NEWS: St Barnabas Church celebrates 200 years in the heart of Erdington with special events and historical display

Words by Estelle Murphy / Pics by Ed King and Joe Marchant

St Barnabas Church is celebrating 200 years at the heart of the Erdington community with a series of special events and activities, before a special bi-centenial birthday service on 23 July.

There will also be a special display of the church’s history, from the Erdington Historical Society, in situ at St Barnabas until the double century celebrations are over.

Despite not being readily accessible to members of the public, after St Barnabas closed its café due to financial constraints in June last year, the display can however be seen during the church’s regular programme of community events and worship.

A Grade II listed building, situated on the corner of Church Road and Erdington High Street, St Barnabas Church was first consecrated on 23 July 1824 – with this year marking its 200 year anniversary.

The church was famous for its 16 stained glass windows, and cost £5000 to build at the time – over £1000 of which was from public donations. St Barnabas is the Patron Saint of Peacemakers and is often invoked against quarrelling and hailstorms.

Bi-centenial celebrations were launched on 8 June with an arts and crafts event, and the presentation of Erdington Historical Society’s display of St Barnabas Church history.

The display details the early plans for the church, which was originally built as a chapel of ease to the Aston Parish Church – meaning locals didn’t have to travel to Aston every Sunday to worship. At first St Barnabas could only conduct burials and baptisms, and weddings could not take place there until Erdington became a parish in 1858. The display also shows records of former clergymen and women, bells, and graveyard extensions.

But marking a sad point in the Erdington parish history, on 4 October 2007 arsonists set fire to the St Barnabas Church, destroying all but one of its stained glass windows and much of the roof – leaving only the clock, bell tower, and walls standing. Rebuilding took place between 2011 and 2012, it the church was rededicated in December 2012.

The display form the Erdington Historical Society also shows images of the former stained glass windows and the war memorial lost to the fire, whilst also providing more details of the fire.

Ahead of its 200 year anniversary, St Barnabas is hosting series of events and activities to mark the occasion. Erdington Arts Forum and Ceol Agency also hosted a special musical event on 29 June, bringing musicians and artists together in the church to celebrate it’s importance to the community.

On Saturday 13 July there will also be a Celebration of Relationships held at 2pm – a service to rejoice in all the bonds of love, from friendship and community to marriage and partnership.

Saturday 20 July will see a family fun day with arts and crafts, workshops, and refreshments, held in the community hub from 11am till 3:30pm, which people can attend without booking.

Then on Tuesday 23 July at 7pm, St Barnabas will host a special dedication service, to celebrate the building’s 200 year history and shine a light on everything that is good in the community of Erdington.

Reverend Emma Sykes at St Barnabas told Erdington Local: “It was consecrated on 23 July 1824, which is why we are holding a dedication service on that day.

“Leading up to that day, we have a whole range of events that celebrate Erdington and highlighting the good things here”.

Erdington Historical Society meet at the community hub area at St Barnabas every second Tuesday of each month, with a small fee for attendance.

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

For more on the Erdington Historical Society visit www.stbarnabaserdington.org.uk/erdington-historcial-society

NEWS: Evening of Creativity brings international music and musicians to Erdington on 17 May

Words by Lily Higgins / Pics supplied by Erdington Arts Forum

Erdington’s longstanding arts and music showcase, the Evening of Creativity, return to Oikos Café on Friday 17 May – running from 6:30pm – 9:30pm at the popular Erdington High Street venue.

Organised by the Erdington Arts Forum, the Evening of Creativity is one of Birmingham’s longest running music nights and will be approaching its seven year anniversary in June.

Sicilian singer Manuel Cangemi is travelling all the way from Germany for the event in May. His passion for music started at a young age, merging opera, classical music, and together – accompanied by his Sicilian origins. He will be singing songs by legends Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and others.

Drums Aloud will be performing rhythms which have been taught to them by master West African drummers. They will have up to eight drummers at their Evening of Creativity performance, playing on djembe – a hand drum, and dunduns which are bass drums played with a stick with a bell. Nigel Saddler of the group has been teaching drumming for 14 – 15 years.

Also performing are the two piece band Skint, from Tamworth. Skint perform country style music which they call “council estate poetry”. They will play a set of originals tracks which talk about dealing with being ‘skint’ in England in 2024, including songs ‘Cost of Living’ and ‘Cash Converter’.

When you put your hand in Grandma’s biscuit tin you never know what you’re going to get… which is how the band Grandma’s Biscuit Tin invented their named. An ensemble consisting of five 5 eclectic musicians, the band are classically trained musicians with a huge passion for jazz.

Grandma’s Biscuit Tin have been together for about a decade, who just started out as friends and family having a jam session, and their repertoire includes trad-standards with their own twist.

The International award winning Birmingham Opera company will also be performing at Oikos café.

Jobe Sullivan told Erdington Local: “I think Erdington needs to trumpet loudly what a brilliant achievement the Evening of Creativity is. Seven years, 84 events… not including all our satellite events in Kingstanding, Castle Vale, and other places in the constituency.

“It’s so great to have acts visiting us from around the world – Joana Carvalhas on her world tour, a touring group from New Zealand, an opera singer who flew in from Germany the night before.”

He added: “But our bread and butter are the community. Featuring visual artists, and encouraging choirs, bands, from everywhere – and Erdington is at the heart of it. Erdington has a huge heart, and we’ve been quietly kicking-ass here for seven years, come hell or high water.”

The next Evening of Creativity events will be held at Oikos Café on 17 May and 21 June, between 6:30pm – 9:30pm.

For more information and links to online ticket sales visit: www.facebook.com/ErdingtonArts

This content was generated and supported by GET WRITING GET WORKING and LOCAL AMBASSADORS – to get involved in local journalism and find opportunities in the creative industries email [email protected]

NEWS: New York’s The Hitman Blues Band pack out Oikos Café as citywide Jazz & Blues Festival comes to Erdington

Words by Ed King / Pics by Connor Pope

Last weekend, hundreds of music lovers packed out Oikos Cafe in July to watch homegrown and international acts perform as part of the citywide Jazz & Blues Festival.

Organised by the Erdington Business Improvement District (EBID), the main Saturday stage was set for New York based The Hitman Blues Band, playing two sets of modern/alt blues, including originals ‘Bad, Bad Man’, ‘Not My Circus Not My Monkey’ and “the track that got us touring in the UK” – ‘Angel in the Shadows’.

Classic covers were also on the set list, Including Dylan’s folk anthem ‘Time They Are A-Changing’ and Willie Dixon’s blues standard ‘Hoot Koochy Man’ – all given a firm Hitman twist. The UK’s Honeyman Hickling Blues Band were also on the afternoon bill.

Originally planned to be held outside on and around the Village Green, the bad weather forced the live gigs into the upstairs room at Oikos café. But in a space usually reserved for church services and community groups, the musicianship, comradery, and comedy made it feel like Saturday night at Ronnie Scotts.

Regaling stories of broken hearts, relationship battles, and pet tortoises who might survive the tour due to poor merchandise sales, Russell ‘Hitman’ Alexander had the room devouring every word and chord change – with superb support from keys, a horn section, percussion, and vocal harmonies.

“Thank you all for coming out, we really appreciate it,” exclaimed charismatic front man at the end of the final set, with many sticking around for signed CDs and photos with the band.

After a short break, Oikos then welcomed the UK’s own Honeyman Hickling Blues Band, serving up a second slice of the Blue & Jazz Festival pie.

Earlier in the weekend, local trombonist Clive the Slide headlined the Erdington Arts Forum run Evening of Creativity – bringing another rafter packing crowd to Oikos Café, as part of the citywide annual event.

Erdington Town Centre Manager, John Hodgkiss, who brought the Saturday Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival to Oikos, told: “Today has been fantastic, hundreds of people came out to welcome international musicians and a citywide music festival into Erdington.

“The Hitman Blues Band travelled all the way from New York to play in Erdington, delivering two incredible sets – alongside the UK’s amazing Honeyman Hickling Blues Band. Erdington High Street can be a vibrant and exciting place with a generous and supporting community, and we (EBID) want to keep bringing acts and events here to celebrate that.”

Erdington Ward Councillors Gareth Moore and Robert Alden (Conservative) were also in the crowd on Saturday afternoon.

Cllr Moore said “it was great to have the Jazz festival here on Erdington High Street and to see so many people enjoying the events. Thank you to the Jazz Festival, volunteers, the Erdington BID manager and Oikos for all their hard work.”

Cllr Alden said: “We will be working with the Erdington Town Centre Manager to try and bring the festival back and expand the shows in future years.”

Pastor Dan Mandley from Oikos Café and Church added: “Wonderful to have such a wonderful event come to Erdington. Great bands and great atmosphere. I am already looking forward to next year’s festival.”

Look out for a special PICTURE GALLERY feature on the gigs with The HItman Blues Band and Honeyman Hickling Blues Band at Oikos Cafe – in the next print edition of Erdington Local, out from 1 August.

For more on The Hitman Blues Band visit www.hitmanbluesband.com

For more form the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.facebook.com/erdingtonBID
For more from Oikos Café and Church visit www.oikoschurch.co.uk

For more details on Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival visit www.birminghamjazzfestival.com

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.

EXCLUSIVE: Real to Real – stories of how music shaped the lives of local residents / Invite to exclusive live recording with a free drink for Erdington Local readers

“If music was removed from the world, I would feel empty, bereft, and devoid of anything.”

Erdington Local readers are being invited to an exclusive recording of Real to Real – an eclectic living history of how music inspired and shaped the lives of local residents, being performed as monologues at The Highbury Theatre on Wednesday 13 July from 7:30pm to 9pm.

From the soca and reggae of Trinidad and Jamaica, to the prog rock of Birmingham’s biker bars and the city’s legendary soundsystems and blues parties – all the stories are real life, recorded on to audio reals and video for digital archive.

Suitable for all ages, to get your free ticket to Real to Real visit: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/real-to-reel-tickets-379007560817

For the first Erdington Local readers to book their tickets, there will be a free drink on arrival at The Highbury Theatre Bar – alcoholic or soft drinks are available.

To get your free drink, simply book your ticket via the Eventbrite link above and email the confirmation to: [email protected]

Held at The Highbury Theatre on Wednesday 13 July, Real to Real was going to be a closed set recording – but organisers are now opening the theatre doors to allow members of the public to hear these amazing and inspiring stories for the first time.

Hear how Pete and Linda fell in lust over their love of vinyl (and Pete looking like David Cassidy), found friends and escaped the school bullies by bonding over music, played progressive rock to the notorious Birmingham biker gangs of the 80’s, and make a modern living out of music running Boldmere’s own Psychotron Records.

Listen to Dionee and Janet tell you about growing up around the ‘old time’ soca and reggae of Jamaica and Trinidad – embracing the music of their family’s roots in kitchens and churches, to start hosting their own soundsystems and blues parties across Birmingham in the 80’s and 90’s.

And Phil, who grew up with an Irish, Scottish, Yorkshire, and Liverpool family tree – embracing the political call to arms from Public Enemy and Dead Kennedy’s, as he travelled across Europe juggling fire (and knocking down speaker stacks) with bands on the booming free party and squatter scene of the early 90’s.

Or Henry Robert Hayes, the self professed “music nutcase”, who DJed his way through pubs and clubs before maxing out his credit cards and launching a £350,000 radio station – which he later sold for £5million.

Real to Real is directed by Tonia Dáley-Campbell, a Midlands actress, award-winning writer, published author, director, and now casting director for heart casting.

Tonia has been working in the creative industries for over 21 years, is the annual host for Tedx Wolverhampton, and the new Audience Development consultant for The Grand Theatre Wolverhampton.

The live monologues with be accompanied by Birmingham based punk/reggae band Lobster.

Joe Cook from Lobster said: “I’m really interested when different art forms meet – so having music and monologues in the same space such as the theatre pushes the band out of its comfort zone and allows us to create in a different way.

“The gig should be a great mix of different art forms coming together, as well as inspiration coming from stories from local people.”

For more from Blackstory Partnership visit www.blackstorypartnership.com 

For more on The Highbury Theatre, including details on how to get there, visit www.highburytheatre.co.uk

NEWS: Citywide project 10 to 11 launches in Erdington on 26 June – connecting the city by music, arts, culture… and the No 11 bus route

Words by Ed King

10 to 11 is an exciting new arts project from Number 11 Arts, helping people celebrate arts and culture all over the city through the No 11 bus route – presented as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival

Spread over five Sundays, from 26 June to 24 July, Birmingham’s neighbourhood arts forums will be hosting a programme of free arts activities in areas along the popular bus route, operated by National Express West Midlands.

From music to gardening activities, performances to processions, mask making and blossom tree decorating, 10 to 11 presents something for the whole family to get involved in. All ages are welcome, and all events will be free of charge.

Launching in Erdington on Sunday 26 June, the first 10 to 11 event will be an ‘Afternoon of Creativity’ – as organised by Erdington Arts Forum.

Taking place from 12noon to 3pm at the Secret Arts Studio Space in Central Square, on Erdington High Street, the ‘Afternoon of Creativity’ will feature with arts, crafts, and children friendly storytelling

Live music will come from world touring artists, including Roksana Grobelna, Paul Riley, and Stefan Stefanov.

There will also be a special performance from the Village Green Band, who have built a strong local reputation performing live Irish music at the New Inn Traditional Music Sessions – and who recently played in support of Refugee Week at Minerva Works on Fazeley Street.

A second event will continue the 10 to 11 festivities in Sutton Coldfield, taking place at the Holy Parish Church on Mill Street on Sunday, 3 July – as organised by Sutton Arts Forum

Jobe Baker Sullivan, head of Erdington Arts Forum, told Erdington Local: “This is an exciting chance to show off our lovely Secret Art Space Studios in Erdington to other parts of Birmingham.

“The 10 to 11 project is a really cool idea, and I believe after the Commonwealth Games have left the city we should do it again. It’s so important to fund artistic innovations like this, and to find a sustainable model in the future.

“I’m also looking forward to hosting the Sutton Coldfield event on 3 July, at the church where I am music director – though I promise to everyone reading we will have a wide array of arts, music and poetry.”

Travelling the length and breadth of Birmingham, the 10 to 11 project will also be running a special No 11 ‘arts bus’ to take people to each event – in partnership with National Express West Midlands.

While onboard the arts bus, entertainment will come from Birmingham’s comedy ‘cleaner to the stars’ and Britian’s Got Talent finalist Mrs Barbara Nice, Stan’s Café’s out of work sporting critics The Commentators, and singer Mabowunje Harrison.

The National Trust will also be at the 10 to 11 events, encouraging local people to plant their own blossom trees along the No11 bus route this winter – as part of their Blossom Together project.

For more information on Blossom Together visit: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/helping-communities-blossom

The 10 to 11 project is led by Number 11 Arts, an umbrella organisation that supports and champions a city-wide network of neighbourhood arts forums in Birmingham.

Tom Jones and Gurminder Sehint from Number 11 Arts said: “We’re really excited to be connecting up all the local arts forums in one project together, to celebrate all the wonderful arts work they do in their local communities.

“The number 11 arts bus is also a great opportunity to reach more audiences and transform one of Birmingham’s much loved bus routes.”

The 10 to 11 project has been funded by Arts Council England and is in partnership with National Express West Midlands and the National Trust.

The events will be running on five consecutive Sundays: Sunday 26 June, Sunday 3 July, Sunday 10 July, Sunday 17 July and Sunday 24 July.

Roksanna Grobelna – who will be performing at the ’Afternoon of Creativity’ on Sunday 26 June

The Commentators – who will be entertaining people aboard the 10 to 11 arts bus

For more information on 10 to 11, including details on individual events and the arts bus timetable, visit: www.number11arts.co.uk/10-11

ELECTION NEWS: “…the work starts now,” Paulette Hamilton wins Birmingham Erdington by-election for Labour

By Erdington Local election news team

After weeks of a fiercely fought campaign trail, with twelve MP hopefuls from mainstream parties and independents in the running, Labour’s candiate Paulette Hamilton has been voted in as Erdington’s next Member of Parliament.

Winning with 9,413 votes, a majority of 3266, the Holyhead councillor will now be on her way to Westminster as Erdington’s next voice in the House.

Despite a significantly low turnout, where only 27 % of registered voters made their way to a polling station earlier in the day, Birmingham Erdington remains a Labour seat – one the pary have held since 1945.

“Thank you to every single person who used their vote to vote for me,” Hamilton told the crowd at Erdington Academy, where ballot papers had been counted since before 11pm on Thursday night.

She continued: “I am truly honoured and humbled to be elected as the Member of Parliament, I will not take your vote for granted.

“I have met many of you and I have heard what you have to say and I commit to you now, I will work for you – for Erdington, for Castle Vale, and for Kingstanding. I have made promises to you that I intend to keep and I cannot wait to get started.

“I will be your voice in Westminster and challenge this government to get a better deal for Erdington.

“It’s what we deserve, it’s what you deserve, and the work starts now to get it done.

Having been focused on the quickly called by-election, with the Labour Party whip’s office announcing the early March date only hours after Jack Dromey’s funeral – Erdington’s previous MP who died on 7 January – Paulette Hamilton is hoping to take some time to mourn for her father, who also died tragically as her campaign trail began.

But the long serving councillor and freshly appointed MP is already making plans to serve her new constituency, as she assumes her new role as political champion for Erdington, Castle Vale, and Kingstanding.

She added: “We have got some many things that residents have asked us to do, and my plan is, as soon as possible, to get stated with that.

“Some of the things that are at the top of my list are relating to the local (Erdington) high street, crime and anti social behaviour, Short Heath Playing Fields – which people feel passionately about – and HMOs and exempt accommodation, working with other MPs to ensure we tighten the legislation in those areas.

“I’ve had a lot of people supporting, helping, and ensuring that I can be the best MP that I can be. And I believe after 18 years of being a very good councillor, I believe this is my time to step up and show – not just the constituency, but the country – what Paulette Hamilton can do.”

Coming in second place, Robert Alden secured 6147 for the Conservatives, once again narrowing the gap between the two main parties fighting over the Birmingham Erdington seat.

Having battled it out against Jack Dromey over the past four General Elections, many thought Alden might win the longstanding Labour seat in this by-election – as concerns about the Labour run Local Authority continue to grow across the constituency.

“We’ll be taking the momentum from this election into the local elections in May,” said Alden, after the results were announced, “and it was really interesting speaking to residents during this election because they had Labour canvassers on the door saying: ‘I know you’re angry with the Labour Council, but just hold your nose and vote Labour.’

“It’s clear that Birmingham Labour has a real problem… the way they’ve treated people in the city, the way they’ve left our streets unclean, the way they’ve left the roads unfixed. And we’ll be taking that fight to them in the May elections, to challenge Birmingham Labour and hold them to account.”

He added: “What you’re seeing is a seat that’s been a Labour seat for the last 85 years and the fact that the majority is so small here today is really a damning indictment of where the Labour Party is nationally.

“A result like you’re seeing tonight is showing that the Conservative Party is very much where it was in 2019 and doing a good job in representing the country. And locally we’ll continue doing all we can to help stand up for the local area.

Despite a clear lead between the front running two parties and others on the ballot, Dave Nellist secured third place for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) with 360 votes.

Fourth place went to Jack Brookes with 293 votes for Reform UK, narrowly beating the 236 votes won by Siobhan Harper-Nunes for the Green Party.

Lee Dargue secured 173 votes for the Liberal Democrats, whilst Michael Ludwytche was the highest ranking independent candidate with 109 votes.

Results for the remaining candidates, all securing under 100 votes each, were: Mel Mbondiah (79, Christian Peoples Alliance), Thomas O’Rourke (76, Independent), The Good Knight Sir NosDa (49, Monster Raving Loony Party), Clifton Holmes (14, Independent), and Dave Bishop (8, Church of the Militant Elvis).

But whilst celebration, commiseration, and cardboard boxes will be prominent in by-election campaign offices across Erdington tonight, announcements for candidates standing in the 5 May Local Elections are expected next week.

A General Election will soon follow, to be held in either 2023 or 2024, where the Birmingham Erdington seat will be contested again.

Paulette Hamilton (Labour) voted in as Erdington’s next Member of Paliament

ELECTION NEWS: Interview with Labour by-election candidate Paulette Hamilton, “I will not be the mouthpiece for Birmingham City Council”

By Erdington Local election news team

“If elected, I will be the local MP for the Erdington constituency. I will not be the mouthpiece for Birmingham City Council.”

The Labour candidate in the upcoming Birmingham Erdington by-election, Paulette Hamilton, was unable to attend the hustings held on Sunday, 27 February – due to family commitments following the sudden death of her father at the start of her campaign.

But ahead of the event, Erdington Local was given extended interview time on camera with Ms Hamilton, allowing us the chance to ask her about some of the issues that affect Erdington and have been so pertinent on every candidate’s campaign trail.

In a series of short video clips, Erdington Local’s editor, Ed King, talks to Paulette Hamilton about HMOs, employment and regeneration, living locally, and Short Heath Playing Fields.

Polling day for the Birmingham Erdington Parliamentary by-election is on Thursday, 3 March.

The 12 candidates contesting the seat are: Cllr Paulette Hamilton (Labour), Cllr Robert Alden (Conservative), Dave Nellist (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition), Lee Dargue (Liberal Democrats), Michael Lutwyche (Independent), Jack Brookes (Reform UK), Siobhan Harper-Nunes (Green), Thomas O’Rouke (Independent), Mel Mbondiah (Christian People’s Alliance), Clifton Holmes (Independent), David Laurence Bishop (Militant Bus-Pass Elvis Party), The Good Knight Sir NosDa (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party).

Click on any video window below to watch Erdington Local talk to Labour’s by-election candidate, Paulette Hamilton, about…

…HMOs


…employment and regeneration


…living locally


…Short Heath Playing Fields

For more on Cllr Paulette Hamilton and her campaign to become Erdington’s next Member of Parliament visit www.facebook.com/Paulette4Erdington

NEWS: Rt Hon Michael Gove MP visits Erdington High Street to see locations earmarked for regeneration in rejected Levelling Up application

Words by Erdington Local election news team

On Monday, 28 February, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP took a tour of Erdington High Street with Conservative Councillor and MP hopeful Robert Alden – looking at the locations earmarked for regeneration in the recently rejected multi mullion pound Levelling Up Fund application.

Michael Gove MP is the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and ultimately responsible for allocating funds from the £4.8 billion pot of Government money for regional investment into local infrastructure.

Erdington was the only Levelling Up Fund application made by Birmingham City Council in October last year that failed to progress to the next round – whilst millions are now on the horizon for other projects across the city, not a single penny was spared for the proposed regeneration of Erdington High Street.

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

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

The Levelling Up Fund bid for Erdington High Street was the only application without match funding from Birmingham City Council, despite the local authority finding up to £17m in match funding for other projects.

In Birmingham for a visit to Birmingham Energy Innovation Centre in Tyseley – as part of a tour of the West Midlands – Michael Gove MP joined Erdington Ward Councillor and MP hopeful Robert Alden for a tour of Central Square and the old Erdington Baths – two locations that played key roles within the Levelling Up Fund application.

In a previous opinion piece written by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and published by Erdington Local on Saturday, 26 February, Michael Gove MP stated:

“If Robert Alden is elected as Erdington’s next MP, you’ll have a local champion making the case for Erdington directly to Cabinet members like me.

“This is what Erdington really needs — someone willing to stand up for the area and make sure residents are heard.

“He has been a vocal proponent for Levelling Up Funding to transform Edington’s high street, and I’m currently working with him to get this bid over the line.”

Erdington Local was made aware of Mr Gove’s visit after CCTV footage of the group entering and exiting Central Square had been sent to the newsroom.

After contacting the West Midlands Conservatives office for comment, and pictures from the visit, Cllr Robert Alden told Erdington Local:

“A key part of my plan for Castle Vale, Kingstanding, and Erdington is securing investment to regenerate Erdington High Street.

“That’s why I wanted to bring the Levelling Up Minister to see first hand both the need for investment but also the exciting plans that we have pulled together with the community to regenerate the High Street.”

Robert Alden added: “While Birmingham Labour have voted against investing in Erdington year after year, I will continue to campaign and work constructively to bring partners to the table to try and secure investment for Erdington High Street.”

Erdington will vote for its next Member of Parliament on Thursday, 3 March.

The 12 candidates contesting the seat are: Cllr Paulette Hamilton (Labour), Cllr Robert Alden (Conservative), Dave Nellist (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition), Lee Dargue (Liberal Democrats), Michael Lutwyche (Independent), Jack Brookes (Reform UK), Siobhan Harper-Nunes (Green), Thomas O’Rouke (Independent), Mel Mbondiah (Christian People’s Alliance), Clifton Holmes (Independent), David Laurence Bishop (Militant Bus-Pass Elvis Party), The Good Knight Sir NosDa (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party).

CCTV footage of Rt. Hon Michael Gove MP visiting Central Square with Cllr Robert Alden

For more on Cllr Robert Alden and the Erdington Conservatives visit www.erdingtonconservatives.org.uk

ELECTION NEWS: MP hopefuls and party representatives battle it out at the only all candidate Erdington by-election hustings

By Erdington Local election news team

On Sunday, 27 February, candidates running in the Birmingham Erdington by-election got the chance to battle it out on the first election hustings – held at the GRS Lions Club, Church Road, Erdington.

Sitting in front of a packed house, with all 120 seats filled with politically engaged locals, nine of the twelve MP hopefuls and party representatives answered questions asked by Erdington residents and registered voters.

Organised by Erdington Local and Churches Together, the event was the only Erdington by-election hustings to invite all candidates to attend, with others refusing to include independent or ‘fringe’ candidates.

The Erdington Local and Churches Together hustings were chaired by Rev. Emma Sykes from St. Barnabas Church and Ed King, editor of Erdington Local.

All but the Monster Raving Loony Party and the Militant Bus Pass Elvis Party had representation, although stand ins were sent by both the Labour Party and the Christian Peoples Alliance (CPA). Tommy O’Rouke (The Peaky Blinders / Independent) withdrew last minute due to food poisoning.

Labour candidate Paulette Hamilton was unable to attend due to family arrangements, needing that Sunday to help organise her father’s funeral – who died unexpectedly at the start of her campaign. Preet Gill MP (Labour, Edgbaston) stood in for Paulette Hamilton, with the Labour Party confirming her availability on Friday, 25 February.

The CPA’s candidate, Mel Mbondiah, is a pastor in Walsall and “Sunday is a difficult day for her”, according to her campaign agent and CPA leader, Sid Corlde – despite having told Erdington Local during their campaigning on Erdington High Street the day before the party were worried about questions over LGBT issues.

Originally planned for Saturday, 26 February, the date was moved to the Sunday as no suitable venue was available on the day before, with many candidates and others involved in the event also unable to make the Saturday.

The first to formally decline, there had been no response from the Labour Party about either date as other candidates confirmed Sunday as the preferred option. Whilst the CPA showed an initial interest in both dates, the party pulled their candidate at 10:30pm the day before the hustings.

Neither the Labour Party nor the CPA requested a different day or time in order for their candidate to attend, with both parties opting to send a party representative as a stand in.

After a brief introduction, where the CPA stand in, Simon Brookes, awkwardly opened by admitting his own party’s candidate should have attended the hustings herself, the candidates and representatives took questions from selected local community groups and institutions.

Co-founder of the Erdington Community Volunteers, Jo Bull, wanted those hoping to become Erdington’s next Member of Parliament to explain how they would increase mental health provision and the availability of immediate care.

Finding herself “very much out of my comfort zone” standing in a room full of people and political candidates, Jo’s question garnered a supportive round of applause from the room and a volley of answers from the people on stage – with Lee Dargue (Lib Dems) recalling his own struggles with depression and highlighting the absurdity of metal health support ‘by appointment only’.

The Crisis Café at the Beechcroft Centre on Slade Road, a well-known and used service for local residents struggling with mental health issues, will still only see people pre-arranged and during limited opening hours.

Next to stand up was Stephen Hughes, Chair of Short Heath Fields Trust (SHFT) whose two year fiercely fought battle against Birmingham City Council resulted in a suspension of plans to build an estate on the Perry Common/Stockland Green parkland.

Following a question to all candidates about their commitment to “save and protect green spaces” such as Short Heath Playing Fields, Mr Hughes wanted clarification from Ms Gill – standing in for Paulette Hamilton – what “credence” her answers had on behalf of the absentee Labour candidate.

Determined to get this point nailed down, Mr Hughes highlighted how “Ms Hamilton repeatedly has refused to meet with our group; she is the only candidate not to come down (to Short Heath playing fields) and answer questions.”

Ms Gill responded by saying Paulette Hamilton would take over the good work done by the recently deceased Jack Dromey MP in saving the fields, which immediately irked audience members and Mr Hughes alike, who simply responded: “…it wasn’t Jack Dromey who saved the playing fields it was Short Heath Fields Trust and our community that stopped the houses being built.”

And then Ms Gill uttered perhaps the most important sentence of the night, she said: “Paulette (Hamilton) wants you to know she will get a commitment from the cabinet not to build on the playing fields.”

A statement which would mean a victory for Short Heath Playing Fields Trust, Councillor Robert Alden (Conservative) scented an open goal and ran in saying: “Councillor (Paulette) Hamilton had voted for houses to be built on the land several times as she is part of the cabinet which wanted the estate built.

“She has voted against Erdington at every opportunity.”

Mr Hughes was delighted with the commitment, he agreed: “We saved the playing fields, but we need the cabinet to say they will never build on the land.

“Preet Gill said she was speaking on behalf of Paulette Hamilton and that promise to get a commitment from the cabinet is now on the public record, I just wish she (Hamilton) would have said it herself.”

Trying to cram in as much as possible, each candidate had been allocated one minute to answer questions.

But as the evening wore on answers got longer and strayed further from the point, in some cases totally ignoring the original question.

After an initial question about what the candidates would do to improve the outside perception of Kingstanding – which got lost in translation for most of the panel, apart from independent candidate Michael Lutwyche and the Conservative’s Robert Alden – Gary Byrne, Vice Principal of Kings Rise Academy, asked what each candidate would do to help him improve and “tweak” his curriculum internally to benefit the children in Kingstanding.

With candidates proffering a volley of education based analysis and rhetoric, Mr Byrne became so frustrated at the Green candidate, Siobhan Harper-Nunes, who said she had sent her children to “alternative education”, he eventually sat after declaring the panel were “just not answering the question.”

Claire Westmacott, a volunteer from Bethany Foodbank, asked what the candidates would do for people leaving hospital care without food – but only after making the point she too had asked Paulette Hamilton (Labour) to visit her organisation but had been met with silence.

Jack Brookes (Reform UK) jumped on the question to ask his own to the audience, and the world beyond: “Do you want to freeze to death or starve to death? We need to start fracking; we have 50 years of gas under our feet.”

An ecologically questionable stance unpopular with the crowd, Mr Brookes’ comment also prompted Lee Dargue to demand “…where?”, before looking at the floor as if there was a gas field under the Church Road venue.

Having the timing and confidence of a stand up comedian, the Liberal Democrat also earned a hearty laugh from the audience by saying: “this is the cleanest mic in history” when handed the freshly cleaned microphone, which was being constantly wiped with special sanitiser throughout the evening.

However, it was not just jokes coming from Mr Darge, whose often clear and direct responses earned favour with the Erdington crowd – in an area historically underrepresented by the Liberal Democrats. With the local elections only months away, it led many in the room to wonder how the traditionally placed ‘third party’ will fare on 5 May.

Mr Lutwyche, who also grew more and more popular with the crowd for his straight talking and fiercely local approach, got a round of applause for saying nothing sickened him more than seeing a politician posing in front of a foodbank.

However, as the issue rolled down the panel, none of the candidates succeeded in giving a proper solution to the original question about those leaving hospital going home to starve.

Pastor Rasaq Ibrahim (Redeemed Christian Church of God, Erdington) asked what the candidates would do to stop street crime on Erdington High Street. In September 2021, Pastor Rasaq helped bring the nationwide Street Pastors service to the area – resulting in significant success on Erdington High Street and filling some of the gap left by cuts to community policing.

Several of the politicians reached into their bag of statistics to bolster their arguments but could often be contradicted by each others ‘facts’ and figures. Labour’s complaint Birmingham has lost 1,000 policemen under the Conservative Government was met with a Conservative statistic they had put hundreds of coppers back on the beat.

And with a Labour Police and Crime Commissioner and a Conservative Home Office, both main parties could easily blame each other for rising crime.

However, one statistic truly ridiculed by the audience was the assertion from Christian Peoples Alliance representative Simon Clarke, that 94% of prisoners were criminals without fathers; when heckled about the number he retorted the statistics included the American prison system.

But the issue so many people wanted answering was left until last, and Stockland Green resident Chris, who lives in an area blighted by HMOs and badly managed exempt accommodation, delivered it perfectly.

He wanted to know how the Conservatives and Labour would solve the problem when several of their councillors in Birmingham are HMO landlords themselves.

Prompting Robert Alden (Conservatives) and Lee Dargue (Lib Dems) to publicly clarify neither they nor their family had profited from HMOs, the question got a rowdy shout out from one audience member saying that other candidates vying to be Erdington’s next MP could not say the same.

However, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate, Dave Nellist, who had joined in the hustings via Zoom as he was self-isolating and recovering from Covid, saved his best interjection till last.

In response to the question about HMOs, and Ms Gill’s declaration the Labour run Local Authority was having its hands tied by a Conservative Government, Mr Nellist offered actual examples of what could be done:

Mr Nellist said: “Go to Newham, a Labour run council in London, and see how they have solved the HMO problem by compulsory purchasing these properties… but Birmingham Council will not do this, why not?”

Proper old school politics, answering a question with an actual answer, the room applauded Mr Nellist ardently.

As the clock raced past the allotted two hours debating time, the chairs of the Erdington by-election hustings began to call the event to an end.

A full and engaged room, crammed with both pertinent points and empty rhetoric, the debate over Edrington’s future had raged – with every seat in the house taken by a concerned local resident looking for the best candidate to represent them in Westminster.

As people were asked to leave the venue with the spirit of democracy and not politically tribal anger, the last words spoken through a microphone surmised what had brought all these people out on a Sunday evening, with one of the evening’s chairs reminding the room: “…and don’t forget to vote on Thursday.”

Polling day for the Birmingham Erdington Parliamentary by-election is on Thursday, 3 March.

The 12 candidates contesting the seat are: Cllr Paulette Hamilton (Labour), Cllr Robert Alden (Conservative), Dave Nellist (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition), Lee Dargue (Liberal Democrats), Michael Lutwyche (Independent), Jack Brookes (Reform UK), Siobhan Harper-Nunes (Green), Thomas O’Rouke (Independent), Mel Mbondiah (Christian People’s Alliance), Clifton Holmes (Independent), David Laurence Bishop (Militant Bus-Pass Elvis Party), The Good Knight Sir NosDa (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party).