Canadian singer makes mark at Bloxwich theatre

Chuck Micallef and Dave Locke enthrall the audience on the Bookmark Bloxwich stage (Pictures by Tony Marsh)

Canadian singer songwriter Chuck Micallef brought his own style of Country, Folk and Blues music to Bloxwich when he made his mark on a local audience in a gig in the village’s remarkable little theatre at Bookmark Bloxwich last Saturday.

He was all set to appear at Bookmark Bloxwich with multi-instrumentalist Dave Luke and special guest The Trentvale Poet on Saturday 20 August.  And before the event he was already relishing taking the stage at the Elmore Row venue”I am looking forward to playing at the Bookmark – It’s a great room with a fabulous atmosphere,” he said.

The singer started writing songs for his own enjoyment at an early age before venturing out on to the stage at Thistletown Collegiate’s annual Variety Night.  At that time he was based in Rexdale in Northwest Toronto but eventually he made his way down town getting exposure at such venues as the legendary Riverboat CoffeeHouse, The Backyard Café, The Backroom of Pizza Patio, and Free Times Café.

Time for a spot of down-home philosophy, country-style

He continued to perform at venues that presented acoustic-based Country, Folk and Blues music as he travelled across Canada to British Columbia.  In 1979 Chuck returned to Toronto and was accepted on to the Humber College Music Programme as a Vocal Major.

There he met Ron Dann (pedal steel player/arranger/producer)and 1983 saw the release of his first single Within You.  That first single was followed up by English Style Lovin’. His third release Loving You charted both in Canada and in the United States.

For the past 15 years Chuck has resided in the UK playing Country Music clubs and festivals throughout the country.  He was recently asked by writer/director Chris Cook to record Man of Constant Sorrow for the film soundtrack of The Penalty King, an independently produced British feature film.

Cook also picked up Chuck’s self-penned The Moon The Stars and The Sun for another scene in the film.

Chuck introduces Mark Bailey, aka ‘The Trentvale Poet’

Chuck’s classy track record on the country scene boded well for a great night im Bloxwich’s top venue for live music, theatre, film and cultural events – and so it panned out, with real musical gold on show!

Chuck, whose soulful renditions of both his own works and classic country covers interspersed with down-home chat were received with open arms and ears by the appreciative audience, was strongly supported by versatile multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Dave Locke, whom he has known for twenty years, and by the extraordinary off-the-wall talent of Stoke-on-Trent’s Mark Bailey, aka ‘The Trentvale Poet’ who had the audience alternately in stitches and in tears between the two sets.

The poet and the musician: two different worlds, two countries on one stage

The verdict at the end of the night was certainly ‘More, please!’ and thankfully Chuck is bound to return to Bloxwich before long, hopefully with Dave, Mark and more fine country music!

You can find out more about Chuck Micallef and his music on his website here.

Live music and other events at Bookmark Bloxwich are presented by Bloxwich Library Forum in partnership with Bloxwich Library.

Special thanks from The Bloxidge Tallygraph to photographer Tony Marsh for the use of his photographs in this article. You can see more of his work on his Flickr pages via this link.

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Fun in the sun at Bloxwich Carnival!

Bloxwich Carnival Royalty 2011. Enthroned is Bloxwich Carnival Queen 2011 Abigail Nicholls, supported by (front left) 2011 Rosebud Phoebe Willetts, (front right) 2011 Princess Lucy Kirk and (rear standing) 2010 Queen Jessica Jones (Pix by Stuart Williams). 

Yesterday, Saturday 6 August, saw the latest instalment of a Bloxwich tradition dating back to 1919.

Bloxwich Carnival has its origins in the peace celebrations which followed the Great War, when the community came together to celebrate the return of local men from the trenches, commemorate those tragically lost in conflict, support their families and raise funds in aid of local hospitals.

Over subsequent decades, the tradition went from strength to strength, and became a firm local favourite, supporting both charitable causes and local senior citizens, both picking up the local Victorian tradition of organising a free annual party for the ‘Old Folks’ of the village and maintaining a close association with Pat Collins’ Fun Fair which has itself maintained the old tradition of Bloxwich Wakes for many years.

Senior Citizens Party at Bloxwich Baths on 14 July 2011

Today, the village’s premier community event, which was revived in 2000 by a new Carnival Committee after a gap of fifteen years since the last such celebration, is still the largest gathering of local people each year, holding the Senior Citizens’ Party in July and bringing thousands together on Carnival Day, a Saturday in early August.

Carnival Royalty with the Mayor and Mayoress, Terry Bate and David Winnick at Benton’s Sons of Rest

This year, as before, Bloxwich Carnival took place at the King George V Playing Fields off Stafford Road, Bloxwich.

As is traditional, the event began 12.30pm after a procession on foot into the park from Benton’s Sons of Rest in Bealey’s Lane, with the formal opening of Bloxwich Carnival by the Mayor of Walsall Councillor Garry Perry, who welcomed one and all from the vantage point of Walsall Council’s MOVE lorry, in use at carnival for the first time.

The Mayor of Walsall, Cllr Garry Perry, formally opens Bloxwich Carnival

The sun then broke through the looming clouds in timely fashion, marking the moment that the Mayor joined local dignitaries Mr. David Winnick, MP for Walsall North, and Councillor Anthony Harris (of Pat Collins Fun Fair fame) in crowning the new Carnival Queen, Abigail Nicholls, Princess Lucy Kirk and Rosebud Phoebe Willetts.

After the coronation, L to R:  2011 Princess Lucy Kirk, Queen Abigail Nicholls and Rosebud Phoebe Willetts

This was followed by the awarding of medals to fourteen young Carnival Ambassadors, each having been nominated for their outstanding qualities by local primary schools.  They were:

Young Bloxwich Carnival Ambassadors for 2011 await their medals (See Flickr link below for individual pictures)

  • Chloe Wootton  – Abbey Primary School.
  • Jake Worley – Abbey Primary School.
  • Kadi Morrell-Davis – Christ Church CE Primary School.
  • Reece Hodson – Christ Church CE Primary School.
  • Kyle Edwards – Green Rock Primary School.
  • Emily Jones – Green Rock Primary School.
  • Abbie Mayo – Little Bloxwich CE Primary School.
  • Reece Jones – Little Bloxwich CE Primary School.
  • James Davies – Elmore Green Primary School.
  • Alice Brindley – Elmore Green Primary School.
  • Connor Harries – Blakenall Heath Junior School.
  • Elle Wilson – Blakenall Heath Junior School.
  • Reece Nunn – St Peter’s Catholic Primary School.
  • Katie Donogue – St Peter’s Catholic Primary School.

Following the presentations, 2010 Bloxwich Carnival Queen Jessica Jones gave a speech about her time as queen.  Jessica, always enthusiastic and ready to help, has had a fantastic year as queen and has done an amazing amount of work in promoting the carnival and Bloxwich during that time.

Terry Bate presents Jessica Jones with a bouquet

Last but not least, Master of Ceremonies Terry Bate, Chairman of Bloxwich Carnival Committee, warmly thanked 2010 Bloxwich Carnival Queen Jessica Jones for all her enthusiasm and support both for the carnival and the village, and presented bouquets of flowers to her and to the Mayoress.

He then received a cheque from Roy Peace, Chair of the Bloxwich Committee of Walsall Housing Group, for a donation of £4,000 in support of Bloxwich Carnival.

Roy Peace (right) Chair of the Bloxwich Committee of Walsall Housing Group presents a cheque for £4,000 in support of Bloxwich Carnival to Bloxwich Carnival Chairman Terry Bate

The rest of the event then got under way, with more than forty stalls and displays plus rides, seaside donkeys, and amazing arena entertainment ensuing for the rest of the afternoon, supported by the traditional presence of the great Pat Collins Fun Fair.

Amongst the many stalls and tents were some exceptional displays, including one from the Electric Palace, a youth centre run by Bloxwich Community Partnership, who lined up on the red carpet for the premier of their Oscar-winning display!

The Electric Palace movie stars and time-travellers – L to R: Ben Lewis, Dan Garbett, Dina Barnett (running the show), Destiny Jones, Kirsty and Natasha Moore, Alex Knowles, Joshua Baggott (The Doctor), Sue Harvey and Amy Oram.

It’s tongues-out and fun in the sun for everyone as Shelagh Parker of the Retired Greyhound Trust introduces carnival-goers Kerren Saunders and her young daughter Kiah Saunders-Tottey to her retired greyhound Hazel!

The Mayor of Walsall Councillor Garry Perry takes up the ‘throw the ball in the bucket’ challenge at the Walsall District & Wednesbury SSAFA Forces Help tent

First up in the arena at 1pm with eye-popping aerial antics and gymnastics were the breathtaking turns from M.A.D, the world’s largest (and best!) professional mountain bike stunt/trials display team.  Presented by Giles Wolfe, himself a former professional mountain biker, team members Nick Manning and Scott Wilson had the audience gasping at their daring leaps and spins over and above a special stunt frame, some ‘lucky’ volunteers from the crowd – and a Landrover Discovery!

Nick Manning (left) and Scott Wilson perform M.A.D. stunts on their special mountain bikes!

Then at 1.30pm legendary strongman and ‘headbalancer’ John Evans, now famous for his spectacular stunts first showcased to the nation during the TV series ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, proceeded to draw ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ from the enthralled crowd at the other side of the arena by balancing huge objects on his head an walking freely about with them thereon.

Strongman John Evans balances a world record 10 car tyres before also succeeding with a large pedal car!

These included 24 massive buckets, a pedal car, and finally a world-record making ten car tyres balanced one on top of the other, all without dropping, falling over, or – thankfully – crushing Mr Evans!

The two spectacular acts alternated through the rest of the afternoon until the arena programme concluded with the last act at 4pm.

Chaos Queens Abigail Nicholls, Jessica Jones, Phoebe Willetts and Lucy Kirk reach for the skies courtesy of Pat Collins’ terrifying Chaos ride!

Throughout the day, of course, the legendary Pat Collins Fun Fair, traditionally associated with Bloxwich Carnival since the great days of the Wakes, also kept things humming and provided fun and fear for all who dared! And, courtesy of Anthony Harris, the young ladies of Bloxwich Carnival Royalty also had a ticket to ride – everything!

Scream Queens Jessica Jones, Lucy Kirk and Abigail Nicholls riding high on Pat Collins’ ‘Scream’!

Bloxwich Carnival, which is organised by the entirely voluntary Carnival Committee, a non-profit organisation drawn from members of the local community, traditionally attracts thousands of people and the organisers say it is one of the biggest in the West Midlands; judging by the huge numbers of people enjoying both the village’s traditional annual celebrations and the unexpected bonus of several hours of warm sunshine beaming down on Bloxwich, we can well believe it!

John Millard, Walsall Council senior park ranger, who together with his exceptional team has supported Bloxwich Carnival for many years now, by running and managing the venue, providing full support including health and safety, and helping in many other ways, said before the event “The carnival is a fantastic community event both for Bloxwich and for residents who live in other parts of the borough and is a great day out for all the family.”  And who could argue with that?

Next year is the UK’s Olympics year of course, and not to rest on their laurels, Bloxwich Carnival Committee are already thinking of something suitably spectacular for the 2012 carnival.  Watch this space – you’ll hear it here first!

For hundreds more photographs of Bloxwich Carnival, check out our Flickr album via this link: 

BLOXWICH CARNIVAL 2011 FLICKR ALBUM

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