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.
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!).
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.
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..
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.
You simply can’t say there isn’t enough going on in our area. In fact, there’s probably more happening in Wolverhampton and our surrounding villages at the moment than there has ever been. This is because, as well as the large amount of small independent businesses willing to try something different and offer residents a new experience, people have decided that they want to make a difference and are going out to get involved in their community on a greater scale than (possibly) ever before.
Wild Bytes Cafe on Darlington Street is a good example of a small business striking out and trying new things. From open mic days / evenings to art exhibitions to knitting, writing and gaming nights, Wild Bytes offers something that is needed in a city that has (we have to be honest) struggled in recent years. As Wolverhampton undergoes development, places like Wild Bytes provide a place for people to meet and an outlet for talented local people. We’d imagine that once the grand vision for our city is complete, Wild Bytes will be a strong player taking on the big, established chain cafes and coffee shops.
Something else you’ll see in the suburbs and villages especially is the emergence of amateur theatre. Local groups are putting on some brilliant shows. The Tettenhall Amateur Players with ‘Dinner’ and Codsall Dramatic Society with ‘The Unexpected Guest’ ate just two popular local drama / theatre groups proving incredibly popular.
We often mention how good things are at the moment for beer and cider drinkers in our area. Over coming weekends, we’re spoiled for choice again. There are three beer festivals within a few miles of Wolverhampton city centre. This weekend,Walsall CAMRA’s Walsall Real Ale & Cider festival takes place at Walsall Town Hall. Closer to home we have Cafe Metro in Bilston’s Springfest beer & cider festival from Thursday until Saturday and also, Sacre Brew‘s Brew Studio Bar will be open on Friday (Hootenanny) and Saturday (Soiree)
In a couple of days, the West Wulf blog will be one year old. The idea & formation of West Wulf is five years old. Time flies! What started as a means of providing a media outlet for AFC Wulfrunians, the west Wolverhampton football club, has developed into a Wolverhampton & South Staffordshire news, events and ideas portal. We’ve reported on numerous events such as the rise of the award winning Hail to the Ale micropub in Claregate and Britain’s Best Small Community Market 2016, Make It or Bake It in Tettenhall. We’ve charted the activities of independent businesses such as Wild Bytes Cafe in Wolverhampton. We’ve provided news on the many construction projects in Wolverhampton and had a hand in gaining the west Wolverhampton Artists’ Quarter the recognition it deserves as well as highlighting the ever improving pub selection in the area. Our most popular reports have been the two sets of ‘twenty five reasons to be cheerful‘, which proves that Wulfrunians love their city and constantly seek it’s good points.
Most recently we’ve created the ‘Wolverhampton Paths & Pubs‘ group on Facebook, enabling like minded people to come together for country walking and in support of our pubs – something that also has a tie in with the new ‘Love Your Local‘ Facebook page – designed to encourage people to value, use and where needed, protect their local pubs.
We wouldn’t be here without you, people of Wolverhampton, South Staffordshire and beyond – our readers. As we begin the third month of 2016, we thought we’d lick a finger, put it in the air and see which way the wind is blowing in Wolverhampton at the moment..
Bite sized news for March 2016
There are some exciting times ahead. Work has begun on the extension and refurbishment of Wolverhampton Railway Station’s car park – raising the capacity from 450 to more than 800 long stay spaces. This will pave the way for the eventual extension of the Midland Metro and rebuild of Wolverhampton Railway Station. The entrance to the car park will also be relocated to Mill Street / Corn Hill. More information, particularly about the extension of the Midland Metro can be found here in a Proof of Evidence.
i10 is filling up. There is already a branch of Superdrug operating at Victoria Square, with a new Hungry Horse pub / restaurant, The Sunbeam, under construction. In February, it was announced that national chain Kaspa’s Desserts would be the next tenant, taking over two units within i10 – Wolverhampton will be its 31st UK branch.
Just a stroll away, City of Wolverhampton Council have announced that the Canal & River Trust has acquired the former Crane Foundry on Bailey Street, Horseley Fields for purposes of regeneration – a boost to the council’s Canalside Quarter plans.
A couple of pub openings now – Slater’s Wolverhampton opened last weekend and is proving a hit, in what must be the perfect location – right on Queen Square opposite the Prince Albert statue. In Codsall on Tuesday 22nd March, The Crown – now a Joule’s pub, will open its doors following an extensive refurbishment. Just over a week later in Wolverhampton city centre, the previously mentioned Hungry Horse restaurant, The Sunbeam, will open – scheduled for Wednesday 30th March.
Wolverhampton’s Mander Centre, although a little devoid of shops at the moment, promises to be a top shopping destination by the end of 2017. Have a look at what’s going on here.
Finally, local & national press (here & here) have reported on a Wolverhampton beggar who reportedly takes home up to £500 a day. Yes, takes home. This beggar has a house and is, if reports are correct, rich – earning only £12,000 less than Prime Minister David Cameron does annually. When you pause to consider that the average salary in Wolverhampton is only £20,000 compared to the UK average of £26,500, you will understand why some kind hearted Wulfrunians as well as genuine homeless people are a little angry.
That’s all for now! Keep reading and thank you for your support.
Wolverhampton was once known for its great nightlife. People came from all over the West Midlands, Staffordshire and Shropshire for Wolverhampton’s nightclubs – the likes of Club Lafeyette and The Mezzanine were semi legendary names in their time and people have fond memories of them to this day. In more recent times, venues have come and gone – Atlantis was good for a while and our halls – the Civic and Wulfrun – continue to punch above their weight in attracting some of the best live bands and comedians around as a cursory glance at the Wolves Civic website will tell you.
But Wolverhampton and the surrounding South Staffordshire villages are becoming known locally for another reason – great pubs with very good beer. Let’s look at pubs. The obvious candidate to mention at the moment is our own micropub in Claregate, Hail to the Ale. The Morton Brewery ran pub is a multiple award winner, being pub of the year 2015 for Wolverhampton, the West Midlands and the greater West Midlands region – no mean feat for a pub that opened just over two years ago.
Highly popular in Wolverhampton are the real ale pubs, of which the city has several. The Lych Gate Tavern, ideally positioned next to St Peter’s Church and an attraction for the city centre’s office workers, is one of Wolverhampton’s oldest buildings. Beautifully preserved, this Black Country Ales pub has an enviable selection of beers on offer as well as some real cider. A short distance away on North Street is a relatively new pub, the Dog And Doublet. This pub occupies a space where there have been numerous drinking establishments over the years – The Tiger, Kipps Wine Bar and Manders Bar will all be familiar names to Wulfrunians. The Dog & Doublet is making good use of its space – as well as a good selection of ale, there is a wide range of continental bottled beer, real cider and some very good lager such as the local Freedom Brewery Freedom Four & Pilsner. The Dog also plays host to live music nights and has an impressive beer courtyard.
There’s also our Victorian gem, The Posada as well as Hog’s Head, the Great Western, the Combermere Arms.. we could go on. All that we’re missing is a dispenser of craft keg beer, as anyone who has tried some of the current small brewery keg beer will tell you – it’s rather good. That gap may well be filled early in 2016 – as Slater’s are opening a pub right on Queen Square which might not only serve some of Slater’s own excellent Stafford brewed ale, but craft as well – though we’ll have to wait and see on that score.
A short journey away (by bus, train or designated driver..) is Codsall. Codsall Station, the Holdens pub at the railway station is well known for its good beer and beer festivals – a regular award winner. Nearby, the Firs Club is also holder of an award and along with Codsall Station, holds beer festivals. To top this off, Codsall now has its own Codsall Beer Festival. The one day event was held at the Village Hall on October 3rd and there is hope – and early indication – that organiser Andy Evans will extend 2016’s event over the whole weekend. And yet there’s more good news in Codsall – the celebrated Joule’s Brewery have purchased the Crown in Codsall Square, which will add another quality venue to Codsall’s selection (we haven’t even touched on other good well used pubs, The Bentlands and The Bull).
There’s The Vine in Wednesfield, Café Metro and The Trumpet in Bilston, The Stile and The Newhampton in Whitmore Reans, The Claregate in, well, Claregate. We truly are spoiled for choice.
And what of the beer available? Well we’ve got Banks’s / Marstons brewing in Chapel Ash at the huge Park Brewery site. We’ve got the excellent Sacre Brew just off the Bilston Road, Morton Brewery in Essington, Newbridge Brewery in Bilston. And the above mentioned pubs serve (or will be serving) top local ale such as Holdens, Beowulf, Fownes, Slater’s, Kinver, Springfield and so on.