WOW (not a word I use often)! What a week!
I was originally going to talk about the Baton Relay and Commonwealth Games Opening, but first I must mention that incredible football match.
England 2 - Germany 1.
I say incredible, but the Lionesses have won match after match with such skill and persistence, they so deserved to win the final. How proud we all are. What a wonderful team. (I am so glad we did not have to suffer the agony of a penalty shootout).
But back to our historic local events, and first to the Baton Relay.
All over the borough, you came out in your thousands to clap, cheer and roar on the Batonbearers as The Queen’s Baton Relay wound its way around the four corners of Solihull on Tuesday.
I wanted to see, and was privileged to see, just what was happening all over the borough on the day, and was joined by Deputy Leader Cllr Karen Grinsell, who has led our Commonwealth Games efforts. We were at the start of the relay at Castle Bromwich Hall Hotel for 8am and stopped off at a number of villages and community events on the way, including - Babbs Mill Park, North Solihull Sports Centre, Hampton in Arden, Meriden, Berkswell, Lavender Hall Park, Knowle, Shirley Park and arrived at the finale in Jubilee Gardens in Solihull town centre around 6:30pm.
It was so inspiring to see how communities came out in their droves, everywhere, having fun, all working together to put on a show, which not only entertained local residents, but also demonstrated just what this borough can do.
I can’t tell you how proud it made us to see everyone celebrating this moment. I thought the day was a triumph of organisation, initiative, innovation and good spirit. Everywhere we stopped there was something to admire and enjoy. Maybe I was embarrassed by photos of our quick spin on a tricycle, but it seemed to amuse everyone, especially my Council colleagues!
Tuesday will live long in my memory, but so will the opening ceremony. That enormous bull breathing smoke and fire, the long string of red, white and blue Midlands-made vehicles; the incredible choreography of the dancers; the procession of athletes from all over the Commonwealth. What a showcase for the region and its own wonderful diversity and youth. It was a powerful representation of what makes the West Midlands so special – innovation, hard-work and humour. Alongside the sport itself, a lot of effort has also been put into promoting the region for business.
We are hosting a number of the Commonwealth Games sports at the NEC, I’m not sure if there are any tickets left, but you can always join the party by watching the sports at Solihull town centre’s festival sites.
Phew, despite feeling completely overwhelmed by all things Commonwealth Games, there is other news to mention, such as our 16 Green Flag Parks. You’ll know from previous messages how important our parks and open spaces are to me, so it was fantastic to see that we have retained our 16 Green Flags, more than any other authority in the region.
I know the pandemic meant that more and more of you have discovered your local parks and I’m glad to see that they remain worthy of this prestigious award.
With parks and opens spaces on my mind, I should also congratulate Julie Stephens who has become our 1,000th registered volunteer litter picker with Love Solihull. Our environmental initiative has seen a huge surge in people interested in litter picking since the start of the pandemic. Our Council team do their best to deal with the litter that is sadly (and thoughtlessly) deposited, but just cannot be everywhere as often as is needed.
If you want to join Julie and hundreds of others to do a spot of litter picking - register online with the Love Solihull Community Litter Picking initiative. I did some myself the other week and actually found it quite therapeutic.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting our Enterprise Centre in Chelmund’s Cross. It hosts a number of small and growing businesses and provides professional office space for start-up businesses.
I’ve been to the building several times before, but this time alongside the guided tour I got to meet local businessman Jordan Carruthers celebrating one year of running his business – Hood Greetings - from the Centre. Jordan started his business at home in 2018 moving to the Enterprise Centre in June 2021 and he’s been so successful that he’s now had to take up a larger office in April this year!
It was great to meet a local entrepreneur who is passionate about his business and being very successful. I hope the Enterprise Centre will help many more on the ladder to success. You can find out more about the Centre here.
The Government announced last week that the UK has welcomed over 100,000 Ukrainian refugees since the start of the war in February. In Solihull we are looking at providing sanctuary to nearly 250 people from Ukraine through the support of 96 sponsor households in the borough. The number of new refugees is tending to grow by between five to eight a week with around three new families applying to help out per week.
It is so disappointing that in the 21st century this is happening because of Russian aggression, but I want to pay tribute to the 96, and growing, local families throwing open their homes to Ukrainian people fleeing the war.
Finally, to get back to The Queen’s Baton Relay last Tuesday, I wish to give my personal thanks to everyone who took part, organised community events or were part of the Council team, for what you did to make the day such an amazing success.
We now have the remainder of the Games programme to enjoy, but I am sure that Tuesday will remain in the memory of all those that took part.
I hope you all enjoy this summer window of sporting excellence. And long live the community spirit that has characterised The Queen’s Baton Relay and the Games so far.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council