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.


Lightning Bolt To Strike Birmingham

Usain Bolt
On the day Usain Bolt obliterated his world record to confirm his status as the fastest man alive, his nation signed a deal to bring their training camp to Birmingham in 2012.

From the Jamaica Observer:

"Birmingham is a city that has always been close to Jamaica. There are many Jamaicans living in Birmingham and they have sold Jamaica well. We'll be working closely with the leaders in Birmingham to build our base there and to improve tourist arrivals from that city. I expect to meet with them soon to explore the possibilities" - Edmund Bartlett, Jamaican Minister of Tourism

"This means so much for the city of Birmingham. Our Jamaican community will be ecstatic because this guarantees them their place in the 2012 Games. While the competition will be based in London, this will definitely bring the Olympic fever to Birmingham - Mike Whitby, Leader, Birmingham City Council

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Get Ready to SHOUT!

SHOUT logo

I've just heard today that the inaugral SHOUT Festival has been awarded a grant from Sport England through their Small Grants programme. This adds to the grant already received from the Arts Council.

SHOUT is the first of its kind in Birmingham, a cultural festival celebrating and showcasing the growing, vibrant LGBT community. The first festival, to be held during November 2009, features visual arts, performance arts, sports and community events. I was invited by the organisers, the Birmingham LGBT Community Trust, to head up the sports strand following my previous experience in founding and developing Birmingham Blaze FC.

The Sport England grant will enable us to showcase the various opportunities available for LGBT people to get involved with sport, with the ultimate aim of increasing participation within the LGBT community. Birmingham Blaze FC, Moseley Shoals swimming group, Moseley ladies rugby club and a badminton group are all signed up and will offer taster sessions throughout November. The showpiece of the month will be our "Urban Sports Day" to be held on Hurst Street itself, proving there is life beyond the bars and clubs.

There'll be loads more information coming soon, watch this space!

In the meantime, you can join the Facebook group or mailing list, or follow the festival on Twitter.


Birmingham Blaze FC AGM

Birmingham Blaze FC logoYesterday I had the honour of being one of the returning officers for the committee elections at the Birmingham Blaze FC AGM.

I founded the club in 2005 with a kickabout on the site of the proposed Aquatics Centre by the Nelson School in Ladywood. From those tentative beginnings great things have happened. This season the club, chaired ably by Michael McCulley and managed by Fiona Washington, finished second in the GNL.

The club was founded on the basis of inclusiveness with a “football for all” ethos. In the early days this ethos worked well, but following success comes the inevitable divisions. There was a lively debate on this issue at the AGM and as a result of this there will be a wide ranging review of the club’s future.

As returning officer I had to remain silent, but now the elections are over I feel I can comment.

The club finished second in the national league, yet this was seen as failure by some. Take a step back folks – this was nothing short of an incredible achievement and each and every one of you should be brimming with pride. The club is exactly that, a club, not a team. For new players there needs to be opportunity or they will disappear and the club’s growth will stall. There is merit in the idea of two teams but this would need to be managed very carefully to avoid a huge division within the club. The Midlands Unity League idea should be investigated further and I would be happy to help facilitate any discussions. I also think entering a 5-a-side league is an easy way to increase the playing options.

I’m confident the membership has chosen a strong committee and it will be interesting to see what the change of manager (welcome Ian Thomas) brings to the club.

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Edgbaston Cricket Ground

Most of the controversy about the planned expansion of Edgbaston Cricket Ground has related to the floodlights. Labour MP Roger Godsiff and Respect Councillor Salma Yaqoob have been particularly outspoken.

However, what about the impact of traffic on local residents? Balsall Heath dweller and podcast supremo Nick Booth filmed a mini-documentary highlighting the impact of a cricket match on the residential streets of Balsall Heath:

"It can be a right pain living near Edgbaston cricket ground. Because the club doesn't take repsonsibility for making sure there is enough good parking for people then the people living around the ground have to bear that responsibility instead. It means gridlock and frustration - all for a gentleman's game. How odd!"

Plans for the proposed Birmingham Aquatics and Leisure Centre include provision for parking within the NIA complex and proposals for a residents permit scheme on a nearby housing estate.

I don't know the cricket ground area particularly well, but I assume from Nick's video that there is no such permit scheme in place. The issue with implementing one would be the alternative parking arrangements. Perhaps the solution lies in a park-and-ride scheme from say Star City, or somewhere on the 45/47 bus route?