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It’s barely believable that we have only been enjoying the Black Country flag for seven years since – then 12-year-old schoolgirl – Grace Shephard put forward her fantastic design in the 2012 competition. The flag is now the iconic image of our area, visible at major events around the world, offering a fabulous focal point for our region’s identity and heritage.
July has developed into the month where we celebrate all that is great and good about the Black Country. Black Country Day’ is 14th July, the anniversary of the Newcomen Engine – the world’s first successful steam-powered engine. What started as a single day’s celebration has grown into a festival lasting several weeks – there’s just so much for our region to shout that we need an entire month to fit everything in!
There will be literally hundreds of events on in the local area over the coming month and I can’t wait to get stuck into the festivities. Netherton Park Fun Day, Wordsley Festival, High Acres Summer Festival and the famous Brier Fair are just a handful of the events I will be attending over the coming few weeks to show my support for our area and support our local businesses and organisations.
Black Country month gets right to the heart of our region’s record of having a proud identity and yet being an immensely inclusive community. Black Country natives have a national reputation for being straight-talking, honest and welcoming folk, which is something I am especially proud of.
There is something deeply special about our history and culture and the underlying feeling that our area has an even greater potential for success and prosperity into the future makes this time of year all the more exciting. From glass-making in Wordsley to the Round Oak Steel Works in Brierley Hill and from Holbeche House – where the gunpowder plot conspirators made their final stand – to the forging of the Titanic’s anchor in Netherton, Black Country month celebrates our manufacturing history and cultural heritage and the many things that makes the region so special today.
One of the best aspects of Black Country month, in my opinion, is that everyone can feel involved and part of the celebrations. We have built something truly special in this small area of the midlands and long may it continue.
In 1832, the future Queen Victoria (then aged 13) famously wrote of her visit to the area, “The country is very desolate everywhere, there are coals about, and the grass is quite blasted and black. I just now see an extraordinary building flaming with fire. The country continues black, engines flaming, coals, in abundance, everywhere, smoking and burning coal heaps.”
Given the Black Country’s traditional brewing industry, and the fantastic Budget announcement that beer duty would once again be frozen, I much prefer one of the Queen’s later comments: “Give my people plenty of beer, good beer and cheap beer.”
There are still a few spaces left on the coach for my trip to Parliament next Thursday. Seats cost £20. Call my office on 01384 913123 if you would like to come along.