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.
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.
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’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.
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!
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.”
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.
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.
Wolverhampton folk rockers, Under A Banner, yesterday announced that they have been signed up by Bad Elephant Music, an independent record label based in Hertfordshire.
“About time too” we hear many of you say. Under A Banner have universally impressed since their formation just a few short years ago and have, since that time, gathered quite a following both at home and abroad (despite never having played a gig overseas). Their 54,400+ Twitter followers are testament to this – they have more followers than a few more established bands.
If you haven’t yet experienced Under A Banner live, there is the opportune moment approaching – you’ll need to get your hands on tickets whilst they’re available though. They play Wolverhampton’s Slade Rooms in a homecoming gig with support from The Leylines and Bleeding Hearts on Friday 29th April. Tickets available here.
As a follow up to last months ‘Wolverhampton – 25 reasons to be cheerful’ and because there was so much we’d missed – people have prompted us – ‘you can’t miss that off!’, we continue with our second twenty five, bringing the total up to fifty.. yes, Wolverhampton really does have that many reasons to be cheerful.. so give us a smile!
26. Our local accent and dialect – it’s not ‘common’ – in fact it’s increasingly rare and something to be treasured – and has its roots in the old Mercian tongue of the Angles. Thanks to Roberthe Harriman on this suggestion.
27. Wightwick Manor & Gardens. As pointed out by Lynn Hawthorne, 78,000 visitors a year, an internationally-important collection of Pre-Raphaelite Art and William Morris interiors- if you haven’t visited, do so..
28. The beautiful Light House Media Centre – possibly underused as a venue but not underloved and housing the Black Country’s only independent cinema.
29. Our canal network. Constructed for and heavily used during the industrial revolution, with two major junctions (at Autherley and Aldersley), now used by fishermen, cyclists, joggers & walkers and a haven for nature. The City of Wolverhampton Council are also planning a Canal Quarter in the city centre..
30. Our arts & booming creative scene. We have the Newhampton Arts Centre, Eagle Works, Asylum Gallery, WildSide Activity Centre amongst others. Wulfrunians embrace creativeness as seen in the organic development of our Artists’ Quarter, centred on Chapel Ash.
32. Banktock House Park & Museum. A Grade II listed building surrounded by 48 acres of parkland with a museum of Edwardian life. Learn about Wolverhampton’s history & attend some great themed days & events.
33. We have a male voice choir – the Wolverhampton Orpheus Male Voice Choir & they are very good. Catch them this week at Darlington Street Methodist Church for the Civic Carol Service, Wednesday 9th December at 3:15pm. We also have the Wulfruna Ladies Choir. We like our singing in Wolverhampton.
34. We have a cycle club, the Wolverhampton Wheelers – popular with both adults and children, based at Aldersley Leisure Village.
35. Northycote Farm And Country Park, a Tudor farmhouse and park with family events throughout the year.
36. Queen Square (note- not ‘Queen’s Square’). Formerly High Green, the square is timeless. Meeting place for countless generations of Wulfrunians and famous for the MOTH – Man On The Horse – which is, of course, a statue of Prince Albert.
37. Transport links. Our central position means we can get anywhere by car or train in no time – both the north and the south are very accessible, as pointed out by Moira Campbell. We also have the Midland Metro, taking us from Wolverhampton to the centre of Birmingham.
38. Dunstall Park, Wolverhampton’s racecourse and also a fine venue for events and live music, also..
39. Monmore Green – Wolverhampton’s greyhound / dog racing track – another fine venue.
40. Our speedway team, the Wolverhampton Wolves – founded way back in 1928 and a high thrills fans favourite to this day.
41. Wolverhampton has produced some well known faces in both the music scene and on television and radio. Frances Barber, Beverley Knight, Nigel Slater, Suzi Perry, Liam Payne, Mervyn King, Bert Williams, Mark Speight – the list goes on.
42. We have a thriving gaming scene, from role playing to wargaming to board games. As well as having a branch of Games Workshop for many years, Black Border Games, a new independent gaming store has set up in the heart of Wolverhampton and gaming nights also take place at Wild Bytes Cafe.
43. We have a thriving pub scene – not just any old pubs serving generic drinks, but top quality establishments serving good cask and craft beer, lager and cider as pointed out in our article, ‘Our area – beer utopia?’
44. Our proximity to the countryside. We’re part Black Country urban conurbation in the south and east, part South Staffordshire countryside in the north and west. Best of both worlds.
45. Our places of worship. We have some brilliant buildings, not least St Peter’s in the city centre and we have people of many faiths and denominations working together to improve the city and cater for all.
46. Bentley Bridge at Wednesfield. Yes, it may take people away from the City Centre, but – free parking, cinema, restaurants, bowling and all those shops.
47. Bilston Market. Have you visited? It’s great, a proper market and it has retained it’s use – popular, very busy and perfectly situated.
48. We’re right on the UK’s watershed. Depending where the rain falls in Wolverhampton, it will either end up in the Atlantic (via the River Severn) or in the North Sea (via the River Trent & the Humber).
49. Continuing the geological theme, the last ice age or glaciation ended around 18,000 years ago. The southernmost limit of this glaciation in the West Midlands / Cheshire / Shropshire lowlands area was at Wolverhampton and is known as the Wolverhampton or Smestow Line. It’s the reason for the large boulders known as erratics we have lying around, such as the one in West Park – carved from mountains and deposited by glaciers thousands of years ago.
50. We love our darts. As well as hosting the annual Grand Slam of Darts at the Civic Hall, the Cleveland Arms on the Willenhall Road also hosts events with big players and we have the Winmau Darts Centre in Dunstall at the Wolverhampton Indoor Community Sports centre (18 boards and leagues played from the venue).
Wolverhampton isn’t a miserable place. Well, we have our fair share of miserable people, but no more so than elsewhere. We’ve easily thought up 25 reasons to be cheerful that you live in Wolverhampton or are a Wulfrunian. This certainly isn’t definitive – we could have gone on and on..
- Friendly, down to earth Wulfrunians. Most of us aren’t miserable, but we are pragmatic. We also have a few famous sons & daughters
- Football, in particular Wolverhampton Wanderers – though not setting the world alight at the moment, ours is a great old club with proud traditions. We’ve also got some great non-league sides in AFC Wulfrunians, Bilston Town & so on
- Our location. We’re part Black Country, part South Staffordshire & reap the benefits of urbanism & the countryside
- i54 in Pendeford. A world class facility on the Wolverhampton / Staffordshire border
- Our past. It’s true that we were a massive manufacturing town at one time. We can hold our heads high knowing that people in Wolverhampton were so enterprising
- Our future. Things aren’t that bad. Revitalisation is taking place in the city centre & we’re witnessing the rise of some excellent independent businesses as well as big names moving in
- The Civic & Wulfrun Halls and local musicians. Regularly attracting bigger names than many larger cities do, the Halls do us proud. As do our local musicians. Birmingham & the Black Country isn’t The Home Of Metal for nothing you know..
- The Grand Theatre – a proper Victorian masterpiece, a truly classic theatre
- The Arena Theatre, the avant-garde younger cousin to the Grand, some truly cutting edge & original theatre can be seen here
- University of Wolverhampton. A world class university, it is a commendation holder from the Quality Assurance Agency – the only holder in the region as well as being a world leader in research
- Architecture. When in the city centre & beyond, look up! We have some brilliant Edwardian & Victorian buildings
- Hail to the Ale micropub in Claregate. The current holder of Wolverhampton, the West Midlands and West Midlands Region pub of the year, a great example of the micropub format
- Great restaurants. We have some great ones. Bella, Banks Bistro, Rocco, Made in Thai, Skalsa, Penn Tandoori, Indigo, Jivans, Rocco E Nero, The Hungry Bistro, Tiger Wok, Catellanis, New Spice, Bilash.. we could go on & on. We certainly won’t go hungry
- Our Anglo-Saxon roots. Most our place names derive from Old English & the Battle of Tettenhall / Wednesfield was a key victory for the allied Mercian Angles & West Saxons on the way to the formation of a unified England
- Sacre Brew, excellent craft beer brewed at a microbrewery right here in Wolverhampton. Their ‘Man on the Oss’ beer has recently been named one of the UKs best craft beers by Time Out magazine.
- The Express & Star newspaper. The biggest selling evening regional newspaper & an ever present in Wolverhampton since 1889
- Our own nature reserve – the Smestow Valley. that’s 120 acres of meadows, scrubland and woodland, a haven for nature
- Our parks. West Park in particular being a fine example of a well managed Victorian park, it opened on 6 June 1881 & provides fresh air and tranquillity to this day
- The Way – Wolverhampton’s youth zone. Not yet open, but this facility is something to look forward to for children and teenagers in the city
- Our enterprising small businesses – the Little Dessert Shop, Zuri Coffee, Wild Bytes Cafe, Cafe Metro, Broughs Brewery to name but a few. People are pushing on & Wolverhampton is becoming a hotspot for independent businesses
- We have some great schools and an excellent college – education is a priority in Wolverhampton & the next generation of Wulfrunians will have the tools needed to succeed
- Banks’s Brewery / Marstons. One of the city’s biggest employers, a key investor in Wolverhampton & landmark building
- Characters! We’ve had many down the years. Otherwise ordinary people with various quirks. The cowboy (come man of God), the Ring Road tramp (the late Jozef Stawinoga), the preacher.. which leads us to..
- ..our sense of humour. Self depreciating, down to earth – it can & does confuse people from elsewhere in the country, but we wouldn’t have it any other way
- St Peter’s Church and the Art Gallery. Both splendid buildings worthy of a visit, real jewels in Wolverhampton’s crown
What would you add? Let us know by commenting below.
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It’s been a busy early Autumn in the west Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire border area, with several events taking place to attract and entertain locals. West Wulf attended some of these – highlights of which can be seen in our latest video:
There was a lot of local hype on social media and chatter in pubs prior to the sixth Codfest, Codsall’s own ‘Friendly Festival’. Codfest didn’t just live up to the hype – it chewed it up, spat it out and saw the likes of The Replicas and Ronin destroy it.
It wouldn’t be a lie to say that Codfest gets better year on year – its only limit being its capacity – but this isn’t necessarily a handicap as it ensures that the event stays intimate and attracts the right sort of people – mostly by word of mouth. Codfest doesn’t need much in the way of advertising. There’s no doubt that the festival could be huge, but as it is, things work very well.
The choice of artists and bands was perfect, each building up as the sun dropped behind the distant Wrekin to a final crescendo as a large crowd gathered to watch and sing along to The Replicas – who are so good it’s amazing they aren’t working on their own material (I won’t run through all the acts here, but the likes of Luke Wylde & The Japes and Sam Draisey were all worthy of their respective stage – see a list of some of the acts here).
In fact, the whole festival was a showcase of local talent – the best of the Midlands, from the music to the organisation, from Morton Brewery’s real ale (festival special Speedwell Bitter sold out in a few hours) to the merchandise. If you haven’t yet been to this September annual, you really should – if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a ticket.
We caught up with one of the festival organisers, Roy Draisey, for a quick Q&A session.
WW: Saturday’s event was the sixth Codfest; where did the inspiration to start a local festival initially come from?
RD: If you check out the Codfest Facebook https://www.facebook.com/CodfestOfficial page there’s a nice little video (based on Starwars) that tells the history. It was a few (3 or 4 pals who were fairly regular festival goers) having a drink and talking about how nice it would be to run your own festival. At around the same time I was approached by a local field owner about the possibility of putting some live music on for a gathering of friends. (my son Sam is a local musician and runs open mic’s in the area and we spoke to him about getting performers) It turned out the gathering was for quite a few people so our group of friends said we would help as long as it was done properly, with Licence application and insurance etc. So we did the first Codfest in 6 weeks, charging £5 to cover costs and had £15 left over after expenses.
WW: Where would you like Codfest to be in another six years?
RD: Same place and size as it is now. It was tongue in cheek, but the last thing I said on Saturday night after The Replicas had finished was ‘don’t tell your friends’. If we could have the same crowd back year on year that would be great. The crowd is the right size, they are all friends, or friends of friends, they behave well, and give us the income we need to put on the show, and have something left over to give to good causes. Codfest is run by a group of volunteers who do it because of the ‘buzz’. It’s great when the day goes well and local bands and acoustic artists get to play in front of such a crowd, but equally giving £600 to a local infants school to buy 20 ukuleles and percussion instruments was a great feeling. We hope to do the same again this year with another local school. Also we’d like to look back in a few years and see someone who played at Codfest deservedly making it in the music industry. Long live Live Music. We had around 60 performers at this year’s festival and we are very grateful we get supported the way we do. Without them there is no Codfest. We are always looking for new acts, with the emphasis being on fairly local and fitting a balanced line up. We think the stalls are a nice balance of arts crafts with interest for adults and kids.
WW: What is it that makes this festival such a popular and positive event?
RD: The organisers are all local and have links in the community. Several of the organisers kids are musicians as well as being on the organising committee. Sam Draisey, Joe McKim and Dan Boyce all performed at this year’s Codfest, and they have all been through Codsall and Bilbrook schools. Codfest is not for profit, and we keep the cost to a minimum, although the fact that tickets sell so well gives us the opportunity to improve things like the stage and lighting, which was our big intention for Codfest 6. We also like to think that our attitude towards putting Codfest together and engaging and helping our supporters rubs off helping create a happy atmosphere. There are a lot of musicians in the local area, both young and established. Codfest is a great platform for them to perform and be supported by people who want a good day out. Pretty much the last thing we do is publish who’s playing at Codfest, and that’s always way after the tickets are sold. So it’s the Codfest day out rather than who’s playing that brings people back. Someone called it the ‘Friendly Festival’ a couple of years ago, and we adopted that description as part of our logo. A large number of our attendees have been to all 6 Codfest’s so far, so we must do something they like.
WW: The greater Wolverhampton area – including South Staffordshire – regularly receives negative press. Is this justified?
RD: Maybe some of it is, but equally we should be sharing what is done well and for the good of the community by members of the community. Having said that we don’t want to advertise wider. Codfest has grown by word of mouth and that way we hope we get folk coming who understand and respect what is we are doing. We are a few friends who enjoy putting Codfest together, but there are Community groups doing great stuff, and also Codsall is putting on its first independent beer festival in October, https://www.facebook.com/Codsallbeerfestival and we are happy to support this kind of event as they have similar values to ours. We don’t do this for recognition or as part of larger voluntary initiatives because other services have been withdrawn. We just do it because we want to, and people enjoy it.
WW: Events like Codfest, Tettenhalls ‘Make It or Bake It’ market and local attractions such as award winning pubs like Hail to the Ale & Codsall Station raise the profile of Wolverhampton and the South Staffs border area. If you could do any three things to enhance our area to put it in a positive light, what would they be?
- Encourage pub chains and owners to have more live music for community enjoyment.
- Encourage schools regarding the development of musical talent and having fun with music.
- Ban the X Factor