Category Archives: Arts

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.

Community and heritage

To help decide what to feature on the tapestries, workshops were held around the borough in early 2016 and attended by local community groups, history groups, and individuals with an interest in local culture and history.  The Bloxwich Telegraph’s editor, Stuart Williams, also acted as an historical advisor to the project.

Each area of the borough had its own story to tell, whether it be the Pelsall poppies, meeting under the clock in Willenhall market place or the excitement when Cilla came for the first Blind Date wedding. The tapestries also focus on famous and/or historically significan faces from across Walsall borough, including Pat Collins, Ellie Simmonds, Noddy Holder, Goldie, Meera Syal, Sir Harry Smith Parkes and Rob Halford, to name but a few.

Once the content was decided, midlands artist Hunt Emerson, famous for being an artist on the Beano comic, created the designs for the 11 tapestries.

An army of volunteers
Some of the many sewers and their tapestries!
Some of the many sewers and their tapestries!

The call was then put out to local people, whether experienced in tapestry work or not, to come forward to take part in the project. Around 100 experienced volunteers worked hard on the project for around ten months, with a further 100 playing a smaller part. Each of the 11 tapestries are the result of around 2,000 hours of work – an incredible commitment from the volunteers.

Councillor Julie Fitzpatrick, Portfolio Holder for Community, Leisure and Culture said:

“The tapestries take your breath away – they’re absolutely stunning. The volunteers have really done Walsall proud.”

“Apart from creating this wonderful legacy for Walsall, what’s lovely is the friendships made during the sewing, which will continue going forwards.”

Lottery funded

The project received Arts Council England Lottery Funding of £73,740 to deliver a unique year long community arts project for Walsall Borough.

Book commemorates the Creative Development Team
Walsall Silver Thread Project marks 25 years of the Creative Development Team
Walsall Silver Thread Project marks 25 years of the Creative Development Team

Creating the tapestries also provided the common thread to produce a commemorative book. The book features 25 of the Creative Development Team’s hundreds of participatory arts projects including the Brownhills Miner, involving thousands of local people from the 25 year history of the team’s work projects.

The book tells the story of engaging creative processes and the impact participatory arts have made in Walsall’s communities across an area so diverse in history, heritage and geography.

The Silver Thread Tapestries and the book project demonstrate how the Creative Development Team have been a thread linking people, places and policies and instigating positive change in communities. The team wished to celebrate and bring to life that thread and show people how we have sewn it.

For more information, see the project’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Walsall-Silver-Thread-Tapestries-Project-1694681744103438/

The Silver Thread Tapestries Tour

Members of the public can view the amazing tapestries in person at the venues below – photographs simply cannot do justice to the quality of the artistry and sewing, so don’t miss your chance to see them!

21 -29 Jan           New Art Gallery Walsall, Gallery Square WS2

Opening times 10am – 5pm Tues – Saturdays

12pm – 4pm Sundays

2  – 7 Feb             St Matthews Church St Matthews Close WS1 3DG

Viewing times: 2 and 3 Feb 3pm – 4.30pm

Sat 4 Feb 10.30am -2pm

Sun 5 Feb 12pm – 2pm

Mon 6 and Tues 7 Feb 10.30am – 4.30pm

8 – 14 Feb            Pheasey Library

Opening times Tues – Fridays 9am-1pm and 2pm – 6pm

Saturdays 9am-1pm and 2- 4pm

15 – 21 Feb         Willenhall Library

Opening times Tues – Fridays 9am-1pm and 2pm – 6pm

Saturdays 9am-1pm and 2am- 4pm

22 – 28 Feb         Pelsall Library

Opening times Tues – Fridays 9am-1pm and 2pm – 6pm

Saturdays 9am-1pm and 2pm- 4pm

1   –  16 March    Central Library Walsall

Opening times Tues – Fri 8.30am – 6pm

Sat 8.30am – 5pm

Sun 1pm – 4pm

17 – 19 March      NEC Sewing for Pleasure Show

Opening times 9.30am – 5.30pm (5pm Sun)

Tickets £12 (£11 Seniors)

 

Pictures courtesy Walsall Council

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.

Take part in the consultation NOW
Walsall Council House (pic: Stuart Williams)
Walsall Council House (pic: Stuart Williams)

We have covered the background to this in our previous story, including the arguments for why the library and theatre are needed, but what is most important RIGHT NOW is that individuals and local groups not only take part in Walsall Council’s current budget consultation (see links below) BEFORE the end of December but that they contact their local councillors and (politely, but firmly) express their  opinions on the matter to them.

It is also very important to demonstrate that you use these facilities and that they are needed, so please, please go into your local library on a regular basis and take advantage of all it has to offer. It really is a case of use it or lose it, and next year we may very well lose it if nothing is done.

Council budget consultation

Nothing is yet set in stone, according to Walsall Council, so it is time to make your voice heard. Apart from the general consultation, there is also an online libraries, arts and heritage consultation by the council.  To take part, follow the links below to further information and the online questionnaire.

To download a PDF format library consultation document click here:

Library, Leather Museum and Local History Centre Consultation

For further information about this section of the consultation on the Walsall Council website, go to:

Library Service Consultation page

For the online questionnaire on Draft Options, click on:

Draft Options for Libraries etc

And last but not least, the general Walsall Council Budget Consultation across all services pages:

Rebalancing our Budget – £86m over 4 years

Petition against closure

Bloxwich West Conservative Councillors Louise Harrison, Matt Follows and Brad Allen have organised an online petition on the Walsall Council website (see link below) aimed at saving both Bloxwich Library and the theatre, and have even been out collecting signatures in person.  It is worth signing the petition, but this is NOT an alternative to the consultation, so please make sure you do both.

The petition states:

‘Keep Bloxwich Library open. Although we understand the budget cuts coming from central government means that savings have to be made, we believe that Bloxwich library theatre is an asset to our town and very well used by people not just from Bloxwich, but across the whole of Walsall. The closing date of this petition will be Friday 6th January 2017. Once submissions have been made, it will then be handed into the council on 9th January 2017 at a Full Council Meeting.’

Here is the link to the petition page:

Save Bloxwich Library and Theatre Petition

You can also contact the Bloxwich West Conservatives direct on their Facebook page:

Bloxwich West Intouch

Contact all your local Councillors

Write, email or speak to your local Ward Councillors and let them know you care about Bloxwich Library & Theatre. Here is a link to the Councillor contact details for all Walsall Council Wards:

Contact Councillors

Speak up

Walsall Council wants to hear from you about the budget cuts proposals, not just for libraries, culture and heritage but for many other services. Now is the time to make your voice heard, when our local facilities are under their greatest threat ever.

It is not just us, but our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will lose out if these facilities are closed forever.

Remember, the consultation closes on 31 December 2016.

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.

Book launch
Fifty Years of Walsall Writers' Circle - the book!
Fifty Years of Walsall Writers’ Circle – the book!

 

This Saturday 3 December 2016, 11am-1pm at Southcart Books will see the arrival and first public sales of Fifty Years of Walsall Writers’ Circle, a brand-new book published by the Circle containing a wide range of members’ work, both non-fiction and fiction, specifically written for this publication and reflecting on the past fifty years in Walsall. It also includes some past Circle competition prize-winners, and aims to showcase some of the best work coming out of the Circle.

Light refreshments will be available at the launch. The Circle would like to thank Scott Southey and Amy Carter of Southcart Books for kindly agreeing to host this event in their fine bookstore!

Members of the public and fellow writers are welcome to attend this celebration/launch. Seats are available on a first come, first served basis due to limited space.

Here is the programme for Saturday 3 December, please also note the link below to the Facebook event page:

11am Welcome & Intro by Alison Reed, Secretary of Walsall Writers’ Circle.

11.10am Book launch of ‘Fifty Years of Walsall Writers’ Circle’ and celebration cake etc.

11.30am-12.30pm Readings from the Book – six slots of ten minutes to read extracts from their work will be given over to contributors to the book, leaving plenty to be read by book buyers! This section will be MC’d by WWC Vice Chairman Stuart Williams. Readings will reflect the variety of content of the book.

12.30pm -1pm Nibbles, signing and celebratory mingling. Chance to buy books, which will be in stock on the day!

1pm event closes.

See: http://www.facebook.com/events/1233180073408746/

And for further information about Walsall Writers’ Circle itself, check out their website:
http://walsallwriterscircle.webs.com/

Bloxwich Councillors bid to save Bloxwich Library and Theatre

Cllrs Allen, Harrison and Follows take a stand outside Bloxwich Library (pic Bloxwich West Intouch)
Cllrs Allen, Harrison and Follows take a stand outside Bloxwich Library (pic Bloxwich West Intouch)

Many Bloxwich people should be well aware by now that, due to the swingeing national government budget cuts being inflicted on many local authorities in England, Walsall Council is seriously considering closing all of the Borough’s branch libraries, including Bloxwich Library and Theatre (aka Bookmark Bloxwich) in Elmore Row.

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.

Cultural vandalism

The loss of the library staff, facilities and book stock as well as the attached 1964 theatre, which was, along with the 1960 library, rejuvenated in 2009-10 and has since gone on, with the help of Bloxwich Library Forum, to become a successful music and drama venue and much more, would be very damaging. This kind of cultural vandalism is simply insupportable, and once these facilities are gone, they will never return.

Such a closure would also mean that local jobseekers and many others who cannot afford internet access would be hard-hit and forced to pay to travel into Walsall, a not inconsiderable cost in these days of expensive bus and rail services. Many people in the area neither have internet access nor can they afford to buy books, and this is bound to affect local employability, literacy and education, especially in poorer families. National government seems uncaring about all of this, but they of course will not suffer such a blight on self-improvement, which is after all why free libraries were founded in Victorian times.

It also affects all the other people and groups who use the Library, people of all ages from toddlers to pensioners who need a place to come, to be in company, to learn, to work or play in groups or alone, to come in out of the cold and to enjoy the pleasure of reading, of borrowing books and other media. The theatre is additionally unique in the borough, and no doubt if it were in Walsall town centre it would be celebrated to the rooftops instead of being underfunded and out of sight to some.

What is ironic is that it is now a Labour council in Walsall which is being forced to at least propose these draconian cuts, and following the public consultation which is now taking place (until the end of December 2016), they will very likely be required to enact them in the new financial year 2017 (from 1 April). This is the kind of thing that Labour would normally stand firmly against, and we do not envy them the position they are in.

Councillors take a stand

It is perhaps even more ironic, considering that it is the national Conservative government which is forcing local Labour into these appalling cuts, that the loudest voice which now stands publicly against the closure of Bloxwich Library and Theatre comes from the Conservative quarter of Bloxwich.

Active Bloxwich West Conservative Councillors Louise Harrison, Matt Follows and Brad Allen have banded together to organise an online petition on the Walsall Council website (see link below) aimed at saving both Bloxwich Library and the theatre, and have even been out collecting signatures in person.

Cllr. Allen told the Bloxwich Telegraph:

“Bloxwich Library and Theatre is a valuable cultural asset in our town. It is used well by surrounding schools, community groups and members of the public alike.  Losing it would be a huge blow to people not just from Bloxwich, but across the whole borough”

Cllr. Allen even said to the Bloxwich Telegraph that they would welcome the signatures of Bloxwich’s Labour Councillors in support of the petition. They certainly deserve that support from us all.

The petition states:

‘Keep Bloxwich Library open. Although we understand the budget cuts coming from central government means that savings have to be made, we believe that Bloxwich library theatre is an asset to our town and very well used by people not just from Bloxwich, but across the whole of Walsall. The closing date of this petition will be Friday 6th January 2017. Once submissions have been made, it will then be handed into the council on 9th January 2017 at a Full Council Meeting.’

Here is the link to the petition page:

Save Bloxwich Library and Theatre Petition

You can also contact the Bloxwich West Conservatives direct on their Facebook page:

Bloxwich West Intouch

Out in the cold
Bloxwich (formerly) Public Toilets, despite their neglected state, would be more of a haven if they were open!
Bloxwich (formerly) Public Toilets, despite their neglected state, would be more of a haven if they were open!

Now, it is impossible to tell just how much impact this kind of petition is likely to have on the Council’s decision, or indeed the consultation which is already ongoing, but it seems very obvious that unless some kind of stand is taken, or public opinions made clear on the matter, we will very likely lose some of Bloxwich’s finest and most long-lived public facilities. And what next?

We have already lost the use of Bloxwich public toilets, and it should be noted that apart from all its other wonderful qualities and facilities, if we lose the Library there will be nowhere for local people, marketgoers, shoppers and visitors to go when they are in need of a public convenience. Do you really want to be in that situation, out shivering in the cold in a Bloxwich with no public facilities apart from the leisure centre, a very long walk away?

Continue reading Bloxwich Councillors bid to save Bloxwich Library and Theatre

Bloxwich heritage art proposals on show this Friday

Luke Perry installing his well-known Pit Head sculpture at Oak Park in Walsall Wood
Luke Perry installing his well-known Pit Head sculpture at Oak Park in Walsall Wood

Walsall Council’s Creative Development Team and Regeneration and Development Service are currently working on a heritage project in Bloxwich to design, fabricate and install 4 new public art pieces in different locations, to promote and celebrate the history and heritage of Bloxwich. This has been made possible from Council and Section106 funding.

Nationally recognised public artist Luke Perry, who is also an award-winning director of Industrial Heritage Stronghold, is noted for his monumental sculptures, most especially those celebrating the heritage of the Industrial Revolution, particularly in the Black Country. He has been working on the Bloxwich commission and has over the last two months been carrying out community consultation to gather local people’s thoughts and  ideas for the themes of the sculptures.

The top Bloxwich themes identified for the project have included: Pat Collins Fairs, Industry, Musical icons (Rob Halford and Noddy Holder) and an anecdotal tale of ‘The escaped Bloxwich Lion’. Stuart Williams of Walsall Local History Centre and The Bloxwich Telegraph has acted as an historical advisor to the project.

The true story of the legendary Bloxwich Lion will be revealed in The Bloxwich Telegraph tonight!
The true story of the legendary Bloxwich Lion will be revealed in The Bloxwich Telegraph tonight!
Feedback invited

Council staff welcome people’s feedback on the exciting new sculptures, and the proposed designs will be on display for the public to see on Bloxwich Market today, Friday 12th August 2016, between 10am-2pm.

Please feel free to pop down and have a look!

Local authors support Walsall bookshop with new writing

The cover of 'Southcart Tales'
The cover of ‘Southcart Tales’

The proprietors of a popular Walsall bookshop have been given a very special gift by a group of local authors in thanks for the shop’s enthusiastic support of writing in the town over the past two years.

Scott Southey and Amy Carter, of Southcart Books in Lower Hall Lane, are in the process of moving to larger premises in the same street, and several of their friends in the writing community decided to write and publish a unique multi-genre anthology of short stories dedicated to the shop, to help defray some of the costs of the relocation.

The 136 page paperback book is entitled ‘Southcart Tales’.

Members of ‘The Southcart Storytellers’ present Scott Southey and Amy Carter with the new book at the new shop premises, which are currently being refitted. L to R: A. Stuart Williams, Ken Preston, Amy Carter, Dan Oram, Scott Southey, Rachel Oram, James Josiah. L to R: A. Stuart Williams, Ken Preston, Amy Carter, Dan Oram, Scott Southey, Rachel Oram, James Josiah.
Members of ‘The Southcart Storytellers’ present Scott Southey and Amy Carter with the new book at the new shop premises, which are currently being refitted. L to R: A. Stuart Williams, Ken Preston, Amy Carter, Dan Oram, Scott Southey, Rachel Oram, James Josiah. L to R: A. Stuart Williams, Ken Preston, Amy Carter, Dan Oram, Scott Southey, Rachel Oram, James Josiah.

The nine stories – which offer the reader everything from literary fiction through science fiction, sword & sorcery and psychological horror – come from the pens of ‘The Southcart Storytellers’, James Josiah, Dan Oram, Neil Sehmbhy, Rob Grimes, Kerry Hadley-Pryce, Bekki Pate, Ken Preston (publishing on behalf of the group), Lucy Onions and A. Stuart Williams. Cover photography is by Craig Beas.

A special foreword by noted fantasy author Stan Nicholls is also included.

Southcart Books, which is the only independent bookshop in the Walsall area, is expected to re-open in August 2016 and it is planned to hold a launch and signing of the new book at the shop, which has already been gifted a number of paperback copies for stock, as soon as convenient.

Southcart Tales is also available now on Amazon at just £4.99 for paperback (plus postage) or £1.99 in Kindle ebook format.

Telephone Southcart Books on 07528 144837 for details of the shop and opening. Further information about the book may be found on the shop’s Facebook page and on Amazon (search for Southcart Tales on Amazon).

Book links:
 

Want to grandstand at the bandstand?

 

Fun in the sun at the Walsall Arboretum Bandstand
Fun in the sun at the Walsall Arboretum Bandstand

Musicians and performers throughout the borough are being invited to take centre stage at Walsall Arboretum’s bandstand this summer.

Following the success of last year’s appeal for performers Walsall Arboretum rangers are asking for more of the same. Slots are currently available for both Saturdays and Sundays between the Spring Bank Holiday Weekend until the end of the season in September.

As well as musicians and singers organisers are keen to hear from poets and local artists wanting to showcase their talents to live audiences.

Councillor Harrison, Portfolio holder for Clean and Green stated: “Last year the bandstand was a buzz of activity throughout the summer months and provided some top notch entertainment by artists who did it for free.

“What really stands out is that these performers do it for the love they have for their art form and that really shines through to the audiences who were able to enjoy hours of fabulous entertainment.

“We would be really keen for the Arboretum bandstand to be the focal points for park visitors once again so organisers would love to hear from anyone interested in taking advantage of the opportunity.”

Gary Nicholson, Arboretum head ranger, added: “The range of entertainment on offer in recent years has been truly uplifting and has offered a wide and varied range of offerings that have appealed to all age ranges.”

Performers thinking of taking part should send their you tube clips/CDs/links or videos to Gary Nicholson, Arboretum head ranger at nicholsong@walsall.gov.uk , together with contact details and a series of available dates.

Beano Artist to produce designs for Silver Thread Tapestries project

Artist Hunt Emerson and Rachel Parker from Walsall's Creative Development Team
Artist Hunt Emerson and Rachel Parker from Walsall’s Creative Development Team

A borough wide project set up to celebrate 25 years of delivering community arts in Walsall has drafted in renowned Beano artist Hunt Emerson to help design 11 unique tapestries.

The ‘Silver Thread’ project involving an army of local people will see 11 unique tapestries created representing the six towns and other areas in Walsall Borough. Reflecting the borough’s living history the tapestries will show the diversity while acknowledging the past, reflecting the present and embracing the future.

A successful £73,400 Arts Council England Lottery Funding bid is allowing Walsall Council Creative Development Team to deliver the unique year long community arts project which will involve an army of local people.

Artistic involvement
Panel from 'Ratz', one of Hunt Emerson's Beano comic strips
Panel from ‘Ratz’, one of Hunt Emerson’s Beano comic strips

Hunt Emerson said of his involvement in the creation of the tapestries, “This project provides a fantastic opportunity for local residents to put forward their suggestions for what should be included in each tapestry and how it represents their view of the world. This is about ways of seeing the world and I’m looking forward to making their creative imaginings take shape.”

The tapestry aspect of the project is aimed to provide a common thread of arts and local history and runs alongside  work to produce a commemorative book featuring 25 of Walsall Council’s Creative Development Teams most notable projects.

The first meeting dates have been set for local people to help decide what will be included on the tapestries. Walsall Council Creative Development Team are inviting anyone who has an interest in local history, local Identity or to find out more about the project to come along to a meeting in different localities across the borough.

Get involved
Silver Thread meetings details - click to enlarge
Silver Thread meetings details – click to enlarge

If you are interested in getting involved in the sewing which will start in May, or if you want updates on the Silver Thread project visit www.creativewalsall.com or facebook page  Walsall Silver Thread or by contacting the team on 01922 653114 or email prey.chauhan2@walsall.gov.uk

Walsall Silver Thread project now on Facebook

 

The project's first sewing group, Arboretum Craft Group, left to right: Colette Mumford, Yvonne Thomas, Beth Porter, Eunice Kirby, Joyce Lilwall, Lynne Tandy & Sue Collingwood.
The project’s first sewing group, Arboretum Craft Group, left to right: Colette Mumford, Yvonne Thomas, Beth Porter, Eunice Kirby, Joyce Lilwall, Lynne Tandy & Sue Collingwood.
Walsall’s new ‘Silver Thread’ project is a great new local community project organised by the Walsall Council Creative Development Team. It celebrates both local history and arts, and 25 years of work by the Team (which will itself be marked with a new book).
 
The project, which covers Walsall Metropolitan Borough, has now been launched and is being organised on many fronts – including Facebook!  A brand new social media page is now online, and can be visited via the following link: Walsall Silver Thread Facebook page
 
There will be local meetings in many places across the Borough to involve local people with the project on the history, arts and crafts front. Many local towns and villages are being represented in a series of ‘tapestry’ works which will be created.
 
Anyone interested in their local history (including in living memory) or who was involved in the past local manufacture of needles and awl blades (for which Bloxwich is historically famed), or who is a keen sewer or in a sewing group, will be particularly welcome. Arboretum Craft Group are the first sewing group to sign up to help sew the Silver Thread Tapestries.
 
Also, contacts are invited by the organisers from people who have been involved with past Creative Development Team projects like The Bloxwich Tardis on Elmore Green, or The Brownhills Miner!
More information can be found on the Facebook page and in our previous news item: PROJECT WILL SEW A SILVER THREAD OF ARTS AND HISTORY

Project will sew a Silver Thread of arts and history

The project's sewing group, left to right: Colette Mumford, Yvonne Thomas, Beth Porter, Eunice Kirby, Joyce Lilwall, Lynne Tandy & Sue Collingwood.
The project’s sewing group, left to right: Colette Mumford, Yvonne Thomas, Beth Porter, Eunice Kirby, Joyce Lilwall, Lynne Tandy & Sue Collingwood.

As part of a celebration of a quarter of a century working in community arts, Walsall Council’s Creative Development Team are now set to deliver a unique year long community arts project for Walsall Borough.

The scheme is being funded through a successful application for £73,400 from Arts Council England Lottery Funding.

Involving an army of local people, the ‘Silver Thread’ project will see 11 unique tapestries created, representing the six towns and other areas in Walsall Borough. The tapestries will reflect the borough’s living history, diversity and commonality; acknowledge the past, reflect the present and embrace the future.

A common thread

Creating the tapestries will provide the common thread to produce a commemorative book featuring 25 of Walsall Council’s Creative Development Team projects, which include the Bloxwich Tardis monument, the Brownhills Miner, festivals and a host of other projects from the 25 year history of the team’s work.

The book will tell the story of the engaging creative processes and the impact participatory arts have made in Walsall’s communities across an area so diverse in history, heritage and geography.

The Silver Thread Tapestries and the book project will demonstrate how the Creative Development Team is a thread linking people, places and policies and instigating positive change in communities. The aim of the project is to celebrate and bring to life the thread sewn over the life of the teams work in community arts.

Meetings across the borough

Throughout February and March organisers will be hosting meetings in 11 different areas of Walsall to plan the content for the tapestries and they are inviting local community groups, history groups, and individuals to help decide what to feature on the tapestries. If you would like to help tell Walsall’s story or you would like to attend a meeting in your local area please contact 01922 653114.

Awl blades of Bloxwich repute

Local historian Billy Meikle took this picture of a typical Sandbank awl blade maker’s workshop in 1915 (courtesy Walsall Local History Centre)
Local historian Billy Meikle took this picture of a typical Sandbank awl blade maker’s workshop in 1915 (courtesy Walsall Local History Centre)

Included on the tapestries will be leather work to show the rich history associated with the leather industry in Walsall.  An example of this link can be seen with the famed association Bloxwich had for centuries with needle and awl blade making through local people in tiny home workshops and firms like Somerfields of Clarendon Street, who operated for over 200 years until around 1992.

During their time in Bloxwich, Somerfields made it into the Guinness book of records for the world’s largest needle measuring more than 6ft long for sewing mattresses, made by Mr George Davies, master forger.

Letterhead of Somerfields of Bloxwich, circa 1930’s, (courtesy Walsall Local History Centre).
Letterhead of Somerfields of Bloxwich, circa 1930’s, (courtesy Walsall Local History Centre).

A tribute

The Mayor of Walsall, Councillor Underhill, when talking about the project stated:“This project is a fitting tribute to the work the team has carried out over the last 25 years and reflects the creative energy that the people of Walsall exhibit in not only the industry of the borough but also throughout the region’s history and culture.”

Content and sewing

Once the content for the tapestries has been decided, Midlands Artist Hunt Emerson famous for being an artist on the Beano comic will create the designs for the 11 tapestries. Once the designs are completed organisers will be recruiting an army of volunteers through sewing groups and individuals to help sew the images.

Starting after Easter sewing will continue until the autumn to create the unique set of tapestries to be exhibited together and toured around the borough in January 2017. If you or your sewing group or community group would like to take part in the sewing we call 01922 653114.  As well as sewing volunteers project organisers are also keen to hear from sewing experts able to lead groups and look after a tapestry as part of the delivery team.

Past projects included

Over the past 25 years Walsall Council’s Creative Development Team (Formerly known as Walsall Council Community Arts Team) delivered hundreds of participatory arts projects involving thousands of local people.

Of the best projects 25 of the best will feature as examples in the ‘Silver Thread’ book and the team are eager to hear from anyone who remembers participating in past projects to help tell the story of local communities and the impact these had for participants. If you remember taking part in any of the theatre projects, exhibitions, events, projects or festivals thye want to hear from you. Contact the team on 01922 65311.