Thursday, July 28, 2022

Welcome to Perry Barr!

Welcome to Perry Barr!
If you are coming for the Commonwealth Games, please just don't think of the Alexander Stadium as a venue to which you travel by shuttle bus.

Think of it as sitting in a living, breathing, established community. Unlike other Games, which tend to be held on brownfield sites, these Games are using a stadium that was built some time ago in a local park on the edge of Birmingham. It's now been rebuilt, bigger and better.

Take a look around our area. Amidst all the gloss, you may spot some of the problems that blight a large city such as Birmingham, flytipping, litter, uncollected bins.

You'll also see a green suburb, which last year residents voted to designate a "Garden Surburb." It was mostly built in the 1930s to provide homes and gardens for the working people of Birmingham, just like garden cities.

And it has two terrific parks. We are sorry that when you arrive at the Stadium you don't get a better taste of Perry Park. It's a shame that the coach park where you are delivered was once grassland used for community football. After (or before) your visit, cross the Walsall Road and walk five minutes down Perry Avenue to Perry Hall Park. There have been a few community events here for the Games, including the last stage of the baton relay this morning. Its community wildlife garden (behind the keeper's hut) was named the runner up community project in this year's first ever Barr in Bloom competition and is largely developed by a volunteer named Norman Ball.

The park has some amazing features, including the moat which once surrounded a large country house. Hopefully today the litter will have been picked out of the moat. 

  Welcome to Perry Barr and when you walk around the area give a smile and a thank you to local residents. They have put up with a great deal in the preparation for the Games because Perry Barr was not in any way a brownfield site. Very often city leaders failed to listen to their advice. You may indeed hear in some quarters grand talk about "regeneration". This applies to a small area of land near the station which used to be the home of Birmingham City University, which moved to the city centre.

We wish local people had been heeded more in the project. There was once some interesting and useful modernist, concrete structures here, close to the station (which was a monstrosity before its rebuilding) with grass and trees and real parkland. Sadly all you will see is a bit of artificial grass.

You can find out more about our activities as local councillors at our Facebook page. You may see how difficult holding a big event is for a local community, how the authorities struggle with their commitment to keep cars away and ended up ticketing and penalising the local people instead of protecting them from excess parking. So please don't drive here!

As local councillors, we are proud our community is at the centre of the Games and that we are welcoming the world here. Thousands of local residents have responded to an invitation to attend the dress rehearsal's for today's opening ceremony and have had a great time.

Barr in Bloom was held for the first time this year with funding from the Games and organised by the 3Bs (Beeches, Booths and Barr) Neighbourhood Planning Forum. It celebrated great local gardens and groups of people who work to keep our area great. The cupwinners were the Beeches Litterpickers who go out every Sunday morning picking up litter.

The presentation of the prizes was the first community event to be held at the stadium, earlier this month.

A week ago or so there was a carnival atmosphere at Perry Hall Park when school and dance groups gathered to celebrate the heritage of the Caribbean. And then there is this sculptured log you can find if you follow the wooded stream that links to the moat.

But do look around further. At Tower Hill, up the hill of the Walsall Road, you will find a new community garden, developed by local residents as part of Barr in Bloom. But you will also see the tumbledown local library which remains unregenerated and untouched by the so-called regeneration. So when you hear talk of Legacy and Regeneration, understand that there is new housing down the road but the existing community doesn't even get its library rebuilt. 

Have a great time at the Games! 
(We are sure you will) Get to know the local people. If it's sunny they will be out and about - although sadly not many will be in Perry Park, which appears to have been locked down for the Games. We heard a story of a famous athlete who visited the stadium and said: "You know I came here for years training and didn't even know there was a park here." We are hoping for and have been promised better after the Games, real investment in the park. We've been promised that the children's play facilities that were removed will be bigger and better. Alongside the local community, we will be holding the powers to be to account for this.

We have spoken about these things at the City Council. We'd have liked the Birmingham Commonwealth Games to be the start of a new era in which Games are undertaken as part of communities, are affordable to all countries and not just placed in self-contained, newly built Games Parks. The London Olympics ten years ago was amazing - but it shouldn't be the only way to do Games.

Cllrs Jon Hunt and Morriam Jan

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