Starting point

Handsworth, Birmingham, is known across the globe due to the diversity of its people. The link shows the setting of a part of this area: the Uplands Allotments, reputedly the biggest in Europe, but only gives an idea of its size. Nearby is Handsworth cemetery where people of different origin have eventually come together. There are many languages on the head stones. A history book could start here.

Handsworth Old Town Hall dates back many centuries to 1460, but is now in danger of being vandalised. Last Sunday the Saracen’s Head and Old Grammar School in Kings Norton have the prospect of restoration, by winning the national competition televised on BBC 2, the Old Town Hall, of similar age, needs attention before it is lost.
The Uplands Allotments may cover a wide area, but there is not a plot to be had. Here you can find literally the whole world. There’s a small holding from Eastern Europe, plots growing items for Indian cuisine such as Coriander, and African Caribbean elders re-creating their Jamaican back-yards. Here you can see a wonderfully vibrant diversity where people can really express themselves.

Talking of self-expression, a few years ago a grant was given to set up an arts event on the allotments. One plot was given over to open umbrellas shielding the ground, while in the evening there were flaming torches from the twig sculptures on show. Mutterings could be heard “What a waste of money!” and the elderly Punjabi who had lent his piece of land for the day looked bemused. By happy co-incidence my son, Jon, took part in the event which brought many people together from the community and further afield.

This is my second attempt at starting a journal. The first foundered when I had to change my screen name following the loss of my Council seat. The three sitting Councillors, Phil Murphy, Gurdev Manku and myself had represented the Sandwell Ward on Birmingham Council for around 50 years between us, but boundary changes meant that we would all have to seek re-election. In the event we lost due to “friendly fire” as the Birmingham Post put it. During my period as Councillor I had the good fortune to work with the many people described above, and the opportunity to visit a number of places some on apersonal basis – including Belfast and Palestine. I want to share thoughts on these matters. The contrast between diverse people coming together at the Uplands and the mistrust and fear between neighbours in Northern Ireland and Palestine within Israel is stark. Nobody I met from any of the communities wanted this kind of segregation, but they were caught up in a wider web of politics which determined their lives (and deaths).

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