Category Archives: Books

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:

Tasty computer courses in Walsall Libraries!

Walsall Libraries Adults Zone
Walsall Libraries Adults Zone

Walsall Libraries have just launched their new programme of computer taster courses for the whole academic year starting from September 2015 – July 2016.

There are now an extensive range of courses available from lots of individual teaching slots where you can seek help on specific things e.g. if you are unsure of how to create an email, how to buy and sell online, to more structured sessions on Ebay, Family History, CV help and Work Clubs.

In partnership with Walsall College, some of the libraries will be running 3 week basic taster courses and also a brand new 3 week course covering social media, and using comparison websites.

Helena Denham Information and Learning Co-ordinator said “Walsall Libraries love to offer new learning opportunities for our customers. Libraries are a great place to learn in an informal, relaxing and friendly environment.”

To book your place you can visit or telephone your local library, or check out the Adults Zone, then click ‘Learning’ on the Walsall Libraries  website at

Readers to beat a path to Walsall bookshop this Saturday!

Southcart Books' last event was a splendid Steampunk Day!
Southcart Books’ last event was a splendid Steampunk Day!

To end their Walsall Town Festival festivities, Southcart Books in Lower Hall Lane, Walsall, are having a little bookshop party showcasing some of their local and regional author friends’ talents on this Saturday 25th July.

And there’ll be quite a variety of writing talent on offer, all of whom will reading from their work in crime fiction, science fiction, fantasy, horror and more!

The Master of Ceremonies will be the Editor of The Bloxwich Telegraph, A. Stuart Williams, who is himself a local author.

The programme for Saturday’s event  is as follows:

10.00am Southcart Books Opens

  • 11.00am WELCOME by Scott & Amy, proprietors of Southcart Books
  • 11.05am INTRO by MC and author A. Stuart Williams
  • 11.10am  Adrian Middleton
  • 11.35am  James Josiah
  • 12.00pm  Anthony Nick Britt
  • 12.25pm – 1pm Lunch Break for Mingling and Browsing
  • 1pm-1.25pm  Janet Edwards
  • 1.25pm-1.50pm  Mike Chinn
  • 1.50pm-2.15pm  A. Stuart Williams
  • Mid-Afternoon Break 2.15pm-2.35pm
  • 2.35pm-3.00pm  Don Melbourne
  • 3.00pm-3.25pm  Rob Cartwright and Theresa Derwin
  • 3.25pm-3.50pm Rob Grimes
  • 3.50pm Thanks & Chucking Out by MC A. Stuart Williams

Shop Closes 4.30pm

Works by these authors will be on sale, subject to availability, and may be signed on request.

All are welcome, and ADMISSION IS FREE! Light refreshments will be available. Get there early if you can, as these events are always highly popular!

If you are on Facebook, you are invited to sign up to the Event Page, where you can find out more about the authors who will be reading on Saturday:

Southcart Books is the area’s ONLY independent bookshop, and is located at 20 Lower Hall Lane, Walsall, WS1 1RL.

You can also find them on Walsall Market today with their mobile bookstall, as part of the special Walsall Town Festival market!

Readings and free books for World Book Night Bloxwich


Members of Bloxwich Library Forum are getting ready to offer visitors to the library not just a free book for World Book Night, but the chance to hear readings from selected books and more during the afternoon of Tuesday 23rd April.

In a special informal daytime event at the Bookmark Bloxwich complex in Elmore Row, Bloxwich which will also include book readings by local author Stuart Williams, the Forum will make available, while stocks last, a small selection of free books provided by World Book Night for the event.  And admission is free of charge.

Stuart Williams, who is Vice Chairman of Bloxwich Library Forum, said:

“World Book Night is an annual celebration of reading and books which sees tens of thousands of passionate volunteers gift specially chosen and printed WBN books in their communities to share their love of reading.

“We usually run an evening event on this occasion but this year the Forum decided it would be be more accessible to many to hold an afternoon book giving session combined with readings, especially now the splendid new Bookmark Cafe is open at Bloxwich Library.

“The 23rd of April is also Shakespeare’s birthday and St George’s Day, so what better day to pop into Bloxwich Library for a free book (or to borrow one!), buy a cuppa and a cake and listen to some great stories?”

Readings will take place in Bookmark Bloxwich Theatre between 12.30pm – 1.30pm.  The theatre will be opened into the Bookmark Cafe, which will be open as usual from 10.30am – 2.30pm with a standard menu.  In addition to this the Cafe are serving a St George’s Day menu from 12pm – 2pm.

World Book Night is about giving books and encouraging reading in those who don’t regularly do so.  But it is also about more than that: it’s about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways, through the sharing of stories.  Bloxwich Library Forum and Bloxwich Library are delighted to give the event their support.

Bloxwich Library Forum is a volunteer group of members of the local community who manage the Bookmark Bloxwich Theatre in partnership with Bloxwich Library.

You can download the World Book Night event poster in pdf form via the link below:

World Book Night Poster

For more information about Bloxwich Library:

Bloxwich Library

Reflections of Old Walsall launches on Thursday!

Stuart Williams with the new book Reflections of Old Walsall

Bloxwich Telegraph editor Stuart Williams’ latest book for Walsall Local History Centre has just been published and will be on sale from this week – with a special launch event taking place at Walsall Museum on Thursday 6th December (details below), and just in time for Christmas.

Reflections of Old Walsall  – subtitled ‘Local history in and around Walsall Metropolitan Borough’ – includes diverse subjects from local heroes like Walsall’s greatest aviator Flt Lt Webster to coalman’s son and Bletchley Park code-breaker Harry Hinsley via spooks and spectres, the remarkable Highgate Windmill, Aldridge’s Naval VC, Bentley’s ‘Giant’s Causeway’, one of Queen Victoria’s greatest diplomats – from Birchills(!), the time Sherlock Holmes came to Walsall, Walsall’s electric trams which were “better than Blackpool” and Bloxwich’s war poet Harold Parry – plus many more!

In fact if you thought the story of old Walsall was just about the leather industry and Sister Dora, then you’re in for a few surprises with this book.  Even the essential Sister Dora article takes a very different track to the usual story…

Reflections of Old Walsall Book Cover
Reflections of Old Walsall Book Cover – click to enlarge.

The illustrated A5 format softback book, 72pp plus 4pp cover, is a compilation of the original, uncut texts of twenty of Stuart’s Local Heritage articles which were written on behalf of Walsall Local History Centre for his monthly feature in the Walsall Chronicle newspaper – a series which has run since 2001 and which was renamed Memory Lane at the end of 2011.

As such, the newspaper-published and edited versions of the articles are not only long out of print but were somewhat shorter than those in the book.  The articles in the new book also have their original titles, which were often changed by the Chronicle’s editors!

Each article as published now comprises 3-4 pages with 3 or 4 period photographs, so the book is ideal for dipping into, especially as the subjects focus on numerous surprising, quirky and often forgotten aspects of the area’s history and its people from ancient times to the 1970s.

The new book costs £6.99, and you may be interested to know that Stuart’s previous book for the Centre Billy Meikle’s Window on Walsall is also still available for £5.

The individual titles of the articles in Reflections of Old Walsall are:

  • A Bridge By Any Other Name
  • Bentley’s ‘Giant’s Causeway’
  • Things that Go Bump in the Borough…
  • From the Earth to the Moon – Highgate Windmill
  • From Red Books to the Red Planet – W. H. Robinson
  • One Man and His Books (to say nothing of the dog)
  • Remembering Aldridge’s Naval VC
  • Sister Dora and the Steam Engine
  • The Battle of Walsall
  • When Sherlock Holmes came to Walsall
  • Better than Blackpool: Walsall’s Victorian Tramways
  • An Englishman’s Castle: Council housing in Walsall
  • From Dixon of Dock Green to Gene Hunt
  • Flaming brilliant: Walsall Fire Brigade
  • From Guild Hall to Civic Centre
  • Going to the ‘flicks’ in ‘Sixties Walsall
  • From Borneo Street to the Stars
  • The Hinsley Enigma – Decoded
  • From Birchills to Beijing – Sir Harry S. Parkes
  • Remembering Harold Parry – Bloxwich War Poet


‘Reflections of Old Walsall’ by Stuart Williams

Publisher: Walsall Local History Centre
ISBN: 978 1 907363 03 0

A5 format softback 72pp plus 4pp cover.
Retail price: £6.99.

BOOK LAUNCH AT WALSALL MUSEUM Thursday 6th December 2012

REFLECTIONS OF OLD WALSALL is being launched by Walsall Local History Centre with the kind assistance of Walsall Museum who are hosting the event in their Education Room on Thursday 6th December.

The launch will take place between 10am – 12 noon at Walsall Museum, 1st Floor, Central Library, Lichfield Street,  Walsall, WS1 1TR.  ADMISSION IS FREE.

The launch programme is as follows:

10am        Doors open.  Informal chance to speak to the author and view the book.

10.30am   Talk:  Reflections of Old Walsall.

11am         Book sales and signing.  Books cost £6.99.

11.30am    Videos and FREE refreshments.

12 noon  Close.


After the launch, Reflections of Old Walsall will be available from Waterstone’s bookstore in Park Street, Walsall Museum, Walsall Leather Museum and of course direct from Walsall Local History Centre in Essex Street, Walsall, which will also operate a mail order service – telephone 01922 721305 for details.

Writers’ Circle award presented to Bloxwich Telegraph editor

Barbara Carr presents the Norrey Ford Cup to Stuart Williams.

On Thursday 11 October, Walsall Writers’ Circle awarded their prestigious Norrey Ford Cup to member Stuart Williams for his writing over the last year.

A noted photographer and regular contributor to the local newspapers for more than a decade with his articles of historic interest, Stuart has also written several local history books, the latest of which is due for publication in time for Christmas this year, as well as finding fame on online sites with his short stories and as the editor of the popular Bloxwich Telegraph website.

Stuart is also working on an anthology of ‘steampunk’ science fiction stories for digital publication early in the new year.

In a press release from the Circle, its Chair Margaret Woods said about the award:

“The Norrey Ford Cup is a very special award given annually at The Walsall Writers’ Circle.  A well-known Walsall writer of novels, short stories and articles and one time chairman of The Romantic Novelists Association, Norrey started the Walsall Circle in order to encourage local would-be writers. Her work bore much fruit.

“Several novelists developed with her help as well as short story writers; Radio items and article writers of various kinds also found success.  Norrey gave the cup to be awarded to the member who achieved the most success during a twelve month period with the accent on new writers. Sadly, Norrey is no longer with us but her memory continues as her influence is still felt.”

Stuart Williams said in response to the award:

“It’s a great honour to receive this solid silver cup from the Circle, and I thank them for this surprise award.  It means a lot to be appreciated by fellow writers, and the Norrey Ford Cup has a lot of history behind it. I have given it pride of place in my study where most of my writing and editing is done.”

The cup was presented to Stuart by Barbara Carr (pictured, above), herself a prolific novelist and writer for many years.  It will be held by Stuart for twelve months.

It was also at this meeting that the Circle said its farewell to Park Hall School, which has hosted the Circle for around 30 years.  The members are looking forward to a new venue in the Broadway North Centre on Broadway North, Walsall where there is a larger room that will cater for its growing numbers.

The first meeting to be held in the Broadway North Centre is on 8 November when speaker Mary Bodfish will be providing a talk entitled, “As Easy as ABC; how our alphabet developed”.  The meeting starts at 7.30 pm.

For more information visit or email the Secretary, Alison Reed, on

The Circle also has a Facebook page: Writers’ Circle Facebook

and can be followed on Twitter:

Press release and picture courtesy of Walsall Writers’ Circle.

Gruffalo author to visit Bloxwich on national tour

Bloxwich Library

The Children’s Laureate and author of one of the nation’s most popular modern children’s books, ‘The Gruffalo’, will be making a special visit to Bloxwich Library next week as part of her national tour of libraries.

Julia Donaldson will be visiting the library on Wednesday 10 October.  Bloxwich Library has been chosen from hundreds of applications to be one of only twnety-four libraries on the English and Welsh leg of the Children’s Laureate Libraries Tour this autumn.


Schoolchildren from St Peter’s Catholic Primary School, Bloxwich Church of England Primary, Elmore Green Primary and Leamore Primary Schools will be attending the invitation-only event, which will see Julia bringing some of her hugely popular stories to life through special dramatisations.

They will also be showing off their own acting and singing skills during a short performance inspired by children’s literature which they will present to Julia.


From 4pm until 5pm Julia, along with Waterstones Bookshop staff, will also be available for families from across the borough to come and meet her and purchase signed copies of her books.

Tickets for this event are free and will be issued on a first come first served basis please contact Bookmark Bloxwich, Bloxwich Library on  01922 655900 or to reserve your tickets.


As part of her Children’s Laureateship, Julia Donaldson – bestselling author of over 150 books including The Gruffalo, What the Ladybird Heard and Zog – is embarking on a tour of libraries that will take in England, Wales and Scotland, from John O’Groats to Lands’ End, over six weeks, commencing on 10 September in Thurso in the Hebrides and finishing on 18 October in Carlisle. The tour will celebrate libraries as a precious community resource at a time when a great many are threatened with closure.

Councillor Anthony Harris, portfolio holder for leisure and culture with Walsall Council Coalition, said: “The Gruffalo is one of the best selling children’s books of all time and the character is adored by children across the country.

“We are absolutely delighted that author Julia Donaldson is coming to Bloxwich and children and parents are getting the chance to meet her,” he added.

Julia Donaldson said: ‘Libraries are very close to my heart, and so is performance. This tour is my way of bringing the two together, by visiting fantastic libraries all over the country, enjoying children acting and singing, and sharing my own stories with them. I want it to be a huge celebration of libraries and of the benefits they offer to communities and especially to children.”

Julia will be joined on the tour by her musical husband Malcolm – who recently retired from his career as a paediatrician – on stage at the events and on the road in the Laureate Libraries Tour van.

The husband and wife duo, who spent their student summers busking in France, will be celebrating their Ruby wedding anniversary whilst on the tour.

To coincide with the launch of her libraries tour, Julia has also launched a new website for teachers on 10 September to help them to use drama and performance to bring picture books to life in the classroom.

The role of Children’s Laureate is awarded once every two years to an eminent writer or illustrator of children’s books to celebrate outstanding achievement in their field. Former Children’s Laureates include Quentin Blake, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Rosen.

Julia Donaldson is the author of over 150 books and plays for children and teenagers, including The Gruffalo (the animation of which was nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA), Room on the Broom, Stick Man, Cave Baby, Freddie and the Fairy and What the Ladybird Heard – some of the UK’s best-selling picture books – and the award-winning teenage novel Running on the Cracks. In 2010, Donaldson was the most borrowed children’s author from UK libraries. Her latest books Superworm (Alison Green Books) and The Paper Dolls (Macmillan Children’s Books) will be published in autumn 2012.

Pop legend Steve Jenkins returns home to launch book

Steve Jenkins with Britney Spears
Steve Jenkins with Britney Spears

A top music producer who had a hand in the careers of Britney, Kylie and Justin Timberlake is set to return to his Walsall roots for a major book launch.

Walsall Council host the launch of Steve Jenkins’ autobiography ‘The Future is in the History’ at New Art Gallery, Gallery Square, Walsall on Saturday April 28 at noon.

The music mogul also stages a meet the author session at Walsall library, Lichfield Street from 2.30pm on Thursday April 26 with members of the public urged to come along to both events.

Bloxwich-born Steve, who still has family connections in Leamore, was a pupil at Walsall Technology College and Joseph Leckie School, became MD of Jive Records after starting a career as a DJ in Walsall, Lichfield and Birmingham. He then joined the record industry with The Beatles management company in the 1970s.

His career has seen him his career has seen him awarded more than 260 platinum, gold and silver discs

Steve said: “No matter where I’ve been throughout my career I’ve always been hugely proud of being from Walsall.

“Being a DJ in Walsall as well as in Lichfield at Barnaby’s and Birmingham at places like Barbarella’s helped shape my understanding of what worked and what was popular that would help me in future years.  I was also a DJ at Hospital Radio Stafford which I’m very proud of.

“Now I’ve written my book launching it in Walsall before anywhere else feels the right thing to do and Walsall Council have been really supportive.

“It also feels like the right time to publish the book. So many acts I worked with are returning to the stage and 80s and 90s music seems to be wall-to-wall at the moment.

“What I hope people will take from the book is two things. Firstly, some of the stories behind the big names and records. People have always asked me about how I helped sign Britney Spears and what it was like to work with Pete Waterman, for example. This book tells them and lots of other things.

“But I’d also like people to be inspired to follow their own dreams like I did.”

Artists Steve helped work with include Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Back Street Boys, Steps, The Stone Roses, David Bowie, Bjork, The Prodigy, Groove Armada, Billy Ocean, Kylie Minogue and Simple Minds.

As well as a label boss Steve also worked to market and promote acts.

The book talks about growing up in Walsall in the 1950s and 1960s and talks of his DJ career which started at Pelsall Community Centre.

For four years running from 1999 to 2002 Steve led Jive Records to be the label of the year in the industry’s own Oscars The Brit Awards.

To buy the book log on at:

To find out more information about Steve Jenkins career:

To follow the Facebook page log on at:

Book giving and poetry celebrate the Bard at Bloxwich

Bloxwich Library

Bloxwich Library Forum is joining forces with talented Midlands poets next Monday to celebrate World Book Night and the birthday of William Shakespeare!

An evening of free book giving and Shakespeare-inspired performance poetry is being held at Bookmark Bloxwich in Elmore Row on 23rd April, and members of the public are invited to drop in from 7pm for a 7.30pm start.

While stocks last, free books marking World Book Night will be handed out in the foyer of Bloxwich Library by volunteer book givers, plus an evening of poetry entitled ‘Sounds and Sweet Airs’ will be available for those who wish to stay on and make a night of it.

Guest Poets Marcia Calame, Charlie Jordan, Roy McFarlane and Bobby Parker will be hosted by David Calcutt in the adjoining Bookmark Bloxwich Theatre, and Floor Spots will also be available.

Admission to the World Book Night book giveaway is free, and admission to Sounds and Sweet Airs costs just £4, tickets are available now and on the night.

Booking is recommended for ‘Sounds and Sweet Airs’.  Tel: 01922 655900.

Bloxwich Library Forum manages Bookmark Bloxwich Theatre in partnership with Bloxwich Library.

Bloxwich Library Forum website:

Forgotten Birchills author remembered

John Petty about 1956

A Birchills author little-known in his own home but appreciated nationally has now been remembered once again in death.

John Petty, who was born in Walsall in 1919 and lived in Kent Street for many years, wrote the influential 1950s novel ‘Five Fags A Day: The Last Year of a Scrap Picker,’ but received no recognition in Walsall during his life, which he resented so much that on the dust cover of his autobiography ‘The Face’ he claimed that he came from The Potteries.

Walsall Council has however now joined forces with Walsall Housing Group to set that right by mounting a commemorative blue plaque on the wall of 40 Kent Street, where he lived.

A previous plaque went missing for more than a decade, but a new plaque was created after noted local historian Jack Haddock and others raised the issue and campaigned for its return.  They have now been praised for their role.

John Petty's plaque restored.
John Petty’s plaque restored.

Councillor Anthony Harris, Walsall Council cabinet member for leisure and culture, said: “John’s is quite a sad story. He was a talented writer who was encouraged by a teacher but had a very tough life. He joined the Army, deserted and spent time in prison and made a living for a while picking over scrap heaps.

“A blue plaque to commemorate him was put on his old Kent Street home but taken down in the 1990s for building work. Our Local History Centre became interested in seeing the plaque put back up and WHG have played their part in this as they own the property.”

Petty left Walsall in 1967 after receiving an Arts Council bursary which allowed him to purchase a cottage in Ironbridge, but even then he was out of luck as his new home was condemned within months of his arrival, though the local council eventually provided him with a little cottage in Dawley.

He became a well-known personality and wrote a number of books and newspaper articles before his death, aged 54, in 1973, including ‘The Face’ as well as ‘A Flame In My Heart’ and ‘The Last Refuge.’

John Petty's Books at Walsall Local History Centre.
John Petty’s Books at Walsall Local History Centre.

John Petty is best known for ‘Five Fags A day’ which paints a bleak picture of the Black Country in the late 1940s and received critical acclaim when it was published in 1956.  Many of his books are available for reference in nearby Walsall Local History Centre’s local studies library in Essex Street.

It is to be hoped that now his plaque has been replaced John Petty will at last  assume his rightful place as one of Walsall’s most influential authors.