Tag Archive: coventry

Miss Meena and the Masala Queens

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Play about lesbian and gay community to uncover untold stories of men who choose a female persona

A play about British Asian drag queens – ‘Miss Meena & the Masala Queens’ begins is tour this week, which has been complied after speaking to British Asian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals.

Rifco and Watford Palace Theatre in association with Warwick Arts Centre have uncovered the untold stories of men who choose a female persona.

The drama follows Miss Meena, a once famous drag queen who’s career has washed up and he's struggling to keep his nightclub open.

Behind the sparkling costumes and big Bollywood style lip-sync dance numbers ‘Miss Meena & the Masala Queens’ will reveal a very human story about the meaning of family.

The cast includes Raj Ghatak as Miss Meena, Ali Ariaie as Kabir and Ranjeet, Harvey Dhadda as Preetho, Nicholas Prasad as Shaan, Jamie Zubairi as Munni and following Laila The Musical, Vedi Roy returns to the Rifco stage as Pinky.

The play is written by Harvey Virdi, directed by Pravesh Kumar, design is by Libby Watson, lighting design is by Mark Dymock, composer, sound and video designer is Niraj Chag and movement director and drag stylist is Andy Kumar who is better known as VJ Andy.

‘Miss Meena & the Masala Queens’ opens at Watford Palace Theatre on 5th May 2017 before touring to Warwick Arts Centre - Coventry, Greenwich Theatre - London, Theatre Royal Windsor, Nuffield Southampton Theatres and West Yorkshire Playhouse - Leeds.




Tour Dates

Watford Palace Theatre

5 - 13 May

Box Office: 01923 225671

Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry

16 - 20 May

Box Office: 024 7652 4524

Greenwich Theatre, London

24 – 27 May

Box Office: 0208 858 7755

Theatre Royal Windsor

30 May – 3 June

Box Office: 01753 853 888

NST Campus, Southampton

6 - 10 June

Box Office: 023 8067 1771

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

13 - 17 June

Box Office: 0113 213 7700



10-year-old martial artist is top of the class

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WINNING: 10-year-old Abu-Bakr already has a multitude of awards

WINNING: 10-year-old Abu-Bakr already has a multitude of awards


A young martial artist is wowing audiences with his excellent fighting skills and vast string of achievements – and he’s only 10 years old.

Muhammad Abu-Bakr has been practicing Muay Thai since he was just 5 years old. The Coventry boy’s dad took him, along with his cousin, to lessons to learn self-defence and to keep active, and from there it’s been onward and upward.

Muay Thai - the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand – is a form of hand martial art originating in South-East Asia. This physical and mental is also known as "the art of eight limbs" because the hands, shins, elbows, and knees are all used extensively in this art.

Abu Bakr, who trains at 8 Limbs Muay Thai Martial Arts Academy in Coventry, has a multitude of accolades to show for all of his hard work. The youngster, who is UK number one in his age group and weight class, has won 25 of his 28 fights to date.

The 10-year-old has a very strong support network, from his family to his trainers to his school. Abu Bakr, whose favourite subject is physical education, attends Holbrook Primary School in Coventry. Staff there are very supportive, with his teachers and head teacher attending the event where he won his first world title last year.

His next fight will take place at the Metrodome in Barnsley on the 1st April. The Sandee Intercontinental Championships is the biggest Muay Thai Tournament for Children in the UK. Abu Bakr will be competing in the tournament against 9-10yr olds weighing in at 30kg. This tournament could see the young man fight up to three times on that day.

GOOD COMPANY: Abu-Bakr at the British Asian Achievers Awards with boxers Tasif Khan and Amir Khan, and MP Naz Shah

GOOD COMPANY: Abu-Bakr at the British Asian Achievers Awards with boxers Tasif Khan and Amir Khan, and MP Naz Shah


Abu Bakr will then fight the day after at the same venue, in the K1 Kickboxing tournament. With the youngster being the number one in the UK, it can be difficult for him to find opponents here, so it’s important to fit in as many fights as possible. It can be so difficult arranging fights, Abu Bakr’s last three opponents have been juniors brought in from France and Spain.

“Abu Bakr is very talented and takes everything in like a sponge,” his trainer, Raf Hussain said. “He is a pleasure to teach and dedicated to training.

“He can adapt his style to any fight and that's what I love about his fighting style. He is only going to get better and keep on winning.”

Training in the run up to a tournament can be tough. Abu Bakr practices Muay Thai four times a week. He also spends two days running and doing strength work, which sees him putting in six days a week in preparation for a competition.

It is a lot of hard work, but it is clearly all paying off for the dedicated young man, who will continue to go from strength to strength.


List of achievements

UK No1 at age and weight

2013 WKA British Open Muay Thai Champion -19kg

2013 WKA British Open K1 Champion -19kg

2013 TMAX Muay Thai Champion -20kg

2014 WKA British Open K1 Champion -23kg

2015 Sandee Northern Championships Finalist Muay Thai

2015 WKA English Muay Thai Champion -25kg

2015 Sandee UK Finals Muay Thai Champion -24kg

Sandee shortlisted for Male fighter of the tournament Muay Thai

2015 WKA British Open K1 Champion -23kg

2015 WKA British Open Muay Thai Champion -23kg

2015 ISKA Junior European Muay Thai Champion 25kg

2015 WTKA British Muay Thai Champion 25kg

2015 WKU Commonwealth Muay Thai Champion 25kg

2015 WKA English Muay Thai Tournament Champion -25kg

2016 WTKA World Muay Thai Champion 26kg

2016 WKU British Open Muay Thai Champion -27kg

2016 British Asian Achievers Award at The Houses of Parliament

2017 S3 Fight League World Muay Thai Champion 30kg


Jihadis jailed: Coventry trio face prison for trying to join Daesh

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JAILED: Ahmad Ismail (right), from Coventry, has been found guilty of terrorism offences along with two others - Aras Mohammed Hamid (left) and Shivan Hayder Azeez Zangana (middle)

JAILED: Ahmad Ismail (right), from Coventry, has been found guilty of terrorism offences along with two others - Aras Mohammed Hamid (left) and Shivan Hayder Azeez Zangana (middle)

On Tuesday 3rd January, three men, including one from Coventry, have been jailed for terrorism offences.

Two of the men were planning to travel to Iraq to engage in terrorism. One of them was arrested by counter terrorism officers hiding in the back of a lorry in Dover, as he attempted to leave the country undetected.

Aras Mohammed Hamid, aged 26, of no fixed address, was found guilty of two counts of preparing for acts of terrorism following trial at Kingston Crown Court in London.

The court heard he had been pivotal in planning for himself and another defendant to travel to the conflict zone and engage in acts of terrorism.

Hamid was also convicted of having a false Bulgarian passport; he had pleaded guilty to this offence at an earlier hearing. He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

Shivan Hayder Azeez Zangana, aged 21, from Washington Road, Sheffield, was convicted of one offence of preparing for acts of terrorism.

He had been in contact with Hamid about going to Iraq, before travelling from Sheffield to Birmingham, where he was arrested by officers from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit (WMCTU).

Aziz had claimed that he wanted to go home to Iraq but evidence proved that he had, in fact, been radicalised by Hamid and his purpose for wanting to travel was to join Daesh.

Aziz was jailed for three years.

A third man, Ahmad Ismail, aged 19, from Portwrinkle Avenue, Coventry, was found guilty of failing to disclose information about the planned travel to the conflict zone.

The court heard that Ismail’s brother, Mohammed Ismail, travelled to Syria to fight with the Daesh in 2014 and Ahmad Ismail is believed to have originally intended to travel with Hamid and Aziz, but changed his mind after concerns over his brother’s status. T

he court heard the three were arrested in May 2016 by officers from WMCTU. Ismail received an 18 month sentence.

The investigation began, when a concerned relative of Aziz made a 999 call to police in South Yorkshire, claiming he had left his home in Sheffield and was planning to leave to join a terrorist organisation.

Another relative claimed Aziz had told people who was going to sacrifice himself to God. Worried relatives told officers Aziz’s behaviour had recently changed and he had stopped going out and listening to music and was only listening to readings from the Qur’an.

Following a police investigation, which discovered Aziz had travelled by train to Birmingham, officers arrested Aziz from a residential area above a mosque in Holyhead Road, Handsworth on 17th May last year.

Also at the Birmingham address was Hamid, a Kurdish asylum seeker, who had arrived in the country in September 2015.

Although he wasn’t arrested at this point, police seized some of Hamid’s property, including a mobile phone. As a result of this, officers discovered Hamid, using facilitators in Turkey, was arranging to travel to Iraq to fight for Salahaddin Battalion, a Kurdish group fighting for Daesh.

Evidence also found Aziz was also planning to travel to the conflict zone to fight and that Ismail was known about and discussed the travel. Aziz and Hamid had booked flights to Iraq through a travel agency in Birmingham.

After the arrest of Aziz, Hamid fled Birmingham and following enquiries, was arrested on 19th May 2016 in a lay-by hiding in a lorry, near to the Port of Dover. Officers discovered Hamid had sneaked into the back of the cab while the driver was asleep and was found lying behind pallets. Ismail was arrested by counter-terrorism officers on 22nd May 2016 at his home in Coventry.

Head of WMCTU, Chief Superintendent Sue Southern, said: “As a result of enquiries, counter-terrorism investigators discovered Hamid’s instrumental role in organising travel plans for himself and Aziz for preparation for acts of terrorism. We also uncovered examples of Hamid’s extreme ideology and radicalisation and the pivotal role he played in orchestrating the travel plans for himself and Aziz.

“Evidence shows Ismail, a local student, was in contact with Hamid and was well aware of plans to travel to the conflict zone.”

Anyone concerned about someone travelling to, or returning from, Syria or another conflict zone or is worried about someone showing signs of being radicalised should contact their local police on 101 or visit to access relevant support and advice.


Kids’ creativity curbing speed: Pupils’ designs on road safety around schools

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SLOW DOWN PLEASE!: All four girls were handed certificates, plus a miniature version of their own metal street sign (Girls pictured top row (l-r) Nayrat and Molly; bottom row Ellie and Ciara)

SLOW DOWN PLEASE!: All four girls were handed certificates, plus a miniature version of their own metal street sign (Girls pictured top row (l-r) Nayrat and Molly; bottom row Ellie and Ciara)

Pupils at four Coventry primaries have backed a road safety campaign by creating on-street artwork urging motorists to stick to 20mph near school gates.  

Youngsters from Christ the King, Ernesford Grange, Moat House and Potters Green primary schools took part in an art competition – organised by West Midlands Fire Service – with the winning designs set to feature on road signs alerting drivers to the new lower speed limit.

A total of 250 entries were submitted by five-to-nine-year-olds with a shortlist of three from each school put to the public’s vote on Coventry Police’s Facebook page.

Hundreds of social media users cast votes for their favourites with Ciara Nurse, Ellie Curtis, Nayrat Saeed and Molly Ryan – from the four schools respectively – registering the most nominations.

All four girls were handed certificates, plus a miniature version of their own metal street sign, during a special presentation event at Coventry City Council on 13th October.

Coventry Police Inspector Steve Malone, said: “Studies by the Department for Transport and World Health Organisation show the chances of children being killed if struck by a vehicle are hugely increased at speeds above 20mph.

“Just a small reduction in average speed has a dramatic impact on the number and severity of collisions.

“These new lower speed limits will be introduced on roads surrounding these schools – I’m sure all drivers will agree that if lowering the speed limit near schools helps to save a child’s life then it has to be a positive step.”

The 20mph limits are expected to be introduced before the end of the year.

Neighbourhood police officers, working alongside community members, will conduct road safety operations in the lower speed zones to educate drivers and to prosecute the most serious or repeat offenders.

Cllr Jayne Innes, Coventry City Council’s cabinet member for City Services, said: “The involvement of children from schools where these signs and limits will be in place is a great way of highlighting the dangers of speeding in built-up areas.

“These winning designs help to re-enforce the message around schools that speeding is unacceptable and the lower the speed, the more the chance of avoiding an accident or at least minimising the risk of serious injury. We are pleased to be a partner in this initiative and all our congratulations go to the winners and all who took part in the art competition.”     

‘Unfair Dismissal’

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A sacked doctor from Coventry says he was ‘absolutely relieved’ after a tribunal ruled that he had been unfairly sacked after raising concerns about patient safety.

Dr Raj Mattu, 54, was sacked from his role at the University of Coventry Hospital more than three years ago.

After expressing concerns over the wellbeing of two patients, who had died in crowded bays at Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry, Employment Judge Pauline Hughes ruled Dr Mattu was subject to ‘many detriments’ by the trust as a consequence of being a whistle-blower.

He had claimed that five patients being allocated to four-bed bays in December 1999, prevented vital equipment being used to save the life of a 35-year-old man, and publicly announced his views in September 2001.

He was suspended less than six months after the incident on the charges of bullying a junior doctor before, five years later, in July 2007, he was allowed back to work and later cleared of any bullying charges in March 2009.

However, less than one year on he was sacked by the hospital trust in an incident which Judge Hughes said Dr Mattu ‘did not cause or contribute to’.

JUSTICE: Raj Mattu, a former doctor at the University of Coventry Hospital, was sacked after he expressed concerns about the safety of patients

JUSTICE: Raj Mattu, a former doctor at the University of Coventry Hospital, was sacked after he expressed concerns about the safety of patients

Dr Mattu had claimed that the Trust relieved him of his duties purely because of his whistleblowing and that, for more than a decade, his livelihood was destroyed.

“Scores of false allegations, some of them quite heinous, were put forward,” he said to BBC Radio 4.

“The saddest thing out of all of this for me is that the people who have lost out the most are the patients and the public because for 13 years the trust management have prevented me from looking after patients.

“They have also, in the way they have treated me, discouraged any further whistle-blowers in the NHS from coming forward and risking having their career and livelihood destroyed.”