Tag Archive: Birmingham

Britain’s first-ever Muslim pantomime premiers this December


This festive season, humanitarian charity Penny Appeal is presenting a world first – a pantomime by Muslims, for Muslims. The Great Muslim Panto launches with its premiere show 'If the Shoe Fits...' and is coming to six UK cities from 12th December.

The pantomime is created and performed by 'Once Upon a Family', a Muslim family cast of seven, with even the baby taking part. They are also joined by Michael Truong and Mistah Islah, whose original YouTube series 'The Corner Shop Show' has generated over 3 million views, and actor and comedian Abdullah Afzal, as seen on the BBC's 'Citizen Khan.'

Essentially a panto within a panto, the story revolves around an orphan's journey and a family's attempt to create their own 'halal' pantomime. The show is a fun reinvention of the classic panto, while keeping the much-loved elements of slapstick comedy, crazy costumes and silly songs.

From the 12th to the 21st of December, 'If the Shoe Fits...' is being performed in aid of Penny Appeal's OrphanKind programme, which supports orphans across the world by providing them with a loving home, food, education and a brighter start in life.

The family panto team, 'Once Upon a Family', spent time travelling across Africa and visited some of Penny Appeal's orphan homes, even running drama workshops with some of the children. Listening to the stories of real orphan children inspired the story for the panto, and prompted them to raise funds to provide care for more children like them.

Mother of the family Anisa commented, "Performing arts is so under-used in both the Muslim and non-Muslim world. We want to be the ones to change that. Creativity should transgress race, religion and class."

The family began acting together nine years ago, performing for charity in front of 250 people. Since then their theatre company has gone from strength to strength, writing scripts and performing for a number of other charities.



Tour dates and venues

12th December 2017 – Bradford – Kala Sangam Arts Centre BD1 4TY
16th December – East London – School 21 Theatre E15 3PA
18th December – Birmingham Library Theatre (Broad Street) B1 2ND
19th December – Manchester – Z Arts Theatre (Hulme) M15 5ZA
20th December – Glasgow – Mitchell Library G37 DN
21st December – Peterborough - John Clare Theatre PE1 1SQ



15-year-old schoolboy still fighting for his life after being stabbed multiple times

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The young Muslim schoolboy, 15, who was stabbed in the face, head and neck multiple times near a mosque in Small Heath, Birmingham, is still fighting for his life.

Meanwhile, an unemployed 29-year-old man who was arrested within 10-hours of the incident, has been charged with the attempted murder for the attack.

The young victim, who has been named as Syed Hassan Abbas, only just celebrated his 15th birthday just two days prior to the horrific attack, which took place around 1am on Saturday 30th September.

The incident occurred when the boy was dropped off at Maarif-e-Islam Hussainia Mosque by his father and brother, who went to park the car.

The venue was busy with people despite the late hour as worshippers celebrated Ashura - the religiously significant 10th day Muharram - of the first month of the Islamic calendar.

The teenager suffered life threatening injuries in the attack around the corner from the Idara Maarif-e-Islam Hussainia Mosque.

The victim's brother Syed Nedhi Abbas, 17, heard his father scream, 'Someone help me, my son's about to die’, and originally thought it had been a car accident.

Azhar Kiana, the president of the mosque, told the Birmingham Mail: “It happened on the pavement. By the time the dad parked his car his son was on the floor. He watched from a distance as a young man brutally beated the boy with a knife.

“There was blood everywhere, he was hitting the boy’s neck and head. Then the attacker ran off and got into a car,” said one witness.

Amjad Shah, the general secretary of the Hussainia Mosque, confirmed that the 15-year-old was a member of the congregation at the place of worship.

Mr Shah said: 'This was a cowardly and unprovoked attack and the victim is critically ill in hospital.

'The Board of Trustees and the entire community is praying for his swift recovery. Our sympathies are extended to the victim's family.'

Stressing that the motivation for the attack was not yet clear, Mr Shah added: “Background checks so far have not associated the suspect with any particular mosque or community.

“The Board of Trustees emphasises that whatever the motive behind this attack, it should not be sensationalised and neither used as a justification to spread hatred or incite violence.

“Hussainia Mosque will not tolerate the disturbance of the communal harmony between the various communities that share this geography.”

Samll Heath has been blighted with knife crime in the past few years, with a special campaign launched just last month to tackle gang culture.

Detective inspector Jim Colclough at Birmingham police, said: “Knife crime is priority for us and an investigation is underway to identify those responsible.

“This is a tragic event which has left a young boy in hospital fighting for his life so I’d urge anyone who was in the vicinity, saw what happened, or has any other information which may help our investigation to contact me or my team on 101 or to call Crimestoppers as soon as possible.”

The Birmingham attack was one of five which happened within two hours of each other across England on Saturday morning.

Sufi music legend Hans Raj Hans meets with Birmingham University students

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Hans Raj Hans with Professor Robin Mason, University of Birmingham Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Kirkman, Peyton and Barber Professor of Music at the University of Birmingham, and lunch guests (picture credit Nicola Gotts)

Hans Raj Hans with Professor Robin Mason, University of Birmingham Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Kirkman, Peyton and Barber Professor of Music at the University of Birmingham, and lunch guests (picture credit Nicola Gotts)


Indian music superstar Hans Raj Hans visited the University of Birmingham and found out more about University life when he met students from India.

The hugely popular Punjabi singer is a national treasure in his home country and has millions of fans throughout the world. One of the finest modern-day performers of Sufi songs, Hans Raj Hans is renowned as folk-revivalist and passionate ambassador for Sufi music.

Professor Robin Mason, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Birmingham, welcomed Hans Raj Hans to a special lunch held in the musician’s honour, following his appearance at the Birmingham Weekender.

Following the lunch - which was attended by guests  from mac, THSH, Sampad, Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham Weekender and Culture Central – the singer met a group of current students from India. He chatted to them about their studies and life as a student at the University, before touring the Edgbaston campus.

The folk superstar and his band had closed the three-day Birmingham Weekender 2017 free festival with a performance at Birmingham Town Hall on Sunday, 24th September.

Professor Robin Mason said: “I am delighted to welcome our famous guest to the University of Birmingham and show Hans Raj Hans the strength and depth of our links with India, in the country’s 70 years of independence.

“We welcomed our first Indian student in 1909 and, since then, the University has provided education to around 2,000 outstanding Indian alumni. This was a great opportunity to introduce Hans to the latest generation of Indian students to study at Birmingham.”

A versatile and soulful vocalist, Hans Raj Hans’ work spans a wealth of musical styles, including popular Punjabi songs as well as folk, devotional, gurbani, ghazals, Bollywood and classical.

Hans Raj Hans with students from the University of Birmingham’s Indian Society (picture credit Nicola Gotts)

Hans Raj Hans with students from the University of Birmingham’s Indian Society (picture credit Nicola Gotts)

He has collaborated with musical legends such as Lata Mangeshkar and the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, as well as distinguished composer A.R. Rahman. In 2008, Hans Raj Hans was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri Award, one of India’s highest civilian honours, for his outstanding contribution to the arts. He is a visiting professor of sufi music at a number of US universities, as well as a life fellow at Punjabi University of Patiala and recipient of the Sangeet Nanak Academy award.

The music superstar’s son Navraj Hans studied business at the University of Birmingham and Hans Raj Hans met members of the University’s Indian Society as well as the Bharat Parivar student society.

Hans Raj Hans said: “It has been great to discover more about the University of Birmingham and its long-standing connections with India, as well as meeting Indian students who have travelled to Birmingham to further their education and take advantage of the excellent opportunities offered by the University.

“I visited my son in Birmingham many times and it felt very good to return to the campus to meet music staff and leaders of the University. I will be delighted to return to the University in the future to continue supporting students here.”

Simran Dhaliwal, President of the Indian Society, said: “It’s very exciting to have someone of such high standing as Hans Raj Hans visiting the campus and it’s good to see the University of Birmingham engaging with the international student community in this way.”

Vijaya Priyadarshini, from Bharat Parivar, said: “It’s great to see someone so famous coming to the University of Birmingham to visit students in such a high-profile visit.”

The University of Birmingham supported a new discussion series as part of Birmingham Weekender.  Hosted in coffee shops and venues across the city, the series offered participants the opportunity to discuss hot topics affecting Birmingham with leading academics from the University.

Talks included Dr Dorothy Butchard discussing Birmingham’s aspiration to Smart City status, cultural geographer Dr. Phil Jones talking about using culture to understand our cities, Dr Melrose Stewart discussing how dancing improves the wellbeing of participants, and Professor Jenny Phillimore on the impact of migration and cultural diversity.

What a load of rubbish… Birmingham bin strike expected to resume over redundancy row

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Rubbish has been piling up on the streets of Alum Rock in Birmingham during the dispute between the council and Birmingham bin workers. Now they are expected to resume strike action after the city's council said it was issuing redundancy notices.

Now, residents confronting weeks of serve strikes have taken matters into their own hands by getting hold of their own lorry to dip up the waste.

Naveed Sadiq, from Muslim village organisation Bearded Broz, pronounced volunteers were using a tipper lorry owned by Balsall Heath Forum.

Other locals described seeing bags ripping with used nappies pier up on the street.

Pest controllers have warned the city could be overshot by a hulk disease of rats during and after the strike.

The seven-week strike action that saw mountains of waste pile up on streets was suspended on 16th August amid talks between Unite and the city council.

But the council reneged on a deal that saw the strike suspended and said a meeting due this week would not happen.

The Unite union described the move as a "deeply provocative act".

It said refuse workers were expected to resume industrial action and could walk out for three hours on a daily basis at 07:00, 10:30 and 13:00 BST.

The union warned industrial action "could extend until the new year".

Conciliation service Acas said on 16th August the council had accepted the workers' case and restored the jobs of grade three workers, who are responsible for safety at the back of refuse vehicles.

But a council report said the deal struck by Unite and the council was unaffordable.

The authority had said it was issuing redundancy notices to certain grade three workers "in order to protect its legal and financial position".

But alternative jobs at the same grade and salary elsewhere were available for those employees, it said.

Posters in support of the refuse workers have been spotted around Birmingham

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: "This is a deeply provocative act that drives a coach and horses through the agreement Unite reached with the council in good faith at the conciliation service Acas.

"It does a great disservice to the people of Birmingham and the city's refuse workers who now face being made redundant and losing their livelihoods or pay cuts of thousands of pounds."

The union urged the council to "come to its senses" and withdraw the redundancy notices to avoid disruption to services.

The council said it wished to continue ongoing discussions "with trades unions through Acas in parallel with seeking alternative jobs for the Grade 3s affected by redundancy".

Lisa Trickett, cabinet member for clean streets, recycling and environment, added: "We hope that, in view of the ongoing discussions with Acas, Unite will not take their workforce back out on strike but continue in discussions with us and the other unions."

Birmingham Prison riot

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Seven-hour mutiny after inmates refused to go back to their cells

Prisoners took over a wing at HMP Birmingham in the latest riots to hit a UK prison.

Shocking footage showed armed officers sent in after a riot broke out one of the country's biggest prisons after mutinous inmates refuse to return to their cells.

The seven-hour stand-off began after a number of prisoners refused to return to their cells at the end of the evening in the category B and C jail.

Tornado teams - made up of former SAS soldiers and specialist officers – were sent in to quash the unrest.

Shocking footage posted online shows armed officers rushing into the prison, where two wings have reportedly been damaged.

It comes after a 12-hour riot where inmates caused £2 million worth of damage and took over four wings of the prison in December last year.

They started fires, smashed offices and cells and even used fire hoses to spray officers.

More than 460 prisoners were subsequently removed from the Victorian-built jail.

Prisoners spend an average of around six-weeks in the local prison, which tends to house inmates between court hearings.

The jail, run by security firm G4S, holds sentenced, remand and recall inmates. It also houses a sex-offender wing and prisoners on life or indeterminate sentences.

The city centre jail, formerly known as Winson Green, can hold up to 1,450 inmates.

Richard Stedman, who took over as HMP Birmingham governor in April, earlier this year told the admitted there was too much violence in the prison, blaming mind-altering drugs such as Black Mamba.

A spokesman for the prison said: “Specially trained prison staff successfully resolved an incident at HMP Birmingham on 3rd September. There were no injuries to staff or prisoners.

'We do not tolerate violence in our prisons, and are clear that those responsible will be referred to the police and could spend longer behind bars.'

Not a single student in Malala’s education service

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Birmingham’s Pakistan Consulate student advisory wing axed after four years of not having a singe approach for help

Pakistan Consulate’s student advisory service in Birmingham, which was set up when Malala Yousufzai arrived in the city is closing down – because not a single student has approached it for help.

The news comes as Nobel Prize-winning education campaigner Malala announced she had won a place at Oxford University after achieving three As in her A-levels from the independent school - Edgbaston High School.

At Oxford, she will be studying the same course at the same college attended by Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani Prime Minister.

After her life was saved by Birmingham doctor Fiona Reynolds - one of the first medics on the scene of the school bus shooting in 2012, Malala was flown to the city’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital for specialist treatment.

She eventually moved to Birmingham in 2013 with her family after the Pakistan Consulate in Birmingham offered her father a position as the education attache for a specially created Education Wing at its city centre base. The wing was set up fundamentally to facilitate Malala’s medical treatment.

Now, in an apparent bid to save public money, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to close the wing, which opened on 11th April, 2013 and instead move all education services to its London HQ.

A source at the consulate, who did not want to be identified, said: “There was no need for an education wing and, historically, Birmingham never had a post of education attaché.

“The Education Wing was opened basically to facilitate medical treatment of Malala in Birmingham and to this end her father Ziauddin Yousafzai was appointed as education attache.

“But in the four years since the establishment of this wing not a single student has approached us for any kind of help or assistance.

“Hundreds of thousands of pounds has been wasted in the name of student counselling that not a single student has accessed.”

Mr Yousafzai’s contract as education attache came to an end on 11th April this year, the source added.

Malala rose to prominence after being shot in the head and neck by the Taliban while on her way home from school in 2012, and has won praise for her campaigning for the rights of girls to receive education.

In 2013, she was named one of TIME magazine's most influential people and was first nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The same year, she won the European Parliament's Sakharov price for Freedom of Thought and released her autobiography "I Am Malala".

Now Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry says that the closure of the education wing in Birmingham was decided on financial grounds – the education wing was a drain on public money with no foreseeable benefit.

It said that monthly expenditure on its maintenance was an estimated £15,000 with “no utility or value for the public money.”

The Ministry added: “Since April 2013, there hasn’t been a single student-related case requiring any kind of help or assistance from the wing or, for that matter, the Birmingham consulate.

“There are two other consulates besides Birmingham – in Bangladesh and India – and neither of them has ever had an education wing.”

The Education Wing was intended to act as a liaison between British and Pakistani education institutions and offer help and advice to Pakistani students in the UK.

A spokesman for the Pakistan Consulate in Birmingham confirmed a directive to close its Education Wing had come from the Pakistani government in Islamabad.

“I cannot comment on the exact reasons why the wing was closed but it clearly did not perform as was expected,” he said.

“All education services are now dealt with by the main Pakistani High Commission office in London.”

BMW M3 banned driver jailed after topping 115mph in 30mph zone

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JAILED: Kamar Farooq crashed the £85,000 BMW into a traffic island during the police chase, then climbed into the back of the vehicle and denied being the driver

JAILED: Kamar Farooq crashed the £85,000 BMW into a traffic island during the police chase, then climbed into the back of the vehicle and denied being the driver


A banned driver who tore along streets in Birmingham and Solihull at speeds reaching 115mph has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Kamar Farooq travelled at almost four times the legal limit - at times on the wrong side of the road - before crashing the £85,000 BMW M3 into a traffic island and careering into a car at a petrol station. All the action was caught by a police-car dash-cam.

West Midlands Police patrol officers became suspicious when they spotted Farooq behind the wheel of the car in Washwood Heath Road on 23rd September last year - but when they tried pulling it over the 30-year-old sped away.

During the dramatic chase, he was also followed by a police helicopter, which recorded his every move as he sped down the wrong side of a quiet street.

After the collision in Chester Road, Castle Bromwich, Farooq jumped into the backseat alongside two other men and claimed to have been a passenger.

All three were arrested but officers managed to secure CCTV footage earlier that night showing the driver wearing clothes matching that of Farooq’s when he was arrested.

Farooq, of Aston Lane, Aston, still denied being the driver but at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday (25 August) was convicted and jailed for dangerous driving and getting behind the wheel while disqualified; he was also given a 10-year driving ban.

PC Robert Lattimer, from the roads policing unit at Chelmsley Wood, said: "This was reckless driving by someone who should not have been behind the wheel.

"Officers had suspicions around the vehicle and tried to pull it over; but Farooq failed to stop and hit speeds of 115mph in 30mph zones.

"He tried to deny being the driver despite our investigations which secured such strong evidence against him."This was a high performance vehicle and the outcome could have been much worse. He now faces a long time behind bars rather than behind the wheel of a car."

Kash “The Flash” Gill

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Indefeated four-times World Kickboxing champ’s passion is to work with youngsters in Birmingham

Kash ‘The Flash’ Gill has been described as ‘the UK’s most prolific kickboxer’. Standing tall at 6ft 3” Kash, a retired British professional kickboxer has an impressive line-up of British, European and World titles under his belt.

Four-times World Kick Boxing Champion - the first Asian to become World Champion in a contact sport, Kash engaged with spectators in a show of demos at the Birmingham Mela.

Kash Gills’ Incredible rise from the tough inner city streets of Birmingham, to world fame and domination of his chosen sport, is a fascinating white-knuckle journey.

Discovering kickboxing at the age of 14 when he saw a demo in a local park, he went down for a trial session and fell in love with the sport which was to become his life.

Gill’s natural speed and athletic ability as well as his flashy showmanship soon earned him the nickname ‘The Flash’, a name which fits like a glove.

By 1984, having earned his black belt, Gill at the age of 18, had entered and won his first competition in a three-round contest in full-contact karate.

The list of world kickboxing titles that Kash picked up and added to his collection over the next few years was impressive and his rise to fame gathered impetus in 1986 when he blasted his way to a gold medal at the World PKA Amateur Full Contact Championships.

His sheer determination to rise above and not be defined by his environment and tragedies that beset his early years has inspired multitude of students, fans and professional athletes alike.

He scaled new heights in his career, collecting his first Professional world title, the WKA Junior Middleweight in 1991 when he also won the World full contact Karate championships.

In the two consecutive years following, he went on to win the WKA World Middleweight kickboxing title and the ISKA World Light Middleweight title.

Despite his success in the ring, Kash still has his feet firmly planted on the ground.

The man behind the world champion is an extremely likeable one and he is a sensational coach. Do not let the Flash stage persona fool you, Kash is a charismatic man that cares about his community and the people in it – he is a true peoples champion and a positive role model.

Working with local schools to promote the importance of health and fitness is a huge passion. He’s also involved in fundraising and working with local charities that help disadvantaged youths in the area where he grew up.

In 2008 Kash achieved his lifelong dream and opened his own gym with the aim of uniting people from all communities in a love of fitness and sport. His gym  includes a boxing ring, plenty of floor space, punch bags, showers and a sauna and offers a variety of classes to suit all ages and abilities.

When he is not coaching he is tirelessly raising funds for various charities and resources for the local community with the same determination that made him World Champion. A sporting hero, role model and inspiration, a towering ambassador of Martial Arts and the disaffected youth of inner cities around the world.



Kash The Flash Gill, Stats

The UK’s most prolific Kick-Boxer

World Amateur Kick Boxing Champion at the age of 20

Became four times World Kickboxing Champion, an achievement that has not been beaten

world champion in kickboxing at the age of 21

1991, he won the World Kickboxing Association (WKA) light middleweight and super welterweight full contact titles

The following year he won the WKA middleweight championship

He was the International Sport Karate Association freestyle champion of 1993

Formally retired from fighting in 2002

Inducted into the BBC Sporting Hall of Fame

Life in the Flash Lane Documentary

Kash The Flash Interview



Birmingham Mela pulls in over 90,000 visitors

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DYNAMIC DUO: Bosses of the Big John’s Birmingham Mela Bob and John Saddiq

DYNAMIC DUO: Bosses of the Big John’s Birmingham Mela Bob and John Saddiq


Big John's Birmingham Mela has become one of the largest in the country

Headline acts included Abrar-ul-Haq, Malkit Singh, Imran Khan and Roach Killa just to name a few…

Put on by and sponsored by one of the Midlands largest Asian businesses 'Big John's' in conjunction with Asian Express Newspaper, this year's Mela was a melting pot of everything great about South Asia.

Summer fun simply couldn't have got better for Birmingham with the annual Mela, held in the heart of the city, drawing in people of all ages by the tens of thousands.

The event costs over £100,000 to put on every year, but no financial support is provided by the council, however Asian businesses who rent stalls on the day also are key into making the family event happen.

The sensational line-up of entertainment acts at the Big John's Birmingham Mela celebrated the diversity of the South Asian Community and beyond through its culture, food, sport, art and showbiz.
Comments Nadim Hanif, CEO of Asian Express: "Mela's are a representation of the beautiful colours of Asia and are a celebration of it through music, dance, food and culture.

"Asian Express is thrilled to have been part of entertaining over some 90,000 visitors – the feedback has been immense – proving to us that the city has so much potential but is undermined by mainstream press."

Now in it's 17th year, the free to attend event in Cannon Hill Park on Sunday 6th August brought to visitors an Asian Express sponsored Main Stage, a Sports Arena, a whole host of free kids fun from ParkLives, Asian bazaars, traditional street food, funfair and much more.

"We wanted to make this year's event the biggest ever with a great line up of artists on stage and a whole range of attractions and food offerings in the arena for all the family," comments Bob Saddiq director of the Big John's Group.

"Parking was a slight problem as we were overwhelmed with the large amount of people who attended this year. All-in-all every one enjoyed the day and we are already inundated with enquiries from sponsors and stall holders for next year's event.

"We are already planning for next year's event and a date will be announced shortly.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the stakeholders in the event from Big Johns Mela event team, the Councils events team and all sponsors, partners and stall holders for making this year's event a great success and look forward to seeing all again at next years Mela."

Andleeb Hanif, Managing Editor of Asian Express says: "Our job, here at Asian Express is to showcase the hard-working businesses, community leaders, youth workers, sports heroes and upcoming talent in Britain.

"By covering stories of Asians in Birmingham, we can reinforce to our younger generation that they are part of a community to be proud of. British Asians are the most entrepreneurial and dedicated citizens – as a newspaper it's our mission to bring this to the limelight."

"British Asians are maligned by mainstream tabloid headlines. I urge people of the Midlands to get involved with the Asian Express and make that significant difference."

Determined beauty

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Popular pageant competitor involved in Miss Birmingham GB competition hoping to inspire fellow British Asians

Harleen Sidhu is one of 15 women in the running to be crowned Miss Birmingham GB 2017, with the winner entered into Miss Great Britain later this year.

The event which features finalists aged between 18-27 takes place on July 2nd at Birmingham’s Park Regis hotel with Justice Williams MBE hosting the event.

Harleen is no stranger to beauty pageants as she has just recently competed in The Birmingham heat of Miss England and finished in the top nine as well as picking up the prize for Miss Popularity which was awarded to the female with the most public votes.

This success has seen her entered into The Miss Popularity heat which was held in Leicester, where she continued to raise money for Beauty with a Purpose which is Miss England’s official charity helping disadvantaged children, raising a total of £402.91.

Immediately after this pageant Harleen was rewarded for her work and invited and selected as a finalist for this pageant, Miss Birmingham Great Britain which will feature five different awards on the day including the main title of Miss Birmingham Great Britain.

These awards will include: Miss Charity which Harleen is hoping to win. This involves raising money for Queen Elizabeth Hospital charity which is an organization she has been affiliated with since 2013 as both a volunteer and patient in the ENT department.

So far, she has raised £109.87 through donations and a bake sale held outside Handsworth library, it is Harleen’s aim to help the hospital fund equipment, medical research and patient care.

The other awards on the day include: Miss Publicity which goes to the contestant who raises the most media publicity, Miss Personality which goes to the girl voted for by fellow contestants on the day for the friendliest girl.

The final awards are: Miss WOW smile which goes to the contestant with the best smile and Miss Photogenic Face. This is an award Harleen hopes to win as modelling is something she has taken a keen interest in for years and hopes to pursue it further.

The current teacher at an all-boys school in the south of Birmingham explained her goals for this year and how it has panned out so far, she said: “There is a lot for me to focus on this year, so I have decided to grasp each opportunity with both hands because my new year’s resolution was to do that.

“More than halfway through this year I have completed an acting course at theatre school, fundraising for charities and taking part in my second pageant all while juggling a full-time job at an all-boys school in South Birmingham.”

Harleen who is also part of the alumni at Aston University attending events at venues such as the Royal Society and House of Lords spoke of her interests and her interest in charity, she said: “I love research, particularly health and raising awareness for better health, wellbeing and lifestyle.

“I’ve worked with a number of organisations within the public sector including charities such as Diabetes UK and the British Red Cross, while I am also an ambassador of the Wolves Education Association which looks to raise the profile of lifelong learning and adult education.”

Harleen also spoke about what winning this competition would mean to her she said: “It would be amazing to win both the main title as well as the individual ones across our wonderful second city.

“I decided to go for Miss Birmingham GB as Miss England gave me the confidence and platform to present a better version of myself and I hope to take the main title as I feel I’ve been given a second chance at representing Birmingham.”

Harleen who is sponsored by Christal Beauty, then went on to talk about how she wanted to be an inspiration to others, she said: “My aspiration is to play a role in challenging ideals that hesitate to allow their children spread their wings and I know this might be the case for girls wanting to take part in beauty pageants.

“I want to be a role model to these young women from the experiences I have seen as an individual and from my mother’s life.”

Harleen spoke of what she would hope to achieve if she did win the title of Miss Birmingham GB, she said: “I hope to break misconceptions within our community with the help of the honourable platform I have been given.

“I also want to raise awareness regarding employability and educational opportunities and draw Birmingham closer together supporting smaller charities and creating more volunteering opportunities for those looking to gain experience and skills.”

“Hotbed of violence”: Half the men surveyed at prison say it’s was easy to get drugs inside

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“One in seven said that they had acquired a drug habit while in the jail.”

Inspectors visited a G4S-run prison and found that it was unsafe, with an extremely high number of incidents of violence and self-injury. Three men had died by suicide since the previous inspection.

The report by Howard League for Penal Reform, found a high volume of drugs available at HMP Birmingham prison in Winson Green, which was affecting the prison’s safety and stability.

Half of the men surveyed by inspectors said that it was easy to get drugs in the prison, and one in seven said that they had acquired a drug habit while in the jail.

Many cells were dirty, overcrowded and poorly maintained, and too few men were able to take advantage of the education and training on offer. Inspectors found that almost half of prisoners were locked in their cells during the day.

Two months before the inspection, there was a riot in Birmingham that led to about 500 men being moved to other prisons. The circumstances behind the disturbance are the subject of a separate investigation, and are therefore not the focus of this inspection report.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Birmingham prison was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons last year.

“This report reveals that, like so many other jails across the country, it remains a hotbed of violence, where prisoners find it easy to get drugs but much harder to get education or training.

“In the last fortnight we have seen worrying inspection reports on four different jails – Medway secure training centre, Pentonville, Brixton, and now Birmingham. How many more will the government tolerate before it takes meaningful steps to fix this mess?

“Ministers must take bold but sensible action to ease pressure on a failing system. Reducing the prison population would save lives and help to prevent more people being swept into deeper currents of crime, violence and despair.”

The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.

Europe’s largest Indian film festival returns

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The Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival, regarded as Europe’s largest Indian film festival returns for its 8th edition from 22-29 June.

A new and exciting selection of fabulous cutting-edge films reaffirm the festival’s position as the ‘punk-rock of Indian cinema’.

As an edgy tie-in, to UK-India Year of Culture and complementing the BFI’s India on Film programme, the festival opens on 22nd June at the BFI Southbank with the red carpet premiere of the historical epic, The Black Prince by Kavi Raz. The film dramatises the little-known story of the last King of Punjab who was abducted by the British Raj to be mentored by Queen Victoria.

This powerful UK-produced film was launched at Cannes, and stars Indian music singer Satinder Sartaaj, iconic actress Shabana Azmi (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Fire), Jason Flemyng (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) and Amanda Root (Jane Eyre).

Back into the 21st Century for the closing night, on 29th June, BFI Southbank rocks again with the surreal Malayalam road-movie thriller Sexy Durga set in Kerala, directed by Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, which this year won the prestigious Tiger Award for best film at Rotterdam. A tale of a hitch-hiking couple accidentally getting into the car of deranged gangsters and trying to escape a road to hell.

The Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival continues to not simply reflect what's happening in South Asian cinema but instead sparks cutting edge debate through special events, the Satyajit Ray short film award, and ICON awards.

LIFF highlights emerging talent and champions lesser known great film makers through the awards presentations. Meanwhile, the festival’s special events recognise the full diversity of film making and South Asian experience from remembering LGTQ+ activism via the works of British Asian auteur and activist, Pratibha Parmar, to cutting edge 21st Century Indian virtual reality film making.

The programme will also explore the impact of Brexit on British Asian and other BAME film makers as well as preview the new Indian-UK co-production The Hungry, helmed by Bornila Chatterjee, based on Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus.

Cary Rajinder Sawhney, LIFF Director, says: “We are delighted to bring London audiences a carefully curated selection of the very best new Indian and South Asian independent cinema; all films are English subtitled, offering a rare window into over a billion South Asian lives.

“This year's selection includes premieres of new comedies, gripping thrillers, shocking horror and insightful true life documentaries as well as bringing together UK previews of major award-winning films from the world's greatest film festivals."

Title Sponsor Dr Alka Bagri of the Bagri Foundation adds: "We are excited to celebrate with LIFF the art of Indian independent cinema in this UK India Year of Culture.

“This year’s programme is a vibrant and diverse mixture of films which explore all aspects of human experience, tackling hard-hitting issues through fiction and documentary. LIFF continues to offer stimulating talks, bringing together important figures of the LGBTQ+ community, and to propose the timely and critical discussion around the futures of artists and filmmakers in the face of Brexit."

The festival also takes place in Birmingham for a third year, with a rebrand as the Birmingham Indian Film Festival, from 23 June-2nd July, marking the Festival’s permanent commitment to the region.

Screenings will take place at Midlands Arts Centre mac, Cineworld Broad Street and The Mockingbird. The festival will show highlights of the London programme including opening night with The Black Prince and closing night with Sexy Durga.

The Birmingham programme is in partnership with the citywide USTAV Festival of South Asian culture.

Following the festival, selected LIFF films will be made available on the BFI’s VOD service, BFI Player. For more, visit

Birmingham’s beauty

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Harleen Sidhu who hopes to use her own success to inspire others to follow in her footsteps.

Harleen Sidhu who hopes to use her own success to inspire others to follow in her footsteps.


Harleen Sidhu wants to use her beauty pageant success to help those less fortunate

Harleen Sidhu will compete in this year’s Miss England popularity heat at Leicester’s Sanctuary workshop on 10th June, after she was crowned Miss Popularity Birmingham 2017.

Although Harleen missed out on the Title of ‘Miss Birmingham’, she received the most public votes which saw her win the popularity award which allows her entry into Miss England’s Popularity heat which gives her another chance to secure a place in the Miss England finals.

Sidhu who is currently teaching full-time at an all-boys school in Kings Heath, graduated from Aston University in 2013 with a MSc in Health Psychology. Where she volunteered helping other final year Psychology students as a graduate scheme mentor.

She has also done a lot of volunteering and charity work to help her connect with others within the wider community, this includes time spent at non-profit organisation such as Diabetes UK, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, UK Asian women’s centre and vulnerable customers in debt management at Royal Bank of Scotland.

Harleen is raising money for Miss Birmingham’s chosen charity which is Beauty with a purpose which looks to help sick and disadvantaged children. She recently completed a bake sale outside Handsworth library on June 2nd to raise more money for the charity

Ms. Sidhu is looking to use this opportunity to help evolve herself and inspire other people, she said: “I got into this searching for an opportunity to get involved which would help develop me even further as a person and find something new.”

“When I found the details of the competition of I just felt the urge to apply and go for it, not knowing that I’d be selected as a finalist.”

“I was simply honest about the work I’ve done, the fact that I wanted to get involved in a platform that would allow me to inspire others and tell my story. Everybody has a story to tell but I feel my experiences both personal and professional are relatable.”

“I wanted to use my experience and voluntary/charity work to show people that it’s never too late, they can still do it and to never give up, the hardest part is to take the risk and just go for it and that is exactly what I did.”

“The biggest inspiration in my life has been my mum who has always pushed me when to pursue opportunities that seemed crazy to me, I will always remember the joy it gave my mum when I told her I finally mustered the courage to apply and take part, I know I’ve made her proud and that means everything.”

Harleen also discussed the importance of representing her community she explained:” I hope I’ve made the South Asian community proud too, being a Punjabi it means so much to be able to voice my opinion and represent my community.”

“I believe there are many figures from my own background that have demonstrated their skills, knowledge and talent, history has shown this time and time again.”

“To be able to tell young, Asian talent to get out there and make the most of opportunities or search for them if they are not there is a gift, because if we don’t inspire the generation that follows, we won’t see positive change in our society.”

“We don’t deserve or want a broken Birmingham, but a city that bridges the gap between communities and increases well-being for individuals. I will strive to continue this regardless of the outcome.”

Harleen wants to use her pageant experience to do further charitable work and help more people where possible she said:

“It would be amazing to win and see where the pageant journey takes me, but regardless of the outcome, an opportunity like this has opened a few doors for me already to expand my network and reach out to those needing inspiration to start a new course, learn skills and get out more and volunteer.”

“All things I wasn’t taught but was inspired by others, so it’s a blessing to be able to ‘pass the torch’ of lifelong learning and inspiration.”

CANCER BE AWARE: Roadshow gets involved with mosques and gurdwaras on educating the communities about the disease

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“Being bloated or having diarrhoea isn’t something we usually discuss with others.”

Health teams have been tackling the lack of awareness around cancer in the West Midlands where around 30,400 people are diagnosed with cancer each year.

With approximately 14,400 people dying from the disease in this region, new roadshows have been taking place across Birmingham to increase awareness of persistent stomach troubles as possible signs of cancer.

The Be Clear on Cancer roadshow visited a number of places of worship and community organisations across the Midlands, including Bethel Convention Centre & Church, Jamia Masjid Haroonia and Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Gurdwara and Healthcare Trust.

The campaign, part of a wider campaign launched by Public Health England in the Midlands, is encouraging anyone suffering from symptoms such as persistent diarrhoea, bloating or discomfort in the tummy area, to see their doctor. These problems can be a sign of a number of different cancers, such as bowel, ovarian or pancreatic.

Around nine in ten cases of cancer are diagnosed in people aged 50 or over, and the earlier it is diagnosed, the greater the chances of survival. The Be Clear on Cancer teams have trained community ambassadors who have been engaged in conversations with South Asians, Black Africans and Caribbeans about the disease.

Campaign bosses say raising awareness is crucial, as a recent survey in the Midlands shows that only one in six (16%) over 50s would see their GP if they felt bloated for more than three weeks.

Figures show that only one in four (24%) would go to the GP if they had experienced discomfort in the tummy area for over three weeks. Furthermore, the survey found many residents are concerned that they would be wasting their GP’s time if they went to see them about such problems.  

The Be Clear on Cancer community ambassadors have been encouraging people who may be experiencing persistent tummy troubles to see their GP and explaining that their doctor will want to see them.

Bhai Sahib (Dr) Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia KSG OBE, patron of Nishkam Healthcare Trust in Birmingham says: “Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing.

“It’s a lofty mission. The ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign needs to be supported by one and all in the Midlands who come to know of it. We shouldn’t ignore spreading the word.

“All men and women, especially those aged 50 or over, need to see their doctor quickly if they suffer from prolonged stomach troubles.”

The campaign is also being supported by local celebrities Sameena Ali and Nitin Ganatra.

ITV presenter Sameena Ali who lives in the Midlands, comments: “I’m glad this campaign is launching in the area.  

“I never realised that tummy troubles such as diarrhoea, bloating or discomfort in the tummy area, for three weeks or more could be signs of cancer so am keen to raise awareness in my community so others know what to look out for.

“Being bloated or having diarrhoea isn’t something we usually discuss with others, and it’s also something we often dismiss or ignore, but don’t be embarrassed or shy about it.

“Breaking down the barriers of embarrassment could save lives. Tell your doctor if you have any concerns, your doctor will want to see you.”

For further information about tummy troubles as possible signs of cancer, please visit

Muslims unite with other faiths in condemning Westminster terrorist attack

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Muslim organisations and campaigners against racism and Islamophobia led unity vigils in response to the Westminster terrorist attacks on Thursday 23rd March.

The ‘Unity Vigil Against Hatred and Division’ took place across eleven major cities in the country, including London, Birmingham and Manchester.

Stand up to Racism, Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) and the Muslim Council of Britain along with members of the Jewish community called for the vigils nationwide.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, spent Friday 24th March with the emergency services responsible for helping the victims of the London attack on Wednesday 22nd March.

Following the meetings with the London Ambulance Service, London Fire Brigade and the Metropolitan Police Force, Saqid Khan said: “It was a privilege to visit and thank the London emergency services, responders and commanders today face-to-face.

“They did an incredible job in the face of adversity and there is no question that without their swift response the outcome would be even worse.

“Since Wednesday, staff from London Ambulance Service and doctors and nurses in our National Health Service worked round-the-clock to care for those who were injured in the horrific attack. I pay tribute to their dedication and skill.

“I also want to pay tribute to the Metropolitan Police officer, Keith Palmer, who died while courageously protecting our city, our parliament and keeping Londoners safe. My thoughts are with PC Palmer's family and colleagues at this awful time. He was 48 and a husband and father.

“This was not only an attack on our city and our country, but on the very heart of our democracy and the symbol of the values we cherish most – democracy, freedom, justice and tolerance. These are the same values that those who attack us hate so much, and the best way we can honour those who have tragically lost their lives is to ensure that we always uphold these values.”

Qari Asim MBE, Imam of Leeds Makkah Mosque

"We must be clear that those who take innocent lives are not following the teachings of any religion and  have no regard for any religion or humanity. These depraved terrorists are not following a path to paradise, as the taking of a single innocent life is considered in Islam as being akin to the killing of the whole of humanity.

"This vile attack is an attack on all of us, regardless of race or religion. We must stand united against such extreme, evil and distorted ideologies and work together to defeat terrorism in all its forms.

"The aim of terrorist attacks such as these is to divide communities and incite hatred amongst people of different beliefs and backgrounds. I urge communities to remain united and even more determined to eradicate all forms of terrorism.  

"I am deeply saddened by the loss of lives at Westminster and express full solidarity with the victims of the terror attack. I convey my sincere condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives."


Dr Shazad Amin CEO, MEND

"We are shocked and saddened by the act of mindless violence that took place at Westminster and our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones and with those that were injured during this incident. This act of violence is utterly deplorable and one that will find no room in any community.

"We stand firmly against anyone who wishes to use this tragic incident to create fear and divisions in our society. Only last weekend over 30,000 people marched in solidarity against all forms of hate, and we reiterate our commitment to Stand Up to Racism, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all forms of hate.”


Talha Ahmad, Muslim Council of Britain National Council

"Our thoughts are with those killed, injured and their loved ones in this horrific attack. We must stand united against hatred and division. We welcome the acknowledgement by Deputy Commissioner Mark Rowley of the anxiety felt by Muslim communities and attempts by the far right to exploit this incident.

"Terrorism and murder have no religion. The murders of Jo Cox and Mohamed Saleem show hatred is not unique to any one community."


Rabbi Lee Wax, New North London Synagogue

"We are all shocked and saddened by the horrific acts of terrorism on our London streets yesterday. We pray for the souls of those who died, and pray for strength for their grieving families. We also pray for a complete recovery to those injured.

“Along with our shock, however, must come our renewed fight against the hatred and madness that seeks to divide us and our communities.

“We must respond to hatred with love and with unity. We must stand up against this attack against decency and humanity by our commitment to each other. We must stand together, we must speak out, and we must double our efforts to work together for a better world for our children."


Maz Saleem, daughter of Mohammed Saleem and anti-racist campaigner

“My deepest sympathies and condolences go to all those that lost loved ones and were injured in the attacks in London yesterday.

“I feel very strongly about such incidents because my father was murdered by neo-nazi fascist terrorists and I am still struggling to cope with this tragic loss in my family.

“My father was a Muslim and he was murdered by the same fascist terrorist who bombed mosques in the West Midlands and became known as ‘The Tipton Bomber.’

"Quite rightly we do not equate all white people with this terrorist, but why are all Muslims treated as potential terrorists by racists and sections of the press? My father and my family are also the victims of terrorism.

“Terrorism has no religion. Don't let the sections of the media, right wing politicians and Islamophobes divide us."

Sabby Dhalu, Stand up to Racism Co-Convenor

"Our thoughts and sympathies are with the victims and of this horrific attack and their loved ones. We strongly condemn this incident. We must unite against hatred. We cannot allow self serving right wing racists to divide us - if we do hatred wins. Terrorism has no religion or nationality.

"The perpetrator of the attack was born in Britain and his victims spanned eleven different nationalities. The way we respond in the aftermath of despicable attack is critical to stopping hatred from spreading further. The only way of doing this is through unity against hatred and division. This is the message of today's vigils."

Weyman Bennett, Unite Against Fascism Joint Secretary

"The Westminster attack has shocked people across Britain. On Thursday night thousands of Londoners joined mayor Sadiq Khan in Trafalgar Square to offer solidarity to the victims and their families.

“But already, disgracefully, the far right are trying to take advantage of the attack. Britain First has already called a demonstration on 8th April.

"We will not allow these tragic events to be used to scapegoat and intimidate Muslim communities or to divide us. The vigils will show that we won't be divided and that we won't let the likes of Britain First to use a tragedy to stoke up hatred against Muslims."


Tearing children apart

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Birmingham, Manchester and Lancashire amongst worst locations for segregation in schools

Race, religion, socio-economic background and personal wealth are destroying the potential for children to integrate into society, causing divisions that could last a lifetime.

A troubling new report by the social integration charity, The Challenge, reveals that children in Birmingham, Manchester and Lancashire are amongst the most segregated in the UK.

The researchers deemed a school to be "segregated" if there were a higher number of ethnic minority pupils or pupils on free school meals than at those of neighbouring schools. With primary schools more likely to be segregated based on socio-economic differences, secondary schools are more likely to be segregated by ethnicity.

Taking into account primary faith schools, the report found that these schools were more ethnically segregated than those of no faith. Primary faith schools are also more likely to have a wealthier student population with over a quarter having significantly fewer pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds than those of non-faith schools.

At secondary school level, free Grammar schools - which Theresa May's government wants to expand - were heavily segregated by social background, despite claims that free Grammar schools open opportunities for integration from a broad range of backgrounds.

Almost all of the Grammar schools involved in the research (98 percent) had low pupil numbers of children from poorer backgrounds in comparison to the local high schools whilst none had large numbers of children eligible for free school meals.

Speaking about the study and addressing the findings which show the problem is worsening, with primary schools overall becoming more ethnically segregated in the last five years, Jon Yates, director of The Challenge, said: "At a local and national level, government needs to commit to doing much more to reduce school segregation.

We know that when communities live separately, anxiety and prejudice flourish, whereas when people from different backgrounds mix, it leads to more trusting and cohesive communities and opens up opportunities for social mobility.” He went on.

With over 20,000 schools taking part in the study, carried out over five years, areas that were noticeably segregated and marked as a matter of concern include:

  • Kirklees in West Yorkshire
  • Lancashire as a whole, but especially Blackburn with Darwen
  • Rochdale in Greater Manchester
  • Birmingham

Top of the shops! Dessert king ‘Icestone Gelato’ wins much-coveted business award

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PROUD: Kuljit Morris, store manager and Taj Ali, co-company owner outside the front of the award winning shop

PROUD: Kuljit Morris, store manager and Taj Ali, co-company owner outside the front of the award winning shop


An exciting win for the Icestone Gelato brand means that the Huddersfield branch, based on John William Street has more of a reason than ever before for visitors make their way down and tuck into yummy and delicious desserts.

The Bradford-born company, which has an expanding company portfolio across major cities up and down Britain, has just bagged the lucrative title of ‘Best Shop Front’ in the vibrant Huddersfield town centre.

Complimenting Icestone Gelato, the Huddersfield Civic Society award judges had high praise for the scrumptious dessert king, saying that they appreciate the investment made by the Icestone Gelato bosses.

From a standalone shop in Bradford to being a leader in the dessert market, the company has worked tirelessly to achieve great things for their ever expanding business empire and this award is further recognition of their incredible efforts.

With stores in major cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Huddersfield and the imminent re-opening of their Bradford store following a total overhaul, there’s plenty of opportunity to get in on the action and taste some yummy after-dinner treats.

BUSY: The eye-catching interior of Icestone Gelato is just as impressive as the award-winning front of the store

BUSY: The eye-catching interior of Icestone Gelato is just as impressive as the award-winning front of the store


Now in their fourth year of trading as a business Icestone offers up to a whopping 27-flavours of gelato (decadent Italian ice cream) such as pistacio, strawberry cheesecake and sticky toffee as well as to back-to-school favourites like jam roly poly and custard. The outlets also offer Belgian waffles, crepes and a range of traditional puddings.

Speaking to Asian Express, Paul Morris, operations director for Icestone Gelato told us what makes their dessert parlour unique: “Where we are different to many similar companies is that we make all our own gelato, which is a very detailed artisan operation.”

With many dessert stores popping up all over, Icestone Gelto really are trendsetters of the industry and this award really sets above the rest.

“We have, over time, worked endlessly with our dedicated team to enhance our products, our stores and our customer experience. Our brand awareness is gathering speed and we feel this is down to our very basic values of customer service, detail in produce and a feel good vibe created in store,” Paul added.

Icestone Gelato are in the process of re-opening their Great Horton Road branch in Bradford with a full new refit, and have .  further plans to open new stores in other parts of the country..

All stores open 7 days a week normally from 11am/1pm till late.

SLEEK: The chic interiors make for surrounding just as enjoyable as the desserts

SLEEK: The chic interiors make for surrounding just as enjoyable as the desserts

VIRAL VIDEO: Torrent of abuse for hijab-wearing girl twerking in public

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VIRAL VIDEO: Torrent of abuse for hijab-wearing girl twerking in public

SHOCK: The video of a young hijab-wearing woman twerking in public went viral and became the subject of a barrage of abuse – one person posted “stupid b**** needs to be killed” and “F****** s*** someone give me her address I will kill her”

A young girl has been the subject of a barrage of abuse after a video of her dancing went viral.

The woman, who hasn’t been named, was caught on camera twerking to music while wearing a hijab in the street in Birmingham.

After being viewed over 1 million times on social media, the video has resulted in a backlash against the woman with comments including death threats.

While opinion on social media was divided, some users posted very strong reactions with comments like “Stupid b**** needs to be killed” and “F****** s*** someone give me her address I will kill her”.


INTERVENTION: Islamic YouTuber's Ali Dawah and Musa Adnan attempted to reach out to the girl and restore public calm

Islamic YouTuber Ali Dawah, who has over 100,000 subscribers, posted a reaction video to his channel, in which he interviewed the woman in video. In the video Ali, along with fellow Youtuber Musa Adnan, deemed the video “inappropriate” but made an attempt to reach out to the woman and try to understand what happened.

A political activist and rights campaigner who is a critic of Sharia Law, spoke in defence of the woman. She tweeted: “Why the hell does she need to say sorry?”

During their initial viewing of the original video, the pair were angry and confused about the incident, but after talking to the woman their frustration transferred to those who are continuing to share the video on social media.

“I was out with my friends, we were going shopping and there were these people playing music, there was one song that a girl wanted to dance with me,” the woman explained, before sharing that she has mental health issues including depression and self-harm.

The girl apologised, before imploring Ali’s viewers to stop sharing the video and to remove it from the internet where possible.

“To all the girls that wear hijab and wear abayah I’m sorry for disrespecting it,” the girl said. “I’ve learnt from my mistake.

“I’m just hurt, I just want everybody to leave it alone and keep everything away.

“I don’t want it to be how it was and I’m not gonna do anything like again and I’m sorry for disrespecting it and thank you to all of you that helped.”

Maryam Namazie, a political activist and rights campaigner who is a critic of Sharia Law, spoke in defence of the woman. She tweeted: “Why the hell does she need to say sorry”.

Maryam received some backlash from Twitter users for her comments. When a user pointed out that this was none of her business, she tweeted: “Women's rights is my business”.

England star Hameed inspires street-cricketers

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Projects run in cities such as London, Birmingham, Bristol, Hull, Leicester, Liverpool and Manchester

England cricket’s newest prodigy, Haseeb Hameed, joined participants at a Chance to Shine Street cricket session in India.

Hameed, who introduced himself to the world in England’s recent tour of India, joined the ‘Street Session’ answering the participants’ questions and offering his own top tips for the game.

The participants, aged 16-24, have been playing regularly under the guidance of Chance to Shine Street cricket coach Rehaan Rather. The opportunity to meet a professional cricketer, who is achieving success at such a young age, was an inspiring opportunity for the young adults.

Chance to Shine Street projects run in cities such as London, Birmingham, Bristol, Hull, Leicester, Liverpool and Manchester. The free sessions have proved particularly popular, playing a fast-paced version of ‘tape-ball cricket’, which uses a tennis ball wrapped in electrical tape.

In 2016, over 2,700 children and young adults aged eight-24 took part in Street sessions. Around 75% of players are from BME backgrounds and 85% of the projects run in the 50% most deprived areas of the country.

Speaking at the event, Haseeb Hameed said “This evening’s been great. It was my first experience of Chance to Shine Street tapeball cricket, it’s not something I’ve played before but to see it here tonight was brilliant. There’s a lot of natural talent here and tapeball gives you a real opportunity to showcase your skills.

“Chance to Shine Street is a great scheme and I’ve no doubt that a lot of talent will progress within the game as a result of playing tapeball cricket.”

Lycamobile Chairman, Allirajah Subaskaran, said, “We are very proud to sponsor Chance to Shine Street and over the past year have witnessed how its programmes and initiatives have changed the lives of some of those living in the UK’s most disadvantaged areas.

“Sport can be a powerful tool in breaking down barriers and creating social cohesion and this is something that speaks strongly to our commitments at Lycamobile, of connecting people both within the UK and internationally.”

The event is one of a series taking place as part of the ongoing partnership between Lycamobile and Chance to Shine, which was renewed in August 2016 for a second year. With Lycamobile’s support, Chance to Shine has expanded its Street programme, which uses cricket to promote social cohesion among communities affected by anti-social behaviour and youth crime.
To find out more about Street cricket and to get involved go to

Chutney and chat: Director appointed to head Birmingham business networking group

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A national director has been appointed to take a new concept in business networking nationwide.

Kasim Choudhry, aged 27, has been appointed as National Director of Pathway2grow, part of the Birmingham based Pathway Group.

He was appointed shortly after organising the first ever highly successful Asian Apprenticeship Awards in Birmingham.

‘Chutney and Chat’ is for people who want to meet and have a meal together and listen to the guest speaker.

Pathway2grow has successfully launched in Birmingham and London an afternoon event ‘Coffee and Natter’ and an evening group ‘Chutney and Chat.’

The concept behind both groups is to provide opportunities for businesses to get together in an informal atmosphere free from the pressures and formality often involved with networking groups.

Coffee and Natter is a free event based around businesspeople getting together for coffee or tea and chat. Groups meet in the afternoon once a month and there is always a guest speaker and a review of a business related book.

“We have ‘road tested’ Coffee and Natter in the Birmingham and London area for a year and likewise ‘Chutney and Chat’ in Birmingham and there are now groups in Manchester, Derby and Bradford,” said Kasim Choudhry.

“People know that networking and building relationships is the best way to do business but we are responding to a view that many networking groups that exist are too formal.

“The idea that underpins this initiative is that businesses can learn and grow together.

“We are now ready to expand throughout the UK and are keen to hear from people who would like to be involved in running both ‘Coffee and Natter’ and ‘Chutney and Chat’ groups.”

Missing man: Have you seen 24-year-old Zohaib, from Sheffield?

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MISSING: 24-year-old Zohaib Latif was last seen on New Year’s Eve

MISSING: 24-year-old Zohaib Latif was last seen on New Year’s Eve

We need your help in tracing the whereabouts of 24-year-old Zohaib Latif. Zohaib was last seen on Saturday 31st December 2016 at his home in Sheffield.

He is known to have links to Birmingham and London but could be elsewhere in the country.

Zohaib is described as Asian, approximately 5ft6, of slim build. He has receding dark hair and wears strong glasses with a thick purple or black rim. Zohaib is very frail due to a number of medical conditions and has a distinctive walk.

He was last seen wearing a blue cotton 'windbreaker' with a reflective silver strip around the chest and back, dark trousers and cream hush puppy shoes. Zohaib speaks good English but may require medical treatment.

If you have seen Zohaib or may know of his whereabouts please call 101 and quote incident number 1143 of 31 December 2016.

They fish you a ‘Merry Chipmas’! Local takeaway to serve free Xmas dinners for the homeless on the 25th

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Christmas can sometimes be a lonely and unforgiving time when you’re on your own - or struggling to make ends meet.

To spread a little festive cheer, one chip shop is Birmingham will be opening its doors on Christmas Day to feed the homeless and elderly.

Brothers Asef and Hamid Faqiri – who run The Classic Fish Bar in Erdington - are digging into their own pockets and will be dishing up a turkey dinner with all the trimmings for their local customers.

Asef said: “I’ve been here for two years, and I’ve seen many homeless people here.

“There’s also alot of older people and they probably would love to have Christmas dinner. They haven’t got Christmas dinner to eat on the special day so we thought we would treat them. It’s a small thing but we want to do it and we hope it makes them happy. We want to help the poor and homeless. We’re doing it for God and the greater good.”

There will also be free fish and chips for those wanting something simpler, or for those who follow a pescatarian diet.

Staff will prepare, cook and serve up a steaming traditional turkey dinner in takeaway boxes to hand out to anyone who turns up between 1pm and 4pm.

A sign has been put up in the shop window advertising the event.

It has been shared widely on social media and the brothers are also urging their customers to spread the word.

Asef added: “We are cooking it up in the kitchen and it’s not all going to be fish and chips or donner meat! It’s going to be a proper traditional dinner. This will be the first time we’ve done this but I’m sure it won’t be the last!”

Tribute to ‘caring’ officers: Family of murdered businessman thank police for their support

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CARING TEAM: Sergeants Richard Nutt and Julie Kempson were presented with awards from the Royal Humane Society alongside PC Matt Moore

CARING TEAM: Sergeants Richard Nutt and Julie Kempson were presented with awards from the Royal Humane Society alongside PC Matt Moore

The family of a Birmingham businessman shot dead during an armed robbery have paid an emotional tribute to the West Midlands Police officers who battled to try and save his life.

Sergeants Richard Nutt and Julie Kempson, plus PC Matt Moore, were first on the scene of the warehouse raid in Digbeth where Akhtar Javeed had suffered gunshot wounds to his leg, chest and face.

The officers administered first aid in a bid to stem the blood loss and performed CPR for around 30 minutes while paramedics performed advanced trauma care.

PC Moore then ‘blue lighted’ the ambulance to hospital in order to free-up the driver to treat Mr Javeed in the back of the vehicle.

Grandfather Mr Javeed sadly passed away in hospital shortly after the 3rd February attack and three people were later jailed for a total of almost 40 years for their part in plotting and carrying out the robbery.

In recognition of their efforts, the three officers were awarded a special certificate on behalf of the Royal Humane Society at an awards ceremony on Thursday 1st December that was attended by several of Mr Javeed’s family.

THANK YOU: Mr Javeed’s relatives were keen to share their gratitude with West Midlands Police for the care they provided to the whole family

THANK YOU: Mr Javeed’s relatives were keen to share their gratitude with West Midlands Police for the care they provided to the whole family

Mr Javeed’s daughter, Lilas, said: “We wanted to be there in person to thank the officers for the selflessness and care they showed my father; they went above and beyond in trying to save his life.

“Without a second thought they put themselves in potential danger not knowing if armed robbers were still present.

“But most of all they showed him love and care in what turned out to be his last moments, after he had experienced such cruelty. They were there for him when we were not able to be…and it helps us to know he was not alone in his last moments.

“To us, these officers truly deserve these awards.”

Sgt Julie Kempson said the scene that confronted her and colleagues on the day had deeply affected them - and that talking to Mr Javeed’s family since his death had helped.

She added: “None of us think we were brave…we did our job and tried desperately to keep Mr Javeed alive. We alternated CPR between us for around half an hour…I’m just sorry Mr Javeed didn’t pull through.

“It’s very humbling for Mr Javeed’s family to have thanked us for our efforts; they are a lovely family and I wish them all the best for the future.”

West Midlands Police is working with authorities overseas to trace and bring Tahir Zarif - the man suspected of shooting Mr Javeed during the raid - back to the UK to face justice.

It’s understood Zarif fled the country to Pakistan following the shooting.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is urged to contact West Midlands Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Yes to flash mob, no to forced marriage

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PERFORMANCE: West Midlands Police held a flash mob at Birmingham’s New Street station to kick off their new forced marriage campaign

PERFORMANCE: West Midlands Police held a flash mob at Birmingham’s New Street station to kick off their new forced marriage campaign

New police campaign aims to tackle illegal wedlock

West Midlands Police have launched their latest forced marriage campaign for the region with two flash mob performances in Birmingham New Street station.

Detective Sergeant Trudy Gittins, WMP’s subject matter expert on forced marriage said: “We’ve timed our new awareness raising campaign ahead of the school and university Christmas break, a time when young people may be taken abroad to be married, often under the guise of a holiday."

Dancing to Bruno Mars’ iconic love song ‘Marry You’ the flash mob - a mixture of professional dancers, student volunteers and off duty West Midlands Police Officers - launched the new campaign to hundreds of unsuspecting commuters, thrusting what is currently a hidden crime directly into the public eye.

Forced marriage happens when the bride, groom or both do not want to get married but are forced to by others, usually their families. People forced into marriage may be tricked into going abroad, physically threatened or emotionally blackmailed.

Detective Sergeant Gittins added: “According to statistics from the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit, here in the West Midlands we have the second highest number of forced marriage victims.

“We know that forced marriage knows no boundaries in terms of race, religion, culture, gender, class or geography and can happen to anyone, anywhere in the region.

“The message our flash mob gave out is clear. A marriage proposal is supposed to make you happy. If you don’t feel happy about getting married or are feeling under pressure to do so, then this is wrong and West Midlands Police can help you.”

Going abroad is a central theme of the campaign and West Midlands Police have been working with Birmingham Airport to have stickers displayed in airport toilets, encouraging people who have worries leaving the country, or arriving back here to call 101 or ask a member of staff.

Also making up the campaign is ‘Ask Arita’ - a mock problem page which can be found on West Midlands Police’s website with answers to a number of questions relating to the complex issue that is forced marriage.

There will also be a vlog style YouTube henna tutorial on WMP’s YouTube account with a very special message.

  • Every week West Midlands Police receives a call from someone worried about forced marriage
  • From the 50 calls WMP has received so far this year, 23 have been recorded as crimes
  • Forced marriage charity Karma Nirvana receives the second highest number of calls from the West Midlands, after London

Tributes to a ‘wonderful human being’: Great-grandmother killed in collision with lorry

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TRAGIC: Malkeet Kaur Surdhar was killed after being struck by a lorry near Soho Road, in Birmingham

TRAGIC: Malkeet Kaur Surdhar was killed after being struck by a lorry near Soho Road, in Birmingham

A great-grandmother who died after being struck by a lorry in Birmingham on Tuesday 15th November has been named as Malkeet Kaur Surdhar.

The 80-year-old was injured in the collision near S&B Supermarket, Soho Road, at around 10.45am.

Traffic police are continuing to investigate the circumstances of the accident and appealing for witnesses to come forward.

Malkeet’s family have today described her as a ‘devoted wife, beloved mother, wonderful sister, caring grandmother, compassionate great grandmother and a wonderful human being’.

In a statement they said: “She was strong willed, full of fierce loyalty for her loved ones and a fighter until her very last breath. Please don’t let her death be in vain and cherish your loved ones everyday and let them know.

“Whilst we ask the public to respect our privacy at this difficult time, we would like to take this opportunity to appeal to anyone and everyone who may have seen something no matter how big or small it may seem, that may be of assistance to the police.

“From one human being to another we appeal for witnesses so that she may rest in peace and our family can grieve.”

They added their gratitude to everyone who offered assistance following the accident and help her fight for life.

The lorry driver is helping officers with their enquiries and police are keen to hear from anyone who was in the area at the time.

Sergeant Chris Ridge, from the Collision Investigation Unit, said: “We are still trying to piece together the circumstances of this collision. I would urge anyone with information who hasn’t come forward so far to get in contact.”

20 questions with Indian singer Mikka Singh

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Interview with Indian singer Mikka Singh

1. Can you remember the first time you performed in front of a live audience and what was that like?

I've been performing since I was a kid. Memories go back to being just a few years old. Performing at school at local functions, and playing alongside my parents in the Gurdwarasaheb.

2. How do you look back on the journey from that first performance to becoming a world renowned live performer?

Performing is an art which is mastered over time. I have been performing for so many years now that it has become second nature to me. I have learnt so much over the years which I am really proud of.

3. What has been your most memorable live show?

I couldn't really name any one particular show. Each show is memorable in its own way. Beautiful Cities, wonderful people, it's been a spectacular journey.

4. You have mastered the stage, but what is the secret of a live show?

I feel when it comes to Live shows the main ingredient is connecting with your audience. Keeping them involved, making them feel as if the performance is completely interactive.

5. You seem to have an extra burst of energy on stage many artists don't have, where does that come from?

I'm always energetic! To sum it up, 'Punjabiyaan di battery charge rehndi hain'.

6. What has been your memorable encounter with a fan at a live show?

My favourite are my young fans. The kids are so cute. I always call them up on stage to perform with me. It's truly humbling.

7. How much are you looking forward to your UK show and what can we expect?

UK has always been a favourite destination
of mine. London, Birmingham, Leeds, I have met some of my most wonderful fans there. I plan to come there and do what I do best and am super duper excited to tear up the stage.

8. How much do you plan a show and how much is freestyled?

My shows are completely freestyled, nothing is planned and I with my live band improvise each and every performance.

9. Which songs do you enjoy singing live most and why?

I love singing the songs my fans enjoy most, and lucky for me by gods grace that has been each and every one! I get various requests at each show; my hits like 'Subha hone na de' '440 Volte' and 'Jumme ki raat' are favourites.

10. How do you UK audiences compare to others around the world?

My adore my UK audiences. Like I mentioned earlier they are a brilliant crowd. So alive, energetic, appreciative and loving.

11. You spend a lot of time on the road, what is the biggest thing you miss about being at home?

Home cooked food. But then again saying that, I travel with my cook, so do tend to get that on the road too! Hehe.

12. Is there any country you haven't performed at but would love to and why?

I think again the grace of god I have covered everywhere in the world now. Over my career span of 18 years, I have been lucky enough to reach some of the most beautiful cities in the world.

13. You have a great ability to select hit songs how do you select them?

I don't select them- Great hit songs select Mika Singh.

14. You are also a musician, does that make it difficult to take instructions from a music director?

Never. However, They never really instruct me they tell me what they think would sound good and I give my suggestions.

15. What are your big passions away from music?

I am extremely passionate about animals. I have over 30 beautiful animals at my farm house in Delhi.

16. You have quite a mischievous streak where does that come from?

Haha. It comes from within. I keep myself and people entertained by just being ME.

17. Do you have any big unfulfilled ambitions away from music?

None as of now. There are new targets I set to achieve every now and then and I make sure I work towards them and hit the jackpot in everything I decide to do.

18. Today what inspires you?

My biggest inspiration today is Amitabh Bachchan sir. He never stops, never quits, never gives up. That's how I wana be all my life.

19. Why do you love music?

I belong from a musical family. It's in my blood. It's a part of me.

20. Why should we come to your UK show?

Because I want you to witness the best of Bollywood music live.

University’s New Delhi workshop

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MEETING OF MINDS:  University of Birmingham Chancellor Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea and the Minister of State of External Affairs General Vijay Kumar Singh, amongst others, pictured at the Ministerial briefing

MEETING OF MINDS: University of Birmingham Chancellor Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea and the Minister of State of External Affairs General Vijay Kumar Singh, amongst others, pictured at the Ministerial briefing

World’s best minds discuss sustainable cities and microbial infection

A two-day international workshop on sustainable cities and microbial infection has concluded in New Delhi.

The workshop was jointly organised by the University of Birmingham and Panjab University (PU), in collaboration with the University of Nottingham. PU led a group of institutions around Chandigarh, known as the Chandigarh Region Innovation and Knowledge Cluster (CRIKC).

Experts from Birmingham – one of the world’s top 100 universities – and PU, the leading university in India, met in Chandigarh and Delhi, agreeing to lay the foundation for joint research that could help to solve major problems facing both countries.

Research specialists in the area of sustainable cities from Birmingham and Chandigarh have agreed to work together in helping cities of both countries survive the massive population wave that will hit them in the coming decades.

Similarly, experts in infection and microbiology discussed joint research opportunities that could help tackle issues such as the causes of antimicrobial resistance. India is the world's largest consumer of antibiotics and faces significant problems with such drugs fast losing their power to heal.

India’s Minister of State of External Affairs General Vijay Kumar Singh attended the event’s closing session in Delhi, whilst Birmingham experts met UK Minister for Universities & Science Jo Johnson after the workshop to brief him on its highlights.  Mr Johnson is pictured above with, from left, University of Birmingham Chancellor Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea, General Vijay Kumar Singh, PU Vice-Chancellor Professor Arun Kumar Grover and University of Birmingham Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) Professor Robin Mason.

Jo Johnson said: “We have a long history of working closely with India and this two-day workshop is a brilliant example of the UK’s world leading researchers collaborating and sharing expertise with Indian counterparts to find innovative solutions to issues that affect people around the world.”

Addressing the workshop, General Vijay Kumar Singh said: “The world is shrinking - universities interacting to share knowledge is no longer a luxury to make the world better, it is a must. If we do not do that, we will be lagging behind in our duty towards humanity.

“I envy the students of today who have opportunities to work together. We must put into effect what we have learned in our universities and create a social impact. I see a great future ahead and hope that the type of co-operation we see here today exceeds our imagination.”

Multicultural memorial: Remembering Asians who fought in the Great Wars

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GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Indian troops at a gas mask drill

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Indian troops at a gas mask drill

As Remembrance Day has been and gone and people have put their bright red poppies away for another year, what our readers may not know is: more than 3.5million soldiers from the Asian subcontinent fought for Britain in the two conflicts, with tens of thousands killed in action.

The 2.5million men and women who came over to do their bit in World War II became the biggest volunteer force in history.

Secretary general Farooq Murad, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “We need to remind not only the Muslim community but also the general public that the Muslim contribution to the defence of this nation runs deep.”

During World War I, Muslim troops in the Indian Army fought on the Western Front. By the end of the Great War, India had sent more than 1million troops.

More than 47,000 died and 65,000 were wounded.

In World War II, some 2.5million men and women fought for Britain, with 36,092 killed, 64,354 wounded and almost 80,000 taken prisoner.

More than 400,000 Muslim soldiers fought in World War One , yet a recent survey by British Future -a think-tank dedicated to racial integration - has revealed that only 22 per cent of people know of their sacrifice.

CULTURES AND CONFLICT: Over 100,000 Sikhs came to do their bit in the Great Wars

CULTURES AND CONFLICT: Over 100,000 Sikhs came to do their bit in the Great Wars

British Future project co-ordinator Avaes Mohammed has overseen a scheme to educate Birmingham children about the part Muslims from India played in the Great War.

Avaes, assisted by Birmingham historian Jahan Mahmood, gave history lessons to a Muslim group from Lozells and a group of non-Muslims from Kingstanding .

The youngsters then interviewed descendants of soldiers who fought in the war.

The project was one of four across the country that made up “An Unknown And Untold Story – The Muslim Contribution To The First World War”.

At the outbreak of war, the Indian army was 1.3 million strong, with the ranks including 100,000 Sikhs and 800,000 Hindu troops.

Of that massive force, 62,060 were killed in action. They gave their lives at epic battles such as the Somme and Ypres. Hundreds were killed in a gallant, but futile, engagement at Neuve Chappelle.

More than 1,000 of them lost their lives at Gallipoli and nearly 700,000 sepoys fought in Mesopotamia.

Attention all future doctors & dentists

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Read on to secure your university place

Are you an aspiring doctor or dentist, preparing for an interview to seal that all important university place? Have you passed your UKCAT and now just waiting for the face-to-face meeting to decide your possible future?

If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions you may be in luck as Doctor to Be continue to lead the way in ensuring their students achieve success in two of the most competitive industries around.

With an average of just one university place for every 12 applicants in medicine or dentistry, competition is undoubtedly fierce. Preparation, therefore, is key to success.

By enrolling the help of Doctor to Be, you will have a team in your corner who boast a 100% success rate for the last academic year – seeing 98 students land their place at chosen universities. With over five years experience and more than 300 students there is no better experienced help out there.

Headed up by a team of current practising doctors and dentists, the organisation is unique in its structure, running independently from any external body. All of the tutors are current or ex-interviewers for medical and dental schools.


One-to-one sessions  and small group sessions, catering for no more than 10 students at any time, are held for interview preparation.

Traditional interview and Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI) practice have been used by hundreds of students to date, with nearly all securing places at universities across the country from Edinburgh to Plymouth.

Running out of Batley’s Al-Hikmah Centre predominantly and conference rooms across the country, there will definitely be a location and a date to suit you.

Data shows that around 50 per cent of students applying to medicine will attend a preparatory course or have attend interview tuition - Can you afford not to do the same?

Simply put, there is no better way to prepare for your interview than by bringing in help from the professionals.

Learn from the best and be the best with Doctor To Be.

Tel: 07790848009



Say hello to Jag Kalsi, your sales representative for Manchester and Birmingham

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Jag Kalsi

Jag Kalsi

From a Punjabi background and recently married, 34-year-old Jag is a real ‘family man’. With a liberal, left-wing attitude, he is open-minded and extremely affable.

Growing up in Dewsbury, his early life has helped him understand how many different races, religions and backgrounds gel together into one brilliant, dynamic and cohesive community across the north of England.

He said: “I believe Asian Express represents the world we live in, today.

“We don’t live in a society which is segregated, as the mainstream media wants us to believe.

“I’m proud to work for a company which is religiously and politically unbiased and the paper is a great vehicle for any business - that’s any shape or size - to shout and scream about what they stand for.”

Jag’s parents used to own a small shop that closed down due to bigger corporations coming into the town and ‘stealing’ their business.

“I’m here to support independent business owners because I understand what it’s like. I have a vast knowledge of different businesses, from e-commerce to hospitality. I believe people buy from people and I strive to build friendships first and foremost with my clients.”

So how did Jag come to join the Asian Express team?

“I met Nadim, our Managing Director, in June 2015 whilst working at Mumtaz Leeds as an Operations Manager.

“He was impressed with the Graphic Design work that I did for the company and when he found out about my sales background, he took me on board. I started working here in February 2016 and haven’t looked back.”

Jag describes his work ethic as methodical, fair and understanding; whilst his co-workers would say he’s ‘a real good guy’. They even went along to his wedding this year, where they were treated to Langar and a lot of laughs.

“I’ve always been an Asian Express reader, along with my family. My favourite section of the paper would be the local news and motors.”

Watch out for Jag... who’ll be looking for business in your area very soon!

Telephone: 08703 608 606 / 07542 780369


Terror duo jailed: Would-be extremist fighters jailed for Syria related terror offences

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SENTENCED: Anas Abdalla and Gabriel Rasmus were sentenced to a combined time of almost 10 years in prison for attempting to flee the country to join extremist forces

SENTENCED: Anas Abdalla and Gabriel Rasmus were sentenced to a combined time of almost 10 years in prison for attempting to flee the country to join extremist forces

Two Birmingham men, who were stopped at Dover trying to travel to Syria to engage in terrorism, have this week been sentenced at London’s Old Bailey.

Anas Abdalla was found guilty on 13th October following an almost six week trial, whilst a second man, Gabriel Rasmus, pleaded guilty to the charges at an earlier hearing.

Abdalla was sentenced to five years and Rasmus to four years and three months, for planning to join Islamist rebel forces.

The court heard how Rasmus, 29, from Chain Walk, Lozells, and Anas Abdalla, 26, of Fox Hollies Road, Acocks Green, planned their travel to Syria in a bid to join the extremist fighters.

An extensive surveillance and undercover operation provided vital information on the groups plans.

The two were arrested at 7.45am on Friday 3rd April 2015 at the Port of Dover in Kent; a third man - Mahamuud Diini - was arrested and charged but was found not guilty earlier this year.

Their meticulous plans for travel were evidenced by several purchases of outdoor equipment by Rasmus - walking boots, night scope telescope, a compass, head torch, a route planner, vitamins and thermal drink flask.

DISCOVERY: The two men were found in the back of a lorry (pictured) with supplies for travelling

DISCOVERY: The two men were found in the back of a lorry (pictured) with supplies for travelling

They had travelled to London in a taxi, meeting up with the lorry driver in a lay-by before hiding in the back of the lorry in an attempt to smuggle themselves out of the country.

Their plan was foiled when detectives instructed ports officers to check the lorry, where the duo were found lying on the floor dressed in winter coats, each with a rucksack.

Following the arrests, searches at their homes also revealed extremist ideological material on computers and USB’s as well as evidence of a number of online searches they had undertaken to help them plan.

Counter terrorism detectives believe that once in Europe their plan was to travel through Albania or Bulgaria to Greece, Turkey and into Syria.

ACC Marcus Beale, Counter Terrorism Lead for West Midlands Police, said: “Today’s sentences send a clear message to hopefully deter anyone planning to travel to Syria to join Daesh.

“As part of this investigation, extensive surveillance and undercover activity was used. They were unknowingly being monitored by our officers who swooped as they attempted to leave the port.

“We will use every lawful technique and power available to us to prevent people from travelling to Syria.

“If anyone is concerned that a friend or family member is thinking of travelling to Syria it is very important that they tell us as soon as possible. Police and other agencies can offer support to help safeguard those who are vulnerable to radicalisers.

“The sooner we can intervene, the better chance we have of preventing people from becoming embroiled in the conflict and facing potential prosecution.”

Fireworks fuzziness: Birmingham and Indian scientists investigate air pollution causes

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REDUCED RANGE OF VISION: Fireworks during Diwali and Guy Fawke’s Night cause a sharp reduction in visibility

REDUCED RANGE OF VISION: Fireworks during Diwali and Guy Fawke’s Night cause a sharp reduction in visibility

Scientists at the University of Birmingham are working with partners in Delhi to better understand the causes, sources and effects of pollution in India and the UK.

Dr Francis Pope and Professor Mukesh Khare at the Indian Institute of Technology have co-organized a workshop in Delhi in December to investigate air pollution in the two countries.

The event is sponsored by the British Council and follows work at Birmingham which discovered that there is a sharp reduction in visibility caused by fireworks events marking occasions such as Diwali and Guy Fawkes’ night.

Birmingham scientists found that visibility was further decreased when the relative humidity was high.

Dr Pope, from the University’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, said: “Events such as Diwali celebrations and Guy Fawkes’ Night are attended and much enjoyed by many people in India and the UK. Unfortunately, these events can affect short term air quality and lead to significant reductions in visibility.

“We hope that our Delhi workshop will help us to better understand the causes, sources and effects of pollution in India and the UK and how they differ between the two countries. If forecasts suggest that planned displays will coincide with conditions likely to exacerbate poor visibility, then organisers and local authorities should be prepared to issue poor visibility warnings in advance. This precautionary measure could help to prevent unnecessary accidents.”

Dr Pope’s research used data taken over 13 years between 2000 and 2012 from 34 meteorological stations throughout the UK the scientists noted an average 25 per cent reduction in visibility caused by atmospheric particulate matter from fireworks and bonfires.

If the conditions are unfavourable then the visibility reduction can be much more severe; for example, visibility reductions of 64 per cent were seen in Nottingham.

Fireworks celebrations usually involve both bonfires and ground and air detonating fireworks. The particulate matter that is scattered after detonation is hygroscopic – its water content is dependent on the local relative humidity.

As the humidity increases so does the water content of the particulate matter, changing the average size and composition of each particle, which leads to the particle being able to scatter light more effectively and hence reduce visibility.

The effects, which were especially pronounced when humidity was high, raise concerns regarding motorist and pedestrian safety. The visibility reducing effect of the extra particulate matter loading in the atmosphere can last up to two days after the fireworks event.

Pedalling up the pounds! Primary school pupil’s bike ride raises hundreds for charity

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CHARITY CYCLERS: Father and son, Suki and Jaidev, were joined by over 100 charity cyclists for a 24-mile route through Birmingham

CHARITY CYCLERS: Father and son, Suki and Jaidev, were joined by over 100 charity cyclists for a 24-mile route through Birmingham

An 11-year-old boy from Birmingham has managed to raise hundreds of pounds for his chosen charity by pedalling a gruelling 24 miles on his bicycle in an organised event.

FUNDRAISING EVENT : Giani Sukha Singh, the CEO of the Sikh Helpline, was seen with his bicycle on the day

FUNDRAISING EVENT : Giani Sukha Singh, the CEO of the Sikh Helpline, was seen with his bicycle on the day

Jaidev Lotay, from Wheelers Lane Primary School, took part in the ‘3rd Bike Ride’ for the Sikh Helpline, which started in South Birmingham’s ‘Guru Nanak Gurdwara’ in the early hours of 2nd October.

The Year 6 student was the youngest rider on the route.

The cycling course was carefully selected and passed through 10 local Sikh Gurdwaras from Birmingham to Wolverhampton.

Previously, the two rides in 2014 and 2015 had proved to be a huge success, not only bringing the community together but promoting health, wellbeing and charity work.

Last year, the ride raised around £14,166.59 - which allowed the Sikh Helpline to employ new staff members, move to new premises and open up new branches in Yorkshire and Manchester.

Jaidev, or Jai as he is known to family and friends, managed to raise £267, nearly doubling his goal of £150.

Speaking after crossing the finish line, the inspirational young fundraiser said: “The pain in my legs was nothing compared to the pain and struggles that other kids endure every day.

“The money I’ve raised will help kids like me to deal with issues beyond their control.”

CYCLING THROUGH THE CITY: Jai managed to navigate busy traffic on the route

CYCLING THROUGH THE CITY: Jai managed to navigate busy traffic on the route

Jai’s father, Suki Lotay, who also jumped on his bike to join in with the charity ride, said he was extremely proud of his son.

“He was overwhelmed that he actually managed to cycle 24 miles, which has been his longest ride to date,” Suki smiled.

“He was well prepared for it, as he had already completed his Level 1 & 2 Bikeability qualification at school which really helped his confidence on the road.”

The father and son team explained that some of the hills towards Wolverhampton were extremely ‘enduring’.

“We had the right support and more importantly, we used the correct gearing which helped us with the inclines,” Suki added.

Having conquered his longest bike ride to date, Jai has now committed to the Sikh Helpline team that he will cycle and fundraise every year as he enjoys the sense of achievement of giving back to the community.

REFUELLING: Jai snacking during the ride to keep his energy levels up

REFUELLING: Jai snacking during the ride to keep his energy levels up

Giani Sukha Singh, CEO of The Sikh Helpline, said, “We need the support of the local communities to help us keep up with the increasing demand of calls.

“Every call matters and a missed call may be the only attempt someone makes for help. It is crucial that every call is answered.

“The Sikh Helpline handles hundreds of calls each month on issues ranging from grooming, domestic abuse through to racism and substance addiction. Due to cultural barriers and protection of ‘honour’ within the local community, such victims suffer in silence.”

He added: “The Sikh Helpline has been invaluable in reaching out to the local Community and we anticipate further projects and I welcome their efforts to secure funding to pursue their good work.”

The Sikh Helpline always receives high volumes of calls and its demand has become nationwide. To find out more, visit

Rashid the role model

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TRIBUTE TO FAMILY: Sajid was joined by his mother and father on stage, dedicating his award to them

TRIBUTE TO FAMILY: Sajid was joined by his mother and father on stage, dedicating his award to them

Inspirational award for inspirational citizen

Community heroes from across the UK gathered in the bustling city of Liverpool last month to celebrate the outstanding achievements of those who have demonstrated exceptional devotion to diversity, equality and inclusion at the National Diversity Awards.

In the category of ‘Positive Role Model of the Year for Age’, Burton’s Sajid Rashid was eventually named as the award recipient, receiving the accolade ahead of the seven other shortlisted finalists and over 20,000 nominations.

At the age of only 26, Sajid is one of the youngest persons ever to have been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) from Her Majesty The Queen on the New Year’s Honours List 2016 for his tireless service to the community, as well as a profound impact on the community and fundraising.

Sajid started volunteering at Staffordshire Youth Service and quickly progressed to become a Millennium volunteer after helping young people around East Staffordshire set up youth centres in his spare time.

He then moved his focus to Uxbridge Community Centre where he became chairman, and then vice-chairman, allowing him to improve the venue and the community.

Working for Rolls-Royce as well as a qualified pilot, it has enabled Sajid to impact both his local and international community, and has allowed him to explore STEM fields in order to inspire young minds.

To date, Sajid has raised over £20,000 for natural disasters around the world.

DESERVED WINNER: Sajid Rashid was awarded the ‘Positive Role Model of the Year for Age’ award at the National Diversity Awards

DESERVED WINNER: Sajid Rashid was awarded the ‘Positive Role Model of the Year for Age’ award at the National Diversity Awards

The successful fundraiser was in attendance on the night to accept his award, which he dedicated to his parents.

Speaking on stage that night, he said: “My mum and dad are probably thinking why have I brought them up to stage with me.

“Well the reason for this is that I don’t always get a chance to express how I feel about them. The reason for this award is them.

“My mother and father, my pride, my joy. I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for them, the goals that I have achieved and conquered in life, the success and the blessings, Is all because of them.

“So I would like to personally dedicate this award to my parents for everything they have done for me throughout life."

He went on to say: “I would like to also congratulate all the winners as well as the nominees.

“Win or lose in my eyes you are all winners. Its people such as yourselves that put the ‘great’ back into Great Britain, that unites society instead of dividing.

“Community cohesion and diversity is what makes our Britain great against the rest of the world. This is what makes me proud of our nation.”

The Diversity Award is just the latest accolade Sajid has picked up this year, following on from his BEM and British Citizens Award.

Unfair dismissal for Muslim TA

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WHISTLEBLOWER: Suriyah Bi said she was dismissed for making a whistleblowing complaint

WHISTLEBLOWER: Suriyah Bi said she was dismissed for making a whistleblowing complaint

Teaching Assistant branded 9/11 footage shown to kids as ‘x-rated’

A Muslim teaching assistant has decided to take a Birmingham school to court over what she claims was ‘racial discrimination’ and an ‘unfair dismissal’.

24-year-old Suriyah Bi claims she was sacked when she complained about a video showing the terrorist events in New York on 9/11 to a class of 11-year-olds.

Branding the footage as ‘X-rated’, Suriyah, an Oxford graduate, lost her job at Birmingham’s Heartlands Academy after just a week and is now pursuing claims for unfair dismissal and religious discrimination.

The school said Suriyah simply no longer wanted to work at the school and that it would oppose her claims.

During the brief preliminary hearing which dealt with legal and technical matters, the video was not mentioned in detail.

Outside the hearing, Suriyah said: “It was shown to some 30 children during class. I understand the video was shown without the permission of the authorities.

“It raised questions about what safeguards there are in schools to protect children.

“These were children aged 11, of whom many knew little, or nothing, about the 9/11 horror.

“They were subjected to graphic scenes and some were shocked and upset. The video not only showed the plane crashing into the Twin Towers but also showed people committing suicide by jumping to their deaths from the tower blocks.

“Such young children should not been shown things like that because it is well-known that it can play on their minds and even induce them to kill themselves.

“I was in the classroom when the video was shown and I quickly objected. Later, I was told to leave the school.

“There was an investigation into the matter but I was dismissed for making a whistle blowing complaint.”

Suriyah said she believed no action was taken against the teacher who screened the video, but some people regarded the showing as ‘misguided’.

The class had been studying a poem about a victim of the 9/11 terrorist attack. The poem is part of the AQA GCSE syllabus.

E-Act, who sponsor a number of academies, including Heartlands, told the tribunal judge Ron Broughton that the teacher no longer wanted to work for them.

They complained there had been no need for the preliminary hearing and were considering making a claim for costs against Suriyah for causing delays.

Mr Broughton said she could go ahead with her legal claims at a full hearing later this year and he would not consider a claim for costs at this stage.

The 9/11 were a series of four co-ordinated terrorist attacks carried out by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda on the US on September 11, 2001.
The attacks killed 2,996 people and injured over 6,000 others.

Getting ‘Intimate’

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Music maestro A.R. Rahman reveals electrifying line-up for his concert tours in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and London



A man that needs no introduction, A.R. Rahman is a multi-talented, internationally renowned composer, musician, singer and record producer.

Now, as excitement builds for A.R. Rahman’s ‘Intimate Tour’, the music maestro has revealed his electrifying line-up.

As if treating fans to an intimate concert is not enough, A.R. has lined up some fantastic surprise appearances from fellow industry stalwarts. Performing with some of the hottest playback singers from Bollywood, Indian cinema fans are in for a treat as A.R. will be joined by Benny Dayal, Neeti Mohan, Jonita Gandhi and Tamil sensation Haricharan.

Set to bring his spectacular live show to the UK this September, the A.R. Rahman UK tour will be a feast for the senses, showcasing his inimitable style and mix of eastern classical music with modern electro, world music and traditional orchestral arrangements.

Jonita Gandhi

Jonita Gandhi

As a special treat, A.R. will be inviting Benny Dayal on stage to perform a selection of songs as a duet and solo. The singer’s acting debut in ‘By The People’, first earned him attention from A.R.

Now, 11 years later, the singer will be sharing the stage with the two-time Grammy-award winning artist. No stranger to the limelight, Benny Dayal is known for lending his voice to hit songs from popular Bollywood films including: ‘24’, ‘Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu’, ‘Student of the Year’ and ‘Band Baja Baraat’.

Another familiar face joining A.R is Neeti Mohan who has graced Indian TV screens for the past few years – first as a contestant in Channel V’s Popstars and I currently a judge on The Voice India.

Mohan made her signing debut five years ago lending her voice to ‘Ishq Wala Love’ in ‘Student of the Year’, ‘Jiya Re’ from ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’, and has since gone on to become one of the hottest properties on the playback scene with a great line-up of songs to her name.

Benny Dayal

Benny Dayal

Also gracing the stage will be Indo-Canadian singer Jonita Gandhi, who sings in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.

Gandhi kicked off her playback career with Vishal Shekhar in Chennai Express and then in Highway and most recently has been heard in the hit ‘Dishoom’.

Gandhi's work as a playback singer is not just limited to film soundtracks, having been featured on AR Rahman's album ‘Raunaq’ as well.

Her association with Rahman continued with a backing vocal performance for Mani Ratnam's Tamil film ‘OK Kanmani’.

The final artist joining Rahman for this unique tour is Tamil star Haricharan, best known for one of his debut songs, ‘Unakkena Iruppen’, which was nominated for the National Film Awards in 2005. After storming the Tamil music charts with his fantastic debut, Haricharan has become a leading artist for Tamil and Malayalam music.

Neeti Mohan

Neeti Mohan

A.R. commented “After the successful 18-date ‘Intimate’ tour in the US last year, we really wanted to bring it over to the U.K.  

“The show has all kinds of songs, some are Hindi, some Punjabi - there’s a lot of music to hear! I am so happy to be sharing the stage and my intimate tour with four artists I really respect. It will be a pleasure to invite Benny, Neeti, Jonita and Hari on stage with me.”

Rahman has sold-out international arenas around the globe and has played for crowds as large as 120,000 in his home country of India.

This September, UK audiences will have the rare opportunity to experience an incredible must-see concert by a musician revered as one of the true greats of our time.

A.R. Rahman COVER (800x533)

Intimate Tour

22 September - London, The SSE Arena Wembley

24 September - Birmingham Barclaycard Arena

29 September - Leeds First Direct Arena

30 September - Manchester Arena

Brothers on the beat

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BOBBY BROTHERS: Sheryar and Syed Shah have joined the West Midlands’ police family

BOBBY BROTHERS: Sheryar and Syed Shah have joined the West Midlands’ police family

Sheryar and Syed Shah are used to serving the public after a career in retail - but now the pair have swapped High Street sales for High Street patrols after becoming two of West Midlands Police’s latest recruits.

Sheryar Shah has swiftly followed in the footsteps of his younger sibling Syed - who only started on the beat in April - to join the force’s current training cohort.

Syed, known as Luke, previously worked in retail, catering and for a charity before being put through his paces at the force’s Tally Ho training centre last November.

The 25-year-old had been a special constable before becoming a full-time officer and his pride at being a part of the force proved inspirational as within months his sibling Sheryar - also a former retail assistant - also secured a place on the PC recruitment scheme.

The 27-year-old is due to hit the streets in September.

Luke, who is based with Solihull Police, said: “I always wanted to be a police officer, I did forensic and investigative studies at university. Then when I became a special constable a few years ago it really made my mind up I wanted to become a full-time officer.”

The pair, both from Birmingham, are the first from their family to join a UK police force - although they have relatives who are part of the police in Pakistan.

Getting botanical for charity

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BOTANICAL BONANZA: SAFS celebrates 30 years of looking after the most vulnerable and needy

BOTANICAL BONANZA: SAFS celebrates 30 years of looking after the most vulnerable and needy

SAFS 30th Anniversary Gala is a fragrant success

A registered Midlands charity - Sandwell Asian Family Support Service (SAFS) - held a fabulous 30th Anniversary Gala at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens on 4th June to commemorate three decades of their wonderful work.

Since it opened its doors in 1986, SAFS has cared for hundreds of South Asian disabled people every year, in addition to providing a valuable service to maintain the health and wellbeing of parents and carers.

The floral event was attended by 300 people, with honourable guests - Satnam Rana and Sukhi Bart - leading the night, alongside entertainment, ranging from a steel-pan artist to magicians, photo booths and DJs.

Meanwhile, the highlight for many in attendance was a special performance by a group of adults who attend SAFS Lifestyle service.

GLAMOROUS GUESTS: Everybody looked ‘fabulous’ on the day

GLAMOROUS GUESTS: Everybody looked ‘fabulous’ on the day

The Gala was attended by SAFS families, friends, supporters and representatives from the health and social care, corporate and government sectors.

Speaking about the charity’s work, CEO, Parpinder Dhatt, said: “It’s been a remarkable 30 years for SAFS.

“We have helped ease the lives of hundreds of South Asian disabled people and their families and our 30th Anniversary Gala was our opportunity to celebrate our achievements and pay tribute to these amazing people.”

She continued: “We hope with the generous support from the community, organisations, local business’ and SAFS staff team that we are able to provide and develop our invaluable services to the local community for another 30 years.”

Over the last 30 years, SAFS has worked to enrich the lives of hundreds of local individuals and families. Trained and qualified staff have worked tirelessly to enrich the lives and experiences of all of the children, young people and adults who use their services.

All the proceeds from the 30th anniversary event went towards supporting people living with a disability and their families.

Flash flooding in Brum

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WATER WORLD: The Tenth Lock in Brierley Hill shared this photo on Facebook

WATER WORLD: The Tenth Lock in Brierley Hill shared this photo on Facebook

West Midlands chaos as water floods hundreds of homes

Flash flooding has hit parts of the West Midlands, causing homes, businesses, cars and roads to become submerged under water.

flood manhole (292x450)On Thursday, the chaotic deluge started at around 6pm. Over 1,000 flood-related calls inundated West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS).

It has been reported that 1,000 homes in Birmingham either flooded or were at risk of flooding.

South Birmingham and the Dudley region appeared to be the worse affected.

The radiotherapy section of the former Queen Elizabeth Hospital also had to be cleared of an incredible 5,000 litres of water.

It is the latest bout of flash flooding to hit the region in the last few days, with Birmingham's Heartlands Hospital declaring a major incident when its accident and emergency department was hit.

WMFS Area Commander Ben Brook praised the response of our Fire Control staff and that of firefighters who tirelessly responded to incidents in spite of challenging and sodden conditions.

floods (289x450)“Although we believe that the worst of the weather has now passed, we are still asking people to be vigilant and to beware of the likelihood of intense rain with little notice.

“There is also likely to be a lot of standing water on roads, and we would remind people not to enter floor water either in vehicles or on foot. There will also be debris and waste on some roads, so drivers should be alert.

“In spite of the horrendous spate conditions, we believe that no-one was seriously hurt and would like to thank people for their patience and support throughout.”

Britain has been battered by heavy rainfall this week, with some parts lashed with as much as 40mm of rain. There are warnings of more wet weather on its way.

Thunderstorms and lightning hit England and Wales, while heavy showers have also affected north-eastern parts of Scotland.

Mountainous money-raisers: Adventurers raise five figure sum for charity

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IN PEAK FITNESS: 413 participants took part in the challenge of climbing three mountains

IN PEAK FITNESS: 413 participants took part in the challenge of climbing three mountains

Hiking heroes from a Birmingham-based charity have been feeling adventurous this month after completing their 10th Yorkshire ‘Three Peaks Challenge’ on 29th May.

SEWA-UK, which combines the name for a Sanskrit  word meaning ‘service’ and an anagram for ‘Selfless Efforts for Welfare of All’, set up ‘Charity Through Adventure’ to encourage people to push themselves to their limits whilst also raising money for charitable causes.

A mighty 413 participants from across the UK turned up to tackle the terrain, which made for a ‘very enjoyable and memorable day’.

THREE PEAK PROFESSIONALS: Over £11,000 has been raised for charity

THREE PEAK PROFESSIONALS: Over £11,000 has been raised for charity

Satish Shah, who has lead the event for the past 10 years said: “The reason that we do this is so that the walkers achieve their objective in pushing themselves to their own physical and mental limits.

TREKKING FUNDRAISERS: People of all ages and abilities challenged themselves whilst walking up some difficult terrain

TREKKING FUNDRAISERS: People of all ages and abilities challenged themselves whilst walking up some difficult terrain

“When we encourage each others to carry on, it shows our true character. There were tears of joy with aches and pains that will become fond memories in days to come. Photos with friends will be cherished for a long time,” he added.

An impressive 133 people completed all three peaks; 109 managed to scramble up two peaks and 136 tackled one peak.

Many participants were ‘first timers’ and not seasoned hill walkers – but everyone took part to raise funds for the charity, whatever their ability.

So far, over £11,300 has been raised and more funds in the next few weeks will add to the grand total.

Satish continued: “Charity Through Adventure has, over the years, given many people opportunities for training and encouragement to enjoy hill walking. Since our first walk in 2006, many of our participants have gone on to various high altitude treks, raising funds for various charities.

“I want to thank all the participants over the years who have given immense satisfaction to all our volunteers. Thank you to all our volunteers for making time for others; your contribution is greatly appreciated by all participants.”  

Next year’s walk will take place on Sunday 28th May 2017.

To find out more, visit

MOUNTAINOUS CHALLENGE: Trekkers climbed one, two or all three peaks during the day

MOUNTAINOUS CHALLENGE: Trekkers climbed one, two or all three peaks during the day

Birmingham female drag queen flees India

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Part-time teacher and burlesque performer feared for her life after performing on stage in just her KNICKERS

Andrea Smith, 40, says she had to flee India after military police threatened to jail her over her “indecent show” where she wore just nipple tassels and knickers on stage (picture courtesy of Andrea Smith)

Andrea Smith, 40, says she had to flee India after military police threatened to jail her over her “indecent show” where she wore just nipple tassels and knickers on stage (picture courtesy of Andrea Smith)

“I don’t think they had a problem with me performing in nipple tassels, they knew that was coming. Really they were trying to silence me about my outspoken views.”

A female drag queen who appeared on Britain’s Got Talent was chased out of India by armed police when she performed on stage – in just her knickers!

Andrea Smith, 40, a part-time teacher from Birmingham, left organisers of an anti-domestic violence conference fuming after she played a rape victim onstage wearing only underwear and nipple tassels.

She says she was forced to flee the country after being told military police were hunting for her following her “indecent” performance at the Women’s Economic Forum, in New Delhi.

Andrea’s act, ‘Finding Your Voice Through Art’, was designed to spread a message about domestic violence through her alter-ego ‘Swingerella’ earlier this month.

It saw her appear lying on stage in fishnet tights and burlesque nipple covers before she launches into an hour-long spoken-word performance about sexual abuse.

But the next day the mum-of-two claims she had to dodge police waiting for her at the show and flee back to the UK after organisers threatened her with jail.

Andrea said: “My show is outrageous, but they had all my videos and would have known what to expect.

“I performed it and everyone in the audience loved it.

“The organiser wasn’t there, but the next day someone told me he had refused to put a video of the performance on YouTube.

“Then the organiser called me over as I was leaving and said they could take my passport off me and put me in jail for a long time for what I did.

“I said: ‘Why are you body shaming me?’ But he said what I did was illegal in India.

“He told me it was indecent and deeply offensive in their culture.

“He made me feel really ashamed of my body and my act. I was trying to give women a voice and here they were trying to suppress mine.

“I walked off and went home, but the next morning I got a tip off that I should leave the hotel because the military guards were going to arrest me. I was petrified.

“I went to the British Embassy, because apparently they were waiting for me at the show, but they told me if I’d broken the law I’d have to face it.

“So I got my friend to get me a lift straight to the airport and paid £800 for the quickest flight back.

“Being threatened with jail and hunted by armed police is one of the most terrifying things that has ever happened to me. It was very scary.”

Andrea, who auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent in February last year and has also appeared on ‘Come Dine With Me’, says she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from a past abusive relationship.

Now she draws on her experiences to perform across the UK and has appeared previously at the Edinburgh Festival.

Andrea added: “I think my performance was a bit of a culture shock to them, but it is about domestic abuse.

“Swingerella’s dark fairy tale is showing how when we are abused we pretend to be OK when we are not. It has been described as burlesque but it’s not indecent.

“I don’t think they had a problem with me performing in nipple tassels, they knew that was coming. Really they were trying to silence me about my outspoken views.

“I was asking why there were women getting paid next to nothing to clean the toilets at a Women’s Economic Forum and raising transgender issues.

“Although it was in India, there were women from 75 countries there and I thought it was an open forum to talk about these issues.

“But the organiser, whose wife was dressed like Barbie, seemed to want women to talk and behave a certain way – which I didn’t.

“I just think it’s such a shame, because I was meant to be helping raise awareness of victims of acid attacks in the country until 30th May, but now I can’t do that.
“There are bigger issues here than a middle age woman in tights on stage.”

Mayweather’s knockout visit to Birmingham

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MONEY MAYWEATHER: Floyd Mayweather visited the Arabian Nites venue earlier this month (l-r) Zane Rafiq, Nahim Rafiq, Floyd Mayweather, Qamran Rafiq

MONEY MAYWEATHER: Floyd Mayweather visited the Arabian Nites venue earlier this month (l-r) Zane Rafiq, Nahim Rafiq, Floyd Mayweather, Qamran Rafiq

Night to remember at Arabian Nites

When Floyd Mayweather Jnr visited the UK earlier this month, there was only one place the undefeated world champion wanted to visit for a box office night out.

Trading the bright lights of the Vegas Strip for Birmingham’s own Bissell Street, the A-list boxer headed straight for the renowned entertainment centre – Arabian Nites.

Opened in May last year, the premium venue mixes a VIP shisha lounge with an exclusive restaurant, dessert parlour, bowling alley and dance floor to create a venue that’s truly unique.

CHAMPION: Floyd Mayweather enjoyed the Arabian Nites experience until the early hours of the morning

CHAMPION: Floyd Mayweather enjoyed the Arabian Nites experience until the early hours of the morning

Under a slick security operation, ‘Money’ Mayweather arrived with his traditional entourage, pulling up outside in a row of Rolls Royce Phantoms supplied by Phantom Hire.

Once there, he enjoyed an evening of exquisite food, mock-tails and live entertainment until the early hours of the morning when he retreated to his private jet and flew off to Amsterdam.

Qamran Rafiq, of Arabian Nites, described the evening as ‘very special’ and was delighted to play host to the biggest name in boxing.

“When we were contacted by Mayweather’s team, we were obviously delighted to hear that he wanted to come down to Arabian Nites after hearing of our reputation in the States,” he said.

“Mayweather himself was a great person to meet and so humble to speak with.

“He came straight here from an event in Cannock and didn’t arrive until about 1am at which time he said he was absolutely starving. He was supposed to stay here for about half an hour but stayed until 5am.”

Qamran added: “He was just amazed by what he found at Arabian Nites.

“He came with around 12 or 13 security men but felt so relaxed after his dinner that they were all on the dance floor by the end of the night, just enjoying the music and laughing away.”

As the leading high-profile shisha lounge and entertainment centre in Birmingham, Arabian Nites directly caters to the city’s most affluent clientele by providing a sophisticated decor and flawless ‘Arabian style’ customer service, complete with exhilarating entertainment.

In addition to costumed performers and dancers, parties are also given a glitzy twist by a regular rotation of well-known A-list celebrity guests.

Floyd Mayweather commenced the evening with fine dining cuisine from the Turkish restaurant, followed by mock-tails and mouth-watering deserts from the dessert lounge, before ending the evening at Arabian Nites entertainment centre.

Following the night, the world champ commented that he would like to take the Arabian Nites concept to the states.

Hoverboards pulled from shelf

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CONTROVERSIAL: At one point looked upon as the ‘must have’ Christmas present, the hoverboard has since been slammed for safety concerns

CONTROVERSIAL: At one point looked upon as the ‘must have’ Christmas present, the hoverboard has since been slammed for safety concerns

Authorities stop sales of ‘dangerous’ gifts

Trading Standards officers stopped nearly 1,800 unsafe ‘hoverboards’ from being sold to consumers in Birmingham during the run up to Christmas, according to a new report.

Birmingham City Council’s trading standards team worked with port authorities across the country, to suspend the sale of the popular gadgets – most of which were being imported from China.

During December 2015 officers contacted firms importing the boards to establish whether the products they were handling complied with safety legislation.

As a result of this action, 1,766 devices were suspended from nine importers after officers found these were unsafe or had inadequate documentation to prove whether they met British and European safety standards.

This followed a number of reported incidents across the country where the battery-powered, self-balancing scooters were catching fire, raising concerns over their safety.

Initially some plugs, chargers and connecting cords failed to meet recognised safety standards, then a more serious issue was identified in some boards where the battery’s cut off switch failed, allowing it to continue charging when full – causing it to overheat and catch fire in some cases.

DANGEROUS: A hoverboard fire in Bradford caused devastation last year

DANGEROUS: A hoverboard fire in Bradford caused devastation last year

Port authorities would usually seize and detain any suspect consignments, but they became so overwhelmed with the number of hoverboards coming into the country that they had to release them without checks, notifying local Trading Standards teams for them to take appropriate action.

Cllr Barbara Dring, Chair of the Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “Our Trading Standards officers take product safety extremely seriously but retailers must share this responsibility to stop substandard – and potentially dangerous – products coming into the marketplace.

“Consumers buying electrical goods should not let a new fashion or fad cloud their judgement so they should be wary of cheap, and potentially dangerous, electrical products. Be sure to check whatever you’re buying meets safety standards – look out for CE mark and is BS1363 on the plug.

“If people have any doubts over a product’s safety, they should contact Citizens Advice national consumer helpline.”

Brum brum!!! Driverless cars for Brum!

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DRIVERLESS: A prototype of the type of driverless cars that people can expect to see in the near future

DRIVERLESS: A prototype of the type of driverless cars that people can expect to see in the near future

Birmingham will see hi-tech shuttles arrive in the region next year

A £2.3 million funding package which will bring state-of-the-art driverless cars to Birmingham has been given the green light.

The ‘INSIGHT’ project, an industry and academia partnership, will see autonomous vehicles pull into city centre streets after the cash was secured from the government’s £100 million Intelligent Mobility Fund - aimed at developing autonomous vehicles in the UK.

For people who are blind, visually impaired or have problems with mobility, the driverless cars will improve access to transport. The cars will also cut congestion and lower emissions.

The project will see two hi-tech shuttles arrive in the region from next year which will be tested over the course of a pilot period.

INSIGHT will focus on improving the accessibility of transport for people who have difficulty traveling independently, as well as on the safety, reliability and integration of autonomous vehicles into an urban environment.

Britain will need to capitalise on new technologies like driverless vehicles, securing high skilled jobs and contribute to a more prosperous future for the whole of the country.
The cars will be built by modifying existing Heathrow Ultra-pod vehicles to incorporate state-of-the-art 3D imaging and innovative sensors for navigation and safety.

The vehicles will feature the world’s first four-dimensional tactile display which will provide continuous sensory feedback for blind users over the course of their journeys.

Advanced indoor and outdoor positioning systems will allow blind users to know their exact locations using a smartphone app and will link to a cloud-based system which will allow nearby vehicles to be virtually requested or ‘hailed’.

Dr Umar Daraz, Director for the Institute of Sustainable Futures at Birmingham City University, said: “We are witnessing the start of the next automotive revolution in the region that will place the city at the forefront of this technological revolution, opening new opportunities for our economy, society and engineers of the future.

“Driverless vehicles for mobility of all of our citizens will become a reality in the very near future and this project represents a major milestone in realising that vision.”

Academics and researchers at Birmingham City University will work alongside Birmingham City Council to compile detailed safety cases for the use of driverless vehicles and run trials with members of the public including blind or visually impaired citizens in 2017.

Julian Turner, CEO Westfield Sportscars, said: “The UK is in an excellent position to become a world leader by reducing congestion on our roads and helping the environment in the process by lowering emissions.

“This will lead to the generation of new opportunities and highly skilled jobs across the country, keeping the UK at the forefront of this technology.

“The INSIGHT project will provide public confidence that proper safeguards are in place for the citizens and road users alike, and the trials will go a long way to understand the needs of the users of this exciting means of mobility.”

Roger Wilson-Hinds, Conigital Group said INSIGHT would strive to create a new paradigm in mobility for all citizens in the streets of a future smart city.

“Autonomous Vehicles will for the first time provide a truly inclusive and tailored transport solution to encompass those that are often overlooked, senior citizens and blind/visually impaired people in our growing communities to become economically and socially active rather than isolated and dependent.”

Warehouse robbery horror

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ROBBERY VICTIM: Akhtar Javeed died from a gunshot wound in an attempted robbery at a warehouse in Digbeth

ROBBERY VICTIM: Akhtar Javeed died from a gunshot wound in an attempted robbery at a warehouse in Digbeth

Birmingham father-of-four shot dead by masked men

Detectives have launched a major investigation after a man was shot dead during an attempted robbery at a warehouse in Digbeth on 3rd February.

Officers were called to Direct Source 3 Ltd, at 66 Rea Street South, just before 6.40pm on Wednesday, after receiving reports that several masked men were robbing the premises.

Response officers were immediately dispatched to the scene and found company boss, 56-year-old Akhtar Javeed, who had suffered a gunshot wound.

The father of four, who was director at the soft drinks distributor, was rushed to hospital by paramedics but was pronounced dead a short time later.

A forensic post mortem is being arranged. Officers believe that two men were involved and enquiries are on-going to identify those responsible.

Norman Khan said he saw the aftermath of the shooting.

He wrote on Facebook: “As we got [to] the scene police sealed off the area, there were few guys standing there, police, loads of paramedic and an Asian guy on the floor, face, head covered in blood.

“The paramedics were trying to resuscitate him, his heart [stopped] beating.”

Syed Abbas, 30, who lives at an east London property which Mr Javeed owned and lived in during part of the week, said his wife and children had the news broken to them last night.

Mr Abbas told Sky News: “Within 15 minutes of finding out, his whole family went to Birmingham. They were crying and very upset.”

Acting Detective Chief Inspector Martin Slevin, from Force CID, said: “At this early stage we believe this was a targeted robbery attempt at the business premises in Rea Street South, near to the junction with MacDonald Street.

“It happened at a time when other people may have been leaving work for the day and someone may have seen what happened or have important information about the suspects.

“If you have any information that could help our investigation, please get in touch as soon as possible.”

Superintendent Andy Parsons confirmed the alleged gunmen sought out Mr Javeed’s business specifically.

He said: “It’s early stages of the investigation but at this moment in time we believe this was a targeted attack at Mr Javeed’s premises and the purpose of that attack was a robbery.

“There were a number of staff members in the premises at the time. We are working with them this morning both in terms of trying to understand what they can offer in terms of evidence but also offering support because, as you can imagine, it was a hugely traumatic incident.

“We don’t understand what was the motive of that attempted robbery. But everything we understand at this moment in time indicates it was very specifically aimed towards Mr Javeed’s premises.”

The two suspects are now on the run.

Any witnesses should contact police on 101 or call the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Mother jailed for 6 years for taking child to Syria

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DAESH BALACLAVA: An image recovered from Tareena’s mobile phone by investigators

DAESH BALACLAVA: An image recovered from Tareena’s mobile phone by investigators

Daesh sympathiser sentenced at Birmingham court

A 26 year-old British mother, described previously as a bright former college student, took her toddler son to Syria and has now been jailed for six years for joining Daesh.

Tareena Shakil - who lived in Birmingham and was originally from Burton on Trent - secretly left Britain in October 2014 to join the self-declared caliphate.

Shockingly, she posed her little boy for pictures wearing an IS-branded balaclava in what a judge described as one of the most ‘abhorrent’ features of the case.

After a two-week Birmingham Crown Court trial which finished on Friday, Tareena was convicted of membership and encouraging acts of terror in Twitter posts made before she travelled.

The Recorder of Birmingham added: “You were well aware that the future which you had subjected your son to was very likely to be indoctrination and thereafter life as a terrorist fighter.”

FIREARM: Tareena Shakil posed with a firearm

FIREARM: Tareena Shakil posed with a firearm

The judge told Shakil it was clear she had been ‘radicalised’ following online conversations with prominent members of the terrorist group.

He said: “You had followed tweets and other statements from radical preachers and terrorists and formed your views from those and from discussions you had with a known terrorist, and who you described as being involved in the training of terrorist fighters for Isis.”

The judge said she had planned her flight to the capital of Raqqa and researched travelling in secret.

“Exactly what occurred in Raqqa is far from clear,” he added.

“You told lie after lie to the police and in court between February and November 2015, including that you were kidnapped, were not responsible for any tweets and any incriminating photographs were staged against your will.

“You pleaded not guilty and told more lies to the jury which they have understandably rejected.”

The judge described Shakil's decision to involve her young son, who was only 14-months-old at the time of travel, as a serious aggravating factor.

“Most the fact that you took your son and how he was used,” he said.

“The most abhorrent photographs, however, were those taken of your son wearing a balaclava with an ISIS logo and specifically the photograph of your son, no more than a toddler, standing next to an AK47 under a title which, translated from the Arabic, means 'father of the British jihad'.”

The father of Shakil told ITV News Central that she made a 'mistake' but that she was not a terrorist.

CUSTODY PHOTOS: Tareena took her toddler son to Syria and has now been jailed for six years

CUSTODY PHOTOS: Tareena took her toddler son to Syria and has now been jailed for six years

Birmingham teenagers charged for knife attack on Polish men

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CRIMINALS: (L-R) Abdullah Atiqzoy, Feizullah Atiqzoy and Sadam Essakhil

CRIMINALS: (L-R) Abdullah Atiqzoy, Feizullah Atiqzoy and Sadam Essakhil

Two teenagers - including a 16-year-old boy - face jail after being found guilty of stabbing a young Polish man to death and leaving his friend seriously injured in an unprovoked and random attack in a Birmingham street. 

A third man was found guilty of helping an offender.

The chilling attacks took place in May 2015 in the early hours of Sunday morning, as Lukasz Furmanek, 24, and Joseph Dudek, 34, walked along Grove Lane, Handsworth.

The two friends had spent the evening drinking in a Polish club in Soho Road and were heading back to Lukasz Furmanek’s flat when they were attacked.

Both men were stabbed several times.  Lukasz died at the scene due to his horrific injuries, despite emergency crews performing CPR in a bid to save him. Joseph was left in a critically ill condition.

Officers believe at least one knife was used in the attack. CCTV shows a knife stuffed in the bottom of one of the attacker’s trouser legs.

Following the stabbings, police launched a major enquiry.

19-year-old Abdullah Atiqzoy, an Afghan national from Elizabeth Street, Oldbury was arrested by Kent Police after being found travelling in the back of a lorry in an attempt to escape the country.

16-year-old Sadam Essakhil, also an Afghan national, from Small Heath was arrested after police issued an appeal to find him. He handed himself into police in Belgium, where he had recently escaped to.

Both men were charged with murder and attempted murder.

Following the verdicts, court reporting restrictions were lifted to allow Essakhil to be named.

A third man, Abduallah’s brother, and 24 year-old Feizollah Atiqzoy of no fixed address was arrested in August.

Although not there at the time of the attacks, he helped his brother and was charged with assisting an offender.

All three will be sentenced on 15th January 2016.

Detective Inspector Jim Munro from the force’s homicide team, said: “This was a completely random attack. The defendants had only crossed paths with the two victims seconds before they attacked them with knives.

“The attack was sudden, shocking and brutal, which left one man dead and his friend fighting for life. Fortunately Joseph Dudek has made a full recovery. Atiqzoy and Essakhil were guilty of barbaric violence and I welcome the verdicts."


‘Nations Collide’

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FIGHT NIGHT: Mubz Bajwa is preparing to return to the ring for the first time in six years as he faces off against Thai opponent, Singh Noi, in Pakistan

FIGHT NIGHT: Mubz Bajwa is preparing to return to the ring for the first time in six years as he faces off against Thai opponent, Singh Noi, in Pakistan

World record breaker heads to Pakistan for international showdown

The Birmingham competitor has been training intensely ahead of his return to the ring

The Birmingham competitor has been training intensely ahead of his return to the ring

An experienced Thai boxer from Birmingham, who smashed a world record in the sport earlier this year, is readying himself for the world’s stage as he prepares for ‘International Fight Night’.

Mubz Bajwa, from Birmingham, will fly out to Pakistan later this week to compete in a unique showdown with experienced Thai competitor, Singh Noi.

Dubbed the ‘Nations Collide’ matchup, the pair will face-off in the ring for the first time in front of an expectant audience, on the K-7 Redemption fight-card on Saturday 12th December.

Having previously fought for the British title, Mubz’s matchup in Pakistan will be a new experience, yet one he says he is looking forward to.

“The guy I am coming up against is from Thailand, the home of Thai boxing, so he has a big reputation coming into the fight,” he said.

“He’s still young yet has been in over 100 fights because he started in his teens. I am expecting a really tough contest when we eventually step into the ring.”

A Red-band qualified instructor who has been competing in the sport for over 20 years, Mubz is now 37-years-old but is still confident of his in-ring abilities.

“I haven’t actually had a professional fight now for at least six years so my training has had to be really intense in the build up to 12th December,” he said.

“Thankfully it has been really good and I am now just looking forward to fighting in a different country, in front of a different crowd to show them what I can do.”

Mubz was contacted by the organisers of the event following his successful world record attempt in January, when he completed 111 consecutive rounds of Thai boxing.

A weigh-in between the fighters has been scheduled for the day before the fight, which will see Mubz go face-to-face with Noi in front of media and fans.

“What I have been told to expect sounds like something I have never been involved with before,” he added.

“The crowd over there are really excited for this event and to see our fight which is being billed as ‘Nations Collide’. Hopefully I will come back to the UK a champ and further build my reputation in Thai Boxing.”

He Named Me Malala

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Malala Yousafzai and Emma Watson photographed together after filming a live Q&A broadcast to UK cinemas following Pupils’ Premiere of HE NAMED ME MALALA for the Into Film Festival

Malala Yousafzai and Emma Watson photographed together after filming a live Q&A broadcast to UK cinemas following Pupils’ Premiere of HE NAMED ME MALALA for the Into Film Festival

Over 10,000 school children and teachers in 80 cinemas across the UK were treated to a unique live event as  Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai discussed her life and campaigning work with the actress and UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson, to mark the opening of the Into Film Festival on 4th November.

The question and answer session was beamed live via satellite from Birmingham into cinemas nationwide following the ‘Pupils’ Premiere’ of new film ‘He Named Me Malala’. The film opened this year’s Into Film Festival ahead of its release across the UK on Friday 6th November.

The Q & A opened with a conversation between the two young women, which covered a variety of topics including education and identifying with feminism as a symbol of human equality. Emma also asked Malala questions submitted by students and teachers across the UK, which ranged from Malala’s ambitions for the future, her favourite teacher and her advice for the young people watching.

‘He Named Me Malala’ is an intimate portrait of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was targeted by the Taliban and severely wounded by a gunshot when returning home on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.  

The then 15-year-old (she turned 18 in July this year) was singled out, along with her father, for advocating for girls’ education, and the attack on her sparked an outcry from supporters around the world. She miraculously survived and is now a leading campaigner for girls’ education globally as co-founder of the Malala Fund. The film is directed by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman).

The Into Film Festival supports the film education charity Into Film’s vision to put film at the heart of children and young people's learning, contributing to their cultural, creative and personal development.

To support this, the Festival provides thousands of free film activities, workshops and cinema experiences to engage and entertain young people and educators alike. In 2014 the Festival engaged over 372,000 young people and educators, making it the world's largest annual free film festival for young people. Into Film and the Into Film Festival is supported by the BFI through Lottery funding and by Cinema First.

Five in a row! Bradford retains Curry Capital crown

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WINNERS: The 2015 Curry Capital bid team from Bradford celebrated their fifth title in as many years earlier this week

WINNERS: The 2015 Curry Capital bid team from Bradford celebrated their fifth title in as many years earlier this week

After clinching their first Curry Capital title in 2011, Bradford has more than excelled in living up to its title. So much so, that the city has just retained its crown for the fifth year in a row.

In previous years, the city’s bid has been praised for its individuality and commitment to promoting inclusivity, something the 2015 team have once again emulated.

This year saw Visit Bradford and the team of four chosen restaurants work alongside Bradford's Probation Office and the Fresh Start 4U project to produce a Curry Capital Garden.

There was also a fun social media campaign where ‘Peshwari Paws’ - the Curry Capital mascot, had fun around the district, taking photos at various venues and logging his adventure on Twitter.

The bid was eventually handed over last month at the Peshwari Paws Teddy Bear's Picnic where probation service users helped chefs from the selected restaurants prepare a variety of picnic dishes, served up to the Deputy Lord Mayor and guests.

On Tuesday 20th October, Bradford was officially named the Curry Capital of Britain once again, as the city celebrated an unprecedented fifth crown.

Bradford Council tourism manager, Patricia Tillotson, said the award came as a surprise to the team, but they were thrilled to hear the news.

“It’s absolutely amazing to win it five times, it would be for any city,” she said. “The team have really worked hard on the bids over the last five years and this year we have gone that little bit further.

“The other teams had a blue print this year of what we used in the past and therefore we thought it would be good to really push the boundaries once again. Instead of just doing things at a local level through cohesion, we did it at regional and national levels as well.

“I couldn’t believe it when we won it three times in a row and then it was a real shock to get it the fourth year.

“Even though we knew we had worked really hard on the bid this year, you cannot expect to just win it for a fifth time. We knew all the other cities had put in good bids as well so it was a fantastic surprise to receive the phone call saying we had won.”

This year’s team of restaurants included: Akbars, Aakash, Kiplings and Shimla Spice, who worked alongside Bradford Council throughout the bid.

Speaking on behalf of the businesses, Mohammed Rafiq, of Kiplings, said the fifth title was even more special than previous years.

“This is a momentous occasion really because it is unheard of,” he said. “No other city in the UK can claim a national title like this in the country’s biggest food industry.

“You’ve got London, Birmingham and Manchester – the biggest cities, and then you have Bradford here and size wise we are no match to them.

“However, this award just goes to show that the quality of food we provide here far excels all others.

“I’m a firm believer that we set the standard for the rest of the country when it comes to curry and that is shown by us winning this title for five years running.”

This year’s Curry Capital top five cities:

  • Bradford
  • Glasgow
  • Brighton
  • Leicester
  • Birmingham