Yes there really was ‘something for everyone’ this Saturday in West Bromwich.
It was wench 2 who suggested that we head to West Brom for a taste of art and culture at Sandwell Arts Festival. As we always do what wench 2 says, we jumped at the chance. Sandwell Arts Festival was being run by those lovely people at Creative Black Country (CBC), and this year it was all about Black Country art and artists. There was lots on as this Express & Star article shares, including a pretty ceramic garden and giant bees that you could make buzz.
Wench 2 had inside info and took us down to West Bromwich Town Hall to see the fantastic Jambo Cinema, where artist and creator, Dawinder Bansal (in collaboration with Flatpack Film Festival) had recreated her 1980s Brit-Asian home in a couple of the Hall’s rooms. It was amazing – like stepping back in time – and she’d even roped in some of her family to be part of ‘the art’. I loved it. There were also samosas. The way to a wench’s heart and all that…
Heading further into the Town Hall I was excited to see some of my favourite photographs displayed in the corridors. West Bromwich based Multistory commissioned photographer Martin Parr to create a photographic portrait and archive about everyday life in the Black Country between 2010 and 2013. You can view an archive of the bostin images on the Multistory website and see if you recognise any chaps or wenches. In the spirit of Martin Parr here’s a portrait of not-so-everyday life in the Town Hall (that’s one of Martin’s images in the frame).
At the opposite end of the Hall it was all about love and the cut. So Black Country aye it? Flatpack Film Takeover had invited Black Country Cinema and the makers of Luv’in the Black Country to give a short talk before showing their gorgeous film.
Luv’in the Black Country is a short cinematic documentary about the romantic Black Country canals, and how the first love stories of three different people connect them to this historic area. The film is a lyrical love letter to the Black Country, its people and their fading identity. Watch it here, it’s beaut. Luv on the cut. Meks this wench have a moist eye, it does. Black Country Cinema have also made a collection of four short films called Black Country Stories which yow should watch too.
Before heading back to the start of our arty journey we popped into West Bromwich library where there was some more arts fest stuff happening. Considering my West Brom heritage (my grandmother grew up around the corner), I’m ashamed to say it was my first visit and I was blown away by the beautiful building. What was great to see was how busy it was. Obviously well used by the people of West Brom.
West Brom is full of beautiful architecture. Unfortunately a lot of it is rundown or in need of a new owner. We all agreed we would like to buy this beautiful place.
As wench 2 was working hard, chap and I decided to visit a pub or two. We didn’t try The Goose or The Star and Garter, but decided to head to one of the local desi pubs instead.
Not before chap visited ‘the oss box’: a unique renovated horse box which Cradley Heath Creative were using to take pinhole camera photos and hold camera obscura workshops with visitors.
Or before we said hello to some local famous friends!
Our challenge was to reach our chosen desi pub via West Bromwich market, without buying one of the numerous bargains to be had. I nearly fell at the first hurdle when I spied a man selling ‘designer’ handbags and perfume out of a suitcase, but thankfully chap pulled me away. There was also a similar incident with a stall selling £3 scarves, but we won’t go there.
At least in West Brom there’s always somewhere to sit and many do. The market is quite a little community hub!
My reward for not buying anything in the market was a beer at desi pub The Prince of Wales.
The Prince of Wales is well known for its food and entertainment, and it is one of the pubs featured in Creative Black Country’s brilliant Desi Pubs project. Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know I’ve been banging on about this project for a long time, but it is fantastic so check it out!
As CBC describe it: ‘For over 30 years, The Black Country has been quietly incubating a revolution in the pub trade known as ‘desi pub’ local curry pubs or Asian pubs’.
‘It’s an East meets West story, where the classic English pub with its ales, dart, dominos and sports meets Punjabi food and Bhangra music. Asian landlords have been salvaging the struggling pub trade by reinventing failed pubs as independent businesses reaching out to a wide range of customers from the Black Country’s diverse communities. What started as a safe-haven for young Asian pub goes in the 70s has blossomed into a unique Black Country success story.’
Unfortunately there wasn’t any curry or entertainment to be had on this Saturday afternoon for chap and I. Just a couple of beers to wile away an hour or so in this friendly pub, listening to fascinating bar stool chat from a couple of wise Black Country mon .
I’m looking forward to returning for food and entertainment, but in the meantime you can get a flavour of The Prince of Wales in this fab video by CBC where celebrity chef Cyrus Todiwala visited the pub to find out more from the people there. Keep an eye on CBC’s desi pubs project as I know they’re planning some interesting stuff later on. If you fancy trying out a desi pub or two they’ve also got a handy list on their website.
So we’d had quite a bit of art, a little bit of love, and a beer or two. No sex or curry, but the afternoon was still young.
Chap had been regaling me with a tale about the most popular swinging club in the UK being in West Brom. I found this hilarious. No offence West Brom, but yow doh spring t’mind when thinking of sexy swinging time. Not that I do think about sexy swinging time at all. I mean there was that one time in a lay-by whilst I was inflating my tyres. A very helpful lorry driver kindly signposted me to the nearest dogging spot. But, as I explained to him at the time, I’ve only got a Mini and I like to be in the warm really. I did thank him for his advice though. We’m polite us wenches.
Anyway as we left The Prince of Wales there were clues that there might be something in this rumour after all.
And then, all of a sudden we realised the sexy ladies kind of pointed the way to something interesting.
Chap was rather confused by it all as he thought it was a Banks’s pub. If wench 2 asks, that’s his story and he’s sticking to it! Mind you he has a point doesn’t he?! The lion has just changed his aggressive axe for a wicked whip.
Oooh err missus!
It was good to see that despite the building work, Xtasia and Flirts are open as normal. I couldn’t resist looking them up. They’ve got a very informative website. I’m a bit too shy for sexy swinging time. I think the fact I’ve referred to it as ‘sexy swinging time’ says all you need to know about my lack of experience in such things. However, for those of you more adventurous than the wench, the club is almost next door to the Premier Inn – handy if you need somewhere to stay!
So really my use of sex in the title is a little misleading. There was no actual sex in West Brom on Saturday afternoon. Just a little peeking through the hedge. We live dangerously.
However, my little adventure with chap in West Brom did remind me of my little adventure with chap in Las Vegas. The night before he married wench 2, whilst she was snoozing her head off in Trump Tower, chap and I explored ‘off-strip’ ending up in a sex superstore and dive bar. An unofficial stag-do of sorts. If you head to Vegas we definitely recommend Sonny’s Saloon.
Wench 2, having finished her toil, was able to join us and it was off to the legendary Vine pub we went for beer and curry!
If you’ve never been to The Vine before you will probably be a bit surprised when you wander to the back of the original pub. It extends out into huge spaces for eating and drinking. A victim of it’s hard earned success, it obviously needed the space for all the hungry Black Country folk who swear by this popular pub for the food! Firstly there’s a long open conservatory type room with open bar.
That’s a pint of Noddy Holdens (Holden’s) that the bar chap is pulling us there. Really enjoyed that!
Behind the conservatory room there’s an even bigger dining room where the grill is.
And beyond that there’s even more space to drink, eat and be merry in the beer garden.
The Vine is renowned for its tasty food, and it has a fine menu to choose from. Some of it you order from the bar and some from the grill.
We certainly enjoyed our starters – chicken pakora and chilli paneer (paneer dish had quite a chinese taste to it as well) which we shared between us.
We also shared our nan and curries: chicken methi, paneer pathia and another I can’t quite remember. They wor arf bostin. I hadn’t been to The Vine for a while, but I’m definitely not going to leave it quite so long before my next visit, particularly now I work in West Brom.
On the way home chap pointed out Desi Junction with it’s 99p offer on spirits. West Brom is certainly a desi (and booze) paradise.
So ta very much West Brom for a fun filled Saturday. It was great.
You gave us art, love, beer and curry. There was no sex for us, but they do say it’s wrong to exercise on a full stomach.