Published on October 5th, 2017 | by John OMeara



It’s hard to do anything in Lozells without bumping into someone – something to do with the layout of the houses and the streets. So when Mohammed Tanfeer Zarif       ( ‘Mr. T.’)  started picking up litter and planting flowers it got noticed. Now there is a movement, and a mood: not to tolerate living in a dump, to do things which make everyone’s life more pleasant.

On 28th September at the St. Francis Centre the Lozells Community Awards celebrated this, and celebrated more profound things which lie behind it: the commitment of teachers, who now teach the children of former pupils, and provide a sense of continuity which says to children ‘you matter’. An attitude to business which puts service and relationships with customers at the heart of it. A valuing by the community of those who put themselves into their work, whether it be a School Crossing Warden (Ali Xaaji) or a Volunteer Youth Worker (Sunu Miah). A determination not to let anyone fall through the increasingly large ‘welfare gaps’.

We would like to have mentioned all the award winners by name, but got too involved in things and missed key details – you can see several of them by clicking on this link Aspire&Succeed (keep scrolling down). Both Anglesey and St. Francis Schools featured (pupils and teachers), volunteers involved in planting and litter clearing, the Aston Cross Soup Kitchen (click VCSoupKitchen), Specs Direct on the corner of Lozells Road and Carpenters Road, Lodge Tyres who provided the planters, Frances Road and Burbury Street as  examples of transformation, and the Council’s Waste Management Team.

Recently, at an event in Handsworth, I heard someone say: ‘the sense of community in Handsworth has changed – now everyone is just looking out for themselves.’ If this is true to any degree it doesn’t seem to be true of Lozells. The large hall at St. Francis (yes – it can do high quality large events) was filled with a diversity of people who are all committed to doing things together and for each other. The organisers, and the MC’s on the night (congratulations to Aspire and Succeed, Richard Campbell and Anwar Karim), have injected the event with a real sense of occasion, and this in turn generates a feeling of collective expectation about what will be achieved locally, and how it will be achieved.

There’s a long way to go: the feedback on the event reflected how much it was enjoyed, but also that many dispiriting features persist in everyday life – not every street is uplifting to look at and live in. But events like this can plant seeds as well as celebrate achievements, and Lozells continues to be helped by a high concentration of religious, community and education institutions in the area who are all prepared to co-operate in its development. As Saidul Haque of Citizens UK commented: ‘5 Community Awards later and still building, with veteran and new leaders’.

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  1. It is a delight to see what can be done. So much depends on unique individuals.

  2. susan Green says:

    Residents, community groups and initiatives in Lozells and Birchfield have been the recipients of lots of support, resources and money from local labour Cllrs Wasseem Zaffar and Mahmood Hussein since 2000. Not the case in Handsworth. In fact the opposite. When GRA adopted small patches as part of their Environmental policy on two sites the land was sold from under our noses for housing, a third, the large site in the cul de sac which we proposed as a growing project, teaching local kids about where food came from, with an outline drawn up with support from Charity Groundwork, was dismissed out of hand despite it being listed in the NW Corridor plan as environmental not housing, they refused to cooperate and told us back in 2008 ‘ housing will be built on this land’ which they subsequently did in 2014. SO yes it’s good that Lozells is improving their environment but let us not pretend that this has happened simply because of commitment from community. It has happened because the Councillors have supported it. Without this Lozells would be the same as Handsworth. It is important to recognise that this is the reality because otherwise it suggests that it has been a lack of care from Handsworth residents that has created our rubbish filled overcrowded neighbourhood. This ignores all the work undertaken voluntarily by people like Lyn, Tim, Terry, Marlene, Lillian, Abbi, myself and others. There is no doubt in my opinion that if we had received a fraction of the support that these other neighbourhoods have had that our Handsworth would look a lot different than it does today.

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