them what to do.”

Closing the personal tributes to Penny Holbrook and Jack Dromey, Afzal Hussain expressed the widely felt “deep, deep sadness they’re not here” and how “there is still that sense of loss” over a year after both had passed.

“They created relationships,” continued Hussain, “they brought people together.

“They genuinely would make a difference. When you talked to them you felt they were really listening to you; you felt special and you could take on the world.”

Hines and Hussain then announced a new bursary for young people in Erdington called Ladders of Opportunity – set up in memory of Penny Holbrook and Jack Dromey, through equal investment from Witton Lodge Community Association and The Pioneer Group.

The memorial service was then brought to a close with a prayer from Reverend David King, minister at New Life Church in Erdington, who praised the “passion and diligence” of the remembered public servants.

Penny Holbrook was found dead at her Abbey Road home on Sunday 21 November 2021, aged 43.

Jack Dromey was found dead at his Erdington residence on Friday 7 January, aged 73.

Both will long be remembered for their kindness, compassion, and unflinching dedication to the people of Erdington. Rest in peace.

FEATURE: Artists Conversations (part two) – Queens of the Commonwealth with Waheeda Rahman-Mair

Words by Ed King / Pics and images supplied by Myah Barrah and Waheeda Rahman-Mair

Last month, Erdington Local ran the first in a series of articles inspired by the monthly Artists Conversations group – where local artists come together at the Secret Art Studio Space in Central square, every third Wednesday.

In part one, we heard what happened when Bunny met Louvinia, and the mural so many have enjoyed brightening up the walls of Coton Lane.

In part two, Erdington Local talks to Waheeda Rahman-Mair – a Birmingham-Bangladeshi artist commissioned through the Queens of the Commonwealth project, finding out more on the subjects she chose to depict and the double-edged sword of such a royal appointment.

“I saw how attached she was to the painting, and that’s what I love – I love that people actually do see themselves and that they do connect.”

Waheeda Rahman-Mair is a multi-disciplinary artist, working with a range of mediums from traditional oils on canvas to digital animation and graphics – with a BA (Hons) in Visual Communication: Animation and Moving Image and an impressive portfolio. A respected portrait artist, Waheeda has seen private commissions across the city, country, and even Atlantic Ocean.

Inspired by her ‘childhood fascination for cartoons and video games’, Waheeda grew up interested in art – moving from Handsworth Wood to Erdington about four years ago. She was referred to the Artists Conversations monthly meetings by a friend, after leaving her job as a visual and motion graphics designer with the Ember Regis Group.

“I was already working in Digbeth, from an office,” tells Waheeda, “but when the pandemic hit, I started working from home more often. I quit my job back in April to pursue being a full-time artist, and someone recommended I go to the Erdington Artists Conversations group meeting.

“I did, and it was really nice to meet local artists from Erdington and to explore the other side of the creative industry which is more about local communities – as opposed to being in an agency that works for larger clients. It was more like ‘what can we do as a community for the people locally and the people we live next door to.’

“I’m also part of another group which is to do with South Asian art creatives within the UK, which networks across the world.”

As Birmingham prepared to host the Commonwealth Games, a series of projects were commissioned as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival – including the LGK Productions documentary Queens of the Commonwealth, where local filmmaker Panikos Panayiotou explored the ‘unique journey of 22 women from various Commonwealth nations’ after migrating to Birmingham.

Needing local artists for a supporting exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery – depicting the women featured in Panayiotou’s documentary in their own mediums and styles – a representative from the Birmingham 2022 Festival came to the Artists Conversations group offering commissions.

This is how Bunny met Louvina Moses. And this is how Waheeda would meet Darshan Bhumba and Pastor Yvonne Brooks, two more women featured in the LGK documentary.

Whaeed explains: “I started with conceptual designs (using Procreate) of how I wanted to draw them, based off the interviews and the photos I was looking through. Just a general vibe of who they are, if they angle their face in a certain way when they laugh or smile – and from these mannerisms I worked out how they should look, and I started sketching that out.

“Then I went on to Photoshop, where I can draw on screen, and then started to do the paintings whilst I was listening to the interviews.

“Hearing them, more of their mannerisms and the way they talk, was helping me pick out extra bits. Like when they were laughing, I could see the dimples come out, or that they do this extra gesture with their hands.”

But from 22 women to choose from, each with a unique and inspiring story to tell, it was Darshan and Yvonne that stood out for Waheeda.

“They were really strong resilient women,” she tells. “This came across from all the interviews, but especially with the two women I chose to paint. They both migrated from areas that were tough on them or the lifestyle was very different, and migrated to have a better life or to be reunited with family members.

“I thought that was such a meaningful and touching part of their lives that they exposed through the interviews. The fact that they shared such vulnerability in front of a camera, with people they didn’t know, just showed me how strong they are.”

The final digital drawings are similar in style, but strongly unique with the colours and iconography Waheed felt brought her subjects to life – such as the hydrangea engulfing Dashan, and the amber jewellery and background that adorns and surrounds Yvonne.

Deeply engaged with the women she was vicariously coming to know, Waheeda admits it was instinct that prompted some of her artistic choices – but on a chance meeting with Yvonne, her gut turned out to be right.

“I wanted to show that amber was part of her (Yvonne), that she is so warm, and glowing, and inviting to people. The circles also show how she connects people, and how (though her outreach work) she has made these circles of unified women.

“She told me ‘I’m so happy you put in the amber jewellery’, when she was in Jamaica she used to play with sap, which is where amber comes from. It’s part of her childhood… everything I guessed in her painting was solidified when I met her.”

Although Waheed was unable to meet Darshan, she was introduced to some of her close family members and reached more who know her muse through the Internet.

Waheeda continues: “Art is subjective, and I do worry sometimes… especially when I do portrait paintings, because people see themselves differently to how people see them from the exterior, they notice things about their face or their bodies that strangers wouldn’t see.

“I met one of her (Darshan) daughters and her husband, and they both said how I’d really captured her. And once I posted the painting on Instagram I had so many of her relatives say, ‘that’s my aunt; that’s my grandma… you’ve really captured her.’ It was reassuring to hear how many people had recognised in her in the painting.”

From Bunny’s widely embraced mural of Louvina Moses on Coton Lane, to Waheeda’s deeply personal depictions of Darshan Bhumba and Pastor Yvonne Brooks exhibited at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Queens of the Commonwealth project has been a significant showcase for these Erdington artists.

But the history of the British Empire, the foundation blocks to the Commonwealth, is still the elephant in the room– with the Commonwealth Games Chief Creative Officer, Martin Green, publicly criticised for having ‘sidestepped’ Birmingham’s ‘Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities’ when allocating Birmingham Festival 2022 funding.

“I made sure the projects I contributed to were addressing the racial aspects (of the Commonwealth),” tells Waheeda, whose family’s heritage is Bangladeshi.

“With the Queens of the Commonwealth, it was more about the women; these strong resilient women who’ve done things for the community, who are still doing things for the community.

“And I thought in that sense it was empowering to uplift other women, and that’s where I stood with the Queens of the Commonwealth project.

“In the interviews they did shed light that when they moved to England… it shocked them, and they weren’t afraid to say what they were truly feeling about migrating to England. I found that a reassuring aspect of this, and the fact it was more about the women really helped me find peace in this.

“There was another project I worked on which was about the opinions of the South Asian community about the Commonwealth, that I also did a painting about. That’s going to be posted on my Instagram and on my website… it’s called ‘The Golden Mask’.”

For more on Waheeda Rahman-Mair visit www.waheeda.co.uk or follow @waheeda_art on Instagram.

Erdington Artists Conversations are held every on the third Wednesday of each month, from 7pm to 9pm, at the Secret Art Studio Space in Central Square – on Erdington High Street.

Free to attend, for more information call 07966 699 894 or email: [email protected]

FEATURE: Remembering Erdington’s fallen, lest we forget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Erdington Historical Society meet on the second Tuesday of each month, 7pm, at St Barnabas Church. For more information please email: [email protected]

FEATURE: Erdington Artists Conversations (part one) – when Bunny met Louvina, the Coton Lane mural set to change the city’s streets

Words by Erdington Local editorial team / Pics supplied by Bunny (Create Not Destroy)

Erdington has a varied, vast, rich, and ripe art community, with monthly run ‘Artists Conversations’ held at the Secret Art Studio Space in Central Square – a vibrant think tank of creative endeavour, bringing new ideas and splashes of colour to the North Birmingham streets.

Recently commissioned under the Queens of the Commonwealth project, four Edrington artists from the collective were asked to paint portraits of inspiring women from the Commonwealth – to be hung in Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

But one was too big for a museum wall…

Erdington Local caught up with Bunny, the talented creative behind the cherished Coton Lane mural reviving a street art trend.

The mural of Caribbean born, Erdington resident nurse Louvina Moses on Coton Lane, just off the High Street, is not just a pretty face.

The mural, painted by Erdington artist Bunny, also known as Create Not Destroy, is one of the first visible artworks of a transformative exciting new art movement. Bunny joined the Erdington Artists Conversations collective in November last year, and after a successful start – and some daring ideas – there is real hope every empty Erdington wall will be adorned by art.

If Helen of Troy was the face which launched a thousand ships, then Louvina’s face could launch a thousand murals across Erdington and further afield.

Bunny told Erdington Local: “We wanted to bring artists in Erdington together, and our first meeting in October at the Secret Art Studio Space; there was just six of us in the freezing cold.

“What has happened since has been amazing, we now have a real diverse group of artists, young, old, every colour, Muslim, Christian, you name it. But everyone is connected together through a love of art.

“We meet every month and have really great discussions about art. But what really gave us a boost was when we were approached by those running the Commonwealth Queens project to help them create 22 portraits of women.

“As soon as I saw a picture of Louvina and a video of her talking, I knew I wanted to paint her. Her face shows such a journey; she, like my parents, came from a Caribbean island to another island all those years ago and made such sacrifices. Her face tells so many stories.”

He added: “I asked if instead of painting a canvas portrait whether I could create a mural on a local wall, they loved the idea and it has taken off from there.”

From the moment Bunny pitched up on the corner of Coton Lane to paint the giant mural, he knew the people of Erdington would take it to their hearts – just as many did with the mural around the hoardings of the old Maplin site.

He said: “I spent as much time on the ground chatting to people than I did up the ladder painting. People were so interested what I was doing, normally they would walk past me without giving me a second glance but when I start painting murals people are suddenly interested.

“There is a real appetite for art in Erdington, through our (Artists Conversations) group we know there is talent in the area and art can make a difference. I want art to become part of Erdington, like how the murals and art really are part of Brixton; there is no reason why Erdington cannot be the Brixton of Birmingham.”

Father-of-two Bunny, who lives near Six Ways island, began his art career in the mid 1980s, incorporating painting, photography, videography, music, aerosol art, and graffiti. But his renewed love for mural making was sparked two years ago when he was asked to paint one in honour of an old friend in London.

Bunny said: “Social media has really changed art. In the old days we would travel miles to look at a wall with graffiti or a mural, now people can see what you have created on their phones and give instant feedback.

The 55-year-old added: “This got me back painting murals. They are within the open realm, they are there to provoke a reaction, whether people love it or hate it they will look at it.”

Those who will be taking more than a second glance at the dignified lady emblazoned in the colours of St Kitts are her Louvina’s children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, many of whom live around Erdington.

Louvina was born in Tabernacle Village in St Kitts in the Caribbean in the 1940s and left for Britain with her husband in 1961.

She said: “I came to England when I was pregnant but left two children behind as well as my parents and grandparents who I missed, but leaving my children was worse than anything.

“We brought our first house in 1966 and sent for both of them. We have four children, 12 grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren, and one great great grandchild.”

Louvina is still married 63 years later and featured in Queens of Commonwealth documentary, which celebrated the migrant women who helped to rebuild the UK after the Second World War.

The 22 positive stories of the women contrast vividly against the backdrop of the Windrush Scandal, which saw the British Government illegally deport Caribbean pensioners who had lived in the UK for decades – many of whom are yet to receive compensation.

Louvina, known to many as Rose, unsuccessfully tried to become a teacher in the 1960s but finally got a job in the NHS at East Birmingham Hospital.

She said: “There was racism by my white colleagues, they gave me the hardest time; I was given the worse jobs all of the time.”

However, Louvina stood her ground in the NHS and worked for 43 years at Heartlands Hospital until her retirement.

She continued: “One day at work my manager called me and told me I had been chosen to go and have tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, I could not believe it. We sat just behind Maggie Thatcher.

“Buckingham Palace! I never thought I would get to the door, let alone get inside. If you are a poor person back home you would never think you could get to Buckingham Palace. I went back again when one of my sons got an MBE and it was easier then.

“I tell my children, stand up for yourself, you can’t go backwards in life you want to move forward in life. You have to take each day as it comes, live for today and praise God for tomorrow.”

An active Louvina instilled the desire to give back to the community into her children, her son Lincoln was awarded with an MBE for his work with youngsters and setting up the Holford Drive Community Hub.

He gathered siblings, cousins, nephews, and nieces for an epic photo underneath the watching eyes of Louvina at the mural, although the matriarch missed the gathering as she was back in St Kitts.

Lincoln told Erdington Local: “My mother is my Queen, she and my father have been together for 63 years, they are an inspiration.

“The Queens of the Commonwealth did a great job reminding everyone the hard work and sacrifices my mother’s generation went through to give their children a better life.”

He added: “She loves the mural, we all love the mural, from one come many! Bunny did an amazing job and hopefully it will be there for years to come.”

Bunny said: “It was an absolute honour to paint a remarkable woman like Louvina and shine a light on the huge self-sacrifices her generation made to help others, and become the backbone of institutions like the NHS and the transport industry.”

Shortly after Louvina appeared near the High Street, another Erdington local who came from the Caribbean has been immortalised by a mural – new UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards.

Bunny, who recently created the Lozells art trial featuring pictures of local reggae stars, said: “It is great to see another mural pop up in Erdington after Louvina, and I another one will appear soon. I have been commissioned by Erdington Litter Busters to design a mural.

“So, Louvina will be the first of many, now every time I see an empty wall or space I am thinking what mural could we put there.”

For more on Bunny / Create Not Destroy visit www.createnotdestroy.com

Erdington Artists Conversations are held every on the third Wednesday of each month, from 7pm to 9pm, at the Secret Art Studio Space in Central Square on Erdington High Street.

Free to attend, for more information on Artists Conversations call 07966 699 894 or email: [email protected]

FEATURE: The Skatepark Initiative – a campaign to give an Erdington home to the Olympic urban sport

Words by Erdington Local editorial team

A campaign has been launched to give Erdington its very own skateboarding park. With Birmingham still basking in the success of the Commonwealth Games, a lasting sporting legacy could be created where the Queen’s Baton brought so much joy to residents.

Erdington skateboarder Rick Swift, aged 32, is spearheading The Skatepark Initiative which if successful will see a £200,000 facility for the Olympic urban sport built in Pype Hayes Park.

He told Erdington Local: “I’ve been skating since I was ten and there has never been anywhere in Erdington to go, we always have to travel to Sutton Coldfield, Yardley, or Perry Barr. So, after looking into the feasibility of getting our own skatepark we’ve decided to go for it.

“I thought it is about time the youngsters in Erdington were given somewhere to go, they get a lot of bad press but there is nothing for them to do locally.

“Skateparks are proven to help young people’s physical and mental health, just half an hour a day at a skatepark will make a huge difference to the overall health of our residents.”

Rick has been working on the plans for more than five years and slowly started overcoming the practical hurdles needed to make his and the Erdington skateboarding community’s dream a reality.

He said: “There is everything from noise pollution to ensuring access for ambulances…. but the most important is there ‘where’. Erdington has a lot of parks, but they are all quite small and do not have space for a skatepark like the size of Sutton Coldfield’s one.

“However, when we approached Erdington Councillor Robert Alden he told us it was pretty much Pype Hayes Park or nowhere, so we have decided to go with Pype Hayes Park.”

The next step for Rick is to register the fundraising committee for the skatepark as a charitable organisation.

He said: “We are beginning the process of becoming a registered charity because then we can go for all kinds of funding. There are lots of pots of money if you know where to look, whether it be Sport England or the National Lottery. Skateboarding is an Olympic sport now, which in itself seemed an impossibility ten years ago.”

Rick is determined from the outset to ensure wheelchair skaters are welcome in Erdington.

He said: “The Commonwealth Games success was merging able bodied and disabled sports so we are determined for our park is to be diverse as possible and most importantly wheelchair friendly.

“Wheelchair skateboarding is a big thing, and there is a big push for the sport to be included in the Paralympics – and when you see the tricks that are done in Wheelchair Motocross then we would be mad not to want to be inclusive as possible.”

Las Vegas native Aaron ‘Wheelz’ Fotheringham, who coined the term WMCX (wheelchair and BMX), began entering BMX competitions and his tricks and videos have inspired a generation of disabled athletes.

Rick added: “We will not compromise on making our skatepark wheelchair friendly, we already have had professional skatepark designers get in touch.”

The Skateboard Initiative launched a petition to Birmingham City Council to show the depth of support for a new facility in Erdington.

So far 710 people have signed the petition at Change.org with residents echoing the complaint there is nothing to do in Erdington for youngsters.

Jade Morgan said: “I’m signing because the youth of today have absolutely nothing to do. Outside of school, children cause trouble and get up to no good because there’s nothing to do.

“It’s about time we make changes for this so that the kids of today have more space and safe places to socialise and creatively express themselves without turning to a life of crime and alcoholism.”

Erdington has got a dearth of facilities for youngsters in comparison to other constituencies. A recent internal Birmingham’s City Council report recommended Erdington should be the home of any new youth centre if funding to be secured, such was the lack of activities locally.

Mark Preston, who founded iconic skateboard Birmingham shop Ideal in 1991, has been at the forefront of the skating scene in Birmingham since the 1980s believes it is the perfect time to get the public and political support to build new skatepark.

He told Erdingotn Local: “Skateboarding is on an upcycle now, it is cyclical, but it is becoming more popular. It is in a good place, there is a lot of people skating at the moment. The Olympics has helped.

“Skateboarding is a lot more diverse now, the ethnic diversity is better than ever before and there are also a lot more women and girls skating too, which is great to see.

“The pandemic was really good for skating, a lot of people got involved then. So, numbers are high.”

The second city has been at the bottom of the league when it comes to official organised parks, but skaters had their own paradise of a sprawling 1960s urban landscape which has now all but disappeared.

Mark said: “Birmingham has always been very poorly serviced by skateparks, for a big city it has been a joke basically down the years. But what we had in Birmingham was great streetskating.

“Birmingham had places like the Central Library and other places which were brilliant. The 1960s designed Birmingham was fantastic, it was made for skating. It was like a fantastic playground for skaters in the 1980s and early 1990s, I’m 53 so I was lucky to be around at that time.

“However, when as the city gets developed we have lost these places and architecture these days is very aggressive against skaters. So skateparks now are the future.”

In the last 20 years skateparks have sprung up in Yardley, Selly Park, Perry Barr, and Sutton Coldield and remain popular.

And Mark, also known as Zippy, backs the proposed Pype Hayes skatepark, even offering to advise its design.

He added: “Skateparks are always a good thing because people can congregate there and they know they will not get kicked off. Families can go down there and have fun.

“However, the design is important, they have to be brave, there is no point having a beginner’s area because after a few weeks people are no longer beginners.

“A new skatepark has to be adventurous, and we are more than happy to poke our noses in at the design stage.”

One skateboarder familiar with the streets of Erdington, who will find any design easier than most, is Team GB Olympian Bombette Martin.

The 16-year-old was born in New York but her grandfather is Paddy Martin who has run the Rose and Crown Boxing Club in Erdington for decades.

Her brother Kayo is also following in his sister’s footsteps and despite being American born will jump and skate for England.

Bombette said: “I like to make the joke that I’m half a New Yorker, and 3/4ths a Brummie! I spent so much of my childhood in Erdington because my dad is British, so I guess it didn’t really cross my mind, or my family’s mind, to even try and compete for America.

Bombette has spoken fondly of Birmingham and Erdington, and Rick is planning to enlist her for his campaign.

He said: “Imagine if Bombette came to our park after winning medals, imagine how that would inspire a generation of Erdington skaters?”


 
For more on The Skatepark Initiative visit www.facebook.com/TheSkateparkInitiative

To sign The Skatepark Initiative petition visit www.change.org/p/birmingham-city-council-theskateparkinitiative

LOCAL PROFILE: “The key words for Erdington are ‘massive potential’ – John Hodgkiss, Erdington’s new Town Centre Manager

Words & pics by Ed King

Last month, John Hodgkiss became Erdington’s new Town Centre Manager – taking over from the longstanding Terry Guest. With nearly two decades of experience running Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and delivering commercial strategies across the country, John has ambitious plans to rejuvenate the once thriving High Street

Erdington Local caught up with him in his first few days, as he set about meeting local business owners and entrepreneurs.

“I was excited when I saw the opportunity for Erdington.

“I know Erdington, when I first moved back to Birmingham I spent time here as I have friends here, so I knew the potential.”

John Hodgkiss is not new to the game, having set up the UKs second ever Business Improvement District (BID) in 2007 – Argall Avenue, transforming a North East London industrial estate into a thriving hub of enterprise and commerce, housing over 400 businesses today.

“I started working with BIDs in 2005, when the first ballots were going through,” every BID is voted in by a majority of business operators and rateable value in the selected area, “and at the time I was working for Business Link who had most of the national contacts for regeneration projects.

“It was an industrial estate that I found called Argyll Avenue, just outside Walthamstow. I took that to ballot and it was successful. I still check in every now and again, and it’s still in operation. It’s always been voted for and it still exists today.”

But Birmingham is not London, and Erdington has its own community and concerns – often forgotten or lost in the civic corridors of power. What makes John Hodgkiss the right man for this Midlands job?

“I’m from the Midlands, I grew up in Shropshire,” tells John. “But like a lot of twenty somethings I went and experienced London.

“Then I came back to Walsall in 2007 to set up a Town Centre Partnership – we had remit over establishing a new radio link in the town centre, street furniture, all the regeneration projects, supporting local businesses, marketing, and publicity to give a positive glow on Walsall. And to defend it if it is portrayed negatively, as most town centres sometimes are.

“Then I went to West Bromwich in 2013, as an employee of Sandwell Council – with a remit to take the BID to successful ballot within twelve months.

“We did it within eight months. It’s quite a big area, there was just in excess of 500 businesses.”

John Hodgkiss has also been a Marketing Manager for a Telford engineering company and understands the power of publicity, with a firm focus on making Erdington an attractive place to both visit and shop.

“When BIDs first came into being they were always set around the ‘cleaner projects’, making the place litter free, making the place look better.

“But on the economic side, how do we help businesses, which in 2022 is more essential than ever, there’s a role of the BID to help with advertising and marketing. To really shout about these local independent stores.”

And what would you shout about in Erdington?

“What I see to be the unique selling point of Erdington (Town Centre) is it’s a great place to get a bargain, to shop within your means,” explains John.

“You’ve got healthy greengrocers on the doorstep; you’ve got independents selling necessities at great prices… and the cost of living crisis isn’t going to be over in five minutes.”

But the word ‘bargain’ can be a blessing and a curse, as the lopsided balance on Erdington High Street is often cited as a weight dragging it down – with the old Maplin site and Central Square Shopping Centre standing as local epitaphs to the ghosts of national retail.

The week John Hodgkiss became the new Town Centre Manager, Boots shut down its Erdington store.

“We’re not moving away from the High Street brands at all,” continues John. “I would passionately argue and liaise with any national retainer to bring them in (to Erdington) and I would feel confident we can put a case together as say ‘this is why you should be in Erdington’.

“The key words for Erdington are ‘massive potential’, and the BID is going to be here for the next five years at least.

“I feel passionate about making a change in the current economic climate, and I don’t see anywhere with the potential that Erdington has. It’s a great place to be, the community is great, there is a retail offer here already – particularly in making day to day living a lot easier.

“And there is scope to bring in new blood to the town, new retailers to the town, new small businesses, and really drive the local economy forward.”

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk or search for ‘Erdington BID’ on Facebook

NEWS: The Recovery Foundation showcases over 100 pieces of local artwork at Secret Art Studio Space

Words by Ed King / Pics by Ellycia Gardner – with additional images from Ali Walker and Robert Alden

On Monday, 8 August, The Recovery Foundation launched their art showcase  exhibition at the Secret Arts Studio Space (SASS) in Erdington.

Over the past few months, more than 50 local residents picked up a pencil or paint brush, many without any previous art experience, to create over 100 pieces of original artwork – as part of a programme of workshops to support mental health, wellbeing, and social inclusion.

Still on display at SASS, situated downstairs at the Central Square Shopping Centre, The Recovery Foundation exhibition can be seen through the gallery windows and on selected open days – and will remain installed over the next few weeks.

Running six separate groups over six weeks, The Recovery Foundation art sessions were free to access workshops – supporting anyone with “lived experience of mental illness”, or those just looking for a social or creative outlet.

Formed in 2020 by Emma Sitole, after her own issues with mental health and subsequent recovery, The Recovery Foundation places ‘hope’ and the centre of its support programmes.

Also embracing creativity and art as helpful tools of recovery, the six week workshops followed a series of oversubscribed Art in Parks sessions, where people would come together in outdoor green spaces, such as Rookery Park,  to learn new art techniques.

As part of a post lockdown programme to help bring people out of isolation and come together again in community groups, the subsequent workshops allowed The Recovery Foundation to continue its work in Erdington – reaching out to more people and building a wider network of budding creatives.

Emma Sitole explained: “We trialled Art in Parks last year, which was really successful, and off the back of that people were saying they’d love something that explored different techniques and looked into different things.

“Angie (Chapman), our Creative Arts Director, put together a programme and we’ve seen about 50 people come through our doors with these workshops.

“It’s a privilege to walk alongside people and see them discover they’re really creative – and they’ve created some incredible artwork.

“Today is the showcase… there’s a real sense of pride around people wanting to show what they’ve created.

“There’s been a lovely buzz about the place, some lovely conversations. But also lovely to see that community come back together again and support each other.”

A local mum, Ali Walker, took part in The Recovery Foundation art workshops after suggesting the programme to a friend.

With a new born baby to look after, who she took to each session, Ali found the workshops a chance to meet other people and further explore her passion for art – already being a keen photographer.

Attending the showcase exhibition at SASS with her now 10 month old daughter, Ali told Erdington Local: “I got a range of things from it (the art workshops), on the art side I learnt a lot of skills and techniques and things that I didn’t think I’d be able to do.

“On the other side of things, it was connecting with people from different backgrounds and getting involved in all sorts of conversations. And getting to know about Erdington a lot more, which I really enjoyed.

“I was trying to encourage someone I know, who struggles with their wellbeing, to come along but they couldn’t make it.

“I’d already put my name down and thought because I’m a new mother it was a good chance to get out for myself as well.”

After the success of Art in Parks and the subsequent art sessions, The Recovery Foundation are looking to establish a more permanent home in Erdington – and will be running another series of creative workshops in September.

Birmingham based professional mixed media artist, Eddy Aigbe, knows first hand the impact both creating and exhibiting art can have on people’s sense of self-worth.

Eddy told: “It’s something I’ve promoted myself in my previous job, where we had a community centre in Lozells.

“The problem was a lot of people were isolated and had mental health issues… and had a lot of talent. Just like you do here in Erdington – there’s a lot of talent going on.

“But there’s not much space to exhibit and show it off. A key part in being an artist is not just producing the work but showing it off – it validates you as an individual.

“As an artist, it’s a way to evaluate all the processes, styles, and everything you’ve been doing.”

The Recovery Foundation art workshop showcase on Monday, 8 August was open to the public, with the exhibition still on display at SASS.

Local resident and campaigner Basharat Dad attended the showcase’s opening. He told Erdington Local: “I think it’s brilliant, The Recovery Foundation have been great at engaging with the local community.

“Some of the artwork is the first-time people have tried art, and they’ve created some amazing pieces.

“There’s more of a need in Erdington, in terms of art spaces and projects, that could really help not just with mental health but also community building and bringing people together.”

Erdington Ward Councillor Robert Alden also attended The Recovery Foundation art showcase launch.

Cllr Alden has long championed the constituency’s creative industry and endevours, alongside his running mate Cllr Gareth Moore – from the mural on the hoardings around the old Maplin site, to the ongoing Active Arts and Kaleidoscope events.

Cllr Alden added: “It was great to be at The Recovery Foundation art event in Central Square and to see so many people from across the area together who had benefited from the art sessions that they have put on locally, especially in Rookery Park.

“These kind of events can help provide people with that support and community conversations that help people when they need it.

“Cllr Gareth Moore and I will be doing what we can to help support The Recovery Foundation with their plans for further events and services to support the local area in the coming months and years.

“While this was their first Erdington art show, at the Secret Art Studio Space, I have no doubt it won’t be their last.

“Well done to all of the local residents who produced some stunning pieces of art as part of the show.”

For more on The Recovery Foundation visit www.therecoveryfoundation.org.uk

LOCAL PROFILE: Niall Farrell

Kingstanding boxer Niall Farrell is preparing to represent his country in the England Boxing squad at the Commonwealth Games 2022, pegged by many as serious contender to bring back the gold.

Erdington Local caught up with Naill in the middle of his rigorous training schedule and ahead of his first fight scheduled on Monday, 1 August – at the NEC Hall 4, from 6:30pm onward.

Kingstanding boxer Niall Farrell is planning to bring a Commonwealth Games gold medal back to Kingstanding. Named in the England team for his hometown games, Niall is working around the clock to ensure he leaves nothing in the ring at the NEC.

He trains during the week in the GB Boxing facility in Sheffield and then during the weekend he can be found in the ring in Kingstanding’s Second City Suite with his dad.

The 24-year-old has been boxing for his country since he was 15 but had a nightmare few years with injuries.

He told Erdington Local: “I had to have three operations in three years on my hands. I saw then what my life would be without boxing and I did not like what I see.

“But I believe I have come out the other side of it stronger, I feel fitter than ever and am glad I got through all those injuries; it was tough physically and mentally but I’m ready to go now.

“That is why I am giving everything now. I have always had a great work ethic, I want to show the kids of Kingstanding that if you work hard then anything is possible, in and out of the ring.”

Niall could be one of the standout stars of the Commonwealth Games, being from Birmingham and in real contention for a gold medal.

He said: “I know I can beat anyone in the world on my day so I am planning on winning gold. I’ve already had ITV get in touch; they want to come to the club.

“I want them to be there when I come back to Kingstanding with a gold medal, imagine what a party that will be in Kingstanding!”

He added: “I am all about Birmingham, I always have been, I love my hometown so to be fighting at the NEC, which I remember going to see a concert with my family, is a dream come true.

“If you are a proper Brummie you love the city, you live here, so seeing the Commonwealth Games in basically my back garden is going to be unforgettable.”

However, Niall will not be staying at home during the Games as he wants to be close to the England boxing team.

He added: “There is not a more individual sport in the world than boxing, you are in that ring alone. But it also a team sport too because of all the support we give each other.

“I am going to be staying in the athlete’s village with the rest of the team, we are coming to take over and I want to be part of every moment.

“I want support my fellow boxers every step of the way.”

Niall is also keen to use the connections he has made in boxing and his rising profile to help others.

He said: “I’ve met a lot of interesting people and made connections through GB Boxing, so want to use that to do some good. I run my own charity, Support Futures, and I am patron for the Good Shepherd charity.

“I also want to be a good example for the kids of Kingstanding. I think the best way to do that is lead by example, by working hard, showing discipline. I take time to talk to the kids; boxing can change lives and I will always try and show what can be done.”

Niall is looking forward to fighting in front of his friends and family at the NEC, and it will take four or five fights to clinch the gold medal. However, he also knows the Second City Suite will be packed every time he fights.

He said: “My fights should be on TV so I know the place will be absolutely rammed on fight days. It will be the place to be that’s for sure.

“This could be the biggest few weeks of my life and I want everyone to know I will be giving everything to win that gold medal.”

For more on Niall Farrell visit: www.teamengland.org/news/generation-22-niall-farrell

For more on Second City Boxing visit: www.facebook.com/Second-City-Boxing-Club-316607835888890/

For the daily schedule for boxing and all sporting events at the Commonwealth Games 2022 visit: www.birmingham2022.com/schedule/day-by-day