Chelmsley Wood (B37) is a council estate, built to house a Birmingham population overspill in the 1960s. It now belongs to the Metropolitan Borough Council of Solihull and falls under the constituency of Meriden.
Chelmsley Wood, unlike neighbouring areas, does not figure large in the top 10 places to live or visit in the Sunday paper supplements, with reported high levels of deprivation and anti-social behaviour, and some local residents being older than the oldest public buildings. It’s “a brutalist horror “, not worth visiting, according to Mr Jackson, MP for uncharitable, unhelpful, and unimaginative. To be fair, there is truth in all of these things, but scratch the surface and you might be surprised to find another side. A place with a rich but poorly known or owned local history, dating back to the dark ages, and a people with a great sense of humour and community spirit, with important stories to tell.
The imagery and stories of Chelmund, the first Woodie settler*, are being used as a vehicle for the community to document and celebrate their local history, places and stories; to explore their identity and the places they call home. Chelmund isn’t owned by any individual or group, it belongs to everyone in the community, even those who don’t see the point of it or do not find it to their taste. Anybody can contribute. For the younger ones, the stories focus on Chelmund and his dealings with the mischievous woodlings, whilst sneaking in some local place names and history. For the older ones, the stories are metaphors for the North Solihull Regeneration Programme, for looking after our natural places (it’s surprisingly green here), and for living on the Wood today, adding more stories for future generations to come. These stories sometimes poke fun, are often funny, but never malicious.
There is no end point to the Chelmund Project. It grows where it wants and we follow where it goes, with the good folks at the Chelmund Heritage Association voluntarily looking after it. The local community have already renamed one of its regenerated village centres after Chelmund by public vote, and now celebrate him annually, along with everything else that’s good about living here, on Chelmund’s day.
As one of the many contributors to this project, Ronnie @ The Art Shack is planning to publish a children’s portfolio book of Chelmund stories by the end of 2016. Visit http://ronniecashmore.co.uk/ for a preview of some of the characters which will be featuring. One of the many chapters of this project, with, no doubt, many more to come.
(* While it is generally accepted by locals that Chelmund was the first settler on land now known as Chelmsley Wood, the more important issue of whether he was a Blue Nose or a Villain is still to be determined and the subject of much heated but friendly local debate).