Colors: Blue Color

Renowned figures and highly respected members of the West Midlands business community have been revealed as the first charity champions to join acorns children’s hospice as part of an exciting new ambassador programme.

CEO and business founder, Jas Rohel; Entrepreneur, Personality and Hospitality Operator Phil Oldershaw; CEO Petro Nicolaides; Chartered Accountant and Managing Partner Johnathan Dudley; and Channel Partnership Manager Amy Deakin have been announced as the charity’s very first Business Ambassadors. The fab five will play a key role in raising awareness of Acorns within the business community and help raise vital funds towards its lifeline care for local life limited and life threatened children and their families.

Each of Acorns Business Ambassadors is joining the charity in a two-year partnership and has committed to raising £5,000 each year.

Libby Kaluna, Partnership Fundraising Manager at Acorns, said: “We’re extremely excited to launch this brand-new initiative and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have some of the region’s very best in business join us as our first Ambassadors.

“Their influence, passion and expertise will help us reach even more people within the business community and grow local support, which will make a massive difference to the children and families that need us.”

Acorns Business Ambassadors will represent the charity at various events during their tenure, from cheque presentations and networking groups to attending public engagements within the business community. The group will come together for quarterly meetings chaired by Paul Cadman, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Birmingham University and Acorns Vice President.

Libby added: “Each Ambassador will add their own voice and experience to help us raise awareness, campaign and fundraise. Together, they will help us continue to be there for some of the most vulnerable children and families across the region who rely on our lifeline care and support.”

Acorns Children’s Hospice provides specialist palliative care for life limited and life threatened children and support for their families from its three hospices, based in Birmingham, Walsall and Worcester, and in the community. In the past year the charity has cared for more than 800 children and over 1,000 families, including those who are bereaved.

It cost Acorns £27,000 per day to provides its lifeline care and support, the bulk of which comes from fundraising and partnerships.

For the third year running, Ecclesiastical Insurance Group is giving away £1million to charities with the return of its Movement for Good awards.

As of now, people in the West Midlands can nominate a cause close to their hearts for a potential £1,000 award to help make a difference. 500 charities will each receive £1,000 during the first phase of the campaign. A second phase of giving will happen later this summer.

Since the initiative began in 2019, over 3,900 West Midlands residents have nominated causes they care about, leading to the Movement for Good awards gifting £29,000 to charities across the county. Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital Charity, The Birmingham Dogs Home and The Lily Mae Foundation were amongst the beneficiaries, following overwhelming public support.

The nomination process is open until June 13. Winners will be drawn at random and the more times a charity is nominated the more chance it has of being selected. It’s quick and easy to nominate, you can vote for your favourite charity online at: www.movementforgood.com

Mark Hews, Group Chief Executive of Ecclesiastical Insurance Group, says: “We’re delighted to announce the launch of Ecclesiastical’s Movement for Good awards for the third year running. Our Movement for Good awards will continue to help charities at a time when they need it most and we know that for many charities, £1,000 can make a real difference.

“We were thrilled to receive so many nominations from the public last year and this year we are encouraging even more people to nominate a good cause. Ecclesiastical, the fourth largest corporate donor in the UK, is a unique financial services group. We are owned by a charity which means all available profits can be given to the good causes that are so important to our customers. As a company whose purpose is to contribute to the greater good of society, charitable giving is at the heart of our business.”

Noori Awan, the daughter of a Birmingham-based Pakistani businessman recalls, “We didn’t know what was happening.

How could a strong healthy man like my father be suffering from Covid. We just could not understand what was going on and we couldn’t get to see him.” Mr. Awan died, and like many others across Pakistan and the UK, Covid-19 has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands.

Songs Of Solitude (SOS), conceived and directed by Mukhtar Dar and Arieb Azhar, is an online digital collaboration that combines testimonials, spoken word, soundscapes, music, and movement to share stories of two Pakistani families - a Christian minority family in Pakistan and a Muslim minority family in Birmingham, whilst grieving for their loved ones, share hope for a better tomorrow.

The Emanuel family in Faisalabad, and the Awan family in Birmingham share heart-wrenching accounts of life and loss under the pandemic lockdowns. This international collaboration between Art Langar (Pakistan) and Kalaboration Arts (Birmingham), with a dynamic range of artistes, reflects on the isolation and loss during the liminality of the lockdowns. From Pakistan, Zohaib Hassan (Sarangi), Anna Hafisba (Gospel), Arieb Azhar (Spoken word) and Zain Ali (Composer) join forces with Waqas Choudhary and Waqas Malik (Bansuri) Muki aka Mukhtar Ahmad (Urban Singer) and Aishani Ghosh (Dancer) from Birmingham, to affirm that there is hope for a better tomorrow.

Covid-19 pandemic, climate catastrophe and the unprecedented global inequality are ravaging the lives and lands of the world’s poorest and most marginalised communities. The arts play a powerful role in any crisis, allowing us to reflect and express sadness and hope and to bring people and ideas together and contribute to challenging the status quo. In our challenges of the ‘new norm’, we must engage with the root cause of visceral injustices that the pandemic has exposed and draw together a plurality of experiences, visions and solutions from the Global South and North to bring about justice for all.

SOS is our expression, our collective voice of what it means to be human. It has allowed us to communicate across continents during this liminal moment, generating positivity, appreciation and hope amidst this ongoing crisis.

SOS world premiere and post-screening Q&A with the directors takes place as an online live stream

A woman has been barred from Birmingham as an investigation continues after she was arrested on suspicion of racially abusing a pub doorman

Sharna Walker, who is 24-year-old, was released with bail conditions, including not to enter the city after clip of her swearing at a bouncer in the city’s Broad Street had been viewed more than three million times. West Midlands Police said it was gathering witness evidence before handing a file to prosecutors. They said that the woman, attended a police station at the force's request.

She is alleged to have used racist language towards the doorman outside Wetherspoon's The Figure of Eight pub, police said. A police spokesperson added: "She's also accused of racially abusing another man who was stood near the pub entrance and earlier damaging furniture inside the premises."

She was denied entry to the bar and was seen pushing the bodyguard, calling him a “Black Fist” and “f *** ing n *****” Turn around and spit in his body.

Tristan, 26, said he wants to be brought to justice for his abuse. He said: “I have had some incidents, but the use of racist language did not happen often.

“As a Black man and a doorman, I realize that both things are stigmatized. I feel that I must remain calm because I know that the colour of my skin may magnify my movements. In this case, I make sure that I can treat myself correctly.”

The footage of Walker’s prank was shared on social media. Wetherspoon said Miss Walker, from Worcester, had been escorted from the pub and cracked the glass door by kicking it.

"This behaviour is completely unacceptable and the woman is barred for life,” said spokesperson Eddie Gershon. "We will also be pursuing her for criminal damage and passing on the CCTV and bodycam footage to the police."

Regional manager, Heath Curley, praised the doorman, who is employed by an agency and works regularly on, for acting "calml." Mike Olley, who runs the Westside Business Improvement District, which covers the Broad Street entertainment mile, said that they would also be seeking to ban the woman from all city centre venues.

Dedicated pop-up vaccination clinics in Wolverhampton have protected some of the city’s most vulnerable people from coronavirus.

A partnership of local organisations and agencies including City of Wolverhampton Council has been working together to engage with and offer vaccinations to eligible people who were homeless or sleeping rough but may not have been able to access the vaccine. People experiencing homelessness face reduced access to healthcare services.

Many from this group are also likely to have health conditions that put them at higher risk of death or serious illness caused by Covid-19. Last month the council, in partnership with Black Country and West Birmingham Combined Commissioning Group (BCWB CCG), local GPs, support agencies and voluntary sector organisations, held a pop-up vaccination clinic at The Good Shepherd Ministry, led by Dr Kamran Ahmed, local GP and Clinical Director at BCWB CCG.

As a follow-up to a clinic held in February, homeless people and rough sleepers from across the city were joined by their support providers to get their second doses of life-saving jab in an environment they were familiar with. Over 150 people, including those experiencing homelessness and their support workers received their first vaccination on the day.

Dr Kamran Ahmed said: “Offering vaccines this way protects some of our city’s most vulnerable residents who are most at risk and ensure fewer people become seriously ill or die. By offering the vaccine, along with the right support, in a setting that people are familiar with, we were able to overcome some of the barriers stopping people from having their jab and saw good levels of uptake”

A range different levels of support were on offer to encourage people to have their vaccine, help them get to clinic and provide advice and reassurance on the day. These vaccination clinics followed partnership work at The Good Shepherd earlier in the year to raise awareness of coronavirus and the vaccine within the local homeless community and encourage regular testing.

Tom Hayden, Head of Operations at the Good Shepherd, said: “We were really pleased to link up with the council, CCG, and several other charities and agencies whom we already work closely with to host this second day of vaccinations.

“People who are homeless face additional barriers to accessing healthcare, so it was fantastic to be able to welcome them to the Good Shepherd and provide access to the vaccination, advice around Covid, and to do it amongst people they know and in a venue they feel comfortable. Service users were able to attend with their support staff who could talk them through the process and the benefits of receiving the vaccination and the added protection it can give them against the virus.”

Wolverhampton’s Director of Public Health, John Denley, added: “Outreach clinics like this are helping to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our city.

“The vaccine is proven to reduce serious illness caused by coronavirus by up to 85%, and evidence shows that is reduces transmission too. Whilst infection levels are falling across the city, we still need to make sure that everyone can have the vaccine as soon as it is their turn.

“By holding pop-up clinics in familiar surroundings, providing support and the right information we are making sure some of the city’s most vulnerable residents can access the vaccine and benefit from the protection it provides.”

Residents in Birmingham fearing the loss of their playing fields have criticized the guardians of the estate for a “betrayal of trust”. The Yardley residents have been campaigning for six years against plans for housebuilder Persimmon to build on the land in Barrows Lane whose use for healthy recreational purposes has been protected for over a hundred years.

Having defeated a planning application in 2016 to build 82 homes on the site with a 1,500-word petition, the Yardley Community Trust is now embroiled in a renewed battle to prevent the Council from allowing an even bigger development of 110 homes. The residents have criticized Central England Co-operative (CEC) for wishing to sell its Sports & Social Club on Barrows Lane after ignoring all offers to discuss the future of the pitches, which are used by junior football teams.

Fay Goodman, Yardley Community Trust Spokesperson, said: “When they were a Municipal Co-operative in 1920, Central England Coop were appointed as trustworthy guardians of the Barrows Lane site under a covenant issued by the Cadbury/Barrows family to protect and manage the site for the benefit of the local community.

“The clear intention of CEC is to relinquish their responsibility and to profit from the exercise. Yardley residents are outraged by this betrayal of trust.” Fay claimed that offers made by local football clubs to maintain the pitches in exchange for using them have been ignored by CEC, and that an approach for dialogue by Birmingham City FC’s Community Trust has been rejected.

“The recent U-turn on the proposed European Super League showed the strength of feeling by grass roots football clubs and fans. We need the same support for football pitches for youngsters to play on, yet we have nationally lost over 34,000 pitches in a 13-year period between 2005 and 2018.

“This scandalous statistic demonstrates the veracity of green fields being covered with concrete by greedy builders – supposedly to satisfy our housing need. We know there are enough brownfield sites throughout the UK to accommodate that need, yet builders Persimmons want virgin land to make the most profit and CEC are willing providers.”

Fay continued: “It is estimated that we have enough space on derelict industrial land to build around 1.5 million properties in the UK. The number of brownfield sites continues to grow, outstripping the demand for houses on green land. There is absolutely no justification to concrete over any green land.

“Green spaces and parks generally act like the lungs of the city, cleansing and improving air quality in its proximity. The Covid-19 pandemic is teaching us the value of open spaces for air quality, tackling obesity and addressing mental health issues through physical activities. She added: “Yardley is already over-subscribed with houses by at least a third. We are already below the recommended apportionment amount of green space raising serious health concerns.”

Yardley MP Jess Phillips has expressed her on-going support: “I fully support the Yardley Community Trust’s aim of retaining the Barrows Lane sports fields for the community. We have been fighting the development on this site for years, as building on this site would both deprive residents of local open space, and also overdevelop an existing residential area without supplying adequate additional amenities for the community. 

"I sincerely hope the Central England Coop will give serious consideration to the Trust’s alternative plan for the site and engage constructively with residents to find a mutually acceptable outcome.”

Yardley East Councillor Neil Eustace, who has also been a strong supporter of the Trust’s cause, said: “Yardley needs its remaining green spaces protected for future generations. These fields are rich in rare wildlife and greenery. Future generations of local children need facilities for organised sport.”