Wolverhampton’s metamorphosis

Over the course of around fifteen years, Wolverhampton has changed – not quite unrecognisably, but on a scale that no doubt makes planners of similar sized large towns and small cities look on with a certain amount of envy. It’s not all been highs, with some independent start ups and high street fixtures falling by the way side, but those with enough scope and foresight to survive the increasing digitisation of the consumer world are ploughing on. Today, the much anticipated Wolverhampton Westside project has received the green light as £50 million worth of funding has been secured. Alongside the canalside quarter project at Horseley Fields and the redevelopment of the railway station, a lot is happening all at once. Let’s look at this and more in more detail.

 

Wolverhampton Westside

If ever there was a catalyst for the south / western edge of Wolverhampton city centre, then this is it. With funding now secured, development work on the ambitious project can begin. Westside will consist of a multiplex cinema, bowling alley, restaurants and even a mini-golf course; the development will see the creation of a modern entertainment quarter on the land in Market Square between Salop Street and Peel Street.

Wolverhampton Centre Feb 2018

Work here will no doubt prove to be a catalyst for renovation and the improvement of business corridors between here, the main shopping areas of the revitalised Mander Centre and the Wulfrun Centre and on towards the transport interchange – it should also be of benefit to Chapel Ash and Graiseley, bringing people through these areas to access what should prove to be a destination area within the ring road and providing more than enough reason for people from these areas and further afield to visit the city centre on a regular basis. A glance at the entertainment on offer at Bentley Bridge and the crowds there should hint at the potential Westside has for Wolverhampton centre – providing access and parking is sensibly planned.

Market Feb 2019

Add to this the recent construction and success of the new market at nearby Snow Hill and there are more than enough reasons to head towards the south side of the city centre.

 

Interchange and Lichfield Street

There has been ongoing construction of one kind or another in this area for the past few years. i10 houses the Sunbeam pub and restaurant, with offices above and a branch of Superdrug on the walk towards the railway station. It’s not all rosy here however, as both Kaspa’s Desserts and Wok&Go have come and gone in the blink of an eye – maybe they were a little too early, as with redevelopment of the railway station, this thoroughfare will be increasingly used. Another reason to see increased footfall in this area is the forthcoming i9 development. Construction is due to start at the Railway Street site, currently home to a car park in front of the Prince Albert pub, and is expected to provide 50,000 square feet of prime office space in the city centre. i9 is due to be completed next year and it is hoped it will draw in a major business for use as a main or regional headquarters.

The railway station looks promising. Work is ongoing on phase 1, with the former police station knocked down, and metalwork currently going up, which will see use in Autumn of this year when complete. Phase 2 will then see the existing station knocked down and replaced by 2020, with the Midland Metro extension coming into use shortly afterwards.

Metro Feb 2019

A vision for this area also sees an artists mock up of an office tower at Corn Hill, something that would certainly put Wolverhampton on the map.

Nearby on Lichfield Street, the wonderful Art Deco building that houses the Moon Under Water and former O’Neills pub, is to be renovated and put to use as a Wetherspoons hotel and national museum. JD Wetherspoon are investing in the region of £7 million on the project which will drastically improve the outlook of this busy street, opposite Wolverhampton’s fabled Grand Theatre. Alongside thriving businesses such as the Hungry Bistro, The Bohemian and Zuri Coffee, Lichfield Street will continue to be a place to visit for years to come.

Canalside Quarter

Just a short distance from the railway station at Horseley Fields is the proposed Wolverhampton Canalside Quarter development. This former industrial area alongside the Birmingham Main Line Canal has lain partially derelict for several years. It is hoped that around 600 new homes can be created in this area, within walking distance of the city centre in pleasant waterside surroundings – this will also improve the gateway to the city centre by rail, as trains from Birmingham bridge the canal at Horseley Fields Junction.

Heath Town

To the north east of Horseley Fields lies Heath Town – currently undergoing development work of its own, with 350 new homes expected to be constructed following the recent demolition of the shopping precinct and blocks at Chervil Rise.

Heath Town Jan 2019

New play areas are to be constructed and Wolverhampton Homes are looking at potential future improvements to high rise blocks in the area. As well as this, near Springfield and the old Low Level Railway Station, a new Aldi is nearing completion.

Molineux Stadium

It has been known for some time, should Wolverhampton Wanderers establish themselves as a top flight club, expansion would be necessary at Molineux to increase both match-day capacity and facilities in the area.

Molineux Feb 2018

Recently, club Managing Director Laurie Dalrymple has made an announcement at a Fans’ Parliament that the first stand at Molineux to be redeveloped would be the Steve Bull stand. Currently the oldest stand within the stadium, it was completed in 1979 as the John Ireland Stand (remember those red seats?) and should everything go to plan, development will start following the 2019 / 20 season. Phase 2 would see redevelopment of the Jack Hayward Stand, known to supporters as the South Bank. Once completed, the capacity at Molineux should be around 45 – 46,000, though a further development of the Billy Wright Stand cannot be ruled out in the future.

Molineux Jan 2019

Dalrymple has stated that Wolves are working with City of Wolverhampton Council and the University of Wolverhampton to improve the area as a whole – this could include efforts to make the area around Molineux a destination area of its own. With independent redevelopment of the Leaping Wolf pub on Waterloo Road complete, these are the beginnings of exciting times for the Molineux area, both on and off the pitch.

 

We leave you with possibly our favourite video of a potential future Wolverhampton – this whets the appetite..

Debenhams arrives in the Mander Centre

It’s here – Debenhams opened its doors in Wolverhampton’s Mander Centre today, with popular ex-Wolves player and artist, Jody Craddock, cutting the ribbon. Will the coming of the respected chain stimulate further retail growth in Wolverhampton? This remains to be seen, but hopes are high that Debenhams will prove to be a powerful cog in the Wolverhampton regeneration machine.

Debenhams is a 93,000 square foot new build construction on the Mander Centre’s south side, replacing the former TJ Hughes, Tesco and various small stores situated on the lower ramps out to St John’s Street and Bell Street – this 1960s concrete building demolished prior to the new three floor building taking shape.

The store comes with a Loaf & Bloom deli kitchen and its own branch of Costa Coffee.

Opening hours are set to be 09:00 – 17:30 weekdays, with 09:00 – 18:00 on Saturdays and 10:30 – 16:30 on Sundays.

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Quite a crowd outside Debenhams on opening

Further regeneration is taking place on Bell Street opposite the new store, with old buildings – a former casino and Kwik Save amongst others, being demolished to make way (initially) for a car park, before this prime city centre land is marketed for something more prestigious as part of the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Southside regeneration scheme.

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The south section of the Mander Centre is demolished prior to construction of Debenhams

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The front of the queue makes its way inside

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A DJ greeted shoppers on entry to Wolverhampton’s new Debenhams store

In a small field in South Staffordshire..

There’s a saying – ‘Life’s what you make it’. The organisers of Codfest must live by this mantra as they certainly make life great for a day for those lucky enough to get a ticket to this small, but lovingly crafted music festival in Codsall Wood. In its 8th year, Codfest improves each year but stays close to its original blueprint. It doesn’t grow beyond the field boundary it sits within, and the location of the arena and stalls stay in more or less the same place year on year – but tweaks to the way the festival is ran through to improvements in the selection of food and drink available are noticeable.

Pork at Codfest (02.09.2017)

Heavy sound – Pörk

 

This is a top festival on a small scale. Musicians are, in general, local, as are those in attendance. The music is a heady mix of rock, pop, folk and, this year, the acoustic dub reggae sounds of Birmingham duo, BEAR were thrown into the mix. There’s something for everyone – highlights for us were the brilliant The Arrangements and the fun (check out the costumes) sing along crowd pleasers, The Pale Aliens – who also had a rather tasty Morton Brewery beer available in their name at the Hail to the Ale mobile bar.

The Pale Aliens at Codfest (02.09.2017)

The Pale Aliens provided fun & sing along anthems

Sam Draisey played on the main stage during the afternoon, with songs from his new album As I Live and Breathe (review here) going down well. Organised by Sam and father, Roy and team, Codfest is a family orientated festival. Prime evidence of this could be seen in the queue for the face-painting stall, in the merchandise on sale, but most of all by the amount of families with children in attendance.

Codfest (02.09.2017)

A family environment at Codfest

Codfest’s tagline is ‘The Friendly Festival’. It certainly is. The festival is a safe, fun place for families to attend, the sort which breeds warm childhood memories for us to look back on fondly as adults. Many people wore fancy dress – this year’s theme was heroes & villains; amongst them was Superwoman, Michael Jackson, Freddy Mercury, a man dressed as a banana and more. Despite Roy making mention of a few setbacks late in the day during organisation of Codfest 8, they certainly weren’t noticeable to hundreds enjoying themselves into the night, many camping out, helped on by a beautiful sunny early September afternoon.

Will Morgan at Codfest (02.09.2017)

Will Morgan’s blend of stories and songs brought many a smile

The main benefit from events like Codfest and Codsall Beer Festival (the third is to be held next month) is what it brings to the area – a sense of community; local people who care about each other sharing a good time in pleasant surroundings. Every area could do with their own version of Codfest – but not every area has dedicated people willing to volunteer their time to put on an event that will last in the memories of those in attendance. It’s a shame we have to wait a year for Codfest 9!

New lease of life for the Lindy-Lou

One of the oldest buildings in Wolverhampton centre and certainly one of the most iconic, is to reopen as a coffee shop as revealed by proprietor Charlie Causer.

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Lindy Lou’s is soon to open for coffee and more

19 Victoria Street has an interesting history, having survived Wolverhampton’s two great fires in 1590 and 1696 and has seen a multitude of businesses come and go. The building commonly referred to as the Lindy-Lou or the Copper Kettle was constructed in the late 1500s – shortly before the Gunpowder plot (and the hanging of some of Guy Fawkes’s co-plotters in High Green, today’s Queen Square), Shakespeare, the union of England and Scotland and with either Elizabeth I or James I on the throne. At this time, Victoria Street was called Tunwall Street and would be called Cock Street before arriving at its current name during the lifecycle of the building.

The building is one of only two remaining timber framed buildings in Wolverhampton along with the rear section of the Lych Gate Tavern. 19 Victoria Street stands on stone foundations which are now partially obscured as Victoria Street has risen over the years. The earliest records show that the building was owned by Sir Walter Leveson (1609) and was a pub, the Hand Inn, ran by a Mr Worthington. The building has more recently been a bakers, a tea shop, the Lindy Lou baby / toy shop, a welfare advice centre, clothes shop and Wulfrun Books, a book and collectables store.

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The refurbished front window area inside Lindy Lou’s

The coffee shop, to be known once again as the Lindy Lou’s, promises to give a new lease of life to this much loved historic building and with careful internal renovation works recently completed, business owner Mr Causer is currently planning an opening date for Wolverhampton’s newest independent business.

 

Read more about 19 Victoria Street on the Wolverhampton History Website here.

Wolverhampton Festival of Food & Drink

Food festivals and street food events are big business at present. The chance to browse and sample culinary delights from some of the UK’s best street food producers is often too good to resist. Birmingham’s Digbeth Dining Club and the Village Coffee, Bakery & Kitchen spin-off, Codsall Village Dining Club, proves the success of these events.

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This weekend is a first for Wolverhampton in a full-on food and drink festival in a designated area of the city centre that hasn’t been used for much other than car parking since, well, the closure of the old market and the construction of the Civic Centre. The event wasn’t open for the public to walk in – tickets were required, though these were free – they still had to be requested in advance, lending that air of exclusivity to proceedings. The first day, Saturday 8 July, was a roaring success, with some retailers admitting surprise at the large amount of customers in attendance.

3WFF

Amongst the many street food retailers were favourites Slow N Low, Baked In Brick, Canoodle, Handmade Pizza and Nyam Nyam, with Hail to the Ale, Slater’s and The Grain Store providing liquid refreshment.

1WFF

All signs point to future festivals in a similar location as the city reinvents itself as a top location for food and drink with attractions such as Wolves in Wolves and Queen Square music festivals drawing in people from further afield.

And there’s still today to visit if you missed yesterday!

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Sam Draisey’s new album brings protest & love from the heart

If you live in Wolverhampton or South Staffordshire and like music, chances are you’ve heard of – if not seen – Sam Draisey. Sam’s been about for a few years yet hasn’t quite reached the grand old age of thirty yet, which will come as shock on hearing new album, ‘As I Live and Breathe‘. Draisey sings with a real conviction, you feel his words come from the heart, from experience, at times from personal anger about politics, greed and the state of England. There are echoes of Frank Turner here, modern folk and protest. But this is far from just a protest album, there’s plenty of love and upbeat melody here to raise a smile – even the songs that deride modern society, apathy and negative attitude such as ‘Scarecrows‘ play along to a positive rhythm – that feeling of “hey, despite how it looks, life isn’t all bad so keep your chin up! Things will get better.”

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A favourite of ours, ‘The Worst Lie Of All‘ tells a story that many from the working class will be familiar with, trying your best to get somewhere but having the world against you, of the wealthy turning a blind eye to the plight of those struggling to make ends meet and of people in power treating the rest of us as political pawns rather than thinking, feeling people.

Used To Be My Hero‘ bounds along at quite a pace, another familiar theme for listeners – musicians that had a powerful message and gained a fan-base but ended up middle of the road once they’d become successful – and comfortable, losing their edge and putting out music just to keep people happy and the money rolling in, never regaining that original passion. ‘I Won’t Ask Why‘ is a thoughtful ballad about unexpectedly falling in love and cherishing it now it’s here, come what may.

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Sam Draisey at Codfest in 2015

There’s a lot of experience behind ‘As I Live and Breathe’; as well as having several albums under his belt, Draisey is a regular live performer. if you haven’t seen him live, it really is worth tracking him down – a recent Facebook post on Sam Draisey Music tells us that he’s approaching his 1000th gig since he started out in 2005 (both solo and in bands such as The Replicas). This includes the Molineux, Codfest, various festivals and pub gigs such as the Newhampton Inn and The Crown, Codsall. Live, Sam holds an audience captive – we’re looking forward to hearing some of ‘As I Live and Breathe’ in person.

‘As I Live and Breathe’ is being released on 23 July at The Crown in Codsall, South Staffordshire. Entry is free and the gig starts at 20:30.

 

Wolf sculptures set to howl in Wolverhampton

A quote (attributed to Arnold Schwarzenegger) tells us “The wolf on the hill is not as hungry as the wolf climbing the hill“. Wolverhampton is, metaphorically, climbing a hill as the people of our city aspire to achieve a newfound status, shrugging off the old negative associations. The people of Wolverhampton are hungry for success, hungry for a city they can be proud of. Slowly, the pieces of the jigsaw are falling into place and the latest project coming to Wolverhampton holds high hopes of increased tourism, a newly galvanised sense of pride and increased awareness of a myriad of Wolverhampton related facts – often with the added benefit of educational and fun activities. This project is Wolves In Wolves.

Wolves In Wolves West Wulf

An artists impression of some Wolves In Wolves sculptures

What is Wolves In Wolves? You may have seen ‘The Big Hoot‘ in Birmingham or Liverpool’s ‘Superlambananas‘ amongst others. This involved sculptures, decorated by local artists, placed around their respective cities with trails built for locals and tourists to follow. The designs were brilliant, striking, some with a message, others simply for fun. Wolves In Wolves is a similar – Wolverhampton’s largest public art event, that will see 30 wolf sculptures, all individually designed, placed around Wolverhampton city centre and West Park. Organised by local disability arts charity, Outside Centre in partnership with the City of Wolverhampton Council, Wolves In Wolves promises to be a huge success – and, alongside The Boho Press, West Wulf will be working on an interesting design for one of these wolf sculptures.

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Some of the first arrivals seen at Moreton Community School

Positioning for the wolf sculptures is yet to be announced, but they will be in place by early July. There is still time to sponsor a wolf (here), local businesses that have given their support to Wolves In Wolves (and will undoubtedly benefit from the positive publicity both in the build up and during the event) include Enjoy Wolverhampton, Marston’s and University of Wolverhampton. Following display, the wolves will be auctioned off to raise money for charity.

Get behind Wolves In Wolves on social media by using the hashtag #WolvesInWolves2017