A common cause?

Hodge Hill Common- David Parker

by David Parker

The spaces of our childhood never leave us even if we move away from them. Yet more than the nostalgic afterglow of youthful sun-drenched summers spent on Hodge Hill Common makes me lament at the Common’s present state.

The Southern expanse between Coleshill Road and Stechford Road which previously played host to countless games of cricket and football, dozens of dog-walkers and strollers is being left to grow wild. Clumps of unkempt trees, tangles of Japanese knotweed, branches jutting onto the footpath are all evidence of a cycle of neglect – the more overgrown the Common gets the fewer people walk on it, the taller the grass, the trees and the weeds become, the less safe it becomes for children to play.

The larger Northern sections of the Common have occasionally played host to traveller caravans undeterred by the tokenistic fence posts and verge trimming which are the only traces of City Council care and attention. The demise of St Phillips and St James Church adds to the sense of relative abandonment.

Site where St Philips & St James Church once stood- David Parker

Hodge Hill Common deserves better. It is both the heart of the area and a much-needed pair of green lungs. A 2005 Wildlife Trust report noted the Common’s value as a rare example of dry acid grassland in an urban area and called for its designation as a Site of Importance for Nature Conversation. At that time the Common provided a favourable environment for the house sparrow and supported a number of floral species rare for Birmingham such as Harebell and Small Timothy. In practical terms the Wildlife Trust recommended the removal of some of the sprouting trees and shrubs and a concerted effort to eliminate Japanese knotweed.

Hodge Hill Common- David Parker

Given current public spending constraints such measures are unlikely to be a priority for the City Council, so perhaps the residents of Hodge Hill should take matters into our own hands and organise ourselves into a band of gardeners, seeking funding and tools, for example from Groundwork?

Unless something is done to correct the neglect, the current generation of children will be denied the simple pleasures of a precious open space on our doorstep.

More about the history of Hodge Hill Common can be found at William Dargue’s History of Birmingham Places and Place Names.

Polarbear performs ‘RETURN’ at The Hub, Bromford

Birmingham- born wordsmith Polar Bear, performed the moving piece ‘RETURN’ at The Hub, Bromford on Saturday 19th March, as part of the pop up arts tearoom project.

One of the most respected spoken word artists in the UK, Polarbear is renowned for delivering stories that make sense; stories that relate. With hip-hop roots that combine perfectly with his brilliant poetry, his performance was both unique and memorable.

“RETURN” tells the story of Noah, a man trying to figure out where he fits. Convinced he had to leave home in order to make his mark, Noah returns to find a world where a lot of things seem the same but nothing actually is.

Combining storytelling with a distinctive lighting and projection design, “RETURN” exploits its relationship with cinematic genres. The show journeys through scenes and landscapes, encouraging you to explore and, like a film director, be challenged to re-imagine as the story unfolds…

The Bromford tearoom slowly filled up, as people from outside crept in, intrigued as to why the room was so dimly lit and why we were all transfixed with this performance, once they were in, they didn’t leave.

His audience chuckled as they related to his 90’s film and music references and memories of hanging around girls in the park. His voice, his tone, his pauses between scenes were perfect; the soft music in the background and words projected onto the board behind put you in the scene immediately.

Both captivating and moving, Polarbear captures the sense of ‘home’ perfectly. His scene setting and descriptions allow you to picture the characters and places, making the performance all the more real. Polarbear encourages you to reminicse on your own memories of home, triggering emotion in those who have ever left and returned.

It was a unique performance that will stay with you for a long time and proved to be a great opportunity for his audience, who were appreciative and applauding throughout this compelling story.

Watch a small clip of ‘RETURN,’ performed at The Hub, Bromford.

All content in this video was filmed by B36Blogger.

Find out more about the pop up arts tea room in Bromford.

Polarbear’s website.

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Boot camp exercise class in Castle Vale

Image from Harriet Norris Personal Training

A Wednesday night in Castle Vale is spent getting rather sweaty for some certain ladies, who are regular attendees to a sucessful bootcamp workout session.

Harriet Norris from Solihull set up a women’s only bootcamp exercise class at Topcliffe Primary School in Castle Vale after the success of the same class in Water Orton.

By day, Harriet is a personal trainer, at just 21 she is extremely knowledgeable and skilled at what she does. The highly demanded class in Castle Vale is an extension to her personal training work and Harriet is calling all local ladies to give it a try.

The class is intense and tones just about every muscle in your body, and for just £5, you really are getting a good work out for your money.

“The class involves a full body work out,” says Harriet “We do cardio work, strength based work, full body toning and aim to reduce body fat.”

No matter what your age or exercise history is, Harriet lets you go at your own pace, “We have many different women at the class who range from early 20’s up to 55 years old, ” says Harriet “We currently have around 12 members who attend the Castle Vale class.”

The session is on a Wednesday night, held at Topcliffe Primary School in Castle Vale from 6:45 to 7:45 pm and costs £5. New recruits can also contact Harriet through her Twitter or Facebook page.

For more information about the class or Harriet Norris Personal Training, click here.

Census 2011 arrives in Hodge Hill

2011 census

Hodge Hill residents- if your census didn’t land on your doormat yesterday, it probably will today, in one of the biggest single mailouts the Royal Mail has handled. According to the Office For National Statistics, the census is to reach 26 million homes in England and Wales by census day on March 27th.

The census is sent out every ten years and helps to plan the future of services such as transport, education, healthcare and housing.

This year we have the option to fill it out online or by traditional paper form, but surely filling it out online is easier for everyone at the other end reading the results?

According to the Office For National Statistics, 2011 Census Director Glen Watson believes that the online census is more convenient:

“This will be quicker and it’s better for us because we won’t need to scan the forms and decipher all that handwriting. Of course if people want, they can still do it by hand. Completing the census form promptly and sending it back to us means no one will have to knock on your door to remind you.”

However, 61 year old resident of Hodge Hill, Maureen will be filling her form out by paper: “I shall be filling my census out in paper form, I find it more convenient and I can fill out questions when I want and stop and come back to it if I need to.”

If you need help with you census visit www.census.gov.uk or call 0300 0201 101.

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Recycling Points- Hodge Hill and surrounding areas

B36Blogger have put together a map of recycling points in Hodge Hill, Bromford, Alum Rock, Castle Vale and Castle Bromwich.

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Make A Difference With Data Unworkshop 24/02/2011

Have we, as local citizens of Hodge Hill, thought enough about what information is available to us online?

Frequently accessed data includes land registry information, crime statistics, planning applications and neighbourhood tasking meeting minutes, but what information would you like to access online?

Last night, B36Blogger attended the Make A Difference With Data unworkshop at Fazeley Studios in Digbeth, which is part of the Making a Difference With Data project.

We discussed what information is already available to local citizens, what barriers there are in accessing information, what information we would like to be able to access and how it would change things.

One interesting topic was the usefulness of Twitter, although we can complain to our local council via telephone or written letter, how many people complain via Twitter? It takes up far less time, common complaints can be easily logged and  categorised  and statistics can be compiled on a much easier and accessible basis.

Blogs, such as B36Blogger should also act as a complaints platform, local residents should make use of their local blog to make their opinions known and also create discussion around common complaints. Not only is this a great place to voice opinion, but through your local blog you can meet your neighbours and work together to get things done.

We want to be able to access statistics when it comes to complaints. We want our local council to record calls, put them under catagories and be able to access information on common complaints, and also find out how many are followed up, investigated or resolved.

As B36Blogger has already covered, Police UK have released a crime map web site for you to find out how many crimes are recorded in your area, but what we can’t access is the information regarding how often the information is updated, what was done in the area about the crimes and even when they took place.

It seemed to be a common problem that data can be confusing, data should be easy to read and easy to locate the most important information and highest and lowest statistics.

We want local authorities to make locating data easier, for example, Birmingham Ciy Council are often guilty for  making information hard to find and ‘burying’ it within their site. For exmaple, accessing minutes from the last neighbourhood tasking meeeting can be particularly tricky. This could be  because they have hundreds of pages and headings or perhpas that their search box isn’t effective or they are simlpy putting things under the wrong headings.

There are many issues surrounding access, availability and reading local data and statistics. Have you ever had any problems with local data, or problems accessing local statistics?

Nicky Getgood  interviews B36Blogger’s editor Jessica Dutton, listen here.

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Snapshots of a demolition

As the work to demolish the Bayley and Stoneycroft Towers on the Bromford estate continues, passers-by stop to watch as bit by bit, the multi-storey falls away.

Pieces of the building are showering down to the ground, a faint rumble is heard in the distance and passers-by stop to watch the building be demolished.

Even local residents have been coming out to take pictures and videos on their phones.

Local resident on the Bromford estate, Andrew, says “I’m glad that they are finally being demolished, they were an eyesore.”

Bromford Towers demolition/ Jessica Dutton

Bromford Towers demolition/ Jessica Dutton

B36Blogger takes ownership of these pictures, all rights reserved.

Valentine’s Day special: Love is in the air at Hodge Hill florists

As the supermarket shelves are emptied of chocolates, and the card shops are left bare, the florists are also being run off their feet with Valentine’s Day orders and last-minute customers.

Beaufort Florists located on Coleshill road in Hodge Hill was no exception, stocked with roses, bears and champagne, they expected to be very busy today.

And it seems there are no new trends this year in Hodge Hill, as men are still opting for the traditional Valentine’s Day flower.

“The red rose is still as popular, no new trends or different flowers have been requested so far,” said a spokesperson for Beaufort Florists.

And it seems the men of Hodge Hill are making no outlandish gestures this year, as Beaufort Florists have had no special requests or marriage proposal cards in any bouquets… you boring lot!

The shop was steadily busy, with a constant trickle of men wandering in, looking slightly confused and awkward, one customer had even backed his car up to the front door to fit his large bouquet and balloons for his lucky lady in the boot.

“Our typical customers on Valentine’s Day are definitely men looking for a last-minute bouquet and gift”

We expect that they will have many more male customer’s today, even up to closing time..

However, in the recent climate are men spending as much on their loved ones? Speaking to Beaufort Florists about the credit crunch, they said:

“The recession has definitely affected our business, we don’t sell as many add on gifts as we would have in previous years such as bears or champagne to accompany the bouquet. The bouquets we sell have got smaller and we sell a lot of pre arranged bouquets that are on display out the front of the shop.”

How will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day, leave your comments below!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for regular updates. Find out more.

Hodge Hill: Have your say!

According to west-midlands.police.uk the main priorities that arose in the last neighbourhood tasking meeting were tackling drug dealing and drug use on the Bromford Estate, reducing anti social behaviour and parking issues around our schools.

From personal experience, I know that travelling past Hodge Hill school on early mornings and in the afternoons, traffic can be quite hectic.

To find out  what is in progress to tackle these issues, residents of Hodge Hill can attend a neighbourhood tasking meeting.

Don’t sit back and let issues about your area go unspoken, the next meeting for Hodge Hill will be held at Ambridge House, Bromford Drive on February 24th at 10am.

Police and council members urge you to tell them about crime and community issues in your area.

What do you think are the main issues in Hodge Hill? Leave your comments below.

For more information visit the West Midlands Police website.

Hodge Hill MP still boycotts Tesco a year on

Nearly one year ago Tesco opened it’s doors to the residents of Hodge Hill.

For local MP Liam Byrne and many residents of Hodge Hill, it had been a long battle to prevent the build, and one that left both Liam and the local community somewhat defeated.

The build caused so much controversy because it happened to be built on the local Brockhurst playing field, used by many children and adults for sporting activities.

According to The Birmingham Mail, three acres of Brockhurst playing field were sacrificed in the build; in return, Tesco supposedly promised to re surface the damaged playing field and build new changing rooms.

On it’s one-year anniversary, Liam’s feelings about the development remain unchanged.

“Well, everything that we warned about and were worried about has now happened,” Liam told B36 Blogger.

“Both the council and Tesco did not keep their promises. They promised sports facilities, and promised to give back to the local community. They have given nothing back,” Liam continued.

In December of last year, the Birmingham Mail reported that Tesco’s 24-hour opening grant had been given the green light, to the worry of many residents.

Understandably many people living near and around the Tesco superstore are worried about the effects the 24-hour license will cause.

“They have now applied for a license to open 24hours, which means more noise pollution,” says Liam.

The results of the 24-hour license can only be monitored over the coming months, with residents living so close to the store; it is likely to cause some sort of noise at some point.

Liam Byrne’s office is also in close perimeter as it lies at the side of the store itself on Coleshill road and so was directly affected by the build.

“They even took the back wall off our office on Coleshill road, so the winter months were very cold,” says Liam.

After the long battle, there is little to be done to reverse the effects of the build, and so Liam expresses his hope that Tesco will perhaps consider the local community in the future.

“All we want now is for them to be good corporate citizens, minimise their noise and give back to the local community.”

Liam, understandably, had little more to say about the store, as he has never paid it a visit:

“I have never once been in there; I buy my lunch from Somerfield!”


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