Cinders stars in panto, oh yes she does!

Curtain goes up at Sutton Town Hall for family favourite

Panto returns to Sutton Coldfield in December with a spectaccular performance of fantasy favourite Cinderella. The curtain goes up for the first time on December 7.

The setting is Russia, and imagine a time of ice-cold winters with the snow laying deep on the frozen hard ground….

Imagine a palace where the fountains spouted icicles and Russian bears hibernated in the forests…

Now imagine a draughty old country house with the only warmth from a sooty fireplace … and that it was your job to keep the fire burning! Out in all weathers collecting wood and sleeping in the cinders of the fireplace, because your wicked stepmother and your ugly stepsisters were too mean to let you sleep in a bed.

That’s what happened to poor Cinderella and this is the story of how she dreamed of escape, of being warm and of meeting a handsome Prince who could save her from this miserable life.

After the huge success of Aladdin in 2019, the Production Exchange comes back to the Town Hall with a great cast of actor musicians, beautiful scenery, stunning costumes and a talented young ensemble to perform the ultimate family classic.

With support from the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund, Sutton Coldfield Town Hall is excited to welcome the cast and crew to the Royal Town for a limited run before Christmas and a thrilling return to traditional family entertainment.

Curtain goes up for the first time on December 7 with shows running through until Christmas Eve.


Tickets can be purchased online, or over the telephone. The telephone box office service is available between 10am and 2pm, Monday to Friday.  Our in-person box office is closed until further notice.

Trust aims aims to grow and raise standards at Sutton schools

Claire Pritchard is CEO of the new Broadleaf Partnership Trust

An ambitious new education trust which includes Sutton Coldfield schools is promising to further raise standards through collaboration and shared expertise.

The newly-launched Broadleaf Partnership Trust, which includes Plantsbrook School and Town Junior School, aims to combine best educational practice with a strong financial foundation for partners, while ensuring that it schools retain their own individual character.

Now the partnership, which welcomed Perryfields Academy in Oldbury in May, is planning to grow further with discussions with more schools already underway.

Chief Executive Officer Claire Pritchard said that Broadleaf’s name aimed to reflect the organic growth the Partnership hoped to see, as well as the diversity of the schools it included.

“The Broadleaf name is perfect,” she said, “because it captures the idea of a protective environment, where all of our schools can work together as a family.

“At the same time, in nature every leaf is different – much like our schools – and Broadleaf won’t be standardising everything about our schools because they each have their own strengths and serve unique communities.

“It’s about celebrating and recognising what is great about each school, and then utilising those areas of expertise to share best practice across our family.”

The Broadleaf Partnership Trust includes Plantsbrook, Perryfields and Town Junior - but are already talking to other schools that could potentially join.

Mum-of-three Claire is originally from Walsall, where she began her career in education at a federation of two local schools, before moving to the Academy Transformation Trust, a large academy trust with 21 sites, as chief operating officer, eventually becoming deputy CEO.

 “I learned so much from that experience, working across 10 local authorities with 12,000 pupils – and really just seeing the benefits of schools coming together and having a uniform approach to what they do in some areas of school life,” she said.

Claire, 47, had been chair of the trustees of the existing Plantsbrook Learning Trust before being persuaded to take the helm as it was relaunched under the Broadleaf name.

She explained: “The Plantsbrook Learning Trust was very successful in terms of academic achievement, but it was felt there was a need for a new identity for the academy trust itself. We want to create our own destiny and retain our independence, by moving forward through collaboration and growth.”

Broadleaf’s schools are already benefitting from a close working relationship, with staff exploring how staff can work together at junior and secondary schools to better support students as they transition from one to another.

Claire said: “We’re looking closely at the expertise we’ve got in each education phase, and how that can best support others – for instance not many primary teachers are specialists in Modern Foreign Languages, but we’ve got a wealth of knowledge in our secondary schools that can be shared.  Equally, our primary colleagues are well placed to guide us with secondary aged pupils who need extra support in that tricky transition stage between years 6 and 7.”

The Broadleaf Partnership Trust has been launched after months of preparations.

“We’ve overhauled our governance structures, putting the right people in the right places to provide the support and leadership we need to grow,” Claire said. 

“We are also lucky to be in a strong financial position, with significant reserves. I, along with the trustees have been very clear to our academy leaders that we are not going to continue to create any additional financial surplus – every penny that comes in, every year, needs to be spent on education.

“I’ve also made a commitment that whatever we can save by centralising contracts and better buying power will go straight back into the frontline school budgets.

“Building this Trust isn’t about some huge corporate enterprise coming in, it’s about a group of people who have a real passion for doing the right things for children – it’s about liberating the talent in the organisation and giving them the tools they need to provide an even better education to our students than they already do.”

“At the heart of every decision we make, we also go back to the question: what’s best for the children?”

“With our new identity in place, I think we have a huge opportunity to deliver our vision to build a partnership that will benefit all of our schools and communities.” 

Electric ID.3 opens new chapter in VW story

Volkswagen ID.3 

By Bill McCarthy

VOLKSWAGEN has high hopes for the stylish ID.3. A slightly odd name for a car VW hopes will emulate the iconic Beetle and Golf, to become a third major chapter in the history of Volkswagen. No pressure then.

It is their first purpose-built electric model and built on their new modular platform, the MEB, on which, by 2029, VW hopes to sell around 26 million electric vehicles.

Again, no pressure. So it’s new but it’s very much a VW, with eye-catching styling and, well, just being a VW. Electric cars are no longer immediately distinguishable from their combustion engined siblings and, unsurprisingly, this does have the look of a Golf, but is rear wheel drive with the motor and gearbox situated at the rear axle. Think of the original Beetle.

It looks stylish with swooping, coupe-like lines and a smart but slightly minimalist interior which now uses a combination of touch controls and voice commands for the majority of functions. The car also features clever light animations that respond to voice commands.

The MEB platform, says VW, allows different-sized batteries and offers a similar footprint to the Golf, but interior space comparable to a Passat. Clever, or what?

Like all electric cars, it offers swift acceleration from a standing start and choice of three batteries of Pure, Pro and Pro S specification. Trim levels include Life, Style, Family, Max and Tour. They are 45, 58 and 77 kWh power units and the claimed range for each is 216, 264 and a whopping 340 miles, all but negating range anxiety that has been prevalent with electric cars.

Prices are now ever more competitive with the first ID.3 available in the UK for under £30,000 (including the plug-in vehicle grant).

This model was the range-topping Tour with the 77kWh battery and mega range.

All are well equipped and this model included goodies like heated seats with integrated armrest and height adjustment, heated steering wheel, interior ambient light with a choice of 30 colours and split folding rear seats with headrests plus the usual array of electric and electronic driver aids.

It looks the part with exclusive efficient alloys, dominant LED matrix headlights, daytime running lights and contrasting black roof and hatchback which features a small spoiler.

The interior is impressively roomy, with large glass areas and little instrument clutter. The gear selector, a rocker switch, is just behind the steering wheel, and the lack of a handbrake lever means there is plenty of space between the front seats. It proved a boon when I had to climb across from the passenger seat when someone had parked too close to the driver’s door.

 A bit like the Tesla, a central console dominates and handles major functions, like connectivity  and navigation and is aided by the Hello ID intelligent voice control which can handle infotainment and climate control.

There is another five-inch display behind the steering wheel which gives immediate driver information. In addition strip light which runs beneath the windscreen flashes up different colours and responds to voice inputs.

On the road it is a versatile car, a composed motorway cruiser, and, with its low centre of gravity a fun car to drive with plenty of grip on offer when accelerating into corners. It is quick off the mark, hitting 60mph in just over seven seconds.

As a compact family car it needs to be comfortable and the suspension offers a composed and comfortable ride. Pottering around town the car is simplicity itself, with nicely weighted steering which gives a good turning circle for easy parking.

You can select two drive modes, D for normal and the energy recovering B mode, which allows the car to slow down while regenerating energy at the same time, improving the  greater range.

As a family hatchback it must be practical and offers decent boot space of 385 opening up to 1,267 litres with the seats down. And plenty of other cubbies and storage spaces available for nick racks.

VWs are packed with safety kit and the ID.3 the full range of airbags, traction and stability control and assisted braking, together with a range of traffic and pedestrian warnings.


Volkswagen ID.3 Tour 77kWh Pro S 204PS

Price: £38,815

Mechanical: 207bhp/150kWh, electric motor driving rear wheels via CVT transmission

Max Speed: 99mph

0-62mph: 7.9 seconds

Range: 340 miles (WTLP)

Insurance Group: 30E

C02 emissions: 0/km

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

Shining a light on the memory of loved ones

Jennie and Jackie Harrison with a picture of their mother Christine

St Giles Hospice Light up a Life Christmas services return to Sutton Coldfield

Sutton Coldfield people will be able to come together once more next month (November) to remember their loved ones at St Giles Hospice’s Light up a Life services.

The special services, which traditionally take place across the St Giles Hospice region each year before Christmas, are returning as normal for 2021 after they had to be cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Light up a Life offers families the opportunity to remember loved ones they have lost and to celebrate their lives. The events will include a service at Four Oaks Methodist Church, Sutton Coldfield, on Sunday 28th November, at 6.30pm.

Everyone is welcome at the Light up a Life services, where the community and those that have made a dedication for a loved one are invited to join in a moment of reflection as our Christmas trees are illuminated and to view the messages in the Book of Memories. Dedications can also be viewed online on the Light up a Life virtual Christmas tree.

Jennie Davies, from Lichfield, and her family support Light up a Life each year after her mum Christine Harrison, from Fisherwick, died of lung cancer at the hospice in 2010 and her Auntie Pam died there in 2018 after being diagnosed with liver cancer.

Jennie said: “When Auntie Pam knew the end was coming it was her last wish to go to St Giles because she remembered how well Mum had been looked after. Her care was just the same – absolutely wonderful. We are so fortunate that she ended up at St Giles and had the best care you could possibly get. Our family is so grateful.”

Four Oaks Methodist Church

Jennie, her sister Jackie Harrison and niece Jade Allen now support Light up a Life every year. 

“Light up a Life feels like a part of Christmas that we can still celebrate with Mum and Auntie Pam; we’re still sharing it with them,” she said. “Christmas is such a hectic time but Light up a Life is perfect – it’s so personal and very touching. It’s like a little moment of calm in the middle of all the running around.

“Jade’s just had a little daughter and when she gets a little older she will be coming with us – it’s a family tradition.”

Director of Income Generation for St Giles Hospice, Elinor (corr) Eustace said: “Although Christmas is a time to celebrate, we understand that it can be a difficult time of year for some as we remember the family, friends or colleagues who can’t be with us. 

“Our Light Up a Life services give families like Jennie’s the opportunity to come together to remember the lives of their loved ones and support the work of the hospice so that we can continue caring for those people in the local community who need us, when they need us most.

“We are delighted that Light up a Life services can return this Christmas because we know that they mean so much to people in our local community, and the services are open to anyone, not just those people who have been supported by St Giles.

“Last year’s services had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic so this year’s services will be particularly poignant for everyone. We will be following the latest Government guidelines to ensure that they can go ahead safely.”

Dedications can be made online at and will feature on the hospice’s virtual Light up a Life Christmas tree, which is filled with shining stars and sparkling lights. Dedications made before Thursday, 11th November will also be included in the Book of Memories.

The Book of Memories will be available to view at all Light up a Life services and on the hospice website from 1st December. It will also be available to view in St Giles Hospice and some service locations throughout December.

Everyone who dedicates a light will receive a special Light up a Life keepsake card to display at Christmas time featuring the name of their loved one, their personal message and a bookmark along with a poignant poem of remembrance.

For more information about Light up a Life services or to make a dedication, please visit


Light up a Life services 2021

  • Four Oaks Methodist Church, Sutton Coldfield
  • Thursday 2nd December, 6.30pm
  • Saturday 27th November, 4pm
  • Aldridge Methodist Church
  • Sunday 28th November, 6pm
  • St Modwen’s Church, Burton upon Trent
  • Sunday 28th November, 3pm
  • St Mary the Virgin Church, Uttoxeter
  • Sunday 28th November, 6.30pm
  • Outdoor service at St Giles Hospice, Whittington
  • Saturday 4th December, 6pm
  • St Editha’s Church, Tamworth
  • Sunday 5th December, 6pm
  • St Luke’s Church, Cannock
  • Sunday 5th December, 8pm
  • Lichfield Cathedral

For further information or for any media enquiries please contact or Gary Young on 07855 926123.

St Giles Hospice is a registered charity offering high-quality specialist care free of charge for people living with diseases which are terminal or incurable as well as providing support for their families and carers.Patients come from across the hospice’s catchment area, which ranges from Ashby-de-la-Zouch and Atherstone in the east, to Cannock in the west – and from Burton and Uttoxeter in the north, to Sutton Coldfield and Coleshill in the south. Care is offered at the hospice’s centres in Whittington and Sutton Coldfield and in patients’ own homes across the region.St Giles spends over £10 million a year providing its specialist services and with little more than a third of this funded by the Government, the registered charity relies heavily on donations and income generation from the local community.

Sleek and sophisticated Cupra makes an impact

CUPRA Formentor e-HYBRID 245PS VZ2

Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid

By Bill McCarthy

WHEN SEAT decided to split the sporty arm of its brand, Cupra, away, they came up with something special with the Formentor design.

It is a dramatic looking vehicle bold and in your face, yet at the same time chic and sophisticated, while eye-catching copper colour to badge and bits of trim to give it a certain uniqueness.

Previously, Cupra was the badge given to more sporting SEAT models, being a combination of Cup and Racing, ergo Cupra. In the   periodic table, copper’s symbol is Cu, which derives from Cupra, Latin for copper, which features heavily on the vehicle.

Now, a bit like DS with Citroen, it has split and become a brand of its own, while remaining part of SEAT.

It is a kind of coupe/crossover/SUV with a low set, predatory look with muscular wheel arches, distinctive alloy wheels and striking light clusters and the distinctive Cupra badge, a copper coloured inverted triangle. The puddle lights on the electric door mirrors are also a nice touch.

The interior is stylish and features high end trim and upholstery and logical and intuitive layout. The copper colour features again on the stitching of the leather bucket seats which also see the Cupra logo incorporated into the head restraints. It is also visible with the copper coloured and aluminium accents.

It feels spacious, with good head and legroom thanks to its 2.68m wheelbase. It’s very practical as well with a boot capacity of 450 litres which stretches to 1,475 with the rear seats folded.

Central is the 12-inch touchscreen, the brains of the car, which controls navigation, sound system and connectivity via smartphone. In addition, it features a customisable digital binnacle which provides key information for the driver. The flat-bottomed steering  wheel also incorporates gear change paddles plus the stop/start and sport mode buttons.

On the road, performance matches the sporty look with rapid acceleration and plenty of torque available.

The model tested here was one of the plug-in hybrids, with a combination of a 1.4 litre petrol engine and electric motor developing 245PS combined. That’s a fair bit of power and depressing the throttle doesn’t disappoint.

It can hit 60mph in just seven seconds, with a theoretical top speed of 130mph, unless you are in Germany of course.

As a plug-in hybrid it is also capable of running on battery power only for up to 34 miles, perfect for low emission or congestion zones, while combined CO2 emissions are just 33g/km.

The ride and handling inspire confidence and thanks to a sports-tuned chassis, drivers can push the car that little bit extra. It delivers a firm ride but comfortable enough with responsive steering and plenty of grip. Press the sport mode and everything sharpens up for a more engaging drive.

The five trim levels are well equipped and include the V1, V2, VZ1, VZ2 and VZ3. 

As standard on V1 trim, there are 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control, wireless smartphone charger, rear parking sensors.

This model adds further bells and whistles, including the powered seats, heated steering wheel and door mirrors and rear diffuser with twin exhaust pipe on each side

In addition the safety and driving pack includes  Dynamic Road Sign Display, High Beam, Assist, Side Assist, Exit Assist, Lane Change, Assist and Emergency Assist

Prices start at £27,745, a competitive price for a stylish premium quality vehicle. A new kid on the block, but it sure to be familiar sight in the near future


Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid 245PS VZ2

Price: £40,560

Mechanical: 245PS, via combined 1395cc, 4-cylinder, petrol engine and electric motor driving front wheels via DSG transmission

Max Speed: 130mph

0-62mph: 7 seconds

Combined MPG: 176-188

Insurance Group: 26

C02 emissions: 33g/km

Warranty: 3yrs/62,000 miles

Rapist may have been in area for weeks

Police give description of Sutton Coldfield park attacker

Police believe a rapist who attacked a woman in a Sutton Coldfield park may been stalking the area for weeks, according to local people.

They have released more details about the rapist who attacked the woman in Princess Alice park on Sunday 3 October.

West Midlands Police said they now know that the attack happened between 8pm and 9pm.They had originally thought it happened later in the vening, based on the information from the victim distraught after a vicious crime.

The man is described as white, aged 20-35, of medium to stocky and “extra broad” around the shoulders. He spoke with a Birmingham accent and was wearing a grey tracksuit and black trainers. 

From information gathered from local people, police now believe that he has been seen in park in days and possibly weeks leading up to the attack.

Senior officers have appealed to people who live, work or travel near to the park, please check your CCTV, dashcam and doorbell footage. 

If you notice anything suspicious or a man matching the survivor’s description, get in touch right away or upload it to this dedicated major crimes site. 

West Midlands police has dedicate more officers to patrol the area and park until this man is arrested. This will include officers in plain clothes in an effort to help women to feel safe and be safe.

If you can help, message us now via Live Chat on the right of your screen. Quote investigation number 20/1595275/21.

If news of this rape has affected you, The Survivors Trust is there for you. Call them on 08088 010818.

Manhunt after woman raped in Sutton Coldfield

Police are still hunting a callous rapist who attacked a woman at a Sutton Coldfield park.

A major investigation is underway to find the rapist who attacked the woman on Sunday 3 October.

Specialist detectives from West Midlands Police Public Protection unit had sealed off an area of parkland behind Princess Alice Retail Park as they searched for evidence.

The crime happened around 10pm. It is thought the man was wearing a grey tracksuit.

Forensic evidence is urgently being analysed and a review of CCTV footage is being carried out.

The woman was treated in hospital for her injuries. Specialist charities are standing by ready to help her.

Detective inspector Andy McHugh is leading the investigation. He said: “We’ll be working around the clock to find this man but you can help by checking your CCTV, dashcam and doorbell footage. Look for anything that doesn’t seem right. Tell us right away if you see anything.

“Our thoughts are with the woman who is understandably extremely traumatised.”

We’ll have more officers than usual patrolling the area over the next few days.

If you can help Det Insp McHugh message us now via Live Chat on our website Quote investigation number 20/1595275/21.

If news of this rape has affected you, The Survivors Trust is there for you. Call them on 08088 010818.
kind regards

Ella’s design is blooming marvellous for town

Ella proudly displays her winning design watched by town mayor Terry Wood

A Sutton Coldfield student has showed she is blooming marvellous when it comes to design and creativity.

Ella Middleton, a student at Sutton Coldfield BMeT College, came up with a winning sculpture design to support Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council’s entry into the RHS Britain in Bloom competition and it will have pride of place in the town.

Earlier this year, the council worked with level 3 Art and Design students as part of their course industry placement. 

The brief for students was set out in the context of the council’s entry to ‘Britain in Bloom’ with students creating designs and proposals encompassing themes of community, environment and horticulture.

Students were tasked with creating a sculpture that would be placed at a prominent location within the town.

Twenty-five students delivered excellent presentations and pitched their designs to the town mayor, Councillor Terry Wood.

After much deliberation, it was decided that student Ella’s design most closely met with the brief.

The council says it is committed to improving the Royal Town as a great place for residents, visitors and businesses and part of that commitment involves celebrating cultural and environmental heritage through art.

Ella’s design will now be used as the basis for a sculpture, to be produced and located within the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield for residents to enjoy.

Speaking of the news, Ella said: “I feel honoured that you have chosen my design out of all the other brilliant alternatives.

“This news has made my week and I can’t wait to start the process of working with the Town Council to see my design come to life. I told my family the news and they were screaming with joy as they also can’t wait to see my design within our beautiful town.”

Mayor, Councilor Terry Wood said: “It has been a privilege to work with Ella and the other BMet Level 3 Art and Design college students on this project and to see, first hand, the creativity that our young people possess. I am also really pleased that we are going to collaborate with Ella on producing her sculpture and installing this in a location that can be enjoyed by all in our royal town.”

The Town Council will continue to work in partnership with the college and its students into the next academic year.