Thousands turned out to enjoy a fun-filled weekend of activity in West Bromwich which included a dance piece with a red telephone box, a brand new puppet show inspired by Shakespeare and 24 giant terracotta buzzing bees.

Produced by Creative Black Country, on behalf of Sandwell Council, the Mayor Cllr Julie Webb, who opened the weekend’s activity, got involved with digital graffiti spray painting with Kic FM and 3D model printing before making her own unique tune with the buzzing bees.

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The event centred around Sandwell College Central Sixth, Queen’s Square, New Square and West Bromwich Town Hall and library, took in traditional storytelling and craft to computer coding and performance. 

Film connoisseurs were treated to a special day of screenings from Flatpack who curated a Black Country inspired takeover of the historic Town Hall. Films about the Black Country and by Black Country people were shown throughout the many spaces of the building and were accompanied by images taken by Multistory commissioned photographers Martin Parr, Liz Hingley and Mahtab Hussain.

Dawinder Bansal invited visitors to step inside the ‘Jambo Cinema’ to experience Uncle & Aunty Bansal’s Indian-Kenyan living room set in the 1980s era. Guests were encouraged to explore the room with its original shop stock, photographs and items reflecting Indian families at the time. The project was informed by the personal experiences of Dawinder who grew up in her parents corner shop which sold electrical supplies and also rented VHS video films to the newly arrived and established immigrant Indian and Pakistani communities in Wolverhampton.

Shoppers were in for a surprise around West Brom with the tongue-in-cheek antics of the performers during the Festival. From the eccentric pink moped riding, jive swinging Dancing Day Trippers to the multi-sized Strolling Gardeners who used unsuspecting members of the public as garden ornaments and brushed their hair with a rake. Bizzy Lizzy the Flower Woman handed out special packets of bee attracting seeds and left shoppers with her aroma of Lavender while Nutkhut’s Princess and Prince took to the High Street to talk to people visiting the market.

“We wanted this year’s Sandwell Arts Festival to be a special experience for local people and beyond”. Comments Creative Black Country’s Artistic Director Parminder Dosanjh. “We were keen to create more intimate experiences and offer considered and meaningful opportunities for families to engage with. We definitely feel this was the case and our research has already found that”. 

The event’s team of audience researchers found that 86% of people they spoke to indicated that their attendance at the festival would inspire them to attend more arts and culture around Sandwell in the future. 85% indicated that the event had an impact to their overall wellbeing and 88% said that it helped to develop a sense of community in the Black Country.

Sandwell Arts Festival was the culmination of a season of events throughout the area which has seen artists take over a stretch of land under the M5 motorway for the M5 Mile with MADE; joined the Sandwell & Birmingham Mela at Victoria Park to host performance, a craft tent and a new aerial show ‘Khoj’ with partners Nutkhut; enjoy an evening under the stars at Sandwell RSPB with a new large-scale bed sculpture for the Big Wild Pyjama Party; planted a ceramic garden of 1200 flowers made by over 600 people; and partner with Flatpack to bring the first open-air cinema to Dudley Castle for a sold-out creepy screening of the Bride of Frankenstein.

Images by Lee Allen


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