Category Archives: Books

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:

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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.

Make a present of the past for Christmas memories of Walsall!

Meikle Book Cover

At this time of year, thoughts turn to family, friends, festivities – and memories of days gone by.  In that case, what better Christmas gift than a present from the past?

Walsall Local History Centre is the collective repository for many centuries of Walsallmemories, in all shapes and sizes, and they’re now offering some special packages of local history books at special prices, from stocking fillers to works that will last a lifetime.

Just a few examples now on sale from the Centre’s stock include:

  • Yow’m Nicked plus Ta-ra a bit ‘err ‘itler by Ann French – £13.00.
  • Around the Town plus Billy Meikle’s Window onWalsallby Stuart Williams – £5.00.
  • Black Country Theatres or Black Country Cinemas by Ned Williams plus Leisure inWalsall- £26.00.
  • Leaving the Village by Sue Satterthwaite plus Street Names of Aldridge, Rushall, Streetly & Pheasey – £11.00.
  • Walsall Lives Calendar by John Griffiths – £6.99.
  • Walsall in Recorded Memory DVD – £5.00.

There’s also a vast collection of nostalgic old photographs, prints of which can be made to order, all for that unique gift that shows you care.

Whichever town or village in the borough is YOUR home, there’s sure to be something to fascinate and excite at the Centre in Essex Street, Walsall.  Why not drop in today?  Telephone 01922 721305 for details and opening hours.

Walsall Local History Centre is the archives and local studies service for Walsall Metropolitan Borough, and is part of Walsall Council.


New exhibition takes a leaf out of Walsall’s history

Cath Yates views Gems from the Local Studies Library
Cath Yates views Gems from the Local Studies Library

Walsall Local History Centre’s latest exhibition ‘Gems from the Local Studies Library,’ showcasing fine examples from the historic Local Studies Collections at the Centre and curated by Local Studies Librarian Cath Yates, is now open to the public.

A series of high quality archival exhibition prints has been made from pages and illustrations from local books, trade catalogues and ephemera dating from the 1600s to the present day, and put on show in the Essex Street Centre’s exhibition area for visitors to view free of charge during normal opening hours.

Councillor Anthony Harris, cabinet member for leisure at Walsall Council, said: “Walsall Local History Centre’s local studies library contains a wealth of information about the borough of Walsall. The library dates back to the 1920s when it was known as the Staffordshire and Walsall Collection. It was then housed in Walsall Central Library and moved to the Local History Centre when it opened in 1986.”

“This exhibition presents some remarkable examples of books in the library as well as giving a flavour of its other collections which include posters and theatre playbills, maps and trade catalogues.”

The exhibition, which opened on 21 November and runs till 31 December, 2011, has been prepared entirely in-house by Centre Photographer Stuart Williams and Conservation Assistant Janet Courtenay.

Telephone 01922 721305 for details or visit the Centre’s website:

Walsall Local History Centre, Essex Street, Walsall, WS2 7AS.

Walsall Local History Centre is the archives and local studies service for Walsall Metropolitan Borough, and is part of Walsall Council.

World Book Night success at Bloxwich Library

Stuart Williams ready to read and give away books at Bloxwich Library (Pic by Steve Mohammed)

Saurday night was World Book Night, which amazingly not only took over BBC2 for much of the evening but also saw 20,000 people giving away a million favourite books throughout the evening and across the UK and Ireland.

And thanks to local writer,  historian and Bloxidge Tallygraph Edditer Stuart Williams joining forces with management and staff of Bloxwich Library, World Book Night also came to Bookmark Bloxwich, in a small event at the Elmore Row library which took place alongside the Tiger, Tiger poetry night in Bloxwich Library Theatre, of which more news in due course.

Stuart was kept busy in the library foyer numbering and giving away free specially printed World Book Night collectors editions of NORTHERN LIGHTS, the first book in the legendary fantasy/science fiction trilogy ‘His Dark Materials’ by top author Philip Pullman, between 7.30pm-9pm.

He also read for a half-hour at 8pm from NORTHERN LIGHTS, which was adapted for the silver screen in 2007 as THE GOLDEN COMPASS starring Daniel Craig.

Stuart Williams said “Thanks to World Book Night I had the considerable pleasure of giving away 48 copies of one of the finest fantasy/SF books of recent years, and really enjoyed meeting fellow readers on the night.  It was a great opportunity to promote books, reading – and Bloxwich Library, and it’s always a pleasure to work with my friends and colleagues at the borough’s finest branch!”

Several reserved books were not collected on the night, but they will be kept at the library for collection for up to two weeks.  If your name is on the reserved list, you should drop into Bloxwich Library as soon as possible to claim your book, as unclaimed copies will eventually be given away to other readers and availability cannot be guaranteed.

Mobile Libraries joined in the fun

Three other WBN special edition books were given away by libraries and council staff on board the new Mobile One Library which was parked up at Sainsbury’s Reedswood Superstore between 4pm-6pm, where almost 150 books were snapped up in just an hour, emphatically joining in with the World Book Night success at Bloxwich Library!

All book givers for World Book Night are volunteers, giving books on their own initiative without payment, with the support of the World Book Night organisation, authors and the publishing industry.  Thanks are also due to Waterstones book store in Park Street, Walsall, which acted as the local pick-up point for World Book Night deliveries to givers.

For more about Philip Pullman’s books, why not check out his website via this link!

For further information on WBN, follow this link to the official website: World Book Night.

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