Friday, 18 March 2011

The Beat On The Streets

One of my favourite tracks is the cover of ‘Can’t Get Used To Losing You' by legendary Ska band The Beat. Perfect pop music! Soul, pop and reggage all fused together with heartfelt lyrics reflecting their musical youth growing up in Brum.

When I was growing up The Beat were frequently at the top of the charts with their three albums: I Just Can't Stop It (1980), Wha'ppen? (1981) and Special Beat Service (1982) and a string of top 10 hits including "Mirror in the Bathroom", "Too Nice To Talk To", "Can't Get Used To Losing You", "Hands off She's Mine". All timeless classics!

Although their heyday was 30 years ago we still have the same social problems today. I was a very naive youngster back then and I always thought “Mirror in Bathroom” was about looking at yourself in the mirror. Doh! It was only as I got older that I found out that the song is about being addicted to coke (the real thing but only for those who like to snort it up their nose!).

The reason why I love The Beat is because their vocalist Ranking Roger is a local legend and if you’re lucky you can see him walking along Bearwood High Street or maybe you’ll bump into him in Subway (other sandwich vendors are available) like I did a few years ago.

Bearwood has a very strong musical heritage and we should be very proud of it. At welovebearwood we're getting very excited because there’s a group forming as I write this (well not literally but you know what I mean) who want to see live music back in Bearwood. We want the glory days back when bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones played at the Thimblemill Baths. Okay, so maybe we’re aiming a little high if we expect Mick and co to pay a return visit but who knows eh?

There’s going to be a meeting at 8pm at the Bear on 30th March for all those who want to be involved so come long and, as Roger might put it, find out Wha’ppen!

Here's the map for the Bear,%20UK&FORM=MMREDIR

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Can Bearwood improvements enhance our 'well-being'?

Chatting to a few people on my street, emailing a few others in Bearwood about our ideas for Lightwoods park, or reading the latest post on The Bearwood Page on Facebook or on the Bearwood Blog. These things all make me feel happy.   

Just a few friendly conversations during the Lightwoods consultation day or at a local Council meeting has propelled me into various pre-existing and new networks of people who live in Bearwood.

I started to reflect more on this last week as a Swiss train to the Alps slowly took me further away from Bearwood.  On the paper I was reading I started to sketch out a spider diagram showing the people I’d met, or connected with in a new way, since going to the Lightwoods Park consultation day last November.  

It’s not even comprehensive when I look at it now and at each new meeting I go to there’ll probably be someone else I could add to it. But 5 months on from the first Lightwoods event it’s substantial compared to the few people I knew on my street prior to November 2010.  

None of this should be surprising to me. I work on a project which is measuring people’s well-being in England – how well people eat, how happy they are in their local community (social well-being...), their mental health and how physically active they are.  I’ve always known I could eat better, do more exercise and try to stress a little less and that these things would probably have a positive effect (if I did them...).  But understanding the impact of having deeper and broader social networks around the area I live?  

This should have, perhaps, been obvious to me but I can’t honestly say I’ve thought about it that much.  It’s only now, living in Bearwood and getting more involved in local initiatives, that I’m beginning to realise exactly what ‘social well-being’ might mean and its importance for my general sense of well-being and life satisfaction...

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Memories of Lightwoods Park

Julie Walters used to live at no 69 Bishopton Road and used to look down her road to Lightwoods Park.

In her brillant and very funny autobiography she writes about all the fun and games she used to have living in Bearwood and how she used to sneak into Lightwoods Park without her mum's permission. She remembers how once a year the fairground used to come to the park and how you could buy a cup of tea and a slice of cake from Lightwoods House.

When Julie was growing up she noticed the demise of the park and the house and I think like the rest of us she would have found how the area had managed by Birmingham City Council really upsetting. Thank goodness though for the work that is now being carried out and that the park now has a future.

If you are interested in Lightwoods Park and would like to be involved in its redevelopement the next meeting is tomorrow night at St Mary's Church on the High Street from 7pm. It would be lovely to see you there.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Bearwood – the good, the bad and the ugly

Disclaimer: the views expressed here are mine and not necessarily endorsed by We Love Bearwood.

I’ve lived in da ‘wood for...oooh...16 years now. Being a creature of habit I’m liable to remain here for at least as long...possibly challenging a near neighbour (now sadly deceased) who lived in the same house for 76 years. Wow. Clearly he liked Bearwood and, generally speaking, so do I. Of course we’ve all got our gripes and concerns, especially in the light of the impending budget cuts that will, no doubt, impact on our local Council. Against these we need to appreciate the good stuff that Bearwood offers and highlight the things that need to be here are a few (cue Julie Andrews)...of my favourite (and not so favourite) things.

The Good

The parks – we’re blessed with some great open spaces round here and, now that Lightwoods Park has been rescued from the evil clutches of Birmingham City Council (whooohahahahah!) hopefully we’ll see some huge improvements. If you didn’t already know a community group is in the process of being formed to help make this happen and get involved. Keep checking this site for details of the next meeting.

The shops – actually I think our High Street’s surviving pretty well, given the economic tsunami that’s washing over us all right now. I’d like to see a few more ‘independents’ and possibly a ‘pop up’ shop or two (maybe something that ties in to locally made stuff – art, clothing, sculpture, literature, music...kind of like We Are Birmingham). I’d actually prefer to see a few shops turned (back?) into homes too, rather than stand empty for years. This has been already done on Abbey Road hasn’t it?

The people – There seems to be a good mix of people moving in, which can only be a positive for everyone who lives round here. This blog, residents’ associations and craft groups are all positive signs of a community coming together a bit more. On a side note the interweb seems to be driving a lot more of this stuff across Birmingham, making it easier for us all to connect with each that no one actually ‘talks’ to their neighbours that is.

The location – Within walking distance of the City and on some of the most frequent bus routes in the Midlands...Bearwood is surely commuter heaven...unless you happen to work in which case it’s a bit of a ball ache.

The Bad

Shoplifting – In the last few weeks I’ve personally witnessed several instances of meat (meat!) being nicked from the Co-Op and a huge bundle of stuff being lifted from one of the clothes shops. This is the last thing our beleaguered retailers need and it ticks me off. The more it happens the more the prices will go up to recoup the losses so we’re all paying for this. I’m not sure what we can actually do about it, short of tarring and feathering these people, but I guess the authorities would have something to say about that...and have you seen the price of tar and feathers these days? Shocking.

The Bail Hostels – Bearwood’s surrounded by these places (on the Hagley Road mainly) and, whilst I’m no NIMBY, aren’t there too many now? I have, sadly, found stuff used for ‘cooking up’ nearby...and I’m not talking a nice stew. There’s been a fair bit of coverage in the media about this issue. It seems to me as if Birmingham City Council has decided to stick these places as far away as it can and the border with Bearwood seems to be its favourite dumping ground. Like I say these places have to go somewhere but surely having half a dozen next door to each other merely encourages people who’ve been locked up for goodness knows what to mix with each other rather than the wider, more law abiding community? Just a thought...

The Ugly

Empty buildings – The Bearwood section of the Hagley Road is, quite frankly, a national disgrace. These places have been empty for ten years now. I believe there are plans to build a retirement village on some of the land...but it can’t happen quickly enough. I know this isn’t strictly Bearwood but it reflects badly on the whole area (not to mention the gateway to Birmingham City itself). The Pope looked distinctly unimpressed on his recent visit to da ‘wood and only a chicken kebab from Neelam’s managed to cheer him up. I hate to see old buildings demolished but I hate to see them crumble away too. Either do something with them or knock ‘em down and plant some trees. Now!

Dog mess – What is it with the dog mess at the moment? Grim. I note that the council are going to install some more bins for owners to ‘deposit’ their pet’s mess but it’s the irresponsible few that need to be tracked down and...well...I’ll leave the punishment up to you.

Maybe we could find a bin big enough to stick ‘em all in?

Litter – Oh good grief. Is it that difficult to put your crisp packet/chip wrapper/yoghurt pot or whatever else you’ve been ramming down your throat and pop it in the bin? I don’t think the litter is much worse in Bearwood than anywhere else but that’s not much of an achievement eh? I suggest arming litter wardens with AK47’s then I reckon we’ll all see a huge improvement...

So, that’s the good, the bad and the ugly and, like I say, it’s an entirely personal view. I’m sure you’ve got your own...feel free to post them, it’s very therapeutic.