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Bloxwich Carnival is coming!

Bloxwich Carnival

Yes, it’s that time of year again! Bloxwich’s biggest and best public event of the year, our annual Carnival, is almost here, and is all set to land in King George V Memorial Playing Fields on Saturday 5th August 2017. Apart from the traditional Pat Collins Fun Fair, there’ll be a host of stalls, attractions and arena events on offer – with FREE ADMISSION! And as always, it will be a feast of fun for all the family!

Bloxwich Carnival will be open from 12 noon to 5pm, with arena events spread throughout the afternoon. Times will be available on the day. Admission is as usual on foot, via the Bell Lane/Bealey’s Lane entrance.

Flyin Ryan follows Jumpin James over the Council truck
Flyin Ryan follows Jumpin James over the Council truck
Special attractions

Apart from all the fun of the fair, and various other smaller independent rides and attractions, special attractions this year include:

  • Flyin Ryan Stunt Riders
  • Elaine Hill Sheepdog Trials
  • Pete the Animatronic Dinosaur
  • Armitage Birds of Prey
  • Mad Dominic

Please note that while admission is free, rides on the Pat Collins Fun Fair and other rides are charged for individually.

Meet Pete the Dinosaur!
Meet Pete the Dinosaur!
Bob Park and one of the amazing Armitage Birds of Prey
Bob Park and one of the amazing Armitage Birds of Prey
Elaine Hill and her sheepdogs!
Elaine Hill and her sheepdogs!
Who's that mad bloke up there? It's Dom!
Who’s that mad bloke up there? It’s Dom!
Official Opening
Mayor of Walsall Cllr Marco Longhi (centre), with Cllrs Sean and Diane Coughlan at Willenhall Carnival in June
Mayor of Walsall Cllr Marco Longhi (centre), with Cllrs Sean and Diane Coughlan at Willenhall Carnival in June

This year there is no Bloxwich Carnival Queen crowning, but the Carnival will still be opened by the Mayor of Walsall, Councillor Marco Longhi, at 12 noon. Watch out for the mobile stage near the roped display arena.

Support your local Carnival
Bloxwich Carnival Committee and volunteers 2016
Bloxwich Carnival Committee and volunteers 2016

Bloxwich Carnival is organised by the tireless and entirely voluntary Bloxwich Carnival Commitee, which also organises the annual Senior Citizens Party at the Stan Ball Centre every July, and is largely funded by donations. More help is always needed, so anyone interested in helping out at the Carnival should either have a word with a Committee member at the Carnival on the day, or contact them via the official Bloxwich Carnival Facebook page. You’ll be made very welcome!

Bloxwich Carnival is also supported by many local groups, such as the Rotary Club of Bloxwich Phoenix, and by Walsall Council, which provides the venue and much invaluable assistance in preparation and on the day.

Pictures Posted
Fun in the sun at Bloxwich Carnival!
Fun in the sun at Bloxwich Carnival!

As has been traditional since 2006, our editor Stuart Williams will be covering Bloxwich Carnival and taking the official photographs, a selection of which will be published here after the event. Watch this space!

Bloxwich Flag launched in heart of the town

The Bloxwich Flag Launch - Julie Hikins and the Mayor of Walsall fly the new flag at The Bloxwich Tardis. Click to download large version.
The Bloxwich Flag Launch – Julie Hikins and the Mayor of Walsall fly the new flag at The Bloxwich Tardis. Click to download large version.

Saturday saw the launch of a brand, spanking new flag for Bloxwich, in the presence of the new Mayor of Walsall Cllr Marco Longhi, while local Bloxwich West councillors Louise Harrison, Matt Follows and Brad Allen, the recently-elected MP for Walsall North Mr Eddie Hughes and others looked on.

The flag, as far as we know the first of its kind for Bloxwich and district, has came about as a result of a competition for local people and schools, at the instigation of a Bloxwich Flag Committee formed by the heritage-minded organisers of the Bloxwich Old & New Facebook group Martin Morris and Tony Kulik plus local councillors and others. The editor of The Bloxwich Telegraph, Stuart Williams, acted as historical advisor to the committee. Continue reading Bloxwich Flag launched in heart of the town

BNN renamed – expands coverage

Map of the Walsall North Parliamentary Constituency
Map of the Walsall North Parliamentary Constituency

This weekend marks the end of one era and the beginning of another. Bloxwich News Network (BNN), the social media arm of The Bloxwich Telegraph, is changing – and so is the Telegraph.

BNN, which works by following and identifying locally relevant and interesting news and info on Twitter and Facebook, and sharing it out via its own Twitter and Facebook feeds, which together have a total of more than 3,000 followers and an even greater reach, has primarily focused until now on the Bloxwich, Blakenall Heath, Birchills and Leamore areas, with the addition of wider-ranging material of local relevance.

It has become evident, however, that BNN also has a natural fit with the rest of the Walsall North parliamentary constituency area, and can help with relaying news and information from that slightly wider area, which in addition to the current coverage would include Willenhall and Short Heath.

We have therefore decided that as of today, 10th June 2017, Bloxwich News Network will be renamed Walsall North News (WNN) and will focus primarily on Birchills, Blakenall Heath, Bloxwich, Leamore, Short Heath and Willenhall. Items of relevant regional and national interest will also be covered.

Both the names of our Twitter feed and our Facebook page have been changed accordingly – please see below.

Bloxwich Telegraph refocused

The Bloxwich Telegraph will not, however, be changing its name and will remain dedicated to the Bloxwich area. There will be content changes, and the site will become a less frequently updated magazine style site with more local interest and photo features (especially local heritage) and considerably reduced news coverage, something which has been coming for a long time anyway.  This will take longer to implement, and changes will be flagged on social media as they happen.

Follow us

We hope that the extended coverage will both help and interest local people from the whole of the Walsall North area and beyond. If you are on Twitter and would like to follow us, see below – and if you are a local organisation, official, group or company, please do give us a Tweet so we can follow you, and include WNN in your tweets so we can relay them.

To follow the ‘new’ news outlets on social media, please see:

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/WalsallNNews

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/WalsallNorthNews

Remembering Harold Parry – 100 years on

Parry with Poppies

I was reminded this past week of the centenary of the passing of a man who I usually think of in November, the month of remembrance, poppies, services and parades. A man who is probably not as well known as he should be, but of whom I have written several times in the past. Harold Parry, Bloxwich’s own War Poet, who like so many others, made the ultimate sacrifice for king and country in the Great War of 1914-18. And that centenary is this Saturday, 6 May 2017.

Harold Parry (‘Hal’ to his friends), son of Alderman, mine engineer, colliery proprietor and landowner David Ebenezer Parry and Sarah Parry, of ‘Croxdene’, Bloxwich, was born on 13 December, 1896, one of twins.

Croxdene in the late 1960s.
Croxdene in the late 1960s.

After studying at a junior school in Bloxwich (probably the National School, High Street), Hal won a scholarship to Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall, where he became an outstanding pupil, head of his House and captain of the school’s football and cricket teams, as well as a cadet officer.  While studying there, he won the Queen’s Prize for History and in 1915 won an Open History Scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford.

Exeter College, Oxford (Wikimedia Commons).
Exeter College, Oxford (Wikimedia Commons).

Hal volunteered for army service in January 1916, being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, and after training at Rugeley he transferred to the 17th Battalion, The King’s Royal Rifle Corps, on the front line in France.

Badge of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (Wikimedia Commons).
Badge of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (Wikimedia Commons).
Badge of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps (Wikimedia Commons).
Badge of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps (Wikimedia Commons).

Before the war, Parry had been a prolific writer of poetry.  The bitter experiences of the trenches, at the Somme and in Belgium, soon made him turn again, this time for relief, to poetry, both reading and writing, and letters home to family and friends.  He could express himself clearly in both prose and verse, and his writings are important in that they reveal what the young men who died in “the war to end all wars” thought about their experiences in that terrible conflict.

A trench on The Somme, 1916.
A British trench on The Somme, 1916.

One of his shortest poems, ‘Tommy’s Dwelling’, written in the field, tells of the ever-present water and mud which was the curse of the trenches:

Tommy’s Dwelling

I come from trenches deep in slime,

Soft slime so sweet and yellow,

And rumble down the steps in time

To souse “some shivering fellow”.

I trickle in and trickle out

Of every nook and corner,

And, rushing like some waterspout,

Make many a rat a mourner.

I gather in from near and far

A thousand brooklets swelling,

And laugh aloud a great “Ha, ha!”

To flood poor Tommy’s dwelling.

German dead at the sunken road in Guillemont during the battle of The Somme.
German dead at the sunken road in Guillemont during the battle of The Somme.

Just two days after a battle, on 14 October 1916 Hal wrote to his sister’s friend Isabel “The average Fritz is as sick at heart over all this destruction as we are. We are preached a doctrine of frightfulness, and yet is it not sufficiently sad to think when you come across an unburied dead German, perhaps this day his wife and children mourn for him, and in the future can know neither peace nor comfort? I must confess it distresses me beyond measure, for I am not a soldier at heart.”

“The real evil in this conflict is not of the individual so much as of the powers that be.  If these dignitaries could only be sat in the trenches for a wee short space, and made to carry heavy coils of wire for long distances up long communication trenches – blasted by the incessant force of the guns, I could guarantee that their war would not last longer than the time to fix up provisional peace terms.  Let Dot read this letter, but not my mother or father, it would make them grieve and I don’t want that.”

Band of the 5th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment in the ruins at Ypres.
Band of the 5th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment in the ruins at Ypres.

Sadly, like so many soldiers Hal was fated to die young, killed in action on 6 May, 1917 by a German shell at Ypres, in Flanders, while moving from his billet to safer quarters in the cellars nearby.  He was just twenty years old.  Writing to Hal’s father, his commanding officer said “He was a splendid youngster, and a most capable and keen officer, much loved by all.  Had he been spared I am sure he would have made a great name for himself as a soldier.”

Second Lieutenant Harold Parry, Walsall Pioneer, 19 May 1917.
Second Lieutenant Harold Parry, Walsall Pioneer, 19 May 1917.

Instead of making his name as a soldier, in the decades following his death Harold Parry instead become known to posterity as a war poet.  A posthumous volume of letters and poems compiled by G.P. Dennis ‘In Memoriam: Harold Parry’ was published, showing he was exceptionally gifted for such a young man.  The letters show above all his extreme cheerfulness and loyalty, even in the face of danger and death.  Some of his poems are also published in ‘Songs from the Heart of England’, an anthology of Walsall poetry edited by Alfred Moss with a foreword by Jerome K. Jerome.

G.P. Dennis wrote of him “Harold Parry was no saint, he had with the rest of us his faults and failings and annoyingnesses; but that the evil in him was less than most, and that he fought it harder,  that the good in him was greater, and that he used it better – of these things his friends are certain.  He always tried to do what he believed was right: what more can a good man do?”

Such is the measure of the man.  His good name and his words live after him, and he is not forgotten.

Harold Parry is buried at Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, West Flanders, Belgium.  His headstone bears the inscription “Death is the Gate To the High Road of Life And Love is the Way (Harold Parry).”

Its twin, rather more careworn after a century, honours his name in Field Road Cemetery, Bloxwich.

I usually go there to ponder on the life of a Bloxwich man and the folly of war in cold November. This time around, in the sunlit spring, I have visited that small, forgotten shrine of remembrance and placed flowers for the centenary of his passing. I placed them today. Perhaps others may do the same tomorrow, and think on the apt words of another poet, Mary Elizabeth Frye.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Monument to Harold Parry at Field Rd Cemetery, Bloxwich.
Monument to Harold Parry at Field Rd Cemetery, Bloxwich.

Ironically, although Harold Parry has a monument at Bloxwich, and there are a number of similar stones there, he is not listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s list for Bloxwich Cemetery, he is listed at  Vlamertinghe. But there are also many men who are listed as buried here, via this link, and they are all worthy of remembrance.

Lest we forget

Bloxwich Telegraph links up with Rediscover Bloxwich

Local rock legend Noddy Holder meets the project group at Walsall Academy, Bloxwich (Pic Stuart Williams)
Local rock legend Noddy Holder meets the project group at Walsall Academy, Bloxwich (Pic Stuart Williams)

In 2016, young people and staff from the Walsall Academy in Lichfield Road, Bloxwich (site of the former T.P. Riley Comprehensive School) joined forces with Walsall Council’s Creative Development Team, video producers and digital media specialists Catcher Media, local writer and Bloxwich Telegraph editor Stuart Williams, Walsall Local History Centre, Walsall Council Regeneration and other local people on a very special Heritage Lottery-funded project to literally focus on the history and heritage of Bloxwich through the eyes, ears and voices of the school’s students, local people and other contributors and through the camera eye of Catcher Media.

What’s it all about?

The basic idea of the project, known as Rediscover Bloxwich, was:

What if each Bloxwich building or street has a story to tell? And what if some of these stories are fascinating? Or scary? Or funny? And what if they make you think about Bloxwich in a new way? Re-discover it.

So Walsall Academy students set out to find out about Bloxwich’s heritage, and to tell that story back to Bloxwich residents. They talked to celebrities, their own families, older people and historians.

The Rediscover website and the film they made pools all of the information, photos, interviews and stories that came to light throughout the project.

The project is also being followed up by the production and installation of a range of related public heritage art pieces set to be installed in Bloxwich centre later this year.

Rediscover Bloxwich logo

What’s on the site?

Apart from information about the project and the main video content itself, there are also a number of pages which offer links to more resources, several video clips of extra interviews of local people and Bloxwich rock legend Noddy Holder of Slade fame, and several pages themed on local Bloxwich heritage topics, with historical information, covering everything from Bloxwich pubs and local myths to industry, churches, fairs – and the Bloxwich lion! Information is also provided about the planned heritage artworks, and credits and acknowledgements.

Linking up for Bloxwich

The Bloxwich Telegraph, whose editor Stuart Williams was commissioned to act as Historical Advisor to the project, is proud to announce its formal – and now digital – links with the project, the film and the resulting website.

From time to time we will highlight aspects of the project from this site and and on our social media. To this end we have now installed a permanent direct link to Rediscover Bloxwich on our main site menu, and via clicking on the Rediscover logo in the right-hand column of every page.

We hope you enjoy finding out about Bloxwich’s past, through Rediscover Bloxwich and via the pages of The Bloxwich Telegraph.

For further information, please click on the following link or any of the others highlighted in this news item.

Rediscover Bloxwich

Bloxwich Library saved amid drastic Council cuts

Walsall Council House (pic: Stuart Williams)
Walsall Council House (pic: Stuart Williams)

Walsall Council has announced that Bloxwich Library is one of six libraries to have been saved from possible closure in a dramatic press briefing reported on by local news media today.

But the news is by no means all good, as hundreds of jobs are still set to be axed and nine libraries (at Beechdale, Blakenall, New Invention, Pelsall, Pleck, Pheasey, Rushall, South Walsall and Walsall Wood) will shut under budget proposals announced by the local authority.

Council tax will also rise by 4.99%, as the local Labour-Lib Dem coalition is pressured by massive budget cuts enforced by national government.

The New Art Gallery at Walsall, which was potentially under the threat of eventual closure, also seems set to be secured as the council looks to develop a new business model for it, and according to various reports Wolverhampton University has shown an interest in partnership working.

According to the BBC, a £3.5m funding bid to Arts Council England and other stakeholders has been submitted to develop a new business model for the New Art Gallery. The council has apparently mooted selling off naming rights to the gallery, but Council leader Sean Coughlan has insisted it would not be “the McDonald’s Art Gallery”.

Walsall Leather Museum is also expected to remain where it is, but Walsall Local History Centre will be moved from Essex Street into the Walsall Central Library building, requiring external document storage elsewhere. Detailed plans have not yet been announced.

Bloxwich Library and Theatre (aka Bookmark Bloxwich) Pic Stuart WIlliams
Bloxwich Library and Theatre (aka Bookmark Bloxwich) Pic Stuart WIlliams

Aldridge, Bloxwich, Brownhills, Darlaston and Willenhall libraries have all been saved, while Streetly library will be community run.

Walsall Council, which late last year engaged in a public consultation about the drastic “savings’ it had identified must be made, has said it must save £86m by 2020.

281 jobs are set to go, either through voluntary or compulsory redundancy, another 139 vacant posts will be not be filled. Meanwhile, remaining Walsall Council staff will face another year-long pay freeze.

Cllr Coughlan is reported by the BBC website to have said that libraries faced “one of the most profound and stark cuts”.

“Every political side knew we had to do something about libraries and that’s what we have had to do,” he said.

“We have faced the biggest cuts this council’s ever had before.”

Council tax for Band D properties will rise to £1,744.04, including precepts – subject to confirmation of final precepts – up from £1663.29. Originally the rise was to be 3.99 per cent but now central government, which had massively cut the grant to Walsall Council in the first place,  has allowed the council to raise their tax by an extra one per cent provided it is ring fenced for social care.

According to the Express & Star, the Forest Arts Centre will not be cut in 2017/18 and the council will also to continue to maintain cricket pitches and bowling greens in the borough – something it originally proposed to scrap.  Plans to stop cleaning markets after they have closed has also been scrapped, while seven front line posts connected to street cleaning are being reinstated.

All these proposals and many more will have to be approved at a full council meeting in February.

READ MORE from the Express & Star via this link and also on the BBC website here.

Walsall Silver Thread Tapestries project tour launches

This stunning main Bloxwich tapestry is just one of those relating to the Bloxwich area.
This stunning main Bloxwich tapestry is just one of those relating to the Bloxwich area.

Walsall Council’s Creative Development Team is celebrating 25 years of bringing community arts to Walsall. To mark this occasion the team is launching a tour of the Silver Thread Tapestries – eleven unique tapestries representing the six towns and other areas in Walsall Borough, created by an army of local volunteers.

The tapestries will be on display in the New Art Gallery Walsall from 21 – 29 January 2017 and will then move to various locations around the borough (see list of dates at the end of this feature) before being displayed at the NEC Sewing for Pleasure Show 17 – 19 March 2017. Commemorative postcards depicting each of the tapestries will be available to buy. Continue reading Walsall Silver Thread Tapestries project tour launches

Bloxwich Christmas lights saved thanks to donors!

Bloxwich Christmas tree and lights, Promenade Gardens, reflected in the National School
Bloxwich Christmas tree and lights, Promenade Gardens, reflected in the National School

A desperate appeal to members of the public in Bloxwich and district for financial assistance in supporting this year’s Bloxwich Christmas lights has succeeded, almost at the eleventh hour!

Thanks to a number of generous local donors – including one remarkable anonymous benefactor who stumped up £5,000 within a few days of the appeal ending – the brilliant cascades of tree lights which have been enjoyed at either end of High Street in recent years are now set to return before Christmas. Continue reading Bloxwich Christmas lights saved thanks to donors!

Have your say on possible closure of Bloxwich Library and Theatre

Walsall Council is seriously considering, amongst other options, closing all of the Borough’s branch libraries, including Bloxwich Library and Theatre (aka Bookmark Bloxwich) in Elmore Row.   This is due to the swingeing and cruel national government budget cuts being inflicted on the borough.

Amongst the many other possible ‘culture cuts’ (including massive reductions in funding to the New Art Gallery and major cutbacks involving the potential downsizing and moving of Walsall Leather Museum and Walsall Local History Centre in with the Central Library in Lichfield Street), such a closure would be a huge blow to Bloxwich and district both in cultural and educational terms. Continue reading Have your say on possible closure of Bloxwich Library and Theatre

Walsall writers hit 50 and still going strong!

Walsall Writers' Circle 50th Anniversary Celebration
Walsall Writers’ Circle 50th Anniversary Celebration

Walsall’s oldest group for writers across the borough is celebrating its fiftieth birthday this year, and after a special Circle meeting to mark the occasion earlier this month (pictured), they are now joining forces with Walsall’s only independent bookshop, Southcart Books of Lower Hall Lane, to carry on the festivities and launch their latest book!

The Circle was formed by local writers in 1966, initially as part of an initiative by Walsall Central Library, where the group met for some years before moving on to Park Hall School and now the Broadway North Recovery College, where they meet every second Thursday of the month at 7.30pm. Continue reading Walsall writers hit 50 and still going strong!