Guest blog: Mental Health First Aid for children and young people

2835959342_c55f01abc4_zTheresa May announced recently her commitment to invest in helping schools to recognise mental health issues in their students. A long overdue focus, says NICOLA MARSHALL

Having seen for the last five years the increase in mental health related issues in schools across the country, it is fair to say we are inadequately resourced to deal with this growing problem in our children and young people.

According to Gov.UK, over ½ mental health problems start by age 14 and 75% by age 18. Amongst teenagers the rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70% in the last 25 years, and 20% of primary school children suffer from a low sense of wellbeing.

It’s no longer just academic and physical health we have to meet the needs of. There is an ever increasing sense of our children’s emotional needs being neglected. Of course, raising awareness in schools alone won’t change this situation. Our homes and support services need to be strengthened too.

In an average classroom, ten will have witnessed their parents separate, eight will have experienced severe physical violence, sexual abuse or neglect, one will have experienced the death of a parent and seven will have been bullied. – MHFA Website

Frightening statistics. Not just because they are terrible things to experience, but the amount of children and young people this affects. How much more do we need to be aware of the impact of these issues for those pupils within our environments?


The even more worrying fact for me is that our education system and particularly our behaviour management techniques have not evolved over the years to accommodate the change in our students. Children who may have experienced early trauma are still measured against those who haven’t. Zone boards, detentions, exclusions, isolations – all compound the sense of shame, loss and rejection that they already may feel.

When we can move from behaviour modification to relieving anxiety, then maybe we can help and support those struggling emotionally in our schools and colleges.

So what should our response be?

We need to be aware of the mental health issues prevalent and how to meet those needs when we can. There are Mental Health First Aid courses available for educators to train in, of which we are one of the providers in this country through the Mental Health England qualification.

Another positive outcome is to work closer with other services and charities to support our children and their families in whatever way we can. It was encouraging to hear in the PM’s statement that a review of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services throughout the country will take place as part of this focus on mental health.


As an adoptive parent of three and an educator of educators I wholeheartedly agree with Teresa May’s statement below,

For no parent should feel helpless when watching their child suffer. No teacher should feel ill-equipped to deal with a troubled pupil. No teenager should have to leave their local area to seek treatment. No child should ever be left to feel like their life is not worth living

Let’s hope these changes will truly make a difference in this area.

Nicola Marshall is a Founder, Educator, Adoptive Mother & Author. For more information on Nicola’s work visit


Aldi Launches New Home Accessories


Update and accentuate the art in your home for next to nothing with Aldi’s new bathroom and home accessories – in local stores now while stocks last!

The range offers everything from quality interior décor to household essentials, so you can transform your living space without breaking the bank.

In particular I love the regal, tapestry cushions in a rainbow selection of raspberries, ivories and emeralds. Perfect for my living space, and the green one highlights my favourite Egon Shiele! These Decorative cushions are just £5.99!

I also love the bedroom range and the juxtaposition of a wintery scape on a warm duvet. Aldi’s Photographic Duvet Sets start from £9.99, and are available for single, double and king sized beds.

Add to the warm wintery scape with an array of Photo Print Cushions (£3.99). These winter-themed cushions are double sided, perfect for the home decorator who loves to mix things up!

Head to your local Aldi now to buy some home accessories while stocks last!

Get Set for the Biggest Vegan Festival Ever Staged in the Midlands!


Whether you’re vegan, an aspiring vegan or just vegan curious, there’s only one place to be on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th October 2015 – The West Midlands Vegan Festival at The Wolves Civic.

The 8th annual West Midlands Vegan Festival will be by far the biggest vegan fest ever staged in the Midlands. Wolverhampton will become only the 4th city in the UK to stage a 2 day vegan festival, after Bristol, Brighton & London, and up to 5,000 visitors are expected over the weekend. The entire Wolves Civic will be packed with attractions throughout the whole weekend and the event has proved so popular that there will also be a marquee full of stalls, a catering van and entertainment outdoors too.


The West Midlands Vegan Festival 2015 will offer all you need for healthy, cruelty-free, eco-friendly living. And you don’t have to be veggie or vegan to attend; everyone is welcome! Organisers are inviting everyone along to see just why people are increasingly adopting a vegan lifestyle.

The festival will include over 100 stalls – everything from clothing, footwear and cosmetics to books, campaign organisations and lots of food!


The show will help answer the question ‘Why Vegan?’ showing how people choose a vegan lifestyle for various reasons, including to save animals, improve their health, reduce hunger and save the planet.

There’ll be more delicious food choices than ever before, with 8 hot food caterers from across the UK, serving food from around the globe, an array of cake stalls including cheesecake, iced buns and delicious raw cakes, numerous tempting chocolate and confectionery stalls, wine tasting, a vegan bar, freshly squeezed tropical fruit juices and a variety of vegan cheeses to die for! Many of the food stalls will offer free samples of their delicious products for people to try.

And if you’re a cruelty-free fashionista, there’ll be more clothing stalls than ever before, offering an array of stylish shoes, boots, clothes and accessories, and a superb array of ethical make-up, perfume, cosmetics, bodycare, skincare and haircare products on sale, with many samples to try.

Other stalls will include vegan support and information; green and ethical products and services; animal protection groups and sanctuaries; and environmental awareness campaigns. Local and national organisations will offer a vast array of information about going and staying vegan, alongside a range of products including books and clothes. There will also be a wealth of information on a wide variety of issues, alongside merchandise to help raise much needed funds.

There’ll be over 40 inspiring talks throughout the weekend, covering a wide variety of issues from going vegan, general vegan health and vegan bodybuilding, to vegan organic crop cultivation, deep ecology and an array of talks on animal issues. Throughout the weekend there’ll be 10 mouth-watering cookery demos, which will demonstrate how to cook vegan lasagne, gluten free meals, Barcelona style, delicious desserts and a vegan cheese making demo both days!

Also, there’s plenty for children too with lots of kids activities over the 2 days and Sparkle the Goblin Wizard, a 50 minute fun-filled children’s show with Dommy B.

There’ll be live on-stage entertainment from start to finish, a range of alternative therapies, plus vegan strength and fitness contests.

This is the Festival’s 8th year, with the first festival staged on 1st November 2008 (World Vegan Day) in the Wulfrun Hall. 1,200 people flocked to the event, which has grown year on year ever since. Last year’s was the best yet, with over 100 fantastic stalls and 3,000 visitors – half of them non-vegans. So, because of the festival’s growing popularity, the 2015 event will be open across two whole days for the first time.

The 2015 event is sponsored by Moo Free Chocolates, with the multi award winning dairy-free chocolate producer supporting the event for the 6th year in a row.

The West Midlands Vegan Festival is being held at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall in the city centre, 10 minutes walk from the train and bus stations and near city centre car parks. It will be open from 10am to 6pm both days, with admission just £1 for adults, payable at the door, and under-16’s free.

The Swoon Story: Reminding Us How Extraordinarily Fun Dancing Can Be


Once upon a time, way back in the 1990s, Swoon was dubbed “Best Friday night” by music bible Mixmag as well as by Pete Tong on his BBC Radio 1 show. It was always an effortlessly classy night with clubbers mimicking the smouldering 40s screen sirens on the night’s exclusive flyers.

Founded in February 1994, in its heyday it was filmed for Channel 4’s BPM and saw celebrity DJs such as Boy George, Graeme Park, Jeremy Healy, Masters at Work, and Judge Jules headlining – often globetrotting just to get to Stafford. The feel-good atmosphere, the friendly crowd, the excitement for a Friday night out are all difficult to sum up in words. But let’s just say Swoon has always had that je ne sais quoi!

And now the countdown to the next Swoon reunion is on, after a fantastic 1st year back and fresh on the heels of Swoon’s sell out anniversary show. Coming back to the Stafford venue on the anniversary’s spring night, after a twenty year break, was Roger Sanchez. With arms rising to the air like champagne bubbles, the DJ knew instinctively how to draw an utterly beguiling crowd (people talked afterwards of the brilliant atmosphere that’s even better the second time around!)

So, one year into the reunions and Swoon are now hosting a shimmering summer special on 31st July. Buy one of the few remaining tickets before they all sell out in 3, 2… weeks. The line-up for this summer special is almost as bright as the sun that’ll be setting as the DJs prepare for the night.

As well as Jon Pleased Wimmin, they’ll be Allister Whitehead, and residents Angel and Mark Rowley – all reunited under Couture’s giant glitter ball. Need a cold shower after that? Head on down to Room 2 with Sounds Collective, Mark Mac & Guests in for a cooling, more chilled experience.

While there’s no dress code, Swooners (as the promoters endearingly call them!) like to leave an impression. Swoon has always been a glitzy affair and the look harks back to glamourous grunge with metallic silver baby doll dresses, ankle socks and pigtails. The men like their tartan shirts (and many even go for tartan pants).

But Swoon has always attracted more women than it has men – indeed, it was one of the first nights to have a resident female DJ (Angel) and there’s never any trouble behind the glittering black doors.

As always, early bird tickets have sold out in record time and only a few limited standard tickets remain. Make sure you grab them whilst you can!

Swoon. Meaning: to feel a lot of pleasure, love, because of something or someone. Be part of it, come along!

Swoon nights are held at Couture, Stafford. The next reunion is on 31st July with Jon Pleased Wimmin, Allister Whitehead, Mark Rowley & Angel headlining. Tickets in advance, from £15.

Belle & Sebastian preview in Fused Magazine


Rewind to 1996, and Belle & Sebastian’s debut album, titled Tigermilk, is the staple for any art school student worth her weight in Gouache. It starts with a song called The State I’m in, and so the storytelling begins.

She makes models of the Velvet Underground in clay, she fills her pockets with pharmaceuticals to fix her brain, and only one sticks around as he’s rendered incontinent in bed. So here is the Belle & Sebastian protagonist, too uncool perhaps for the fashion brigade on Liberty Hill and steeped in tragedy.

The sound is soothing and the melody upbeat. The lyrics layer irony and teen angst, sometimes simply moments from everyday life (such as a cold cup of tea tasting of washing up liquid), over a guitar.

But we don’t want anything else from the Glaswegian band who beat Steps to a Brit award in 1999.

They’ve appeared on the soundtracks to Adam Curtis’s The Power Of Nightmares, Todd Solondz’s Storytelling, and Juno – a climax to the storytelling is a teacher looking up some girls skirt. Belle & Sebastian’s clout defies the critics’ who so often say they’re a shy and retiring ensemble.

Fast forward to 2014, and they’ve cut their ninth album called Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. Songwriter Stuart Murdoch’s lyrics have very rarely been first person – at least, they haven’t until now. The opening track is Murdoch’s life, at least the life he led just before Belle & Sebastian was born. House-bound and with chronic fatigue syndrome prior to the formation of the group, it’s a period he has drawn on before. But never has he written anything as direct as ‘Nobody’s Empire’ – side one, track one of the new album. He says it’s the most personal thing he’s ever written.

There’s a great quote last year from Bob Stanley that sum the band up: “It’s all about trusting in the restorative power of pop music. If you’d trust anyone to write a great Europop song about Sylvia Plath, you’d trust Belle & Sebastian.”

Belle & Sebastian play at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham on the 10th May 2015. Tickets are priced at £25.

For more information or to book visit

Chinatown round-up in Area Culture Guide

Cheeky monkey cake from Caffe Chino

Cruise cake from Caffe Chino

Caffe Chino
Best place for cake
Describing itself as a mystical place where all of your dreams come true, Caffe Chino does indeed have it all (with much more discerning decoration than a mere cherry on top). Delicious, delectable, delightful – and these words only begin to describe the staff uniforms and decorum. The cakes here are so cute they could melt the heart of the most misanthropic Birmingham-bashing national journalist. Couture cupcakes, sugary bespoke bakes and edible designer decorations fill this mint and powder pink boutique-café’s shabby chic shelves. It’s the perfect place to come with friends for a slice of something fancy.
Unit B107, Arcadian Centre, 70 Hurst Street 0121 622 1144

Chinese Cultural Xchange
Best place for jewellery
A real treasure trove for magpies yearning for something more upmarket than a Claire’s Accessories headband. Amid gold lurid boxes of the Rolls-Royce of Chinese teas are trendy scrunchies and diamanté head-pins that’ll make a classic yet culturally diverse cover star out of any Brum belle. There are also Susie Wong dresses, pretty paper umbrellas and lucky cats – which will all add a glamorous, glittering touch to wardrobes and desks respectively. Come here for the more classic, traditional Chinese paraphernalia embossed with horoscope signs or vibrant carnival dragons. Visit also for the jewellery and fashion, many of which are well crafted time pieces.
Pershore Street 0121 666 6838

Best place for stationary
The newest edition to Chinatown, MuMu’s sells the cutest stationary. Hello Kitty cameras that do credit card size snaps. Chinese fashion magazines such as Milk (it was the 3D edition complete with free 3D specs at the time of going to press). Many of the products on sale here are imported from Korea and China and all boast that naïve, candy-floss quality of South East Asian commercial art – much seems to derive exclusively from Japanese pop culture. Ichiban! It’s a great place for students to stock up on the sweetest stationary, or local creatives can get inspired by cute bits of philosophy that you just won’t find in Paperchase.
Unit B102, Arcadian Centre, Ladywell Walk 07411 671 520

Sing Fat Chinese supermarket
Best place for sake
For the best spring rolls and sake head to the Sing Fat Chinese supermarket which is conveniently located close to Chinatown and on the fringe of Digbeth. Impress your friends with a bottle of fine sake (which comes complete with bottle and cups). Simply warm it in the microwave for 20 seconds and you’ll have the perfect tipple. Serve with wasabi peas or biscuits in refreshingly bright, non-British packaging. The great thing about the Sing Fat is that it’s very quiet so you won’t find any pushing and shoving over the produce! Just have a look around and see if you can’t find a new Oriental dish to cook at home.
334 – 339 Bradford Street, Digbeth 0121 622 5888

Ice cream dream

I scream, you scream. We all scream, for ice cream!

It’s the perfect day for a Mr Whippy. And now you can bring some sunny summer fun into your home too with this handmade ice cream cushion, by the lovely BirdieGingham of Birmingham.

It’s made from pink taffeta with an envelope closure, and trimmed in handmade yellow taffeta bias binding. And the ice cream is fashioned from white fleece and topped with a brown cotton embroidered flake.

It’s currently on offer, a snip – or rather a whip! – at £18.