Robin 2 celebrates 25th anniversary
Founded by former Sub Zero drummer Mike Hamblett, the Robin R’n’B Club specialises in blues, soul and rock music. The first club opened on April 9, 1992, at the Robin Hood Inn, Brierley Hill, and Mike opened a second 700-capacity venue in the former drill hall, Bilston, in 1998. Both clubs were in operation together until the original venue closed in 2003. The Robin 2 in Mount Pleasant, Bilston is one of the Black Country’s top live music venues and Mike Hamblett continues to be make improvements that include a hotel as well as Noddy’s Bar, named after Slade singer and guitarist Noddy Holder. Noddy helped launch the first Robin, when the sell-out opening night saw hundreds of people turned away. Singer-songwriter Steve Harley, of Cockney Rebel fame, has described the Robin as ‘probably the best all-standing rock venue in the country. I have many great memories of special nights there.’ The 25th anniversary celebration show on April 9 this year will feature The Muffin Men, with special guest Denny Walley on slide guitar and soulful vocals. The Muffin Men are made up of former Frank Zappa musicians and the group is itself celebrating 27 years on the road around Europe. They have played nearly 2000 dates, often featuring ex-Zappa alumni, playing their own arrangements of Zappa material along with note-for-note versions of some favourites. At least 12 ex-Zappa musicians have performed with The Muffin Men over the years and Denny Walley memorably played on the Bongo Fury and Joe’s Garage albums. He was also a member of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, appearing on the classic Bat Chain Puller album.
Civic Halls refurbishment
Wolverhampton’s Civic Hall and Wulfrun Halls are starting a £14.4 million renovation project in September that could take up to 18 months to complete and will see an extension of the stage, two new balconies and an upgrade to the outside of the building. Partly funded by a Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Deal grant, refurbishment of the revered Grade II listed venue will increase Civic Hall capacity by 539 seats to a total of 2,554, with the standing capacity increasing to 3,549. The Wulfrun Hall will also have a new balcony and improved hospitality areas. The project is expected to attract an additional 330,000 visitors a year, and John Reynolds, the council’s cabinet member for city economy, said, ‘The Civic Halls have been around since the 1930s and are an important part of our visitor economy, providing jobs and generating millions of pounds every year by staging nationally acclaimed shows. The increased capacity will make it a more attractive place in the entertainment market, enabling it to attract significantly more popular and prestigious acts, while retaining the current characteristics that make it popular with performers, producers and audiences. The importance of its contribution to the visitor economy was recently highlighted by Wolverhampton making the top ten in a major survey of the best live music scenes in the UK.’ Both venues reopened in time for the Grand Slam of Darts and other events in November 2017. The Civic Hall will close for its final facelift for the first three months of 2018, opening just in time to celebrate its 80th birthday.
Wolverhampton on Film
The British Film Institute’s Britain on Film project has made thousands of films, including many depicting the Black Country, available free online. Over 10,000 film and TV titles from 1895 to the present day will be digitised to provide a fascinating social history of everyday life. The vintage videos were all held in a regional collection and are now available to a wider audience. Highlights include a film made in 1970 showing the changes in Wolverhampton as the city’s Georgian and Victorian shops made way for flats, two new shopping centres, tower block living and a ring-road that cut through large areas of the old town (watch now). Progress perhaps but a nightmare for the sentimentalist or Victorian enthusiast. Another film, shot by an unidentified film-maker, shows the celebration of King George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935. Events include a civic parade ascending the steps to St Peter’s Church (with crowds standing in front of the now long-gone Wholesale Market) and a costumed pageant in the football ground that attracted a large crowd, as well as buildings and streets decorated in honour of the royal event (watch now). There is also a 1904 film showing Wolves playing away at Preston North End.
New canal quarter and Molineux square plans
An ambitious 12-year regeneration plan for Wolverhampton have been announced by the city council. The City Centre Area Action Plan (CCAAP) envisages a bustling canal quarter, a city centre cinema, thousands of new homes (630 of them in the canalside development), new public squares and an increase in retail and leisure choice. The Canalside Quarter would stretch from Horseley Fields to Fiveways Island. A Molineux Quarter will be created near the Wolves ground to include a new public square for football fans and students to enjoy. A cinema would be built near Penn Road Island and Ring Road St Mark’s and a new supermarket at Stafford Street’s Peel Centre. Shops and leisure facilities will be created around the Springfield Brewery site, which is being taken over by the University of Wolverhampton next year. Around 2,000 homes will be built around the city centre and surrounding areas including All Saints, Blakenhall, Graiseley, Chapel Ash and West Park.
Campaign frees the Hepworth sculpture!
The Barbara Hepworth sculpture ‘Rock Form (Porthcurno)’, which has stood in the Mander Centre, Wolverhampton, for 46 years, and which was provided at cost price by the artist for the enjoyment of the people of the city, was recently removed and put at risk of being sold off privately, to be lost to the public forever. This wonderful, iconic sculpture is a local landmark, and by far the best single piece of artwork in Wolverhampton. It is one of only seven castings; the others are all in prestigious public collections around the world. How many other cities and how many other shopping centres have artwork of this importance on public display? It has stood in the Centre since 1968, but was secretly removed in May 2014, on the pretext of building work that would not begin till the following year. The owners, Delancey and RBS, refused to say where the sculpture or the time capsule in its plinth now were, and refused to give any reassurance that it will not be sold off. Plans for the redevelopment of the Mander Centre should be modified to include the Hepworth, and it must be returned to its place of pride as soon as practicable, and a firm guarantee given of this. In October 2014 it was announced by RBS that they will return Barbara Hepworth’s multi-million pound sculpture to the public, following a widely supported campaign. A petition by 38 Degrees received three thousand signatures and the return of the sculpture was supported by city councillors and MPs as well as luminaries such as sculptor Anthony Gormley. RBS said that the sculpture will return to the Mander Centre on loan from RBS, once refurbishment of the Mander Centre has been completed. The sculpture can currently be seen displayed at Wolverhampton Art Gallery while the redevelopment of the shopping centre is carried out. Antony Gormley said: ‘There is, in this monetarist time, an assumption that ‘common good’ can be trumped by the values of a liberalised economy; let us hope you can change that assumption here.’ The sculpture can currently be seen at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.