A reader comments on the Press report:

running injury“BUPA’s Great Birmingham Run will be a very profitable event for BUPA in view of the numbers who will end up with chronic foot/ankle/knee/hip problems due to overstraining over a 12 miles “health” run.

“If most people routinely even walked less than half that distance it might be a different matter, but that wouldn’t make any money for a corporation!” (Left, from Running Competitor.)

A running coaches’ website describes the most common injuries

  1. Plantar fasciitis
  2. Achilles Tendonitis and Insertional Achilles Tendinopathy
  3. Shin splints
  4. Patella Tendonitis
  5. High Hamstring Tendinopathy
  6. Stress fractures
  7. Runner’s Knee
  8. IT Band Injuries

Another reader adds: “very good point. A bit like this ridiculous chucking iced water over people. I refused to partake”.

icebucketOn WM radio Adrian Goldberg discussed the Ice Bucket Challenge with listeners and concluded that the wisest and least egotistical course of action is to make a quiet gift to charity if and when so moved.

After walking past a challenge and seeing the alarming colour of a Marks and Spencer manager undergoing this challenge I also question the practice on health grounds.

On August 22nd this year Dr. Brian O’Neill, a physician at the Detroit Medical Center, warned that the challenge may have adverse health effects on participants, including potentially inducing a vagal response which might, for example, lead to unconsciousness in people taking blood pressure medications. Today reports on such incidents: a number of participants have sustained injuries and there has been a death in New Zealand linked to the challenge.

The first reader concludes: “Meanwhile I’ll stick to “dangerous” cycling!”


made in the midlands header

On Tuesday, the city appeared in the ‘Let’s Launch in…’ series by Jonathan Moules, enterprise correspondent for the Financial Times.

After referring to Birmingham’s history of start-ups, citing Matthew Boulton and James Watt’s steam engine business and the Cadbury brothers chocolate factory, Mr Moules says that the city has a new nickname, the Silicon Canal.

This, because more than 6,000 digital technology companies, including a fifth of the British computer gaming sector, are based in the Greater Birmingham area, generating £1.6bn for the local economy.

Digbeth is the ‘heart of the new media start-up community’ – one cluster being located in the Custard Factory – and property prices in the city, about a third of those in London’s Shoreditch tech hub, are described as ‘a draw’. On average, 40,000 local students graduate each year with computer science or business degrees from the city’s three universities.

Mr Moules notes that local entrepreneurs have been a key source of early-stage funding, often taking on roles as non-executive directors in ventures they back. Support has also come from Finance Birmingham, a venture capital fund owned and run by the city council, which has led equity-funding rounds for several of the fast-growing tech start-ups.

Some of these, in particular computer-games, are niche technologies and vulnerable to economic downturn, but other forms of digital technology are greatly assisting the region’s  companies which manufacture and finish essential goods. For news about its 32,000 companies and 600,000 employees see the ‘Made in the Midlands’ website.


 Ugandan Francis Ssuuna (age19) founded the ‘Slum Run’ in 2010.

slum run 14 1

This is the third year of the run and he is determined to make it the biggest and the best yet. He has announced a partnership with Birmingham Boys’ Brigade, who are sending many runners for the Birmingham Run in Small Heath this year and notes that much of the fundraising comes from the runners in Birmingham.


In Kampala, half of the runners are now girls, due to a massive increase in interest in running by local girls of all ages, due to last year’s run. Some are talented and may have international potential. For the boys this year, a qualification system has been developed, so that only the most committed runners are taking part.

slum run 14 2

To ‘walk’ through the area and hear from some of the runners, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlWSMZruBfc&list=UUf0JOc8i1KKHyEMYSBJt7Dw

Francis continues:

“While at the moment the Run is just to support kids in Kampala, we believe that the work we do is important and should spread to other slums around the world. I myself am from a rural area and would dearly love to see my idea spread to rural parts, to uncover talented young runners, but also to help them achieve academic success, through support with their school fees and/or requirements and I will be working hard to achieve this over the next twelve months”.

slum run 14

All donations go to Registered Charity, Chrysalis Youth Empowerment Network no. 1158392. All of the money will go to support the children at the Chrysalis Centre. Anyone wishing to donate should click on this link: https://www.justgiving.com/4w350m3/donation/direct/charity/250290#MessageAndAmount


ttip logo

As the Department for Business launches a campaign to promote the benefits of the TTIP, following a wave of criticism from ‘civil society’, MPs and unions, Birmingham MP Roger Godsiff highlights the threats it poses to the UK’s public services, workplace safety, food hygiene, workers’ rights and environmental protection. George Monbiot says: This transatlantic trade deal is a full-frontal assault on democracy. Investor-state rules could be used to smash any attempt to save the NHS from corporate control, to re-regulate the banks, to curb the greed of the energy companies, to renationalise the railways, to leave fossil fuels in the ground.

Kenneth Clarke replies that TTIP is an astonishingly good deal for the UK economy.

America’s IATP raises a serious concern about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated

iatp logo

The draft negotiating texts are open only to TTIP negotiators and security cleared advisors – mostly corporate representatives. However a draft chapter of the TTIP was ‘leaked’ recently. The concern cited focussed on Sanitary and Phytosanitary issues (SPS), relating to food safety and animal and plant health.

Proposals would offer financial benefits for U.S. meat and food companies, but jeopardize food safety for consumers

  • The text supports no requirement for port of entry food inspections and testing – meaning that food contamination outbreaks will be harder to trace to their origin, and liability harder to assess. Such a trade agreement could make it more difficult to restrict imports from countries with animal or plant diseases, such as Mad Cow Disease or plant fungus outbreaks.
  • Laws or rules on agriculture animal welfare passed by a U.S. state or EU member state could not be enforced and used to prevent import of products from animals reared under poor conditions.

Read the complete leaked chapter for more information.

The TTIP Oversight Body, which would refer unresolved SPS concerns to a Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism, resembles the World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID)

unctad logoThe UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has ’denounced’ the ICSID convention and Ecuador, like Bolivia, has withdrawn from membership, terminating several bilateral investment treaties. The Investment Arbitration Reporter explains that Ecuador was angered by a series of rulings ordering the Republic to refrain from collecting its windfall levy payments from energy companies, until ICSID arbitrators had examined whether such levies breach the terms of investment contracts and/or treaties.

Are the proposals yet another move towards American economic hegemony?


An invitation:

co-op energy confco-op energy conf 4co-op energy conf 2

co-op energy conf 3

Booking form: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-co-operative-energy-community-energy-conference-2014-tickets-11802328081?aff=es2&rank=19


 barber institute concert hall header

News from Steve Beauchampé: Bournville String Orchestra, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston Park Road, Edgbaston Saturday September 6th 2014 19:30

barber institute logo A charity concert this coming Saturday features the Bournville String Orchestra, comprising over thirty current and former local music students (Grade 7 or above), Under the auspices of Birmingham music teacher Lucy Akehurst, the ensemble has come together annually for the last nine years, raising money for Christian Aid and Save the Children in the process.

This will be the final performance for conductor Alpesh Chauhan (currently studying under Andris Nelsons as Fellowship Conductor at the CBSO) and thus offers one last chance to see this highly regarded young conductor directing an orchestra that he has been with since its inception in 2005.

This year’s programme, the result of a week-long series of rehearsals, offers the following quintet of pieces:

Mozart – Divertimento in B Flat

Britton - Simple Symphony

Pett – Untitled

Webern – Langsamersatz

Beethoven – Grosse Fuge

One of three Divertimentos written by Mozart, and the second that the BSO has tackled, ‘B’ starts slowly, before an increased tempo builds to a majestic climax.

Benjamin Britton’s Simple Symphony is similarly dexterous in tone and time signatures, the bourrée is boisterous, the pizzicato is playful, the finale frolicsome.

Daniel Pett, a pupil at King Edwards School, will conduct his own work, which he premiered earlier this summer. Clearly both a confident and precocious young talent.

Following the interval, Anton Webern’s Langsamersatz, whilst undeniably challenging (a trait the BSO has historically sought in many of the pieces it presents) is a little masterpiece. Composed in 1905, it is a mixture of yearning and turmoil, and is never less than beautiful.

A glance at the score of Beethoven’s Gross Fuge leaves one in no doubt that this, the principal work featured in tonight’s concert, is set to stretch and strain to their limits each section of the BSO. It’s a dense and dark slab of Germanic angst, which Chauhan describes as: “like being slapped around the head for fifteen minutes.”’ In less assured hands this piece could be a disaster, but a stirring battle Royal amongst these young players is the more likely outcome.

Tickets (£12/£8 concessions) are available in advance by e-mailing lucy.akehurst@gmail.com or on the door.


News from a reader in her seventies with income from pensions and savings below the national average after tax has been deducted, prompted a search of collected data and online reports.

hmrc pensioners

Her equally baffled MP put this case  to the Treasury Committee; the chairman’s assistant replied: “The issue you describe does seem confusing” and undertook to draw it to the attention of the committee before taking evidence from HMRC in autumn.

In marked contrast to their cosy agreements & accommodations with big business, the HMRC compels her to continue, despite having all the information in their departments, which are said to be unable to share it, one officer saying angrily: “Why don’t you employ an accountant?”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Independent reported that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have caught only five of thirty people, some owing hundreds of thousands of pounds – and many owing millions – identified as costing the UK more than £844m.

Strangely, the government has been reducing staff and budget from this revenue-collecting department, despite concerns ant the shortfall in income due. A few examples follow:

hmrc staff shortfall poster2004: 15,000 jobs cut since March 2004 with 165 offices earmarked for closure or in the process of closing.

2008: closure of a further 95 offices across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland affecting up to 12,300 staff

2010: the Public and Commercial Services Union warn that a decision by Revenue & Customs to close 130 offices would cause job losses, undermine tax collection and hit advice and support to taxpayers.

2014: the end for all 281 walk-in tax enquiry centres, with a further 23 large sites across the UK facing imminent closure. More than 2,000 fixed-term workers compulsorily redundant despite its own business plan revealing a staffing shortfall (page 16).

HMRC staffing levels chart
The Public and Commercial Services Union criticises HMRC’s intention to privatise more of its debt collection and post handling, reporting huge backlogs of post and private debt collectors already being brought in to chase up tax credits overpayments.

Perhaps this apparent inefficiency and inconsistency is not political madness, but the outworking of a hidden agenda, with privatisation as the objective.


peace hub header

Peace Hub is a project of Central England Quakers in Birmingham City Centre, a base which will promote a range of peace and justice issues through information giving, networking and activism. The Peace Hub (41 Bull Street, B4 6AF) is next door to the Quaker Meeting House in Bull Street, on the route of the new tram which will pass though the city centre.

peace hub tramAn artist’s impression of the completed Peace Hub and Metro

peace hub qpepThe ground floor and basement areas will be used primarily for displays about agreed issues and Peacemakers (West Midlands Quaker Peace Education Project) moved into the first floor on 12th August.

The following snapshot of Peace Hub’s twitter postings indicates some of the peace and justice topics of interest. 

peace hub twitter

The Peace Hub website, which is under construction, makes it clear that the centre is not open yet, as extensive renovation has been needed. Watch this space for the opening date – probably in October.


co-op wm logo

Phil Beardmore sends information about the Birmingham Student Housing Co-operative, launched on Friday 27th June, the first day of Co-operative Congress:

student housing coop house

“The launch event, held at the Co-op’s first home in Selly Park, was attended by representatives from across the Co-operative movement.

“Guest speaker was Dame Pauline Green, President of the International Co-operative. Attendees also heard from Sean Farmelo on behalf of the student co-operative about their journey from having a good idea to being able to take on the lease of the house and begin recruiting tenants. It is the first new housing co-operative in Birmingham for more than two decades”.

student housing coop opening

The nine bedroom property was purchased by the Phone Co-op and  leased to the members of the housing co-op, where they will be able to make democratic decisions about their living space without a landlord.

Phil adds that housing management services will be provided by BCHS, an agency providing services to housing co-ops in the West Midlands which has developed more than 50 housing co-ops and community controlled housing projects since 1997. Read more about BCHS here.

Volunteers sought

Belatedly we report that there is still much work to be done on the house. As well as decorating all the rooms, we need to put up a partition wall in the living room to make the 8th bedroom.  Over the summer, members of the Birmingham Students Housing Co-operative would appreciate the assistance of anyone who has some free time and wants to come and visit.

Read more on http://www.students.coop/.


mark rogersBirmingham’s chief executive Mark Rogers asks: “Can we stop asking Westminster for a devolved settlement and start asking for a delegated one?” He continues:

“Much as I love City/Growth Deals, Better Care Funds and all the other bastard offspring of devolution, each remains characterised and constrained by the ongoing and firm attachment of Central Government’s apron strings. What Local Government actually needs is the decentralisation and delegation of relevant policy areas and funding streams – for economic purposes, for health and social care purposes, indeed for everything else too!

“Having worked in Solihull for eight years and now getting to grips with Birmingham it is clear to me that that maximising health, well-being and prosperity for our citizens relies not on superiority complexes or hierarchical relationships but, as with Central Government, in true and sophisticated partnerships of equals utilising a wide range of interdependent geographies”.

BUT Mr Rogers, as Barbara Hayes points out in her petition to David Cameron, no revised structures will achieve these ends if the same power and money hungry people are in place.

cameron corruption

David Cameron deplores corruption, not because it affects people’s health, well-being and prosperity but because it adversely affects economic growth. Again he prescribes structural change: greater transparency, fair tax systems and freer trade. He should read Barbara Hayes’ analysis:

“People talk of voter apathy but in fact many voters are frustrated & dismayed by a political elite that appears self serving or serving vested interests. Decisions are made based on ideology, vested interest and the power of the lobby rather than on the interests of the people affected.

“The expenses scandal, bribes for questions, the possibility of a cover up of child abuse and other instances repeatedly bring politics into disrepute so it’s not surprising that people don’t trust politicians and don’t see the point of voting. We need to change the whole ethos of our democracy.

Politicians need to be regularly reminded that they are elected to serve the people rather than just to pursue a political career. Read more here.


 To read her petition, follow the link here.


*Now a freelance consultant, Barbara Hayes worked as an industrial chaplain for twenty years, with people of every faith and none, in all sizes of organisations in the public and private sectors. 



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