Frankfurt Market Back in Birmingham

Birmingham German MarketA few weeks ago the German Market arrived in Birmingham - Christmas is officially here! Selling the usual trinkets, toys, gifts, food and drink, the market has already drawn huge numbers and we've only just entered December.

Despite the price rises there seems to be a friendlier, more jovial atmosphere at the market this year, perhaps people getting into the festive spirit after a troubled year?

There had been complaints from local publicans that the market takes trade away. But what happens when the market closes at 9pm? People make their way to the pubs!

The market is open from 10am - 9pm every day until 23rd December.


Swine Flu Vaccine Protestors Hit Birmingham

City Hospital, used by many Ladywood residents, has been the target of an anti-vaccine campaign by those claiming the Swine Flu drug is unsafe.

Today's Birmingham Post reports that The People's United Community "roamed corridors in the evening, putting up posters and handing out leaflets to patients and relatives with the slogan: “Swine flu is not the biggest danger. It’s the vaccine.""

Swine flu is on the rise again in the West Midlands and the number of deaths believed to have been caused by the illness is now 15.

According to their website, TPUC believes... "the truth knows no boundaries, and so we seek only to show people actual, factual information about the world around them."

Quite how that fits in with putting posters up in hospitals frightening people off having a vaccine that could prevent them becoming ill is quite beyond me.


Albert Gill Ladywood VC Winner

The latest film from TNT News describes the history of former Ladywood resident Albert Gill, who in October 1916 was awarded the Victoria Cross, the most prestigious award for gallantry that can be presented to British & Commonwealth forces. TNT News reporter Alex presents this report from the cemetery where Albert Gill was buried.


Reclaim The Night A Success

The first Reclaim The Night march held in Birmingham for over 20 years was a great success, organisers have said. Around 100 women marched through the streets of Ladywood this weekend to protest against rape, male violence and perceived no-go areas of the city. The march began at Five Ways and ended with a rally at the Ladywood Community Centre.

Ladywood was chosen deliberately because it's perceived as a "no-go" area for women after dark. I have written to the local police team to ask what they are doing to tackle the problem.


Bloc Party Play New Academy

Last night I paid my first visit to the relocated Birmingham 02 Academy and thoroughly enjoyed the gig and the venue.

The old Dome makes a wonderful new home. The main room is very similar to the old Academy venue with a large floor and upstairs balcony, but there are improvements including numerous bars placed around the room, rather than in one area.

As for Bloc Party - a huge improvement over the last time I saw them. Whether it was the music or the venue I don’t know, but they created one heck of an atmosphere, one you’d expect to find at a rave rather than a gig! Hopefully the two photos snapped on the iPhone capture some of the atmosphere…

I’m looking forward to enjoying many more gigs at the new venue.


Thousands Complete Birmingham Half Marathon

Congratulations to the thousands of people who completed last weekend’s Birmingham Half Marathon. Several of my good friends managed to complete the 13-mile course from the city centre out to Bournville and back. I went along to cheer them on and also check out the IAAF World Championships, which took place beforehand. There was a great atmosphere as the winner of the men’s race, Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese received his medal.

Special congratulations to Liberal Democrat Councillors Karen Hamilton and Ray Hassall who both completed the distance – especially to Karen who only decided to take part a few days before the race!

Some local media focused on complaints from local residents. My view is one day of inconvenience should be acceptable for the benefits of hosting an event like this. Firstly it increases Birmingham’s growing reputation for hosting major sporting events. Secondly it inspires and motivates all sorts of people from the city to get fit enough to run the 13-mile distance, encouraging long-term positive lifestyle changes.

There are undoubtedly things that could be done better next time, so hopefully the organisers will take note. If anyone city centre based has any concerns about how the race was handled, including communications of road closures and alternative arrangements, please do contact me and I will pass on your concerns.


Spring Hill Library

Spring Hill Library - Barack Obama - Black History Month Spring Hill Library

Earlier this week I attended a meeting for the Cardinal Newman Heritage Project at Spring Hill Library, one of the stakeholders. Although I have passed it many times, I had never been inside.

Just a few minutes walk from the Jewellery Quarter, Central Ladywood and Summerfield, the impressive building housing Spring Hill Library is well worth a visit. Inside you'll currently find a series of displays celebrating Black History Month, such as one on Barack Obama (pictured). The library also offers books in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Gujerati and Bengali as well as free internet access. You can book a free one-hour internet taster session.

Although early on a Monday morning, it was good to see the library busy. Spring Hill Library is a great resource for the people of Ladywood and Hockley and long may it continue!

I will be running an exhibition on the Cardinal Newman Heritage Project at Spring Hill Library on the afternoon of Thursday 28th October, so please do stop by to find out more about the project and to take a look around the library.


Reclaim the Night in Ladywood

Reclaim The Night

Birmingham Feminists are holding their first Reclaim The Night march on Saturday 17th October 2009 on the streets of Ladywood.

From their website:

"The march will take us from the top of the city to an area that we feel needs to be ‘reclaimed’ from its reputation as a ‘no go’ area for the women of Birmingham. This event will unite women across the Midlands with women from out of area, to march and take a stand against violence against women, and particularly against the myth that a victim of sexual violence is somehow responsible for their victimisation if they walked home alone at night, or wore revealing clothing, or talked to a man at a bar."

"This is a women only march. We define this as any person who self-defines as a woman. We do feel that men are an extremely important part of the movement. However, there is a symbolism to a women only march for Reclaim The Night that separates it from marches for other causes. This is a HUMAN problem, but it is the collective voice of WOMEN that needs to be heard."

"The march will be followed by a rally with speakers from the Anawim Project, the Women of Allen’s Croft and Sandwell Rape Crisis among others. This rally is free to enter and is a gender mixed event. We will then be holding a fund-raising after party in the city centre with proximity to travel options (also mixed)."


Launch of Cardinal Newman Project

Last week I attended the launch of the Cardinal Newman Project at the Norman Power Centre in Ladywood. The project seeks to investigate the impact of Cardinal Newman and his work on the Ladywood area of Birmingham. It also aims to promote intergenerational learning. As well as obtaining information from elderly residents of Ladywood using techniques such as reminiscence, the children from the Oratory Primary School will be filming the various events and visits to produce a DVD of the project.

I was honoured to meet Father Sebastian and Father Anton from the Birmingham Oratory. Despite being openly secular in my beliefs, both were keen to hear about my involvement in the project and in particular my views on the area. I also met several parishioners of the Oratory and residents and management of the Norman Power Centre.

As part of the project steering group I have set up a simple website for the project to promote the work and events that are taking place. The site should make it easy for members of the steering group to give updates and for residents to contribute.

There was a lot of excitement about the potential visit to Birmingham of Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. If confirmed, the visit will bring a whole new meaning to the project and hopefully result in many more people benefiting from the project's work.


Bloco Louco – Samba Beats in Ladywood

One of my personal highlights of ArtsFest this year was stumbling across a samba group as I wandered through St. Paul's Square. The sounds may have been Brazilian, but these folk come from the heart of Ladywood!

Bloco Louco is a community samba percussion group who hold weekly workshops at the Ladywood Arts & Leisure Centre. They were formed in 2007 and attract members from a wide cross-section of the community. They practice every Tuesday from 7.15 to 9.45pm. No prior experience is necessary so please do pop along if you're interested in learning more about samba.