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Martha’s England Lionesses pride

A Sutton Coldfield football manager has spoken of his pride after a former player was selected for training with the England Lionesses under-16 squad.

Fifteen-year-old Arthur Terry School student, Martha MacPhail, who started her career as the only girl in manager John Watts’ under-7s Sutton Coldfield Town Juniors football team, was selected to attend the England Lionesses U16 residential training camp at St George’s Park National Performance Centre in Burton.

Martha plays for Aston Villa Women’s Regional Talent Centre U16s and is also part of the newly-formed Villa Women’s Academy talent day release programme. The sporty Year 11 student undertook intense match training, including strength and conditioning, along with education workshops around performance psychology.

Now manager of the successful under -16 Sutton Town team, John paid tribute to his former player. He said: “Martha’s ability was clear to see from as young as four years old. Luckily for me, my son is her best friend, there was no way in the world she was playing for any other team but ours.

“What set her apart from any other player was her ability to quickly pick up and use a complex skill successfully and consistently during a game. The praise she received in those five years from opposing team mangers and parents alike is unquantifiable. Such wonderful technique and superb agility only scratch the surface of what is incredible young lady.”

Versatile Martha, who plays in various positions, said “I was pleased to have been selected for the camp this time round, given the current climate with Covid. It’s been hard keeping fit throughout the last six months, but I have been focused on my goals and hopefully I’ll be rewarded with an England call up one day!”

But the modest youngster added that her foremost goal was forging a career with Aston Villa first.

During her training, Martha was assigned time to complete her school work. Aston Villa Women has launched a dual career pathway, a programme to support future stars of the game to manage elite football expectations and studies so that players are well qualified individuals.

Cristina Torkildsen, Youth Technical Director at Aston Villa Women’s Football Club, said: “We couldn’t be prouder of Marty for her international call up, she deserves it and has worked incredibly hard to achieve this.

“Marty has been in and around England Camps for the last few years, but this was her first England U16s Training Camp and that’s a recognition of the great work she has put in over the last few years and beyond. Marty has a huge personality with bags of potential and we have no doubt that this was the first of many – hope she enjoyed every second.”

Martha, who was previously selected to attend an England Women’s U15 training camp, started her career with Sutton Coldfield Town Juniors Football Club U7, before moving on to Aston Villa Women, Birmingham City RTC and Birmingham Women.

Arthur Terry School PE teacher Donna Horspool said: Martha’s dedication and attitude towards chasing her dreams is exemplary, she is a fabulous role model around school and deserves the success she is receiving.”

She added that Martha has “contributed significantly” to the success of Arthur Terry School’s football team, helping them to be crowned Birmingham School Futsal Champions, Erdington and Saltley Cup Champions, West Midlands County Cup Champions and English Schools Quarter Finalists. Martha is also an integral member of the West Midlands Schoolgirls County Team, working tirelessly to help them reach the semi-final of the National Cup.

Samantha Kibble, headteacher of Arthur Terry School, which is part of the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership (ATLP), said: We’re delighted that Martha was chosen to train with England at this level. This honour is testament to her hard work and talent. She is incredibly gifted and dedicated, both as a player and as a student, and we were all cheering her on at home.”

Sutton Coldfield Town Juniors Football Club and Sutton Coldfield Town Football Club have formed a working partnership to provide ‘Football for All’ and become one of Birmingham Football Associations new HUB CLUBS and achieve the COMMUNITY CHARTER STANDARD. 

Sutton Coldfield Town Football Club provide an opportunity for everyone to enjoy playing and taking part in football related activities. The two clubs have, for a long time, been successfully representing Sutton Coldfield in junior and senior football but have now found the formula to work together to promote football across the community for the benefit of all abilities and give progression opportunities for players to move from junior to senior football. 

Sutton Coldfield Town Juniors Football Club currently run 18 junior teams (aged 7 to 16) from their ground at Bishop Walsh School and run a Saturday morning soccer school for girls and boys. Teams can play in the Central Warwickshire league at the weekend – and they have the opportunity to progress into the higher level Junior Premier League. Players can also be selected to join the Sutton Coldfield Town Academy teams where promotion into the under 18, under 21 and senior team is now a real opportunity.

Pub bombs victims remembered

The remains of the Mulberry Bush after the blast

Irish community honours victims with short video after Covid halts annual ceremony

Report by Bill McCarthy

For many Suttonians, the 46th anniversary of the Birmingham Pub Bombings on November 21, will bring back shocking memories.

I, like many young people at the time, frequented both pubs, the Tavern in Town and The Mulberry Bush, sometimes on the same evening. On that particular night, if I hadn’t been delayed at night school, I could have been in either at the time of the blasts.

It looked like a narrow escape at the time and so it proved as 21 young people lost their lives and 182 were injured, many maimed for life in the IRA atrocity.

I had Irish parents, both of whom were out and about that night and was fearful of the backlash against the Irish community.

That backlash duly came, but quickly subsided if my distant memory recalls correctly, but we lived in fear of reprisals in the immediate aftermath.

Most of us know what happened next, the false imprisonment of the so-called ‘Birmingham Six’ and subsequent police scandal when the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad was disbanded over corruption and misuse of power.

Worst of all, the terrible ongoing heartache for the families that the perpetrators remain unpunished.

The Irish community however has never forgotten the victims and for the past two years the city’s Birmingham Irish Association and wider community has gathered beneath the trees memorial on Grand Central Plaza to remember those who lost their lives on that evening in 1974.

Sadly, this year due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19 it will not be possible to hold a ceremony that would allow them to pay respects in a fitting manner and to remember the tragedy that struck the city that evening.

A committee is currently working on a short video that will be released at 8.17pm on the 21st November through various social media channels and outlets.

Further information will be released shortly so please keep an eye on the website and Facebook page. Visit, for more details.

Birmingham Irish Association is the Midlands’ leading charity providing support and cultural services to the Irish community. It is based in the Heart of the Irish Quarter in Digbeth, Birmingham.

Were you there, do you have any memories? Send them to, leave your comments below.

Festive appeal in memory of Charlie


A woman whose husband was able to enjoy one last Christmas at home with his family thanks to St Giles Hospice is calling on people to support its festive raffle.

Gill Henley’s husband Charlie (aged 54) was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in October 2019 but was able to stay with his loved ones throughout the Christmas period with the help of his St Giles Hospice Community Nurse. 

Gill said: “Thanks to our wonderful St Giles nurse, Shelly, we were able to spend our last Christmas together at home. Without her care and support I really don’t know how we would have coped. 

“Even at Christmas St Giles were there for us day and night. It gave us such peace of mind and we were able to relax and enjoy ourselves knowing that we had their support to call on if we needed it. 

“Shelly did everything she could to make Charlie as comfortable as possible and he was able to stand up with his frame and put Santa on top of the Christmas tree – a memory I’ll always cherish.

“We celebrated Christmas Day at home surrounded by our close family, and Charlie felt well enough that we could bring Christmas forward to celebrate with the rest of his family a few days before too – he was really able to enjoy it and to take part.”

Charlie was admitted to St Giles Hospice in January 2020 for pain management and after six days he felt well enough to go home to Swadlincote. However, he was readmitted a few weeks later when his condition took a turn for the worse and five days later he died in Gill’s arms at the Whittington hospice.

Always remembered: Gill with a picture of her beloved husband Charlie

Gill, who previously lived in Branston and whose mother Audrey also died at St Giles in 1993, added: “People think that hospices are just places that you go to at the end of life, but St Giles really helped Charlie to be at home for as long as he could, and made him as comfortable as he could possibly be.

“They supported the whole family – our community nurse was our angel and the team at the hospice were fantastic. I hope people will support the hospice raffle if they can because St Giles Hospice has to be there for other local families like ours when they need it.”

It costs more than £10 million to provide the care St Giles offers every year and the hospice needs to raise more than £850,000 each month to keep services going, at a time when there has been a big increase in the number of people needing hospice care.

Tickets for the hospice Christmas raffle are now on sale at £1 each and goodies up for grabs include a first prize of £8,000 or a brand new Kia Picanto car from Burton Kia, £2,000 or a luxury holiday and other cash prizes.

St Giles Hospice Lottery Manager Alison Jerram said: “We’re asking our local community to really get behind our Christmas Raffle this year – the money it raises is more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every £1 ticket sold helps us to continue supporting people in the local community who are living with a terminal illness, and we’ve never needed the support of our community more than we need it now.

“We’ve had to cancel many of our events in 2020 which has really affected our income, so every raffle ticket sold will help to ensure we can continue to care for local people when they need us in these uncertain times.

“The raffle is a great way for our supporters to have some fun – with the satisfaction of knowing that they are also helping to fund St Giles – and may win a fabulous cash prize or have a new car or holiday to look forward to in the New Year.  There are also extra prizes up for grabs for people who buy their tickets early!”

Tickets are now on sale and anyone wanting to join the draw can find out more or buy raffle tickets online at or by calling the Raffle Team on 01543 434020. The raffle draw will be made on 20 January 2021.

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

Sutton Coldfield’s newest store opens

New Bert & Gert’s store showcases independent traders under one roof

The Mayor of Sutton Coldfield has officially opened The Gracechurch Centre’s newest store, Bert & Gert’s.

Councillor Jane Mosson unveiled the latest addition to the Royal Town earlier this month, which will showcase a collection of small independent businesses all under one roof. 

Located next to Patisserie Valerie and TSB bank in The Gracechurch Centre, customers can expect goods from a host of local producers, including Mary’s Cupcakes, Urban City Woodshop, Page2Page Book Club, Swanky J’s, Pretty Little Flowers, Oscars Pet Food, Piggin Yummy, Mandy Crafts, Unicorn Cards, M&M Lamps and SHP Pottery.

Founded by Birmingham-based brothers Mark and Jason Wilkes, Bert & Gert’s are well known for their arts and crafts markets and events across the country, and weekly market on Sutton Coldfield Parade.

The family business was named in honour of their late grandparents, Bert being their paternal grandfather and Gert being their maternal grandmother.

On speaking of the new opening, Mark and Jason said: “Our aim is to support, encourage and promote small local businesses, and we believe local businesses will have greater strength in working together.

“The products we sell include items we have designed, made or sourced ourselves. Whether handmade with love or chosen with great care, shopping with Bert & Gert’s will always be a different and unique experience.

“As well as our store, we also hold regular markets in Sutton Coldfield and are proud to be a long-standing part of the fantastic retail offering in the town centre. The people of Sutton Coldfield are passionate about quality products handmade with love and supporting local independents, and we look forward to welcoming them to the store soon,” they added.

Mike Bushell, Sutton Coldfield Town Centre BID manager, added: “We’re delighted to welcome Bert & Gert’s to the Gracechurch Centre with the opening of their new bricks and mortar store.

“Their regular markets on the Parade are a hugely popular fixture on the town centre’s calendar, attracting thousands of visitors from the surrounding areas throughout the year. 

“The shop’s concept is a brilliant way of providing a permanent platform for a wide variety of independent businesses and further showcase the fantastic range of local traders Bert & Gert’s work with.”

Angela Henderson, Centre Manager at The Gracechurch Centre, said: “Bert and Gert’s has been a real local success story in recent times and we look forward to seeing them continue to flourish at the Gracechurch Centre. Their artisan craft ethos will nicely complement our existing line-up of national and independent retailers, offering something new for the people of Sutton Coldfield.” 

Bert & Gert’s store is open from 10am until 4.30pm Monday to Friday, and 9.30am until 5pm on Saturdays.

The next Bert & Gert’s market will take place on Sutton Coldfield Parade on Saturday 24 October and every Saturday thereafter.

For more information visit or

Sutton recycling hours revised

A Household Recycling Centre

Centres set to switch to winter opening hours from 1 November

Sutton Coldfield residents are being reminded that opening hours at the city’s recycling centres are about to change for the winter.

From November 1, until the end of March 2021, the city’s five Household Recycling Centres (HRCs), operated by Veolia, will be open as follows:

New opening times

LocationMonday to FridaySaturday and Sunday
Holford Drive, Perry Barr8am to 6pm8am to 4pm
James Road, Tyseley8an to 6pm8am to 4pm
Lifford Lane, Kings Norton8am to 6pm8am to 4pm
Norris Way, Sutton Coldfield8am to 6pm8am to 4pm
Tameside Drive, Castle Bromwich8am to 6pm8am to 4pm

All five Household Recycling Centres will be closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Residents will still need to book a slot, but the overall number of available slots at the HRCs will not be decreased, despite the reduction in opening hours during the winter period. This means more slots will be available per hour to accommodate as many visits as possible whilst adhering to Government guidelines.

Visitors are reminded to stick to their time slot to ensure social distancing measures can be adhered to on-site to keep both the public and Veolia teams safe. Arriving late or early for a visit may result in being denied access to the site.

Mark Powell, General Manager for Veolia in Birmingham said: “All visits to Birmingham’s Household Recycling Centres must be booked online ahead of the visit . Access to the HRC sites will be denied if a booking hasn’t been made. Remember, separate your waste and recycling before visiting the recycling centres as it will make the visit more efficient when depositing the waste at the HRC. This will also help us all to recycle as much of Birmingham’s waste as possible together.

“If you are thinking of visiting an HRC with a van or large trailer (larger than 6’x4’), you must pre-book by calling the van booking office on 0203 567 3915 Monday to Friday 8am – 4pm.”

Tips on how to make your Household Recycling Centre visit as easy as possible:

  • Book slot at a Birmingham HRC online 
  • Sort your waste into different types before you set off – your visit will be quicker, and more will be recycled.
  • If you’re not sure where to put something, ask a member of staff who will be happy to advise you.
  • Please don’t use your mobile phone on site. This is to avoid distractions because there are moving vehicles on site.
  • Wear sensible footwear when visiting.
  • Children and animals must stay in your vehicle at all times, for their safety.

Please adhere to social distancing measures on-site to keep everyone safe.

Cllr John O’Shea, Cabinet Member for Street Scene and Parks, said: “Our network of Household Recycling Centres offer a convenient way to dispose of waste in a responsible manner. I’m pleased that our partners at Veolia can offer the same number of booking slots as during the longer summer operating hours, whilst still ensuring that the sites comply with coronavirus rules to keep visitors and staff safe.”

For further information on how to use Birmingham’s Household Recycling Centres and to book a slot at a recycling centre, visit

Olly Murs centre stage

X factor star at Warwick Castle

ward-winning X-Factor finalist Olly Murs will be returning to Warwick Castle as one of the venues for his open-air summer 2021 tour.
Guests can enjoy the singer’s cheeky performance style and catchy vocals against the stunning backdrop of the Castle on Tuesday 20 July 2021, and Olly says: “I’m so excited to come and perform at this beautiful location again”. The singer last performed at the Castle in 2011, and this time fans can expect to hear some of his biggest hits including ‘Dear Darlin’, ‘Heart Skips A Beat’, ‘You Don’t Know Love’, and ‘Wrapped Up’ during his set.
Liam Bartlett, Operations Director at Warwick Castle said: “We are thrilled to be able to welcome Olly Murs back to Warwick Castle next summer. This announcement adds another exciting date to the 2021 calendar following our previousl
y announced Michael Bublé concert, demonstrating what a fantastic live events venue Warwick Castle is.
We have lots of other exciting plans ahead to ensure that after a very challenging year, 2021 is a bumper year for great entertainment.” The Castle will also be hosting Michael Buble as part of his rescheduled ‘An Evening with Michael Bublé’ tour on Friday 23 July, making for a month to remember at the Castle following Olly Murs’ performance on Tuesday 20 July.
Well-known as a fantastic live shows and concert venue, Warwick Castle has previously played host to artists such as Jessie J, The Beach Boys and Simply Red.  Since becoming runner-up on The X Factor in 2009, Murs has achieved four number one albums, five platinum LPs, collaborated with Demi Lovato, Snoop Dogg and Flo Rida and scored four UK number one singles.
He’s become one of the most successful alumni from the reality TV competition and has returned to host the series as well as become a coach on rival series The Voice.
Tickets for Olly Murs’ concert at Warwick Castle go on sale on Friday 9 October via For more information on the Castle’s events during 2020 and 2021, head to

Police scheme saved my life says victim

A woman who says she would have ended up dead or in prison has praised a West Midlands scheme, funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner, for saving her life.
Jacqui (not her real name) from Birmingham was, for years, the victim of violent and controlling behaviour at the hands of her partner. Things escalated to the point that he controlled her mentally, financially, socially and even sexually.
But it was after he stopped giving her enough money to feed her children that she began shoplifting.
Until one day she was caught.
However, ironically, she says it was getting caught that saved her life. Police offered her a route to safety by referring her to a scheme funded by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner called New Chance.
The PCC has now announced that the scheme will be funded until at least April 2021.
The initiative offers hundreds of female offenders in the region the help they need to rebuild their lives and step away from criminality. It recognises that offending often stems from trauma, such as domestic violence, poverty, mental health or addiction.
So far 700 women in our area have been helped by the programme. Jacqui is now in a much better place and is hoping to return to work.
The PCC set up the £270,000 a year New Chance initiative in order to break the cycle of offending amongst women. The aim is to take women away from the Criminal Justice System who have been identified by the police as someone who might benefit from extra support. This help includes practical and emotional help based on a woman’s individual needs. It’s estimated the investment in the New Chance programme has saved several million pounds in costs associated with offending.
The project launched in 2016 to operate across Birmingham and the Black Country. Based on the success of the programme, New Chance has now been rolled out right across the West Midlands area. It is run by a number of organisations including Anawim, Black Country Women’s Aid, Fry Accord Housing and Changing Lives.
A recent evaluation by the University of Birmingham shows that women with mental health issues, enrolled on the New Chance scheme, were up to 37% less likely to reoffend. Whilst reoffending rates amongst women with substance misuse issues dropped by more than half.
The initiative has been so successful that it’s been shortlisted for an award by the Howard League for Penal Reform.
“It is so pleasing to hear a success story like Jacqui’s”, said Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson.  
“I’ve been funding the New Chance scheme for four years because we know it’s making a difference to the lives of hundreds of women, breaks the cycle of crime and saves the taxpayer money.
“Many female offenders are actually victims themselves and have been subject to untold abuse. New Chance works because it tackles those underlying problems.  
“This initiative is helping to reduce crime, our prisons are less full, hundreds of women’s lives have been saved and fewer victims have been created.
“I am delighted the New Chance programme has been nominated for a Howard League Penal Reform award.”
Meanwhile Jacqui, said: “In early adulthood I was a successful, confident young woman with everything to live for.
“I then started a relationship with a man who became very controlling and violent – mentally, physically, sexually and financially.
“With no money and no way of feeding my children, I regret to say I took to stealing food from shops.
“Before long I got caught. But that was the best thing that ever happened to me. I explained to the shop manager and the police officers what was happening at home and before long I was receiving the right kind of help from police and the New Chance programme.
“Without the help of the New Chance programme I would have either ended up in prison or dead.”
Sarah Gallagher is the Service Manager at Anawim, one of the organisations that runs New Chance,  she said: “New Chance has enabled us to work with West Midlands Police to provide early intervention for women who have received a conditional caution.
“It is important to provide the support at the right time before they become entrenched within the criminal justice system.
“The outcomes have been fantastic, from supporting women financially, dealing with childhood trauma, domestic violence and sexual violence to supporting women into employment.”