Saturday, 12 June 2021

Announcing the 37th Birmingham, Sandwell & Westside Jazz Festival

With the shops, bars and clubs of Birmingham and Sandwell reopening and spring in the air, the Birmingham, Sandwell & Westside Jazz Festival is counting down until it welcomes back music fans for another 10 jazz-packed days.

Photo credit to Merlin Daleman

In a flush of optimism about the return of live music to Birmingham's streets this summer, the Festival has published a brand new photofilm. Featuring the work of photographer in residence Merlin Daleman over previous editions of the Festival, the short video acts as a reminder of the enjoyment to be had at Europe's largest free jazz party.

See the film on YouTube:

Photo credit Merlin Daleman

Festival Director Jim Simpson commented: "from Friday 16th to Sunday 25th July we're looking forward to more than 100 live performances of hot jazz and cool blues across the region, with almost all of it free to the public"

The full programme of events will be published on at the start of June.

Photo credit Merlin Daleman

Cattle ‘let loose’ as part of natural care plan on meadows

Cattle at Ronkswood Hill Meadows

A 15-strong herd of hand-reared Hereford cattle has been released on Ronkswood Hill Meadows, as part of an annual conservation exercise by Worcester City Council.  The cattle will be allowed free rein on the local nature reserve site, to help preserve grassland and wildflowers.

The initiative is designed to act as a natural and cost-effective way of keeping the grass short enough to allow the vast array of wildflowers in the area to get sunlight to grow and hopefully thrive.

Nick McGowan, Conservation Officer at Worcester City Council, said: “The cattle will graze at this site for around six months, helping to manage the grassland and encourage wildflowers whilst protecting the reserve’s ridge and furrow landscape and ant hill colonies.”

The meadows are home to a wide range of wildflowers including black knapweed, cowslips and birdsfoot trefoil but if grass grows too high these flowers will not flourish. 

The cattle will therefore play a pivotal role in boosting the flora and fauna as well as producing other positive spin-offs such as an increase in butterflies and improvements to the natural soil environment.

The City Council will put up signs on Newtown Road and Tolladine Road to warn walkers and dog-owners to take a little extra care and keep dogs on leads or under close control when cattle are nearby.

Nick said: “The sudden re-appearance of cattle may take a few people by surprise but the animals will be too busy chewing the cud to take notice of any passers-by.”

New CEO at iSE - Cathy Brown


You may be aware that iSE's founder and CEO Sarah Crawley MBE is stepping down from her role at the end of June following 20 years of leading and growing iSE. It will be a sad and emotional farewell for many in the sector who have worked closely with Sarah to bring social enterprise to the fore in the city, region, nationally and internationally. Sarah leaves a huge legacy for the sector through her work at iSE and will be greatly missed. 

The board welcomes Cathy Brown as iSE's new CEO. Cathy brings 30 years of experience across the public, private and third sectors including delivering strategic transformation programmes for a FTSE 100 company and engaging audiences around business change, leadership and innovation. We are sure Cathy will lead iSE positively into the future. 

Cathy says “the opportunity to join iSE, at such an important time for the city of Birmingham and its people, is one I am thrilled to be taking on. There are challenges ahead, but some great opportunities too and I look forward to working with our West Midlands social entrepreneurs to strengthen the local social economy".

Cathy will be working alongside Sarah throughout June as she 'hands over the reins' and will take over as iSEs new CEO on the 1st of July. We hope you will join us in wishing Sarah farewell and welcoming Cathy to iSE. 

A Very Special Place: Ikon in the 1990s

A Very Special Place: Ikon in the 1990s  
18 June - 30 August 2021 

Mark Wallinger, Self Portrait as Emily Davison (1993).  Colour photograph on aluminium. 
Courtesy of the British Council Collection. Photo: ©The British Council.

Ikon presents A Very Special Place: Ikon in the 1990s, an exhibition featuring 40 artists from the gallery’s 1990s programme. It comprises work by those who featured in exhibitions at our venue on John Bright Street during 1990 - 1997, and at Ikon’s current premises in Brindleyplace until 1999. The title A Very Special Place is from a visioning document produced at the time, imagining Ikon’s future. 

With Elizabeth Macgregor as Director, Ikon’s outlook was increasingly international with a particular emphasis on the Americas and Australia. Concerning the representation of British artists, she resisted the fashion for ‘Young British Artists’ in favour of an eclecticism ranging from painters such as Basil Beattie and Lisa Milroy to the more overtly experimental practices of Georgina Starr and Mark Wallinger. Ikon’s 90s programme also featured a number of local artists associated with diaspora communities, including Permindar Kaur, Keith Piper and Donald Rodney.

Press Release

Worcester Life Stories

      A delivery cart on The Shambles in 1951 
©Worcester City Historic Environment Record

 New exhibition shines a light on the history of Worcester


  • New exhibition at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum chronicles the history of the changing face of Worcester and its residents through photographs
  • Includes a nostalgic testament to Worcester’s lost pubs and how Worcester people prepared for the visit of Winston Churchill
  • The project is a collaboration with the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust, funded by partners including the National Lottery Heritage Fund


Worcester Life Stories shines a light on the history of Worcester through the words of the city’s residents and a vast array of photographs taken over the last 70 years, which have captured snapshots of the streetscapes of Worcester and how they have changed. Worcester Life Stories opens on Saturday 12 June at Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum and runs until February 2022.


From 1950s shop fronts and forgotten landmarks, to communities that were migrated as the city developed, evocative images in the exhibition unlock memories of days gone by. The images were taken by staff of Worcester City Council, including health inspectors, archaeologists, conservation officers and planners to inform their day-to-day work, capturing building use, living conditions and heritage. They tell stories of lost industries, of hardship and poverty followed by regeneration and redevelopment, some of which still divides opinion today.


Other images capture a more domestic view, especially those images taken by Chief Public Health Inspector Tom Marsden. It was Marsden’s role to ensure that housing conformed to the 1957 Housing Act which called for houses to be fit for human habitation and led to around 3,500 properties in Worcester being condemned as unsanitary and unsafe. His incredible photographs capture the conditions that many families experienced after a half-century of neglect, economic depression and two world wars. Rising damp, rat-infested courtyards and cramped, airless spaces were just some of the scenes captured as he surveyed the city. What followed was the mass demolition of many areas, including the tenement houses of the Blockhouse, Tybridge Street, The Moors, and Dolday. 


Visitors can see nostalgic images documenting almost a century of changes to the city of Worcester, original items from Worcester’s Social History Collection and follow a Worcester Life Stories trail around the Art Gallery & Museum which will test how well they know their faithful city. They can also share their stories to be preserved for future generation.


A view along Sidbury c1960, shortly before widening works 
had taken place © Worcester City Historic Environment Record

David Nash, Social History Curator with Museums Worcestershire, says“This exhibition is a fascinating window into the past, inviting residents of the city we live in now to see how it has been shaped and changed over the past 70 years. Our cities are constantly evolving beneath our feet and it’s enthralling to see how past generations lived and to see how the streets we are so familiar with have altered through time.”


Anne Jenkins, Director Midlands and East, National Lottery Heritage Fund, says:  “We are delighted to support this project which, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, will mean that more people will be able to get involved with, protect, and learn about the exciting heritage right on their doorstep.” 


Worcester Life Stories exhibition is part of a collaborative project bringing local people together through shared stories of the City of Worcester. It is led by Worcester City Council and Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust, with funding thanks to National Lottery players. The project brings together archived heritage, digital technology and community events to promote public health and wellbeing. Thanks to a wide range of partner organisations it has been made accessible to local people of all ages, including those living with dementia, their carers and people who are socially isolated.


The exhibition is free and runs from 12 June until mid-February and more information can be found here:


Please note that social distancing measures will continue to be in place when the exhibition opens and we will be managing visitor numbers, reminding visitors to remain socially distant and to wear a face covering for a safe and happy visit.



To India With Love




Birmingham Indian Film Festival brings audiences back to cinemas


In a challenging year for India and South Asia, BIRMINGHAM INDIAN FILM FESTIVAL, part of the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival and sister festival in Manchester, will be a love letter to the homelands, continuing to premiere the very best of new indie and classic films from the Indian subcontinent and diaspora, from Thursday 17th June to Sunday 4th July 2021.


Supported by the British Film Institute (BFI) using funds from the National Lottery, this will include the festival's Opening Night Midlands premiere of  WOMB (Women of My Billion), an inspirational feature documentary telling of one woman, Srishti Bakshi, who walks the entire length of India (nearly 4,000 kms), over 240 days to explore the experiences of other women in its billion plus population. Srishti will be live in conversation at MAC Birmingham following the screening.  Our closing film, Flight, will showcase British Asian film makers and actors and their continued contribution to British cinema’s success, often depicting realistic stories of British Asian immigrant experience. 


Festival Director Cary Rajinder Sawhney MBE says"Last year we grew our audiences quite substantially by going online and UK-wide. With the UK scene improving, we are delighted to not only offer a strong high-definition online experience on but to also welcome our audiences back to the big screen at MAC Birmingham, Millennium Point, and, for the first time at Everyman at The Mailbox.   We will this year be showcasing the best of British Asian filmmaking, plus exciting premieres in over 7 South Asian languages. Of course, we are working with cinemas to ensure the safety and comfort of all our audiences".



One of Satyajit Ray's greatest actors, the late Soumitra Chatterjee is also profiled in the premiere of Abhijaan, while light-hearted moments are brought with the premieres of Bengali drama Searching For Happiness and black comedy Ashes On A Road Trip. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan's Kayattam (A’hr) in Malayalam, starring one of South India's most decorated actresses, Manju Warrier, , makes its UK debut at the cinema as does Iram Parveen Bilal's Narrative Feature Grand Jury Award nominee at South By Southwest in 2020, I’ll Meet You There, which examines the immigrant life of a Pakistani American family in Chicago, USA.


The Festival's new strand dedicated to ecology-related films, called ‘Save The Planet’, brings stirring features that in different ways reflect lives affected by deforestation and rising sea levels, and how people are meeting the challenge. As Bangladesh marks the 50th anniversary of its independence, BIFF celebrates the country's giant strides in global cinema with special screenings of the lyrical The Salt in Our Waters. Films are in languages such as  Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Urdu, Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati et al, all with English subtitles.


Online In Conversation events will take place at where we’ll be speaking to Bollywood actor, producer and director, Karan Johar as well as pan Indian actress and musician, Shruti Haasan and Jahnvi Kapoor, daughter of the late Sri Devi and Boney Kapoor who is making big strides in cinema. In a unique and rare interview, Pam Cullen talks to Nasreen Munni Kabir about her life including working with Indira Gandhi, how she befriended the shy young Satyajit Ray on his early visits to London, rubbing shoulders with such luminaries as Charlie Chaplin and managing Raj Kapoor’s press schedule in the

golden age of cinema.


Ben Luxford, Head of UK Wide Audiences at the BFI, said: “We’re delighted to be supporting the festival again this year. Thanks to National Lottery players we’re able to help bring this exciting programme to cinemas and households across the UK. The focus on British Asian filmmakers this year is a particular highlight.” The National Lottery raises £30 million each week for good causes across the UK.

Professor Rajinder Dudrah, Professor of Cultural Studies and Creative Industries, Birmingham City University said: “In another challenging year all round, not least for our Indian friends and families, we need the possibility of the new, to be able to look at things differently, for hope, and to create and tell our stories in a myriad of ways. This summer of BIFF 2021 promises to do just that with a range of stimulating films and events that deal with the topical, to the practical and the uplifting. Birmingham City University, as in previous years, is pleased to be a partner to this venture that brings thought, escape and creativity to our city and online platforms.”

The lights are back on at Wolverhampton's Light House

It’s been a long 14 month wait, but film lovers will be able to visit Wolverhampton’s landmark Light House cinema from Friday 11th June when the doors reopen for the first time since the COVID pandemic forced its closure in March 2020.

Light House CEO Kelly Jeffs says:

‘It’s a really exciting week for us here at Light House. The place has come to life as staff are preparing to welcome our customers back. We’ve got a great programme of films lined up, starting this week with Oscar winners Sound of Metal and Nomadland. The schedule for the rest of the year is looking spectacular as the backlog of releases comes through, with blockbusters such as the latest Bond and Marvel films due later in the year, as well as a great selection of independent films and theatre screenings. Arts and culture really helped people through lockdown and will play a vital role in the country’s recovery, and we’re grateful for a safety grant we received from the BFI that has helped us prepare to reopen as a key part of Wolverhampton’s cultural offer. We can’t wait to see the big screen light up. Chatting with our loyal customers is something no one at Light House will take for granted again.’

The complete cinema programme can be found online at, and visitors can subscribe to an email newsletter via a link on the homepage to receive regular updates. Light House is advising customers to book tickets in advance through their website due to capacity limits in the auditorium.

Victorian Christmas Fayre to make its comeback

 As Worcester recovers from the pandemic, plans are being put in place to make sure Christmas 2021 will be one to remember.


After being cancelled last year, the traditional Victorian Fayre will be back from December 2 to 5, with unique traders in place across the city centre alongside music and street entertainers. It will be awash with all the Dickensian festive flavour that people love, helping to bring a welcome boost to local businesses after the impact of Covid.


But this year there will also be more. For the first time, there will also be a month-long yule market in the city centre, with 30 wooden chalets in place– all dressed and lit to add to the festive atmosphere, bringing a touch of Bavaria to Worcester’s own seasonal traditions.


The special Christmas market stalls will be in place from December 2 to 23.


The innovative plan has been approved by Worcester City Council’s Place and Economic Development Committee.


Councillor Lucy Hodgson, Chair of the Place & Economic Committee said: “The pandemic forced all of us to have a low-key Christmas last year, so I’m delighted to be able to announce the return of festive fun for 2021!


“With both the return of the Victorian Fayre and the city’s first-ever month long festive market, I’m confident Worcester people will be able to celebrate yuletide in proper style this year.”


Coventry Welcomes Festival for Refugee Week


Join us at Coventry Welcomes next week, part of Refugee Week 2021. 

The festival, celebrating the brilliant contribution that refugees and migrants make to our City, offers you a chance to celebrate Coventry's heritage, traditions and diversity.

Co-created with organisations and individuals with lived experience of seeking sanctuary or migrating to the city, we are delighted to present a programme of events both live and online – and mainly FREE!

Expect music, dance, drama, food, literature, poetry, workshops, storytelling and much more, embracing diversity in all its forms.

In-Person highlight events include Inini & Carag Zine LaunchCan You Hear Me, Now?No Direction Home: Coventry Showcase and the Still We Rise Live Podcasts Episodes 11 & 12.

We've also a range of online events as part of the festival including No Direction Home: Coventry Showcase (Online) ft Nish Kumar (27 June), Rosie Jones (26 June) and Kai Samra (25 June) and She Cannot Walk Alone. Plus film, audio and visual art installations too.

Featuring over 45 activities online, in-person and across the city there's something for everyone. 

After launching last week tickets for lots of events are selling fast so book yours before they're gone!

Saturday, 26 December 2020

New book of heritage memories due out in January 2021

A book of memories from life in the West Midlands is due to be published in the new year by Brewin Books and Age Concern Birmingham. The book is packed with anecdotes, pictures, poems and memories from older people, reflecting life in the area from the 1920s, through the war years and right up to the present day.

The book has been funded by the Heritage Fund and edited by Peter Millington on behalf of Age Concern Birmingham. The book was created from a heritage project during 2020, the year of Covid-19. It has a foreword written by Lady Anne Knowles who said:

"It is with great pleasure that I write the foreword for this wonderful book of memories from local people in the West Midlands. In the months leading up to publication, these have been difficult times for everybody but not least of all for the older generation. Having been identified as one of the most vulnerable groups to the Covid-19 virus many of us have spent our days, weeks and months shielded, distanced and isolated, destined to talk to our neighbours through half-opened windows and our loved ones via Zoom and WhatsApp. 

Who could have foretold this situation just twelve months ago?

But in the spirit of supporting and valuing the older members of our community, Age Concern Birmingham spent the past year reaching out to collect these delightful stories from local people and to produce this book of memories. As we read through this rich diversity of recollections, one of the common threads is the theme of resilience, it is easy to forget that the older generation have been on their own life-journeys of aspiration and achievement in spite of very different though nonetheless great challenges.

I hope you will enjoy these stories, poems, pictures and memories, but also be inspired by the lives, the humour, the humanity and the determination of the older generation."

Watch this space for updates about the publication of "I remember when... West Midlands Heritage Memories collected by Age Concern Birmingham".

Ikon for Artists - Open Call

Ikon announces an Open Call. Birmingham-based artists are invited to submit one artwork with a value of up to £1,000 for Ikon for Artists, an exhibition in 2021. Exhibiting artists will receive 100% of the proceeds from the sale of their work.

Ikon for Artists seeks to support local artists whose income has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Submissions open: 10am, Monday 14 December 2020

Submissions close: 6pm, Friday 15 January 2021

Complete applications that fulfil the submission guidelines are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Find Out More

£17.9m boost to regenerate Worcester’s city centre

A major regeneration of Worcester’s city centre is set to go ahead, after a bid by the City Council secured £17.9 million.

The investment has been awarded from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund, with the announcement made today (26 December 2020) by Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak.

The £17.9m boost will bring about a transformation of the northern end of the city centre, and will see the re-opening of a restored Scala Theatre and Corn Exchange and the creation of new homes for first time buyers.

Councillor Marc Bayliss, Leader of the City Council, said: “This is fantastic news for Worcester and is evidence of the Government’s promise to invest in communities. Our high street needs a boost at this point and I believe this funding can make a real difference.”

Deputy Leader Cllr Adrian Gregson said: “This is really great news and will revitalise a big part of the city centre. It will be exciting for residents and brilliant for visitors. I want to give my thanks to the team that put this strong and successful bid together.”

The £17.9m investment will be pumped into the area from The Cross up to Foregate Street train station, taking in Broad Street, Angel Place, The Trinity and Queen Street.

The area is home to the Angel Place market, Friary Walk shopping centre, and the bus station. It also hosts the former Scala Theatre (closed as an entertainment venue in 1973) and the Victorian Corn Exchange on the corner of Angel Place and Angel Street, the former Colmore Depot in Angel Street (last used as a Co-op supermarket and currently empty) and Trinity House.

The area currently has a high proportion of empty shops, a poor quality street environment and is sometimes a focus for anti-social behaviour.

The funding from the Future High Streets Fund will restore its one-time status as an active, vibrant part of the city. Over the next five years it will be regenerated to create a diverse leisure, residential and cultural offer with new jobs being created and fresh life breathed back into its historic buildings.

Worcester City Council prepared and submitted the successful bid to the Future High Streets Fund, with support from Worcestershire County Council, Worcestershire LEP, the Crown Estate (owners of Crowngate Shoppping Centre), the University of Worcester, Worcester BID, the owners of Trinity House, market operator LSD Promotions and others.

The bid was developed in line with the Council’s City Plan and the City Centre Masterplan.

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Sector/COVID-19 Funding


Sector/COVID-19 Funding 

Local Connections Fund
A new fund to help charities and community groups in England that are working to reduce loneliness by helping them build connections across their communities.

National Lottery Community Fund
Fund reopened applications for some of its regular funding programmes for England. These are: National Lottery Awards for All; Reaching Communities; and Partnerships

The Brum Recovery Micro Fund
Set up with funding from Birmingham City Council and is aimed at unconstituted and grassroots community groups in the city. The second round is in January with a deadline of 20 January 2021.

Community Initiatives Fund
Funding for Grassroots organisations to enable them to provide pandemic-recovery related support and provide activity which has a focus on mental health, re-establishing confidence in emerging from lockdown or diversionary activities that are on-line or socially distanced. Deadline 31st March 2021.

Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants
£78m fund focusing on smaller independent organisations and individual practitioners Non-COVID funding. Deadline April 2021
Austin & Hope Pilkington
Focus on different priorities every year, including funding projects supporting the Homeless, Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Grants between £1000 - £5000

Birmingham Sports Fund
Grants of up to £1,000 for projects that develop sports participation or support emerging talented sports people. In particular, the fund aims to support projects encouraging participation from disadvantaged communities; BAME communities; women and girls; and disabled people.

Fat Beehive Foundation 
UK charities can apply for funding of up to £2,500 to help them improve their online digital presence. The Fat Beehive Foundation awards small grants to charities with an average income of less than £1 million a year to support hard-to-fund digital expenditure that other funders will often not cover.

Friday, 3 April 2020

Spot and stop fraudsters

A poster advertising a new action line to protect people from fraud.

Call 0300 123 2020

Or use the online fraud reporting tool at 

Money Wise Workshops

A FREE training package being delivered remotely on a 1-2-1 basis to meet individual needs in this time of social exclusion/isolation.

We have a training package that can be completed in isolation in a client's own home using their IT equipment or phone via internet or calls. People can gain up to date relevant information to enable them to cope with the barriers they may face after this virus has ceased. 

The course programme consists of 6 friendly, interactive workshops and activities lasting 1 hour and can cover the following topics to increase your financial confidence.

How to make the most of your money including 

Help to switch utility providers
Smart shopping
Using comparison websites

Long term and short term planning and budgeting

Help with household bills
Pensions and saving for the future

How IT can help you budget

Budgeting advice
Microsoft and Excel

Benefit entitlement

Benefit checks

How to borrow money safely

Understanding and preventing fraud
How to borrow money responsibly

To find out more contact Robert Chattin, telephone m: 07909331241.


Start Your Family Tree: Week 1 from Who Do You Think You Are?

Beat coronavirus boredom with these step-by-step instructions on starting your family tree from our editor Sarah Williams. This week: how to begin

It’s week two of lockdown and many of us are looking for meaningful activities beyond sharing humorous YouTube clips and singing with Gareth Malone.

If you’ve ever watched an episode of WDYTYA? and wondered whether your family’s past contains similarly interesting stories (spoiler alert, it probably does), then why not make the most of this enforced seclusion and see what you can discover.

The great thing about genealogy in these difficult times is that, unlike scuba diving, kite flying or any other hobby you had planned to take up but now can’t, it is 90% an online activity. And with archives and most libraries currently closed, we’re going to put together a weekly guide to researching your family history that is 100% online.

A fun way to start is to just type information you already have straight into a family tree. There are a few online family tree builders out there but for the purposes of this blog I’m going to use the one on Ancestry. You’re not committed to sticking to the family tree software you choose at first. Most family tree builders let you export your data into a file format (.ged) that is recognised by other sites or software, so you can move your tree around if you want.

So for now, head to Ancestry. The homepage will encourage you to sign up for a free trial, but there is no need to do that yet. One of the great things about Ancestry is that you can start building your tree on the website with a free account. Click on ‘Sign in’ and then select ‘Sign up today for free’. This will give you a basic account to start building your tree for free.
Once you have an account, check that the privacy settings suit you. By default, any work you do on your tree can be used to match your tree to others. This can be extremely useful and may help you grow your tree more quickly but it doesn’t suit everyone. If you are uncertain, start with more stringent privacy settings and you can always relax them later. Ancestry automatically keeps any details about living people on your family tree private regardless of which privacy setting you choose.

The tree builder is fairly intuitive and for this first week what you will be doing is gathering together all the information you know already or can get from family members before you start looking at official records.

Start by filling in all the details you know about yourself and your parents (add kids and spouse if applicable). The site will guide you through the process.

Filling in a family tree can really bring home to you how little (or much) you might know about your family. Once you realise you are uncertain about when your parents married and you thought you grandmother was just called Nana, it’s time to reach out to your family.

If you are lucky enough to have parents (or even better, grandparents) who are still around to share their family knowledge then this is the best place to start. Add family history as a topic for your video calls (honestly, they will be relieved to have you asking questions about their grandparents rather than asking them for the umpteenth time if they have enough eggs).

It’s not just parents who may have the information you need. Try aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings. Announce on Facebook that you are researching your family history. Spread the word. You may find a relative has already done some of the legwork or you may find one of your siblings wants to help you. Having a ‘research buddy’ can be a great way to share costs and keep motivation up.

See how much of your tree you can fill in just using the information that your family shares with you. If anyone gives you uncertain information along the lines of “I think he was born in Portsmouth”, “I think she died in 1979”, it’s still worth recording on your family tree, just make sure you put a question mark next to the information. This is all stuff we can sort out next week when we start to dig into the actual historical documents.

Until then, talk to your family, stay safe and happy hunting!

Take it further

Join us on Facebook and Twitter where we will be answering any questions you have about your family history and offering you support to help grow your tree.


Funded by Heritage Fund

A project of Age Concern Birmingham

For millions of older people in the UK the current health crisis, caused by the Covid-19 virus, is creating feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and isolation. Keeping safe and well means staying indoors and minimising contact with neighbours, carers and loved ones.
But avoiding close contact with other people doesn’t mean that you have to be bored or feel forgotten. As people get older they often say things like “it’s about time I wrote down my life story” or their children and grandchildren will say “if only Nan, Granny or Granddad would record their precious memories”. But most of us reach older age without finding the time to commit pen to paper or to sit down at the computer keyboard and simply type away.
You may have fascinating recollections of your school days, your armed service, employment, sport, family life or historic events and younger generations are always interested to learn what life was like 60, 70 or 80 years ago and to hear those personal stories, the sad ones alongside the happy ones.     
At Age Concern Birmingham (ACB) we are running a memory based project which is funded by the Heritage Fund. We are collecting memories and stories from older people in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands, many of which will be included in a book to be published later this year or published on our blog.
Because of the Covid-19 crisis we have had to postpone our events and face-to-face interviews with local people. So we’re looking at delivering our project another way. We don’t want to stop our project when we know that there are thousands of older people in the city sitting at home feeling bored and isolated but who could still contribute stories.
Please join in with our memory writing-and-recording project today. Whether you start off with a few bullet-points or dive straight into your memoirs, write it, type it, tape it or dictate it, dig out your old documents and photographs for scanning, we welcome it all for our project!
Please send your memories to the email address below or contact us for more information on how to join in:
Send your memories to Peter Millington at Age Concern Birmingham, 76-78 Boldmere Road, Birmingham B73 5TJ.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

West Bromwich Voices - Childhood days

Here's a great conversation amongst older people from West Bromwich talking about their childhood days during the war years. The conversation was recorded by Ray Gormley and Pete Millington in around 2009 with local West Bromwich historian Anne Wilkins.

Pete is now editing a book of local memories on behalf of Age Concern Birmingham with funding from The Lottery Fund. If you would like to contribute your memories to the project, please contact me on   

Thank you to Alice Millington for transcribing the interview.

West Bromwich Voices

Childhood days

Our stomping ground, or playground, whatever, was the rec’. Because you’ve got all the football pitches that you wanted on there. Play cricket, or in the summer, do whatever you wanted. And of course, they had got, over by the canal basin, they had got swings and slides and whatever. I know a few times people, like myself, have ended up in the canal basin, especially in the winter when we thought the ice was thick enough to stand your weight, and of course it wasn’t, it just collapsed. 

And I know, the one time, I was at school when it happened and we’d gone over there one lunchtime and, of course, I came back and my trousers was all wringing wet. And of course there was no parents at home then because they were both at work and you just had to just dry off at the school. They didn’t give you anything else to help you or anything like that.

I mean, we used to get bean cans, knock holes in and get burnin’ hot coke. Fire cans – whizz them round and had a competition to see who could make theirs glow the best. Oh, and then leapfrog. We used to play leapfrog, didn’t we?

I’m trying to think…what was the name of that?


With the broom handle under your arm to give you balance.

Diablo, as well. And whip and top.

Oh, yes! Whip and top! These shops nowadays, they sell all these old games, don’t they? 
The National Trust Shops.


But nobody knows how to play.

Well, I bought a whip and top because I used to be quite a dab-hand at that. And I bought it, I’m going back perhaps four or five years, and d’ya know I couldn’t even get it to spin!

And of course, you had the Boys’ Scouts if your parents would give you the money to join then. There was the one up the back of Westley and Churchill.

And the Boys’ Brigade. There was a Church Hall where West Bromwich Building Society main office is standing now.

That was a Baptist Church.

The Boys’ Brigade were a Baptist organisation. I think you’ll find that the Scouts were a Church of England sort of act, and I suppose the Baptists thought they’d got to have something (so they) started the Boys’ Brigade.

We used to have a lad in our street and he used to…he’d always got a ruler about that long. 
And he’d go on, flicking them, and he’d flick them and they’d go over the houses. These bottle tops.

It was another street game, you see.

That’s right, yeah.

Nobody seemed to bother us, then, in those days. Your parents just said “Well, where have you been ‘til now?” and it’s “Ah, we’ve been playing, mom.”

The area called the Mill, near Albion gas works, which mainly got its name from the mill pond which was still there but was surrounded by slag heaps. The most prominent thing about those banks were, underground, it was just one massive fire, and you had to be careful. You could see the flames coming through and the smoke. You had to be careful that you didn’t step on those because you sank in. And people used to collect horse manure for the gardens. The ponies which were tied up there and roamed around never seemed to get burned, which was a miracle. But I remember two children from the area were sent over to collect horse manure, and the girl sank in up to her waist and her brother endeavored to get her out and he was burned.

To the side of the canal there, opposite The Boat pub which has been demolished now, there was some waste ground and we went over there one day, me and a couple more. And we found this little parcel tucked in this long grass. We opened it up, and it was rashers of bacon! “What are we gonna do with this”, you know?

Talking about the police, we knew it was illegal, we’d got all these rashers of bacon. What was we gonna do with it? Well, somebody from the canteen of the Nelson Smelting Works had put it there to pick up at night when they come out. Right, so what did we do? We was afraid to take it home in case we had a good hiding off our parents. We threw it in the cut. So, I says, I says to my mother and dad, “hey, mom” I says “we found this parcel of bacon”. My dad says “what?” I says “yeah, somebody had wrapped it up” I says “by the side of the Nelson factory, and hid it.” He says, “well where is it?” I says “we throwed it in the cut!”

And I bet you got a good hiding for saying that?

He says “you what?” I mean, rashers of bacon which he never saw. I mean, I think you was entitled to one rasher a month, per person, and that was about as big as that envelope and that was about your rations for a month. And we was afraid of the police having us, stopping us with this parcel of bacon and we go into a remand home, you see. And that’s what we thought of. We never give it a thought to stuck it down our trousers and took it home to eat.

They were very strict.

Oh yes.

If you did get caught and people did round by us. In our road, in Stour Street, it branched off into a little road called Collins Street and there, that was the same sort of houses. But, this chap’s mother died and there was five of them and in the war, his father was a special constable and he married this woman who’d got 7 children as well. So, in a little three-bedroomed house there were fourteen of them. Joey, he ran away from home and he lived rough in a derelict house for a week ‘til they found him. But I think they did have him for what today is called shoplifting, but would be called thieving then. And you went to court and he had…I forget how many lashes of the birch rod he had. He certainly had ten, I think. And he was sent away to the North East on a, what they used to call, a remand home, but this was on a ship, it was on a remand ship and he would be about ten at the time. We never saw him again. He remained on this ship until he was eighteen, and they released him then to go in the army. When he came home on leave from the army, he did come home to see his parents. But that’s how strict they were at the time.

And what year would that be then?

That was in the war time… that was in the war years. It would be about ’43 I think.

You were afraid of the police. Stories like I’ve just told you were always quoted by your parents to make you afraid.

But your parents knew the local bobby, didn’t they? I lived on the ‘rec on the Avenue. The family’s home I spoke of, was on Oak Road, they lived in that house from 1908 or something like that so it was…up to, well it’s still standing actually, but 1970 that last one came out of there. But I always used to go up there and the local bobby round there was Mr Bullus and I went to school with his son. He always used to see me, he would be on his pushbike. You’d not done anything wrong or you’d not been playing up and they’d happen to see you coming up. You used to creak in your own shoes, like you know, because you were frightened in case your mother and father were gonna say anything to him anyway…even though they might just say “Alright, Bill?”

You stood there as though you had done something wrong.

The same really with the betting. Why they never actually collared anybody, they all knew it went on. I always used to take bets when I was staying in Oak Road, to Mason’s in Bowater Street. And yet the local Bobby, I mean, I say he knew what he was doing. I don’t think I ever knew Mason being had up for doing illegal betting and yet he must have been doing it for years. All the family knew him, and what have you, and you know?

I think, mainly, they had the runners.

Well, they did, yes. But, I say, I mean even they never got collared unless perhaps it was the local bobby which they were in with in them days, they’d say, just keep an eye on it, you know, cut it down a bit. They used to just do it like ‘I’ll keep out of the limelight for a bit’, and then they’d carry on. It was the same if you’d got caught, wasn’t it? If you’d done any scrumping…if the police was ever brought round to your house, it was just a warning. No over the top or anything like that about it. “Look, we’re warning you. Cut it out.” And, of course, you did.

In other words, they used common sense then, which has gone out of the window.

That’s correct.