A Surrey reader sent a statement by the Muslim Council of Britain, whose members include over 500 organisations, mosques, charities and schools. MCB is a broad-based organisation with both Sunni and Shia traditions represented and has always spoken out consistently and loudly against extremism and sectarianism, advocating positive integration of all communities. A summary follows.

The Muslim Council of Britain responds to Peter Clarke’s report on the “Trojan Horse” letter: 23rd July press release

The Muslim of Council of Britain welcomes the Education Secretary Nicola Morgan’s assurance that the government supports ‘the right of Muslim parents to be involved in their children’s schools and their commitment to take leading roles in public life.’ The Education Secretary was responding to the latest report issued by Peter Clarke, who was asked to investigate Birmingham schools following the so-called “Trojan Horse” letter.

“The Muslim Council of Britain unequivocally condemns all terrorism and extremism and we have not seen any evidence to date of such activities in Birmingham schools”.

Other points made:

  • The document proved to be a fake, but accusations of an extremist plot still persists.
  • Mr Clarke says in his report that “I have seen no evidence to suggest that there is a problem with governance generally” (10.1).
  • However, there are issues of poor governance as outlined in this and previous reports by OFSTED, and last week, by Ian Kershaw who was commissioned by Birmingham City Council.
  • The evidence of social media conversations exhibiting inappropriate behaviour are indeed very disturbing and may constitute grounds for disciplinary, procedural and legal action.
  • We call for stronger guidance from OFSTED to ensure parents can continue to be encouraged to be strong members of the governing council, empowered to be effective in those roles.
  • As we have stated time and again, the causes of terrorism are complex, but there is scant evidence that the education system or the Muslim community are the reasons why people turn to terrorism.

Contrary to fundamental requirement of fairness, Mr Clarke has not invited the MCB to explain its position. This is a serious failure on the part of Mr Clarke’s investigation, particularly considering the questions raised about his appointment for this task. The MCB continues:

“We take issue with Mr Clarke’s approach that chooses to ascribe guilt by association, and by conflating conservative Muslim practices to a supposed ideology and agenda to ‘Islamise’ secular schools. Without ever approaching the Muslim Council of Britain during his investigation, Mr Clarke nevertheless chooses to describe the MCB as part of a movement that aims to ‘to increase the role of Islam in education’ and ‘Islamise’ the provision of educational services.

”We agree with point 187 of Ian Kershaw’s report which states that the MCB guidance offers practical guidelines and should not be interpreted as a prescriptive code. And while schools are encouraged to accommodate Muslim parents, they should be read alongside statutory government guidance and toolkits, for example the DfE Guidance on the Equality Act 2010 and the “Public Sector Equality Duty Guidance for Schools” published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.”

Empowering and Achieving

”The primary responsibility of schools is to prepare children for life, assisting them to acquire skills and help them to be successful citizens and professionals. Educational attainment built on academic rigour and critical thinking is at the heart of that task.

”The schools investigated as part of the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ affair had made great strides over the years with some moving from single figure pass rates to some of the best results across the country. The government needs to appreciate that this was possible due to determination and commitment of parents, pupils, teachers and governors.

“Unfounded and malicious allegations threaten the life chances of a generation of our young people, the onus is clearly on OFSTED and Department for Education to monitor the progress of academies and not be side-tracked by culture wars initiated by divisive commentators”.

The full statement may be seen here: http://www.mcb.org.uk/the-muslim-council-of-britain-responds-to-peter-clarkes-trojan-horse-letter-report/


American Quaker Viola Purvis once spoke about the media clampdown before the first Iraq war “no other reports of opposition to this military action”:

“Many demonstrated in the Winter Park city (Florida) but we thought we were alone as there were no other reports of opposition to this military action and we gave up. It was only much later that we found that hundreds of thousands of Americans had demonstrated in many cities.

“ If only we had known the truth we would have continued . . .”

Belatedly – thanks to The Brummie aggregator – the writer saw the Mail’s report about more than a thousand protesters gathering in Birmingham city centre on Friday to demand an end to the bloodshed in the Middle-East. Stop The War Coalition had organised the gathering in High Street near the Bullring shopping centre.

gaza demo brum

But did the average reader realise that similar demonstrations were taking place in other British cities – and around the world?

demo london israel

The BBC’s 10pm news bulletin made absolutely no reference to the gathering of 15000 people in London last Saturday (above). 21 British newspaper websites were searched. So many people, so little front-page coverage in this country’s press and elsewhere, with honourable exceptions. The usually outspoken Huffington Post had published and then buried this article.

There was poor international coverage of worldwide demonstrations against Israel’s actions – 34 sites searched

Even less known is the treatment of Israeli Jews who dare to speak out against the slaughter publicly.

An honourable exception: handsome coverage by Israel’s i24, banned in Israel.

i24 logoA find! i24News, based in Jaffa and broadcast worldwide in English, French, and Arabic, is not available in Israel by Hot’s cable network or by satellite broadcaster DBS Satellite Services (1998) Ltd. The protests were covered well, see more here. Despite its apparently objective stance, PM Benjamin Netanyahu has refused a request by owner Patrick Drahi to permit the Israeli public to see this station.


A review of searing account of Israel’s systematic forced evictions in Palestine: Professor Penny Green, ISCI (School of Law, Kings College) and Amelia Smith, Middle East Monitor, with link, may be read here.


Reproduced with permission from Anthony Murray, the innovative and open editor of the Co-operative News, to inform Birmingham readers who appreciated John’s service to the city and its people.

John is now membership and party support officer at the Co-operative Party

john boyleWhat does your role involve?

I lead the Party’s membership and Party Support team, providing day-to-day support and advice. Queries range from branch organisation concerns about delivering the Co-operative Party message to members who want a ruling or would like to share and promote an activity. I write the party officers support mailing and, with my team, develop member-recruitment strategies and communications. I also answer general queries on the wider co-operative movement.

How do you get started in the morning?

By slowly waking up to Radio Five Live. I make a flask of Revolver Co-operative coffee then catch the train from Stafford to London at 7.40am. The journey takes two hours, so most days I am able to do some work on the train.

What did you used to think of co-operatives, before you started working for one?

I already thought co-ops were cool and was a member of the Co-operative Party and several local societies – I have great co-operators Kath Paterson and Jack Kemp to thank for that. In particular, I had seen how valuable members were to the success of co-operatives.

What do you think of co-operatives now?

I am as passionate and excited about the value of co-operation today as I was when I joined the Party 20-odd years ago. In particular, I love the way the movement is constantly changing, evolving and diversifying – and yet still sticking to co-operative values and principles, which are essentially the greatest set of rules for any community or organisation.

What motivates you throughout the day?

The members and the co-op movement. Our members are brilliant – they give up their time for free to promote co-operative solutions to today’s problems across the country from Plymouth to Perth. Our members’ involvement keeps me on my toes and inspires me every day.

What does the co-operative difference mean to you and your team?

A better way of living for all the community. Unfortunately, in many circles it is still seen as an alternative to the mainstream. But it is not an alternative; it is the proper, effective and successful way to run a business or a service. Co-operatives offer a tangible solution to the problems of today, just as they have done since the 18th century.

What inspires you in your profession?

The people. Membership practitioners such as Sue Letts and Peter Couchman; volunteer members such as Richard Bickle and Mary Lockhart directors such as Elaine Dean, Jean Nunn-Price and Jenny De-Villiers; co-op entrepreneurs such as Vivian Woodell. The commitment, creativity and passion of the people I meet every day never ceases to inspire me. I like co-oppy people.

If you could form a never-tried-before co-operative tomorrow what would it be?

A proper co-operative nursing home, where the members are the residents and staff. Member-residents sell their houses and place the capital in the home, nursing care is provided free by NHS, and personal care by staff. The interest off the capital and the members’ income pay for the care and services, while those with no income or from rented housing receive benefits (as they do in private homes). When a member moves out or passes away their capital (less fees) is recovered and given to heirs, and a new member puts their capital in. Staff “capital” is their labour. All members have a say in the running of the home.

How do you wind down?

Reading books on Cornwall, history and co-op history, shouting at Sunderland AFC and cracking very poor jokes.






Cadbury Brothers moved their factory from Bridge Street in Birmingham to a country location, in order to improve the quality of life of their employees and other incomers. Families in the new town, Bournville, had houses with yards, gardens, and fresh air – improvements in living conditions which enhanced public health.

bournville js 1To this day, the town offers affordable housing. Figures published in 1915 show that the general death rate and infant mortality for Bournville was significantly lower than that for Birmingham as a whole, over a five-year period. Bournville Junior School (entrance left) was founded by factory owner George Cadbury in 1906 and built with pride, to provide high quality education which was forward looking and tolerant.

Training and employment opportunities multiplied as the factory site became a series of ‘factories within a factory’; everything needed for the business was produced on site. This policy continued until well after the second World War, when – deplored in hindsight – it was considered advisable to use specialised ‘outside’ suppliers.

dumfries  work in progress

In 2007, another philanthropist mobilised a consortium of charities and heritage bodies to buy Dumfries House near a former coal-mining town with 16% unemployment, which according to Strathclyde University, “suffers from social deprivation and widespread degradation of the built environment and associated infrastructure”.

dumfries traineeDumfries House is now employing and training many young people who come from families with three generations of unemployed. They usually progress from apprenticeships to full-time employment.

An engineering centre is being created to revive skills in an industry considered vital to the country, counteracting the prevailing view in education that engineering is dirty and manufacturing ‘dead and gone’.

An outdoors centre, a cookery school, mill, woodyard, cookshop, training allotments and vegetable patches for gardeners have been created – a comprehensive business, social and environmental approach designed to kick-start regeneration in impoverished East Ayrshire, where mining communities once flourished.

dumfries allotments


BIRMINGHAM’S WATER PALACE: Steve Beauchampé: 1pm on July 21st

Moseley Road Baths history cover

Steve Beauchampé, the author of Pool of Memories – A History of Moseley Road Baths, will present this talk at the Birmingham and Midland Institute.

If you have a Sat Nav, enter the postcode ‘B3 3BS’ (or B3 2BJ for the nearest parking location). The Birmingham and Midland Institute is located on Margaret Street, Birmingham: 0121 236 3591. Free to members, £1 to visitors.

There may still be a chance to join the ‘terracotta army’ of swimmers in Moseley Road on Sunday 20th July and further the ongoing project ,”The Swimmers”, commissioned by Some City. Read more here.


erc header

The Economic Research Council focusses on the Labour market statistics quoted during the latest Prime Minister’s Questions.

 erc pay chart

 The blue line, measured against the left hand axis in millions of people, shows the total number of people aged 16 and over in employment over the preceding three months. The red line, measured against the right hand axis in pounds, shows the average weekly earnings (reported monthly) adjusted for inflation (so they are in today’s prices), excluding bonuses and arrears.

The prime minister said that we have reached an important milestone, with more people in work than ever before in our history. ERC continues:

“The Conservatives rightly pointed out that employment levels were at new record levels. Not only that, but the number of people in employment grew faster in the last year than in any other 12 month period since at least 1992. The unemployment rate is down to 6.5%, closer to the pre-crisis levels of 2007/8, and while underemployment remains a problem, there is some suggestion that it may be declining as well.

“Labour continued to draw attention to the fact that in real terms, average earnings are declining, and have been doing so now for over five years. Real pay has declined to the point where today, average weekly earnings are equivalent to the level of pay received in September 2003.

“This doesn’t take into account the inflation figures for June, when CPI rose to 1.9%, which is only going to make the situation worse . . .”


Source: http://ymlp.com/zlRuHX


some cities logo

“The Swimmers” is an ongoing project commissioned by Some City. Based in Moseley Road, Balsall Heath, the Some Cities initiative is supported by Arts Council England, the University of Birmingham, mac Birmingham and Birmingham City Council. 

A photograph with 100 Swimmers in the Gala Pool at Moseley Road Baths will be taken by Attilio Fiumarella, an Italian photographer based in Birmingham and Porto, Portugal. He studied at Porto School of Architecture and combines the photography of Architecture with investigations about current issues.

Attilio Fiumarella Terracotta Swimmers Appeal Poster

After several years of decline, one of the two swimming pools in Moseley Road Baths has been refurbished, restoring its old lustre, but the Council intends to close the Baths permanently in 2015. This body of work aims to outline the loss of this valuable heritage and also to strengthen the relationship between the pool and its people.

first mile logo

As noted on this site some time ago, the Priory Rooms conference centre in Bull Street has a strong commitment to environmental sustainability.

Priory Rooms atrium & walls insulated

Great importance is placed on eco-conscious and sustainable business practices and last year received First Mile’s Silver Award for exceptional efforts. This year the Priory Rooms set the bar higher, aiming for a Gold Award, through a food waste recycling initiative. first mile recycling chart

The latest development is that all their food waste is now being collected by First Mile Recycling to be decomposed at a local site: their first food recycling contract in Birmingham.

First Mile representative George Garrett made the venue their first customer in Birmingham to have food waste collections. The waste is decomposed and then recycled for use in electricity and fertiliser.

The Priory Rooms now recycle an incredible 70% of all waste! Other companies could learn more about this through the First Mile Recycling website http://www.thefirstmile.co.uk

first mile map

First Mile Recycling: 70 Warwick St, Birmingham B12 0NL




bfoe biophilic cities

In April Birmingham was the first British city invited to join a global network of “biophilic cities” – urban centres celebrated for their green credentials, their open spaces and their links to nature.

But in May, it decided to cover Park Street Gardens and Digbeth community garden with concrete!

Beyond this sad looking wall in Shaw’s Passage behind Birmingham Friends of the Earth’s warehouse, was an area which had been fenced off and forgotten by the council. It became overgrown and strewn with litter.

bfoe wall and fence

In 1998 a small band of volunteers decided to tidy up the site and held a party there to celebrate BFOE’s 21st anniversary.

bfoe header

They were granted access by the council and have used the space ever since as a composting area for the kitchen and café, a bike storage area for users of the building, a nesting site for birds in the heart of the city centre and a social space.

Digbeth Community Garden

However, campaigner Robert Pass writes: “We became inspired by the dream of creating a true Community Garden in the heart of the concrete jungle. A space for local people to grow food, to learn about sustainable crafts and skills, to socialise and to commune with nature: Digbeth Community Garden was born!”

bfoe volunteers2

A small band of volunteers organised regular Saturday workdays to tackle the overgrown buddleia, which was blocking light and crowding out other plants and pathways. In the middle of the garden there was a stand of self-set silver birch, (which are perhaps 15 years old), whitebeam, hazel, hawthorn and cherry laurel, which provides a rich habitat for invertebrates.

bfoe pallets raised beds

The disused industrial site was already polluted with traces of lead, arsenic, copper and zinc, so the volunteers used some of the pallets lying around and created raised beds for growing food on donated topsoil – the contamination challenge became a design feature.

bfoe salvaging bricksPaths were made using donated slabs and gravel while a patio for the social area was constructed out of the huge pile of bricks (left) recovered from the original Victorian warehouse – almost all of the materials used in the garden are salvaged or recycled.

But in May 2014, just as volunteers were beginning work on a pond and wetland area, they were notified by a local resident that the council was preparing to sell the land and planning permission was being drawn up to build a car park.

Robert continues: “Our first thought was, just what Digbeth needs; more car parks! Our second thought was disbelief and shock . . .”.

Birmingham Friends of the Earth calls on friends and supporters to consider voicing objections to this sale, writing to the council leader, Sir Albert Bore or Councillor Lisa Trickett, (Cabinet Member for Green, Smart and Sustainable City) or to the local paper.


free parks people coverFollowing the recent focus on the HS2 depot threat to Park Street Gardens, we received an informative passage from Free Parks for the People, A History of , 1844-1974, by Carl Chinn, Brewin Books 2012, Chapter 7, The Duty to Do Good: Recreation Grounds:

“In 1878, legislation empowered the Corporation to take over the town’s disused churchyard and burial-grounds and to convert them into public gardens or recreation grounds, subject to the consent of the Bishop of Worcester and of the clergy of the respective parishes.

“The first of these to be dealt with was the burial ground in Park Street that belonged to St. Martin’s Parish. Dent declaimed its condition ‘which had long been a scandal to the town, its walls broken, gravestones thrown down and destroyed, and the ground itself a wilderness covered with brick-ends and unsightly refuse of every description’.

park street gardens 3

“The ground was divided by Fazeley Street and taken over by the Corporation in 1879. It was ‘tastefully laid out with flower-beds, shrubs, and walks’, and these Park Street Gardens were opened to the public by the Mayor, Richard Chamberlain, on June 25, 1880”.

Will Allison Street Gardens, a few hundred yards away, be turned into a car park?



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