All posts by Macfivenews

Motoring and travel journalist, opinionated gob on a stick

P-P-P Penguins on parade

Flipping marvellous Christmas event

Flippered friends – helped by their Elf keeper – spread festive fun as they charmed children and posed for pictures with shoppers Sutton Coldfield Town centre

The giant penguins on parade took part in the first of six special Christmas weekends waddled down the Parade.

The visit was the first of an extended series of Christmas activities which form part of the new Visit Royal Sutton Coldfield programme of year-round events, which aims to encourage more people to choose the town centre as a destination to spend time, eat, drink, shop and relax.

Bid Manager Michelle Baker said: “The Penguins were very funny, and the children absolutely loved them.

“They were the perfect way to start off our Christmas plans for the town centre – and there’s lots more to come.

“Next up is our Christmas Farmers Market next Sunday, from 10am until 2pm, but watch out because the Grinch will be coming along too!”

In recent months events organised under the vibrant new Visit Royal Sutton Coldfield brand – including a visit by a giant T Rex and a popular new Farmer’s Market – have seen thousands of extra people flood into the town centre.

The BID has also announced that it will be funding four ‘Guardians’ to patrol the town centre during the festive period, to watch out for anti-social behaviour and keep revellers safe and secure.


27th Nov         Christmas Farmers Market (45 stalls), the Grinch, free facepainting, Christmas crafts

3rd Dec           Meet Santa, Roller Skating Christmas Presents and the animated elves

9th Dec            Giant snow globe, the Grinch, amazing animatronic Polar Bear

10th Dec         Giant snow globe, meet Santa and the Grinch, the Gingerbreads

11th Dec         Giant snow globe, the Grinch

11th Dec         Breakfast with Santa – Bottle of Sack (8:30am-10:30am)

17th Dec         See Santa, meet the Grinch and the Gingerbreads

Charity marks name change


Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust awards grants to local organisations and individuals to alleviate hardship and has recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of its name change from ‘Sutton Coldfield Municipal Charities’ to ‘Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust’.

The name change appropriately reflected the purpose of the organisation within the town, as an independent charity.
This anniversary represents a key milestone for the Trust and has allowed the opportunity for the organisation to reflect on some significant achievements over the past decade, including awarding £11.8 million in grants, 971 grant applications from individuals and organisations and 3,100 applications for school clothing grants.

Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust’s grants have supported key projects that include schools, community organisations, sports clubs and faiths. Some of the organisations that the Trust has funded over the past
decade include, ‘Home Start’, ‘Stepping Stones’, ‘Spitfire Advice and Support Services’ and ‘Speight of the Arts’.

Ray Goodwin, Chief Executive at Spitfire Advice and Support Services, commented: “The Trust has previously financially supported our ‘Money and Advice Service Centre’, and the continuation of this grant allowed us to implement this service to the local community as a long-term programme. With a total grant of £34,000, we have been able to provide free and confidential advice to over 174 disadvantaged families to help them achieve their full potential.”

Since the Trust’s Almshouses were built in the 1800s, the Trust has prioritised maintaining the current forty-six properties to the highest standard; over the past decade, the charitable trust spent over £1m on refurbishing the properties which continue to be maintained and improved to a high standard.

Tina Swani

Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust continues to support individuals and organisations in the local area to enhance the quality of life for all in the Royal Town. This is vital during the current cost-of-living crisis. Today,
the Trust’s assets include 1,000 acres of land, many commercial properties and financial investments, which
provide an income to help alleviate hardship for those in the borough of Sutton Coldfield.

Richard Beard, Chief Executive at The Jericho Foundation, added: “Being granted two special awards by the Trust has been significant to the development of our modern apprenticeship scheme. The grants have allowed us to support over 64 young individuals in kick-starting their career.”

Tina Swani, Chief Executive at Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust, said: “We are delighted to announce the 10- year anniversary of the Trust’s name change and to be able to reflect on some of the many significant grants that we have awarded to organisations and individuals over the past decade.

“We hope that over the next decade, Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust’s grants will continue to create a positive impact and help to alleviate hardship for those in the local area, particularly during the current cost of living crisis.”

10 years of giving

2012 – The name of the Trust was changed to ‘Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust’

2014 – A Special Award of £670,000 was made to the Sutton Coldfield YMCA by the Trust.

2016 – Nearly £1.2m in grants plus a Special Award of £200,000 was made to the Good Hope Hospital.

2018 – A total of £1.36m was made in grants, including a Special Award of £297,252 to the Jericho Foundation.

2020 – Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trust awarded over £1.2m in grants and made another award to the Jericho Foundation, totalling to a £339,636 grant over three years.

2021 – The Trust celebrated the 75-year anniversary of the Almshouse Association and helped 737 children with uniform grants throughout the year.

Curtain up on Sutton cinema again

The curtain is set to rise again at an iconic Sutton Coldfield cinema. The Empire has been closed two years will soon reopen according to town MP Andrew Mitchell.

Situated on the corner of Maney Corner the Grade II listed building brought the curtain down for the last time during the Covid lockdown in November 2020. 

Since then the cinema revealed plans to sell off its car park to retirement home developers, McCarthy & Stone, which was given the go-ahead by Birmingham City Council ’s planning committee in September. The deal included a £200,000 payment from the developers to help with upgrading the cinema. 

Mr Mitchelll is reported to have spoken to Empire Cinema chief Justin Ribbons who has confirmed the cinema will open ‘early in the new year’. Mr Mitchell said the proposed re-opening date could be as soon as January.

Mr Mitchell in his weekly newsletter said: “Great news on our Royal Town cinema. I have spoken today with the chief executive of our cinema, Justin Ribbons, who has now confirmed that a refurbished and enhanced cinema is scheduled to reopen ‘early in the new year’.

“The cinema will be undergoing significant upgrades with brand new seating, carpets and internal repainting. This is very good news and I have accepted an invitation to perform the reopening ceremony!

“There has been widespread and serious support throughout the Royal Town to have our cinema reinstated. I’d like to thank all those who have campaigned and supported the reopening and enhancing of this priceless local asset – our cinema.”

Hospice gift card scheme launched

Emily Rich, Charity Shop Influencer, @found_it_at_the_charity_shop and Matthew Chapman, the St Giles Hospice Lichfield Furniture Shop Assistant Manager

21 St Giles shops to accept card

St Giles Hospice is excited to have signed up to the first multi-retailer gift card that can be used exclusively in its shops including those in Sutton Coldfield and others across the city, county and wider country.

The Charity Shop Gift Card will be sold and accepted in all 21 St Giles Hospice shops, including its furniture and book stores, to help raise funds to make a difference to local people, and their families, living with a terminal illness. The gift card scheme has been developed in partnership with the Charity Retail Association (CRA) and supports the growing second-hand revolution, helping to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill.

The CRA estimates that charities divert 339,000 tonnes of textiles away from landfill every year which saves councils £31million in annual waste disposal charges.

Emma Yates, Head of Retail at St Giles Hospice, said: “We’re delighted to be joining the Charity Shop Gift Card scheme. We’ve joined just in time for Christmas, offering our shoppers a sustainable option when buying presents and the chance to donate money to good causes.

“The gift card is such an exciting way to introduce more people to our 21 charity shops across the region and show them the great range of clothes, furniture and other hidden gems that we sell.”

Lee Fellows, Managing Director of The Charity Shop Gift Card said: “We’re thrilled to have St Giles Hospice join the scheme. There are now over 100 charity shops across the Midlands that accept the gift card providing a huge choice for people looking to shop sustainably whist helping a great cause.”

The cards themselves are recyclable and compostable and are also available to purchase online at . Find your nearest St Giles Hospice shop here:


Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin

Volvo XC40 Recharge

By Bill McCarthy

Volvo has gone the Full Monty with electric with their small XC40 leading the charge, if you pardon the pun. The firm has confirmed it will be an electric-only car manufacturer by 2030 and will roll out several additional electric models in the coming years.

The stylish Recharge is their first 100 per cent electric SUV, offering the usual Volvo refinement, and depending on the model, a claimed range of 261 miles.

They are not cheap, this range starts at £45,750, but Volvo is a premium brand and you do get plenty for your money.

It is a stylish SUV looking very much like non-electric versions, with smart light clusters to front and rear and a choice of striking alloy wheels. It has a sleeker look and the front lights feature the now familiar ‘Thor’s Hammer’ design. It also features a discrete rear spoiler.

Like other electric vehicles, the grille has been blanked out, rendering the car less attractive as a result.

The interior is real premium quality and dominated by the nine-inch tablet style touchscreen and a 12-inch TFT display behind the smart multi-function steering wheel.

The central screen controls major functions and now features Google Maps, navigation, infotainment and smartphone connectivity. There are also a number of apps available.

It has a real high-end feel with leather style micro tech powered seats, soft touch finish and a minimalist approach to buttons and and dials.

All models  are well equipped, and  standard kit includes two-zone climate control, cruise control, rear parking sensors, electric windows and door mirrors and host of other goodies.

This model  adds 20-inch alloys, Sensus Connect with Premium Sound by Harman Kardon with Dolby Pro Logic II Surround Sound, powered boot, power-adjustable and heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, a panoramic sunroof and a 360-degree parking camera.

Like most electric cars, acceleration is instant and the 231bhp on tap from the electric motor powers the car to 60mph in seven seconds. Pretty much hot hatch territory.

A fairly lengthy road trip put the claimed 256 mile range to the test, as well as recharging availability on the UK roads.

Hook up though, and it can be charged from 10 to 80 per cent capacity in around half an hour using a 150kW fast charger, if you can find one, otherwise a full hit using the 11kW onboard charger will take eight hours

Despite being an SUV, it sits fairly low to the ground and feels stable, cornering well and good feedback from the well weighted steering.

In practical terms it has plenty to offer with the rear seats folding and tumbling to provide maximum stowage space of 1,295 litres. There is even 21 litres of extra  space at the front beneath the bonnet lid, where the combustion engine would have been. 

Safety kit is comprehensive, with City Safety which includes pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection, and front collision warning with fully automatic emergency braking, including at junctions,.

There is also a host of other technologies, like autonomous emergency braking, pedestrian, animal and cyclist detection and front collision warning are included on this model.

Also standard are full set of airbags and lane mitigation, which steers you back into the correct lane if drifting.


Volvo XC40 Recharge Pro

Price: £51,750

Mechanical: 231bhp, electric motor driving with 69 kWh battery driving front wheels via automatic gearbox

Max speed: 99mph

0-62mph: 7 seconds

Range : 262 miles

CO2 emissions: 0g/km

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

Mubu Music back in town

Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust back ‘Live in the Lodge’ event

A programme which provides free music tuition for youngsters with its ‘Live in the Lodge’ initiative has received a major cash boost from a Sutton Charity.

Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust, the organisation that awards grants to local groups and charities to alleviate hardship and support other needs in the community, has provided Mubu Music with a grant of £32,000 over two years to help fund their community investment project ‘Live in the Lodge’.

SCCT first granted an award to Mubu in November 2019, although prior to this the Live in the Lodge project was run by Birmingham Town Hall Symphony Hall (THSH) their first grant being in February 2016.

Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust has funded Mubu Music over the course of five years, helping to enhance the lives of people living in and around Falcon Lodge.

Mubu Music recognises that playing and learning music is such a valuable and important tool in helping to improve social cohesion, community and mental health.

The provision of free music tuition means that this is more accessible to Falcon Lodge’s local community.

The Trust’s grant has allowed for the programme ‘Live in the Lodge’ to be created to provide free music lessons across instruments such as piano, guitar, drums and ukulele for ages as young as five years old, all the way up to individuals in their mid-80s. In addition to this, ‘Live in the Lodge’ has been able to create a community choir and host high-quality music performances across the local area.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the not-for-profit organisation was unable to provide its music services in person. Following this, the Trust’s grant has allowed Mubu Music to help bring people together again through music and raising the aspirations of those living in the area of Falcon Lodge.

Sam Slater, founder of Mubu Music said: “The support of the Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust has allowed ‘Live in the Lodge’ to keep running for the community throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In addition to this, the Trust and funding has also played a huge part in helping the programme to start, grow and develop into a really valuable social and musical intergenerational programme all year round. The programme has helped to create so many positive health, social and education benefits for everyone in and around Falcon Lodge.”

David Cole, Grants Manager at Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust, said: “Mubu Music’s grant exemplifies what the Trust is all about in helping to improve the lives of those in Sutton Coldfield, through creating positive change through projects such as ‘Live in the Lodge’.

“This project is a perfect example of how we are always looking for exciting organisations to gift grants to that give back to the community of Sutton Coldfield.”

For further information about Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust or media enquiries, please contact Emily Burnett or Antonia Hall  

Monster Halloween event for Sutton

Farmers Market special with 50 stalls set to line the Parade.

And there will be plenty of spooky fun at the market on Sunday, October 30th – with characters Jack Skellington and Sally Finkelstein, from The Nightmare Before Christmas, towering above shoppers on stilts.

Even the stallholders will be getting into the Halloween spirit, with prizes on offer to the best fancy dressed trader and the best spooky stall at the market, which is being organised by Sutton Coldfield Business Improvement District (BID).

Michelle Baker, Sutton Coldfield BID Manager, said “We were absolutely blown away by the fantastic response to our first Farmers Market in September, and the next one is already going to be much bigger – with a third more stalls.

“We asked local residents to come along and support the first event and thousands turned out. We had brilliant feedback on the quality of the stalls, the atmosphere, and the way the market brought the feelgood factor to the town centre.

“As a Business Improvement District, we are exploring lots of ways to boost footfall in the town centre and introducing these quality speciality markets, selling local produce and artisan gifts, is already providing a reason to visit Sutton Coldfield.

“Now the market on October 30 should be even more fun, with all kinds of spooky Halloween fun, including free music and face painting and even more stalls.

“I would urge residents to come along and check out the brilliant stalls and support an event that is breathing life into the town centre.”

The speciality market is just one of the BID’s ideas to raise the profile of the town ­– following the launch of a vibrant new ‘Visit Royal Sutton Coldfield’ brand – with special events, competitions and improvements designed to make it a destination to spend time, eat, drink, shop and relax.

The market was launched as a three month trial which, if supported by the local community, will become a year-round event, 12 months of the year.

For Christmas, the BID has also announced six weekends of free town centre attractions, including a giant snow globe, Breakfast with Santa events and festive characters including the Grinch.

If you are interested in trading at the new Farmers & Craft Market please contact Michelle Baker email

Some of the traders confirmed for October 30th

On The Breadline

Mangia Mangia Italian Cuisine

Bak4Lov Vegan Cakes

Beaudesert Park Farm

Brummie Honey

Brook Farm

The Cheese Cavern

Nick The Fish

Brockleby’s Pies

Military Chef Chocolate

Lumberjaxe Food

Cheshire Pie Company

Franks Sauces

Nick The Fish

Cake A Daisy

Yvette’s Cakes

Blackridge Coffee

Bramble Berry Fairies

JustinTime Coffee

Mermazing Bath Bombs

Paul Meadows Photography

Karen Handmade Memories

Meal’s Bead Cove

Bespoke Wreaths

1945 Wines

Sutton Coldfield six weeks of festive fun

Grinch in town as town centre transformed

Sutton Coldfield town centre will be spreading the festive fun this season, with events every weekend over the Christmas period – including a visit from the Grinch.

Instead of a one-day Christmas lights switch on event, organisers at Sutton Coldfield Business Improvement District (BID) will be spreading the Christmas magic over six consecutive weekends, so that more visitors and families can enjoy the festive activities in Sutton Coldfield town centre.

Starting on November 19 and running up to and including Christmas Eve, the BID is funding six weekends of Christmas fun and entertainment for festive shoppers in the town centre.

The extended Christmas activities are part of the new Visit Royal Sutton Coldfield programme of year-round events which aims to encourage more people to choose the town centre as a destination to spend time, eat, drink, shop and relax.

Christmas activities will include an amazing life-size snow globe in the town centre over a three-day period, which shoppers can step inside for a free Christmas photograph.

And Christmas characters will be roaming among shoppers, including giant Christmas Penguins, life-size Gingerbread Men, Father Christmas and The Grinch.

The town’s Christmas lights switch on event has historically been funded jointly by Gracechurch Shopping Centre and Sutton Coldfield Business Improvement District (BID) but the event did not go ahead for the last two years due to the Covid pandemic.

This year Sutton Coldfield BID would be the sole funder and has taken the decision to do things differently and spread the Christmas magic over six weekends instead of focusing one evening of entertainment.

It is hoped this change will benefit local businesses and boost footfall each weekend in the run up to Christmas.

Bid Manager Michelle Baker said: “We’re aiming to make Sutton Coldfield town centre a big attraction, with regular events to bring people in.

“So, we thought for Christmas this year instead of putting all of our efforts into one lights switch on evening, we would do something different and make the fun last throughout the festive season, with something every weekend.

“Residents will love the visitors and attractions we have lined up for Christmas – we just hope the Grinch doesn’t spoil everything!”

Our mission is to support the people of Sutton

Tina Swani, CEO of Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust discusses the problems causes by the cost-of-living crisis

The aftermath of the Covid19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have been major contributors to the current global cost-of-living and energy crisis and as a result, SuttonColdfield Charitable Trust expects to receive a greater influx of applications from organisations and individuals applying for grants from the Trust.

We are proud to say that over the past two years, we have continued to award well over £1,000,000 in grants each year to individuals and organisations to support residents living in Sutton Coldfield. This has included over £74,000 of school clothing grants, amongst other grants to schools and non-profit community organisations. Our grants have enabled more people to access arts, culture, employment, foodbanks, sports, emotional wellbeing support, and activities to reduce loneliness. 

We have also awarded grants to non-profit organisations that have put sustainable initiatives in place such as low energy lighting and heating as these are both cost-reducing and also support the environment. 

We anticipate that the volume of grant applications will continue to increase as demand grows, but recognise that not all organisations and individuals in Sutton Coldfield know we can help. 

The mission of the Trust is to alleviate hardship and improve the quality of life for residents of the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield through the provision of housing and grant awards to support individuals and community organisations. 

We support individuals experiencing a range of circumstances such as ill-health, disability, or other disadvantage, and anyone in these categories can make an application for items such as domestic equipment, further education, childcare costs or for other necessities. 

“Inclusion is a big priority for the Trust. We understand the state of the current economic climate has meant that many individuals and families are struggling to afford the basics, so we want individuals and organisations to know how to make a grant application – particularly those who may not have reached us in the past. 

“The application deadline for school clothing grants closed in June 2022 and re-opens in March/April 2023 – more information will be advised nearer the time. 

“Our website sets out how to apply for a grant – please visit the grants page on

Who are we?

The principal objectives of the Trust are the provision of Almshouses, the distribution of funds and other measures for the alleviation of hardship and other needs for inhabitants and organisations within the boundaries of the former Borough of Sutton Coldfield.

The Trust’s origins can be traced back to Tudor times. Throughout a long history it has improved the lives of generations of people in Sutton Coldfield, particularly those in the greatest need.  It has sustained its core priority to alleviate suffering, while redefining and extending its benefits to reflect changing times and needs.


Bishop Vesey, a native of Sutton Coldfield, persuaded Henry VIII to grant a Charter in 1528 establishing a Warden and Society (Corporation) to govern the Town.  The Corporation was obliged to use rental and other income to provide poor relief and improve the locality. Over the next four centuries, other bequests and endowments came within the Corporation’s oversight.  


Thomas Jesson, a local merchant, left land and money to provide apprenticeships for boys and to distribute bread to Sutton’s poor. 


After a long and famous legal action, the Corporation’s charities were reorganised and enriched by lands acquired in the 1825 Enclosure Award.  From this time, Almshouses were built and the Charity provided elementary schools (including teaching and uniforms) for Sutton’s children.  Practical necessities such as coal, blankets and boots were widely distributed.  In pre-welfare state days, the charities financed nursing and medical care for needy people and made grants to widows.


The Town became a Borough and the Trust took over the Corporation and various related charities within one body.  This operated closely alongside the Council and was administered by the Town Clerks.  New Almshouses were built, including two in the 1890s from a bequest by Frances Lingard.


At the time Sutton Coldfield became part of Birmingham, the independence of the Trust was safeguarded, ensuring the continuing provision of benefits for individuals and organisations within the former Borough boundaries.  Although the separate historic charities have been consolidated into one charity, the Trustees’ fundamental aims and priorities are still very similar to those pursued by Bishop Vesey and his successors over nearly five centuries.


The name of the organisation was changed to Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust to more appropriately reflect the Trust’s role within the town as an independent charity, which no longer has a direct association with the local authority.

Sutton cancer support centre search for new home

Price rise forces move

A centre which supports people with cancer across the West Midlands has launched an urgent hunt for a new base after a huge increase in fees meant it could no longer stay in its home of 11 years.

The Cancer Support Centre in Sutton Coldfield has around 500 clients, with an army of volunteers and a team of specialist therapists who help them deal with the trauma of a cancer diagnosis.

The centre offers therapy and wellbeing sessions, information, advice and a friendly safe space for people looking for reassurance or support.

The charity was set up 21 years ago and for the past 11 it has been based in Lindridge Road, within the St Giles Hospice Supportive Care Centre.

The lease ends in January but as the cost of living increases, the price of rent and room hire has also gone up and the charity can not afford to stay.

Marie Moore, vice chair of the CSC trustees, said: “Our priority is to reassure our clients, volunteers and staff that our service and support will continue and our huge thanks goes out to them in this time of change.

“After 11 years of sub-leasing space at Lindridge Road, St Giles, our landlord, has given notice for us to quit by January 17. We have been actively working with them over the past two months to identify if there is a way in which we could continue to share the building.

“Sadly, a workable solution has not been found and the new price to rent the space is well beyond our reach.

“We are now in the challenging position of having to find an alternative home very quickly to make sure there is no disruption to our service.

“Our intention is that we will remain in Sutton Coldfield, or the immediate surrounding area.”

Marie said the charity survived through the Covid pandemic by moving some services online through Zoom sessions and YouTube videos and this would continue regardless.

“We do need our face-to-face support to continue though,” she added. “It’s so important for our clients – sometimes all they want is a cup of tea and a chat in person. We can offer support, advice and reassurance and that’s all better done face-to-face.”

The charity has enlisted the support of Sutton Coldfield MP Andrew Mitchell and the trustees are now calling for the community to get behind them and help in the search.

Marie said temporary premises would be accepted in the short term if a search for a long-term home was not immediately successful. She urged anyone who is aware of any suitable premises or who can help in any way to get in touch.

“With the help of our teams, clients, supporters and the public, we hope to end this uncertainty quickly,” she added. “If we work together, this will be easier to cope with and manage.”

Anyone who knows of suitable premises or who would like to make a donation should call 0300 012 0245 or email

For more details about the centre, visit