22 December 2023
Weekly Message to Constituents 193 - The Royal Town’s historic cinema saved through acquisition by PDJ Cinemas


The Save our Cinema group can tonight celebrate a truly ‘Hollywood’ ending to their long campaign in support of our cherished cinema.

I can reveal that the deal was completed yesterday, at around midday, and now Sutton’s Cinema – soon to be renamed The Royal - has great new owners. It is a company steeped in cinema success, run by an old Sutton Coldfield family to boot!

The new owners are PDJ Cinemas, a Midlands based independent family-run group that runs cinemas throughout the UK with ties to the industry dating back over 100 years.

You can more about them here: https://www.bbc.com/news/articles/czq25n8x7e8o.amp

All their sites and cinemas are trading healthily post-Covid and they are seeing good recovery in the sector. They are optimistic for the coming years and this, their exciting new venture.

Today the new owners said: “We are delighted to have completed the acquisition of the cinema in Sutton Coldfield. It is a cinema close to us, with both myself, my brother and my father keen visitors as children, all of us having grown up in the area. Through our family’s long history in cinema this has been a site we have always coveted and cannot wait to share future redevelopment plans with the town to restore the cinema to its former glory.

All of our sites around the UK have loved seeing customers return post Covid and throwing one of the biggest parties of the year in cinema with the release of Barbie back in the Summer. We can’t wait for a great slate of 2024 films and look forward to welcoming the residents of Sutton Coldfield back to the big screen.

“We are planning a full restoration in line with plans already submitted with some additional elements to be announced. We are, as a family business, all incredibly excited to be bringing cinema back to Sutton Coldfield.

“We are encouraged by the support of Andrew Mitchell the MP for Sutton Coldfield and looking forward to a strong partnership moving forward.”

Thanks must also go to the whole save the cinema group and Tony Whitehead and Councillor David Pears particularly who’ve worked hard for this day since it’s closure 3 years ago.

In the Constituency

Christmas thank you to emergency and critical services

Today I have toured the Town saying thank you to the Emergency Services who will be working during the festive season and keeping us safe. As your Member of Parliament, I want to thank them on all of our behalf.

First up it was Royal Mail Sutton Coldfield.

I had the opportunity to thank Bev and all the team for their work throughout the year. They expect they will have all our post and parcels delivered across the Town by tonight.

We are all so grateful.

Next up it was a visit and tour of Good Hope accompanied the Trust CEO Jonathan Brotherton and the Chief Nurse Emma Harthill.

I thanked everyone for looking after us and was very pleased to hear that waiting lists have reduced locally by 40,000 over the last year. In particular, a year ago there were thousands who had had to wait more than 18 months, whereas at the end of November there was just one person waiting more than 18months. As of today, there are 10 and the hospital is working to clear that. Over 400 - new nurses and health care staff (net) have been recruited and a new cardiology unit opened at Good Hope in October. Next February a new Ophthalmic theatre unit will open at Good Hope. It is interesting to note that our local Birmingham and Solihull NHS has a budget this year of £2.2 thousand million - more than the total budget of many countries!

Then it was up to our Royal Town Fire Station - upgraded to a Tech Rescue Station to thank Red Watch - on duty today - and the other fire service teams who work for us in Sutton and the wider area. We looked at some of the new kit that is based here, including a well-equipped boat as well as a very sophisticated fire engine to carry out the rescue work now masterminded from here.

My visit to the Royal Towns Police Station included a good meeting with Chief Superintendent Richard North and Chief Inspector Haroon Chughtai who now is in charge of our local policing and previously served in the Town as well.

I had the opportunity to thank them and their colleagues for keeping us safe. Over the last year there has been a general fall in crime across the Town of 6.3 % with particular falls in vehicle crime (by 11.2%) and burglary (by 13.2%).

Robbery I’m afraid is slightly up due to the disgraceful targeting of students and young people earlier in this autumn in the Town Centre, but the police are confident that they have properly addressed and dismantled that worrying and upsetting series of attacks.

Above: Chief Superintendent Richard North, Chief Inspector Haroon Chughtai, and I

Above: The local Sutton Coldfield Police team with their Member of Parliament


Over the last weekend

I had the most enjoyable time celebrating Christmas around the Royal Town last weekend as well.

Here are a few pictures:

Above: Here with the team of YMCA volunteers, at their stand in the Gracechurch centre

Above: singing with the choir outside the Gracechurch Centre

Above: with some wintery stilt walkers in the Town centre

Above: With Sutton BID at the food market


BVGS Giving Trees 2023 Smash 5,000 Gifts Target!

I had the pleasure of meeting some Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School Charity Officers to congratulate them on the growing success of their annual Giving Tree project.

The Giving Tree initiative is a festive highlight in the students’ busy charity-oriented year. The students identify a range of charitable causes to help and then devise their own voluntary and fund-raising activities.

This year the students organised two Giving Trees –Spirit of Christmas which were based in Gracechurch Centre and Mulberry Walk, Mere Green to attract gifts for three chosen charities - YMCA, St Basil’s Hostel and St Giles’ Hospice.

Sutton Coldfield people have been extremely generous again this year and it means that the students have smashed their conservative ambition of reaching 4,000 gifts (double the number collected last year) and have actually gathered over 5,000 gifts for these three good causes.

Karim Almourad, BVGS Charity Captain told me he was delighted with the outcome and that the team’s trip to each charity with a fully loaded school minibus provided emotional and heart-warming moments for the charities receiving the gifts as well as the students donating them.

A very big THANK YOU to the people of Sutton Coldfield.


John Wilmott students write to the King

His Majesty King Charles will have a little light reading to do this Christmas, after hundreds of Sutton Coldfield students wrote to him to tell him about their school’s ‘Royal’ plans.

The pupils at John Willmott School wrote to the King to tell him how their school will be reborn as the ‘Royal Sutton School’ in September, complete with new school colours, logo and uniform.

Dawn Ward CBE, Deputy Lieutenant of the West Midlands, visited the school on Thursday, December 15 to collect the hand-written letters, ready to deliver them to the Palace. Some students also chose to write to the Princess of Wales.

The Deputy Lieutenant, who is one of the Monarch’s official representatives in the region, also met headteacher Nicola Gould, school staff, students and local Councillor Richard Parkin.

She said, “It’s absolutely wonderful to be invited in the meet such fabulous young people, who are a real credit to the school, and to receive all these amazing letters.

“I’ve looked at just a few of them and the detail in them, the handwriting and the thought and consideration that has clearly gone into each and every one of them is incredible, and it will be a great pleasure to pass these on now to His Majesty and the Princess of Wales.”

As the Royal Town’s MP, I fully support the plan to adopt the Royal monicker, and have been hugely impressed with all the efforts being made to reinvigorate John Willmott, from the Moral Virtues being taught to students to the return of its original motto: ‘Potential into Reality’.

For the full story, click here: https://suttonschoollife.co.uk/2023/12/18/students-write-to-king-about-john-willmotts-royal-plans/

Above: Students and teachers, and their local councillor Richard Parkin


Plantsbrook students rewarded for their drive

Students from Plantsbrook School who have proven they have the drive to succeed got behind the wheel of a car as part of an impressive rewards scheme.

Forty Year 11 students from the school were chosen to take part in the sessions run by specialist driving firm Young Driver.

The company provides safe and controlled starter driving lessons for 14 to 17-years-olds.

The Plantsbrook students had all impressed with their attendance, attitude, and revision efforts, and on Monday, December 18th had their first taste of driving a real car on the school grounds.

Each 15-minute session saw students take the wheel of a dual controlled Vauxhall Corsa, accompanied by a qualified driving instructor.

For the full story, click here: https://suttonschoollife.co.uk/2023/12/18/plantsbrook-school-young-driver-scheme-rewards-students/


Plantsbrook School Christmas collection delivers for Food Bank

A trio of caring students at Plantsbrook School have helped struggling families this Christmas by organising a collection that donated thousands of items to a local Food Bank.

Senior Student Leader Maya Jakhu and Deputy Student Leaders Melanie Dixon and

Raihan Khan decided they wanted to run a food collection for the festive season at the school, which is part of the Broadleaf Partnership Trust.

Aiming to support Sutton Coldfield Baptist Church, whose long-established Food Bank helps people from across the town, and backed by Plantbrook’s School Council, they raised awareness of the cause, reminding staff, students and parents to bring in their donations.

All tutor groups across the school collected a box each as a team – and last week Food Bank Manager Georgina Whateley visited the school to collect thousands of items for the Trinity Hill church.

The collection was such a success, student leaders at the school are now considering launching a regular ‘Food bank Friday’ scheme in the New Year.


It’s ‘Hooray for Hollywood’ as Fairfax’s annual arts festival goes to the movies

Fairfax Academy’s annual Eisteddfod brought the stars of the silver screen to Sutton Coldfield, as the legendary school arts festival went to the movies.

Films and Movies were the theme of this year’s Eisteddfod, which has been a hotly-contested fixture on the school calendar for decades.

Each year the school’s four houses of Coventry, Kenilworth, Stratford and Warwick compete in the week-long arts festival, which includes all kinds of disciplines from music and dance to art and poetry.

Two packed shows at the Fairfax Road school treated audiences to a huge variety of movie-based entertainment, from ambitious dance routines based on James Bond, to instrumentals featuring Hollywood themes and spoken word performances on the world of movies.

Plays and sketches featured characters as diverse as Barbie and Ken, Sherlock Holmes, The Simpsons, Jack Sparrow and the Incredibles.

Backed by committed staff, the success of the Eisteddfod is driven by the students’ dedication – they write sketches, compose and arrange music, choregraph and rehearse dance routines, often practicing out of school hours. Students also contribute to the smooth running of the shows, working backstage and acting as narrators.

And on Thursday, December21, Principal Sean Castle revealed that judges had chosen Coventry as the winners of the overall title.

Principal Sean Castle said: “This year’s Eisteddfod has been simply fantastic, and yet again highlighted the talents and abilities of our amazing students.

“The theme of Movies provided all kinds of opportunities for the students to be creative, and they responded with some really memorable performances, and striking works of art.

“As always, the sheer talent and the creativity of the students meant the judges had a very difficult job is selecting winners.

“I would like to congratulate Coventry for winning, and thank all of our dedicated staff who worked so hard to help the students turn their creative ideas into reality.”

For the full story and lots more pictures, click here: https://suttonschoollife.co.uk/2023/12/22/fairfax-academy-eisteddfod-2023-arts-festival-goes-to-the-movies/


An important message from our brilliant West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street

At Christmas, as the year draws to an end, it’s traditional to raise a glass to the months that have passed, while looking ahead to the future.

When I was offered the chance to wish Sutton Coldfield residents a Merry Christmas, I thought it would be apt to outline some of the things they can look forward to in 2024.

After all, there are plenty of positive things in the pipeline for the Royal Town. Take the Town Hall, the cherished landmark now being run by the Royal Sutton Coldfield Community Town Hall Trust. Next year will see the start of a transformation of this historic building, thanks to a £1million injection of cash from the West Midlands Combined Authority, that will not only pay for vital repairs but also secure its long-term future as a revitalised community hub.

As I write, hopes are high that a deal will be struck to save the former Empire cinema, giving a new lease of life to an iconic venue that has entertained generations of Sutton people.

The new owners of the Gracechurch Centre are set to reveal ambitious plans that could kickstart significant regeneration. In 2024, I also hope we will see the first spades in the ground thanks to a£25million transport investment, supporting the delivery of the Town Centre Masterplan.

And, further in the future, there could be more transport improvements coming down the track, with the potential for passenger services to return to the Sutton Park Line, thanks to the £1.5billion Midland Rail Hub plans.

All of these things, I believe, are genuine reasons for Sutton people to look forward in hope. Of course, there will be challenges. The cost of living continues to impact residents and businesses, and many are concerned about the perilous financial state of Birmingham City Council. I understand these concerns and I am determined to do all I can to support those who are affected.

Finally, may I say a ‘thank you’ to the people that make Sutton Coldfield a special place, with a real sense of community and a proud history. More than anything, the Royal Town is blessed with a huge network of voluntary groups, local charities, clubs, places of worship, societies and community organisations, run by dedicated Suttonians whose efforts make it such a special place.

In my role as West Midlands Mayor, I often get to meet these remarkable people. At this time of year, I’d like to thank them.

May I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

In the Commons

Parliament rose for the Christmas recess on Tuesday this week but not before I answered my4th Urgent Question on Gaza /Israel.

As this dreadful situation continues to engulf the region to very great concern across the House of Commons and indeed across the world. As the minister responsible in the Commons, I tried to set out the concern and also the constructive efforts the government is making both to think about the longer term and more immediately secure access for the desperately needed humanitarian aid and support.

You can view the debate and session here: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/24b213b0-7155-4623-9dc8-46e901576beb?in=12:33:23


Me and my team, both in London and here in Sutton Coldfield, would like to wish everyone a very happy Christmas!



Further Information

Sutton Coldfield Heritage Network - calendars for 2024

These delightful calendars are now on sale in the Trinity Centre (alongside Sutton's only charity Christmas card shop selling cards for a range of charities on behalf of "Cards for Good Causes).

They are appointments calendars with detachable postcards featuring the winning photographs in the competition held during Birmingham Heritage Week in Sutton Coldfield in September.

At just £5 each they make a perfect Christmas gift for Suttonians or those who have moved away and would like a reminder of the Park and other iconic buildings in the Royal Town.

Do come to the Trinity Centre, B72 1TF, between 11am and 1pm on Saturdays or during office hours in the week.  (Also available around evening bookings - check on 0121 321 1144 if you want to confirm the Centre is open at any point).

Upcoming Events


Your Town Hall requires donations to protect our heritage building for future use.

We are launching an APPEAL FOR £200k in order to continue to support Your Town Hall and protect it for the future community use, value and enjoyment. 

In this present situation of rising material prices, heating bills and social costs, why should YOU consider supporting your town hall? Because it is a precious historical building, an asset to the area, and the Trust needs support to keep it functioning. 

How to Support:

We are asking you to be as generous as you can, to enable the Town Hall to meet its present commitments. We are relying on your support. Every little helps ! 

Thank you! 

From all of the team at Sutton Coldfield Community Town Hall Trust and the trustees.

Donate with PayPal Giving Fund

West Midlands Railway: Passengers reminded of upcoming December timetable change

Passengers travelling with West Midlands Railway (WMR) are being reminded to check their journeys ahead of changes to the national railway timetable in December.- https://www.westmidlandsrailway.co.uk/dec23