150th Anniversary of the Prince Albert statue

On Wednesday 30th November, Wolverhampton celebrates 150 years of the iconic Prince Albert statue in Queen Square. Affectionately known by locals today as the ‘Man on the ‘Oss’, the statue was sculpted by Thomas Thorneycroft and unveiled by Queen Victoria in 1866 – her first public appearance since the Prince Consort’s death five years earlier. 100,000 people lined the streets of Wolverhampton for Queen Victoria’s visit, which left a lasting impression on Wolverhampton – amongst others, High Green was renamed ‘Queen Square’ and Cock Street ‘Victoria Street’, names they retain to this day.

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Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester and Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Barry Findlay about to unveil the new plaque

Last Wednesday, Wolverhampton was visited by Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester who, alongside the Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Barry Findlay, unveiled a new commemorative plaque as part of a re-dedication of the statue.

Further celebrations will take place this coming Wednesday, 30th November at 1pm, where a freedom parade will take place featuring the Freedom Units RAF Cosford, 210 Battery, West Midland Fire Brigade, West Mercia Regiment who will parade down Dudley Street replicating Queen Victoria’s parade into High Green 150 years before.

At 1.50pm, residents will be invited to raise a toast to celebrate the city and its history.

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Awaiting the arrival of the Duke of Gloucester

Wulfrunians are ensuring they celebrate what has become an icon of Wolverhampton. Earlier this year, the Wolverhampton branch of the Campaign for Real Ale made the 150th anniversary of the Prince Albert statue the theme of their 41st Beer Festival.

 

View the official PrinceAlbert150 website here.

Westminster award for local fundraiser

Local lad, Louis Johnson of Tettenhall Wood, made the journey to London on Tuesday to receive a British Citizen Youth Award (BCyA) in its inaugural year.

The BCyA is awarded to 20 young people for the exceptional impact that they have on their communities. Louis received his medal from Grammy nominated artist Kimberly Wyatt of the Pussycat Dolls for his fundraising work in aid of local charities such as Compton Hospice and Promise Dreams.

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Louis in London with his BCyA medal

Prior to receiving the award, Louis’s mother, Teresa Johnson, told us

“Louis is over the moon about it and so excited about the lap of honour tour of London & we are so proud of Louis and all his does for others. He can’t wait to show his medal off to everyone and bring it home to Wolverhampton which he is proud to be part of.”

The British Citizen Youth Award website has this to say about Louis:

Louis Johnson

9-year-old Louis, has spent over half of his young life committed to raising funds for three worthy causes. Each cause capable of making a significant difference to people’s lives. During the past five years Louis has raised funds for his local hospice that cares for the terminally ill, for Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY Wolves), and for the West Midlands Air Ambulance. Louis has undertaken several activities including sponsored walks, manned stalls, made cakes, cards and jewellery all to raise funds for these good causes. Louis’s fund raising efforts have directly contributed to CRY being able to screen 14-35 year olds for heart defects using its state-of the-art electrocardiogram (ECG) and echo-cardiogram machines. For the local Air Ambulance, Louis spent a day bucket collecting to raise much needed funds, never once complaining or stopping. He has raised significant sums for the Compton Hospice by undertaking ‘Memory Walks’, a five-mile route where individuals can walk in memory of a loved one. Although he engages in extra curricula activity at school, Louis is committed to raising funds for his causes.

H&M and Wok&Go are coming to Wolverhampton

Exciting news for Wolverhampton city centre as H&M and Wok&Go have announced they are to open branches in the city.

H&M are currently fitting out the 31,000 sq ft former Woolworths and Discount UK store in the Mander Centre. The store is set to open on 17th November 2016 and will form part of centre owner, Benson Elliot’s £35 million refurbishment of the Mander Centre which will also include a Debenhams department store.

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Peter Cornforth, Director of Retail at Benson Elliot said:

H&M is an inspiring addition to the tenant mix at the Mander Centre and integral to our vision for a well-balanced, high-quality and contemporary customer offer for Wolverhampton’s extensive catchment. This new letting demonstrates the opportunity Mander represents for high-quality brands to join a great and evolving city centre line-up. The H&M Home collection brings a new and exciting interiors concept to the Centre’s existing, vibrant fashion and lifestyle mix, and will be warmly embraced by the Centre’s 17 million plus annual visitors.”

“To have chosen Wolverhampton to showcase its H&M Home collection is great news, not just for the city, but the wider region. The brand is well-placed to benefit from a city centre regeneration
programme in full swing and the completion of our refurbishment next year.”
H&M’s Country Manager UK & IE, Carlos Duarte recently commented:
“The re-development of the Mander Centre created the perfect opportunity for the H&M brand to expand into Wolverhampton. The inclusion of our Homeware range in the offering continues to ensure our stores remain exciting and inspiring fashion destinations for our customers.”
Wolverhampton’s i10 is also looking forward to a new resident. Wok&Go, a noodle bar chain established in 2007, is to fill the remaining two ground floor retail units in the showpiece development situated at Wolverhampton’s public transport interchange. Other residents at i10 since its completion in December 2015 include Greene King’s ‘The Sunbeam’ pub and restaurant, Superdrug and Kaspa’s Desserts with Ovivo, Countryside and Tarmac’s Building Products division taking up the office space above the retail units.
Wolverhampton's i10 development

Wolverhampton’s i10 development

Wok&Go Managing Director, Des Pheby, said: “The location of i10 is ideal for us and being next to the bus and train stations will provide good footfall. A lot of investment is being made in Wolverhampton and it seems like a good time to open a branch there.

“We have opened in similar places up and down the country, like Hull, and feel the concept will go down well in the city, particularly with the thousands of students.”

Councillor John Reynolds, Cabinet Member for City Economy, added: “The addition of Wok&Go gives us a strong collection of retail and food outlets at i10.

“Their presence enhances the city offering and provides further jobs for the people of Wolverhampton. More than £992 million of investment in the city centre is either on site or in the pipeline and i10 is a shining example what that investment is delivering.”

i10 might soon see a further increase in footfall with the coming of the Metro line extension.

What pub to visit? Technology to the rescue

Up until maybe ten years ago, if you wanted to visit a pub other than a regular serving, for example, cask ale, you’d have to chance it. Armed with the latest edition of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide, you could visit what reads as the ideal pub – but, despite the guide being very good, the information might already be out of date leaving you with a lack of choice or even a closed venue. We’ve got it good today. There are a plethora of phone apps out there that will not only give you details about a venue, but will give you up to date ratings and beer scores. You can see, in close to real time, what people are drinking (and whether it is any good!).

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You’ll generally find good beer at The Great Western

WhatPub.com is a great resource for information on pubs – whether they serve cask ale, whether they are family friendly, have a beer garden, serve food – even as far as whether pub games are available or if the pub is dog friendly. WhatPub.com perfectly compliments the Good Beer Guide and if you’re a CAMRA member and know what you’re doing, you can update WhatPub.com with both beer scores and up to date information on the venue. This system works well, but CAMRA always needs more people willing to submit up to date information – so if you’re a CAMRA member, sign in, take a glance and where you can, provide an update. WhatPub.com is browser based and works well on the majority of phones and tablets we’ve tried it on.

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Just some of Slater’s selection in Wolverhampton centre

A pick of the bunch app is Untappd. This allows you to rate a beer (this also includes cider and mead), adding a photo, comment and location. When enough people use the app (they generally do), the search function comes into its own. For example, you can find a beer within a certain radius – ideal if you know a beer is out there, want to try it, but don’t know where to find it. You can search for nearby beers or venues, to see what people are drinking and what rating they give to those drinks, in your local area. Of course, the application stores data so you’ll know if you’ve had a certain drink before and whether or not you liked it. We’ve also found Untappd useful in that a beer can be rated on the spot at the time & then scored on WhatPub.com afterwards.

A quick look at Untappd data tells us that, in the last month, 51 beers were checked in at the Lych Gate Tavern in Wolverhampton centre, 48 at Hail to the Ale in Claregate, 75 at Slater’s in Wolverhampton, 23 at The Crown in Codsall and 41 at The Great Western. Of course, this data can be taken in many ways and in no way represents the amount of people visiting each pub but does possibly shed some light on places that tech savvy beer hunters are visiting.

So, there’s no reason to drink poor beer or visit a pub that doesn’t serve your needs again – and more reason for pubs to up their game..

Artistry is alive in Wolverhampton – Q&A with Rebecca Lea Artwork & Illustration

Wolverhampton has something of a thriving art and craft scene, as evidenced by the west of Wolverhampton Artist’s Quarter, the amount of galleries in a relatively small area and the obvious local talent on display at the likes of Tettenhall’s Make It or Bake It street market. One such artist is Wolverhampton’s Rebbeca Haddock of Rebecca Lea Artwork & Illustration. We caught up with her for a question and answer session and a look at some of her work..

West Wulf – Tell us about you & your background..

Rebecca Haddock – Hi everyone, I have lived in Wolverhampton for most of my life, having only moved away for 3 years when I went to university. I studied for three years and gained a degree in forensic science, somewhat different to art or illustration! Despite this I have always had a love for art and can’t seem to find anything more enjoyable than sitting down with a few pens and some paper. I have spent several years working in an office environment which has been fun but is not something I have a passion for!

WW – Are you from an artistic family?

RH – We are a somewhat creative family with most of us enjoying art and crafts! My sister makes beautiful handmade cards and canvasses and my mum has a hand knitted baby clothing business that is doing really well! And I think it’s safe to say we are all working on nurturing my young nephews artistic flare!

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Rebecca at work

WW – What inspired your interest in drawing, or less specifically, art in general – and do you have a favourite artist?

RH – I do not remember what first inspired me to draw, I’ve just always loved it for as long as I can remember. My parents encouraged me to do what I loved which gave me a push if I ever got slightly off track…Sitting still was always a bit difficult for me, unless I had a pencil and paper! A lot of artists and movements have inspired me over the years. A big one being Salvador Dali and the way in which he made the surreal seem so realistic! I do sometimes think that most other artists have their own distinctive style by now but I enjoy so many different styles that I haven’t found just one that beats the rest!

WW – Have you experienced any setbacks or has it been plain sailing so far?

RH – There are so many setbacks that can happen when setting up a small business from scratch, the biggest of which I find to be time. Having enough time whilst working a full time job can be quite testing, especially when it’s been a tough day at work. But the key to it is that it is what I love to do and hours can pass by whilst I’m drawing before I even realise!

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WW – Do you see a positive future in Wolverhampton for artists?

RH – I definitely do see a positive future for artists in the city. I seem to see more and more independent businesses appearing nowadays which is fantastic for the city and it’s artists! Plus with international communities of artists so accessible with social media artists can get their work seen across the entire world!

WW – Tell us about your favourite creation..

RH – Now where to begin, I have so many! I absolutely love my latest wolf creations however one of my all time favourites has to be one of the simplest… the simplicity and bright colours of the picture below never fails to make me smile. Plus it took a long time to finish all those dots!

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Rebecca’s favourite creation

WW – As far as your business goes – where do you see your future if everything goes to plan?

RH – If everything goes to plan I see a future doing something that I love for a living. I have a little bit of love for photography too (prints of which will be on sale soon too so watch this space!) and would love to be able to travel in order to get the best inspiration for my art work and take the most breathtaking photographs!

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WW – Finally – you’ve got unlimited money to spend and 48 hours to do it – what do you do?

RH – That is quite a short time, I would love to be able to spend the money going all around the world to experience art in every other culture, take amazing photographs, and let it all influence my future artwork. However 48 hours would be a bit of a push so I would experience as many places and events as I could and of course buy all of the art supplies I could possibly dream of to keep me going for a while!

Local events draw in the crowds

Things aren’t all that bad in Wolverhampton and surrounding villages. We might still be struggling with a lack of shops in the city centre, but the government tells us today that they are focusing on the ‘Midlands engine’ (£12 million for Midlands Connect and the transport infrastructure for example), construction and refurbishment is ongoing throughout the city, independent businesses are thriving and people are setting up and maintaining some wonderful events that simply didn’t exist just a few years ago.

Two such events are Tettenhall’s #MakeItorBakeIt street market (which took place on 25th September) and Codsall Beer Festival (30th September and 1st October). Both events were conceived in recent years by individual with an idea, both raise money for charity and have flourished with the help of volunteers and good attendance by local people.

We attended both events for a look at how they are doing. We also took a look at Cupcake Lane cafe’s second birthday celebration, which saw a steam engine return to the former Tettenhall Railway Station.

If you had the money, how would you improve Wolverhampton?

It’s often said that the difference between success and failure can be the smallest thing – an idea, money, a little knowledge. Does the same apply to an area? Could Wolverhampton become the next Bristol, a thriving city full of bright young things launching excellent independent businesses & tech start ups? Could the right idea launch a business that could go on to revitalise, for example, Horseley Fields or the south side of Wolverhampton’s city centre? Maybe the right person with a small cash injection could see further progress – after all, the city is undergoing something of a regeneration at the moment.

A positive future for Wolverhampton?

A positive future for Wolverhampton?

We asked a question on social media – If you had £10 million to spend, but had to spend it improving #Wolverhampton in some way, what would you do with it?

We had some interesting and thought provoking responses, as below:

Jeffrey Francis:

Open a Camden style market where Sainsburys is by trams. People would travel from afar for a good street food market.

 

Daniel James Findlay-Belfield:

Give Wolverhampton the shopping centre and surrounding area the makeover it deserves,to rival Birmingham and Merry Hill. Make it FEEL like a proper city.

 

Willie Williams:

Have separate areas one for shopping mostly independent stores one for restaurants and food outlets one leisure activities like ice skating ,bowling ,gym and one for bars clubs live bands comedy clubs theatres cinemas and free parking with security and any plants and tress to be fruit and berries so anyone can pick free food.

 

Jackie Brown:

Improvements to homeless services would be the perfect way to spend the money.

 

Sheila Porter:

I’d spend it on getting rid of corruption on all levels…thereby increasing its value 10 fold at least, the people of Wolverhampton better.

 

Roxana Miquette Nimplet:

Open a Pret a Manger so us veggies have some nicer lunch choices.
A Lush store for those of us who don’t want to travel to Birmingham for it.
Open some nice craft stores as the only place to get that type of stuff is sometimes The Works or online and i’d prefer to spend money in local stores and to see what I’m buying.
I’ve moved from Bristol and these are the things I miss most! We need quirkiness!!

 

Eleanor Harris:

Bring Chapel Ash back to life as an arts and cultural hub like Moseley in Birmingham – with lots of independent businesses, shop, cafes and bars designed to appeal mostly to students and young people.

 

David Allen:

Well I don’t know how far 10 million would go. But I would invest in free parking for the city centre to encourage locals to actually use there city centre instead driving to Merry Hill.

 

 

@CllrYardley:

Stop the cuts to libraries.

 

@petalengro

More trees.

 

What are your thoughts? Feel free to comment here, or on Facebook or Twitter.