Colors: Blue Color

Children’s charity Barnardo’s has celebrated the 35th anniversary of its longest-established store in the West Midlands. The store in Chelmsley Wood Shopping Centre was opened in 1983, when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister and breakfast television was just beginning.

Since then it has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to support vulnerable children and young people across the UK. In the last year alone the team received more than 7,700 bags of donations from more than 3,150 supporters.

The team of dedicated staff and volunteers celebrated the anniversary by cutting a specially-decorated cake on Tuesday. Barnardo’s manager Robyn Phillips said: “We were amazed when we realised just how long the store has been fundraising for the charity. It’s a major milestone and we wanted to do something to mark the occasion and to thank all of our volunteers.

“We have a fantastic team aged from 20 years old up to 74 years old, and the longest-serving supporter has been with us for an astonishing 30 years!

“Over the last 12 months they’ve donated more than 2,400 hours of their own time to help with sorting the stock and serving the customers. Their dedication is unbelievable.

“They all work incredibly hard, but they’re very proud of what they do and we always have a laugh and a joke together.”

Robyn added: “No two days are ever the same and we never know what we’re going to find inside a bag of donations. We’ve received all sorts of items ranging from tins of dog food and a used toothbrush to Tiffany bracelets worth several hundred pounds.

“People offer whatever they can to help us and we wouldn’t be able to operate without their support. Thanks to all of our donors and customers, we’re able to raise much-needed funds to continue the charity’s life-changing work.”

This Christmas, luxury island resort Essque Zalu Zanzibar is filling the island with music and festive joy with an exciting programme of family activities, unforgettable experiences and delectable gourmet treats. Starting from 23 December and continuing through into 2018, this one-of-a-kind festivity is guaranteed to create precious moments for everyone.

Kicking off the programme, guests are invited to explore the resort's very own Christmas Market. Showcasing local artwork, handmade decorations, bespoke jewellery, local crafts and accessories, there is a unique gift waiting to be found for friends and family. Adding to the festive atmosphere will be the warm and wholesome chorus of Essque Zalu's very own angels, a local carol choir who last year performed on celestial swings under the resort's spectacular and iconic Makuti roof.

Despite an absence of chimneys, the much anticipated visit of Santa for the hotel's younger guests on Christmas Eve will not be forgotten, with kids waking-up to find a unique, personalised gift waiting on their doorstep. Throughout the day, a fun-packed programme of festive activities, from spice-infused cookery classes to craft making, ensures families have a Christmas filled with laughter and lasting memories.

As Christmas Eve draws to a close, food lovers will be spoilt for choice as the resort's chefs prepare a culinary programme. Choose between an intimate family meal or a traditional gastronomic feast with a spectacular Gala Dinner featuring speciality dishes by award-winning Executive Chef Ramkalawon Anuraag such as sweet-spiced duck breast with saffron mash; cured Red Snapper with Zanzibari spices and pineapple compote; the catch-of-the-day marinated in Gunpowder spices and roasted pumpkin; and poached mango in cardamom syrup with a refreshing lime sorbet.

On 31 December, guests can embark on a gourmet journey via numerous culinary stations in the resort's World Food Market.  With locally sourced, deliciously winter warming food showcasing the best of European dishes, Asian delicacies and local favourites, the Food Market will be the perfect place to soak up the festive atmosphere.

Bidding farewell to 2017 and welcoming in 2018, the island resort is transformed for a grand New Year's Eve party. Spectacular acrobatic performers, live cooking stations, and music from some of the island's finest musicians and DJs will make this a night to remember.

Assistant coroners were sworn in at an official ceremony at the Coroners Court in Jack Judge House, Oldbury.

The new Assistant Coroners Ms Laura Nash, Ms Emma Serrano and Ms Emma Whiting have received the consent of the Chief Coroner and Lord Chancellor, and will support the Senior Coroner Mr Zafar Siddique in serving bereaved families in Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

Deputy leader of Sandwell Council, Councillor Syeda Khatun said: “Following the retirement of existing assistant coroners, we recognised it is important  that we ensure the Senior Coroner has sufficient resources.

"The council understands the importance bereaved families place on a service such as the coroners.

"Along with the recent investment into the excellent court facilities at Jack Judge House in Oldbury, the new assistant coroners will ensure families from across the Black Country have access to what has been described as a centre of excellence by the Chief Coroner of England and Wales."

 

An artist’s impression has been revealed to show what Wolverhampton’s new £4.9 million city centre market will look like.

Work on the new Southside site, fronting Cleveland Street, started last month and the new image will now feature on the surrounding hoardings.

It is anticipated the traders will move to their new home in spring 2018.

It will boast 20 cabins and 48 stalls, and will offer the flexibility to trade from bigger cabins, event space, a secure site with measures in place to combat hostile vehicles while still allowing access for traders to load and unload, CCTV, integrated lighting and power, free WiFi, canopy-covered walkways, offices, customer toilets, and comprehensive parking and storage facilities.

The new market will also provide increased footfall from the Wulfrun Centre and transport Interchange, as well as situating the market in a student catchment area.

As well as the existing traders securing stalls, a number are set to be snapped up by new traders, including a bakery, and discussions are also underway with several street food vendors.

Applications are currently being assessed and the window remains open.

Councillor Steve Evans, Cabinet Member for City Environment, said: “This artist’s impression shows what a huge asset the new market will be to the city centre.

“We are consulting regularly with the current traders over the relocation – and we are delighted with the interest we have had from new applicants.

“Their addition will provide a more varied range of sales lines to differentiate it from a traditional market offer.

“The new market, partly funded by the sale of Market Square as part of the Westside scheme, has loads of potential – and we want this to be the people’s market, where events are also encouraged.”

The former Netto store and adjoining buildings were cleared from the Southside site last year and the land converted into an interim car park, which is now boarded off for the works to begin.

The market move will see 48 tented stalls and 16 purpose-built cabins transferred from Market Square in phases.

The Market Square location is to be absorbed into the new £55 million leisure-led Westside development by developer Urban&Civic.

This will deliver a multi-screen cinema, restaurants, bars, hotel, multi-storey car park, apartments, and public realm to the heart of the city centre, in two phases, over five years.

A temporary market has been in place since April last year when the indoor traders joined the outdoor traders in Market Square to enable the demolition of Heantun House and the old indoor market.

The city centre market is one of three markets in Wolverhampton, with Bilston and Wednesfield markets also popular places to shop.

Waddle into the festive season at SEA LIFE London and chill out with their Gentoo penguins, Santa's Antarctic helpers! With the arrival of their eight newest Gentoo penguins, this Christmas is shaping up to be the biggest celebration yet. Visitors will be able to get up close and personal with these fascinating birds, with floor-to-ceiling windows and special 'pop- up' viewing dome.

Their penguins also have an important job to do this Christmas; during the festive period visitors will be have the opportunity to send Father Christmas a letter via their Penguin Post. Thanks to their new snowy 'South Pole Post Box' (which has sprung up in the chilly Penguin Point area) it connects directly to Father Christmas at the North Pole - making sure that everyone can send a letter to Santa this season. Parents can also visit their website to find out how to receive a reply for their little ones from the big man himself!

Other penguin festivities will include 'Sing-to the Gentoo' carol services with their special Marie Curie choir. Listen to festive songs as the birds settle down for their own 'Silent Night' – check our website for confirmed dates and times.

Penguin Point offers visitors a state-of-the-art viewing and learning experience complete with a colony of inquisitive Gentoo penguins. All these 'cool' encounters are included in the entrance price to the aquarium and visitors can also enjoy getting up close to over 10,000 colourful aquatic inhabitants representing over 600 species in 56 immersive displays.

Property services company Romans are supporting not just one, but a total of nine local charities, each nominated by members of the team. One of the nine charities they are sponsoring is Naomi House and Jacksplace a local children’s hospice in Winchester.

Over the last few months, the team in Winchester and the wider Romans network have been clearing out their closets and de-cluttering their homes to fill up 234 yellow bags which have all been donated to the charity. The donated stock will be sold in the hospice’s stores to raise funds for the children who rely on their care and support.

John Egan, Head of Retail at Naomi House and Jacksplace: “This has to be one of the largest one-off stock donations we’ve ever had! We’re so grateful to the staff at Romans for their incredible support. Our shops need more and more stock over Christmas and this will really make a difference.”

It is estimated that the donation could be worth up to £6,500 – which is enough to fund two months nursing care for a child at Naomi House. After visiting the hospice in Sutton Scotney, the team from the Winchester branch were inspired to continue their fundraising and have since supported the charity by taking part in a quiz night and sponsoring their Christmas Carol concert. And, they aren’t stopping there…

“We are hoping to do a second drop off within even more bags and have called upon our landlords and tenants in Winchester to help us top this fantastic total of 234 bags” explains John Maslin, Lettings Manager of Romans’ Winchester.

With nine charities to support, the group has a busy calendar of charity events covering everything from sky dives to bake sales, and even a trek along the Great Wall of China!

Vanessa Foot, Culture and Community Manager at Romans adds, “Working with local charities is extremely rewarding and is one of the best parts of my role. Having listened to our employees and partnered with a range of charities nominated by them, we’ve really hit the ground running – watch this space for more updates!”

Along with working with the chosen charities, Vanessa and Romans’ Community and Culture team have also been working with local schools and sports clubs continuing to offer not only sponsorship but mentoring opportunities, careers guidance and incentive schemes.

Three teenagers from a deprived township in South Africa are travelling to Birmingham this week to open a prestigious international viola competition.

Kwanda Buthelezi (violist, aged 13), Mbali Phato (violinist, aged 12) and Njabulo Nxumalo (violinist, aged 17) from Soweto in Johannesburg will be the focus of the first event in the Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition and Festival, being held at Birmingham City University’s new Royal Birmingham Conservatoire between Saturday 18 and Friday 24 November.

The students journey to the UK has been made possible thanks to a collaborative UK-South Africa project, Cape Gate MIAGI Centre for Music & Royal Birmingham Conservatoire – or ARCO, which is also the name for the technique of playing a stringed instrument with a bow.

ARCO has seen 24 strings students aged between eight and 17 in South Africa selected to participate in weekly instrumental Skype lessons, given by academics, current students and alumni of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

ARCO aims to provide the benefits and life changing inspiration of music to children in the most deprived of circumstances. As well as providing transformative music education activities, Conservatoire staff and students have been acting as role models for vulnerable youngsters living in Soweto, a township deeply affected by poverty and a dearth in cultural activity and opportunity.

For the last two years, the Cape Gate MIAGI Centre for Music has hosted an annual ARCO Festival in Soweto, featuring public concerts by the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, intensive individual tuition, instrument-specific classes, quartet lessons and listening classes. However, the upcoming concert in Birmingham will inaugurate the project’s latest initiative, ARCO Exchange, which has funded the trip that is enabling the three students to fly to the UK this week.

The concert at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire on Saturday 18 November marks the beginning of the teenager’s two-week visit and will see them perform works by Dvorak, Händel and Küchler, as well as speak about what ARCO means to them.

Kwanda Buthelezi from Soweto said:“I have learnt so much from the ARCO project so far and there's still so much more to learn. I would really like to thank my family, for their constant support; my Skype teacher Matt; Ma’am Olga at the Cape Gate MIAGI Centre for Music; my role model and viola teacher, Tiisesto Mashishi; and last but not least, God. I will always be thankful until the day after forever for this incredible opportunity.”

The three students have never travelled outside South Africa before; it was only last month that they got a passport for the first time.

Njabulo Nxumalo from White City, Soweto, said: “I can't wait to fly to England for the first time in my life. I am looking forward to seeing all of my teachers from Birmingham once again. I am also really excited to see some of the professional musicians who are coming to Birmingham for the Cecil Aronowitz Competition and Festival.”

Alongside Conservatoire Principal, Professor Julian Lloyd Webber and Professor Philip Plowden, Vice-Chancellor of Birmingham City University, Head of Strings at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Louise Lansdown – who initiated the ARCO project in 2015 – will discuss the success of the UK-South Africa partnership during the inaugural concert.

She said:“The students will be opening our major international viola competition named after one of South Africa’s greatest violists and I know he would be immensely proud of what the youngsters from Soweto have achieved as part of their studies with ARCO. We are delighted that, along with many distinguished guests, Cecil’s wife, Nicola Aronowitz, will be here to enjoy the student’s performance.

“As a University, we are proud of our ambitious widening participation programme, with over forty-five per cent of our students coming from low income households, and with ARCO, we are expanding these efforts on a truly global scale.”

“I would personally like to thank Birmingham City University, the South African Quartet of Peace Trust, the Gwyn Williams Charitable Trust For Young Violist and all the fundraisers who have made the ARCO project, and now this Exchange, possible.”

The second Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition will see 26 young violists aged 21 and under representing 20 nationalities as they compete for the overall Cecil Aronowitz Prize of £5,000, a recording contract with Champs Hill Records and several high profile recitals as part of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Concert Series.

Performers will be coming to the UK for the semi-finals from as far afield as Austria, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and the USA, ahead of the final on Friday 24 November in The Concert Hall at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Hosted in conjunction with the Arts Council of England, British Viola Society and Birmingham Services for Education, it is the first major competition to take place in the Conservatoire’s new £57 million home.

Organisers have also planned a series of events to run alongside the competition that will immerse hundreds of children from Birmingham schools in workshops, UK conservatoire students in masterclasses, public recitals from jury members and displays from luthiers.

Part of Birmingham City University, the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire is a unique contemporary building, incorporating five public performance spaces including a new 500 seat concert hall for orchestral training and performance, a purpose-built organ studio and private rehearsal and practice rooms.

Furthermore, as the first purpose built conservatoire in the UK since 1987, the new institution which opened in September this year is the only one of its kind in the country designed for the demands of the digital age.

The Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition and Festival runs from Saturday 18 until Friday 24 November at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham City University.

Public Health England (PHE) has announced the projects which have been awarded funding from the HIV Prevention Innovation Fund for 2017/18. The projects have been chosen from across England to receive total funding of £600,000 from the Department of Health through PHE.

PHE received over 70 submissions from different organisations for funding for local HIV prevention initiatives. Projects that provided innovation were welcome, especially those that addressed the following issues:

  • acknowledging and addressing the wider determinants of high risk behaviour
  • promoting the prompt diagnosis of both HIV and other STIs, especially among MSM
  • addressing stigma associated with HIV
  • integrating HIV prevention into health promotion and service delivery in other health areas
  • supporting increased knowledge, awareness and understanding including of pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV, especially in currently underserved populations
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) remains a public health concern despite major advances in treatment and reductions in diagnosis. In 2015 an estimated 101,000 people in the UK have HIV with 13,500 unaware and at risk of unknowingly passing on the virus to others. The risk of infection is higher in certain groups of the population; such as gay and bisexual men and Black African communities. However, targeted and innovative local initiatives that reach out to these and other groups can help reduce the risk of people contracting or passing on HIV.

Two examples of local initiatives receiving funding from PHE are the Sex Talk project run by National Prison Radio which will create information designed for prisoners to address issues of stigma around HIV and the Sholay Love project run by NAZ which aims to raise awareness of HIV and STIs and encourage testing amongst south Asian gay men in London, Bradford and Leeds.

Simon Walker, Health Improvement manager and sexual health lead for PHE West Midlands, said: “It’s great news that we have received funding for two projects within the West Midlands region. In Wolverhampton the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) has received funding for Reducing Barriers to Testing, a pilot project to test the effectiveness, acceptability and uptake of online self-testing (ST) as a method to reduce barriers to HIV testing in Black African communities.

“The Morning After Project (MAP), run by Summit House Support in Dudley, is a Black Country project focusing on education and harm reduction in the practice of chemsex – the use of drugs before or during sex to sustain, enhance, disinhibit or facilitiate the experience. Chemsex is a growing trend and the drugs commonly involved are crystal methamphetamine, GHB/GBL and mephedrone; these can be highly addictive and people often start using recreationally, thinking they can remain in control, but this can escalate and have an adverse impact on health and wellbeing.”

Summit House Support Managing Director Katy Baker said: “Summit House Support is delighted to be selected to deliver the Morning After Project through the HIV Innovation fund. We see participation in Chemsex as a real and emerging need effecting groups of men across the Black Country. We hope to address some of the main risks, specifically around contracting HIV, through a unique approach which targets both men at risk and raising the awareness and skills of local front line practitioners.”

Commenting on the Innovation Fund and the winning projects, Public Health Minister Steve Brine said: “Now in its third year the HIV Prevention Fund continues to foster local innovation projects, which aim to tackle HIV in more targeted and impactful ways, especially for those most at risk. The twelve projects announced today will boost local action and spread best practice to further reduce rates of HIV across the whole country.”

Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement, Public Health England said: “The HIV Innovation Fund continues to foster new approaches to HIV prevention. The twelve projects receiving funding have been chosen as they offer new and exciting ways to address key issues in HIV prevention, working particularly with groups at high risk. These projects will help share innovation and best practice around the country, helping other areas to replicate progress in London on lowering rates of HIV.”

The Belgrade Theatre is hoping to spread the festive cheer even further this Christmas by giving away over 600 tickets for its pantomime Cinderella to local families in need as part of its Making Memories campaign.

Building on the success of last year’s campaign, the Theatre will once again partner with Coventry Foodbank to offer families from across Coventry and Warwickshire quality time together and the opportunity for every child to experience the magic of theatre this winter. Families such as Laila’s:

Laila lives in Coventry with her mum and four older brothers and one younger sister. The family have recently returned to the city, after escaping domestic violence, and are living in a two-bedroom flat until a more permanent home can be found. Laila is a bright and friendly little girl, but has found it difficult to cope with her step-father’s suicide last year.  Laila is just 6 years of age and has never been to a pantomime.

(Laila’s name has been changed to protect her identity, but her story is real.)

The Theatre is already a quarter of the way towards reaching its target of raising £7,200 to give 120 families the opportunity to see the Belgrade pantomime and create unforgettable memories, thanks to many generous donations.

After an exceptionally successful campaign last year, the Theatre is setting itself the challenge of raising even more money and needs your help to give as many families as possible an unforgettable experience.

Helen Hotchkiss, Head of Development at the Belgrade Theatre said, “We are committed to making the theatre an accessible and welcoming place to all. For many families facing significantly challenging situations, such as financial hardship, illness or isolation, a trip to the theatre is a luxury they simply cannot afford – some may have never been to a theatre before. Making Memories provides them with a brief escape from the challenges of day-to-day life and the opportunity to spend quality time together as a family. A donation of £15 will help one child and £60 will help one family, so please give what you can. Thank you.”

Iain Lauchlan, who writes, directs and stars in the Belgrade pantomime said, “We want to make sure that everyone across Coventry and Warwickshire is invited to the Royal Ball this Christmas! This year’s show is set to be more magical than ever, with spectacular sets, costumes, colourful characters and plenty of laughter. There’s also double trouble, with not one, but two dastardly dames as the Ugly Sisters! With your generous support, we aim to give a touch of magic and make-believe to as many families as possible during the festive season.”

As a registered charity, all the money given, raised or earned by the Belgrade is reinvested into its work in the community and to produce outstanding productions. Last year, the Belgrade Community & Education Company was able to offer over 11,000 participation opportunities for children, young peo ple and over 50s.

According to Arts Council England, studies show that engagement with arts and culture is associated with a higher level of wellbeing and there is growing evidence to support the benefits it can have on specific health conditions. Participation in the arts can also contribute to community cohesion, reduce social exclusion and isolation, and make communities feel safer and stronger.

Cinderella is the wonderful rags-to-riches tale guaranteed to delight all the family and make a trip to the Belgrade a truly unmissable Christmas treat. Join her quest to win the heart of the dashing Prince Charming, with a little help from her best friend Buttons and the enchanting Fairy Godmother. But with her evil Ugly Sisters determined to ruin her chances and the clock about to strike midnight, will Cinders manage to win the Prince’s love before the spell runs out?

A unique 50th Anniversary celebration of Pink Floyd's legendary performance at the now sadly burnt down Ritz Ballroom next to the Hare and Hounds in King's Heath will be held on Sunday 3 December.

Still fronted at that time by the charismatic but increasingly erratic Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's appearance in December 1967 was one of their first in the Midlands and came shortly after the release of their second single See Emily Play and their first album The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. On the same bill that night were The Rare Breed including Ozzy Osbourne and Geezer Butler who would later find fame and fortune as members of Black Sabbath.

Joining Syd Barrett on the tiny Ritz Ballroom stage 50 years ago as part of Pink Floyd were Roger Waters, Rick Wright and drummer Nick Knight who was born in Edgbaston, Birmingham. Two years afterwards the group would return to Birmingham to record the live album Ummagumma at Mothers Club in Erdington.

50 years later they have become one of the most bestselling and influential groups of all time and were earlier this year the subject of a major retrospective exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

From 3 pm to 6 pm a great selection of local musicians including Peters & Dog whose recent single was about Syd Barrett will perform their favourite Pink Floyd songs at Fletchers Bar on York Road

Beloved local drinking spot, The Bailey Head in Oswestry has won the DogBuddy Dog-friendly Pub Award for the West Midlands.

Leading online dog-sitting platform, DogBuddy.com, has today announced the 12 regional winners of its nationwide Dog-friendly Pub Awards, as voted for by pub-going dog owners across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Now in their second year, the awards recognise the deserving pubs across the UK that truly embrace ‘paw power’ and welcome not just two, but four legged customers too.

Encouraging hound-lovers and pup parents up and down the UK to show some well-deserved appreciation of existing dog-friendly establishments, the Dog-friendly Pub Awards also promote dog-friendly values across all pubs nationwide, inspiring UK dog owners to discover and visit their local pubs.

The Bailey Head is well-loved within the Oswestry community, with its friendly staff and most importantly, little touches that make the pub the perfect pit-stop for a pint after a dog-walk!

Duncan Borrowman, The Bailey Head’s landlord, is delighted with the results; “We are absolutely delighted for our doggy customers that we’ve won this award! Being dog-friendly is part of our whole ethos of creating a friendly atmosphere for everyone. It’s great because it means we can get more doggy visitors paying us a visit for a drink and a snack”.

Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice is remembering loved ones lost this Christmas with a touching, alternative light switch on.

For the first time ever, the local Hospice will be hosting its seasonal ‘Light up a Life’ ceremony at Brindleyplace – creating an evening of music, celebration and remembrance.

Taking place on Thursday 30 November from 6pm, Light up a Life will see the charity switch on Christmas tree lights in Oozells Square, with the lights symbolising the lives of those no longer with us.

Alongside the switch on, there will be live musical performances from The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Town Hall Gospel Choir and The Uptone Girls – a student choir from the University of Birmingham that recently competed in BBC One’s ‘Pitch Battle’.

Before the event, there will also be an opportunity to honour loved ones in the Hospice’s ‘Book of Remembrance’, which will be displayed at the Brindleyplace ceremony.

Birmingham St Mary’s is an independent hospice which provides vital care to individuals and families living with terminal illness. Its Light up a Life event is an opportunity to bring local people together to celebrate their loved ones, whether or not they were supported by the Hospice.

Tina Swani, chief executive at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, said: “Christmas is a time to be with family and friends, and to remember those loved ones who are sadly no longer with us. The festive season can be a difficult time for anyone who has experienced loss and so our Light up a Life event is an opportunity to come together to remember and honour the life of someone special.

“We are very grateful to Brindleyplace for allowing us to host Light up a Life in Oozells Square this year. By being in the heart of Birmingham’s city centre, we hope that many more people will be inspired to join in with this special event.”

Light up a Life is part of the Hospice’s ‘Care at Christmas’ campaign – a festive appeal that aims to increase support for the charity leading up to and over the Christmas period. It costs £22,000 to run the Hospice on Christmas Day and so all donations will make a big difference to the local families the Hospice supports over the festive season.

In addition to the Light up a Life evening at Brindleyplace, the Hospice will also be hosting two more remembrance events at its home in Selly Park. They will both take place on Thursday 14 December, with an afternoon event at 4.30pm and an evening one at 7pm.

There is just over a week to go until the stunning new Christmas Light Trail is unveiled at Dunham Massey.

On Friday 1 December over 100,000 lights will officially be switched on for the first time to illuminate the brand new magical family experience, transforming the outdoor space into a glowing winter wonderland.

The Georgian Stately Home and its ancient deer park will be awash with colour as visitors explore over 22 individual scenes along an hour-long trail with interactive elements and immersive experiences.

From a Meadow of Light featuring a sea of fibre optics and a Fire Garden aglow with hundreds of flaming installations, to a giant mistletoe sculpture, visitors will be awed by the sheer scale of illuminations.

The lawn will be adorned with oversized baubles and Dunham Massey's renowned copses, will be dressed with vibrantly coloured lights as well as dramatic wintery whites to emphasise the beauty of the silver birches.

The great lake will feature floating light installations and reflections from the architectural lights will transform the House's exterior.

As well as illuminations, the landscape will be filled with seasonal sounds including Singing Trees and festive musical performances as well as delicious food and drink to keep spirits high.

The trail has been specially designed for visitors of all ages to enjoy.

John Taylor Hospice in Birmingham is asking local communities to get behind its festive appeal to raise £15,000 – enough to fund running costs at the hospice on Christmas Day.

The hospice has been at the heart of communities for over 100 years, caring for generations of families. Today more than 600 people living with a terminal illness and their loved ones will receive the care they need from John Taylor teams.

Showing his support for the Gift a Christmas campaign is Peter Knight from Birmingham. For Peter, having John Taylor’s Hospice at Home Team on hand made all the difference when he was caring for his wife Ann.

Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2012. Despite intensive rounds of chemotherapy the cancer spread and in September 2013 the family was told her condition was palliative. The couple were heartbroken but determined to be together, with Ann remaining in their Tile Cross home through the duration of her life.

“Everybody loved Ann,” says Peter. “She was kind and considerate and never spoke a bad word about anybody. She was very gentle but also very strong.”

That strength was what made Ann determined to make the best of her last few months. “I was doing everything for her but by this time I realised I needed help,” says 66-year-old Peter. “So the district nurses referred Ann to John Taylor Hospice.

“They came every day and did whatever she wanted them to do. They might give her a bed bath or a flannel, they might wash her hair. Sometimes they might just sit and talk to her. It was whatever she was up for that day. And when I say every day I mean every day – even Christmas Day. The Hospice at Home Team did so much for Ann and she really looked forward to them coming to visit. They became friends.”

With the support of the district nurses and the Hospice at Home team, Ann’s wish to die peacefully at home was fulfilled in February 2014. Peter, a retired company director, was so keen to support other families that he is now a volunteer photographer with the hospice and supports staff at events such as Light up a Life.

“I don’t know how we would have managed without them and now I feel I need to pass on to others the help that we had,” adds Peter. "I would encourage people to show their support for the Gift a Christmas campaign as I know just how compassionate and caring the hospice staff are and what a difference they make for the families they care for."

The hospice is now inviting everyone, not just those touched by hospice care, to join the Gift a Christmas campaign and help make a huge difference for local families.

“Every moment matters here at John Taylor Hospice and our patients are at the heart of everything we do,” explains Darren Dudley, Community Fundraising Manager at the hospice.

"We do everything we can to make sure the festive season is an extra special time packed full of fun, entertainment and laughter. If patients are unable to spend Christmas at home then we bring it here to the hospice and help families to create precious memories they can cherish. Patients and their loved ones are welcomed as if they are part of our family and our home is their home.

“Our services are free to those who need them but it costs £15,000 every day to provide this care. We’d be really grateful for your support as together we can help ensure we’re there for families when they need us most – now and in the future.”

Leakage is always a hot topic, and with a target to reduce our levels by 15%, Severn Trent is determined to rise to the challenge.  The company is already using drones to spot leaks from the air, and now they’ve gone one step further - leakage detection from space!

Dr Bob Stear, Head of Innovation at Severn Trent, explains: “At the moment leakage detection hasn’t developed much in the way of new emerging technologies, so we’ve chosen to take a chance on satellites. We’re doing two trials to find leaks in different ways.”

We’re working with Rezatec, who analyse different types of satellite data and imagery to monitor changes in the landscape near to the pipe. This includes changes to the vegetation, water content in soil, water accumulation and sub-centimetre ground movement all of which help to identify potential leakage.

We’re also doing some work with Utilis, using a Japanese satellite, 637km above the earth.  It works by picking up a signature of longwave radiation of chlorine in water, tracking the “signature” of drinking water escaping into the ground.

The trials have so far identified many points of interest, which teams are then following up with onsite investigations.  Any leaks found are then planned in and fixed as soon as possible.

Bob added, “We’re really excited to be working on this. Its early days so far, but it’s looking really promising.  What’s really impressive is that we’re picking up leaks as small as boundary boxes and leaks on valves – something that is normally incredibly difficult to pinpoint.

“With this new Satellite technology, the time it takes to locate leaks should significantly reduce, which is obviously great news for leakage levels and our customers. We can see clearly the value that this level of geospatial data insight can deliver and we fully expect to be able to improve our costs and efficiency by making better informed decisions when finding and fixing leaks.”

Philip Briscoe, COO of Rezatec said: “It’s incredible what we can understand from satellite data in relation to monitoring asset networks. Identifying high risk areas of underground pipeline infrastructure and detecting symptoms of leakage is a cost-effective alternative to more traditional methods as its non-invasive, frequently updated and highly scalable.”

Nick Haskins of SUEZ UK, who are exclusive representatives of Utilis in the U.K. and Ireland, is very excited to be working alongside Severn Trent with this ground breaking technology: “Having the opportunity to work with Severn Trent on this project is very exciting.  Using a satellite, orbiting the Earth at 633km, offers the most up to date and innovative method for locating water leaks. This gives water companies the ability to survey the whole water pipe network in a single operation. This, of course, has the added benefit of being completely discreet to the customer and without any disruption to them.”

Birmingham’s internationally renowned Frankfurt Christmas Market returns to the city for five weeks from tomorrow.

The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Cllr Anne Underwood, will officially open the Frankfurt Christmas Market in Victoria Square on Thursday, 16 November at 5.30pm – before she switches on the city’s festive lights.

The Frankfurt Christmas Market – which celebrates its 18th year in the city – is organised by Birmingham City Council in partnership with Frankfurt Tourism and Congress GmBH, and sponsored by Fortem.

The Lord Mayor said: “This is one of the most anticipated events in Birmingham’s calendar, drawing millions of visitors to the city, and for many it marks the start of the festive season. Therefore it’s a great honour to officially welcome the Frankfurt Christmas Market back to the city.”

The Frankfurt Christmas Market features 93 festive stalls in Victoria Square and New Street selling a wide range of products and tempting foods, plus live performances on the bandstand and music from Free Radio – it has become the biggest authentic German market outside Austria and Germany.

The Lord Mayor will also attend the launch of the big wheel and ice rink at Eastside Green, New Canal Street, on 15 November at 6pm. These have moved to this location as refurbishment work continues on Centenary Square.

Both attractions will be open from 16 November until 7 January, from 10am to 10pm. Ice rink sessions are on the hour and last an hour. Tickets can be booked in advance at www.iceskatebirmingham.co.uk

Birmingham is one of 11 UK locations supporting NSPCC’s Light Up Christmas for Children campaign in their festive displays. The lights around Victoria Square will showcase their campaign, which is raising money to enable the charity to be there for every young person who desperately needs support.

Visitors are being reminded to use public transport wherever possible, as important works continue as part of the well-publicised Paradise redevelopment.