Light by Light

This poem is one of the results of two workshops held by FOLIO Sutton Coldfield in January 2021, in conjunction with Echo Eternal. In these workshops we learned about and listened to Agnes Kaposi and her experience of the Holocaust. Writer Mandy Ross then turned the contributions by workshop participants into a poem which is read here by those who took part in the workshops.

This poem formed part of the light installation projected onto the clock tower at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall on Holocaust Memorial Day, 2021.

As a result of our workshops participants also created candles with their reflections on them, and put them up in their windows to “be the light”.

Our thanks go to Echo Eternal, Mandy Ross, Birmingham City Council, Sutton Coldfield Town Hall and Play and Learn Nursery all of whom supported this activities in various different ways.

LGBT+ History Month

February marks LGBT+ history month. This is a month-long celebration of LGBT+ history, art, culture, and LGBT+ rights. For those who may not identify into the LGBT+ community this is a great opportunity to learn.

We’ve been posting author and book suggestions over on our Facebook and Twitter accounts, but today we want to talk a little about names and words.

LGBT+ is an umbrella term to describe a vast array of identities related to both gender and sexuality. It is a term that includes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people, however – not exclusively. LGBT+ also includes people who identify as queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual and many more.

Being part of the LGBT+ community is about far more than who you love, chose to date, or which gender you do or do not identify with. Being LGBT+ is just that, it is a community of people with a shared history with its own culture, history, and heritage. That is why the name or community someone identifies with is so important – because it often makes them who they are.

The great part about the LGBT+ acronym is that it also includes Allies – those who identify as straight (heterosexual) and support the LGBT+ community. As an ally, here are three important things that you can do straight off the bat to best support the LGBT+ community:

  • Add your pronouns to your bio on social media or e-mail signatures. (A pronoun is a marker such as she/her, they/them). This can make people feel more comfortable and not isolated if they are sharing their pronouns too.
  • Prioritise reading books by LGBT+ authors and with LGBT+ characters at their centre. This is just one way you can educate yourself on the LGBT+ community and it’s history. Birmingham Libraries have curated some lists which may provide useful as a starting point e.g. Proud to Read, LGBT Heritage Resources.
  • Speak Up. If you witness homophobia or transphobia, always make sure to speak up and report this. If you witness homophobia or transphobia at a FOLIO event or in FOLIO online space, please let us know.

  • At FOLIO we want everyone to feel welcome at our events and would be delighted to hear from you if you would like to help us plan events or activities for those of us who identify as LGBT+ or as an LGBT+ ally.

    If you are looking for a mindfulness activity, or want some LGBT+ history month content for home-schooling, download our pride flag colouring in. The image above might be a helpful reference. If you are unsure of what each love-heart means, you can read LGBT+ definitions on Stonewalls glossary here:

    Be the Light in the Darkness

    To commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day FOLIO Sutton Coldfield, Echo Eternal and Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Hall are delighted to announce a collaborative response, as part of Horizons Festival, to this year’s theme: ‘Be the Light in the Darkness”.

    On Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January 2021, between 6pm and 8pm, a key historic landmark in Sutton Coldfield, the clock tower at the Town Hall will be lit up with testimony and images of Holocaust survivor Agnes Kaposi. The clock tower will physically be a light in the darkness, with the installation providing opportunities to learn about and reflect upon the Holocaust.

    FOLIO Sutton Coldfield recently established a new and on-going relationship with Agnes enabling Sutton residents to learn more about her experiences and to provide opportunities for everyone in the community to act and stand up to hatred and intolerance, as well as learning about the Holocaust and other genocides which have happened since, including in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. Following workshops and an interview with Agnes earlier this month, FOLIO, Echo Eternal and the Town Hall Trust, with the support of Birmingham City Council and Play and Learn Nursery (who have provided electricity and a space to safely project the installation onto the clock tower), have come together to create a very public commemorative act, designed in conjunction with Agnes Kaposi.

    **Due to current Coronavirus restrictions, please join us in commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day today by witnessing this installation from the safety of your own home**; the projection will be live streamed here on our Facebook page and a film recording made available afterwards.

    Photo: Mike Wade

    Join us for a Q&A session with Holocaust survivor Agnes Kaposi

    FOLIO recently announced a new and on-going relationship with with Echo Eternal and in particular with Holocaust survivor, Agnes Kaposi.

    Agnes was born in Hungary and started school just at the outbreak of World War II. Many of her family were murdered in the Holocaust, together with half of million other Hungarian Jews. A series of fortunate coincidences allowed Agnes to survive the ghetto, the deportation and slave labour in Nazi concentration camps.

    Over the coming months we are extremely fortunate to be teaming up with Agnes and Echo Eternal to tell Agnes’ story, and – through a series of forthcoming events – to promote respect and understanding between different communities in Sutton and the wider community.

    One of the first of these events is this online Q&A with Agnes to which you are warmly invited. This will take place on the 9th of January at 5.30pm, as part of FOLIO’s campaign day during Echo Eternal’s Horizons Festival. You can register to join this event here:

    A new relationship – Agnes Kaposi

    FOLIO Sutton Coldfield is honoured and humbled to announce the start of a new and ongoing relationship with Echo Eternal and in particular with Holocaust survivor, Agnes Kaposi.

    Agnes was born in Hungary and started school just at the outbreak of World War II. Many of her family were murdered in the Holocaust, together with half of million other Hungarian Jews. A series of fortunate coincidences allowed Agnes to survive the ghetto, the deportation and slave labour in Nazi concentration camps.

    After the war Agnes’s native country fell under a tyrannical communist regime. The 1956 Hungarian revolution offered her the opportunity to escape, settle in Britain, and build a career, becoming a distinguished member of the engineering profession. Her book YELLOW STAR – RED STAR describes her life experience, illustrated by photographs, maps and documents, together with commentary by Dr László Csôsz, a renowned Holocaust historian. FOLIO has purchased a copy of this book to donate to Sutton Coldfield Library, from where it will be available for loan in the new year.

    Over the coming months we are extremely fortunate to be teaming up with Agnes and Echo Eternal to tell Agnes’ story, and – through a series of forthcoming events – to promote respect and understanding between different communities in Sutton and the wider community. Do look out for further details of these; we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at them.

    A huge thank you to the Rotary Club of Wylde Green

    With restrictions on holidays and travel abroad, has lockdown made us more interested in our local area, its history and its stories? So it would seem, based on evidence from FOLIO Sutton Coldfield’s move to provide online talks about a variety of aspects of life, past and present, in the Royal Town, and thanks to a recent donation from the Rotary Club of Wylde Green, facilitated by generous, private benefactors, FOLIO will now be able to ensure even more people can enjoy these talks and learn about fascinating local stories, curious characters and beautiful buildings and spaces across our town.

    Earlier this month FOLIO hosted an online talk by Dr Mike Hodder on the archaeology of Sutton Park. When Wylde Green Rotary Club heard that it all 100 places were fully booked within just a few days, the decision was taken to support future talks facilitated by FOLIO through funding an upgraded Zoom (online meeting) account.

    Zoe Toft, Chair of FOLIO Sutton Coldfield said: “FOLIO has a history of hosting talks on different aspects of life in Sutton and although we currently are unable to meet in Sutton Coldfield Library, we wanted to still bring people together to learn about our town and highlight the local history and other resources held by our wonderful libraries. We decided to give Zoom talks a go, and much to our delight our first one was a success, and hugely oversubscribed. We were really sorry to have to be turning people away (though equally delighted to have people joining us from as far away as Tennessee!), and so this much appreciated grant from the Rotary Club of Wylde Green is wonderful news, not only for us, but also for the wider community. Now many more people will be able to join our planned series of talks for next year.

    Speaking on behalf of the Rotary Club of Wylde Green, their President, John Baden commented: “The pandemic and lockdown have encouraged more people to go online to stay in touch. We are pleased to be able to help this very worthwhile cause reach out into the community much more easily.

    Topics already confirmed for FOLIO’s monthly series of talks enabled by Wylde Green Rotary Club include the archaeology of the urban area of Sutton Coldfield, aspects of the history of Holy Trinity Church, the flora of Sutton Park, and a rather curious incident in Sutton’s history related to the question of whether it is possible “to create the perfect wife”! Full details of the online talks will be published in the New Year. If you would like to suggest topics or speakers for the series of talks, please contact FOLIO on; FOLIO is very keen to reflect local interest and requests in its programming.

    Black History Month – connecting with our supporters (5)

    Today, as part of Black History Month, we’ve book recommendations from Miss Randall (photographed), a library supporter, primary school teacher in Sutton Coldfield and YouTube children’s storyteller on ‘Storytime with Miss Randall’.

    Here’s what Miss Randall wanted to share with us all:

    “Children’s books can act as mirrors, to reflect the readers’ own identity and lives, but also as windows so readers can learn about, understand and appreciate the lives of others. They can shape how young readers from varied backgrounds see themselves as well as how readers from a more dominant culture see and understand the complexity of diversity. I believe that’s it’s vital that all children have access to diverse books featuring black and brown characters at the forefront, stories that have positive role models, inspire and empower.

    My first recommendation is Look up! By Nathan Byron, Winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the number 1 debut picture book of 2019.
    As a big fan of stargazing myself, this book was an instant hit for me!

    ‘All I know is that one day I’m going to be the greatest astronaut, star catcher, space traveler who has ever lived like Mae Jemison, the first African- American woman in space’ ~Rocket

    Rocket loves to look up at the stars. She wants to be an astronaut after all, just like her hero Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space. Packed with fun facts about meteors and space to satisfy those curious minds, this charming picture book is laden with gorgeous illustrations that will convince children to get excited about the natural world, just like Rocket. Challenging traditional gender norms, Look Up! will show space-mad readers that the sky really is the limit.

    My second recommendation is Hair Love by Matthew Cherry, based on the Oscar-Winning Short Film
    An empowering story that celebrates the beautiful diversity of black hair, and the magical relationship between daddies and daughters everywhere. Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own! It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it’s beautiful. When her Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn. But he loves his Zuri, and he’ll do
    anything to make her -and her hair – happy!

    My next recommendation is Grandpa, Is Everything Black Bad? by Sandy Holman Lynne
    A thought provoking book to help children identify with their heritage, not just a colour. It can be used to dispel myths and stereotypes and launch an excellent discussion of race equality. “Grandpa, Is Everything Black Bad?” is a wonderfully illustrated story of an African American boy who questions the goodness of his black skin because he sees so many black things in his life that are bad; bad guys on TV wear black, black cats bring bad luck, people wear black to funerals, etc. He then learns of his proud heritage from his Grandfather whose wise words and magical drumming capture his imagination. In a mystical journey through ancient Africa, the boy learns to identify himself with his heritage and, ultimately, to appreciate his beautiful, dark skin.

    Next is a pair of book, Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History and Little Leaders: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison
    ‘I made up my mind to try. I tried and I was successful.’- Bessie Coleman.

    Both books are packed with the wonderful biographies of brave, bold black women and men who have broken boundaries and are have changed the world. They may not have always been accepted, but with their powerful voices, extraordinary actions and unswayable beliefs, each one has made the world a better place for generations to come. Packed with strong positive role models, that inspire children to dream big and make a difference. These are also a great little read for the adults too!

    My final recommendation is Lightning Girl by Alesha Dixon
    A laugh out loud, adventurous and exciting novel for undercover superheroes!
    10-year-old Aurora Beam lives at home with her utterly unremarkable family… until the day she sees her little sister being picked on in the playground and suddenly beams of light shoot out of her fingers! It’s time for her parents to drop a life-changing bombshell. Mum is a secret superhero, fighting crime across the globe while Dad looks after the kids at home. As Aurora’s own powers come into play, will she be able to balance her new super skills training with school? Will she be able to keep it all a secret from her friends? And when her mum’s evil twin pops up, will Aurora think that being a super VILLAIN might be more fun…?”

    THANK YOU Miss Randall! What an amazing selection of books. Do check out Miss Randalls’ YouTube story time channel.

    You can also find Miss Randall on Instagram.

    Look Up! is available as an eBook if you have a Birmingham lIbrary card. Bold Women in Black History and Grandpa, is everything black bad? are available from the mobile library (which stops in Banners Gate and Falcon Lodge). Hair Love is available from Mere Green Library.

    Little Leaders: Exceptional Men in Black History is in the Birmingham library system but currently not available in any Sutton library.

    Lightning Girl is available from Walmley and Sutton Coldfield libraries and also the Mobile library.