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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Hunger & thirst eradicated in Wolverhampton..

..Alright, not quite. I don’t mean to be too misleading with the headline, but with the array of new bars and restaurants opening in Wolverhampton to add to our quite substantial existing selection, it might as well be for those who can afford it.

Let’s take a look at what is and what might be..

The Island House

A former pub turned gourmet fish & chip restaurant, bar and grill, the Island House pub on Stafford Road, Oxley, wasn’t doing too well in its later years, closing in 2007. The building started its life as a house, with conversion to a pub, The Croft, in 1937. Purchased by Andrew Calleja who formerly ran the award winning Newbridge Fryer, The Island House has been open as a takeaway for a few months, finally opening as a fully functioning bar and restaurant this week.

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The Island House

Early reviews are excellent and with a menu including pan fried seabass and spiced battered cod cheeks (not to mention a selection of burgers), we’re confident that The Island House will prove a long-term success.

 

Gali Kitchen at The Hooded Ram

Under construction at the former Rothwells / Indi Bar in Princes Square, the very prominent crossroads in the centre of Wolverhampton’s Lichfield Street is the Gali Kitchen at The Hooded Ram. This is a city centre project that certainly gets the mouth watering – Hooded Ram are an Isle of Man brewery specialising in cask ale. Their selection includes Black Pearl Oyster Stout, Amber Ram Best Bitter, Little King Louis IPA and a large selection of seasonal beers / specials such as Green Hop Ram (an ale made using fresh or ‘green’ hops during hop picking season instead of the usual dry hops), Smokey Pete Smoked Porter (a smoked beer), Mint Chocolate Stout and Abattoir Blues (a barleywine).

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The Hooded Ram, Wolverhampton

The food promises instant salivation – Galī means alley or narrow street in Punjabi, the Gali Kitchen will bring Indian street food to Wolverhampton’s dining out scene. We can’t wait!

 

The Dispensary

Queen Street was the location of Wolverhampton’s first public health dispensary – the first hospital in the city. This opened on 10th July, 1821, at 46 Queen Street and was constructed to cater for the needs of the poor who could not afford to pay for treatment. At 22 Queen Street, we’ll soon (subject to licensing) have Wolverhampton’s newest micropub, named The Dispensary in recognition of this important part of Wolverhampton’s history. Planned by Ron Reynolds, known locally for bringing a good selection of cask ale to The Horse & Jockey pub in Woodcross, The Dispensary will be a small pub (definition of micropub here) next door to Nandos, with seating for 30 people (more upstairs for functions / meetings).

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Plans for The Dispensary, Queen Street

Plans give a good idea of the layout (here), with both cask and craft dispense on the bar. The pub will have a history of Wolverhampton theme, and promises to add further depth to the city centre’s pub scene.

 

Newbridge Micropub

Currently at the planning stage, the owner of Newbridge Brewery, James McCann, has submitted plans for a micropub on Newhampton Road West in the corner building previously occupied by New Style Windows. The micropub, if approved, will provide a local outlet for Newbridge ales in the Newbridge area of the city.

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A selection of Newbridge Brewery produced ales

Mr McCann has stated that the pub will be fashioned in a similar manner to that of Hail to the Ale micropub in Claregate, the three times (current) Wolverhampton CAMRA city pub of the year. The plans are, however, facing opposition, as reported in the Express & Star.

More can be read about this exciting venture can be read in the supporting statement here.

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With the well publicised return of The Claregate as part of Marstons’s Generous George chain (with pizza oven and smoke house, opening Monday 10th April) and hot on the heels of recent renovations to Hogshead and the Royal London and the opening of Slaters, The Bohemian and Burger Priest, these new venues will give Wulfrunians and visitors alike plenty of food and drink options.

All Wolverhampton is in need of is a craft beer outlet supplying beers from the likes of Cloudwater, Verdant, Magic Rock, Harbour and Siren Craft to bring us into the big league.. what are your thoughts?

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.