Sunday 27 November 2011

Community Health in my brave new world

Volunteers recieving award from Coop
Yesterday I took a couple of trees worth of willow along to the Heart of England NHS annual community health fair.  John Boyle from Midlands Coop had asked me to come - see Fairtrade Blog for more photos. 

I got lucky - on arriving a handful of volunteers from Joseph Chamberlain College helped me get set up, trial my activity, and spent the rest of the day wearing willow crowns and waving wands all around the event.  Someone from 'Heart of England NHS foundation asked if I could make a willow heart (why didn't I think of that?).  I gave it a go and before long, decorated heart wands were as popular as the stars.

Exchanging a 'wish for a wand' generated a tree worth of comments which reflected conversations we had making and decorating our wands.  The free chocolate, interestingly was turned down by many (on health and diet grounds?).  The event was really fun - great atmosphere, and got to meet loads of interesting and different folk.

It's glass half full, I know, but being cut off from my main source of revenue, training, networking, everything (creative partnerships) isn't all bad.  I probably wouldn't have got to go to this event, go to wikipedia workshop later next month, think more about what it is I want to do, sort out the garden, and generally work just as hard for half the money!  But today, I'm loving it.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Xmas tree hangings

Started on salt dough angels, father xmas, snowmen and three ships.  Will cook at home and have planned for xmas wreath, a bit of painting and natural streamers for next couple of weeks.  Return of xmas cake (for decorating and biscuits in last week before xmas!

Monday 7 November 2011


Last week a man came and painted a number 10 on the pavement outside our house.  I'd seen the lamp posts going up in the next street, so I knew what was coming.  Today we got our 'NOTICE OF STREET LIGHTING WORKS IN YOUR AREA letter from Amey, on behalf of Birmingham City Council.

The letter informs me we should expect nearly 100,000 lamp posts over the next five years, replacing 50% of street lamps in Birmingham, with new super efficient 'state of the art LED technology', helping Birmingham reduce it's carbon reduction commitments.  There is no mention of improving lighting, which as we are replacing lamp for lamp, I guess isn't the purpose of lamp post replacement.

My favourite Lamp post
What's happening to all the old lamp posts?  Maybe they've got some scheme, like the Blackpool lights going to Walsall?  100,000 lamp posts is a lot, and it would be kind of nice to know where my much loved green lamp post is going.  Also how much is it costing, and what is the carbon footprint for replacing the existing, working order, lamp posts?  Afterall, it only seems a couple of years ago the Council ran a consultancy to find out what colour we wanted them all painting.  How old is my lamp post, and what is the life expectancy of the new lamp posts?

So many questions I wanted the Council to shine a light on, so I rang the 'further information' number helpfully provided on the letter.  Within ten minutes I was talking to the helpful Mo, who not surprisingly couldn't answer my queries off the cuff, but has given me a service number, taken my email and phone number.

In the lamp post lottery, and recent re-surfacing of our road, our street has done rather well.  Can't help worrying about the overall strategy and costs.  The street done before us was Wheelers Lane, where kerbs have been raised, lamp posts cut and replanted, all along the road, including the entrance of Wheelers Lane School.  Outside the school has made national and local headlines for cars parked dangerously, and a lollipop man run over three times.  Despite the school entrance being built 5 years ago and many of the staff, parents and children having accidents and near accidents, only objections from the Headteacher has prevented the (inadequate but better than nothing) temporary barriers put up only this September from being removed completely.

Please follow Wheelers Lane Safe Route to school to find out more, and keep up the pressure on Councillor Martin Mullaney and others in our Council to prioritise the safety of our children.

Useful Links:

Thursday 3 November 2011

Are young people 'Angry, Violent and Abusive'?

Barnardos research has rekindled the old 'young people are animals' debate again, which hadn't really died down since the riots, and draconian sentences of a month ago or so, and before that, the rolling press coverage of various 'hoodie' related and other generally lazy 'children-are-not-what-they-used-to-be' stories.

In their survey they found that Almost half of Britons think young people are angry violent and abusive, with one in four thinking troubled children are beyond help by the age of 10. there was plenty of other equally scary stats (see Children behaving like animals, Barnardo's survey finds).

So which two thousand people did they ask?  Were any of them under 18?  Constant debate among (only) adults about changes in childhood is really rather dull and a bit meaningless.  It does however, reveal a far more interesting and useful question:

How much (and what quality of) social contact is there between younger and older people?

Going back to the figures, I'd really like to ask the 24% of people who thought those who behaved badly were beyond help by the age of 10.  How many of them have any meaningful relationship with any children?  I find it hard to believe anyone who lives or works with children (angels or bad boys) can possibly imagine any child being beyond help.

Looking to our politicians, have any come from troubled childhoods?  Boris Johnson, Dave Cameron and their Bullingdon Club mates have certainly done quite well despite, in their youth, trashing pubs and restaurants.  Even Cleggy, given his previous arson conviction, has done quite well.

Dave Cameron in his now famous 'hug a hoodie' speach, to the Centre for Social Justice founded by Iain Duncan Smith (not many under 18s there) says:

The first thing is to recognise that we'll never get the answers right unless we understand what's gone wrong...We - the people in suits - often see hoodies as aggressive, the uniform of a rebel army of young gangsters...

The complaints are identical.
Young people are out of control.
There's nothing for them to do.
Why can't their parents do their job properly?

...And if the phrase "social justice" is to be meaningful, it has to be about justice, as well as compassion and kindness.  It has to involve a sense of cause and consequence - of just rewards and just deserts.  One of the most important things we can teach our children is a sense of justice.'

The 'suits' is an interesting stereotype of his audience (their website certainly doesn't suggest that); The 'hoodies' in his speach remain a voiceless stereotype. When he talks of 'justice' all I can see screaming out is the injustice meted out everyday on young people by adults. ASBOs, mosquito alarms, and the recent use of heavy custodial sentences in the riots are obvious recent injustices, but they also model division between young and old, exasperating entrenched attitudes of young and old.

David Cameron goes on:

'Too often, the reality is that for "partnership" you can read "takeover."
If we're serious about the social sector doing more, then government and the public sector has to learn to let go.

There are two values at the heart of modern Conservatism.
Trusting people, and sharing responsibility.'

He was, of course, considering 'state' and 'private' sectors. However, if we make the leap to consider children themselves as part of a 'partnership', a trusting relationship, sharing responsibility, then we can look to real 'justice', and an opportunity for all of us to work together to challenge criminal behaviour and promote 'Big society' values.

Some examples of on-going collaborative work with young people in Birmingham:

 The Future Melting Pot  empower young people to achieve their potential through enterprise

Children's Lives -  Birmingham's Young People's Archive

No Postcode - Young people from the West Midlands has made a video to stop people joining gangs

Please add more you know about in comments.

Other links

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Chris Upton's Local Heroes

Thanks again to Dr. Chris Upton, senior lecturer at Newman University College Birmingham, who came to Paganel Primary School to present his local heroes to years 5 and 6.  An inspirational speaker as always, he identified a Victorian writer,  a landowner and builder of Weoley Castle, an industrialist, a writer, a very, very tall lady, and a tree - five of his heroes from our local area.

Please see 17 minute edit of his presentation below:

Paganel Primary School will continue to develop work with all children and parents to identify, and then to document our own local heroes throughout 2012.  The lives of people in our school and community represent the social and cultural changes of our times - We are in a unique position to both document social life and engage children, parents and local community in our rich heritage, across all generations.

Chris Upton comments , 'this community – exceptional in Birmingham – makes it a potentially very rich area for oral history.'  I'll keep posting updates on work at Paganel.

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