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: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_rBjOGhkpQj6HAxX9XfPT7A

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 info@foliosuttoncoldfield.org.uk; 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.

Black History Month – connecting with our supporters (4)

Our next set of book recommendations during Black History Month come once again from library user and author Fadzi, a first generation immigrant Zimbabwean. This time Fadzi is focussing on suggestions for adult readers:

“For adults, I recommend the writings of Tsitsi Dangarembga and Imbolo Mbue. Ms Mbue had her book, Behold the Dreamers, featured on Oprah’s Book Club. I instantly fell for Tsitsi’s writing years ago when I read “Nervous Conditions”, however I wasn’t so enamoured with the sequel, “The Book of Not.” She has just released the third book in the trilogy, entitled, “This Mournable Body” and I will definitely give it a chance.

Next, there’s “The Measure of a Man” by Sidney Poitier – because, as it says in the blurb, “Here is Poitier’s own introspective look at what has informed his performances and his life. Poitier explores the nature of sacrifice and commitment, pride and humility, rage and forgiveness, and paying the price for artistic integrity. What emerges is a picture of a man seeking truth, passion, and balance in the face of limits – his own and the world’s.” I think this book would help readers of all races to better understand the challenges that even someone like Poitier has had to overcome in honing his craft through the years. I definitely found this an interesting read.

Trevor Noah wrote a book called “Born a Crime” which I can’t recommend highly enough. It is however slightly tainted with bad language, so he has also written a cleaner, more child-friendly version of the same book for readers who prefer a more palatable version. He is a mixed-race man born to a white father and black mother in apartheid South Africa at a time when it was literally a crime for them to have got together. He is now the host of the Daily Show in America. This is an absolute must-read.”

According to the Birmingham Library catalogues:
Behold the Dreamers is available as an eBook and to borrow from the Library of Birmingham
This Mournable Body is available as an eBook, with Nervous Conditions and The Book of Not available for reference only in the Library of Birmingham
The Measure of a Man is available from Sutton Coldfield Library
Born a Crime is available from Sutton Coldfield Library and the Mobile library (which stops in Banners Gate and Falcon Lodge)

Thankyou once more, Fadzi! We’re delighted to be able to share your book recommendations. If other FOLIO supporters would like to make book recommendations for Black History Month, please get in touch on info@foliosuttoncoldfield.org.uk

Black History Month – connecting with our supporters (3)

Our next set of book recommendations as part of Black History Month come from Domanic, a Sutton resident and graduate of Bishop Vesey whose mother arrived in Birmingham as part of the Windrush generation, aged 6, from Antigua, and whose Dad was born in Birmingham to Jamaican parents.

Domanic’s first recommendation is Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by the rapper Akala. Domanic says, “This has been on my reading list for ages, I’m finally reading it now. It’s good to read this in the context of a British youth’s first hand experience. It add the social dimension to a lot of what you often hear Akala asked to speak about. I think a book like this is particularly right now.”

Then come three children’s books as top tips:

Of Bimwili and the Zimwi written by Verna Aardema and illustrated by Susan Meddaugh Domanic says “I still remember this from school. It’s a cool kind of fairytale. I didn’t notice it when I was younger, but it was the only story book at school that was about a black girl.”
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison is Domanic’s next tip: “This is a book that’s a bit of a spin off from a short cartoon. My partner was worrying from before our child was born, “What are we going to do with their hair!?” Here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNw8V_Fkw28″

The final choice from Domanic is Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison.

“I bought this a couple years ago for my brother’s children. It’s just nice to have something to look at with them and hear about black people in modern history beyond just US civil rights.”

There are lots of copies of Natives in the Birmingham Libraries catalogue, but no copies are available in any Sutton Coldfield Library. Bimwili and the Zimwi, and Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History are available from the mobile library (which stops in Banners Gate and Falcon Lodge). Hair Love is available from Mere Green Library.