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.

NEWS: Local residents invited to ‘Spring into Summer’ as Perry Common Festival returns on 15 June

Words and pics by Ed King / Promotional artwork supplied by WLCA

Local residents across Perry Common are invited to ‘Spring into Summer’ as the Perry Common Festival is set to return on Saturday 15 June, running from 12noon to 3pm.

Held on The Ring in the centre of Witton Lodge Road, the communal grass area by Storywood School and St Martin’s Church, the family friendly event is free to attend – with some activities costing only £1.

Event organisers are promoting a variety of events and entertainment for adults and children of all ages – including a super slide, bouncy castle, donkey rides, and a football cage.

The festival will also offer a chance to meet some of the emergency services that look after Perry Common residents, with a public engagement presence from both the local Fire Service and police.

Organised by Witton Lodge Community Association (WLCA) and The Active Wellbeing Society – with support from Urban Devotion Birmingham, St Matin’s Church, and The Friends of Witton Lakes – the annual event was first held in 2010.

But due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the community summer festival was put on hiatus for four years – eventually returning to Perry Common in 2023.

A recognised “highlight for our community”, a spokesperson from WLCA further told how they are “are excited to continue this tradition in 2024” following the successful return of the festival last year.

The event takes on an extra special meaning in 2024 as it will also mark the 30th anniversary of Witton Lodge Community Association, the resident founded organisation established in 1994 after Birmingham City Council announced plans to demolish the estate.

Taking inspiration from the Stockfield Community Association in Acock’s Green, WLCA now manages over 200 homes in Perry Common and has spearheaded successful community developments – including the renovation of Perry Common Hall and transforming the old gatekeeper’s cottage and grounds at Witton Lakes into a thriving community garden and innovative Eco Hub.

WLCA have also used The Ring on Witton Lodge Road for a world record breaking community challenge, where they built the world’s largest holly wreath around the railings – with help from the local residents and children the at neighbouring Storywood School

Measuring a staggering 358.3m in circumference and 136.1m in diameter, the giant wreath was made of holly branches from Sutton Park and Christmas decorations donated Birmingham City Council.

Paul Tse, Flourishing Community Development Officer at Witton Lodge Community Association, added: “We are so excited to host the 2024 Spring into Summer Festival in the heart of Perry Common.

“2024 marks thirty years of Witton Lodge Community Association and we are delighted to host this event as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations!

“This event really captures and celebrates the vibrant community spirit that exists in our community, and we can’t wait to welcome everyone on the day!”

The Perry Common ‘Spring into Summer’ Festival will be held on Saturday 15 June at The Ring, Witton Lodge Road, Perry Common, B23 5JD. The event will run from 12noon to 3pm – admission is free with some activities costing £1.

For more information on Perry Common Festival and the other projects from Witton Lodge Community Association visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk or phone (0121) 382 1930

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.

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.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: New life for Erdington Baths

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

After almost six years of perseverance and the tireless support of our community and stakeholders, we were delighted to finally secure the £4million needed for the first phase of works that will breathe fresh life into the former Erdington Baths.

The Baths are almost a century old, and have stood empty since they were closed in 2014. Many residents have already shared their treasured memories of growing up and visiting the Baths with family and friends, and I’m certain we will hear many more as the project develops.

With work expected to start later in the year, the first phase will see funds invested into the overall fabric of the building to restore the roof, undertake essential repairs, create a main reception area, and convert the pool hall into a co-working space, studio pods, events and community space.

Situated between Erdington Library and the Erdington Skills Centre, it is a great opportunity to create a Learning, Skills and Enterprise Quarter in the heart of Erdington.

Complex projects such as these are only possible with the support of many stakeholders – our community, local businesses and partners. We want to thank Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Combined Authority for investing in the project.

We are particularly appreciative of the Council’s leadership for taking this brave decision, especially as it deals with its financial challenges. Mayor Andy Street continued to back the project even against the backdrop of three failed funding bids to government.

The late Jack Dromey and more recently Paulette Hamilton MP have been huge advocates, and Cllr Robert Alden has been on this journey with us right from the outset. Thank you!

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: Mother issues warnings after daughter attacked by dog off leash at Witton Lakes

Words by Jake Morgan / Pics from Erdington Local archive

A local mother has made public warnings about a dog and their owner after her daughter was attacked by the animal earlier this week at Witton Lakes, suffering bites and scratches to her face and neck.

At 2:15pm on Tuesday 2 April, the young girl was playing with friends on the grass at the popular Perry Common/Erdington parkland when what is believed to be a French bulldog approached her.

After trying to ward away the animal, which was off the lead, she was attacked by the dog as it leapt up, scratched her neck, and bit her lip.

The girl’s mother, Lisa Brown, told how the dog’s owner reportedly quipped “he smells fear” as the reason for the attack and did not enquire about the young girl’s condition.

After tending to her daughter’s injuries, the she then reported the owner and dog to West Midlands Police before posting a warning to others on social media.

Lisa Brown said: “My daughter got attacked by a dog which was a Frenchie beige colour in Witton Lakes.

“She was sitting on the grass with a friend and the dog come up to her jumping up her she tried to push the dog away but the dog scratched all her neck and bites her lip.

Lisa added: “All the owner said was he smells your fear not a sorry made sure my daughter was ok nothing. The owner couldn’t control the dog which was off the leash. He was an older guy with an accent. I’ve reported it to the police but please be aware if you walk in this park.

“My daughter is 12, she was in a public place and should have been safe.”

Lisa’s post sparked a massive reaction on social media with nearly 100 comments made on her Nextdoor post alone at the time of writing. Many people rushed to wish her daughter a speedy recovery, as other parents revealed their fears about dangerous dogs in Erdington’s parks.

Shahnaz Miah said: “This is why I don’t go to parks, it does not happen every day but it just takes that one occasion doesn’t it? Your poor daughter, I hope she is OK. All I have is curses for these dog owners.”

Whyhad Hussain said: “The problem with some of these idiots who walk with their dogs off the lead. Many times I have been down Witton Lakes and their dogs off their lead. I am sure by law they are supposed to be on a lead.”

Anita Kumar said: “I hope the police find the owner he should be ashamed of himself and the dog should not be let off lead if he can’t control himself.”

Solomon Harris said: “Irresponsible dog owners, shouldn’t be allowed to have dogs. If a dog is scratching and biting her of course she will be scared. Let someone attack him and then say, I can smell your fear!

Mike Medlam added: “Ban the frenchies. Rule for one and another rule for the other. Muzzle them up… I bet that won’t happen will it.”

Deaths by dog attack in England and Wales have risen dramatically over the last few years, with the Office of National Statistics reporting 16 fatalities in 2023 – as opposed to five in 2021 and two in 2019.

The American Bully breed has been found to be responsible for around 50% of the fatal dog attacks in the UK from 2021 and 2023, resulting in a ban on breeding the animal and legislation requiring existing owners to obtain an official exemption from the courts.

Previously, breeds including the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and the Fila Brasileiro were also made illegal to own without a court order – following the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and its subsequent amendments in 1997.

However, campaigners and dog lovers the UK have constantly challenged the increase in laws around dogs – with many arguing it is the irresponsible owners and not the breed that make certain dogs a danger to humans.

West Midlands Police have been approached for a comment regarding the attack in Witton Lakes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on Urban Devotion Birmingham visit 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: The impact of Council cuts on our communities: and what we can do

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

Like many of you, we have seen the degree and shape of the Council’s funding and service cuts, and they are devastating. At Witton Lodge Community Association, we are deeply concerned about the impact that they will have on our most vulnerable communities. Local charities, groups, foodbanks, and networks are doing their very best, but are being overwhelmed by a tsunami of demand.

As the Council grapples with its financial crisis, we know that budgets are not just numbers – they represent lives, hopes, and the very fabric of our community. Following a decade of austerity, we are particularly concerned about further cuts to Youth Services and Libraries – they are the frontline of providing support, education, a sense of belonging, and safe spaces for our young people.

We know local charities and support networks play a critical role, and these funding cuts mean that unfortunately, some will go under, whilst others will struggle to maintain the already ‘frayed safety net’ that many vulnerable people rely on.

But, as we did during the pandemic, we will be stepping up to the challenge. We have already distributed over £250,000 to local groups to provide essential support services and will redouble efforts to strengthen local networks to attract further resources.

We have urged the Council to work with us and local partners to protect local assets. At Witton Lodge we have a successful track record of doing this – Perry Common Community Hall, Witton Lakes Eco Hub, and Erdington Baths (our latest venture), are some examples of this. But it is not just about buildings, it is about local voices and services – designing and delivering services differently to meet the needs of our communities, and ensuring the Council gets value-for-money.

Our community and city’s recovery relies on us pulling together, taking action, and advocating for change that works with the grain of communities.

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.