Summer celebrations at Seaside Bloxwich

Summer seaside fun off-High Street with special Red Route dispensation for donkeys in Park Rd! (Pix: Stuart Williams)

Saturday saw sun, seaside fun and happy families flock to Bloxwich to enjoy the latest promotion of the village and local traders by Bloxwich Business Partnership working with Walsall Council and the local community.

‘Juggling Jim’ proves he’s the ‘top’ dog at imparting circus skills

Circus and carnival themed fun took place along High Street and Park Road, as well as at ASDA, as part of the Bloxwich Celebrates Summer event.

New Bloxwich Carnival Queen Abigail Nicholls (right) joined Princess Lucy Kirk handing out leaflets in High Street

Numerous activities including face painting, Punch and Judy show, circus workshop and donkey rides were lined up at the event organised by the Partnership supported by Walsall Council’s district centre management team, organised by Nikki Rolls.

2010 Bloxwich Carnival Queen Jessica Jones (centre) joined event organiser Nikki Rolls (right) and staff of Sweet & Fancy for a laugh in Park Road

The popular event ran from 11am to 3pm and proved popular with children of all ages. One visitor even thought the Carnival had arrived a week early!

Donkey rides in Park Road

The borough’s district centres, especially Bloxwich, which has been undergoing a renaissance since the refurbishment of Bloxwich Library and Theatre as Bookmark Bloxwich, and the reformation of Bloxwich Business Partnership, have a lot going on and this was a great event with wide appeal to people across Bloxwich and district.

Pinxton Puppets played Punch & Judy at the ASDA

Not just about well-timed fun in the sun, Bloxwich Celebrates Summer also has the serious purpose of attracting shoppers into the High Street to support hard-pressed local traders.  Many of those traders also support the Bloxwich Business Partnership, and on this occasion a shop window decoration competition also attracted eight entries.

Also at ASDA, Bloxwich Carnival Committee Chairman Terry Bate (left) joined Cllr Shaun Fitzpatrick and his wife Julie selling raffle tickets for next Saturday’s Carnival

The business partnership has also just published the 2011 Bostin’ Bloxwich guide which includes information about events and businesses in Bloxwich including the forthcoming carnival (next Saturday 6 August!) and details of the village’s entry in this year’s Heart of England in Bloom competition.The guide, which is funded through advertising and Bloxwich Business Partnership, has been distributed through various avenues including schools and businesses.

Information about events in Bloxwich can be found on Facebook by searching for Bloxwich town centre or via Twitter @Bloxwichtown – as well as in the pages of The Bloxwich Telegraph!

A photo album of the event may be viewed on Flickr via this link.

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Young and old raise the roof at Bloxwich Baths

Senior citizens from Bloxwich and district tuck in thanks to Bloxwich Carnival (All pix: Stuart Williams)

Senior citizens from across Bloxwich and district joined forces with local youngsters and carnival supporters in an afternoon of food, fun and fine entertainment on Thursday when Bloxwich Carnival hosted them as guests at their annual party at the former Bloxwich Baths.

And some unexpected guests from local schools put the icing on the cake for the more than two hundred “old folks” attending, who tucked in at the invitation of the Carnival Committee via various local groups, organisations and nursing homes in the very civilised Art Deco surroundings of the former 1920s baths on Pinfold, which is now a permanent function hall associated with Bloxwich Leisure Centre.

Carnival Royalty ( L to R, rear) Abigail Nicholls (Bloxwich Carnival Queen 2011), Jessica Jones (Carnival Queen 2010), Lucy Kirk (Carnival Princess 2011) and Phoebe Willetts (Carnival Rosebud 2011) serve members of Leamore & Blakenall Snr Ciitizens Sons of Rest and 50+ Forum groups

The tradition of an “Old Folks Party” associated with the carnival goes back a long way in the village, with the annual spectacular (this year on 6 August) originally raising funds for local hospitals and ex-servicemen of the Great War following the 1919 peace celebrations, together with doing general good deeds and raising funds for the elderly of Bloxwich.
When the carnival – which has had remarkable ups and occasional downs over the decades and finished in 1985 due to lack of support – was revived by the Friends of Bloxwich Parks for the Millennium in 2000, it continued successfully under a new committee and in 2001 the “Old Folks” tea party was revived, at first taking place on the Friday before the Carnival, where invited senior citizens attended a performance by one of Pat Collins’ fairground organs.

Air Cadets of Bloxwich-based 196 (Walsall) Squadron fly up and down the aisles delivering lunches with pinpoint accuracy!

This year’s happy throng were not only very well-served by ‘carnival royalty’ Abigail Nicholls (Bloxwich Carnival Queen 2011), Jessica Jones (Carnival Queen 2010), Lucy Kirk (Carnival Princess 2011) and Phoebe Willetts (Carnival Rosebud 2011) but also by many members of Bloxwich Carnival Committee and other supporters, together with local young people from 196 (Walsall) Squadron Air Cadets, based in Bloxwich.

Carnival Committee member Roy Peace (right), Chairman Terry Bate (centre) and Mrs. Peace hand out scones

The event started off with a prayer from Rev. Kareen Lowther of Holy Ascension Church, Lower Farm.  Then, as well as a fine tea, the guests were treated to a grand singalong by veteran professional musicians and vocalists Antoine Socci (on accordion) and son Antony Socci (on trumpet) of Sapphire Entertainments, who really know how to work a crowd.

Two musical generations in harmony: Antony (left)  and Antoine Socci play up a stormIn addition to the serenading sounds of the Soccis, guests were also entertained by the remarkable talents of two groups from local schools who very kindly stepped in at the last minute after another act let the party down.

The wonderful voices of the talented choir of Abbey JMI School, Mossley, easily filled the massive hall with a great range of songs.  They were followed later by a number of remarkable routines from the graceful young ladies of Walsall Academy Dance Group, plus excellent singer Jack, also from the Academy, who proved particularly popular with female members of the audience!

Members of Abbey School Choir sing their hearts out for the senior citizens of Bloxwich!

Young performers from Walsall Academy dance and sing to the delight of the audience

Little did they know that they were performing on the very stage that legendary acts such as Jerry Lee Lewis rocked on back in the 50s and 60s!

Finally, accompanied by much jollity from both stage and audience, the guests all took part in a free prize raffle organised by the carnival committee, with the winning tickets picked out by one of the Air Cadets.

Raffle organiser Yvonne Westley (left) with prizes & Terry Bate (right) looks on as a young Air Cadet draws the raffle

Master of Ceremonies Terry Bate, Chairman of Bloxwich Carnival Committee, led proceedings and introduced both entertainers and carnival royalty alike to the happy, cheering audience.  And a very special moment was reserved for the most senior of the guests, Mrs Florence Elizabeth Riley of Bloxwich, who will be aged just 102 in August, with birthday wishes announced to all from the stage, and congratulations from Rev Lowther!

Rev Kareen Lowther (right, standing) congratulates ‘Lizzie’ Riley on her forthcoming 102nd birthday

Air Cadets join guests for a final dance on-stage, led by their Commanding Officer Flt Lt Ian Averill RAF VR (T)

Finally,  apart from having the pleasure of witnessing a great celebration of the value of our older residents and their irrepressible spirit and sense of humour, this reporter drew two important lessons from this event, which ought to be better acknowledged in the cynical so-called “big society”, big-media Britain of today.

Firstly, that the age-old British sense of community and charity does still exist – it shines out from all those involved in the organisation and support of very special events like this and Bloxwich Carnival itself.

And secondly, that our often much-maligned “youth of today” deserve to be given far more credit and support than seems to be the case from the rants of politicians and tirades of the gutter press.  Certainly these kids, from the Air Cadets and the schools alike, surely have “the right stuff” and should be given credit for it.  The Bloxidge Tallygraph salutes them all!

For a full album of photos from the party, follow this link to the hi-res set on Flickr.  And to find out about the history of Bloxwich Carnival, see our Bloxwich Carnival page!

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Blakenall Know Your Place Project pages launched

Friends in the community: project participants led by Jenny Cartwright on an outing to Blists Hill (Pic: S. Williams)

The Blakenall ‘Know Your Place’ Project was a Heritage Lottery Funded community history project created by Project Co-ordinator Jenny Cartwright, working with Bloxwich Community Partnership and in liaison with the local community and other groups and organisations in Blakenall Heath and Bloxwich.  It ran from January 2010 till May 2011.

The project was a great success, unearthing a rich selection of photographs of the area and its people, almost all never seen by a general audience or in preservation.  It also resulted in a range of oral history recordings of memories of Blakenall folk, and offered numerous well-supported community events for the interest and enjoyment of local people, in an area historically neglected by officialdom.

Booth Street Chapel, Blakenall Heath, c1930s (Cliff Webb)

A small book of photographs – ‘Blakenall Memories’ – was published, as well as a “digital reprint” (only available online) of the only book ever published about the Parish of Blakenall Heath – ‘When Numbers Cease to Count’.

Coronation party, Wordsworth Road, 1953 (Betty Friend)

The project materials are now, in digital form, in the keeping of Walsall Local History Centre, but The Bloxidge Tallygraph was chosen to host the project online so that its results might be available to all, locally and world-wide.

The books linked for download

A special section of The Bloxidge Tallygraph, including the books mentioned above as well as a link to an associated Flickr photo album, has therefore been created by the Edditer, Stuart Williams, working with Jenny Cartwright, to document and present selected results of the project, and it is now available directly via the nav bar under Blakenall KYP or via the following link:

The Blakenall Know Your Place Project

We hope that you will find it as fascinating as we and the local community have!

Hell Bent for Walsall Leather Museum!

Mike Glasson, Senior Curator at Walsall Leather Museum shows off Rob Halford’s costumes (Pix: Stuart Williams)

Walsall Leather Museum has joined forces with Home of Metal plus friends, family, fans and the band to lay on a superb show of costumes, collectibles, art and photography of seminal Heavy Metal music superstars Judas Priest – and expecially Bloxwich lad and lead singer Rob Halford .

The historic home of leatherworking is taking a look at ‘the look’ of Heavy Metal and its most famous sons of rock. Dressed top-to-toe in an awe-inspiring mixture of shining leather and gleaming studs and chains, Rob Halford and ‘Priest moved the Heavy Metal scene and its fans firmly into the territory of the rebellious outlaw; to a place where image became inextricably linked with sound.  And what could be more appropriate than an exhibition in the heart of the heavy metal Black Country and the leather capital of the world?

Two of Rob Halford’s costumes from the ‘Fuel for Life’ tour, 1986. Plus original art, posters and memorabilia.

The exhibition ‘Hell Bent for Leather: Judas Priest and the Heavy Metal Look’, which opened on Friday 8 July, occupies two rooms on the first floor of the Littleton Street West museum, part of Walsall Council, which showcases the quality craft and enormous contribution which the leather industry has made to Walsall’s economy and reputation over the centuries.

Costumes, art, memorabilia – and a photo wall by Stuart Williams.

The exhibition at the Leather Museum, which has been curated by Exhibition Officer Francesca Cox, comprises a range of costumes on loan from Rob’s sister Sue and the band, primarily those of Rob Halford, who in his youth lived on Beechdale Estate and went to school in Bloxwich,  from the 1980s-90s.

More costumes by Ray Brown, and much else.

Original costume design art by Ray Brown.

The costumes were designed and made by Ray Brown, who has loaned artwork showing some of his designs.  Poster artist Mark Wilkinson also has work on show. The exhibition also includes a wide range of memorabilia contributed by fans and collectors Steve Grennan, Bill Sneyd and Malcolm Carter, plus original photography of the band in a series of prints by Stuart Williams (Edditer of The Bloxidge Tallygraph. More detailed credits are available via this link.

Home of Metal, a remarkable project and series of events which is currently sweeping the Black Country and Birmingham with a range of exhibitions and events celebrating the origins of Heavy Metal Music in the region in the late 1960s and later, is doing much to bring to light the amazing contribution which local people, musicians, singers, songwriters, artists and craftsmen have made to the globe-spanning musical phenomenon. For more on the Home of Metal Project and events running through the season, check out their website here.

This truly excellent Walsall exhibition is surely not to be missed by Judas Priest fans and metalheads in general.  Moreover, even if you’re not a fan of heavy metal, you still owe it to yourself to find out how our amazing local musicians have conquered the world in a remarkable cultural phenomenon which still thrives and grows today.

Oh yes – and here’s what it’s all about:

‘Hell Bent for Leather: Judas Priest and the Heavy Metal Look’ is on till 10 September 2011.

Walsall Leather Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday: 10am-5pm, and admission is free.  More details of the Museum via this link.

If you can’t make it to the exhibition, why not check out our photographic tour via this link.

A short biography of Rob Halford by Stuart Williams is in our Bloxwich History section here.

Rob Halford’s own website is here, and Judas Priest’s site is here.

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