Business News Community spirit is thriving in the region By Jon Griffin

The wartime spirit is back in Birmingham – with a remarkable 200 new neighbourhood help groups formed to fight the social crisis caused by Covid-19.

Neighbourhood groups are coming together

like never before to help the vulnerable and isolated beat loneliness and ease food shortages, says the city's top voluntary sector figurehead Brian Carr. And cyberspace is playing a key role in

tackling the crisis, with dozens of new mutual aid groups relying on the often maligned social media to throw a lifeline to the isolated and vulnerable. Brian, the chief executive of Birmingham

Voluntary Service Council, the umbrella group for co-ordinating the C19 Support Brum Partnership, said the volunteer response to the city's biggest health crisis in living memory had been “fantastic.” “There is a real community spirit, almost a

wartime spirit out there. We have got 200 new mutual aid groups working together and many of them have sprung up around streets or neighbourhood blocks. “In effect, these are groups of neighbours

helping each other, things like helping people who are isolated with their shopping. There are WhatsApp and Facebook groups linked to spontaneous neighbourhood groups. “It is a sobering thought that if this had happened 15 years ago, how would we have responded. With the internet, we are seeing the huge advantage of connectivity. Often, it could be an email to a local councillor from someone saying: “I am stuck, I am isolated, what can I do?

Wartime spirit: Brian Carr

‘There is nobody untouched by this. One of the silver linings that I hope we will see is that connections will continue”

“The new mutual aid neighbourhood groups

have Facebook pages. Social media is helping many people to connect together, although some elderly people do not have the internet.”

Brian said in cases where households had no

hi-tech connection, the city’s Active Wellbeing Society had co-ordinated an “amazingly successful effort to get food to isolated and vulnerable people.” Staff from the Active Wellbeing Society have

joined together with volunteers from Bournville Together and the North Edgbaston Action Group to organise street by street collections and food deliveries. People needing food or support can visit Meanwhile, another C19 Support Brum

Partnership member, Midland Mencap had been “working tirelessly to raise the issue of PPE shortages and the increased risk of isolation of carers and families of disabled children.” Brian said BVSC had been asked by the

council to co-ordinate the voluntary sector response to the epidemic crisis. He said: “So much was happening spontaneously. Voluntary groups had sprung up all over the city. “I have worked in Birmingham for 20 years,

and been chief executive of BVSC since 2005 and I know that it is a really friendly city, but I have never known anything like the last few weeks. “There is nobody untouched by this. One of

the silver linings that I hope we will see is that connections will continue. The voluntary sector is a powerful force for good, one of the city’s assets. If we can keep these connections together, that would be fantastic.” Founder members of the C19 Support Brum

partnership include Midland Mencap, Forward Carers, Birmingham Mind, Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid, the Diocese of Birmingham, Age Concern Birmingham and others.

Birmingham dances through the quarantine

DanceXchange is running a month-long programme of online dance classes for young people and their families. Being described by the organisation as ‘fun energetic

and for all abilities’, the children’s classes cover four different dance styles, including contemporary, breakin, musical theatre and Bhangra. The classes are 30 minutes long, live streamed every

Thursday at 4pm on DanceXchange’s Facebook page. The next classes, for children up to 11 years old, will take place on 7 and 13 May and hosted by dance instructors Jamaal O’Driscoll and Katie Row.

‘We are really excited to be adding four new children’s classes to our DXtra Daily online class timetable, a great opportunity for familes to come together’

DanceXchange, part of arts organisation Culture

Central, has also extended its online adults classes, led by DanceXchange’s regular class tutors, until 8 May. With some classes reaching almost 750 attendees,

DancXchange say that its DXtra Daily online classes are proving the perfect way for people to feel connected through quarantine as well as supporting people’s wellbeing and fitness. These classes will continue to be streamed via the organisation’s Instragram account, @dancexchange_

Photo credit: Dani Bower Photography Classes are held at 6.30pm every weekday, covering

ballet, salsa, commercial, vogue and contemporary styles. Alex Henwood, head of learning and participation at

DanceXchange said: “We are really excited to be adding four new children’s classes to our DXtra Daily online class timetable, a great opportunity for families to come together and have fun! “Our online programme now offers six free classes a

week for all ages and abilities. We believe dance is one of the best ways to keep active, have fun and be part of an amazing community – come join us.” To find out more about DanceXchange’s online classes, visit the organisation’s website.

Keeping kids moving: Children will be able to take part in live streamed dance classes

Town Hall Symphony Hall will be streaming a number of past performances from its archives. The venue, which is still closed,

will be sharing performances on its Facebook page, with music legends introducing the performances. Sir Cliff Richard will introduce a

performance of The Millennium Prayer by St Stephen’s Gospel Choir, which will be broadcast on 6 May. The following week, on 13 May,

ELO’s Bev Bevan will introduce an online screening of Brandhall Community Choir’s performance of Mr Blue Sky. The venue is also hosting its first

digital community spirit choral workshop for artists and community choirs. Black Voices, Lichfield Gospel

Choir’s Themba Mvula and Brandhall Community Choir’s Tracy Bright will lead the digital event on 9 May, with almost 100 participants expected to attend and perform.

To find out about THSH’s performances and events, visit


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