Colors: Blue Color

Business leaders in Greater Birmingham have said a General Election on June 8 would result in a much-needed “clear mandate” for Brexit and other global tensions.

Paul Faulkner (pictured), chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “We understand the importance of having a Government with a strong, clear mandate as we enter the most important negotiation of our generation - Brexit.

“This election, provided it receives the go-ahead from Parliament, should provide that backing to the winner and make clear the will of the British public. But we urge the Government to do their utmost to provide stability and consistency in the run-up to the day, and for our new Government afterwards. There is no denying the growing uncertainties on the horizon not just on Brexit but on other global political tensions.

“The run-up to the General Election cannot divert Government's attention from delivering strong domestic policy, clear negotiating tactics on Brexit and maintaining and growing the UK's position on the international stage.

“In this region we already have an important election coming up: the West Midlands Mayor on May 4. During this time strong local leadership and ensuring our region's voice is heard will remain vitally important.

“I would urge businesses and voters to continue to engage with this election as the race to the general election heats up.”

Blenheim Palace is expecting a record number of twins this year! With over 3,000 lambs due arrive towards the end of April, visitors can see them gambolling about in the 'Capability' Brown Parkland on a special Lamb Buggy Tour beginning 22 April.

The 1550 ewes were scanned by two members of the Rural Team in February meaning that Estate Manager Roy Cox and Head Shepherd, Charles Gerring know they are expecting 253 singles, 1,129 sets of twins and 144 sets of triplets. The spring arrivals are thought to be arriving from 20 April.

The scans show an increase in twins expected by the Blenheim Palace ewes and a reduction in triplets, which is good news for shepherds and mums-to-be. Ewes who give birth to triplets usually have one of their three offspring taken away and given to another ewe so that they can cope with feeding.

Head Shepherd Charles Gerring says: “The estimated yield of lambs from our flock this spring is really pleasing. The increase in twins is fantastic, and always what we hope to achieve. With the reduction of triplets we won't have as much worry with fostered lambs being rejected and ewes struggling to look after more than they can cope with.”

Visitors can learn about Blenheim Palace's rich agri-history and discover more about the Estate farm on the Lamb Buggy Tours which will be running through the Park to the lambing fields set in the historic surrounds of the Grand Avenue.

The grassland within this World Heritage Site is an idyllic area for our extensive flock to graze throughout the year. We lamb outdoors in order to give lambs the best spring grass and nutrients they need.

Blenheim Palace lambs later than many farms because their sheep are reared entirely on grass largely staying within the Park walls, keeping them as naturally healthy and organic as possible.

Shocking new research has revealed that thousands of people in the West Midlands have suffered a deterioration in their mental health because of housing problems in their lifetime, and many are seeking help from GPs in the area.

The report from Shelter and ComRes shows 28% of people in the West Midlands have experienced issues including long-term stress, anxiety and depression due to a housing problem over their lifetime. In some of the worst cases, people have suicidal thoughts.

The charity is urging anyone overwhelmed by housing problems to get advice from Shelter Birmingham Hub, after 1 in 12 (8%) people in the region said they had visited their GP due to housing problems.

An in-depth investigation by the charity with 20 GPs, including professionals from Birmingham, revealed:

  • GPs say some of their patients diagnosed with anxiety and depression is directly due to housing problems
  • Bad housing is tipping people with existing mental health issues ‘over the edge’
  • Poor housing conditions are having the biggest effect on mental health but unaffordable and unstable rented housing are also having a negative impact
  • GPs feel they need more help in supporting patients experiencing these problems
Showing how linked housing and mental health are, nationally the research shows that a vast majority (69%) of people who have experienced housing problems in the last five years such as poor conditions, struggling to pay the rent or being threatened with eviction, have reported a negative impact on their mental health.

Shelter Birmingham manager, Vicky Hines, said: "Every day at Shelter Birmingham we hear from people who are at their wit’s end because they just can’t cope with their unstable, unliveable or unaffordable housing.

“From families worrying about falling behind on the rent to people struggling with the misery of raising children in tiny, mouldy flats and houses – people can feel completely overwhelmed.

"But getting advice and support early can ease the pressure and stop things spiralling out of control. Shelter’s free expert advice is only a click or conversation away – visit or contact Shelter Birmingham on 0344 515 1800.”

Dr Vijayakar Abrol, who works as a GP in Birmingham and took part in the Shelter study, said: “When housing is sub-standard with inadequate heating, or without proper facilities for bathing, cooking and sleeping, this can have an impact on mental health – especially when it comes to aggravating more fragile people who have existing conditions.

“Personally, I have seen an increase in the number of patients with mental health problems in my practice and growing problems around housing are making the situation worse.”

Anyone struggling with bad housing and homelessness in the West Midlands can contact Shelter Birmingham on 0344 515 1800 or drop into their advice centre at Shelter Birmingham, 4th Floor, Gateway House, 50-53 High Street, Birmingham, B4 7SY.

University of Wolverhampton students recorded some valuable work experience when they visited a local radio station recently.

First year students studying for a degree in Multimedia Journalism visited local Wolverhampton radio station, 101.8 WCR FM, and were given a tour of the radio production studios as well as gaining some hands-on experience of recording from radio presenters during their visit. Students also researched a local news story and wrote scripts to fit the style of radio news bulletins, using the studio’s facilities to record their bulletins.

Dr Bianca Fox, Course Leader in the Faculty of Arts at the University, said: “For their final assignment students have to write and record their own radio programme and we wanted to work with broadcast industry professionals to help give them some real life work experience. Our aim is to increase partnerships with local broadcasters and professional journalists involved in the delivery of the degree.”

Angely Khan, a student on the course, said: "We have spent time on the course learning the ins and outs of radio news and practising writing and recording.  It was great to actually experience a real-life radio station that is just a short walk away from the campus. Students were able to meet and observe presenters whilst they were on air and toured the studio facilities.  Some are now looking to volunteer with the radio station after such a positive day.”

BBC Journalist and Masterclass trainer, Jules McCarthy, said: "It's a real privilege to work closely with local students who have a real talent for news. We've been able to help develop their multiplatform skills, using the excellent studio training facilities at 101.8 WCR FM. As a Wolverhampton girl myself, it's been extremely rewarding to help develop the next generation of this City's journalists.”

Owning a pet can be expensive with research showing the first year costs thousands on average – from bedding and food, to the damage they wreak on our homes. The poll from Nationwide Home Insurance, which coincides with National Pet Month, reveals Brits pay an average of £3,500 to cover the initial starting costs as well as the ongoing monthly bills.

Nationwide, which is the only high street financial services provider to offer accidental damage caused by pets as standard on their Home Insurance product, conducted the research to gauge the true cost of keeping an animal.

The research shows a huge variation in the costs of keeping different animals. When it comes to cats versus dogs, felines come out on top financially as the poll shows cat owners pay on average just half (£2,455) the amount dog owners do (£4,791) over the course of the first year.

And for anyone thinking about getting a horse, they will need to be prepared for a significant outlay as the Nationwide poll shows that the first year of equine ownership costs an average of £12,654 – perhaps not surprising given the cost of a horse is likely to run into thousands and the significant monthly cost of livery yards.

Fish are the most cost-effective pet to own with annual expenditure of just £769 – including the tank, pumps and associated equipment, while a rabbit - hutch and all - will set someone back an average of £1,802, according to the survey.

While the average amount spent on the animal itself comes to just £147, one in five (20%) pet owners spend more than £250. The poll shows horses (£2,322), dogs (£591), lizards (£324) and guinea pigs (£283) are the most expensive animals to purchase.

And as any pet owner will know, the impact on household finances continues once the animal becomes part of the family. The research shows Brits spend around £3,024 per year - £252 each month - on their ongoing care, including items such as food, vet bills, treats, toys and pet insurance.

When it comes to specific animals there is clearly a huge difference in associated costs. Horses are the biggest drain on the family finances, at £861 per month, while a dog will set owners back £350 each month. Fish are by far the cheapest, at an average of £588 a year (£49 per month).

On Sunday 23 April 2017, Drifters Waterway Holidays and the Canal & River Trust are offering people the chance to try canal boating for free at 19 locations across England and Wales, including Valley Cruises at Coventry Canal Basin.

The taster sessions, which run from 11am till 4pm, will include free short trips on skippered narrowboats, as well as boat tours and holiday discounts.

Tim Parker, chairman of Drifters Waterway Holidays, explains: “Travelling at just 4mph through peaceful countryside, sleepy villages and popular waterside towns and cities, canal boat holidays are often described as ‘the fastest way to slow down’. Close to 400,000 people go canal boating each year, nearly double the number 10 years ago* and over 3,000 people got afloat at our Open Day in 2016. “We hope that this year’s taster sessions will introduce many more people to the joys of a holiday afloat on Britain’s wonderful inland waterways.”

Mike Grimes, head of boating at the Canal & River Trust, added: “For many people, a boating holiday is the start of a lifelong passion for our beautiful network of inland waterways. These free taster sessions are a great way to see if this sort of holiday could be for you, before committing to a full weekend or week’s break.”

Breaking with her previous statements about not calling a general election before 2020, Prime Minister Theresa May, yesterday announced that she wants a general election to be held on 8th June.

In a statement, the Prime Minister stated that when she came to power in July, 2016, the country was in need of a stable and secure hand, to deliver the results of the referendum. She believes that she has delivers that, and now she feels that in order to properly deliver the fully Brexit package, she must secure a mandate for herself and the Conservative Party.

By calling a general election, Theresa May hopes to prevent the squabbling and nit picking that Labour and the Liberal Democrats had promised to deliver, had Parliament sat until 2020. With the Conservatives polling 21 percentage points ahead of Labour in the most recent opinion polls, the Prime Minister is no doubt confident that she can win a sizeable majority and strengthen her hand, when it comes to achieving her key policy proposals.

However, despite calling for a General Election, Theresa May is not guaranteed to get one. By order of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act of 2011, in order to dissolve Parliament and have a general election, the Prime Minister would need to get a two thirds majority of votes in favour of a new election.

There are those who think it would be within Labour and the Liberal Democrats interest to prevent the passage of the vote, as they believe that seizing on the potential chaos of the actual Brexit negotiations, could add to Labour and the Liberal Democrats appeal in 2020.

However, both Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron, leaders of Labour and the Liberal Democrats respectively, have stated that they will support the call for the dissolution of Parliament and the calling of a new election for 8th June.

At the time of writing, it has been confirmed that Parliament will be formally dissolved on 3rd May, and that the deadline for parties to recommend their candidates is a week later. Deadlines for registering to vote will be 22nd May.

With this move, Theresa May has guaranteed that things in Britain are to be even more heated for the next few weeks and perhaps for the weeks after the election as well as leading up to it. A potentially smart move, or one that could damn her and her party. Only time will tell.

By Vivek Rajkhowa

A Birmingham teenager has shaved off her hair to help the hospice that cared for her great-grandfather.

Fifteen-year-old Molly Harrison from Erdington has raised over £800 for John Taylor Hospice as a thank you for the care and support provided for her family.

Molly was only four years old when her great-grandfather George Harrison was cared for in the hospice’s In-Patient Unit in 2006.

“The hospice took such good care of him and I wanted to do this for them to show how much it means to me and my family,” explains Molly who is a student at Erdington Academy. “I feel really proud to have raised £808 - I didn’t think I’d make that much! I’d like to say thank you to everyone who sponsored me.”

Her bold fundraising challenge took place in front of an audience at Kingstanding Ex-Servicemen’s Club – somewhere George was a familiar face. Cheered on by family and friends Molly’s dad Mark shaved off her long brunette locks to raise vital funds for their local hospice.

Molly’s mum Sally Harrison said she clearly remembers the day that her daughter decided to do something special to raise money for the hospice. “When she was about nine her school, Firs Primary, held a cake sale in aid of John Taylor Hospice,” recalls mum-of-four Sally.

“A member of hospice staff went to collect the cheque and spoke to the children about fundraising to help their local community. Molly came out of school that day and asked me if the hospice was where we went to visit grandad. When I said yes she told me she wanted to do something to help them.”

The hospice provides specialist palliative and end of life care for people living with a terminal illness and their families and relies heavily upon public donations.

Sally added: “Hospice staff just couldn’t do enough for me and my family. We could visit at any time and were even able to stay overnight and bring grandad his favourite takeaway food!

“It felt like a home from home and we’re so thankful that they supported us to make the most of our precious time together. We’re full of pride for Molly and think it’s amazing that she has done this to help families just like ours.”

Molly will be donating her hair to children’s cancer charity Little Princess Trust who provide real hair wigs, free of charge, to children across the UK and Ireland that have lost their own hair through cancer treatment.

John Taylor’s Head of Fundraising Katie Mitchell said: “Molly is simply an amazing fundraiser! We are full of admiration for her and so grateful to everyone that backed her fundraising efforts. Our supporters go to great lengths to raise money for us and we can’t thank them enough for their kindness and generosity.”


A great motivational and inspirational talk was delivered by Mr. Qasim Ali Shah, a renowned motivational speaker, at Institute of Administrative Sciences (IAS). Mr. Qasim gave his talk on ‘Journey from Ordinary to Extraordinary: Professional Motivation’. He recommended many books for students to read and focused on developing the positive attitude towards all the happenings of life.

Mr. Shah shared the goal setting strategies and action plan by sharing the practical examples from his life. He focused on the importance of sincere efforts towards making one’s contribution in this world by finding one’s potential and act accordingly. Session was attended by a large number of students, alumni, faculty and staff that took keen interest in his talks and were quite engaged. Closing remarks and a note of thanks was shared by Prof. Dr. Nasira Jabeen, Dean – Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences (FEMS) and Director – Institute of Administrative Sciences (IAS).

It was followed by presentation of souvenirs and flowers to Mr. Qasim Ali Shah as a token of love and appreciation in acknowledgement of his time and efforts. Mr. Qasim Ali Shah contributed 100 books of his own to the IAS Library and to session participants as a gift.

Changes to the driving test will help save lives and improve road safety, Transport Minister Andrew Jones has said. Learner drivers will need to pass a modern test that will include new manoeuvres and a longer independent driving section to make sure drivers have the skills, knowledge and confidence to drive on their own.

The changes will also include a section where drivers use satellite navigation to find their way.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “We have some of the safest roads in the world but we are always looking to make them safer. These changes announced today will help reduce the number of people killed or injured on our roads and equip new drivers with the skills they need to use our roads safely. Ensuring the driving test is relevant in the 21st century – for example, the introduction of sat navs, will go a long way towards doing this.”

The new driving test will come into force on 4 December 2017. The four changes are:

  • an increase of the ‘independent driving’ part of the test from 10 to 20 minutes
  • asking candidates to follow directions on a sat nav as an alternative to following road signs
  • replacing current manoeuvres such as ‘reverse around a corner’ with more real life scenarios, such as  driving into and reversing out of a parking bay
  • asking one of the two vehicle safety questions while the candidate is driving, for example, asking candidates to use the rear heated screen
DVSA Chief Executive, Gareth Llewellyn, said:

“DVSA’s priority is to help you through a lifetime of safe driving.

“Making sure the driving test better assesses a driver’s ability to drive safely and independently is part of our strategy to help you stay safe on Britain’s roads.”

“It’s vital that the driving test keeps up to date with new vehicle technology and the areas where new drivers face the greatest risk once they’ve passed their test.”

Around half of all car drivers now have a sat nav and to reflect the changing behaviours of drivers, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) want new drivers to be trained on how to use them safely. This was supported by 70 per cent of respondents from last year’s consultation.

Using sat navs will encourage more practice of independent driving and teach new drivers the skills they need to manage distractions.

Currently candidates spend a large amount of their test on low risk roads, such as housing estates so they can carry out the current manoeuvres. The new-style manoeuvres will allow DVSA to assess the same skill set as the changes are more representative of what a new driver will experience in their everyday driving.

Reducing the focus on slow speed manoeuvres in quiet low risk roads and increasing independent driving will allow DVSA examiners to better assess the learner’s ability to drive safely on higher-risk roads, where statistically, new drivers have the most crashes.

Britain’s beloved historic buildings are at risk, due to a restoration skills crisis that threatens the future of some of our best-known national treasures, warns the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Despite over a million people tuning in to Channel 4’s latest series Great British Buildings – Restoration of the Year, and a new YouGov survey commissioned by RICS finding that 92% of the British public in the Midlands believe historic buildings are symbolic of Britain’s heritage, young people have little awareness of the specialist professions and trades essential to their preservation, suggesting that as people retire, the current skills base could be all but wiped out.

According to the survey, 9 in 10 people (92%) agreed that buildings such as Lincoln Cathedral and Ragley Hall are symbols of the country’s heritage. This sentiment is strong across all age groups, including millennials, with 89% of 18-24 year-olds appreciating the importance of historic buildings.

The vast majority of the Midland's population (93%) also believe that that these iconic treasures should be preserved for future generations and place the responsibility for maintaining them firmly at the door of the government (43%), followed by industry organisations (16%) and the general public (14%).

However, despite the public’s love for these buildings, the majority don't understand the specialist skills needed to restore and preserve them. For example, 80% are not knowledgeable about what a historic building surveyor does, and 80% do not know what a roof thatcher’s job entails. Awareness of age-old building professions is fading away amongst the younger generation, with only 1 in 10 18-24 year-olds able to describe the job of a stonemason, and only 16% know what a glass blower does.

This lack of awareness comes at a time when the industry as a whole is facing a skills shortage in the built environment, with the latest figures from the RICS Construction Market Survey showing that the skills gap reported by professionals across the construction sector increased from 2% in 2012 to 43% in 2016.

To ensure that these crucial skills are not lost and cherished historic buildings don’t fall into disrepair, a stronger pipeline of talent is needed. It’s important that craft skills are developed in addition to the continual promotion of professional skills, as the two skillsets are intrinsically linked to create any successful construction project. RICS is calling on the government and industry bodies to continue to concentrate their efforts on inspiring young people to pursue a career in the sector and educate them on the importance of mastering and maintaining the skills needed to preserve our historic buildings.

British designer and presenter, Kevin McCloud said: “Historically listed buildings form part of the fabric of our rich cultural heritage and today’s findings from RICS highlight that so many Brits are genuinely passionate about protecting the physical legacy that these buildings represent. I’m very pleased to be hosting Channel 4’s Restoration of the Year programme, which shines a spotlight on the care and craftsmanship behind preserving these national treasures.”

Matthew Howell, RICS Managing Director for UK & Ireland said: “It’s fantastic to see that so many people care about our historic buildings, especially young people. However, without a pipeline of talent developing expertise in these specialist areas, these landmarks could be left in ruin. We need the next generation to understand the role of a historic building surveyor, and the craft of a stonemason or glassblower to preserve this heritage for the future.”

Mr Howell added: “The government and industry bodies must continue to work together and raise awareness of the wide-range of opportunities available in the industry and create more routes into the sector for young people, including investing in quality apprenticeships that lead to roles such as qualified building surveyors who specialise in conservation projects”.

Visiting coffee shops is a ritual that many Brits routinely adhere to, as new research reveals Britain's coffee shop culture is full of beans. According to Mintel research, the UK coffee shop market has enjoyed its biggest period of growth since 2008, when the market was valued at £2.2 billion. Over the last five years, the market rose by 37%, up from £2.4 billion in 2011 to reach an impressive £3.4 billion in 2016. What is more, between 2015 and 2016 sales increased a spectacular 10.4% – the biggest year-on-year boost witnessed in the last five years.

It seems the market is brewing up for further success, as over the next five years coffee shop sales are forecast to jump a further 29%, reaching a heart-stopping £4.3 billion.

Brits' insatiable appetite for coffee is highlighted by the fact that two thirds (65%) of all Brits have visited a coffee shop in the past three months*. Coffee shop usage peaks among consumers aged 16-24 (73%). However, in a space traditionally dominated by specialist coffee retailers, it is notable that as many as 44% of Brits buy their hot drinks from non-specialists.

Overall, just one fifth (19%) of the nation do not drink tea, coffee or other hot drinks out of the home.

Trish Caddy, Foodservice Analyst at Mintel, said:

“Britain's appetite for coffee shops continues. Much of the growth we've seen in recent years is driven by habitual coffee drinkers and the continually increasing number of coffee retailers that are now ubiquitous on British high streets. A raft of non-specialist venues that feature barista-style coffee on their menus with takeaway functions are grabbing a slice of the coffee shop market. In the future, the top end of the market will continue to face intense competition from big pub chains, fast food chains and bakery shops that have now encroached on the coffee shop market, competing in terms of price, convenience and even geographical reach.”

Mintel research reveals an environmentally caring side to Britain's coffee drinkers. Almost nine in 10 (87%) coffee drinkers try to dispose of their packaging waste in recycling bins. Some six in 10 (58%) coffee drinkers would like coffee shops to offer a discount to customers using their own travel mugs. Furthermore, four in 10 (40%) coffee drinkers say they do not mind being charged extra for hot drinks served in 100% recyclable coffee cups, and 30% would prefer to pay for filtered water instead of buying bottled water.

Visitors are being given the opportunity to travel back to Victorian times with a living history day full of bangs, crashes and military action.

The Anglo Boer War Staffords historical interpretation group will be setting up camp in the grounds of the Manor House Museum, in Hall Green Road, West Bromwich on April 30 and  May 1 between 11am-3pm.

Visitors can enjoy late Victorian historic drama, military re-enactments, displays and lots of fascinating entertainment based around the Boer War.

The group will set up tents and historical displays and undertake military drills and battles.

Jane Hanney, museum services manager, said: “There will be some loud bangs and crashes and lots of fascinating facts around this historical battle.”

Staff will also be giving guided tours of the Manor House which dates back to the 13th century and visitors can find out about arms and armour hundreds of years before the Boer War period as well as what life was like in the house 600 years ago. The last tour is at 2pm.

Entrance to the event both days is free although there is a small charge for some activities.

People of all ages across the length and breadth of the UK will be holding bake sales to raise money for H4H to support wounded, injured and sick Service Personnel, Veterans and their loved ones.

The Bake for Heroes campaign runs officially between April 15 and April 30, but supporters can take part whenever it suits them.

Supporters of all ages and all around the UK have cooked up more than £850,000 for H4H since the Bake for Heroes fundraiser began in 2009.

Now, as H4H prepares to mark its 10th birthday in October, TV star Lorraine Kelly says this year is the perfect opportunity to rise to the occasion and make the 2017 event the biggest yet.

Lorraine said: “I’m so proud to be a Patron of Help for Heroes. Every time I sit down and talk to our brave men and women, they tell me how much it means to know the public is behind them and their families throughout their recovery.

“I’m determined to help make sure that this vital support is there whenever it is needed. So please join us, it’s very simple to sign up and bake a difference!

“You could just get some friends together for a cup of tea, have a laugh and have a chat. You really will be helping to rebuild lives and continue the amazing work that Help for Heroes does.”

The ingredients for success are simple – supporters simply sign up for a free fundraising pack through H4H to bake cupcakes, sponges, biscuits, flapjacks or whatever tasty treat they fancy, and sell them off to colleagues, family and friends.

Bake sales can be as big or small as you want – it could be a tea and cake event at work or school, a coffee and cake morning at the local community centre, or simply an invitation to friends to come round for a slice of cake and a catch-up in return for a donation.

Funds will support the work of Help for Heroes and their four Recovery Centres, which have been purpose-built and support around 4,000 people every year.

Throwing her full support behind Bake for Heroes is Sally Amoore, 62, who lives near Tenby in Wales and has raised around £37,000 for H4H by selling cakes over the past eight years.

Her son, Captain James Amoore, now 32, was seriously injured in Helmand province in Afghanistan after stepping on a Taliban mine in 2009.

James, a platoon commander with 2nd Battalion The Rifles spent four months in hospital, undergoing 15 operations.

With the prospect of more treatment ahead of him, Sally has pledged to do all she can to raise money for H4H.

Sally said: “James should have been a triple amputee, but he somehow managed to keep all of his limbs.

“He is among 66,000 ex-Service Personnel who will need support to deal with life-changing injuries and illnesses.

“Without charities like Help for Heroes, these brave men and women who we ask so much of would never get the support they deserve and so badly need.

“These men and women look strong and capable, but behind the brave façade, they face daily challenges. For some, the first challenge of the day is to fit their prosthetic legs or arms, for others it may even be battling their anxiety of leaving the house.

“As the public and media focus is no longer on Afghanistan or Iraq, it is critical we maintain support for them for years and years to come.

“I love Bake for Heroes because it’s something that everyone can take part in and do their bit. It’s not a huge effort to bake a cake! It’s just a very friendly and fun way of raising a bit of money for a good cause.”

A University of Wolverhampton Professor received recognition recently for her contribution to raising the profile of STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in the region.

Professor Nazira Karodia, who was recently appointed Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, was honoured at the Birmingham Thyagaraja Festival, which was organised by Shruthi UK, a South Asian arts organisation based in Solihull.

The Festival was held at The Dovehouse Theatre in Solihull and featured song and dance performances, speeches from dignitaries and awards presentations. Honours were also bestowed upon a selected few role models in recognition of International Women’s Day.

Nazira has a PhD in Chemistry from the University of St Andrews and studied for her post-doctoral fellowship at the Centre for Heterocyclic Chemistry at the University of Florida.

Prior to her current post, she was Senior Lecturer in Chemistry at the University of Bradford and she was Regional Director for the National Higher Education STEM Programme covering Yorkshire, Humber and the North East.  She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

She said: “I am honoured that Shruthi UK considered me worthy of a Women-in-Science award.

“There is always a link between the arts and science and there are efforts nationally and internationally to bring the arts into STEM to make ‘STEAM’. There is science in everything - the biology of movement in dance, the sound and physics in music - so it stands to reason that we can combine it all to make even more engaging experiences for the community.”

Dr Chithra Ramakrishnan, Artistic Director at Shruthi UK, said: “Every year, Shruthi UK honours women who have contributed and made a huge impact to the community through their skills, passion and commitment in the field of Life Sciences, Arts, Community, Politics and Education. 

“Professor Karodia is making an immense contribution in the field of Life Sciences and Education, having recently been appointed Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Wolverhampton, and we were delighted to present her with an award recognising her achievements to date.”

VIPs at the event included West Midlands Mayoral Candidate, Andy Street, new Indian Consul General Dr Aman Puri, the Mayor of Solihull, Councillor Mike Robinson and Lady Mayoress Mrs Jenny Robinson.

Shruthi UK aims to inspire and motivate people from all ages and backgrounds but particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. For example, it has in the past organised workshops for autistic children and young adults, supported by Autism West Midlands and is currently working with people with dementia in an attempt to help improve their cognitive skills and general well-being through holistic healing through Indian dance. Shruthi UK also works closely with Special Needs schools across the region and beyond.

Two of the UK’s top young technical officials have secured appointments at this year’s World Para Athletics Championships and IAAF World Championships London 2017 taking place in the London Stadium at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park this summer.   

Aged just 19, India Hollingworth will be one of the youngest in the team. She is set to be a starter’s assistant on the track during the IAAF World Championships London 2017 and, prior to this, a call-room assistant at the World Para Athletics Championships. She will be joined by Heather Nelson, who will be one of the chief judges in the field events at both championships. 

Hollingworth, a student at Leeds Beckett University where she is studying sports development, is delighted at the prospect of officiating at London 2017.

She said: “I am looking forward to being part of it. I am excited and nervous at the same time! I have been gradually progressing through the levels by gaining experience and taking the tests. These involve a lot of scenarios to show you can apply what you have learnt to the roles. For example, I was asked to show where I would stand for the 100m start.” 

As a starter’s assistant she will be responsible for checking the athletes are in the correct order and have their fingers or toes behind the start line and ensuring appropriate conduct on the start line, including checking that the athletes are appropriately dressed.  

She said: “My dream event would be the men’s 100m final but I would also love to do the 5000 or 10,000m. Just being there will be amazing.”

During the World Para Athletics Championships, Hollingworth will be in the call room ensuring the athletes are ready at the correct time and wearing the right clothing. She will also be responsible for making sure they do not take anything onto the field of play that is not allowed, such as mobile telephones, and will carry out branding and sponsorship checks.

Although only 35, Heather Nelson already has 19 years’ experience as a technical official having qualified at the age of just 16, but these events will be her first as a chief judge. 

Nelson, an engineer who is currently studying for a DPhil at Oxford University, was introduced to athletics at a young age as both of her parents are technical officials. Both parents still officiate, and both Heather and her mother, Margaret, were technical officials at London 2012.

She commented: “I enjoy the events and officiating. It is like having a second family and we make many friends – there is a real community feeling. The people and the performances make it really special. I have been lucky to have officiated at many memorable events. I was judging at the take-off board for Jessica Ennis-Hill’s long jump during London 2012.”