The BBC noted in 2010 that during the 1970s and 1980s, the post-war Castle Vale estate, dominated by tower blocks, became known for poverty and crime. Residents in Castle Vale established a housing association with power and responsibility given to local people. The housing association has helped to lower crime levels, demolish and rebuild 2,275 houses and address health and unemployment concerns.


The area underwent a 12-year regeneration in the 1990s, with 32 of the 34 tower blocks demolished, new homes built and a new retail area created. Read more here.

Now the Castle Vale estate in Birmingham is pioneering a new way of running services that councils can no longer afford, due to government cuts. Ray Goodwin, chief executive of the tenants and residents’ alliance, said: “People came together and said this is taking away our community and we are not prepared to accept that.” Read the BBC’s update published on Wednesday 23rd November here.

Read on :





Birmingham Trades Union Council meeting:

7.30 pm Thursday 1st December

Committee rooms 3 and 4 The Council House Victoria Square BI IBB

For the first half of the meeting there will be a discussion opened by Murad Qureshi, the new national chair of Stop the War Coalition.

Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the recent Presidential election was a big shock to the liberal establishment in the West. His openly racist attitude to Muslims (banning their entry into USA), building a wall on the Mexican border and his attitude to sexual assaults on women have appalled millions of Americans.  Newsnight and other programmes have been mourning the end of the liberal world order with the election of Donald Trump referring to the fact that he openly supports torture and use of enhanced interrogation by the use of waterboarding. But tens of thousands of detainees have been tortured under Presidents

Bush and Obama with the continuation of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp which Obama had promised to closed. Trump is just more honest when he says he supports torture which has been continuously used under previous administrations. Trump will just be a continuation of the brutal imperialist world order imposed on the people of the Middle East and other regions.

But what are his policies on the Middle East and on the American intervention in the region?

Donald Trump has denounced the deal in his election campaign and has appointed several cabinet members have a record of opposing the deal. But given the strong backing of the deal by Russia and the European powers it is difficult to see Trump withdrawing from the deal.

A good summary of the policies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is presented in the newspaper “i” by Patrick Cockburn on Saturday 12th November. It is entitled “Trump may be a danger to world peace – but Clinton would have started new wars”. Clinton called for No Fly Zones in Syria which could only be implemented by American aircraft shooting down aircraft and helicopters of the Assad regime and his Russian backers. This would involve a dangerous escalation of the Syrian conflict almost certainly leading to even more civilian deaths. As Patrick Cockburn says, “Hillary Clinton’s intentions in Syria, though never fully formulated, always sounded more interventionist than Trump’s. One of senior advisors openly proposed giving less priority to the assault on Isis and more to getting rid of President Bashar al-Assad.”

The headlines on Trump’s foreign policy has been his praise of Putin, clearly he does not seek a confrontation with Putin which Clinton’s policies would have probably led to. But actually it is very unclear what is Trump’s policies as Patrick Cockburn says, “Nobody really knows if Trump will deal any differently from Obama with the swathe of countries between Pakistan and Nigeria where there at least seven wars raging – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and South Sudan”. But given his reluctance to get into confrontation with Putin he does seem to have a different policy on the Syrian civil war. Patrick Cockburn sums up this view when he says, “The most serious wars in which the US is already militarily involved are in Iraq and Syria, and here, Trump’s comments suggest that he will focus on destroying Isis, recognise the danger of becoming militarily over-involved and look for some sort of co-operation with Russia as the next biggest player in the conflict. This is similar to what is already happening.”

Trump has appointed some very right wing people to his cabinet to positions of National Security advisor and Head of the CIA so the prospects for peaceful developments in The Middle East seem very unlikely. The Anti-War movement needs to be ready to respond to further aggressive American activity.





Founded and directed by Yardley Wood’s Ben Parkinson, Chrysalis supports the Butterfly Project, a network of young people who are determined to be catalysts for change in their communities. Each one has devised one or more social projects which create change and provide them with the experience to become social entrepreneurs.

All members are recruited from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, because it is believed that those who have survived hardship are the best people to tackle its causes.  Members recruited from slum districts and remote rural villages have been equally successful.

The fundraising Slum Run, in Kampala, is now in its fifth year and continues to support children with their school fees and requirements, reducing the amount of time each year that they are forced to break stones in quarries for a living.


This year the route was updated and it now includes spectacular views across the Acholi Quarter area (above) and for the first time there was significant support from businesses in Uganda, some of whom sponsored individual children. There also was support from NGOs, who sent runners.

The 30 runners included Patrick and Beckham from the latest Butterfly cohort, who ran in fancy dress and three from our centre in rural Koro. Six children from the schools who took part in the Kampala Kids’ Olympics were also nominated.

This year has been almost the toughest one the project has had to face, with the Brexit impact causing donated pounds to lose value when converted into Ugandan shillings.  Finances are extremely tight right now and it would be good if people could share this link Facebook or to friends, to encourage £5/£10/£15. 

Read about the wide-ranging work done on a financial shoe-string here:




Future world monument? Unlikely!


New images which are said to show how the project will transform the city

The Express and Star quotes Argent’s claim that the new buildings – One and Two Chamberlain Square – will complement the existing civic buildings including the town hall, council house and the museum and art gallery. The Express and Star asks what readers think. First comment: comes from Jessmere:

“Yeah ‘stunning new CGI images’ of yet another nondescript glass, steel and concrete box”

These buildings will replace the Madin library (above) – the second-highest used in the country, listed in 2011 by the World Monuments Fund – as a significant building at risk.



That library really did ‘complement the existing civic buildings’.


Smirks all round – and, as usual, blame the system’s victims


Philip Hammond in his autumn statement

“The productivity gap is well known, but shocking nonetheless,” Hammond said on Wednesday. “It takes a German worker four days to produce what we make in five, which means, in turn, that too many British workers work longer hours for lower pay than their counterparts.”

For obvious reasons he fails to mention the causes of higher productivity in Germany:

  • their industrial democracy, recently spurned by Theresa May
  • better education
  • better healthcare
  • better housing and
  • efficient transport

And of course no admission is made of the condition of productive workers on whatever type of British ‘shop floor’:

-the huge income disparity between them and the parasites who are highly paid for directing – and misdirecting – them,

-the corporate political nexus which has allowed the wealthiest to escape due tax payment

-and the poorer social services, education, healthcare, housing and transport provision.

Many will expect most of Mr Hammond’s investment fund for housing, infrastructure and innovation projects to find its way into the pockets of the usual suspects – corporate beneficiaries.


Radical change is needed – and advocated by many, including Steve Schofield, in a new website,  to address these “grotesque inequalities”.




 Photographer: Patrick Willcocks


Christmas is fast approaching and the pressure is on to find original, interesting or unusual gifts. If you either make or want to buy quality locally-made items, come to The Old Print Works on Saturday 3rd December for our Christmas Market – at 506, Moseley Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham, B12 9AH.


 To book a £10 or £20 stall either phone Mel on 07887946885 or book directly here.





Trial of AutumnSense technology 


Duncan Tift of Business Desk, reports news of technology being developed at the University of Birmingham by Lee Chapman, Professor of Climate Resilience, working with Alta Innovations, the University of Birmingham’s technology transfer company. This might well make life easier for commuters tired of endless delays to autumn services. The problems usually reach their peak in mid-November, when leaf loss is coupled with moisture in the air or on the ground. The technical problems arising are described in detail in the Wall Street Journal.

leaf-on-trackThe project, partly funded by the Rail Safety and Standards Board, is called AutumnSense. It uses low-cost sensors to make continuous measurements of the level of moisture on the railway line at potentially thousands of sites across the network.

By linking this data with a leaf-fall forecast, operators can identify where and when the risk is greatest. This would improve the deployment of automated treatment trains, which are used before the morning rush hour starts. Prof Chapman said: “One of the major issues with road and rail safety is that hazardous conditions are usually highly localised. For remedial actions to be efficient, and demonstrate ‘best value’ for the taxpayer, resources should be deployed where they are needed, rather than in a blanket fashion.” He added:

“Even though leaf loss and damp conditions can largely be predicted – and despite automated treatment trains working round the clock from October to December – a windy, rainy night still causes havoc for commuters.

“We have run an initial trial of AutumnSense on a stretch of London Underground tracks that are above ground, and are hoping to move quickly towards a fuller network wide trial.”




We know our roadways are getting more and more congested, and more people are seeking alternative forms of transport”, Steven Cadwell.


The Manchester Evening News reports that on November 7th a water taxi service was launched, connecting Manchester city centre with Sale and Old Trafford along the Bridgewater Canal.

Two Waxi boats – sadly built in Shanghai not Manchester – take passengers from Dukes 92 in Castlefield to the Trafford Centre, morning and evening, Mondays to Fridays –the first water taxi service in operation in Greater Manchester. More boats will be acquired as the business develops.


Ride on the taxi via this video

Waxi was founded by entrepreneur Steven Cadwell (above) who originally wanted a service that ran from the city centre to MediaCityUK, but had to look at other options due to the construction of the Ordsall Chord which is due to be completed in 2017. Cadwell said:

“It’s something that will appeal to a lot of people who want a different way to travel to work or to football matches. We know our roadways are getting more and more congested, and more people are seeking alternative forms of transport”.


Freight potential on the larger urban canals – any plans for Birmingham?

Walter Menzies, chair of the Manchester and Pennine Waterway Partnership of the Canal and River Trust which is responsible for 2,000 miles of canals in England and Wales – in Greater Manchester: the Peak Forest, the Macclesfield, the Huddersfield Narrow, the Ashton and the Rochdale writes: “There is talk of big improvements to the freight waterways in the north east – even of a Transpennine canal so that freight can travel from the Humber to the Mersey and then on to the wider world.

“Manchester Ship Canal has the potential to transport increasing numbers of  containers by water, which will reduce road traffic congestion and carbon dioxide emissions from lorries”.






Saturday 26th November 2016 9am – 5pm

At: BVSC (Birmingham Voluntary Service Council) 138 Digbeth, Birmingham, B5 6DR


The Lucas Plan was a pioneering effort by workers at the arms company Lucas Aerospace to retain jobs by proposing alternative, socially-useful applications of the company’s technology and their own skills. It remains one of the most radical and forward thinking attempts ever made by workers to take the steering wheel and directly drive the direction of change. Read the Plan here.

Today, in 2016 — 40 years after the Lucas Plan — we’re facing a convergence of crises: militarism and nuclear weaponsclimate chaos, and the destruction of jobs by automation. These crises mean we have to start thinking about technology as political, as the Lucas Aerospace workers did. Our conference will aim to re-open the debate about industrial conversion and democracy.








News that the New World Trading Company has put in a planning application to renovate the dilapidated James Brindley, off Bridge Street, closed in 2008 (pictured here in 2001), recalls readers’ interest in the Fox & Grapes post on this site.


This now derelict listed Eastside pub was intended for incorporation into the City Park Gate development project but shelved when it was announced that the proposed HS2 station would be situated there. However, the December 2011 Eastside Masterplan does say “There is also potential to incorporate the Fox and Grapes within the new station concourse to enhance design quality” . . .

Peter Allen wrote about James Brindley, Birmingham:1986 to 2011: “James Brindley built the very first British canal, the Bridgewater Canal in 1761. He then went on to the Trent & Mersey Canal including the feat of constructing Harecastle Tunnel which opened in 1777. In all he was responsible for building 365 miles of canals and also for the design of the narrow lock that is the feature of many canals. He also built the original main line canal from Birmingham to Wolverhampton. The pub was built at the starting point of this canal. I’m not sure exactly when it opened, but our first canal visit was in 1986″.


H. Davies in his book ‘Birmingham Canal Navigation Through Time’ has a wealth of photographs, including this one of the Severn and Canal warehouse, which was on the site before the James Brindley pub was built. Other interesting information is given in Culture 24.

The Business Desk reports that New World Trading Company (NWTC) has appointed P4 Planning to design a brief for the scheme and to submit a planning application to the city council to transform the dated, vacant and now derelict appearance of the pub, described as ‘something of an eyesore on the city centre’s otherwise popular canal quarter’: Duncan Tift continues: “The James Brindley was built in the 1980s replacing a former canal side warehouse. With its canal side frontage and outdoor terrace the venue was initially popular but the development of the Mailbox and its waterfront bars lured trade away to the point where it was forced to close in 2008”.

The brief ends:“Overall, the proposal will rejuvenate and bring a long derelict building back into productive use, generating employment opportunities and enhancing the character of the canal basin and setting of surrounding listed buildings”.


And the Fox and Grapes?

Recorded here by Elliott Brown some time ago – looking far worse now.