Colors: Blue Color

Following the fatal stabbing of Troy Paul, in Birmingham, in July, a special prayer concert has been organized in his honour and to pray for the city, and support the families whose sons, brothers, nephews and other family members who are victims of knife crimes -100% of the funds raised there going direct to the families.

This comes after the visit of Pastor Samuel Jonathan, who attended a vigil held in memory of Paul – an experience which he found especially moving, which was compounded by the fact that his death was the fourth knife-related killing in Birmingham within one week.

Furthermore, the person charged with the murder of Troy (23), a father of a 10-month-old child, was only 15.

The other knife-crime victims were named as: Alexander Leonard (aged 22), 65-year-old Philip Rolph and Daniel Baird (26).

Seeing prayers change and transform communities around the world, Pastor Jonathan has organised prayer concerts in Atlanta, London and Accra and he firmly believes that prayer can bring godly change - hence the ‘Birmingham Prayer & Benefit Concert,’ a free event featuring an inspiring fusion of live music, poetry, sculpting, fine-art painting, choreography and prayer, to be held at the Sparkbrook Community Centre, on Grantham Road, on Saturday August 5.

Donations are welcomed and will go towards the support of the families.

This is the only organised concert and prayer gathering in memory and honour of the four fatal knife-crime victims!

To donate towards the hosting of the concert, volunteer or further information, visit


With so much beautiful countryside up and down the UK, exploring the great outdoors can be enjoyed by everyone, parents, children and even your canine companions. What better time to do this than during National Parks Week, this annual family celebration runs from 24th-30th July and aims to highlight everything that is wonderful about Britain’s breath-taking spaces.

There are 15 National Parks across the UK all of which are free to enjoy and they include many free family events. Responsible dog-walkers are all welcome, so your furry family friends needn’t be left at home. Lintbells, manufacturer of premium natural pet supplements including YuMOVE, the UK’s No. 1 joint supplement; believe in choosing an active life for both dogs and owners and exploring the wonderful spaces on offer at a National Park is a great way to do this.

From Exmoor to North Yorkshire Moors, the UK’s beautiful National Parks can be found across the country, so you and your family don’t have to travel too far to your nearest one. Covering a whole range of landscapes, including moorlands and coastal walks there is plenty of variety for dogs and families to enjoy.

As with many other public walking areas, there are a few important things to remember to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are a few simple tips and things to bear in mind when enjoying the National Parks.

  • When exploring the beautiful open land, dogs should be kept close by, under control and in sight at all times.
  • On open access land in particular, owners should use a short lead, no longer than 2 metres.
  • A lead should also be used near farm animals, particularly sheep as they can be sensitive to dogs, and many footpaths cross their grazing land. It’s vital to respect all wildlife and livestock as you are in their habitat, your pooch may be harmless and just excitable but don’t let them chase or disturb the nearby animals.
A number of National Park areas will have official signs that illustrate the sensitive times and places where dogs are not allowed, so it’s important to keep an eye out and, where possible, research your planned route beforehand to avoid being caught out.

To keep these wonderful outdoor spaces in the same condition as you found them, please ensure the whole family, pets included, respect the land. This means clearing up after your dog, taking all litter home with you and sticking to designated footpaths where possible.

Alethea Maillard, Marketing Manager at Lintbells said, “We know that it can be hard to think of ways to not only keep the kids entertained during the school holidays, but to keep them (and your furry four-legged friends) active as well. There is so much beautiful land that is free to enjoy across the UK, and National Parks Week is a great way of highlighting this. It encourages parents to get their children and dogs outside exploring the great outdoors this summer. We strongly believe in choosing an active life, for both humans and animals alike, and a trip to a National Park is perfect for this.”

For those dogs that are leading an active life YuMOVE supplement can help support their joints and mobility ensuring they can enjoy adventures for many years to come.

Dazzling photography of some of the natural world’s most astonishing sights is now available to see at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

The Lichfield Street gallery is hosting the Natural History Museum’s 52nd Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition featuring awe-inspiring images capturing fascinating animal behaviour and breathtaking landscapes.

The blockbuster show won critical acclaim when it premiered in London and is running until Sunday, October 1 in the city.

Last year Wolverhampton Art Gallery hosted the 51st Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition attracting thousands of visitors, and it is hoped even more people will take the chance to see staggering images displayed in an ultra-modern lightbox format.

City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Economy, Councillor John Reynolds, said: “It’s no understatement to describe last year’s exhibition as breathtaking and I am so delighted the gallery is hosting the Natural History Museum’s 52nd Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition this summer.

“It attracted lots of visitors last year and I would urge anyone, young and old, to come and make the most of a major London exhibition on their doorstep.”

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is the most prestigious photography event of its kind, providing a global platform that showcases the natural world’s most astonishing and challenging sights for more than 50 years.

Founded in 1964 and organised and produced by the Natural History Museum, it is one of the longest and most renowned photography competitions in the world.

Now in its 52nd year, the competition received more than 40,000 submissions from amateur and professional photographers, from more than 95 countries, all of whom were competing for the title of Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Every year, the best images submitted are selected to form the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, which tours venues across the world, exhibiting to millions of visitors, and helping to ensure that biodiversity and sustainability remain at the forefront of public awareness.

Whether you are a baking enthusiast, or can just about make an edible sandwich, the picnic is all about getting family, friends and furry companions together for some fun in the sun.

Katie Sutcliffe, RSPCA events manager, said: “While school’s out, it’s the perfect time to get the picnic blankets out and spend quality time with the kids enjoying your favourite treats.

“The RSPCA can help plan the perfect picnic to raise money for animals in need and while you enjoy your sandwiches in the sun, you’ll be helping us continue with our work to improve the lives of animals everywhere.”

The RSPCA relies entirely on donations to do its vital work rescuing rehabilitating and rehoming animals.

So far in 2017 the charity took in 273 dogs and 914 cats in the West Midlands.

Across the centres in June there were 3,260 dogs and 9,832 cats taken into care, more than 1000 rabbits and nearly 500 horses. Our 24-hour cruelty hotline has received more than 500,000 this year so far.

Katie continued: “We need your help now as much as ever and getting friends together for some cake and sandwiches is a simple but fun way to help the charity continue this vital work.”

August Bank Holiday is the ideal time to have a picnic but they can be held anytime and anywhere.

There are free posters, bunting, invites, cake flags and recipes all available to download when you register your picnic with the RSPCA. The fundraising pack also includes face masks to colour in for children, a RSPCA-themed quiz and lots of fun ideas to do on the day.

Why not hold a competition for the best decorated cake or cupcake, collect donations to guess the weight of the cake or the number of sweets in the jar, or have a game of Tug o' War or even an egg and spoon race.

Share the memories by posting a picture of your paw-some picnic using the hashtag #RSPCAPicnic

All the money raised from donations and games can be paid online through the website and will go straight to helping animals in need.

The donations will help the RSPCA continue to rescue, rehome and rehabilitate animals in desperate need of care.


Nearly a quarter of water sample failures taken at customers’ taps didn’t reach quality standards because household plumbing doesn’t reach the mark.

This is one of the findings highlighted in a report launched today by the Chief Inspector of Drinking Water. It shows that despite tap water quality in England being among the highest in the world, of the small proportion of samples that do fail, a number are the result of poor household plumbing.

In its annual report for 2016, the Drinking Water Inspectorate for England confirms that 99.96 per cent of samples passed stringent water quality tests but has highlighted that where failures did occur, many were at customers’ taps.

Of these, 24 per cent were caused by poor plumbing practices, wrongly connected pipework, sub-standard fixtures and fittings and poor kitchen tap hygiene. All of which can cause the quality of drinking water to deteriorate after it has been transferred from the public water mains into private pipes and properties, potentially resulting in contamination.

Lead, nickel, taste and odour are behind some of the failures and these can be caused by legacy pipework, the wrong materials and fittings being used or inadequate protection from water ‘flowing back’ into internal pipework from dishwashers and toilets.

WaterSafe, the national register for plumbers which is backed by the Drinking Water Inspectorate and all the English water companies, is urging homeowners and property managers to use approved plumbers to help keep drinking water supplies safe.

Julie Spinks, Director of WaterSafe, said: “Water supplies in England are among the highest quality in the world and we want to ensure that the quality of the water remains high at the point it leaves customers’ taps.

“Many people don’t realise that there are many things which can affect water quality in homes, or other buildings, such as lead pipes, poor quality taps and fittings and even wrongly connected appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines and even toilets.

“We vet plumbers before they are allowed to join the WaterSafe register to ensure they have the right skills and knowledge to work safely with water. We also ensure they have insurance and customer care schemes in place so customers can trust they are employing a competent and qualified professional who will not compromise the quality of one of most important services in their homes.”

Plumbers on the WaterSafe register have specific training in the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations and Byelaws, which are designed to preserve the high quality of water that is supplied by water companies, and avoid the risk of contaminated water.

Marcus Rink, The Chief Inspector of Drinking Water for England, said: “Consumers need to be aware of the risks associated with poor household plumbing and sub-standard fixtures and fittings when it comes to the quality of their tap water.

“I urge them not to take any chances and always be sure to employ a reputable plumber. The Watersafe register is there to help people make an informed choice and provides confidence that work carried out in their home is done safely by a skilled and competent plumber using approved materials.

“It is an important part of ensuring that drinking water remains healthy and wholesome right up to the tap and reaches the high standards we all quite rightly expect.”

Each year thousands of samples of water are taken from reservoirs, water treatment works, pumping stations, water mains and customers’ taps by water companies.

These are tested in laboratories to monitor for a range of substances, including metals, pesticides and naturally-occurring bacteria which are measured against required standards.

A silver  trophy presented to lady winners in the Wednesbury Horticultural Society flower shows has come home.

The Society Ladies Challenge Cup was awarded to the competitor who gained the highest number of points in the annual show.

Mrs Lavina Howles of Dingley Road  in Wednesbury won the cup four times and was allowed to keep it when the Wednesbury show was discontinued in 1962.

Now Mrs Howles’ daughter Dorothy, has contacted local councillor Steve Melia after reading articles about Wednesbury in Bloom in the local press.

Mrs Dorothy Hatton has decided to give the cup to the people organising the Wednesbury in Bloom competition.

Mrs Hatton has warm memories of the original Wednesury show which was held in Wood Green. “If I remember correctly it took place around the 16th of August  and there was always a well-known celebrity to open the show and on several occasions John Stonehouse, the local MP attended,” she said.

She said all kinds of entertainment was provided and the culmination of the event was a “big band" which entertained in the evening.

“I am proud to have been associated with the Society and I am sure my mother would have been very proud, after all these years, to know that there still an interest in Wednesbury” she said.

Councilor Steve Melia, a former chairman of Sandwell Horticulture Show and a keen local historian, said he was delighted that Mrs Hatton had allowed the trophy to “come home to Wednesbury” after such a long time.

He added: "We will keep it safe and hopefully will be able to use it some way in the highly-popular competition."

The shortlist has been announced for the third annual awards of Future Faces, the young professionals’ arm of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce.

The winners will be revealed at Future Faces’ annual dinner and awards ceremony at Edgbaston Stadium on Friday 15 September.

This year’s awards have undergone a shake-up in order to cover a wider range of sectors and better reflect the industries in which the Future Faces members sit.

Among the changes is the introduction of a new category, Arts and Culture, to reflect the importance of this sector in the region.

The overall Future Face of Greater Birmingham award will be handed out to one of the winners of the seven individual sector categories.

This year’s awards attracted a record number of entries.

Chief operating officer at the Chamber, Russell Jeans, who chaired the judging panel, said: “The volume and high calibre of applications received are a sign of how seriously the business community is taking these awards.

“As a region it is more important than ever that we support the development of our young professionals and one way of doing this is to recognise their efforts and achievements.

“The Future Faces awards are a fantastic way of doing precisely that.”

The shortlisted candidates are:

Future Face of Arts and Culture Rachael Magson, Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre Amrit Singh, Freelance Creative Designer Cynthia Miller, ORB Creative Roisin Caffrey , Stan's Café

Future Face of Entrepreneurship Daniel Bridgewater, Buckt Joe Kibbler, Angus Drummond, Limitless Travel Mathew Jones            , Oxbridge Home Learning

Future Face of Technology and Innovation Dan Rice, Hopper HQ Richard Westman, Kaido Group Ltd Tom Charman, KOMPAS Jeremy Lambert, Ononga Limited

Future Face of Industry James Guest, Carney Green Mark Hipwell, CH2M Samuel Boot, Pennycuick Collins Eleanor Pugh-Stanley, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

Future Face of Sales, Marketing and Communications Jordan Ladley, Escape Live David Glenwright, JC Social Media Natalie Merrix, Rewired PR Sam Watts, Selfridges

Future Face of Legal Laura Ralfe, Irwin Mitchell LLP Greg Fearn, Mills & Reeve LLP Emma-Louise Hewitt, Standley & Co Elizabeth Mulley, Trowers & Hamlins

Future Face of Finance James Dockerill, Deutsche Bank Hassan Ejaz, Deutsche Bank Jaccy Gasgoyne, Deutsche Bank Ruzwan Boota, Mazars LLP

The nominees were chosen by a judging panel made up of Russell Jeans, chief operating officer at GBCC; Louise Teboul, operations director of Common Purpose; Joe Schuppler, founder of Independent Birmingham; Fiona Allan, artistic director and chief executive at Birmingham Hippodrome; Gary Cardin, senior director at CBRE, and Neil Anderson, head of marketing and events at Millennium Point.

Sales of local and regional artisan gin have grown by 50% in the past year at Waitrose as demand for spirits from local distilleries continues to rise.

To meet customer demand, the retailer has today (24 July) introduced another three new gins from local British distilleries to several of its shops* – Ramsbury Gin (made on the Ramsbury Estate near Marlborough, Wiltshire), Cotswolds Dry Gin (made in Stourton, Warwickshire) and Masons Dry Yorkshire Gin (made in Bedale, North Yorkshire).

In recent years, Waitrose has worked with local distilleries across the UK to bring more artisan gins to its shelves, many of which had never been stocked in supermarkets before.

The retailer has long supported small suppliers and currently sells more than 2,500 locally and regionally sourced products from over 600 producers. Through its support, Waitrose has seen a number of local businesses become nationally-recognised brands, including Warner Edwards, whose Rhubarb Gin was initially sold in 133 Waitrose shops but is now stocked in nearly 300.

John Vine, Waitrose Spirits Buyer, said:

“Gin is now the most popular spirit we sell, having overtaken whisky earlier this year.

“Gin from local and regional distilleries have become particularly popular for several reasons. There's been a shift towards people sipping the spirit before their meal as an aperitif, so artisan gins, which tend to have been infused with unique flavours, really appeal for this purpose. Our customers are also looking for local gins in a bid to support smaller suppliers.”

The first ever plan of action designed to prevent incitement to violence that could lead to atrocity violence was launched on 14 July 2017, at a meeting held in the ECOSOC chambers at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The plan of action was developed by the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, with the support of KAICIID, the World Council of Churches and the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.

The event was inaugurated by Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres; Under Secretary-General and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng; and Secretary-General of KAICIID, Faisal Bin Muaammar. Amongst a number of religious leaders of individual communities from around the world, Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia, Chairman and Religious Leader of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha UK, provided a Sikh perspective on the panel discussing the role of religious leaders in preventing incitement to violence.

Bhai Sahib Ji commented, ““This Plan of Action and the process by which it has been developed is highly commended.

The misuse of religion to provoke violence is a symptom of diseased minds. To eliminate this disease at the source, we must lovingly liberate our minds through empowering ourselves with the values of compassion, truthfulness, selfless contentment, humility and love. Only peace within oneself can lead to peace around us.”

Implementation of the Plan of Action will contribute to the prevention of atrocity crimes, especially in areas affected by religious and sectarian tensions and violence and enhance the respect, protection and promotion of human rights, including the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of religion or belief and peaceful assembly.

At the launch meeting, religious leaders, the United Nations, Member States, and civil society began discussing strategies for the implementation of the Plan of Action and the coordination between religious leaders and implementing agencies.  Important next steps include the dissemination of the Action Plan among Member States, relevant UN agencies and other stakeholders.

Property Transformation Manager Lizzie Jones has won the City Year UK West Midlands Bridge Builder Award for 2017.

Lizzie had been mentoring 22 year-old Coventry University student Samaira Amin over the last academic year, supporting her as she volunteered full time in Bordesley Village Primary School with youth social action charity City Year UK during her placement year.

Michelle Lester, Community Investment and Engagement Adviser at National Grid, received the award on Lizzie’s behalf from Samaira at the City Year West Midlands Graduation Ceremony, held on the 19th July at mac in Moseley. 54 young people who had been serving as mentors, role models and tutors full-time in schools over the last year graduated from the scheme, and will now go on to the world of work or higher education.

Lizzie said of her win: “The programme has been fantastic, as the structure and guidance given by City Year UK has been exceptional and made the experience so much more rewarding.

“The most important part for me has been having the pleasure of hopefully playing a small part in Samaira’s journey through life.  As a Bridge Builder I’ve been able to explore Samaira’s career development goals  alongside helping her plan for life after City Year.

“Being able to share skills I’ve developed over the years at both National Grid as well as ideas my own mentors have shared with me has been extremely rewarding, as has being able to offer Samaira the opportunity to connect with professionals in the field she’d like to pursue.”

City Year UK Head of the West Midlands site Dave Gibson said: “Our young volunteers get so much out of the volunteering programme through both being mentors to pupils in primary and secondary schools and from being mentored themselves by our supporters and funders.

“Samaira has come far on the programme and I’m delighted that her mentor Lizzie has been awarded for her work over the year.”

City Year UK Volunteer Mentor Samaira Amin said: “Lizzie was a great support this year in developing my career plan and she has helped me realise the potential in me to achieve my goals. Lizzie has got me a lot of contacts to help me get some experience and find out what I would enjoy, and she is always inspiring me to take up opportunities. I appreciate all her support and i'm looking forward to see what the future holds.”

City Year UK’s  Bridge Builder Award recognises supporters who have volunteered their spare time to mentor the charity’s young volunteers, helping to prepare them for the next step - whether that is staying in education or finding a career. The support includes mock interviews, CV workshops and assistance in deciding on their next steps.

City Year UK engages young people aged 18 to 25to serve full-time in schools in disadvantaged communities for a year. The young people are supported to build on their key skills and attributes including confidence, resilience and leadership through tackling some of the UK’s most pressing social issues and supporting pupils to achieve their potential.


Springwatch presenter Chris Packham is calling for young people to get snapping during the school holidays and enter their photos into the RSPCA’s Young Photographer Awards.

Whether it’s a bug, a bird or a big, beautiful mammal, it’s a fun way to spend some time during the holidays, photos of any kinds of wildlife and animals are welcome.

And for the first time there will be a prize given for the best photograph taken on a mobile phone.

TV star Chris will once again be part of the judging panel. He said:  “If you’re under 19, why not head out into the countryside and snap some wildlife?  Or you could get a great shot of your pet, whether it’s your dog, cat or even your hamster.

“Photographs of any animals can be entered into the competition.  We see some incredibly beautiful images and this year I’m hoping to see fantastic pictures of animals taken with devices like mobile phones and tablets as well.

Chris added: “But make sure you send your photos in by the deadline of Friday 18 August.”

The RSPCA Young Photographer Awards are a chance for young budding photographers to win amazing prizes.  From the top prize of a weekend photography break ‘Seal Spectacular’ from Natures Images, to up to £800 of photographic vouchers from Wex Photographic.

There are 5 categories:  Under 12 years; 12-15 years and 16-18 years; Portfolio and new for 2017, mobile phone and devices.  Entrants can enter three categories with a maximum of 25 photos.

The new Mobile phone category will provide a fresh challenge, reflecting the important photographic role played by mobile devices in our lives today. Any mobile device can be used in this category, which is aimed at all skill levels, from beginners to complete pros.

Last year’s winner was Kyle Moore from Suffolk.  His photo of a fox on an urban street at nighttime particularly impressed the judges.

Kyle says: “The school summer holidays are such a great time to go out with your camera because you’ve got more time to plan your pictures.

“I would really recommend entering this competition. It’s fun taking photos and trying to find a new angle on an animal you might see regularly.  Why not see what comes through your garden or look under rocks in parks.”

The judging panel for 2017 will include long standing judge, wildlife expert and BBC Springwatch presenter Chris Packham, alongside leading wildlife photographers, Jules Cox, Andrew Forsyth and Elliott Neep.   Also in the judging line up will be aspiring professional wildlife photographers and former winners Catriona Parfitt (2005 and 2010) and Kyle Moore (2016) .

The judging panel will also include sponsors Ellie Rothnie (wildlife photographer and Natures Images representative); Mark Sisson, Natures Images and Philip Warner from Warners Printers Midlands.

Professional wildlife photographer and former RSPCA chief photographer Andrew Forsyth from Brighton, East Sussex said: “It's an honour to be on the RSPCA Young Photographer Awards judging panel again this year.  And I’m so pleased that mobile phones and other devices have also been added as a category.

"We always see so much talent when we are judging this competition. It is great to see so many young people taking pictures of animals and the new category may encourage even more to have a go.”


The long-term future of Wildside Activity Centre is set to be secured by a ‘Community Asset Transfer’ of the premises from City of Wolverhampton Council to the organisers.

The Whitmore Reans Estate-based centre on Hordern Road provides educational and environmental outdoor activities for all ages and abilities, in a green canalside location.

A strong business case has been put forward by the organisers of the social enterprise - and both parties are now working towards signing an official agreement for a 35-year lease.

Councillor Peter Bilson, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for City Assets and Housing, said: “Wildside Activity Centre provides a tremendous service to the community and is run by a very dedicated team of volunteers.

“We have worked closely with the centre’s leadership team to enable this Community Asset Transfer to take place.

“The business case they have put forward means the long-term future of the centre is secure and will serve the local community to the full.

“The official agreement must now be signed by both parties – and I am looking forward to seeing the centre build on its popularity over the coming years.”

The Wildside Activity Centre was set up by the council as a local authority-run outdoor pursuits centre but has been self-funded since May 2014.

A registered charity, the company is committed to investing £75,000 worth of volunteer hours to provide activities and improve the facilities on a not-for-profit basis.

It is looking to further develop its extensive programme, which includes canoeing, cycling, narrowboat trips, conservation projects, nature and adventure activities.

This will be achieved through sessions for schools, youth groups, uniformed and voluntary organisations, and disability groups, as well as family-orientated holiday programmes.

Public open days showcasing its work, and events on key dates such as Mother’s Day, will continue to broaden the appeal of the centre.

The hire of the meeting room, with a small kitchen, wi-fi and data projection facilities, is also in place to bring in revenue.

Long-term unemployed City of Wolverhampton residents can benefit by volunteering at the centre.

Len Kruczek, Wildside Activity Centre Chair of the Board, said: “This is a huge landmark for us and we are extremely grateful for the council’s support on this transfer of the centre to the charity.

“We serve all ages and all abilities and get people reconnected with nature.

“We have a wonderful, newly decorated meeting room with canal views available for hire, an extensive range of activities, brilliant boat trips and exciting holiday programmes. “We are completely committed to the hard work ahead of keeping the centre going to serve the local community.”

Six Sandwell apprentices are celebrating success after successfully launching their construction careers.

All six have passed qualifications while working on a housing development in West Bromwich after being recruited by Sandwell Council’s employment team – Think Sandwell.

They have been part of the team at the Harvills Hawthorn site where 230 new homes are being built by local housing developer Lovell, in partnership with the Homes and Communities Agency, Riverside Living, Compendium Regeneration and Sandwell Council.

The apprentices have been working through a two-year NVQ Level 2, Level 3 or Higher National Diploma (HNC)and continue to develop their skills as part of Lovell's dedicated apprenticeship training programme.

Ryan Wood, 24 is now a trainee site manager. Previously working in a local supermarket, he was doing well but felt he’d reached a plateau and needed a new career path. With a wide range of skills and wanting an active role, he was successfully interviewed for the trainee site manager position.

John Shaw, 21 is now trainee quantity surveyor and taking an HNC course. Think Sandwell put him forward for a 12-month labouring position with Lovell to get his foot in the door to construction. Showing potential he was encouraged to apply for a position as a trainee quantity surveyor and secured the position in March 2014. John said: "I am really enjoying my construction career. I love my job now.”

David Beard, 21 is now an apprentice carpenter He started his apprenticeship in October 2014 after three month's work experience, he's now successfully completed his NVQ Levels 2 and 3 in carpentry and joinery and is now working towards his Level 4.

Dale Flute, 21 is now an apprentice bricklayer and also started his apprenticeship in October 2014 also after completing three months' work experience. He's successfully completed his NVQ Level 2 course and is now working towards his Level 3.

Jake Beasley, 21 is also an apprentice bricklayer and has been with Lovell since August 2015 and is completing his NVQ Level 2.

He said: "It's been brilliant getting to work with different people and learning different things and different ways of doing jobs.

"I'd gained experience in the trade with my dad since I was 14 and always enjoyed it with but knew I needed to do an apprenticeship to get qualified.

"The competition for an apprenticeship with Lovell was strong but my previous experience helped and I was also able to show that I would be committed, loyal and hard working."

Scott Kelly, 21 is a carpentry apprentice and just completing his NVQ 2 after starting with Lovell in October 2015. His supervisor says he has developed while he has been with Lovell, is keen to learn and excels at every task whether on site or at college.

Councillor Paul Moore cabinet member for regeneration and economic investment, said: “I’d like to congratulate all the apprentices on their dedication and hard work in achieving their qualifications.

“The benefit of an apprenticeship is that you earn while you learn and gain real life work experience which employers are keen to see in candidates who apply for jobs in their organisations.

He added: “Building much-needed homes in the town is a big boost to families in Sandwell and it’s great that these young people are learning the skills to develop and further their construction careers through building new homes in Sandwell.”

Stuart Penn, Lovell's managing director for the Midlands, added: "Even during the recent tough times, we have continued to take on apprentices. We give them kind of training and support that maximises their chances of success - and therefore rewards our investment with an excellent new employee trained to excellent standards.

"Our challenge as an industry is persuading people to join - or rejoin - the construction industry. Hundreds of thousands of construction and house building jobs disappeared during the recession and the industry is still suffering with the lack of skilled operatives and professionals.

"These apprentices have been exemplary and have demonstrated the qualities we are looking for - enthusiasm, commitment and a desire to work hard and achieve their goals."

Young families are embracing a programme to develop the teaching skills of new parents.

The Making It REAL (Raising Early Achievement in Literacy) programme enables education professionals to help parents develop their knowledge and confidence so that they can support their children to read and write at home.

Among those taking part in the nationally-recognised literacy programme are teachers, parents and children aged between two and five at Trinity C of E Primary School in Heath Town.

Around 15 families are being supported by staff who hold events and take part in home visits to help raise children's literacy levels.

Councillor Claire Darke, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Education, said: "All parents can support their child's progress by becoming educators and taking part in enjoyable activities which encourage their child’s development and thinking

"These can be anything from reading and sharing books to going to the library, playing games with letters and numbers and singing songs and rhymes.

"The Making It REAL programme is about ensuring parents have the techniques they need to be able to support their children to develop their reading and writing skills."

Alex Jones, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Assistant Director for Education, said: "Teachers and parents have said how positive the programme is, particularly the way it has helped developed relationships between the school and the families who are now coming into school and asking how they can better support their child's learning.

"They have particularly benefited from the events and activities which we have arranged with the school, such as a recent visit to one of our libraries where parents were able to share rhymes, stories and books with their children. Teachers have noted that the children involved in the project are now much keener to write and have a greater love of books and reading."

The programme has been so successful that it will be run again in the next academic year and involve families from the Early Explorers and nursery, as well as Reception and Year 1.

Community Garden Martineau Gardens in Edgbaston, Birmingham has been recognised by the Green Flag Award Scheme as a quality community green space, among a record-breaking 1,797 UK parks and green spaces that received the prestigious Green Flag.

This international award, now into its third decade, is a sign to the public that the space boasts the highest possible environmental standards, is beautifully maintained and has excellent visitor facilities.

Martineau Gardens is a thriving independently run charity: volunteers (many of whom have mental health issues and learning disabilities) care for the wildlife friendly Gardens, hundreds of school children come to learn about the environment and Birmingham people (now in their thousands) visit the Gardens annually to enjoy its peace and tranquillity.

Caroline Hutton said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive a Green Flag Award for the eighth year running from Keep Britain Tidy. Martineau Gardens is a community-run garden that’s open for free to the public. This award is a tribute to the dedication of our volunteers who work hard to keep the gardens a beautiful and tranquil spot for Birmingham people to come and relax in.”

International Green Flag Award scheme manager Paul Todd said: “We are delighted to be celebrating another record-breaking year for the Green Flag Award scheme. Each flag is a celebration of the thousands of staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to maintain the high standards demanded by the Green Flag Award. The success of the scheme, especially in these challenging times, demonstrates just how much parks matter to people.”

Birmingham Airport has partnered with a social enterprise company called ‘The Wonder Why Society’ to help promote inspired learning and improve educational opportunities for pupils in local primary schools.

Based in Birmingham and part of the Solihull Chamber, the company aims to tackle two social problems - disengaged learning and the skills gap.

The interactive learning platform informs and engages users on issues such as the environment and community and has a Birmingham Airport zone included.

Jo Lloyd, Birmingham Airport’s Commercial Director said: “We have always believed that supporting the education of young people is one of the most effective ways in which we can invest in our region's future.

“The Wonder Why Society is an innovative way for us to take our education programme forward in an exciting and dynamic direction. We're sure the local pupils, who will be given access to the site from airport funding, are going to love exploring a whole new world of learning.”

Samantha Fisher, Chief Executive Officer of Wonder Books Ltd, said: “Birmingham Airport is our first business partner which is fantastic news. It not only gives the project a huge step up in terms of recognition and support but also brings local industry into education.

“We are really looking forward to bringing together children, schools, parents and industry experts in the local area and working as a team to engage with children and motivate them to learn independently and develop their skills.”

This project is very much in line with Birmingham Airport’s Corporate Responsibility Strategy of developing local communities and promoting health and wellbeing in the area.