Colors: Blue Color

Unions representing workers in the cultural sector have written an open letter to candidates in the West Midlands mayoral election calling on the candidates to commit to securing a new TV and film studio for the region, greater devolution of arts spending to the region and a fairer deal for cultural workers.

The letter points out that whilst the region is the home of Shakespeare and other fantastic cultural assets the region is disadvantaged when it comes to per head of population arts funding with only £4.58 versus London's £69.

To maximise the region’s cultural potential a cultural manifesto has been published urging the incoming Mayor to address 6 key areas:

  • A Midlands film and television studio facility.
  • Trade union recognition and implementation of negotiated agreements as a condition of public funding.
  • An integrated local government policy framework to support live venues, festivals and street performers (including infrastructure, public transport, regulatory framework etc).
  • An increase in public spending on the arts in the Midlands until per capita regional arts spending is on a par with London.
  • Secure, properly paid, professional employment for cultural workers and arts educators.
  • Local control of all arts spending in the region (including Arts Council England).
In the letter, the culture unions state  “We know what needs to be done to support our cultural industries so we urge the Mayor to push for devolution of arts funding – it's time Whitehall trusted the West Midlands. By working together we can build a cultural devolution that offers fairness for its workers, grows our economy, and benefits all citizens in the West Midlands.”

Residents who want to bring out the bunting and organise street parties for The Great Get Together in June are being encouraged to get applications for road closures in to the City of Wolverhampton Council as soon as possible.

The Great Get Together is taking place nationally over the weekend of 17 and 18 June 2017, with people invited to join family, friends and neighbours for street parties, barbecues, picnics and Bake Off-style competitions.

This year's event is being organised by The Big Lunch and the Jo Cox Foundation, set up in memory of the Batley MP who was murdered last June, in association with a number of other groups and organisations.

Many of those taking part are expected to apply for permission to close their road to traffic in order to hold street parties for the local community.

To help them do this, the City of Wolverhampton Council is fast tracking applications from residents and community groups for road closures over the weekend of 17 and 18 June, and is also waiving the fee for road closures, which is normally around £600.

Councillor Roger Lawrence, Leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council, said: "The Great Get Together is a wonderful opportunity for families, friends and neighbours to come together and have a good time, and we want to make it as easy as possible for people to join in the fun, particularly if they are planning to hold street parties.

“Road closures need to be agreed by members of the Safety Advisory Group, who include representatives from the council, emergency services and transport organisations, and so it is important that anyone who is arranging a street party gets in touch with us as soon as possible.

"We have waived the normal road closure fee for this special event, and in the vast majority of cases no additional licences or permissions will be required.”

A Hairdressing apprentice at Walsall College is set to compete against the finest crop of talent in the Midlands, in the regional heat of the Wella XPOSURE on Wednesday 26th April.

April Morgan, 18, an Advanced Level 3 Hairdressing apprentice at Boyd’s Hair Design in Cannock, is just one of 20 budding hairdressers who have made it through to the Midlands regional heat, after impressing judges with their photographic entries of commercial cut and colour looks.

Three further regional heats are also taking place across the UK, where students will compete and have just one hour to replicate their looks. Five students from each of these heats will then be selected for the national final at Wella World Studio in London on 5th June, where one student will be crowned Britain’s top student hairdresser!

Wella XPOSURE is the leading nationwide hairdressing competition for students. Now in its eighth year, it offers hairdressing students the opportunity to compete in an inter-college challenge.

Ideal for those looking to take their first step on the competition ladder, XPOSURE promises to celebrate imagination, creativity, and talent amongst young hairdressers. It is the ideal springboard for any college student or apprentice, with winners receiving great exposure within the industry.

Top prizes include £1,000 of Wella Professionals training vouchers, a £500 tool kit, a chance to work with a top hairdresser for the day and educational support for a year.

April said: “I’m really excited to have got this far and I’m looking forward to competing on the day. I’m also very grateful that the college and my employer encouraged me to enter this competition as it is a massive boost to my career.”

Walsall College is inviting students across the borough, looking to get on the career ladder, to come along to its ‘Get Set for an Apprenticeship’ event on Wednesday 26th April, 4-7pm. The event will help school leavers brush up their CV and interview skills and search and apply for vacancies.

 

The days are longer, the flowers are blooming, and Easter has been and gone. That can mean only one thing - spring has sprung in England and Wales.

While the sunny weather has put smiles on the faces of most, spring also means busy season is arriving for the RSPCA’s officers and wildlife centre staff as the baby boom begins. Because hand-in-hand with spring comes a surge of calls about baby wild animals and birds who need the charity’s help.

Whether they’ve been attacked and injured by another animal, separated from their mum, or even orphaned, the RSPCA is always there to help baby animals in need.

Since the beginning of February to today (20 April), the charity has take in 753 young wild animals, including fledglings, nestlings and juveniles - 499 of which were birds and 254 mammals.

Work by Sandwell Council to support the armed forces has led to a top award from the Royal British Legion. The Legion's Tipton branch presented its main award for an outstanding provider to Sandwell Council.

Sandwell’s Armed Forces Covenant has been recognised by the Legion for the work it does to help servicemen and women in the borough. Bal Dhillon, project officer in Sandwell's communities team, accepted the Fred Perry Shield at the branch’s annual award ceremony.

The council, which last year secured a £92,000 bid for a Covenant grant to support armed forces leavers and their families, had already picked up the Ministry of Defence’s Employer Recognition Scheme Silver Award.

It was given the silver award for its support of defence personnel in line with the Armed Forces Covenant.

The award acknowledged the council’s initiatives including employing reservists and service leavers, providing advice on housing, leisure discounts, schools and learning, jobs and volunteering, welfare and financial support and health.

Sandwell Mayor, Councillor Julie Webb, said: "Sandwell is proud to support the armed forces and the council is delighted to be recognised with the Fred Perry Shield."

Last year, Sandwell Council pledged its ongoing support for people who serve or have served in the armed forces and their families.

The council and Ministry of Defence signed a new covenant, which commits Sandwell to supporting the armed forces community.

The Armed Forces Covenant recognises "the value serving personnel, both regular and reservist, veterans and military families contribute to our business and our country".

The council encourages local businesses, community groups and individuals to pledge their support too.

Go to www.sandwell.gov.uk/armedforces to find out more. This webpage has advice on housing, leisure discounts, schools and learning, jobs and volunteering, welfare and financial support and health.

The key aims of the covenant are to ensure no member of the armed forces community faces disadvantage when accessing local services and that special treatment is considered where appropriate, especially for the injured and bereaved.

The Mayor of Sandwell chairs a partnership board, which meets every three months to make sure the aims of the covenant are being followed.

Landlords now have just a year to meet a new energy-friendly target for the properties they rent – or face a restriction on granting new tenancies.

In 2016, the government declared that all tenanted properties must achieve a minimum of an E rating in their Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). Landlords whose buildings fail to reach this standard by April 2018 will no longer be able to offer a tenancy to new tenants.

Those who let properties with an EPC rating below or close to the required rating must ensure works are carried out to bring their homes up to scratch in the next 12 months.

Allison Thompson, managing director at property specialist Leaders, says: “Failure to achieve a minimum of an E rating will leave landlords unable to let a property to a new tenant, while some recent legal updates have suggested they could also be prevented from renewing an existing tenancy.

“As the deadline gets even closer, we expect tradespeople capable of carrying out eco-friendly home improvements to be in extremely high demand, so landlords would be wise to have work carried out sooner rather than later.

“The good news for landlords whose properties fall below the minimum standard is that there are plenty of ways to upgrade a property’s energy performance, including adding insulation to the walls and ceiling, draught-proofing, installing a new boiler and repairing or replacing doors and windows.”

Thousands of older properties across the UK – particularly those that date back to the Edwardian and Victorian periods – are expected to fail to reach an E rating, making green improvements a must.

Allison adds: “Although some landlords will be required to spend significant sums on improving their homes in the next 12 months, it’s worth remembering the benefits of doing so. These include potentially enjoying significantly lower gas and electricity bills for years to come.”

Leaders is able to offer support to landlords looking to make eco-friendly home improvements in order to meet the new regulations and can recommend qualified and experienced contractors to carry out work.

ChariTable Bookings is the revolutionary Free Restaurant Booking Service that gives back to charity at absolutely no cost to individuals and fast attracting celebrity support and leading ambassadors.

When making a booking through charitablebookings.org, from a growing list of 7,726 restaurants across the UK, £1 for EVERY diner in the party will be donated by ChariTable Bookings to a charity of the booker’s choice.

Customers can choose one charitable cause close to their heart every time they make a booking from a list of 7,624 UK registered charities, from local projects to global endeavours, supporting a wide range of causes including education, the elderly, health, the environment, veterans, the homeless, animal welfare, the arts, children’s wellbeing and many more.

Whether for business or for pleasure, ChariTable Bookings is THE philanthropic restaurant bookings platform that gives more availability than any other restaurant booking system. Bookings can be simply made through the user-friendly website charitablebookings.org, available across all devices and the iOS native app.

From everyone at The Phoenix Newspaper, Happy St George's Day, we hope you have a great day whatever you are doing, especially if you are attending a parade or gathering!

Enjoy an exciting historical jousting tournament at Blenheim Palace from 29th April – 1st May. Recreating the glorious jousting matches of Britain's 13th Century, knights will do battle in a daring display of bravery and skill.

Taking place on May Bank Holiday weekend on the South Lawn at Blenheim Palace the Knights of Royal England with engage in a jousting knockout. Each jousting tournament will be staged twice daily over the weekend starting at 12.30pm and 3pm.

Visitors can enjoy a weekend of entertainment with plenty of interactive activities and family friendly entertainment. Enjoy jesters in the side arena, followed by a Jester workshop and Baby Dragon walkabout.

Watch a thrilling falconry display and see the birds of prey in action. As well as falcons, families will also have a chance to meet a Harris Hawk, Eagle Owl and American Kestrel with two shows daily in the Main Arena.

Furthermore families can get stuck in and have a go at archery on Blenheim Palace's South Lawn as well as exploring the extensive grounds and parkland and taking a ride on the miniature train to the Pleasure Gardens. Once there families can enjoy the permanent features like the Marlborough Maze, Adventure Play Area and Butterfly House.

For the younger children there will be Baby Dragon's walking about. Hatched from a small Dragon sanctuary in the Welsh Marshes, these delightful creatures are very friendly and well mannered, although a dragon is never entirely predictable… Discover an exciting Dragon Procession and head to the marquee to hear some magical Dragon Tales.

This May Bank Holiday head to Pinetum Gardens in St Austell Cornwall to discover two fascinating garden trails. Explore the 30-acres of carefully curated gardens and marvel at 6,000 different plants which include native and exotic species all flourishing on the Cornish Riviera.

New for spring is the Hidden Gardeners Trail – celebrating the natural world's 'hidden gardeners' the sculptural trail feature giant metal recreations of creatures which are essential to garden life.

Visitors can spot these brilliant beasts, which include a bat, bee, beetle, spider, dragonfly and a snail all made out of shaped steel as they walk around the Park. Set into the natural landscape the Hidden Gardeners Trail is perfect for all the family, including the dog, to enjoy over the bank holiday weekend.

Visitors can also take The Soul Bird Trail as they wander around the gardens. Adapted from the enchanting book, first published in Hebrew, by Michal Snunit the trail leads you from the Secret Garden out and beyond the Pinetum to the Soul Bird Hideaway.

Find a series of cabinets artfully located within the flora and fauna of the park which invite you to open drawers and discover poetic phrases, insightful inspiration and thoughts taken from the book. Finish the Trail in the Soul Bird Hideaway and share your thoughts and feelings. Engaging and inspiring on a variety of levels all the family will enjoy the spiritual tour, experiencing the tranquillity of the gardens as well as meeting the wildlife within them.

Separated in to 10 different themed areas, visitors can explore the famous Pinetum which features 80 varieties of conifer including the giant redwood from America which can reach up to 90 metres in height.

Other highlights include the Japanese Garden, inspired by visits to the botanical gardens in Kyoto, the Water Garden, with its giant gunnera, the Woodland Garden, with its bluebells, camellias and rhododendrons, and the traditional Cornish Cottage Garden complete with water features and colourful flowers.

Both trails are free to enjoy.

On St George's Day itself, tomorrow, Sunday 23 April, there is the annual parade and fete organised by Stone Cross St George. The parade will form from around 9.45am in Westminster Road, start around 10.45am and end at Dartmouth Park around 11.45am.

At Dartmouth Park, there will be a short service by the war memorial followed by a fun family fete running until 5pm.

The fete includes fun fairs, craft stalls, re-enactments and bouncy castles. Rolling road closures will be in place for the parade, with roads reopening once it has passed safely through.

Cyclists are gearing up for a day of nostalgia to mark the 75th anniversary of Britain’s first ever road race which had its birthplace in Wolverhampton.

And they will be remembering the city’s world-famous cycle racer and builder Percy Stallard, who organised and championed the historic 59-mile race.

Despite opposition at the time, from the National Cyclists’ Union, Percy Stallard organised the road race for 40 cyclists who rode from Llangollen to Wolverhampton on June 7 1942.

To celebrate the landmark event, which changed the face of British cycling, people are invited to the City Archives, in the restored Molineux Hotel, on Saturday June 3.

Scores of restored Stallard bikes, a Sunbeam and other Wolverhampton-made cycles will be on show alongside displays, photographs and memories about the ground-breaking race and the city’s cycling hero Percy Stallard.

The Friends of the Archives will provide refreshments and Wolverhampton City Radio is broadcasting its regular Saturday Sport Report live from the event from 10am-12 noon.

Percy, who died aged 92 in 2001, ran his cycle shop in Broad Street and made much sought-after bespoke cycles. He became a member of the Wolverhampton Wheelers Cycling club and was a keen competitor in cycle races, competing for Great Britain in international races during the 1930s, including three consecutive world championships in 1933, 1934 and 1935. He was also a successful cycling coach and team captain.

He came up against opposition for his planned road race because up until 1942 cycling in Britain was all track racing but Percy wanted a mass road race much like those held on the continent.

He was quoted years later as saying “I just explained to the police what I was doing and told them that things like that were normal on the Continent and they said they were happy and that they'd try to help.”

He got sponsorship from the Express & Star and offered any profits to the newspaper's Forces Comfort Fund, and recruited 40 riders to take part. The rest was history.

Councillor John Reynolds, cabinet member for City Economy, said: “Wolverhampton has many famous sons and Percy Stallard was certainly one of them. He was instrumental in changing the face of British cycling with this road race and so it is only right we mark its 75th anniversary.”

Bike enthusiast and collector Luke Williams, who is helping to organise the event, added: “Percy’s own bikes are legendary and examples of them, along with other Wolverhampton makes, will be on show. It will be wonderful to see lots of cycling enthusiasts at the archives to celebrate the city’s cycling heritage and the anniversary of this historic event.”

This year's Wolverhampton Walking Festival is set to be the biggest and best yet, offering 36 activities over eight days.

The seventh annual festival, organised by the City of Wolverhampton Council's Healthy Lifestyles Service, takes place from Saturday 13 May until Sunday 21 May, and promises to take people off the beaten track by exploring different parts of Wolverhampton and the surrounding area.

With walks for people of all ages and abilities, there’s sure to be something for everyone. Highlights include guided walks around local beauty spots including West Park, East Park, Pendeford Mill, Northycote Farm, Bantock Park and the Smestow Valley and the annual 12-mile long Walking for Health Challenge Trail. All the walks are free, though some must be pre-booked.

The eight-day programme is as follows:

Saturday 13 May:

  • Bushbury Health Walk, moderate 90-minute walk over Bushbury Hill and around Northycote Farm, 10am, meet at St Mary's Church Hall.
  • Bantock Park Tree Trail, easy two-hour walk and history talk, 1pm, meet at the car park.
  • Perfect Paths of Perton, difficult five-mile walk, 2pm, meet at Perton Civic Centre car park.
Sunday 14 May:
  • Figure of Eight Walk, difficult 10-mile walk to Penn and Bradmore using hidden pathways and green ways, 10am, meet at Broad Street Canal Basin.
  • West Park History Walk, easy two-hour walk around Wolverhampton's premier park, 2pm, meet at Southgate Lodge.
Monday 15 May:
  • First World War Memorial Walk, 90-minute moderate walk and talk around the City's memorials, 10am, meet at the Civic Centre.
  • Pattingham Circular, difficult seven-mile walk around the village, 10am, meet at Pattingham Village Hall.
  • West Park Timed Health Walk, complete at your own pace or have a go at a timed mile, 10.15am, meet at the shelter, Devon Road entrance.
  • West Park Outdoor Gym Class, free 30-minute taster session, 10.45am, meet at the shelter, Devon Road entrance.
  • Wednesfield Park and King George V Playing Fields Health Walk, moderate 60-minute walk around the park, 2pm, meet at Wednesfield Library.
Tuesday 16 May:
  • Worfield to Ackleton, difficult eight-mile walk through stunning countryside, 10am, meet at Worfield Village Hall.
  • Bantock Park Health Walk, easy one-mile walk around the park, 10.30am, meet at the café.
  • West Park Outdoor Gym Class, free 30-minute taster session, 10.45am, meet at the shelter, Devon Road entrance.
  • West Park Toddle Waddle health walk, easy one-mile walk for parents and carers with babies and toddlers in buggies, slings or toddling - older siblings also welcome, 11.30am, meet at the Albert Road entrance.
  • Ramble on the Reserve, moderate three-hour ranger-led ramble around Smestow Valley Nature Reserve, 12.30pm, meet at the car park.
Wednesday 17 May:
  • Pendeford Natural History and Wildlife Walk, moderate two-hour ranger-led walk around Pendeford Mill Nature Reserve, 10am, meet at the car park.
  • East Park Timed Health Walk - complete at your own pace or have a go at a timed mile, 10.30am, meet at the changing rooms.
  • West Park Outdoor Gym Class, free 30-minute taster session, 10.45am, meet at the shelter, Devon Road entrance.
  • Deaf Walk, West Park, easy, deaf-friendly health walk with BSL walk leaders, noon, meet at the café.
  • Heritage Health Walk, moderate 90-minute exploration of Jeffcock Road cemetery, 2pm, meet at Bantock Park café.
  • Fordhouses Health Walk, moderate 90-minute health walk including a short refreshment break at Northycote Farm café, 2pm, meet at the Moreton Arms pub.
  • Castlecroft Rail and Canal Routes, difficult five-mile ramble along the Staffordshire Railway Walk and canal tow path, 6.45pm, meet at the Firs Inn.
Thursday 18 May:
  • Birds of the Valley, moderate two-hour ranger-led walk around Smestow Valley Nature Reserve, 9am, meet at the former railway station.
  • West Park Outdoor Gym Class, free 30-minute taster session, 10.45am, meet at the shelter, Devon Road entrance.
  • Northycote Farm Health Walk, moderate 60-minute walk around the nature reserve, 10.30am, meet at the café.
  • Culture Walk, moderate 90-minute walk and talk around Wolverhampton Art Gallery and the City Archives, 11am and 2pm, meet at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
  • Aldersley Health Walk, moderate 90-minute walk up the 21 Locks route to Broad Street basin and back, 6pm, meet at WV Active Aldersley.
Friday 19 May:
  • Highgate Hike, difficult five-mile walk around Highgate Common and beyond, 10am, meet at Birch Coppice car park.
  • Pendeford Health Walk, moderate three-mile walk around the green spaces of Pendeford, 10.30am, meet at Oasis Community Café.
  • Nordic Walking session at West Park, moderate one-hour taster sessions, 10.30am and noon, meet at Southgate Lodge.
  • West Park Outdoor Gym Class, free 30-minute taster session, 10.45am, meet at the shelter, Devon Road entrance.
Saturday 20 May:
  • Walking for Health Challenge Trail, moderate and difficult four, seven or 12-mile way-marked and marshalled walking trails in aid of the British Heart Foundation, 9.30am, meet at WV Active Aldersley, pre-booking essential (no entries on the day).
  • East Park History Walk, easy two-hour tour of the historic park, 1pm, meet at the Pavilion.
  • Perfect Paths of Perton, difficult five-mile walk, 2pm, meet at Perton Civic Centre car park.
Sunday 21 May:
  • Over Orton, difficult eight-mile circular walk along the canal and former railway line, 10am, meet at the former Wombourne Railway Station car park.
  • West Park Health Walk, easy walk around the park, 10.30am, meet at the café.
Councillor Paul Sweet, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: "The Wolverhampton Walking Festival offers a fantastic range of easy, moderate and more challenging walks to suit people of all ages and abilities – there really is something for everyone, and I’d urge residents to pull on their walking boots and take part.

“Walking can improve your health and happiness, so it’s also a great way to get or stay in shape and also discover parts of the City you may not have seen before. Everyone is welcome, and best of all, the walks are totally free.”

The Wolverhampton Walking Festival is organised by the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Healthy Lifestyle Service, with support from WV Active, the British Heart Foundation, Nordic Walking UK, the Ramblers Association, Wolves Community Trust, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Wolverhampton Civic and Historical Society.

Nurseries and playgroups across the UK raised £588,376 for Barnardo’s, the UK’s oldest and largest children’s charity, during last summer’s animal-themed Big Toddle. Children dressed up as animals such as tigers and giraffes and took part in a half-mile walk to raise money.

Nurseries and parents are now signing up to take part in this year’s Big Toddle which has the theme of ‘colours’. One of the biggest events in the UK will be at Dudley Zoological Gardens on Tuesday and Wednesday June 13 and 14, with free admission for participants aged up to five years old.

The gates open at 10am with the walk starting at 11am. Admission for participating adults and over-5s will be just £7. Since 1997, the Big Toddle has raised £14.5 million. The event is marking its 20th anniversary this year by teaming up with Teletubbies, which is also celebrating its 20th anniversary.

The antics of Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po have featured in more than 400 episodes of the popular TV programme and entertained children in more than 120 countries.

Barnardo’s regional director Hugh Sherriffe said: “A huge thank you to everyone who will be taking part in this year’s Big Toddles. Last year the events raised almost £600,000 which is helping to transform the lives of the most vulnerable children in the UK. I am excited Barnardo’s has teamed up with the Teletubbies, some of the most popular characters in TV history, for this year’s events.”

More than 4,000 children have secured a place in their parents’ preferred primary school in Sandwell.
A total of 4,733 parents applied for reception places with 87% securing their first choice and over 94% being offered one of their top three preferences.
Chris Ward, Director of Education, Skills and Employment in Sandwell, said: "We are consistently proving we are able to keep up with demand for primary school places and it's good news we are offering such a high percentage of parents their preferred choice."
Parents can go to the Sandwell website for further help and guidance: www.sandwell.gov.uk/schooladmissions.

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.”