Colors: Blue Color

Next month's Commonwealth Games, on Australia's Gold Coast, will feature basketball for the first time since Melbourne 2006 and one player looking forward to the up-coming challenge is England senior international, Kofi Joseph.

The Birmingham-born player’s love and passion for the sport has seen him play for his home-town City of Birmingham basketball club, win the ‘Nike Freestyle’ competition in the city’s Bull Ring, in 2003 and be selected to play at the ‘Michael Jordan All Star Classic Camp,’ in Brixton, in London – meeting the man himself in 2005.

A Great Britain international, Kofi, 26, who plays for Glasgow Rocks in the British Basketball League, has taken him to many corners of the world to follow his dream of becoming a professional basketball player. The Colorado University graduate – who gained a much-sought after scholarship - was voted ‘Conference Freshman of the Year’ before gaining a degree, was ‘National Player of the Week,’ in Germany, in 2017 and he also played in Turkey; in Eurobasket, again in 2017.

As Shooting Guard, Joseph, and his Team England colleagues prepare for the XXI Commonwealth Games (which starts on April 4), mum, Sylvia, family, friends and Rocks teammates, will be eagerly behind the Aston native as he shoots for his own piece of Gold, on the Coast that promises nothing but.

It’s time for Greater Birmingham and the rest of the UK to renew links with 52 largely forgotten countries, 150 delegates were told at the launch of the Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce (GBCCC)

Paul Kehoe, president of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC), was speaking at the event, hosted by Aston University, the first patrons of the GBCCC.

He told an audience from a wide spectrum of Greater Birmingham business and academia plus dignitaries from Commonwealth countries: “We need to recognise our place in the world and shout about it. Brexit will not close the door on Europe and we should be renewing our links with 52 countries we have largely forgotten about.

“This is a proud city that makes things happen and has a great future that we are starting to shout about. The Commonwealth is going to make this country change and with HS2 coming Birmingham is going to be at the centre of that new network.

“It will make us a better place to come and do business. Birmingham’s time is coming and we are fortunate to be part of it – ensuring Birmingham’s future is bright.”

John Crabtree, Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands, endorsed the role Birmingham must now play and said: “We want to try to reverse a modest Birmingham by using the assets we have.

“Top among those is the fact that warmth and welcome is in our DNA so it’s important that we try to bring nations together in this city.”

Keith Stokes-Smith, the first president of the GBCCC, said: “The Commonwealth always has been and always will be an important club. It has to be relevant and should be about the future rather than the past.

“Brexit clearly puts the Commonwealth back on the map. When Commonwealth countries trade with each other, costs are reduced, mainly because of common law structures.”

Professor Alec Cameron, vice-chancellor of Aston University, said: “Aston is immensely proud to be the first patron of the GBCCC along with our patronage of the GBCC and the Asian Business Chamber of Commerce.

“Aston is a truly global university. Around 20 per cent of our students are international and contribute to business and the local community when they study in this city. There is huge potential to strengthen our relations with the Commonwealth.”

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of the GBCC, said: “We are grateful to Paul Kehoe for inspiring the creation of the GBCCC and I’m delighted that we have a really strong executive committee.

“A number of leading figures in the region have stepped forward. They can lead the way to fulfilling the necessity of doing more business with the Commonwealth.”

Guests from Commonwealth countries who praised the launch of the GBCCC included Kofi Addo, Ghana’s head of trade and investment; Moemedi Mokgosi, Botswana’s higher commissioner;  Muhammed Zulqar Nain, the Bangladesh assistant high commissioner in the Midlands; and S.M. Chakraborty, head of chancery at Consulate General of India, Birmingham.


“We have to see ourselves as part of the solution, not just as women reserved for sex or for the kitchen,” author and actress Queen Blessing Itua said ahead of a special event planned in the UN General Assembly Hall.

“Unity in Diversity: An Evening of Art and Hope with Nigerian Women” featured excerpts from Ms. Itua’s book “We Are the Blessings of Africa,” as well as monologues from Ifeoma Fafunwa’s HEAR WORD! and Nadine Ibrahim’s films “Tolu” and “Through Her Eyes.”

The event was organized by UN WOMEN, UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Nigerian Mission to the UN, with other partners.

“Africa is a diverse continent, rich with different countries and different cultures, and natural resources. Africa has the talent – men and women,” said Ms. Itua. “When men in Africa look at women, women are reserved just in the kitchen or at home. So there’s a need to shift thinking that women can be powerful agents of development, then they’re able to support and empower women.

“If women understand that they have a critical role to play, they do not see themselves as just wives or women at home, they also raise up into mental engagement with the men and hopefully strategize about developing our Mother Land,” Ms. Itua continued.

Born in Nigeria and living in the United States, Ms. Itua said she wants to create awareness and give voice to women who do not have a platform to speak out about social ills, particularly rural women.

Her latest film, Mrs. Adams, – which will premiere during the Commission on the Status of Women next week – follows human trafficking routes in Nigeria and Europe. It is meant to be a statement not just about brutalization of women and sexual violence, but also highlight the economic reasons that people choose to migrate in the first place – to change some of the misinterpretations about exploitative work practices, forced labour and smuggling.

The issue is personal, Ms. Itua said. She hails from Edo state, which recently inaugurated a migration resource centre, and which has been cast in the spotlight after reports of Nigerians from that area being sold in modern slave markets in Libya.

“As an African woman, I believe that my goal is to work with other women in creating awareness. Together we are stronger. Working together to be stronger to change the narrative coming out of Africa,” Ms. Itua said. She will be joined this Sunday by 24-year-old Nadine Ibrahim, whose film Through Her Eyes follows the internal struggle of a 12-year-old female suicide bomber in northern Nigeria.

Ms. Ibrahim, who is a Muslim, has said that she wants people to understand the rich and beautiful culture surrounding women, Islam and north-eastern Nigeria.

The film was filmed with security on location and after the original actress’s mother pulled the daughter out of the film for fear of safety.

The Sunday night event will also feature Ifeoma Fafunwa, whose stage play “HEAR WORD! Naija Women Talk True” is a collection of monologues based on true-life stories of Nigerian women challenging social, cultural and political norms in the country.

A line from the play declares: “I have a vital contribution to my nation’s transformation. I am a force, a tidal wave, and I won’t hide. My destiny is not for you to decide.”

Jamaica is becoming more and more popular for Italians with Negril and Montego Bay being the biggest draws and pointed to one Negril resort being listed among the tour company’s 15 best hotel resorts in the world.

Jamaica’s Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett (3rd right); is joined by Laurent Parent (centre), Senior Executive for Alpitour World, Italy’s largest Tour operator; Delano Seiveright (left), Senior Advisor/Strategist; Elisa Eterno (2nd left), JTB Italy; Matteo Gambardella, Contracting Manager, Alpitour World; Mariangela Montessoro (2nd right), Contracting Manager, Alpitour World and newly appointed Director of Tourism, Donovan White at the Hotel Scala in Milan, Italy on Monday March 5.

Alpitour which owns the Italian airline, NEOS, is to increase the number of seats into Montego Bay, Jamaica from Italy using a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft starting May of this year. Laurent Parent, a Senior Executive for Alpitour World, Italy’s largest tour operator, noted that the new aircraft will replace existing once weekly scheduled Boeing 767 charter service between Milan and Montego Bay. The airline will also continue its once weekly flight from the Italian city of Verona, Italy.

Bartlett noted that Italy is among the lead countries being targeted in Jamaica’s ongoing European tourism growth strategy which in 2017 recorded 325,804 European tourists approximately 31,000 more than in the year 2016. Jamaica welcomed near 14,000 Italians tourists last year, representing a 44.5 percent increase over 2015.

Premier hotel resort and spa brand Six Senses will be making its Caribbean and Latin American debut on St. Kitts in 2021.

This marks yet another inaugural property in the region by a top tier hotel brand for St. Kitts following the opening of the Park Hyatt St. Kitts Christophe Harbour in November of last year.

“We sincerely look forward to welcoming the distinguished Six Senses brand to St. Kitts,” said the Hon. Mr. Lindsay F.P. Grant, Minister of Tourism, International Trade, Industry and Commerce. “Six Senses only develops resorts in the world's most unique and exquisite destinations, therefore it is a singular testament to the history and natural beauty of the island's landscape to become one of them. The Six Senses philosophy with regard to sustainability, wellness and premier service makes it an ideal fit for St. Kitts as it complements our own vision and direction for our tourism product as we continue to enhance the variety of accommodations we have to offer to the discerning, experiential traveler.”

The new Six Senses resort will be set on 41 acres of a former sugar plantation in the La Vallee area of St. Kitts amidst gentle hills rolling down to a long stretch of sandy Caribbean beach.  All projected 70 pool villas and The Retreat will be nestled within the island's lush natural environment and offer scenic views of the landcape and the sea.  Six Senses is scheduled to open on St. Kitts in the fourth quarter of 2021.  A signing ceremony was held on Sunday, March 4, at the Park Hyatt St. Kitts Christophe Harbour.

The Six Senses development will create approximately 300 jobs on island during construction with several hundred more becoming available once the hotel is operational, thereby providing employment for St. Kitts' citizens and benefiting the Federation's economy.  It is a project of Range Developments, which also led the development of the Park Hyatt St. Kitts Christophe Harbour.  Range Developments is an investment and hospitality company operating across the Eastern Caribbean that focuses on the development of iconic properties in places of remarkable natural beauty.

Six Senses is a signature hospitality brand that is committed to sustainability and service.  Each of its properties has a distinctive and diverse personality that makes use of the natural land topography.  The brand's award-winning best practices include environmental performance of each property and support for the preservation of natural and cultural heritage, while enhancing social and economic benefits to local communities in destinations where Six Senses operates.  Six Senses currently operates resorts in such exotic and glamorous locales as the Seychelles, Fiji, France, Oman, the Maldives, Thailand, Singapore, Turkey, Vietnam, Portugal and China.

The eighth edition of the Tenerife Bluetrail, the island´s most extreme long-distance mountain race, will take place on Saturday 9th June 2018. More than 1,600 athletes from 28 countries have already registered for the event, which has a maximum capacity of 2,700. Athletes participating in this year's event can choose from the following five categories; 'Ultra' (102km), Trail (67km), Maraton (43km), Media (20km) and the adapted trail, Reto, which is designed for people with disabilities (8km, 3.7km and 1.2km).

As Spain's highest and Europe's second highest race, the Tenerife Bluetrail attracts the best athletes from all over the world. A number have already confirmed their participation in this year´s edition including French runner Christelle Bard (last year´s Ultra winner), Sange Sherpa (the winner of the 2017 Ultra Skyrunner World Series), as well as Cristofer Clemente (winner of the 2016 Ultra Skyrunner World Series).

Landscape is always one of the key highlights of Tenerife Bluetrail. The start line is at Playa Fañabé (Adeje) but, throughout the race, runners will experience the terrain contrasts from the dryness of the south to the plush green scenery of the north – without forgetting the UNESCO-listed Teide National Park, which is the true hero of the race. New to this year's route is a trail through the beautiful and abrupt landscape of Special Nature Reserve Barranco del Infierno (Hell's Ravine).

With the final numbers tallied, destination Pure Grenada records total arrivals of 100,654 for January 2018, an increase of more than 30% over January 2017 (75,600).  In addition, all visitor categories reflected an increase including Stay over (13, 815) up by 13%, Cruise (82,797) up by 37% and Yachting (4,042) up by 43%.

CEO of the Grenada Tourism Authority, Patricia Maher, stated that “We are delighted with the performance and everyone on the ground is enjoying the results of the hard work by all the Tourism stakeholders. The excitement with the opening of Silversands Grenada later this year is palpable as it is the first hotel development on Grand Anse Beach in over 25 years. Work is also progressing on the Kimpton, Kawana Bay, another hotel development on Grand Anse Beach, which will be open in 2019. We will grow our room stock by 32% in the next two years which will lead to increased capacity to almost 3,000 licensed and certified rooms by the Grenada Tourism Authority.”

To further support the destination’s developing tourism industry, the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA) and the Grenada Airports Authority (GAA) representatives attended Routes America 2018 from 13 – 15, February in Quito, Ecuador and met with 10 airlines to discuss expansion of service or new routes. The interest in Grenada is growing and with the 16% growth in arrivals from the US market (67,250) in 2017 over 2016 and US market share at an all-time high of 46%, this strong performance data piqued the interest of the US based airlines.

Building on this momentum, the marketing and sales team attended the New York Times Travel Show, CHTA Marketplace in Puerto Rico, Boston Globe Show and the Telegraph Travel Show in London in the first two months of the year. Virgin Atlantic in collaboration with Unilad Adventure launched a destination video on social media that shares the many reasons to visit Grenada, Spice of the Caribbean in 2018. With all this heightened activity, the GTA forecasts a 6% growth in total visitor arrivals performance for 2018 that will benefit all the citizens of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

On February 16, Governor Ige declared 2018 as “Ke Au Hawaii: the Year of the Hawaiian” in honor of the history, traditions, language and culture of the Hawaiian people.

The timing for the governor’s proclamation was especially appropriate given that 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the Hawaiian language immersion programs that saved the Hawaiian language from near extinction. It also marks the 25th anniversary of the formal apology from Congress and the president of the United States to the Hawaiian people, for America’s role in the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom on January 17, 1893. Notably it also marks the 100th anniversary of the first Hawaiian Civic Club founded by Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole.

February is recognized annually as Hawaiian Language Month. In tribute to the month’s significance, note that the Hawaiian cultural articles below have a link showing their translation in the Hawaiian language.

HTA is proudly committed to honoring and perpetuating the Hawaiian culture as we fulfill our mission to support Hawaii tourism. The Hawaiian culture is integrated into every element of our tourism marketing, both in elevating Hawaii’s brand and highlighting the enjoyment of experiencing our islands.

Led by Kalani Kaanaana, our director of Hawaiian cultural affairs, HTA is continually striving to more deeply ingrain knowledge about the Hawaiian culture into everything we do, while also honoring the importance of a culture and people that distinguish Hawaii from every other place in the world.

In addition to Kalani, we have three other staff members who speak the Hawaiian language and dedicate each workday to bringing a greater level of awareness about their native culture to people here in the islands and around the world.

HTA spends approximately $6-million annually on programs to honor, support and perpetuate the Hawaiian culture. HTA’s support is broad-based and extends statewide, ranging from the funding of events like the Merrie Monarch Festival and Kukulu Ola community-based nonprofit programs to aiding the Polynesian Voyaging Society with its educational outreach and sponsoring the admirable work performed by the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association (NaHHA).

A Hawaiian culture resource provided by HTA that everyone can utilize is the Maemae tool kit, which can be downloaded for free from HTA’s website ( This is a foundational resource for accurately and sensitively presenting the Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian language.

All of this support is important and all of it makes a positive impact in how the Hawaiian culture is celebrated, respected and shared with people who embrace the spirit of these islands.

Collaboration between leading Polar Expedition Cruise Specialist, One Ocean Expeditions (OOE) and California Ocean Alliance (Nationally Accredited World Class Ocean Research) has led to the first successful suction cup video tagging of a minke whale in the Southern Ocean, Antarctica. Known for their elusive behavior and short surfacing times, minkes are a challenge to tag with suction cup technology and have previously only been tracked by LIMPET satellite location beacons, embedded in the superficial layer of surface skin.

Dr. Ari Friedlaender, director within California Ocean Alliance and resident whale biologist with One Ocean Expeditions, has been delivering educational programs onboard select OOE expeditions since 2012. “These shared values between One Ocean Expeditions and our research group at the California Ocean Alliance make for a potent and effective collaboration” says Ari. “Without this singular focus, we could not succeed, we could not learn, and we could not protect places like the Antarctic”.

“This work is part of a long-term ecological research study to better understand the divergent impacts of climate change on the ice-dependent minke whales and more open-water humpback whales in this part of the Antarctic,” says Elanor Bell, Australian whale research scientist from the Australian Antarctic Division.

“We have been working diligently over the last decade to expand opportunities for nationally accredited research onboard”, says Catherine Lawton OOE's General Manager. “We take great pride in our team of professionals and our fleet of hand selected ice-class vessels, on which we offer the ideal platform to deliver exceptional client experiences, funding and opportunities for scientists to collect critical data.”

Ari's team were able to attach non-invasive suction cup camera tags with 3D motion sensors, provided by WWF-Australia, to the minke whales. These tags fell off approximately 24-48 hours later. Upon retrieving the devices, the researchers were able to study the recordings, which showed the feeding behaviour of the minke whales, including lunge feeding and the expansion of throat pleats. The analysis of the data captured will allow the researchers to develop measures to protect fragile polar ecosystem and natural whale habitat worldwide.

One Ocean Expeditions is committed to funding and supporting ongoing, nationally accredited science and outreach programs. A leader in polar expedition cruising, One Ocean Expeditions operates voyages to the most remote areas of the world, from the High Arctic to Antarctica. Guests have the opportunity to get to know the scientists and to be educated on cutting-edge research initiatives – an important part of the One Ocean Expeditions experience.

2017 was a record year for Pure Grenada winning its 13th Gold award at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and already Team Grenada is setting its sights on gold once again. With the help of the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA), the Grenada Chelsea Flower Show Team led by Mrs. Catherine John, is on its way to a 14th Gold. At a short ceremony held at the GTA Headquarters, Chief Executive Officer Patricia Maher and Mrs. John signed a partnership agreement for increased financial support this year.

“The GTA is happy to increase its support to the Grenada Chelsea Flower Show Team for 2018. We appreciate their sterling efforts over the years in creating wonderful designs that not only depict the beauty of the destination’s amazing gardens but also attract people from all over the world to visit our tri-islands of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique” said Ms. Maher following the signing. She added “We know we live in a garden of eden and this recognition brings us international exposure to visitors who want to see it for themselves.”

In 2017, Grenada was awarded its 13th gold medal for the exhibit titled ‘Historical Botanical Gardens’ which was described by judges as the best Grenada exhibit they had ever judged. This year, the team is hoping to once again wow the world with another great display. Mrs. John said, “ We thank the GTA for its continued support and the team is very excited about the upcoming show and our new theme.”

In 2018, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show will take place from May 22-26 in London.

Caribbean tourism industry professional Stacy Cox has been elected president of the Caribbean Society of Hotel Association Executives (CSHAE) for the next two years.
Cox, who unexpectedly took the top job early last year following an unscheduled leadership change, received a full two-year mandate at the association's annual general meeting,  which preceded this month's 36th annual Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) Caribbean Travel Marketplace event in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
CSHAE is an independent organization aimed at advancing professional development and strengthening networking among Caribbean hotel and tourism association executives.
The association's 2018-20 Executive Board will be chaired by Gilda Gumbs Samuel, Executive Director of the Anguilla Hotel and Tourism Association, while Brian Frontin, CEO of the Trinidad Hotels, Restaurant & Tourism Association, will serve as Vice President. Miles Mercera, President and CEO of the Curaçao Hospitality & Tourism Association, will serve as Treasurer, while Clarisa Jimenez, President and CEO of the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association, has been appointed Secretary.
Other elected CSHAE Board Directors include Avril Alexander, Executive Director of the British Virgin Islands Chamber of Commerce & Hotel Association; Tessie Duran Tonaco, Marketing Director of the Belize Hotel Association; and Lisa Hamilton, President of the U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association.
Cox asserted her mandate includes increased engagement on issues such as education and training, advocacy, airlift capacity, disaster management and the sharing economy:  "It is an honor to continue to serve the region's hotel and tourism associations and their members and focus on the many pressing issues facing the Caribbean's sustainability."
While in San Juan, hotel association executives attended their annual leadership conference, sponsored by American Resort Development Association - Resort Owners' Coalition (ARDA-ROC) and facilitated by Adriana Serna, ASAE (The Center for Association Leadership) Facilitator and Communications Manager of CHTA.

Citizens of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique responded overwhelmingly to the call for designs in the Underwater Sculpture Park Competition. The design competition was a collaboration between the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA) and the Grenada Underwater Sculpture Management Inc. (GUSMI). A total of 52 entries were received from a wide variety of persons including students as young as nine years old. The sculpture concepts were equally diverse and focused on Grenada’s spices, national heroes, history, folklore and festivals.  An expert panel met and judged the entries based on originality, the ability to reproduce the design in concrete, overall impact and representation of Grenadian folklore, history, culture and the environment.

The judges awarded the first prize to Alleyne Gulston of Hopevale, St. George for his design titled ‘Wet Fete-Spicemas Underwater’. His design gives an up close and vibrant look at important figures of Grenada’s biggest cultural celebration, featuring sculptures of the Wild Indian, Jab Jab, Shortknee and Vieux Corp. The judges were very impressed with his artistry and designs and the fact that they could readily be turned into concrete sculptures.

Second place went to Brianna Baptiste of Mt. Moritz, St.George for her design titled ‘La Diablesse’ which depicts the folkloric female figure that bears one human foot and a cow’s hoof, hidden by a long draping dress. The previous La Diablesse sculpture deteriorated and has not been a feature of the park for a number of years.

Nimeka Drakes of Old Westerhall, St. David captured third place with her design ‘Dance D Bélé Oh.’ Her design depicts different aspects of the traditional creole folk dance including dancers with flowing skirts and drummers. In her submission, Drakes wrote that the ‘Bélé’ is not just a dance but a testimony of a rich culture entangled with a colourful history.

Speaking on the success of the competition, Member of GUSMI Phil Saye said, “ I am very happy that we received so many quality entries that display Grenada’s culture and heritage. These designs will be turned into sculptures that can tell Pure Grenada’s unique stories.”

Consolation prizes were also awarded to Westmorland Secondary’s Kevin Mehesh and Cheryce Cromwell as well as Marcus Smith representing the Grenada Community Library for children who entered the competition and produced innovative and original ideas. Cromwell’s design was based on the traditional dancing of the cocoa, while Mehesh’s drawing depicted a paratrooper in the US intervention. Marcus Smith‘s submission was titled ‘Lady of the Pan’ which depicted a female steel pan player.

Product Development Manager of the GTA Kirl Hoschtialek thanked all the participants for their entries and said, “ As part of a strategic plan, over the next five years a number of new sculptures will be added to the underwater park which will breathe new life into one of Grenada’s most iconic attractions.”

The Gambia has rejoined the Commonwealth family, almost five years after leaving it.

A flag-raising ceremony, at Marlborough House, the London headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat, marked its return.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, the chair of the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors, Norman Hamilton, members of the Committee, and The Gambian high commissioner, Francis Blain, attended the ceremony.

The decision to begin the process of applying for readmission was made in February 2017 by President Adama Barrow, who came to power following elections in December 2016.

Last December, the parliament of The Gambia unanimously affirmed the country’s desire to rejoin the Commonwealth, thereby fulfilling one of the final steps in the organisation’s membership process.

Its application was unanimously supported by the current 52-member states and The Gambia will now be invited to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in April in London.

Secretary-General Scotland said, “When The Gambia left in 2013, the heads of government expressed their regret in its leaving the Commonwealth family. We’ve looked forward to The Gambia’s return and were delighted when, after his election victory last year, President Barrow pledged to return. The Gambia’s application to rejoin has been unanimously accepted by all 52-member states, who welcome back their brothers and sisters to again play their full part in the Commonwealth family.”

The High Commissioner to be of The Gambia, Francis Blain  said, “I am thrilled to represent my country as it formally rejoins the Commonwealth after an absence of several years – and to become High Commissioner rather than Ambassador. The Gambia looks forward to being able both to contribute to and benefit from the collective wisdom of the Commonwealth family of countries, and to playing an active role in supporting the work of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the many other organisations and initiatives that flourish as expressions of Commonwealth connection. The Government and people of The Gambia will also draw on all that the Commonwealth collectively has to offer, assisting in practical ways to address a wide range of pressing issues – including protecting the environment and tackling climate change, and the empowerment of women and young people.”

The stars were out in numbers for the latest Marvel blockbuster, as they, like their fans wore traditional African attire to the European premiere of ‘Black Panther,’ as major A-listers including; Hollywood star John Boyega, singer Leona Lewis, grime mega-star Stormzy graced the black carpet at London's Eventim Apollo.

‘Black Panther’ is Marvel's first film with a cast of all-Black superheroes with the film's actors and fans collectively being vocal about how its release exemplifies a positive portrayal of Blackness and Africa. One of its stars, Lupita Nyong'o spoke of the gruelling boot camp she had to undertake to get in shape for the role. British Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya said: “The film turns Western colonialism on its head.”

The highly-anticipated Marvel film doesn't hit cinemas until Feb. 13, but it's already broken a huge record: within the first 24 hours of presales going live, it was revealed that it is already the bestselling Marvel Cinematic Universe movie in advance ticket sales, surpassing ‘Captain America: Civil War.’

Later this month Marvel Studios will be presenting an event at New York Fashion week called 'Black Panther: Welcome to Wakanda' to show off clothes inspired by the new superhero movie.

Key figures in the region are to be at the heart of the new Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce (GBCCC), it was revealed today.

Launched by Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, the move is an initiative to drive trade between the Midlands and the Commonwealth.

Keith Stokes-Smith, chairman of the Birmingham Commonwealth Association, has agreed to serve as president and will be joined on the executive committee by:

·         Nasir Awan MBE DL chairman of the Asian Business Chamber of Commerce and chief exeucitve of Awan Marketing International plc

·         Anita Bhalla OBE former senior BBC executive who is now chair of Town Hall Symphony Hall Birmingham. She has been part of the Birmingham Social Justice Commission, led by the Bishop of Birmingham.

·         Lloyd Broad Head of European and international affairs at Birmingham City Council


·         Claire Brunning Head of corporate banking for HSBC Birmingham

·         John Crabtree OBE DL Former lawyer and well-known business figure in Birmingham who is Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant for the West Midlands. He is also chairman of the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel overseeing Birmingham City Council’s implementation of the recommendations of the Kerslake review. Mr Crabtree, a former president of Birmingham Chamber, has a wide variety of business, community and charitable interests, predominantly in the West Midlands.

·         Preet Gill MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, who is international development minister in the shadow cabinet.

·         Deb Leary OBE Chief executive of Staffordshire-based Forensic Pathways who was named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her commitment to entrepreneurship and the community.

·         Martin Levermore MBE Chief executive of Medical Devices Technology International Limited (MDTI) and chairman of  trade and business at the Birmingham Commonwealth Association.


·         Rupi Nandra MBE Head of international programmes at Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce.


·         Adam Parker Manager of aviation strategy and forecasting at Birmingham Airport.


·         Alex de Ruyter Professor and director of the Centre for Brexit Studies at Birmingham City University.  He has published over 60 research outputs, including leading international journals.


·         Mark Smith Executive director of business engagement at Aston University.

·         Professor Louise Toner Associate dean at Birmingham City University faculty of health representing the British Commonwealth Association.

·         Tom Brett Young Immigration specialist at law firm VWV Birmingham, which set up a Brexit planning team in the wake of the referendum.

The Commonwealth Chamber becomes the tenth division of the GBCC and will offer a membership-based international gateway for firms wishing to develop bilateral trade opportunities in Commonwealth countries.

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of the GBCC, said: “I’m delighted that we have gathered such an experienced and high-profile committee for the GBCCC.

“As we approach Brexit, we believe trade with Commonwealth countries will become even more vital and out move has been given huge impetus with the awarding of the 2022 Commonwealth Games to Birmingham.”

GBCC chief operating officer Russell Jeans said: “The committee of the new Commonwealth Chamber will now work vigorously to ensure that Birmingham is at the top of its game in driving trade between the city and the Commonwealth.

“At its inaugural meeting this week, ideas were already flowing and we will be announcing further key appointments over the coming weeks.”

Paul Kehoe, president of the GBCC, said: “This is a tremendous step forward for the Chamber and one that more firmly puts us on the international stage and underlining are place in the world of trade.”

Mr Faulkner and Mr Jeans will represent the GBCC on the committee.

To find out more, or register your interest in becoming a member, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 0845 603 6650.