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Claire takes the plunge for charity

Fundraisers in abseil challenge for St Giles Hospice

Adventurers with a head for heights can enjoy a bird’s eye view of Birmingham as they raise money for St Giles Hospice on an abseil challenge next month.

Fundraisers will be descending more than 100ft down the seven-story Green Man Wall on the Custard Factory building in Digbeth on Saturday, 9th October.

Next month’s event will be the second St Giles Hospice abseil at the Custard Factory, following the successful launch of the charity challenge in November 2019. 

After a year when the hospice’s fundraising events had to be cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s abseil will go ahead in accordance with current Government guidelines.

Claire Barton, 47, from Lichfield, took part in the 2019 St Giles abseil fundraiser while her father David ‘Chas’ Chandler was receiving end of life care at the hospice.

Musician Chas had been supported at home for six months by the St Giles community nurse team after being diagnosed with a brain tumour, before being admitted to the hospice in his final days.

Claire said: “I’m absolutely terrified of heights but when I was standing there at the top I thought: ‘I’m so scared, but I’m doing this for my Dad.’

“My husband took a photo and we sent it to my Dad, and my Mum sent a photo back of my Dad doing a thumbs-up when she told him I’d done it. Even now, I feel so happy that I did it and could tell my Dad about it, rather than waiting until later when he had passed away. We were able to raise nearly £1,500 for St Giles.

“I never dreamed that our family would need St Giles, but we would never have made it through Dad’s illness without them and I want it to stay there for the people who are going to need it in the future.”

Chloe Herbert, Head of Fundraising at St Giles Hospice, said: “We’re thrilled to be running our abseil challenge again and we’d like to invite intrepid supporters to join us to turn the Green Man Wall orange as we descend one of the tallest buildings in Birmingham. You don’t need any training or special skills – just bring your bravery!

“You’ll enjoy unique views of Selfridges, the Bullring and the Birmingham skyline and your fundraising will make a big difference to local people, and their families, living with a terminal illness.

“Invite your friends and family along to take part or to cheer you on and you can all join in the celebrations afterwards. Not only will this adrenaline-fueled charity challenge take you to new heights for St Giles, but local businesses will be offering a range of different discounts to our brave participants to make your day extra special.”

Entry to the event is £25, with a minimum sponsorship target of £75. The Green Man Wall is a short 13-minute walk from Birmingham New Street train station and 11 minutes from Birmingham Moor Street and there are two car parks nearby.

For further information visit contact the fundraising team on 01543 432538, or email

New Sutton micropub a real family affair

The McDiarmid family outside one of their other pubs. The Ale Hub is expected to open before Christmas

A new micropub opening in Sutton Coldfield is a real family affair with the owners saying they want it to have a community feel and employ local people.

The McDiarmid family will open their fourth Ale Hub in Mere Green, at the former premises of Garner Canning Solicitors on Hill Village Road.

The former solicitor’s office on Hill Village Road

The new mini boozer will offer traditional ales for drinkers, together with a selection of gins, other drinks and bar snacks and provide a relaxed environment for customers.

It will be open from midday to 11pm seven days a week.

The family will spend around £50,000 converting the offices into a new real ale mini boozer, with a capacity of around 12 tables. There will be background music, but no electronic machines, with the emphasis on conversation and socialising with few distractions.

It is anticipated that work will start sometime in October and the conversion should be complete towards the end of the year and almost certainly by Christmas.

It should be good timing as the long-awaited transformation of Mere Green and Mulberry Walk in particular, and will add more variation to the already vibrant food and drink scene.

It will be their fourth pub to open during the pandemic, a tribute to their business acumen and determination in difficult circumstances.

The family, who are based in the Solihull area, also run a web-based logistics company.

They said they have a love of real ale and became disillusioned over the quality of real ales being offered at larger chains, where the main emphasis is on food, rather than the quality of the drinks.

Parents Neil and Sue McDiarmid, together with sons Campbell, Connor and daughter Brodie decided to have a go themselves and opened micropubs in Dickens Heath and Shirley with another due to open in Worcester. The say they pride themselves on the Ale Hub being a family-run business.

Their aim is to help to revitalise the local pub scene and provide the community with a choice of refreshing and well-kept drinks in a relaxed and friendly environment.

Campbell explained how the family became involved: “My mum and dad are real ale lovers and they struggled to find somewhere to go to cater for their needs. They saw that ales were generally poorly kept and saw a gap in the market for a local community feel pubs that offer cask ale, craft beers but doesn’t concentrate on the food side.

“We chose Mere Green when we were told it would be suitable for the clientele we were aiming for. We looked for about three months and then this venue came up and we went for it.”

“We will employ a local manager with around four part-time staff, who will also be local.”

Campbell added that the quality of the ales was paramount. “We have strict procedures in place,” he said. “There are protocols in every one of our bars to ensure quality.”

The tiny new pub, sandwiched between a general store and a barbers shop, will offer another option for tipplers in the area, offering a range of traditional real ales together with various gins and other drinks.

The plan approved by Birmingham City Council shows the ground floor will have a bar area, cellar and around a dozen tables, with toilet facilities on the first floor.

In a statement to Birmingham City Council planning department, The Ale Hub said: “We are looking to operate a micropub out of the premises which will have a focus on being a pleasant friendly space for the local community.”

Sutton micropub cheer for real ale drinkers

Real ale lovers will soon be in for a treat when a new micropub opens in Sutton Coldfield.

The Ale Hub will open in Mere Green, based at the former premises of Garner Canning Solicitors on Hill Village Road. It will be open from midday to 11pm seven days a week.

The tiny new pub, sandwiched between a general store and an barbers shop, will offer another option for tipplers in the area, offering a range of traditional real ales together with various gins and other drinks.

It will add more variation to the already vibrant food and drink scene in Mere Green.

The firm already runs micropub in Dickens Heath, Shirley and Worcester and says it prides itself on being a family-run business.

It says its goal is to revitalise the local pub scene and provide the community with a choice of refreshing and well-kept beverages in a relaxed and friendly environment.

Birmingham City Council has approved the planning application submitted by the company with various conditions attached.

A plan submitted to the council shows the ground floor will have a bar area, cellar and around a dozen tables, with toilet facilities on the first floor.

There will be no TVs, electronic games or food, apart from bar snacks like crisps and nuts and the firm says it will concentrate on making the premises customer friendly. There will be one full-time manager with three other part time staff.

In a statement to Birmingham City Council planning department, The Ale Hub said: “We are looking to operate a micropub out of the premises which will have a focus on being a pleasant friendly space for the local community.

“There will be no TVs or loud music as it is a traditional micropub that is focused on listening to its customers, mainly serving cask and craft ales, promoting conversation and shunning all forms of electronic entertainment. We will also offer a range of gins as well as other drinks.

We will not serve meals, only pub snacks such as crisps and nuts

“We will look to recruit locally which will remove the need for our staff to require parking spaces as the majority of our staff at our other micropubs live within walking distance.”

New bikes clocking up the miles in Sutton

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street at the launch of the bike scheme earlier this year at Town Gate

They may not be to everyone’s taste, but the ubiquitous West Midlands Cycle Hire Scheme, launched earlier this year in Sutton Coldfield by West Midlands Mayor Andry Street, is claimed to be a big success by the town council.

More and more of the green bikes have appeared around the town, including at Four Oaks station and Good Hope hospital as the Midlands wide scheme gathers pace.

The scheme, which is generally welcomed as a boost to fitness and wellbeing, has faced some criticism over the cost with an hour’s ride costing £4.

But Sutton’s council, which is working in partnership with WMCH, says the scheme is very popular with residents and visitors alike, with around 25,000 km – over 15,500 miles – already clocked up.

There arena 50 West Midlands Cycle Hire bikes available in Sutton Coldfield located at seven conveniently placed docking stations:

The bikes can be unlocked and docked at any of the stations and can be used for fun, for example a leisurely ride around Sutton Park, or for commuting.

Users do not need to begin and end at the same docking station; they can begin at one and cycle to another, providing of course there is room at that docking station. There have been reports of bikes being abandoned at various docking stations in Birmingham city centre.

To unlock and hire the bikes, users will need to download the Beryl cycle hire app and register for an account through the Play Store (Android) or App Store (Apple).

Leader of Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council, Councillor Simon Ward, said: “It has been fantastic to see the enthusiasm for the West Midlands Cycle Hire scheme, delivered by the Town Council alongside WMCA, grow in Sutton Coldfield with many residents and visitors now using the bikes to enjoy our wonderful Royal town.

“Sutton Park Banners Gate already sits within the 10 most popular destinations to hire a bike across the West Midlands. Since March 2021, over 5,000 journeys have been made with over 3,000 being regular and repeat users. There is real appetite among new riders with over 800 in April alone.

“The bikes have enabled residents to enjoy time outdoors and experience the joy of cycling evidenced by an average journey time of 60 minutes. We are so fortunate to have our fantastic park and the bikes provide yet another way to enjoy it in all its glory. The Town Council pledged to put in place a public cycle hire scheme in its early years, and we are delighted to have delivered on this promise.”

Whatever the journey, the West Midlands Cycle Hire bikes in Sutton Coldfield provide a safe, efficient and a practical way to enjoy our town.”

The bike docking stations can be found at:

1. Sutton Park Banners Gate
2. Wyndley Leisure Centre
3. Stonehouse Road (Boldmere Gate Entrance to Sutton Park)
4. The Parade in the Town Centre
5. Four Oaks Train Station
6. Boddington Gardens
7. Good Hope Hospital Rectory Road Entrance


 It costs £1 to unlock a bike and then 5p per minute. Here are some ride cost examples:

10 mins20 mins30 mins

To find out more and register for updates visit the website at

Sutton traffic mayhem continues


Sutton Coldfield, it seems, is surrounded by a ring of steel. Steel barriers and traffic lights that is. It was bad enough in May, when we were still under lockdown restrictions, but the mayhem just goes on.

There has been not let up and it has got even worse, farcical in some areas, as the school summer holidays seemed to be a a trigger for even more diggers.

Easing lockdown has meant more people are back at work which in turn means more and more people are on the road.

From Maney Corner /Birmingham Road roadworks through to resurfacing pavements on Lichfield Road and work on the island at London Road there has been traffic chaos for months.

There were more traffic lights at Mere Green while the Lidl supermarket was being completed and resurfacing still onongoing at Slade Road, Four Oaks on the way to Bassetts Pole. That seems to have been going on forever.

To make matters worse, both Anchorage Road was closed off for resurfacing at the same time as work started on the corner of Little Sutton Lane causing with a three-way lights system, causing mayhem on routes into and out of the town centre.

This was in addition to a one way system past the police and fire stations being in place between rush hour periods for resurfacing.

 To compound this a three-way set of traffic lights at the junction of Hollyfield Road and Reddicap was causing severe tailbacks, with all of these routes potentially affecting emergency services from Good Hope Hospital.

It is to be hoped that planners can get their act together as this is exactly the kind of chaos that hits business hard, just as they are starting to recover from the Covid lockdown.

Let’s not forget either the potential for more chaos when work on the giant Peddimore estate gets under way.

Superheroes on march

Louise (as Batgirl) taking part in a previous Hero Walk

Pull on a cape to take part in the St Giles Hospice Hero Walk

Do you have what it takes to become a hero for St Giles Hospice? St Giles is summoning caped crusaders and fundraising families to Lichfield’s Beacon Park for its Hero Walk on Saturday 25th September – and is calling on people to celebrate their own heroes in style as they take part in the event.

People are encouraged to dress up as their favourite hero before tackling a 5km walk with a series of fun challenges along the way. The event is suitable for all the family and all funds raised will support hospice care for patients and their families who are living with a terminal illness.

Zoe Wright, Events Manager at St Giles Hospice said: “Whether you’re in fancy dress or looking for something fun and exciting to do, our Hero Walk is a great day out. We’re calling on our community to pull on their capes and show they care by walking for their hero. 

“Our Hero Walk has activities and entertainment for everyone – including doggie sidekicks. The fun begins at the hero hub, where all of our heroes will be assembling. You can enjoy games, refreshments and pose for some super family snaps before setting off on your activity adventure. 

“There are also awesome activities along the route to test your hero skills to the limit and a hero’s welcome awaits when you cross the finish line to collect your medal. So please sign up to make memories in a mask and celebrate your own heroes – and by raising funds for St Giles as you go, you will become a hero of ours too.”

St Giles Hospice’s first-ever Hero Walk, held at Walsall Arboretum in 2019, was a huge success. The event was due to return last year, but had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

One of the superheroes at the inaugural event was Louise Harding, from Willenhall, who took part in memory of her Nan, Lavinia Layton, who received end of life care at St Giles Hospice before her death in June 2019 at the age of 93.

Louise said: “My Nan got exactly the care she needed at St Giles – one-to-one care tailored to her. They were always ready to help us and people were there straight away when we needed support, which makes a huge difference for both the patient and the family.”

Three months after her Nan died, Louise put together a team of superheroes, including friends and three pet dogs, and dressed up as Batgirl to do the Hero Walk in memory of Lavinia.

“The Hero Walk was a celebration of Nan and a way to thank St Giles for the support they gave us to comfort her, as well as for letting us spend time with her until the very end,” added Louise.

“St Giles Hospice is such a valuable service for the area and we wanted to raise funds for the future so that St Giles would be there for other families like ours. The Hero Walk was really special because everyone was walking for a reason. Everyone had their own superhero in mind, which gave it a real meaning.”

The 5km family walk and fun day will kick off at 11am on Saturday 25th September in Beacon Park, Lichfield, with a welcome speech at 11.30am before the walk starts at 12pm. Entry is £3 for under threes, £6 for under 16s, £10 for adults and £30 for a family ticket (two adults and two children). Doggie sidekicks can take part for free!

Zoe added: “All heroes are encouraged to arrive in their costumes ready to leap into action and help raise funds for their local hospice. If you’d like to take on the challenge in true hero style, St Giles capes can be pre-ordered or bought on the day for a £5 donation.

“The entry fee only covers the administration cost of Hero Walk, but by asking friends and family to sponsor you, you will raise valuable funds to help us continue to provide care and support, free of charge, for patients and their families.

“Raising £40 in sponsorship could pay for one hour of our Advice and Referrals team, £202 could pay for visits to a patient in their own home by our community nurses and £676 could pay for 24 hours of hospice care for a patient at the end of their life.”

For more information about the St Giles Hospice Hero Walk, please visit

Gallery a new canvas for local artists

The Gracechurch Centre set to host community arts project celebrating life after lockdown

As part of its ongoing commitment to supporting the local community, The Gracechurch Centre will be collaborating with a local art collective to relaunch an art gallery within the shopping centre for the first time since lockdown, giving a platform to showcase Sutton Coldfield’s budding artists.

Direct Art Action (UK) is a small charity working within the West Midlands which aims to bring back art into the local community by working with retail destinations like The Gracechurch Centre to repurpose vacant units as galleries.

Charity spokesperson, Katie Hammond herself a local artist and proud Suttonian, explains that the charity saw an opportunity to turn the adversity of the pandemic and successive lockdowns into a source of strength and hope for others by bringing art to the wider public.

The gallery has an exciting body of work that will be refreshed to reflect a new topic each month.

Katie is currently working on a new community art piece centred on the theme of ‘hope and is appealing for the support of local people in creating a community art installation. In native American culture, a pale butterfly is a symbol of hope, and throughout September, starting on Saturday 4 September, Katie will be holding free Saturday drop-in sessions where people can learn to fold an origami butterfly, that will eventually create a wall of butterflies, which will act as a wall of hope.

Throughout autumn and winter, the gallery will also feature an array of artwork based on a variety of topics, such as the environment. As part of this, Katie and the team of volunteers that make up Direct Art Action UK, will be looking at initiatives to raise awareness of a whole host of environmental issues.

One such example will be a scheme to collect and repurpose crisp packets as survival blankets for the homeless, minimising the environmental impact of these single use plastic materials while contributing to the safety and wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable people within society.

Angela Henderson, Centre Manager of The Gracechurch Centre, said: “We’re very pleased to be supporting the Direct Art Action UK art gallery as we feel art can be a real force for good within our society. Initiatives like this are a great way to showcase the talent that is on offer within our town and we’d encourage people to get involved and support projects which make a positive impact.

“We see our centre as an important community hub within Sutton Coldfield, and by offering our vacant space to help support local charitable organisations, we can give something back, making Sutton Coldfield an even more special place in which to live.”

Gallery manager and local artist Katie Hammond added: “Just before lockdown one, I completed my first community art project – The Peace Project. I held free drop-in origami sessions, where I got the people of Sutton Coldfield folding 1000 paper cranes to form a Senbazuru.

“Like many, lockdown was hard for me – missing normality, friends and family, and it was during this time that I got the idea for my next community art project. ‘Hope’, will hopefully demonstrate that even in the darkest of times, even though you may not feel like it, you can find hope.”

Below is a list of Direct Art Action’s programme of summer activities from its new home at the Gracechurch Centre:

Friday 20th August – Butterfly sun catcher making drop in session
Friday 27th August – A class on creating Kandinsky rock art
Saturday 28th August – ‘Tropical Day’ watermelon pinwheel making masterclass

Karate champ Chloe is set to kick on

Black belt youngster has her sponsorship renewed

Sutton Coldfield teenager and second dan black-belt UK karate champion Chloe Barnes is getting set to chop down the opposition with renewed funding.

The Streetly Shukokai Karate Club pupil has taken the martial arts world by storm over the last number of years, reaching new highs and adding coveted sports titles to her impressive list of accolades. 

The World Karate Championship title holder has collected an outstanding 70 gold, silver and bronze medals, four trophies and was named 2020 GB Karate Sportsperson of the Year. 

Chloe, aged 15, a pupil at Fairfax School in Sutton, started learning karate when she was just six and obtained her second dan black belt in September 2018 at the age of 12, becoming the youngest-ever student to achieve the rank within her Karate Association.

Local car dealership Lookers Vauxhall Birmingham has been helping drive Chloe to sporting success for the past two years and recently announced a renewed partnership with the young star into 2022.

Speaking about the fresh boost from Chloe said: “Karate is my absolute passion and I have worked really hard over the last few years to get where I am. I’m so grateful to Lookers for continuing to back me in my sporting achievements. 

Chloe is delighted with her Lookers sponsorship

Through the partnership with Lookers, my family and I have received funding towards competition entries and travel expenses which has provided me with the opportunity to compete on a global stage and gain international titles. The Lookers team has also provided fantastic support in my training and always makes sure I’m well kitted out for practice and events. 

Although international and UK karate competitions have been put on hold throughout the pandemic, this hasn’t stopped Chloe from staying focused on her goal for gold, training via Zoom and enjoying one-on-one private lessons to stay ahead of the competition. 

“After a challenging 18 months of training at home, I’m really looking forward to competing in arenas again. I’m currently in training for my first competition since the pandemic, the Kanzen Cup International Open, taking place in Dundee this November and will return to defend my current titles in other future events”, added Chloe.

Lookers Vauxhall Birmingham General Manager Alan Collins said: “We’re very proud to support Chloe in her sporting achievements and over the last three years we have seen her grow to become a karate sensation. At such a young age, Chloe has demonstrated world-class talent, fuelled by her drive and commitment, which has really catapulted her to international success. We’re delighted to renew our partnership with Chloe as part of our wider commitment to nurturing young sporting talent and we look forward to helping drive her future success.”

Founded in 1908, Lookers is one of the UK’s leading automotive businesses and largest multi-franchise dealer groups in the UK and Ireland, representing 33 volume and premium car manufacturers and specialising in new and used electric car sales across a network of over 150 franchised locations.

For more information on Looker’s support for local communities visit

Cancer support centre aims for £150k

Andrew Perks from Inktree, who has supported the centre, with centre manager Jackie Price

Fundraising drive to meet growing demand

A support centre in Sutton Coldfield offering a lifeline to cancer patients across the Midlands, has launched a new fundraising drive as it prepares to reopen post-lockdown and meet growing demand.

The Cancer Support Centre, in Lindridge Road, was unable to run its normal fundraising events during the pandemic, but it survived thanks to grant aid and individual supporters taking part in sponsored events.

Now with demand growing again, it is looking to raise even more funds and is setting up a new dedicated team to help raise £150,000 or more to support people who have been affected by cancer and delays in treatment.

Jackie Price, centre manager, said: “Lockdown had a big impact on our fundraising. Events had to be cancelled and money stopped coming in. We are trying to find new ways to raise money, but it has been very difficult.

“We used to raise £3,000 a week on average for the service, through donations, events and so on, but this has dropped off over lockdown.

“We were incredibly fortunate to have survived lockdown due to grant funding, and are doing ok so far this year with our supporters doing an amazing job in raising funds.

“As we open up again and demand grows, the pressure to raise enough funds to help all that desperately need support is increasing in a very challenging environment. We are focusing on the future and the need to ensure that we will be able to raise around the £150,000 required to get back to our previous capacity and potentially more.

“For this reason, we are looking to set up a team who will develop different fundraising events and make new links with local businesses for support.”

Jackie said the centre, in Lindridge Road, which is shared with St Giles Hospice but is run independently, covered the whole of the Midlands area and had even had a client as far away as Devon.

Before the pandemic, it offered face-to-face support through counselling and therapy sessions and provided a space for those with cancer to come and feel safe and supported.

During lockdown many of the talking therapies moved to online or phone services so ensure people could still access the help needed. The centre also launched a YouTube channel for clients which grew to 400 hits per month.

Jackie said: “We work holistically – mind, body and spirit. Everyone’s support needs are very different so the therapies are tailored to the individual. One of the main things we do is give people back control – when they are diagnosed, they might feel as though they’re on a treadmill, being told what to do and where to go. We help them take control of the situation and manage their own needs.

“Traditionally, we had group sessions and clients could drop in to talk to someone, but that came to a stop in lockdown. There were calls to close the service, but we kept going and offered sessions on Zoom and talking therapies over the phone.

“Lots of people were seeing their treatment cancelled or postponed and stress and anxiety levels were high; it was a horrendous situation and we were needed more than ever.”

Jackie said pre-Covid the centre was helping around 500 clients in person, but this had fallen to around 250.

The centre in Lindridge Road

Numbers are now rising as existing and new clients slowly return and the centre is offering appointments, with all Covid safety measures still in place to ensure vulnerable clients are safe.

Jackie, who was diagnosed with breast cancer herself in 2017 and was supported by her colleagues during her treatment, said she knew it was a big step for those with a cancer diagnosis to ask for support.

“It means you have to accept that you have cancer,” she said. “But we are here to help. There are lots of people out there in need of support and someone to talk to. Come to us, we can help you and give support that you might not even know that you need.”

Jackie, who was given the all-clear in 2019, added: “It’s important that people know it’s not something that they have to do on their own. They can call us or email us if they prefer.”

The centre is looking for volunteers to fill roles on the community and business engagement team and the fundraising/marketing team to help with the new funds drive.

Anyone who can help or would like to get in touch with the centre, should email

For more details, visit the website at