Jack and the Beanstalk at the Grand Theatre
Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum, a giant of a panto is coming to Wolverhampton! Jack and the Beanstalk, which opens on Saturday 9 December 2017, stars returning favourites from last year’s award-winning production of Aladdin - Lisa Riley, Doreen Tipton, Ian Adams and Adam C Booth - with The Bill star Graham Cole joining them as the evil Fleshcreep, musical theatre actress Sarah Vaughan is the Princess and Julie Paton plays The Harp. Lisa Riley captured the hearts of Wolverhampton as the Slave of the Ring last year and is back to star as Mother Nature. Lazy Black Country internet sensation Doreen Tipton has graciously accepted the workload in appearing alongside Lisa as the Trot family’s lazy next door neighbour, as long as Social Services don’t find out. The Black Country’s national treasure, Doreen has made her full-length feature film debut, published an an autobiography (which somebody else had to write), and even hosted her own BBC radio show. Ian Adams returns to the role of dame and Adam C Booth, who received great critical acclaim as Wishee Washee last year, will play Jack’s brother Simple Simon. Also on ‘The Bill’ comes a newcomer to the Grand panto family, Graham Cole, playing the role of the Giant’s henchman Fleshcreep. Joining them are Sarah Vaughan as the Princess and Pop Idol star Gareth Gates as Jack. With over 60,000 theatregoers attending the annual Wolverhampton Grand pantomime every year, don’t miss out on tickets to this year’s gigantic show, packed full of laughter, music, special effects, magic beans and bundles of audience participation. Tickets are on sale now and can be booked in person at the Grand Theatre, by phone on 01902 42 92 12 or online at grandtheatre.co.uk
Dan Whitehouse at Newhampton Arts Centre
A talented songwriter and storyteller, a modern day troubadour, Dan Whitehouse was born in Wolverhampton and has spent a lifetime in Britain’s industrial heartland with a brief detour along the hippie trail when his parents decided to board the magic bus to Katmandu and San Francisco in the 1970s, and then to London as an eighteen year old, his prodigious talent making him a sought after guitarist. For Dan the songwriting is key – his observational lyrics and imagined stories are soundtracked by an original take on modern folk /Americana – Black Country Soul if you will. Dan is currently on tour in the UK opening for the wonderful Eddi Reader and will be rounding the year off with a special full band show at Newhampton Arts Centre in his hometown on Sunday December 17th, with special guests The Little Unsaid (solo) and Matt Sayers. Information and tickets are available here
Samantha Fish at the Robin 2
The sensational American singer/guitarist Samantha Fish will be at Bilston’s Robin 2 on 22nd November 2017. While she’s well known as a purveyor of blues - lauded by such legends as Buddy Guy and Luther Dickinson - her real love is simply raw, scrappy rock and roll. It’s little wonder then that when it came time to record her new album, Chills & Fever, she ventured in another new direction, travelling to Detroit to join forces with members of the Detroit Cobras, a band whose insurgent ethic has made them darlings of the Midwest punk/blues scene. Growing up in Kansas City, Samantha switched from drums to guitar at the age of 15 and spent much of her time in local watering holes listening to visiting blues bands. She caught the attention of the Ruf Records label, which subsequently released her album, Girls with Guitars, where she played with Cassie Taylor and Dani Wilde. That led to her forming her own trio and recording three more albums, Runaway, Black Wind Howlin’ and Wild Heart, earning an award for Best Artist Debut at the 2012 Blues Music Awards in Memphis. Along the way she found herself working with other artists such as Jimmy Hall, Devon Allman and Reese Wynans. Support band Rainbreakers are a four piece outfit from Shrewsbury, who have been hailed as one of the freshest new sounds in the UK blues rock and soul circuit. The band have developed a distinctive sound that embodies a fusion of dynamic musical elements that bridges the gap between Blues, Rock, Pop and Soul. The band are particularly fascinated with the sounds of the past, ranging from soul melodies and psychedelic sounds to garage-rock riffs and R&B grooves. In 2016, Rainbreakers reached new heights, with a string of live dates up and down the country, and their performance at last year’s Great British Rock and Blues Festival in Skegness saw them win the crowd vote on the Introducing Stage and gain a place on the Main Stage at this year’s festival. The band’s efforts have even gained the attention of The British Blues Awards, who nominated them for Best Emerging Artist 2016. The Blues Magazine and Blues & Soul magazine celebrated the band’s refreshing outlook on the blues rock scene, while radio stations across the country, notably The Paul Jones Blues Show on BBC Radio 2, played songs from their Blood Not Brass EP. Tickets for what is sure to be a brilliant evening on 22nd November can be bought online here and at the Robin 2 box office, telephone number 1902 401211.
Wolves in Wolves
Wolves in Wolverhampton was the largest public art exhibition and trail to have ever taken place in the City, with 30 locally made, designed and installed Wolves sculptures in place for more than 11 weeks at key sites around the City Centre. Three of the sculptures were outside the ring road - one in West Park, one inside Wolves Museum entrance, and one outside Marston’s Brewery Shop. You could follow the sculpture trail using maps. Alongside this, Wolverhampton Art Gallery hosted a mini-wolf exhibition where over 60+ miniature wolves painted by local schools, groups and artists were displayed. The Wolves in Wolves project was a result of an idea submitted by a City of Wolverhampton Council employee to encourage people to come to visit the City and improve its appeal. The sculptures were made from fibreglass by a company in Kidderminster and plaques for the City of Wolverhampton College were fixed onto their bases. Students produced the plinths as part of the College’s sponsorship for the project, giving an opportunity to put into practice the skills they will need when they embark on their careers as well as showcase what they can do to potential employers. When the exhibition ended in September 2017, the majority of wolves will be auctioned off to raise money for The Outside Centre and the Mayor’s Charities. You can find out more on the exhibition website, including details of the amazing artists involved.
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.