The online Community News and Local History Magazine for Bloxwich & District - Edditid by a Bloxidge mon!

Walsall News

We don't usually cover items of news which don't directly affect Bloxwich, Leamore, Blakenall Heath and Birchills, but there are occasionally matters of such consequence or interest that we feel everyone would like to read about them even though they are based elsewhere in Walsall - hence this new page.

We hope you find it interesting and useful!

Walsall Town Show wows kids of all ages

Monster truck Swamp Thing has lift-off! (Pictures by Stuart Williams)

Dateline: 23 August 2011

With thrills  and spills courtesy of a rip-roaring monster truck, breath-taking motorbike stunts, steam traction engines, historic faitground vehicles and Pat Collins’ latest fairground rides, Walsall Town Show turned out to be an unmissable feast of fun for all ages.

Clydesdale Ebony (left) and Shire Horses Micky and Billy-Jim being put through their paces 

Shire and Clydesdale horses, a beach, musical organs, a mobile illusionist performing amazing feats of magic with his beautiful assistant, plus fairground models and a nature exhibition and rabbit show as well as dozens of charity and other stalls, certainly gave teeming crowds of townsfolk and tourists alike two days to remember.

Black Country Prog Rock band Eligh Toadd rock on!

Music from the uniquely talented Eligh Toadd, a ‘Black Country Prog Rock’ band. Also kept feet tapping and hands clapping at the performance tent.

Mayor and Mayoress Cllr Garry Perry and Mrs June Perry on his charity stand 

The Mayor of Walsall, Councillor Garry Perry, opened the show, which ran at Walsall Arboretum from 10am-6pm on Saturday and Sunday 12-13 August.

Councillor Perry and the Mayoress, Mrs June Perry, stayed throughout to meet members of the public and promote the 2011-12 Mayor’s Charity Appeal.

Great showmen: Cllr Anthony Harris (left) on his 'Wall of Death' bike would have rivalled UKFMX team Chris Broad (centre) and Dave Wiggins in his day

Walsall Town Show is now in its third year and was organised once again by Councillor Anthony Harris and his family, who run Pat Collins Fun Fair.

They resurrected the much-missed Walsall Town Show in 2009 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the ‘King of Showmen’, Pat Collins, a fairground and cinema mogul with a nationwide empire centred on Bloxwich in the first half of the 20th century.

Two generations of fairground transport: a Scammell diesel tractor unit faces off a Burrell Showman's Engine 

A line-up of historic fairground transport

Crazy fun in the sun with the modern Pat Collins 'City Hopper'

Many hundreds of people who packed out the Arboretum Extension over the two days were only too delighted that the event is now a regular date – and a firm favourite – in Walsall’s calendar.

Councillor Harris said: “We had the world-famous Van Buren Outdoor Variety Show making an appearance, live music, shire horses, the RSPB and the many usual displays of traction engines, stalls and rides.

Illusionist Andrew Van Buren levitates his beautiful assistant Alyson Ford

Andrew Van Buren ensnares Walsall Cllr Imran Azam with the promise of a rope trick...

“The 2009 show was fantastic and the whole of Walsall Arboretum was buzzing.  Last year we attracted hundreds of people, despite heavy downpours on the Saturday.  We hope the 2011 show was the best yet and we certainly pulled out all the stops to make it one to remember.”

The Mayor said: “Everyone has told us what a great weekend it is.  We’re raising money for my chosen charities and enjoying greeting visitors.”

The Mayor’s Charity Appeal is fundraising for three causes: The Creating Chances Trust, The Swing, and PROUD (Parents Relatives and Others Understanding Down’s Syndrome).

With admission just £3 for all and free car parking in the beautiful setting of the town’s premier park, coupled with great summer weather, Walsall Town Show offered a great family weekend affordable by all – just what was needed to help cheer up Walsall folk in difficult times.  It certainly delivered on its promise!

More pictures of the day may be viewed in our Flickr Photo Album via this link.

Permanent story link here.

back to top

The Overstrand is coming down!

The awful Overstrand (centre): a blight on the Walsall skyline (Pic: Stuart Williams)

Dateline: 8 August 2011

There can be few buildings in Walsall as despised as the hated Overstrand, symbolising as it does the wholesale destruction of Walsall's picturesque High Street in the 1960s-80s.  For decades, local residents have been calling for its demolition, but because it formed part of the 'new' Old Square, and because of its location, this has been a very long time coming.

The former restaurant did perform a useful function at one time, and bands like indie legends The Charlatans, who played their first gig there in 1988, have found it a workable if small music venue in years now long past.  But the unattractive and obstructive "bridge" across the bottom of High Street has long been abandoned, and will not be missed by many.  In fact there are quite a few who would have cheerfully volunteered to help knock it down!

The good news for the people of Walsall is that the demolition of the Overstrand is now set to finally get underway as part of a key regeneration scheme that is planned to breathe new life into the Old Square Shopping Centre.

Demolition contractor Wates Construction will start a three-week programme of works on Monday 15 August to remove the redundant bridge.  Works are being phased to ensure pedestrian flow is maintained through Digbeth, with the Overstrand bridge itself coming down on Sunday 28 and Monday 29 August.  Any infilling and associated works will be completed soon after.

Toby Cooper, from DTZ, the agents acting on behalf of the owners of the Old Square Shopping Centre, has said:  “The Overstrand Bridge has been a talking point among the people of Walsall for quite some time, and for many its demolition has been eagerly awaited.  The removal of the bridge will re-establish views from St. Matthew’s Church across the town; and as St. Matthew’s spire is such an important landmark, its re-emergence on the skyline will be a source of great local pride.

“The wider regeneration plans for the Old Square Shopping Centre are set to create a vibrant and prosperous heart for Walsall town centre, and the demolition of the bridge is an important stage in the delivery of this project. “

Demolition of the Overstrand will be highly popular and shows Walsall is entering a bright new chapter, says Councillor Adrian Andrew, Deputy Leader and Walsall Council cabinet member for regeneration.

He added: “As a town we are bucking the national trend seeing investment pour in to create new jobs and bring in new investment.   Our role is to create the conditions for the private sector and this is positive proof of this happening.”

The new development at the Old Square Shopping Centre will create high quality retail space across three new units.  There will be a two-storey store for Primark on Digbeth, a four-storey building occupied by Mid Counties Co-op on the ground floor, with commercial space above, and a third retail unit inside the Old Square Shopping Centre.

The new buildings have been designed to complement the existing buildings along Bridge Street and Digbeth, with reconstituted stone clad facades.  The development team is working towards opening the new stores in autumn 2013 with work on demolition of the site due to start early next year.

Phil Harrison, Managing Director of Wates Construction in the Midlands and North, commented: “The health and safety of our neighbours, local residents and our own workers will be the main priority for us during our time in Walsall and we are working hard to minimise risk and ensure the removal of the bridge is wholly incident free. We are also consulting closely with local businesses to ensure that day-to-day trading is unaffected during the three-week demolition process. We now look forward to getting underway and being able to contribute to the transformation that is set to significantly enhance the lives of local people as well as boosting the economy.”

Walsall people will surely be breathing a sigh of relief at this positive news, though it offers small compensation for the destruction that has been wrought all across the town by misguided 'redevelopment' in the past.

No doubt many will hope that the continuing regeneration of Digbeth and High Street will be better considered than that which has gone before, and will restore some balance to the now lop-sided Walsall town centre.  We know that local shops and market traders in particular will be awaiting developments with bated breath.

Wates Overstrand Demolition Newsletter Issue 1

Permanent story link here.

back to top