Monthly Archives: April 2010

Music to their ears……but damage to their hearing


Over 50% of students tested at Birmingham City University were listening to MP3 players at unsafe volume levels, a recent Council survey has found. 21 students had their personal music players tested by Environmental health Officers.
“12 students were found to be using equipment above the safe recommended level of 80dBA, which puts them at risk of permanent hearing damage. One of the units tested even reached 93dBA, which is equivalent to standing next to an electrical drill,” said Mark Croxford, Birmingham’s Head of District Services.
““Many people don’t realise that listening to their favourite music at excessive volumes can make them go deaf. There are many famous musicians who suffer from hearing loss and tinnitus because of loud noise at gigs,” he warned.

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Switch FM goes live


DJ Den (Denis Long) presenter of 107.5 Switch FM's first programme


Switch Radio in Castle Vale broadcast its first live programme at 11am today. Presenter Denis Long began his two-hour show with ‘Human’ by the Killers. The station is broadcasting 24 hours per day on 107.5 FM. Five hours each weekday are scheduled to be live programmes, hosted by volunteer presenters.

Appeal for witnesses to fatal Fort Parkway car accident


Police in Birmingham are making a fresh appeal for witnesses to the fatal car crash in which Leon Foster, 23, was killed when his Seat Leon hit a wall adjacent to the Jaguar factory on Fort Parkway at 3.35 am on Monday 26th April.
A statement from the West Midlands Police says: “Some minutes before the collision, officers from the West Midlands Police Traffic Unit were patrolling in a marked patrol vehicle when they attempted to stop the Seat travelling out-of-city on the Tyburn Road.The Seat drove off and the police car followed some distance behind. At Fort Parkway, on a traffic island near to Fort Dunlop, the driver apparently lost control of the Seat which then collided with the wall.”
Police are asking people with information to contact the Collision Investigation Unit on 0845 113 5000 ext 7841 6246.

Vale School Ofsted report to be public in 15 days


A team of five Ofsted inspectors has spent the last two days at Castle Vale School. The lead inspector, Clive Kempton, says that their report on the school will be made available to the public within 15 working days. Today, he met parents of pupils at the school, and members of the wider community, while his four colleagues observed lessons.
Mr Kempton, a member of the national HMI (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate) team, has written a number of books on the value of music in schools. One of his books is entitled:  ‘A singing school is a happy school.’  Five years ago, he pioneered the new two-day inspection regimes in a pilot case study in Manchester.

Gentle pats on the back for Erdington hustings performers


left to right: Tony Tomkins (Ind), Jack Dromey (Lab), Rev Gerard Goshawk (chair), Robert Alden (Con)

On the day when the Brown Bigot Bungle dominated the news agenda, three of Erdington’s General Election candidates faced the public at a local hustings, and not a single question  about immigration surfaced.
Around 80 people gathered in Six Ways Baptist Church under the watchful eye of an unnecessary local policeman, to hear Robert Alden (Conservative), Jack Dromey (Labour ) and Tony Tomkins (Independent) answer pre-submitted written questions from the public which were read out by the Reverend Goshawk before all candidates gave their answers, while another churchman, Reverend Nigel Traynor, timed them and indicated their cut-off points with a green, amber and red light. It was a stifled debate, observed some members of the audience, after the event. The television leaders’ debates have done their utmost to avoid genuine audience participation, and politically correct paranoia has seeped through at a local level too.
Some of the questions had more than a whiff of parochial self interest; others invited candidates to concur with competing levels of compassion on unopposable topics. What about MPs’  expenses? An absolute scandal and a disgrace… they all agreed. What about charities ?…. a very, very good thing, they all agreed.
Just occasionally, the genuine differences, and political passions broke through the straightjackets. Perhaps most clearly on the question about young people and anti-social behaviour. The question was on behalf of a woman whose Nan was so disturbed by local youths that she felt afraid to leave her home.
Tony Tomkins advocated a tough, zero tolerance attitude towards crime. Jack Dromey said that if you gave the youths hope, they would be on her Nan’s side. And Robert Alden said that, if the woman would like to speak to him afterwards, he would see whether they could help her Nan for the future. The radical, the socialist and the sympathetic Tory.
In brief, Jack Dromey’s vast trades union experience has prepared him well for public address. His tone is part hectoring, part sermon, but generally assured, informed and convincing. “If  this were X Factor,” observed Tony Tomkins, “I would vote for the silver-tongued Jack Dromey.”  But Tony Tomkins’ pitch is that politicians abandon their local loyalties and vote with the big party as soon as they get to Westminster. As an independent, he would have no strings attached.
Tony Tomkins was the surprise package of the evening. Few people knew of him, but the mythical clapometer showed that some -though not all- of his answers won new friends.
Robert Alden has packaged himself as a local MP. “I’m standing her  because I live here,” he told his audience. He has a track record of working for Erdington as a local councillor. He lacks the hard edge of the 1980s Tories. Nicely unambitious, genuine, neighbourly but not streetwise.
Each of the candidates had qualities, but most of the audience at local hustings have come, paradoxically, because their political opinions are  deeply embedded. Few floating voters walked into the church last evening. And few will have left having experienced any Road to Damascus moment.

After 70 minutes of the written questions formula, the Reverend allowed questions from the floor for the final quarter of an hour. One, on mental health provision, came from Gerry Bermingham, a man who had served as an MP (for St Helens) for 18 years. It was nice to have a question from someone who had actually been in Parliament, observed one of the candidates. At the end of the evening, the retired MP observed wryly that the successful candidate won’t have such an easily controlled audience in the House of Commons.

Where were the other five candidates? Some not invited; others not available. “The absent are always in the wrong,” wrote the churchman Thomas a Kempis around 550 years ago.  He would have given a pat on the back to the candidates who turned up, to the audience who listened, to the Reverend Goshawk who chaired the show with meticulous fairness, and to the Reverend Traynor who did the job of the fourth official on the touchline. Football match, it wasn’t. Polite British democracy, it was.

more photos on Vale Mail’s facebook page

keeping time: Reverend Traynor

Deputy Prime Minister visits Castle Vale Children’s Centre


Deputy Prime Minister Harriet Harman with Dian Khidir, age 2, at Castle Vale Children's Centre today

Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party, visited Castle Vale Children’s Centre in Yatesbury Avenue today. She was joined by her husband, Jack Dromey, the Labour candidate for Erdington in the General Election.
Lesley Wiltshire, Head of the Children’s Centre, gave a tour of the site which provides services for local children and parents from birth to school age. “The Centre makes a real difference,” says Lesley. “It enables us to help families who need us very early on in their children’s lives. We used to have to wait until children came to nursery when they reached three. Now we can help the families who need it as soon as the children are born.”

Jack Dromey and Harriet Harman at Castle Vale Children's Centre

More photos on Vale Mail’s facebook page

Vale’s yellow veil


Farnborough football pitch festooned with flowers


Spring warmth has brought a blanket of yellow into Castle Vale. Daffodils dance on Wagtail Walk, dandelions decorate the verges, the fields,gardens, pavement cracks… everywhere. Gorse bushes (or broom? …. gorse has spikes, broom has leaves) adorn the perimeters of Manby Road.
Why so many dandelions? Apparently, their deep roots have helped them to survive the long hard frosts. The roots are a pain for gardeners, but the flowers are a boon for the long-suffering bee population, so the experts say.

Topcliffe House blossoming in broom, or garlanded by gorse?