COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Times of change

Words & pics supplied by Urban Devotion Birmingham

We are in a time of change for many young people.

Whether it’s the end of a school year, saying goodbye to school or college, or finishing exams, there is a significance in finishing the academic year and looking ahead to what’s next.

This time of transition happens to coincide with another huge moment of potential transition and change – a general election! No matter the outcome, this can be a time of turbulence, of promised changes, and a country waiting in anticipation.

Change can be exciting and good for us. It can also induce fear, anxiety and high levels of stress.

Over-exposure to the stress related with change can have negative impacts, especially on children and young people even disrupting brain development when experienced for prolonged periods of time.

One of the privileges we have at UDB is to be a source of stability and continuity for young people, giving them spaces to self-express, de-stress and find consistency.

These things aren’t limited to us as youth workers; if you know a young person why don’t you check in with them in the next few days? The well-used saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is so true and you showing care can make a real difference.

As you do that we’d love for you to encourage them to connect with one of our spaces so that we can be part of that village too. Use the QR code to see what we are up to.

For more on Urban Devotion Birmingham visit www.urbandevotion.org or scan the QR code in this article.

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

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Your Voice, Your Vote

Words by Afzal Hussain – Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association

At Witton Lodge we’re delighted to support the recent launch of ‘Community Voice’, a new community-led initiative that enables residents from across Erdington to have a real say on local issues and opportunities.

Together, we want to connect with those who are passionate about their community, including those ‘less heard voices’ eager to shape and deliver local services and improve their neighbourhoods.

Community Voice welcomes people from all backgrounds and will work hard to reflect the makeup of our local communities from across Erdington and North Birmingham.

We already know there is huge appetite, interest and expertise and Community Voice will help to amplify this.

Now, there is also the small matter of a general election. Our right to vote was hard-won through the tireless efforts and sacrifice of many, so please do exercise this right, and vote.

I was also reminded of sacrifice, during the recent D Day commemorations, when we heard moving accounts from our veterans about how British, Commonwealth and Allied troops made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms.

Your vote is your voice, and it holds the power to influence the decisions that affect local lives, shape our communities and determine the future of our country.

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Exams and young people’s wellbeing

Words & pics supplied by Urban Devotion Birmingham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on Urban Devotion Birmingham visit www.urbandevotion.org

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

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Reflections and renewed focus

Words by Afzal Hussain – Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association

Whilst we know there is always more to do, usually at this time of the year we take a moment to reflect on the impact that we have made. This is important on many fronts, and not least to recognise the contributions of our many volunteers, local groups and partners who make our work possible.

Over the past year our five hubs had over 18,000 visits, providing vital community spaces for our residents to seek support, advice or simply connect with others.

We also awarded more than £450,000 to local groups, showcasing our dedication to empowering community organisations. These funds will make a significant difference in addressing the needs of our community and help to create local infrastructure that will serve us well in the future.

Additionally, we secured £4 million to kickstart the much-needed redevelopment of the former Erdington Baths into a dynamic enterprise hub for budding entrepreneurs and a new community centre to be proud of.

We also supported over 3,000 households through our B:Can Energy Advice partnership, saving each household an estimated £380 annually, easing financial burdens for our residents whilst also contributing to environmental sustainability.

As we pause for reflection, we are immensely proud and grateful for the dedication of our 18 volunteers, whose commitment to volunteering embodies the DNA of our Association.

Their efforts have positively impacted hundreds of fellow residents across all our sites, showcasing the power of community support and collaboration.

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

NEWS: West Midlands has its first Labour Mayor as Richard Parker wins by narrow margin

Pics sourced from candidates and Erdington Local archives

The West Midlands has a Labour Mayor for the first time.

Labour candidate Richard Parker narrowly beat the two-term Conservative Mayor Andy Street, the only man to previously hold the role after winning the first contest in 2017.

Due to a recount and technical difficulties, the announcement at Birmingham International Convention Centre was delayed by over seven hours.

This was also the first time the Mayoral election was decided by the First Past the Post voting system, unlike the second preferences style poll in previous elections.

But once the final results were verified, Labour’s Richard Parker clinched 225,590 votes to the Conservative’s Andy Street’s 224,082 votes – in an astonishingly close result.

Independent candidate Akhmed Yakoob, who Erdington Local was amongst the first to profile in their race for West Midlands Mayor, was the clear third place choice – clocking up 69, 621 votes.

Reform UK’s Elaine Williams came fourth with 34, 471 votes.

Coming in fifth was Gravelly Hill resident and Green Party candidate Siobhan Harper-Nunes, who earned 31,036 votes.

Ms Harper-Nunes fought a fierce campaign without major backing or finances from her national party, and previously told Erdington Local she believed “just running is winning” as it allowed her to place what she felt were important issues on the agenda.

To read a full our LOCAL PROIFILE with Siobhan Harper-Nunes, click here.

The Liberal Democrats came in last with Sunny Virk convincing 12,176 people to put a cross next to his name.

There were 4,757 rejected ballots in the Mayoral elections, compared to 23,000 in the Police and Crime Commissioners election which was announced earlier in the day and saw Labour’s candidate Simon Foster re-elected.

The results from both elections, held on 2 May, mean this is the first time since the West Midlands Mayor and West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) offices were created that the same political party holds both offices.

However, the result in the race for West Midlands Mayor could have been a more conclusive for Labour without the impact from independent candidate Akhmed Yakoob – who galvanised communities across the West Midlands who felt anger over Sir Keir Starmer’s stance on refusing to call a ceasefire in Gaza last year.

Mr Yakoob won his third place through on a prominent social media, anti-Labour, pro-Palestine, George Galloway backed campaign, that only began four weeks ago but was helped by experienced ex-Labour councillors and members.

However, one the votes were counted, and recounted, the job of West Midladns Mayor and Chaor of the West Midlands Combined Authority went to Labour’s Richard Parker. After being declared the next West Midlands Mayor, MrParker said: “This is the most important thing I will ever do.

“This week people voted for the person and the party. They recognised that a Labour mayor can make a positive difference in this region.

“I believe a Labour Mayor working with a Labour Government will get this region back to its best again.”

Acknowledging his party’s massive loss of trust of the Muslim community, who voted for Mr Yakoob in unprecedented numbers for an independent candidate, Mr Parker further pledged to: “Build back trust within the Muslim community.”

Offering warm words to his vanquished opponent, he added: “Andy Street. You’ve led this region through a number of great challenges.

“You deserve credit through building up the combined authority into the powerhouse it is today, through the economic shocks and for leading this region when it came out of covid.

“I absolutely believe that whilst our politics are different, Andy, we both have the best interests of the West Midlands at heart.”

Mr Street responded: “I wish you all strength and wisdom as you take over the reins.

“It has been my honour to serve and to lead this place for the last seven years. I hope I’ve done it with dignity and integrity and I hope I’ve bequeathed to Richard a combined authority – and indeed a role – to which young, aspiring leaders will want to aspire one day.”

Whilst the delayed results to the count were coming in, there was frustration online as the West Midlands Combined Authority live election stream cut out after a day of gaffes, glitches, and technical difficulties which meant viewers could not see the speeches of Mr Street, Mr Yakoob, and other candidates.

However, after the final count was in Mr Yakoob told Erdington Local: “This has been an incredible four weeks. Imagine if we had started three months ago, we started with what people called was just a TikTok campaign.

“Well, we got nearly 70,000 votes and almost lost Labour what should have been an easy victory.

“Thanks to everyone for voting, I believe I got more young people registered and voting than any other candidate.

“Thank you for everyone in Erdington who supported my campaign, we had plenty volunteers from Erdington, and it looks like a lot of voters too.”

An official poll card for government elections and a UK photo driving licence as prove of identity.

Mr Yakoob added: “You wait till the General Election; I will be back.”

The next General Election is set to be held before January 2025.

The turnout for the West Midlands Mayoral election was 29.8% across the West Midlands, and in Birmingham it was 28.5 per cent.

For more on Richard Parker visit www.facebook.com/RichardParkerWM

NEWS: Castle Vale Councillor to hold ‘Crime and Community Safety Summit’ at Greenwood Academy on 18 May

Words & pics by Ed King / Profile pic supplied by Cllr Ray Goodwin

Castle Vale Councillor Ray Goodwin (Labour) is to hold a special ‘Crime and Community Safety Summit’ to address concerns of crime and policing on the estate.

Scheduled for Saturday 18 May, the event will be held in Greenwood Academy’s main school hall from 1:30pm – open to all and free to attend.

Local residents and community groups will be invited, as will the local police force, representatives from the estate’s main housing provider The Pioneer Group, and the Erdington constituency MP Paulette Hamilton.

Cllr Goodwin has informed Erdington Local he will further be inviting the sitting West Midlands Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner, who will both begin their new terms in office from 2 May.

Cllr Goodwin has organised the public meeting after being “fed up” with the “hands off approach” to policing on Castle Vale, and the dangers a lack of visible police presence can allow.

Having held a previous public meeting about safety on the estate in 2023, Cllr Goodwin has pushed forward this year’s ‘crime summit’ after police seemingly ignored local witness reports of gun shots following a “violent disorder” on the High Street on Thursday 5 April.

According to the police’s initial statement issued on Friday 6 April, the attack, which took place in broad daylight in and around the Nisa convenience store, was isolated to “four masked men – understood to be carrying machetes”.

However, multiple Castle Vale locals reported hearing what they believed to be gun shots and took to social media to warn others about the incident.

Cllr Goodwin repeatedly petitioned police to escalate their investigation and take seriously the potential involvement of firearms, even taking them to where spent shotgun cartridges had been found near the scene of the crime.

Days later and after heavy rainfall, police returned to continue with forensic investigations, stating they had received “a report of a firearm being discharged” and were “keeping an open mind” about the nature of the assault.

Cllr Goodwin told Erdington Local: “Like many residents, I am fed up with what feels like a hands off approach from the police when it comes to crime on Castle Vale. I understand budgets have been cut, but the lack of police presence on the estate is a serious concern.

“Plus, the seeming unwillingness to listen to local residents is totally unacceptable – we should be working together to keep Castle Vale safe; residents should not have to push the police into action over reports of serious crime.”

Crime on Castle Vale is often a cause for concern amongst the local residents, businesses, and civic stakeholders who live and work on the estate. In a recent Ward meeting, one of the action plan points was how to make Castle Vale ‘bold and safe’ – with a formal request to see the estate’s CCTV upgraded featured on the meeting minutes.

The absence of a local police station in Castle Vale has also often been criticised, following its closure after West Midlands Police announced an initial 28 community stations were getting axed in 2015. The building, situated at the end of Castle Vale High Street, has now been converted into apartments.

But whilst the impact of crime and the loss of community policing is felt across the city, there are a mix of opinions about how these issues directly affect life on the north Birmingham estate.

One Castle Vale resident told Erdington Local: “I don’t think the policing on Castle Vale is any worse than other areas of Birmingham. The recent incident (on 5 April) highlighted the fact that the police need to listen to the residents more and take on board what they say. 

“If it hadn’t been for Cllr Ray Goodwin and Erdington Local, they would not have investigated the firearms involvement. A bigger police presence would be appreciated at night when the street cruising and racing around the estate is rife.”

However, another Castle Vale local and young mother added: “I can’t let my children play out on the estate due to the amount of violent crime which goes unchecked. If there was a more visible police presence there wouldn’t be as many teenagers out to cause trouble. 

“Youngsters on motorbikes race round the estate and, even if reported, the police don’t come to investigate or find them. We also need the CCTV system to be fully functioning and monitored 24 hours a day.”

Organised by Cllr Ray Goodwin, the ‘Crime and Community Safety Summit’ will be held at Greenwood Academy from 1:30pm on Saturday 18 May – free to attend and open to all.

Updates will be posted online at www.facebook.com/thisiscastlevale and on Erdington Local

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on Urban Devotion Birmingham visit www.urbandevotion.org

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

NEWS: Police “keeping an open mind” as investigations continue following the attack on Castle Vale High Street last week

Words by Ed King / Pics from the scene supplied by Castle Vale residents

Police were back on Castle Vale today, cordoning off areas around the High Street and St Cuthbert’s Church as they search for more clues after the widely reported attack on the High Street last week.

Following the discovery of spent shotgun cartridges near the scene of the crime, and continued reports of local residents having heard gun fire, officers are now “keeping an open mind” as they continue their investigations.

On Friday 5 April, police responded to an emergency call at around 5:10pm where masked individuals were seen brandishing machetes and chasing another man into the Nisa convenience store on the High Street.

No injuries were reported, and within 72 hrs the police had arrested an 18 year old and a 16 year old for violent disorder.

Under the Public Order Act 1986, violent disorder can carry a jail term of up to five years if the accused ‘used or intended to use firearm or other highly dangerous weapon.’

But from the most immediate reports, including those who claimed to have witnessed the attack or the immediate aftermath, many members of the public also told they had heard what they believed to be gun fire – taking to social media to warn others on the close knit North Birmingham estate.

The first post on the popular Castle Vale Community Facebook Page, following the incident, read: “Shots fired up by Nisa… 4 lads with long blades.

“Speed off in a car people please get your kids in doors as there’s a lot about the high Street. Armed police now here.”

One local mother also posted: “My son was by St Cuthberts (Church) when he heard the shots and saw lads with machetes running into a car. The car was not far from him and he turned straight back around.”

The initial response from West Midlands Police, however, was that there was “no evidence of any gun being fired”.

But following continued reports from people living around the area, and the discovery of spent shotgun cartridges near the scene, Castle Vale Councillor Ray Goodwin (Labour) petitioned the police to step up their investigation.

On Saturday 6 April, the day after the initial attack, police returned to Castle Vale – using official police tape to cordon off the Pitstop Service Station and continue their forensic investigations.

Then again earlier today, Monday 8 April, blue and white tape was back up around the Tangmere Drive end of the High Street and St Cuthbert’s Church – with officers at the scene telling members of the public it was related to the attack last Friday.

In a report issued later, a spokesperson for West Midlands Police confirmed: “An investigation has been launched into violent disorder that took place in Castle Vale on Friday (5 April).

“We were called to reports of an armed group chasing another man into a shop on the High Street at around 5.10pm and a report of a firearm being discharged.”

They continued: “Cartridges have also been recovered nearby, and will be examined to see if they are linked to the investigation.

“We’re keeping an open mind and we’d ask anyone with information to contact us via Live Chat on our website, or by calling 101, and quote 20/380920/24.”

West Midlands Detective Chief Inspector James Spencer added: “We understand the worry this has caused the community and are doing everything we can to establish what took place.

“Today we will continue CCTV enquiries and will be speaking to witnesses. We will also have our forensics team searching the area.”

He added: “There will be an increased police presence in the area this week to offer reassurance to the local community.

“Please come and speak to us if you have any concerns or information.”

But one concerned Castle Vales resident, who lives near the crime scene and wished to remain anonymous, told Erdington Local: “I would like to know why the police have taken three days to investigate the reports of gunfire from local residents and eyewitnesses. 

“The residents of this estate have been let down yet again. If this had been a more affluent area of Birmingham the police would have been on it immediately and the relevant areas cordoned off for forensic investigation.”

They added: “The police were told there were gunshots, gun cartridges were found, what more evidence did they need.”

After hearing the updated statement from West Midlands Police, Councillor Ray Goodwin also commented: “I welcome the development that West Midlands Police have now acknowledged that residents reported fire arms being discharged.

“I am concerned that the community was not listened to on Friday; what’s important now is the police ensure there is a presence and the community feels safety in the community they live in.”

Following the attack last week, Cllr Goodwin has previously promised to hold a ‘Community Crime and Safety Summit’ to address concerns over crime and policing on the Castle Vale estate.

No date has been set for the summit, although Erdington Local has been told that following the elections for West Midlands Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner on 2 May – whomever is in office will be invited to attend.

The investigation into the attack continues.

If anyone has information regarding the attack on 5 April on Castle Vale, or that might aid the investigation, please contact West Midlands Police via their Live Chat: https://www.west-midlands.police.uk/contact-us/live-chat

Alternatively, people can call 101 and quote the crime reference number: 20/380920/24

NEWS: Police cordon off Pitstop Service Station after shotgun cartridges found following disturbance on Castle Vale

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Castle Vale residents

West Midlands Police have now cordoned off the Pitstop Service Station on Castle Vale, after a local resident found spent shotgun cartridges around the corner from where the violent attack that took place on Castle Vale High Street on Friday afternoon.

Following reports of a disturbance on Friday 5 April, where local residents heard what they believed to be gunshot fire and saw masked men wielding machetes, West Midlands Police (WMP) have been investigating on the estate.

In a statement issued by WMP earlier today, the force confirmed that whilst they acknowledged there had been “masked men… carrying machetes” they were not treating this as a gun related crime.  

But following the findings of shotgun cartridges from a local resident, and the insistence of Castle Vale Councillor Ray Goodwin that the police treat this as a potential gun related crime, WMP have now come back to the North Birmingham estate to continue with forensic invetigations.

Having reported the incident earlier today and been told by WMP that “at this stage” the police had “no evidence of a viable firearm being fired”, Erdington Local has asked for any updates or developments .

At the time of writing, Erdington Local has been told of no immediate danger to any residents on Castle Vale and police presence in the area is purely investigational.

In their statement issued earlier today, WMP advised: “We’re investigating after weapons were brandished during disorder in High Street, Castle Vale, at just after 5.10pm yesterday (5 April).

“Up to four masked men – understood to be carrying machetes – chased another man into a shop. They then fled and no-one was injured.

“We’re carrying out CCTV – and other enquiries – and anyone with information can contact us via Live Chat on our website, or by calling 101, and quote 20/380920/24.”

Erdington Local has asked West Midlands Police for any updates on the investigation or possible threat to public safety.

NEWS: Castle Vale councillor to hold ‘Community Crime and Safety Summit’ after reports of shots fired and men carrying machetes on High Street

Words & pics by Ed King

Castle Vale’s Councillor Ray Goodwin (Labour) is set to hold an emergency ‘Community Crime and Safety Summit’ following reports of shots fired and men carrying machetes on the North Birmingham estate.

On Friday 5 April at around 5pm, several people posted messages saying they heard gun fire on or around the High Street and seen men wielding large knives – with some saying they had seen armed police and emergency services attend the scene.

Cllr Goodwin posted updates on his own Facebook page, confirming he had visited the area to “make sure residents are safe” and that the police had attended, but that things were “getting back to normal”.

He further added, in response to the incident and growing concerns over crime and policing on the estate: “We will be holding another Community Safety meeting… to talk about some of the issues we’re facing (on Castle Vale) as clearly some of these issues have not gone away.”

Posts on the popular Castle Vale Community Facebook page showed that some Castle Vale locals were even almost caught up in the violence, being close enough to witness aspects of the attack and even see those involved flee the scene.

Adam Stansbie posted: “Shots fired up by Nisa… 4 lads with long blades. Speed of in a car people please get your kids in doors as there’s a lot about the high Street. Armed police now here.”

Jess Bolton quickly confirmed: “Yes seen armed police car go along Manby Road however went off the estate at speed not long ago.”

Thankfully, at the time of writing no reports of anyone being injured have yet been made.

But the reality of how easily innocent bystanders could get hurt became all too apparent to those with families in the area.

On Friday afternoon, not long after the first reports of the incident came in, one local mother posted: “My son was by St Cuthberts (Church) when he heard the shots and saw lads with machetes running into a car. The car was not far from him and he turned straight back around.”

She added: “He’s a grown man and it shook him up. My husband has just drove by to go pick him up and there’s police and kids all dressed in black hanging around. Hopefully cameras will catch something. Really hope nobody was hurt!”

In a Facebook Live video from the scene, Cllr Goodwin further identified the need for the Castle Vale police station to be reopened and for “a proper police presence on this estate”.

Castle Vale was one of the first community police stations to be closed across the West Midlands, following the announcement made by West Midlands Police in 2015 that they would be shutting an initial 28 facilities to save money.

To watch the full video from Cllr Ray Goodwin, click here.

Cllr Goodwin later issued the following statement to Erdington Local: “Castle Vale is a strong vibrant community full of amazing individuals which is why tonight’s incident is more shocking.

“I am determined to deal with this issue head on and stop crime increasing further. This is why I am announcing we will be organizing a Community Crime and Safety Summit. Time, date, and venue will be announced shortly.

“I will be inviting the Police and Crime Commissioner, other local partners, and the MP Paullette Hamilton.

“I will be rolling my sleeves up to ensure more resources and better visible policing are allocated to Castle Vale.”

Erdington Local contacted West Midlands Police and West Midlands Ambulence Service for any updates or information.

West Midlands have released the following initial statement: “We’re investigating after weapons were brandished during disorder in High Street, Castle Vale, at just after 5.10pm yesterday (5 April).

“Up to four masked men – understood to be carrying machetes – chased another man into a shop. They then fled and no-one was injured.

“We’re carrying out CCTV – and other enquiries – and anyone with information can contact us via Live Chat on our website, or by calling 101, and quote 20/380920/24.”

For more on Councillor Ray Goodwin visit www.facebook.com/thisiscastlevale