NEWS: West Midlands mayoral candidate Andy Street will “do everything I can” to save Short Heath Playing Fields

Words & video by Adam Smith / Pics by Gary Phelps

Conservative West Midlands Mayoral candidate Andy Street has promised “to do everything I can” to save Short Heath Playing Fields.

Mr Street met campaigners and volunteers from Short Heath Wombles at the playing fields yesterday afternoon – capping off a busy week on the campaign trail ahead of the poll on Thursday, May 6.

Saving green belt land and preserving green spaces has been a central plank of Mr Street’s re-election campaign and he called on Birmingham City Council to scrap controversial plans to build more than 80 houses cherish Erdington playing fields.

He told Erdington Local: “The first time I heard about the plan to build houses on this site, I thought ‘this can’t be right’. To me, it’s not even a debate whether houses should or should not be built – I cannot understand why they would be built here. It cannot happen.

“Across the region we are campaigning to save green belt but also green spaces, they are our green lungs.

“Housing in Erdington is quite dense and we’ve learnt in Covid how important green spaces are for our mental and physical health.”

He added: “Long before the election I supported the campaign to save Short Heath Playing Fields. I have visited the site before and I am in regular contact with Stephen Hughes from the campaign.”

The decision to build homes on the former school playing fields will be made by Birmingham City Council’s planning committee – but the West Midlands Combined Authority can prepare and recommend alternative brownfield sites for development.

Mr Street said: “I can make sure we prepare the brownfield sites we’ve got for development and there are funds from the combined authority available for this. So, I can make the alternatives happen because there is no denying we need more homes in the city.”

He added: “Ultimately it is a Birmingham City Council decision which I cannot directly influence but I can give voluble support to the campaigners – so those who will decide its future will know what the community want.

“Everyone in the community must shout to make their voice heard over this issue and they can make a difference.”

Stephen Hughes, from Short Heath Fields Trust, thanked Mr Street for his support and described how the campaign, which began last summer, had galvanised the community.

He said: “I know how passionate Mr Street is about saving green spaces and knowing he is backing our campaign, and willing to come and see what we are doing down here, is really important for us.

“We have a lot of exciting plans and the community is right behind us.”

Short Heath ‘Womble’ Sheila Appleby, aged 79, picks up litter seven days a week from the playing fields – along with other local residents as the ‘Short Heath Wombles’.

Upset over the Council’s plans for the beloved local green space, which Shelia and the other ‘Wombles’ rely on for exercise, she gave Mr Street a hand written letter explaining why losing the playing fields would break her heart.

Shelia wrote: “Our children need this place so they will not play in the roads or sit in all day on their X-boxes. So, hands off our green space – even the late Prince Philip saw the need for playing fields, so does Prince William.

“Once green spaces are gone they are gone forever.”

Andy Street visits Short Heath Playing Fields

For more on Andy Street visit: www.andystreet.org.uk

For more on the campaign to Save Short Heath Playing Fields, visit: www.facebook.com/groups/1007069176404521

VOTING FOR BOTH THE WEST MIDLANDS MAYOR AND POLICE & CRIMES COMMISIONER TAKES PLACE ON 6 MAY 2021 – to register to vote visit: www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

For more on elections and voting from Birmingham City Council visit: www.birmingham.gov.uk/info/20097/elections_and_voting  

Q&A: West Midlands mayoral candidates Liam Byrne MP and Andy Street

Words by Ed King and Helen Knott / Profile pics supplied by cadidates, supporting images by Ed King 

The West Midlands will elect a mayor for the combined authority on 6 May 2021, the second time the position will be contested – alongside the position for Police and Crime Commissioner.

Incumbent mayoral candidate Andy Street (Conservative) is facing fierce competition from his rival across the aisle, Liam Byrne MP (Labour), mirroring the close call of the first West Midlands Mayor election in 2017.

Erdington Local caught up with both Liam Byrne MP and Andy Street to find out their thoughts on some of the issues most pertinent to our readers.

Each candidate has been asked the same questions and given the same overall space/word count to reply – and as with the rules of most competitions, the challenger goes first.

**VOTING FOR BOTH THE WEST MIDLANDS MAYOR AND POLICE & CRIMES COMMISIONER TAKES PLACE ON 6 MAY 2021 – to register to vote visit: www.gov.uk/register-to-vote**

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Erdington has suffered from high rates of unemployment – if successfully elected, how would you help people get back to work?

LB: “The future for Erdington is for us to bring back industry. I want Birmingham to be the Green Workshop of the world. That will be good for Erdington because it will bring manufacturing jobs to Jaguar Land Rover and its supply chain.

“In the short term, we will do an emergency audit of all public contracts, council, police, NHS and anyone in the public sector and we will ask them to start routing those contracts to local businesses to support local jobs.

“And we need to start actually using the Adult Skills Budget to deliver free re-training for people who lose their jobs.”

AS: “We’ve given a clear commitment that we will work to produce 100,000 jobs in two years – the fastest growth this region would ever have seen. It’s called the Mayoral Jobs Plan; it’s not about fantasy, it’s about stuff that is happening now.

“First of all, take advantage of the big investments that’s we’ve already won. HS2, that’s 7,000 jobs. And make sure the highest proportion of those jobs go to local people though local SMEs getting those jobs.

“Secondly, thinking about new areas where growth is going to come – the best example of that is the electrification of the automotive sector, which is so important to JLR at Castle Bromwich. Think about the new sectors, get public money behind them, generate jobs there.

“The next thing is about retraining people for the jobs of the future – programmes are open and available at the moment for people to reskill in the areas that are growing.”

____________

The impact of coronavirus has left many businesses closed and high streets suffering, how would you support local shops and businesses?  

LB: “Firstly, we have to push through the Future High Street Fund, which is key to unlocking investment in Erdington High Street.

“We have to recognise that high streets will look different in the future, so we need to make sure that there is a mixture of not just business space, but start-up space for new businesses.

“We need to start using festivals and markets, culture and sport to bring life back to high streets. What high streets need more than anything else is footfall.”

AS: “I genuinely believed that the Erdington (Future High Street Fund) bid was a good bid, I actively got behind it.

“We have already, straight away, stepped with the Witton Lodge Community Association – to encourage their application for the regeneration of the Erdington Baths.

“I would also support Councillor Alden’s bid for the balance of the regeneration to come from the Erdington Levelling Up Fund bid.

“A critical point is getting SMEs the contacts – whether it be through HS2 or the Commonwealth Games, whether it be on the transport contacts that we’re running – we actively try to make sure local SMEs get those contacts.”

____________

Building on parks, allotments and playing fields has been a big issue for many local residents and families. How would you protect our green spaces?

LB: “Local residents like those involved in Short Heath Playing Fields are right to kick up a fuss. We need to start building the houses that we need without losing the places that we love. We don’t think that you should be losing green space, in fact you should be investing in green space to make it nicer.

“My commitment is that we will build on brownfield first and I’m confident that we will only need brownfield sites for the next mayoral term.

“We think that there is plenty of space on the estates that we’ve already got, to redevelop them to create the housing numbers that we need.”

AS: “The categoric reassurance is that I would not develop any of the green spaces, so I stand shoulder to shoulder with the team over on Short Heath Playing Fields.

“The way that you meet the housing need is to ensure we do develop the brownfield sites; I would welcome any brownfield application from a developer so we can protect those green spaces.

“To communities recovering from Covid, green spaces are critical to their physical wellbeing and their mental wellbeing. The Council also need to maintain the green spaces so they can be used appropriately.”

____________

Erdington has a high number of HMOs, with areas like Stockland Green suffering from the crime and social disorder they can invite. How would you, as mayor, address this issue?

LB: “The MPs in Birmingham have worked together to create a five-point action plan on HMOs that Jack Dromey MP is helping to galvanise. It is an especially serious problem in Stockland Green, but it is a problem all over the city.

“Many of the changes are legal changes nationally to give the council the power it needs. This is another is example of where we need a campaigning Mayor, someone who is going to stand up and fight for the powers that we need locally to make our communities nice again.

“Part of the problems with HMOs is that there is such an acute shortage of homes for social rent. 97% of the homes built in the West Midlands last year were not for social rent. So, it’s not surprising that we’ve got a housing crisis.

“We would use the resources that the Mayor has sitting there to double the number of homes for social rent that we’re building.”

AS: “Across the West Midlands we have doubled the number of homes being built in the last five years and doubled the amount of affordable housing. We’ve also changed the definition of ‘affordable’ so it relates to people’s income and not the property’s market value. So, it genuinely is ‘affordable’.

“HMOs and exempt accommodation are an acute issue. We will work with the city council to review the geographical allocation, their management, and the national legislation. That sector has been overdeveloped in Birmingham.

“I would hope to be in discussion with Government within a year, I know this needs tackling. Particularly in Stockland Green.”

For more on Liam Byrne MP visit www.liambyrne.co.uk
For more on Andy Street visit www.andystreet.org.uk

For more on elections and voting from Birmingham City Council, including links to check if you’re registered to vote – or to register, visit: www.birmingham.gov.uk/info/20097/elections_and_voting  

NEWS: Join the Erdington Community Volunteers for a free ‘Erdy Cuppa’ on the Lyndhurst Estate

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Erdington Community Volunteers

On Wednesday 21st April, the Erdington Community Volunteers (ECV) are inviting everyone for an ‘Erdy Cuppa’ on the Lyndhurst Estate – hosted on the park behind the tower blocks in the middle of Abbey Way, Rowden Drive, and Gabriel Drive.

Click here for a Google Maps link to the ‘Erdy Cuppa’ location.

Totally free of charge, the volunteer group will be offering local residents the chance to meet up under Covid safe conditions for a cup of tea, coffee, and a natter with their neighbours.

Running from 2pm to 4:30pm, so families can join in after school, this week’s inaugural ‘cuppa’ will be the first of many events that organisers want to see pop-up around Erdington – encouraging people to get to know people in their community whilst utilising the area’s parks and green spaces.

ECV founder and Erdy Cuppa organiser, Jo Bull, told Erdintgon Local: “We want to give people a good way to get to know their neighbours, whilst celebrating all the beautiful parks and green spaces we have in the constituency.

“Even in a strong community such as Erdington, people can feel isolated and alone – especially during the coronavirus crisis and lockdowns. But now restrictions are being eased, the ‘Erdy Cuppa’ events will give people a chance to get back into the community and start sharing life again.

“The park at the back of the Lyndhust Estate is a beautiful green space with play areas for children and great places just to sit and connect – with enough room to do so under Covid safe conditions.

“We hope to hold more pop up ‘Erdy Cuppa’ events across the constituency and encourage people to get to know their neighbours with a friendly chat over a nice cup of tea.”

Founded as a response to the first coronavirus lockdown, the Erdington Community Volunteers has been a prominent community support group throughout the pandemic – sitting on the Erdington Covid-19 Task Force and supporting much of the food distribution across the area.

As lockdown restrictions ease, the group are now looking at ways to encourage community engagement and help people safety come out of the coronavirus crisis.

Other local groups are being invited to leave information for Erdington locals at the Erdy Cuppa events, highlighting further community activity in the area.

Also available at the Erdy Cuppa will be creative ways to encourage meditation and relaxation, such as free mindfulness pebbles made by Jo Bull.

To help raise funds to support the Erdington Community Volunteers there will also be original arts and crafts on sale.

For more on the Erdington Community Volunteers visit the Facebook group here: www.facebook.com/groups/625073991557017

For a Google Maps link to ‘Erdy Cuppa’ location on Wednesday 21st April visit: https://goo.gl/maps/xSES1yZZKFKjCL238

Mayoral hopeful Liam Byrne MP backs GKN workers – calling proposed Chester Rd closure “unthinkable”

Words by Adam Smith / Pics supplied by the office for Liam Byrne MP

Under-threat workers from Erdington’s GKN Driveline factory held a protest outside the plant’s gates this week.

In February, Melrose Industries announced plans to close the Chester Road site with the loss of 520 jobs – but Unite the Union and local politicians are fighting to keep the factory open.

Labour’s West Midlands Mayoral candidate Liam Byrne MP joined workers on Thursday, calling the closure of GKN Driveline “unthinkable”.

He told Erdington Local: “As a region we need more facilities like GKN in Erdington, not closing them down. I wanted to come to Chester Road to show my solidarity with the workers here. If I am Mayor of the West Midlands in a month’s time, I will be behind everyone at GKN.

“I’m sure they have earmarked the land for housing. But Erdington needs industry, because if you build big housing estates without jobs they will end up being full of unemployed people.”

He added: “We need to leading the way in new green industries, just like Joe Biden is doing in America, and historic industrial infrastructure like GKN should be part of this new economy.

“If elected I will be doing everything to convince owners Melrose to keep these jobs in Erdington.

“We will find a way, a solution to keep this factory open.”

Erdington MP Jack Dromey has been working with Unite the Union to create a business plan to keep the Chester Road factory open.

He said: “These workers are outstanding at what they do and they have been thanked by losing their jobs. There are people here who have worked here for 20 years, people whose family have worked here before them. There are skilled jobs here and they should celebrated not axed.

“Melrose’s representatives said at a House of Commons select committee they would listen to alternatives to closure, and the Government have said they will support an alternative.”

He added: “Melrose need to know they cannot buy a company with 262 years of industrial history and then close down, if they think they will get away with it then they have another thing coming.”

Melrose Industries bought GKN in 2018 in a controversial hostile and promised to keep the Erdington plant open. GKN can trace its history back to the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century and has been at the forefront of engineering in the UK ever since, the Erdington site assembles automotive parts.

Frank Duffy, GKN‘s Unite convenor at the Chester Road plant, said: “We have got more than 500 workers here and we are not giving in. We are not working on the premise that the factory is closing because it makes no sense.

“We have not been given redundancy terms yet which is a good sign the factory can remain open.”

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

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

For more on Liam Byrne MP visit www.liambyrne.co.uk  

NEWS: Erdington MP survey reveals “worryingly” high number of care home staff refusing Covid-19 vaccine

Words by Adam Smith

A “worrying” amount of care home staff in Erdington and Kingstanding are refusing to have the Covid-19 vaccine, a recent survey has revealed.

Shockingly 67% of 30 care homes in the constituency questioned by Jack Dromey MP had staff who have decided against having the life-saving jab.

One home reported 23 out of 25 staff refused the vaccine, including the manager. In another 75% of staff turned down the chance to be vaccinated.

The reasons for refusal show widespread misinformation about the vaccine’s side effects including fears of fertility problems or the jab being poisonous.

Mr Dromey said: “The results of my latest care home survey reveal worrying levels of vaccine uptake amongst care home staff.

“The fact that so many staff in care homes across Erdington are refusing the vaccine is deeply concerning. There is a significant risk posed to care home residents in particular who, for one reason or another, are unable to be vaccinated.

“What is also concerning is some of the reasons that were given for refusing the vaccines. Myths such as the vaccine is ‘poisonous’ and it ’causes infertility’ were both quoted in the responses, despite these being comprehensively disproven. Those who are responsible for sharing these dangerous myths should be utterly ashamed of themselves.”

The UK’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty believes care home staff have a “professional responsibility” to have the vaccine.

Government ministers are discussing whether to make the vaccine mandatory for NHS and care sector staff but unions including the GMB have warned against the idea.

Three of the UK’s biggest care home owners, Care UK, Barchester and Advina Healthcare, are insisting staff have the jab and from now on will only hire people who have been vaccinated.

Mr Dromey’s survey also revealed problems with PPE equipment not getting through to care homes seem to be solved.

Currently only three local care homes currently have current Covid outbreaks. – two with one member of staff affected, but another has seven staff and 14 residents currently battling the virus.

Mr Dromey also praised local care home staff for their bravery over the last 12 months.

He said: “Throughout the pandemic I have been in regular contact with Erdington’s care homes, including three surveys of all 47 local care homes. I have heard first-hand the extremely difficult challenges that staff and residents have faced.

“What has shone through over the past 12 months is the dedication and commitment of care home staff to the residents they care for. I know how hard they have worked, and they have gone above and beyond to provide the very best care in extremely difficult circumstances.”

He added: “I’d like to pay tribute to all care home staff across Erdington for their heroic work.”

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccines direct from the NHS visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination

NEWS: Community shocked over sudden death of Kingstanding singer songwriter

Words by Adam Smith / Pics approved for use by Tina Phillps

The sudden death of a popular Kingstanding singer songwriter has left his community shellshocked and sparked a wave of online tributes.

Family, friends, fellow musicians, and Blues football club fans posted their favourite memories on social media of Darren Phillips who recently took his own life.

The 52-year-old had been a stalwart of the Birmingham music scene for more than 30 years. He started his musical career as a left handed drummer aged just 16 and appeared in numerous bands.

He switched to guitar in 1999 and also penned lyrics as well as singing vocals for bands including The Hungover Stuntmen. He and Robb Swadkiss formed rock outfit Geezer in 2005 and enjoyed success touring across the country and performing at Liverpool’s legendary Cavern Club.

In recent years Darren was releasing music and performing as Jack the Biscuit.

Kingstanding club promoter George Hadley was “gutted” by Darren’s sudden death.

He told Erdington Local: “Darren was what made Kingstanding, Kingstanding. He’d always take time for a chat and ask how I was. He was a really nice guy who was talented too, he was a singer songwriter who had success and was always interested how my promotion Sum Cellar was getting on.

“He was a real family guy too and we are all gutted for his family. These lockdowns have been so tough for so many people and seeing the amount of people in Kingstanding and beyond who have posted on social media has shown how loved he was.”

Darren’s wife Tina, whom he had three sons and four grandchildren with, pleaded with those suffering with mental health problems to confide to loved ones.

She said: “I have lost my best friend my world my rock. The best husband, dad and grandad in the world. I can’t believe I never had an inkling what was going through his mind. I would like to thank you all for your heartfelt messages I am absolutely heartbroken.

“Darren would be overwhelmed with all the kindness. Good night God bless my darling I will love you forever. Please all remember mental health matters just talk, if only Darren had I wouldn’t be writing this now.”

Darren’s beloved Birmingham City Football Club paid tribute to him during their home match against Swansea City on Friday 2 April.

They projected his picture on the big screen with the message ‘Singer Songwriter, Bluenose and Friend. Keep Right On Darren and Keep Rockin With All the Other Stars in Heaven. RIP.’

Former bandmate Robb Swadkins said: “Massive thank you and well done to Birmingham City FC for doing this at last night’s game. You did yourself and Darren proud.”

A GoFundMe page has been launched to help Darren’s family to pay for the funeral which raised more than £350 within 24 hours.

A memorial party is being held at the Sack of Potatoes Saturday, June 26 at 4pm, everyone is welcome.

To donate to Darren Phillips fundraiser visit www.gofundme.com/f/funds-for-darren-phillips-funeral-and-his-family

If you have been affected by issues surrounding mental health contact Bimringham Mind at www.birminghammind.org or call (0121) 262 3555

NEWS: Plans to Save Short Heath Playing Fields “misinterpreted” during high-level meeting with Birmingham City Council

Words & pics by Ed King (pics taken before current Covid/social distancing restrictions)

Local campaigners were left feeling “misinterpreted” this week, following a high-level meeting with Birmingham City Council to discuss proposed developments on Short Heath Playing Fields.

On Monday 22nd March, members of Short Heath Fields Trust met for the second time with Council Leader Ian Ward – joined by Jack Dromey MP for Erdington, Cllr Penny Holbrook (Stockland Green), and senior officials from Birmingham City Council’s housing and regeneration teams.

The meeting was a chance for proposals from both sides to be heard and discussed, with the local community fighting to save the beloved green space which Birmingham City Council have earmarked for a new housing estate.

But despite being promised “a meaningful discussion” members of Short Heath Fields Trust felt their proposal was all but ignored, with Birmingham City Council pricing their plans for a “basic community hub” and simple sports facilities at a “ridiculous” £6.1million plus running costs – including £2.8m for the land and £1.6m for development contingencies.

Talking to Erdington Local after the meeting, campaigners said: “To be honest it started very well, however that didn`t last – the tone of the conversation became very negative towards us.

“We feel the atmosphere in our first meeting was really positive but felt that some members in this latest meeting were very unengaging. It has been a very hard fight to get our community heard and while the conservation was there with some, we felt others were not listening.

“Some commitments were made for us to meet with the planners and a chance to hash things out. But our community`s proposal was very much misinterpreted – to the extent we could question that it had been read.

“We always knew this was a hard fight, as with any battles there are ups and downs. And whilst we didn`t feel this meeting had the momentum or content we were expecting we still have our ‘seat at the table’.

“However, we do feel that more support could have been offered by those that claim to see the value in our community’s needs and ideas for the green space.”

When asked about the multi-million pound project fee Birmingham City Council gave their proposal, representatives of Short Heath Fields Trust told Erdington Local: “We believe the council’s costings are poles apart from what our community proposal put forward.

“How can Birmingham City Council expect us to find £6.1million – and this when our proposal only talked about painting white lines and erecting goal posts. Even the basic community hub we talked about was costed at £500,000; it’s ridiculous.”

During the meeting, held via Microsoft Teams due to continuing Covid restrictions, assurances did come from Birmingham City Council Leader Ian Ward that no developments would take place on the site until a compromise had been reached.

In a statement made direct to Erdington Local, Cllr Ward said: “I want to thank the community representatives, who are clearly passionate about the future of the Short Heath Playing Fields site.

“We had a productive meeting, with plenty of common ground and we’ve agreed that nothing will happen on the site until we’ve worked more closely with the wider community.”

Reaffirming the commitment for compromise from the Council Leader,  Councillor Penny Holbrook (Stockland Green) told Erdington Local: “If the residents want to come up with an alternative plan for the housing developments, that’s fine.

“Cllr Ward (at the meeting) spoke very clearly about how this won’t go forward until there’s an agreement between the community and the council.”

However, campaigners also questioned a seeming U-turn by Cllr Holbrook – who having previously stated her support appeared fully committed to the council’s proposal during Tuesday’s meeting.

When challenged about her stance, Cllr Holbrook told Erdington Local: “I absolutely believe there needs to be housing on the site (Short Heath Playing Fields) because we need to change the housing offering in Stockland Green.

“What I am 100% committed to is making sure all the reinvestment is given back to the community – to the Short Heath Fields Trust, they should be in charge of what funding comes out of this and it should be entirely available to community to decide what happens next.”

Short Heath Fields Trust will now be meeting with Terry Webb, Principal Housing Development Officer for Birmingham City Council, to discuss the development and to challenge the £6.1million+ costing for their proposal.

Jack Dromey MP for Erdington also remains committed to the conversation over plans for Short Heath Playing Fields, having spent months bringing the concerns of his constituents to the highest level of local government.

For more information about the campaign to Save Short Heath Playing Fields, visit the group’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/groups/1007069176404521

For more on Short Heath Fields Trust, visit www.shortheathfieldstrust.godaddysites.com 

To further support the Save Short Heath Playing Fields campaign, you can donate through the official GoFundMe fundraising platform: www.gofundme.com/f/save-short-heath-playing-fields

NEWS: Police ‘need answers’ as community mourns tragic death of Erdington teenager in hit-and-

Words by Adam Smith

The tragic death of an Erdington teenager after a hit-and-run accident has sparked a massive outpouring of grief this week.

Liam Mooney died on Tuesday and within 24 hours more than 150 people raised £3,500 for his devastated family and countless tributes were posted on social media sites by teenagers upset by the tragedy.

Liam suffered head injuries when the moped he was a passenger on was hit by a silver car on Monday night at 7.20pm on Rocky Lane, Perry Barr. West Midlands Police, who confirmed Liam was from Erdington, are searching for the driver who left the scene after the collision.

Liam’s family paid tribute to the 16-year-old, who was a familiar face on the Topcroft estate, in a statement, they said: “Liam was a bit of a joker and had a brilliant sense of humour.

“He was also so caring at times. He had not long became a uncle and loved his niece so much. We are so heartbroken and never thought this would happen to us.”

They added: “Liam was not just loved by his mom, dad, sisters and brothers but his nans, grandads, aunties, uncles and cousins. He will be sadly missed by everyone.

“Fly high our beautiful little angel. We love you so much, sleep tight. We will all be together again one day.”

Liam Llewellyn, from youth outreach charity Urban Devotion, worked with Liam and his friends on the Topcroft estate for six years.

Liam told Erdington Local: “Liam was a big character and his loss will create a big hole which will not be filled.

“He was a full of fun and the life of the party, he was always happy to see us and we loved him for the way he was. He was very faithful to his friends and they will be hurting now. ”

Liam, aged 31, added: “As an organisation we have known him and his family for ten years, our motto is ‘Community Transformation – One Life at a Time’ and getting someone like Liam onside is what we are all about because he was so well known in the area.

“It is no surprise to see so many young people speak out about what a great person he was.”

Family friend Chelsea Kelly launched a GoFundMe page called Liam’s Funeral Fund on Wednesday which raised £3,500 in 24 hours.

She said: “Sadly we lost Liam to a tragic bike accident, he’s leaving behind his mom, dad, brothers and sisters and so many friends that will forever miss him

“Liam, also known as ‘Dennis the Menace’ touched every single heart of every person that ever met him, he was the most polite, pure hearted young boy you could ever meet and anyone that did have the pleasure to meet him is truly blessed.”

Frances Carey praised Liam’s kind nature, she said: “Such a wonderful boy who looked after my grandson who had just moved into the area.”

Detective Inspector Adam Jobson appealed for information about the driver who rammed the moped Liam was a passenger on.

He said: “Liam was a teenager and should have had his life in front him.

“This is a devastating time for his family and they need answers about what happened on Monday night.

“We really need to speak to the car driver so they can tell us what went on and help us piece together the full circumstances. It’s imperative we hear their side of the story.”

A police spokesman said: “If you were in the area at the time and saw what happened, or perhaps have dash-cam or cycle-cam footage, we’re keen to hear from you and would urge you to get in touch.

“You can send us a message via live chat at www.west-midlands.police.uk 8am – midnight or call 101 anytime. To remain 100% anonymous please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

“Tell them what you know, not who you are. Please quote log number 3771 of 22/03/21.”

To donate to Liam’s Funeral Fund on the GoFund me platform visit www.gofundme.com/f/xhb7d-liams-funeral-fund 

NEWS: Excitement as new FIFA gaming advert filmed in Erdington

Words by Adam Smith / Pics by Ed King

Erdingon is going to be the star of a brand new FIFA computer game advert after Brookvale was chosen for a filming location.

Set against the imposing backdrop of the M6 motorway, the advert was filmed on the football pitch in front of the Magnet Centre earlier this week – overlooked by flats in Dunlin Close.

FIFA computer game campaigns are seen across the world and can cost large amounts of money to make.

In a previous advert for the global sporting brand, producers Pulse Films have enlisted Hollywood director Yann Mounir Demange and footballing superstars Eden Hazard, Jadon Sancho, and Raheem Sterling.

During the filming, which saw the production crew on site between 10am on Wednesday until 2am on Thursday, some Brookvale residents were offered £20 to keep their lights on at home – adding to the urban skyline of the advert.

Susan Bicknell, who has lived on the estate for 17 years, told Erdington Local: “There were six huge lorries and a massive crane with a spotlight pointed at the pitch where players kept on replaying one move, so it was a bit of excitement on the Brookvale.

“They paid five of us £20 to keep our lights on throughout filming and I was told they were filming an advert for a FIFA computer game, they liked the location because of the Magnet Centre.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the advert when it is on television.”

Panikos Panayiotou, who runs a foodbank from the Magnet Centre, saw the advert being filmed.

He said: “They rented the whole centre out for a day and it was great to see them filming.

“This is not the first time the centre has been used for a location, Steven Spielberg was here filming Ready Player One a few years ago.

“It’s funny the whole world gets to see the Magnet Centre but a lot of people who live near by do not know what goes on here.”

The Midlands Greek and Cypriot Association purchased the Magnet Centre from the G.E.C in 1984 and it now boasts St Lukes Orthodox Church, a Greek shop and café, and a community school.

Pulse Films location manager Alistair Vlok was tight-lipped about the advert, although it is believed it will be seen on television in a matter of months.

In a letter displayed on the flats in Dunlin Close, the production team explained: ‘the scenes we are filming involve a foot team playing a football match at night.’

The notice went on to offer a point of contact for any concerned residents, reassuring Erdington locals all activity ‘complies with the government’s guidelines on managing the risks of COVID-19.’

SPORT: Erdington UFC star Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards back in the Octagon – looking at a win to clinch the title shot

Words by Adam Smith

Erdington MMA star Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards is headlining the UFC Fight Night at the UFC Apex in Vegas on Saturday 13th March (GMT) night, after being promised a spectacular performance will give him a world title shot.

Edwards had four fights cancelled in the last 20 months due to COVID-19 so is raring to get into the Octagon against Belal Muhammad.

With a total of six fights on the card, the UFC Fight Night will be live streamed on BT Sport 1 from 10:30pm (GMT) on Saturday 13th March. Edwards is expected to enter the Octagon at around 4:30am (GMT) on Sunday 14th March.

Despite the disappointment of missing out on headlining UFC London against Tyron Woodley last March, and seeing three fights against Khamzat Chimaev cancelled, Edwards believes he is now stronger than ever.

He said: “It was disappointing when Woodley it got cancelled but I thought ‘you know what, let’s use this time to improve my skills and my mindset’.

“I’ve had a year and a half in the gym, out of training camps, and my overall game is so much better – my grappling, my wrestling, my striking.”

Edwards contracted coronavirus in December but insists he has had no long-lasting effects.

He said: “I lost a lot of weight, 6kg. I lost my appetite for food; my smell and my taste went.

“I had two weeks off and went back to training, but I struggled with my lungs, I didn’t feel myself. My coach said: ‘you’re operating at 50% of the fighter you can be’.

“I’m back to normal now, my strength is back and my weight is back up.”

‘Rocky’ is on an eight fight winning streak and is ranked third in the world in the highly competitive welterweight division.

UFC supremo Dana White this week said Edwards will be “100% next in line” to fight champion Kamaru Usman if he wins spectacularly.

Edwards said: “If I put in a great performance, I can’t see where else I can go other than a title shot, I’m looking forward to showing fans I’m the best in the world.

“It would be proof to all the kids out there in Britain that you can do it. I spent all my time in Birmingham so it would be nice to show the kids you can reach the top by staying in England.”

Leon Edwards faces off against Belal Muhammad

For more information about Leon Edwards visit www.ufc.com/athlete/leon-edwards

For more on UFC from BT Sport, visit www.bt.com/sport/ufc