Groups claim Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games 'needs to be more engaging'

Jatinder Singh says Birmingham 2022 need to engage more
Jatinder Singh says Birmingham 2022 need to engage more

By ITV Central Production Journalist Nick Reid

Communities are calling on Birmingham 2022 to be "more engaging" as some feel they are being "left out or ignored" in the build-up to the Commonwealth Games.

From July 28th, the eyes of the world will be fixed firmly on Birmingham and the West Midlands, as athletes compete for glory across multiple sports and events.

The Games will bring huge economic benefits, and are a chance for communities and cultures to highlight their work in their areas.

But Jatinder Singh, President of the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Smethwick, says he feels more could be done by Birmingham 2022 to engage with communities.

He claims he has attempted to engage several times with the organisers of the Games, about what their community can do to help and how they can get involved, but has "not had any receptive response".

Birmingham 2022 says it has run a number of roadshows across the region to engage with communities, has teams dedicated to engagement and will also be holding specific community forums.

Birmingham 2022 unveil legacy plan for Commonwealth Games

Mr Singh, said though he feels "we have been left out or ignored".

He said: "We've been reaching out to the Birmingham 2022 Games since its inception to get engaged and engage them with our community, but we've not had any receptive response.

"Since before the pandemic started, we've emailed, reached out on a number of occasions, but we felt that we just been left out or ignored.

"We've got a congregation here of approximately 10,000. We have a wide range of people from all walks of life coming in.

"We've developed into a community hub, we're one of the largest faith centres in the United Kingdom.

We're just as proud and just as excited about the Games and we wanted our community to be part of this."

Mr Singh says he feels there was so much more that could have been done to build the celebrations up.

He said: "I think it's a great opportunity for people to learn about each other's cultures, great opportunity for communities to come together.

"This is going to be probably once in our lifetime, I don't think something so big a Games wise will be coming to Birmingham, they might be but, you know, I think the opportunity has been missed.

Jatinder Singh, president of the Guru Nanak Gurdwara, in Smethwick Credit: ITV Central

Mr Singh has called on Birmingham 2022 organisers to do more for engagement.

He said: "I think they need to gear up, they really need to up their game in regards to community engagement.

"They need to reach out, get involved in community groups.

"I think more resources need to be put into this. The whole Games is something where we're celebrating diversity.

"I don't think there is a bigger or more diverse community than Birmingham. So, that lack of engagement is really, really disappointing."

Birmingham Mela, billed as the UK's biggest South Asian music festival, has also written an on open letter questioning the diversity of the 2022 Games.

Sandwell and Birmingham Mela taking place before the Covid pandemic

As part of the Commonwealth Games, the Birmingham 2022 festival has been launched, which is the biggest celebration of creativity ever in the region and one of the largest ever Commonwealth Games cultural programmes.

The Birmingham 2022 website says the festival is led by artists "who know that great audience experiences are combination of beauty, community, participation, diversity and inclusion".

Commonwealth Games 2022

"Heritage is also a golden thread that runs through and between every event, project and ideas".

The Birmingham 2022 website also describes it as a festival made in the West Midlands for the Commonwealth and it says that everyone is invited.

The Birmingham 2022 Culture Programme also works with artists to fill the city with creative work as part of their six-month festival as part of the Commonwealth Games.

Donna Fraser OBE, Head of inclusion and engagement at Birmingham 2022, said they have made contact with the Gurdwara in Smethwick and are "moving forward".

She said: "I'm aware of this claim (from the Gurdwara) and I can assure you that we've done a huge amount of work in the community.

"Of course, we can't reach every single person and, you know, I can only apologise that if that's the case, but we have picked up on this one and made contact with this particular Gurdwara moving forward and building those relationships.

"We've delivered a number of roadshows across the region. Of course, we're not targeting particular religions, this has to be broad and wide.

"Diverse inclusion covers a number of diversity strands, so we have to be mindful of that.

We can't cover everything, but we have done our absolute must and efforts to do so."

The organising committee is made up of around eight hundred staff, with different departments that have engagement as part of their remit.

A countdown clock outside the venue for the summit shows the number of days to go until the Commonwealth Games Credit: ITV News

Donna says around fifty roadshows have been delivered which have reached around 150,000 people.

Donna said: "It is not about just focusing on religions and faith, it's more that wider peace in deprived areas particularly, bringing sport to them and engaging with the Commonwealth Games and what the Commonwealth Games will bring.

"Ongoing conversations on how people get involved has definitely been my focus and giving opportunities and sharing opportunities has been key for us.

"Around the youth engagement programme they have been working with schools, taking Perry (the mascot) out to a number of schools, getting the young people and our next generation excited about the Commonwealth Games and sport in general. So that inspiration is really key."

She said: "If you haven't been invited just yet, the invites haven't gone out yet, but you would want to be part of that, then just reach out to us.

"It's an open thing we want to hear where we can make some tangible difference. And that's key for us.

"We are here to deliver a Games in the best possible way that we can that everyone is part of this. We have made absolute efforts to do so and we will be doing more.

"We've got three months to go. So you know, the time hasn't completely run out yet. So we do have time to engage with such communities."

The Commonwealth Games begins on Thursday, July 28 and runs until Monday, August 8.

Birmingham was announced as host on December 21, 2017, marking England's third time hosting the Games, behind Manchester in 2002 and London in 1934.

The venues being used for the Birmingham 2022 games stretch from Coventry, Solihull, and Royal Leamington Spa to Cannock Chase Forest, Royal Sutton Coldfield and Wolverhampton.

Birmingham 2022 received 41,000 applications from people to volunteer at the games.