Colors: Blue Color

Energy providers are being urged to do more to promote green energy after a survey revealed just 2 per cent of Birmingham residents are on a green tariff.

Despite years of education and falling costs for green energy options consumers still say renewable energy isn’t a priority.

The poll, conducted amongst energy bill payers and commissioned by ENGIE, revealed:

  • A quarter of people in Birmingham say they have done nothing to be environmentally friendly in the last year.
  • 1 in 5 (20 per cent) don’t understand enough about the benefits a green tariff would have for the environment.
  • Almost half (45 per cent) of consumers in the city say saving money is a priority for them and assume a green tariff will cost more.
Yet increasingly green tariffs are affordable. ENGIE, the largest new entrant to the UK home energy market for 15 years, has led the way by offering 100 per cent renewable electricity on all of its tariffs at no additional cost. Plus, customers can also receive 100 per cent green gas guaranteed at minimal extra cost – one of the few plans of its kind on the market. Recent research by uSwitch has also revealed that green tariffs are becoming increasingly affordable.

Renewable energy tariffs are backed by 100 per cent green electricity – meaning that, for every unit of electricity used, the same amount is produced and put back into the grid from a renewable source.

Paul Rawson, CEO of ENGIE’s home energy business, says: “With so few people in Birmingham choosing green energy tariffs, it is the responsibility of energy providers and the wider industry to offer solutions which appeal to and persuade consumers.

“We don’t believe customers should have to make a choice between saving money and choosing a green option and we are optimistic that increasingly they won’t have to.”

There was some good news in the poll results, which also revealed:

  • 14 per cent of people surveyed said environmentally friendly tariffs influence their choice of energy provider, the highest in the UK.
  • Half of people in Birmingham said they would be prepared to pay more for a green energy tariff (even though the evidence suggests they won’t).
In other positive news, June saw the UK experience a new renewable energy record with a remarkable 70 per cent of its electricity coming from low-carbon sources at one stage.

Paul Rawson adds: “By working collectively we can take a more sustainable approach to energy consumption to the benefit of ourselves and future generations.”

One in four (24 per cent) parents with school age children have either bought or rented a new property in order to secure an address within their desired school catchment area, according to new research from Santander Mortgages.

The study also found that those families willing to move are prepared to spend a 12 per cent premium for their desired catchment area, equivalent to an extra £26,800 in the current property market. This is just under the average full-time salary in the UK, which currently stands at £28,213.

Parents are going to great lengths to be within these sought-after catchment areas, with their sacrifices going far beyond financial. A fifth (20 per cent) of those who moved changed jobs, while 20 per cent say they were forced to downsize and 19 per cent moved to an area where they did not feel safe. One in four (25 per cent) admit they overstretched themselves, paying more for the property than they could realistically afford and 26 per cent moved to a location that was far away from family or friends.

The bank’s study suggests that the moves made by many of these families are temporary, with only 26 per cent planning to continue living in the area once their child leaves school. More than four in 10 (44 per cent) of those who moved to be within a catchment area said they will leave as soon as their child has secured a place. This figure rises to two thirds (66 per cent) for parents in London.

Amongst families who have moved to be within their desired catchment area, 51 per cent said they had sold their previous property and purchased a new one within their chosen area. Three in 10 (30 per cent) said they purchased a second home in the catchment area, while 19 per cent secured their desired address by renting a property.

This trend looks set to continue as 40 per cent of parents who expect to move house before their children leave school say catchment areas will dictate where they choose to live.

Miguel Sard, Managing Director of Mortgages, Santander UK said: “Living within a certain school catchment area is top of the wish list for many families but often these addresses come at a premium. Our study highlights the significant financial and lifestyle sacrifices that parents are making to be within the catchment area of a desired school.

“Buyers need to do their research as properties in catchment areas often come with a hefty price tag, especially in London where competition for school places is fierce. We urge parents not to over-stretch themselves, but to find a mortgage provider that not only offers competitive rates and products but also has the expertise to ensure that the right deal is secured and the repayments are affordable.”

A high ropes course which allows wheelchair users to experience a new challenging outdoor adventure has opened at The Lake District Calvert Trust. Based on the shores of Lake Bassenthwaite, it's thought to be the first of its kind in the UK.

The nature of the sloping woods behind the centre allows wheelchair users to access the course, before using the horizontal ropes and obstacles taking them to a maximum height of 10 meters above the ground. Built using a series of trees as the main supports, this unique and specialist facility is 100 meters long and stretches across eight platforms, with seven separate challenges.

The Lake District Calvert Trust is a residential outdoor centre with more than 40 years of experience in delivering adventure holidays for people with disabilities. With this unique high ropes course now up and running, it will be incorporated into The Calvert Trust's existing activities programme which includes sailing, canoeing, horse-riding and abseiling.

To celebrate the opening, a group from the charity BackUp had a sneak preview. The organisation helps people rebuild their independence and confidence after devastating spinal cord injuries.

Julie Hill, Group Leader of BackUp said: “The new addition at the trust is fantastic, as it isn't something we'd be able to do anywhere else in the country. As wheelchair users, we all took great delight during our trip in testing this new activity out before anyone else. As a specialist centre, The Calvert Trust was already a great destination for us, but this is really the icing on the cake.”

Sean Day, Centre Director at the Lake District Calvert Trust says: “We wanted to make our residential stays at the centre more exciting, creating a unique course that could challenge both those with learning difficulties and those with restricted mobility. We already had a wheelchair accessible challenge course and zip wire on site, so our task was to think about how to make a high ropes course accessible so it could get maximum use from our visitors.”

The course was designed and developed by adventure specialist Technical Outdoor Solutions. It cost £84,000 and support from the Harold and Alice Bridges Charity, the Bailey Thomas Charitable Fund, the Leathersellers' Company Charitable Fund, and a personal donation from Michael Toulmin, who until 2015 was a trustee of The Calvert Trust, made it possible.

Tate Modern is offering free entry to its hit Soul of Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power exhibition today.

Visitors can see the landmark exhibition of African American art as part of the gallery’s upcoming Uniqlo Tate Late, taking place this evening.

The event, which coincides with the start of Notting Hill Carnival weekend, will also feature music, films and interactive activities.

What did it mean to be a Black artist in the USA during the Civil Rights movement and at the birth of Black Power? What was art’s purpose and who was its audience? This summer Tate Modern will present Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, a landmark exhibition exploring how these issues played out among and beyond African American artists from 1963 to 1983. At a time when race and identity became major issues in music, sport and literature, brought to public attention by iconic figures like Aretha Franklin, Muhammad Ali and Toni Morrison, ‘Black Art’ was being defined and debated across the country in vibrant paintings, photographs, prints and sculptures. Featuring more than 150 works by over 60 artists, many on display in the UK for the first time, Soul of a Nation will be a timely opportunity to see how American cultural identity was re-shaped at a time of social unrest and political struggle.

The show begins in 1963 with the formation of the Spiral Group, a New York–based collective. They questioned how Black artists should relate to American society, with key figures like Romare Bearden and Norman Lewis responding to current events in their photomontages and abstract paintings. Artists also considered the locations and audiences for their art – from local murals to nationally circulated posters and newspapers – with many turning away from seeking mainstream gallery approval to show artwork in their own communities through Black-owned galleries and artist-curated shows. The exhibition will use archive photographs and documentary material to illustrate the mural movement, including the ‘Wall of Respect’ in Chicago and the ‘Smokehouse’ wall paintings in Harlem. The way artists engaged with street activism will be explored through posters and newspapers, such as the work of the Black Panther Party’s Culture Minister Emory Douglas, who declared “The ghetto itself is the gallery”.

The call for Black Power initiated powerful and inspiring images of political leaders such as Malcolm X and Angela Davis and even works of radical abstraction invoking Martin Luther King’s legacy. Soul of a Nation will showcase this debate between figuration and abstraction, from Faith Ringgold’s American People Series #20: Die 1967 and Wadsworth Jarrell’s Black Prince 1971 to Frank Bowling’s Texas Louise 1971 and Sam Gilliam’s April 4 1969. A highlight will be Homage to Malcolm 1970 by Jack Whitten, who was awarded the National Medal of Arts by Barack Obama in 2015, which will be going on public display for the very first time.

Away from New York artists across the Unites States engaged in the Black Art debate. In Chicago in the late 1960s, Jeff Donaldson, Wadsworth Jarrell, Jae Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Nelson Stevens and Gerald Williams, formed AfriCobra (the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists), the only group to devise a manifesto for Black Art during this period. Their striking works offered a unique aesthetic combining bright colours, texts and images in dynamic ways. Meanwhile in Los Angeles the Watts Rebellion of 1965 had a direct impact on the art being produced there, with many artists calling attention to the politics of a divided city. Constructions by Noah Purifoy made use of debris found on the streets of Watts, while the work of Charles White and David Hammons shows the development of a distinct approach to the figure while responding to current events such as the restraining of Bobby Seale at his trial.

Further themes investigated in the exhibition include the emergence of Black Feminism through the work of Betye Saar and Kay Brown, showing how the period marked arevolutionary moment of visibility for Black women, and debates over the possibility of a Black aesthetic in photography featuring work by Roy DeCarava. It will also spotlight Just Above Midtown gallery (JAM), a pioneering New York commercial gallery that displayed the work of avant-garde Black artists and whose legendary programme spanned innovative approaches to sculpture and performance, using materials as unexpected as Black hair and tights.

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power is curated by Mark Godfrey and Zoe Whitley, with assistant curator Priyesh Mistry.It will be accompanied by a catalogue from Tate Publishingand a programme of talks and events in the gallery. Following its presentation at Tate Modern the exhibition will tour to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas and the Brooklyn Museum, New York.

The Queen’s Baton has finished its visit to England, as part of its tour of the Commonwealth nations ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The Baton arrived in the country by military aeroplane from the Falkland Islands. On the morning of Wednesday 16 August, it was parachuted into RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire before being formally received by Commonwealth Games England Chairman Ian Metcalfe and Commonwealth Games Federation President Louise Martin.

This was the first stop on the Baton’s tour of England on its journey through all Commonwealth nations across, 388 days, ahead of the Opening Ceremony on 4 April 2018. England was the 40th destination on the tour, with the Queen’s Baton now moving on to Scotland as it continues its global journey.

Commonwealth Games England Chief Executive Officer Paul Blanchard said:

“We have thoroughly enjoyed having the Queen’s Baton in England, for what has been a thrilling five days, where we hope to have shared the fantastic sentiment of the Queen’s Baton, and the Commonwealth, around our country.”

Following its arrival at RAF Brize Norton, the Baton travelled to London to be welcomed by the Australian High Commissioner and a number of athletes such as Commonwealth and Olympic champion Max Whitlock at the London Guildhall Gallery and Amphitheatre.

The Queen’s Baton continued, on Thursday, to Stoke Mandeville Stadium, home of the para sport movement, and the Lawn Bowls National Championships in Leamington Spa. Commonwealth and Paralympic champion Ollie Hynd, MBE, supported an open sports day at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, before the Baton was greeted by the nation’s leading Lawn Bowls stars at the Lawn Bowls National Championships in Leamington Spa.

Commonwealth swimming champion Ollie Hynd said:

“It’s not long now until the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and it’s great to see everything, and everyone, coming together with the Baton. I was lucky enough to go to Glasgow, which was a wonderful experience with such a high level of sport and the opportunity to be in that athlete environment with all the different sports – para and able bodied – was fantastic. And I am looking forward to hopefully experience that next year, it will be really special.”

Friday saw the Queen’s Baton head to Manchester, where it was joined by English gymnastics stars Ellie and Rebecca Downie at MediaCityUK, Salford in the morning, and England Basketball stars Georgia Jones and Dominique Allen who offered a ‘come and try’ session on a special basketball court at MediaCityUK.

The Queen’s Baton was then greeted by cricket fans at Old Trafford Cricket Stadium for the Lancashire Lightning V Birmingham Bears T20 Blast fixture, where it proudly undertook a lap of honour before the match.

Commonwealth gymnastics champion Rebecca Downie said:

“It’s been really exciting to see the Queen’s Baton. The Baton is so unique, with all of its different features and how it brings everyone together. It’s starting to feel very real now. The Commonwealth Games is one of those big milestones you want to win a medal in and go to, amongst the likes of the Olympic Games and world championships. The Commonwealth Games is always a special one and being a multi-sport event you get to meet lots of different athletes, and have a lot of fun.”

Saturday and Sunday saw the Baton head to Liverpool and Birmingham, who are both currently bidding to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Saturday’s trip to Liverpool commenced with a visit to Liverpool Parkrun at Princes Park, which saw former team England star Beth Tweddle greet the baton, ahead of heading to Albert Dock, ahead of the Clipper Race, before visiting a community sports day held at Chavasse Park. Following a quick trip on a 'Ferry across the Mersey', the Baton was greeted by over 50,000 football fans at Anfield at half time of the Liverpool V Crystal Palace Premier League fixture.

In Birmingham on Sunday, the Baton was given a grand tour of the city, visiting a number of key landmarks throughout Sunday 20 August, including the Bullring, Library, Edgebaston and Brindley Place. The trip to the city commenced with a trip to the New Testament Church of God Gospel Choir, where it was welcomed by the colourful, vibrant and fun members of the church, with the choir treating the team to uplifting music. The Baton then headed to the Alexander Stadium for the Müller Grand Prix Birmingham. It was on display in the fanzone and completed a lap around the historic athletics track by the men’s 4×100m relay team that won gold at the recent IAAF World Athletics Championships.

The Queen’s Baton Relay is a Commonwealth Games tradition that celebrates the Commonwealth’s diversity, inspires community pride and excites people about the world-class festival of sports and culture to come.

The Queen’s Baton carries a message from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II that calls for athletes to come together in peaceful and friendly competition.

A Dudley woman is taking part in Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walk in Sutton Park, Birmingham, for her mother whom is living with dementia, raise awareness about dementia and money to combat the condition.

Louise Overton, 32, from Dudley said: “Everyone knows someone who's life has been affected by Dementia and my mum, at the young age of 44 developed dementia. We noticed things weren't quite right, mom was finally diagnosed when she was 50 and since then we have watched the painful process of deterioration. Growing up I have always needed my mom as any girls do, especially when I had children of my own, but I've never had that luxury and never will. My mom is now on complete bed rest and struggling to eat. I'm doing this walk for her, for other women who will need their mom, for the children who will need their nan. Let's all stand together and try and find a cure for this horrible illness.”

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“My mum is now 57, she was diagnosed in 2010 after lots of tests and investigations into her behaviour, deterioration has been slow but has been much more rapid the past year. She has gone from being able to walk about to complete bed rest and very limited movement. It took her speech completely just after diagnosis but she still recognised family until about 3 years ago but now there is nothing. For people going through the same I think they just need people that care around them, to be as strong as they can for them and appreciate that they are in there somewhere, let them feel sun on their faces, let them sit in the fresh air and listen to the birds sing, smile and talk to them like you would anyone else, I cling to the fact that there is a little part of her that can still hear me and feel me holding her, hearing me tell her how much I love her and miss her."

More than 26,000 people over-65 in Birmingham and the Black Country are estimated to be living with dementia and last year’s event at the smaller location of Cannon Hill Park was attended by 5000 people, raising more than £322,000 to help people living with the condition.

Janice Le Tellier, Alzheimer’s Society Operations Manager for Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry and Warwickshire said: “Dementia is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer. We are calling on family, friends – and furry four-legged supporters – to unite against dementia this autumn. Dementia devastates lives. Walk with us at Memory Walk and dementia won’t win. Every pound raised will help Alzheimer’s Society provide information and support, improve care, fund research and create lasting change for people affected by dementia. Alzheimer’s Society is urgently calling on people to register now at and unite against dementia.”

One in ten UK adults, equivalent to 5.3 million people, intend or would like to write their autobiography, according to new findings from Type & Tell, the leading self-publishing company.

Fuelled by the desire to tell their life story for reasons including self-help, to help others learn from their life lessons, or to pass on a record of their life to younger family members, aspiring authors would like to write their autobiography more than any other genre of book. One in five of those planning to write a book would like to pen their own life story (21 per cent), more than twice the number of any other non-fiction genre and considerably more than any genre of fiction.

Whilst the genre is most popular amongst more experienced would-be authors, with 27 per cent of those aged 55 or over hoping to write one compared to 22 per cent of those aged 35 to 54 and just 14 per cent of those in the 18-34 age group, their reasons for doing so differ significantly between generations.

Life after death, life lessons and self-help: reasons for writing autobiographies

Over half (52 per cent) of would-be autobiographers said they believed their life would make an interesting story to tell. However, this rises to 62 per cent of those planning to commit their life story to paper in the 18-34 age group compared to just 45 per cent of those aged 55 or over. The younger age group may have been inspired by the increase in commercial autobiographies by young sporting stars and musicians.

Possibly influenced by high levels of followers on social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, the younger age group are also far more likely to believe their own life is more interesting than that of most people who publish autobiographies, with 21 per cent of them holding this view compared to just nine per cent of those aged 55 or over.

One in three prospective autobiographers (30 per cent) felt their work could help readers benefit from their life lessons (30 per cent). Perhaps unexpectedly given their relative lack of life experience, the younger age group was more likely to be motivated by this sentiment, with 33 per cent of them expressing it compared to just 23 per cent of those aged 55 or over.

The older age group is more motivated by leaving something behind for other family members, with over half of them (55 per cent) wanting to have a written record of their life for their children or grandchildren compared to just 39 per cent of 18-34 year olds with this motivation.

For many hopeful autobiographers, writing their life story would be self-help, with almost a third (32 per cent) of those planning to write their memoirs doing so for their own wellbeing.  There may be some merit in this reasoning as some psychologists encourage patients to view the events in their life as stories in narrative therapy2, a form of counselling which aims to separate individuals from their problems and externalise their issues.

Jon Watt of Type & Tell commented: “In our social media age, we already share large parts of our lives through photos and videos, so the leap to autobiographical writing is not a great one. We are working with writers who want to tell their life stories for a wide variety of reasons. Some want to entertain, other to inform; some are writing very personal memoirs for family and generations to come, others see their story appealing to a global audience. Publishing has changed and it is now possible for us to meet all these authors’ ambitions. The rise of accessible self-publishing platforms has given people the ability to cost-effectively create, publish and print books themselves, and if they want to, sell them around the world.

“For every fascinating and unforgettable autobiography from household names like Nelson Mandela or Barack Obama, there are numerous books recounting everyday stories of hardship, humour, adversity or triumph which fly under the radar but have just as deep an impact on their readers.”

While a significant 63 per cent of the UK admit to being in debt, new research from VoucherCodes’ Annual Cost of Living Life Report reveals that there has been a year on year reduction in the amount of new debt that Brits have accrued since the start of the year, with the average Brit taking out £363 in new debt in 2017, down from £446 in 2016. Despite this, it seems the nation is still struggling to stay on top of their finances, with over a quarter (27 per cent) confessing they are clueless as to just how much debt they are in.

The study over 2,000 UK adults found that while men have borrowed slightly more than women since the start of the year (£389 versus £344), where age is concerned, millennials are seemingly struggling to make ends meet, with 18 to 34’s borrowing more money since January than any other age group in the UK. Perhaps in response to the increasing cost of living and strained disposable incomes for many young people, millennials took out £540 in new debt in 2017, more than double over 55’s average of just £202.

Looking across the UK, those in Plymouth have borrowed the most money nationwide since the start of the year at £997, followed by those in Bristol (£497) and Birmingham (£426), all of which have undergone redevelopment in recent years, with rising property prices and new retail and leisure facilities in the regions pushing up the overall cost of living for many. Despite this, surprisingly, it’s Londoners who are among those who have the worst grips on their finances, with people in London and Northern Ireland being the most in the dark about money matters.

The survey of over 2,000 UK adults found that in line with 2016, student loans are the costliest driver of debt for those that have borrowed money since the start of the year (£5,162), followed by bank loans (£2,886) and credit cards (£1,378). But even in light of this nationwide debt, just 7 per cent of Brits believe they need to get better at money management, with over half of Brits (54 per cent) claiming they are ‘very clear’ on the current state of their personal finances.

In:Site Festival returns to Birmingham City Centre for a seventh year this September with recent graduates transforming the outdoor space around the cathedral with unusual craft ‘interventions’ . In:Site, a festival of graduate creativity, organised by Birmingham based arts charity Craftspace, takes place in Cathedral Square from the 4th – 8th September.

The public can get involved with the making of some of the artworks using different techniques; embroidery, casting in concrete, enamelling, manipulating wire and spinning wool. With different artists working each day, at the end of the week visitors can expect to see the space adorned with twelve new art works including a Camera Obscura, a crocheted chandelier, architectural wire sculptures and a textile tribute to historical figures buried in the graveyard echoing the shape of the Cathedral’s stained glass windows.

Craftspace Director, Deirdre Figueiredo said: “A festival of making in this public square draws attention to  Birmingham’s rich heritage in a creative way, encouraging people to slow down and take time to appreciate skills and stories - strangers from all walks of life talk and make together finding surprising ways to connect in an otherwise busy world.”

In a new partnership with Jaguar Land Rover, their clay modellers will collaborate with ceramicist Sarah Christie, showing the versatility and importance of clay as a material which is used expressively by artists and as a sculpting material for design in the car industry.

Ian Callum, Jaguar Director of Design said: “Developed to create sophisticated surfaces that would otherwise be drawn by hand, clay models have been in existence in the car industry since the 1940s and remain a fundamental part of the design process.  Watching the car come to life through the incredible artistic ability of our clay modellers, working together with designers, is still the favourite stage for many designers.”

The festival is supported by Birmingham Cathedral, the Edward Cadbury Trust, the Oakley Trust and Radcliffe Trust.

A new £2.2m development of quality but affordable family homes has been unveiled in Stockland Green, thanks to a small group of residents that galvanised itself into action when it saw its community going into decline due to poor quality and absent private landlords.

The construction of 14 family homes at Copeley Hill on Slade Road has totally transformed a site that had been left derelict and abandoned after being bombed during WWII and then cut off from the rest of the community by Spaghetti junction.

Stockland Green Opportunity Housing and Training (SGOHT) is the community-led organisation that inspired the Copeley Hill development of aspirational and quality private rented homes, which will enable local families to stay in the area.  The homes were built by MCE Property with the backing of SGOHT partners, Pioneer Group.

Sarah Kelly (33), son Amari (11) and daughter Ivy (5months) are the first family to receive keys to Copeley Hill.  Erdington born and bred, Sarah moved to Coventry for nine years but wanted to return to Birmingham so she could be around her family and support network.

“When I discovered there was a new development being built in the area, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to move back to my roots and have a fresh start,” said Sarah.  “The houses at Copeley Hill are absolutely fantastic and we can’t wait to get moved in and into our routine back in Birmingham, just minutes away from the people we love.”

Labour MP for Erdington, Jack Dromey said:  “A loving mum, Sarah, and her two delightful children, cannot wait to move into their new home; a good home, at a reasonable rent and with real security for the future.  The SGOHT is to be congratulated for its outstanding initiative in building 14 new badly needed homes.”

Those families renting from SGOHT at Copeley Hill will benefit from living in a modern, spacious home and receiving a quality maintenance and repair service.  In addition, because SGOHT has made a long term commitment to the area, they will also enjoy the peace of mind that comes from certainty of tenure and sustainable and ethical rent levels.

Penny Holbrook, Chair of SGOHT said:  “Stockland Green has always had a rich heritage and vibrant and ethnically diverse community, which was quick to organise itself and meet the challenges head on as the area went into decline.

“We could never have imagined only four years ago what we would be celebrating today, but from small acorns mighty oaks do grow. Copeley Hill was an abandoned part of Stockland Green, an eye-sore that was blighted by fly tipping, but the transformation is remarkable and one that we can all be proud of.

“The ambition and drive of a small group of people disillusioned at the lack of good quality private rented housing, which was driving young families out of Stockland Green and destroying the community, has resulted in a fabulous housing development of three and four bedroom houses that will allow them to stay in the neighbourhood and help the community grow and thrive.”

There are 12 spacious three-bedroom (from £725 per month) and two four-bedroom homes (£850 per month) in the Copeley Hill development, all with master bedroom and ensuite bathroom, modern fitted bathroom and kitchen, cloak rooms, sound-proof windows and rear gardens.

Penny concludes:  “We’ve delivered homes with the same rents as private landlords, but with superior housing and services.  This community-based solution to a lack of quality housing in the area is one that we have committed to and intend to build on.”

As a Pioneer Group partner, SGOHT benefits from its financial support and management resource, but is able to work autonomously in the community it knows inside out and has its own board that shapes future activities and investment in the area.

SGOHT is committed to helping Stockland Green and its people flourish by providing excellent homes and creating development and training opportunities for those living in the community, including working with a local training provider on the refurbishment of its properties.

The new Copeley Hill housing development is the first in a new chapter of regeneration in Stockland Green with SGOHT planning a further 20 houses over the next four years.

Now in its second year, KXCQ brings together a vibrant collection of pop-up design events, exhibitions and stunning architectural installations as well as all the best places to eat, drink, shop and stay at King’s Cross during the LDF.

Will Sorrell, Event Director of designjunction added, “Following the success of the King’s Cross Creative Quarter during last year’s show, we’re thrilled that the celebration returns this September, bringing together visitors from all over the globe.

With the plethora of inspiring design, architecture, culinary delights and retail hot spots that are on offer it’s a great location to be, and even better that it’s all situated within just a one-mile radius of King’s Cross.”

KXCQ offers something for everyone from design enthusiasts to those on a family day out, with a host of special events for visitors to enjoy. Taking place over four days in tandem with designjunction, the KXCQ is supported by King’s Cross Development and the Wellcome Collection plus headline media partner

Green-fingered apprentices from Sandwell are celebrating after being rewarded for their achievements by their horticultural college.

Apprentices working towards their Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications with Sandwell Council were welcomed to South Staffordshire College’s new AgriSTEM Academy at the Rodbaston College in Penkridge to celebrate their progress.

They included Kayleigh Hartwell aged 20 from Tipton who was awarded the British Association of Landscape Industries' (BALI) Best Student 2017 award for her hard work, commitment and talent. She works with a gardening gang in the council's neighbourhoods team.

Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for children’s services Councillor Simon Hackett said: “It’s great to see these young people working so hard to achieve their qualifications.

“An apprenticeship is a great step onto the career ladder and at the council we’re doing all we can to support people to gain qualifications and experience that can learn to a great career.”

The apprentices, who all work at the council's cemeteries or in grounds maintenance, were presented with certificates of achievement by the college’s chief executive principal Graham Morley. He congratulated them on their achievements and told them how he too began his career as an apprentice.

Graham said: “All of these apprentices should be extremely proud of themselves. What they do makes a real difference to the vibrancy and prosperity of Sandwell, the contribution each of them makes to their local area should not be underestimated.

“We’re delighted to have welcomed the learners here today and to have played a part in their success. We wish them all the very best for their future.”

South Staffordshire College’s Head of Apprenticeships and Employer Engagement John Renshaw added “What a fantastic achievement for Kayleigh and indeed, for all of the apprentices who are here today to celebrate their hard work.

"I’d like to congratulate all of the learners again and thank all of the staff from both Sandwell Council and South Staffordshire College who have supported them during the course of their apprenticeships.

“We have worked in partnership with Sandwell Council for many years and are delighted that our relationship continues to go from strength to strength. It’s an absolute pleasure to work alongside such a fantastic group of people and play a part in shaping the future of their apprentices.”

Sandwell Visually Impaired (SVI) officially opened its new offices at West Bromwich Town Hall with a special launch event.

Visually impaired people and their families and friends joined the celebration, which was also attended by local organisations, West Midlands MEP Sion Simon and Councillor Ann Shackleton, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for social care.

The new offices, off Lodge Road, provide a central location for SVI, helping the voluntary organisation to extend what it does for blind and visually impaired people.

From supporting people to use the gym at Portway Lifestyle Centre and swim at West Bromwich Leisure Centre, to holding a group for over-50s and a young people’s programme, SVI offers a wide range of services and support. SVI also sends out the free weekly Sandwell Talking Newspaper.

SVI chair Tony Averis said: “It was wonderful to officially welcome everyone to our new offices. It was a fun atmosphere, with some great entertainment too. I want to thank everyone who came along, including our speakers Sion Simon and Councillor Shackleton, and Tesco New Square which donated refreshments for the event.

“SVI has plans for the future and we want to do even more. We want to hear from visually impaired people about what services they want, what issues and concerns matter to them and how we can help.”

Councillor Shackleton said: “It was an honour to attend the event and welcome so many independent and positive users of SVI supported by many carers and volunteers, including the well-behaved guide dogs.

“From my tour of the new base I realised that the service would now be able to operate from a well-positioned central venue in the town hall with up-to-date equipment in light, airy accommodation with user-friendly facilities including signs and an entrance keypad in Braille.

“It shows that here in Sandwell we care and continue to ensure that people with a disability receive the support and guidance they need.”

Go to to learn more about the services and support SVI can offer to people living with sight loss and their families. Or call the office on 0121 525 4810.

Two of Birmingham’s most iconic statues - Boulton, Watt and Murdoch and Iron: Man - will be temporarily removed from their familiar sites, to allow ongoing transformation of the city centre to progress, in the coming weeks.

Preparations to remove Boulton, Watt and Murdoch on Broad Street are expected to begin in late August and Iron: Man is expected to move in early September, as the next phase of regeneration works around Centenary Square and Paradise begins.  Both will return to public view in late 2018.

Birmingham Museums Trust is responsible for both of the public artworks and cares for them on behalf of Birmingham City Council.

The Birmingham Museums’ Collections Care team have overseen the consultation and appointment of Allelys, and conservation specialist Ian Clark Restoration, who will undertake the removal and transportation of these statues.

Experts from Birmingham Museums will be involved throughout the process to ensure the artworks are conserved and stored safely at a secure location.

Rob Lewis, Collections Care Manager at Birmingham Museums Trust, said: “The statues are an important part of the city’s collection and we are pleased to oversee the plans to ensure the two artworks are cared for during this process. We look forward to welcoming them back in the future, so the public can enjoy them once more and learn about Birmingham’s industrial heritage.”

Cllr Ian Ward, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Both of these statues are important to Birmingham and its citizens, which is why we’re putting them into temporary storage with the support of Birmingham Museums Trust.  This will enable regeneration works in Centenary Square, Broad Street and Paradise – and the city centre’s transformation – to progress. I look forward seeing them back on public display next year."

Boulton, Watt and Murdoch is the work of William Bloye, formerly head of sculpture at Birmingham School of Art, and sculptor Raymond Forbes-Kings. Standing on Broad Street it depicts the three pioneering figures of the industrial revolution discussing engine plans. Made of bronze with a gold finish, the larger-than-life size figures stand on a pedestal of Portland stone.

Iron: Man was created by renowned sculptor Antony Gormley and stands prominently in Victoria Square near Pinfold Street. Cast at Firth Rixon Castings in Willenhall, the statue also has links to the city’s industrial heritage as it represents the traditional skills of the people of Birmingham and the Black Country.

Erected in March 1993, the sculpture, which weighs six tonnes, was a gift to the city from the Trustee Savings Bank. It was originally named Untitled, but became known as Iron Man by residents, and so Gormley requested for its name to be formally changed to its current title.

The temporary move has been supported by the sculptor, Antony Gormley.

He said: "Birmingham, the birthplace of the industrial revolution, is made by the extraordinary number of its citizens who were, and continue to be, skilled engineers, foundrymen and ironworkers. Iron: Man was an attempt to ask a material question: what will the womb/crucible of the industrial revolution produce - what kind of collective or individual body? This question is still open and relevant. I am proud that Iron: Man will return to its place in Victoria Square asking questions about the future."

Collections Care experts from Birmingham Museum Trust, which oversees the care of part of the city’s collection of public art, also advise on suitable cleaning methods that will be undertaken by conservation specialists while the statues are in storage.

Both statues will join other works of public art which are already placed in temporary storage while regeneration works continue in some of the city’s public spaces.

Old office chairs are being transformed into hard-shell backpacks and bicycle panniers as part of an innovative new project.

Thomas Howell-Jones, a Product Design student at Birmingham City University in the UK, has created ‘Rest’, a new product which uses the backrests of discarded office chairs to form the durable, waterproof and impact proof bags.

The sustainable solution converts the back of the chairs into a large bag which can be worn or mounted onto a bicycle.

More than 810,000 office chairs go to waste every year in the UK alone and ‘Rest’ was designed in an attempt to slash the number which need to go to refuse tips.

Thomas came up with the idea after collecting discarded office chairs in a bid to find a sustainable use for them.

After dismantling several chairs he found that the backs could be used as a protective container and after experimenting with various other products he successfully converted chairs of different shapes and sizes into uniform bags and bicycle panniers.

Birmingham City University Product Design student, Thomas Howell-Jones said:

Realising that a backpack was possible from office chair waste was the turning point for the project. This allowed me to continue detailed investigation and development showing results seen today.

“Materialising the office chair backrest shell allowed ‘Rest’ to be as functional as possible whilst also supplying an impact resistance and waterproof bag. The process from realisation to outcome was very enjoyable and I now look forward to developing the range.”

Thomas now plans to look at other waste materials which can be transformed into everyday use products, such as bicycle inner tubes.

Birmingham Airport has given support to a local primary school to build a sensory playground area.

The Oval Primary School in Yardley was awarded £3,000 by the Birmingham Airport’s trust fund to build the play area in the school grounds. They worked with adventure playground specialists, All Out Play, to plan and build the new interactive facility which opened in June.

Andy Holding, Corporate Responsibility Manager at Birmingham Airport, said: “The trustees decided to award The Oval Primary School with this funding as we could see that the planned learning environment would greatly benefit the local pupils.

“It gives a ‘hands on’ learning approach that will teach environmental awareness and knowledge of nature whilst protecting local wildlife with features such as a wormery, bug area, pergolas and climbing plants.

“This work is very much in line with our Corporate Responsibility Strategy of developing local communities and promoting health and wellbeing in the area.”

In addition to the wildlife sections the play area also includes a musical area with drums, chimes and xylophones, a story telling corner, a bamboo maze and a water play section, amongst many other features.

Julie Gouldbourn, Strategic Business Manager at The Oval Primary School, said: “The outdoor retreat that has been built with the Airport’s support is of huge benefit to the children and the local community.

“The design of the garden with its mixture of interactive zones combines play with learning. It has also made a huge difference to the local community by greatly improving the outlook of the area for future generations.”

The funding awarded to The Oval Primary School, forms part of the Birmingham Airport Community Trust Fund which awards grants of up to £3,000 to community groups in areas most affected by the Airport’s operations. Each year the airport contributes nearly £80,000 to the Community Trust Fund.

Additionally any charges made to airlines which breach night noise regulations, are added to the fund.